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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Becoming

WHEN I free myself of childhood dreams…
When I let go of adult schemes…
When naiveté no longer appeals to me…
And ambition is stored with other vanities…
Then…I will become

When fear no longer in me abides…
And I let Id... Ego... Superego..., slide
And I no more need to fit the mold
And let my destiny unfold…
Then I will…my heart being still…become

I can only be
What God has purposed for my life…
And I will only see the tree
That bears the fruit
Which enrich my days…
When I am
What I am
And always was
And can be nothing else…

When I am…that I am…
I have become.

From: Roy Alexander Graham's: “In My Element.” Figtree Books


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Let Your Light Shine... Every day.

Let us strive to keep alive that season when we celebrate the hope that we may all coexist peacefully. Let us not remove from our consciousness that time when we seek, through gift-giving, and family/communal get-togethers, to lift each other out of the circumstances of despair that tend to envelope our lives from time to time in the course of the year. That time of coming together to celebrate community as we cast off the loneliness that depresses so many, deserves to be kept alive every day. Regardless of our religious affiliations, or lack thereof, we are all affected by the spirit of a season of compassion that enlivens us beyond any particular holiday. 
 The fact that some persons are overcome by the absence of meaningful lives and relationships is an ongoing reality. That is where we come in. We are called to constantly reflect on how our lives can make a positive difference in those other lives daily. We are reminded in the never-ending season of compassion, of our duty to shine our “light” into the “dark” places where others stumble and some fall. We are all called to be more virtuous.
Virtue is defined as: moral goodness; upright living; righteousness. It is the conduct of our lives in accordance with principles of Righteousness. It is doing to others as you would have them do to you. Virtue challenges us to lift each other up in the face of circumstances that are depressing. Virtue is that light in the darkness that warms the cold, comforts the afflicted, reassures the frightened, and points the way to those who may be lost. Let your light shine... Every day.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Playing Now: Birds Of A Feather... A Trumped-Up Media Production

American mainstream media can't help itself. Their salacious preoccupation with the prototypical carnival barker in our midst provides them with an extended opportunity to make some more mullah...money. That is their business. That is their highest priority. That of course is Donald J. Trump's goal also. The Media as we know it is primarily an entertainment complex. If you are looking for uplifting, meaningful analysis you won't find it here. If what you long for are intelligent conversations about issues affecting our corporate life... Forget about it. What you will find is content drawn from the primal pit of our collective experience. Slime and more slime.  Sex. Violence. Hate. Bigotry. Stuff that appeals to the basest of our sensibilities. Survival stuff. Conflict generation stuff. They thrive on the exploitation of our collective insecurities. Every story is formulated to be resolved via the kind of mayhem that leaves our antagonists in bloody little bits and pieces. What passes for political discourse on any network is nothing more than predictable partisan banter. What passes for conversation is nothing more that a contrived rhetorical con. It's all a terribly shameful farce.

As for Trump, the star of the current media con job, the man is in the business of rigging the game so he can achieve the "deal" of the moment. Nothing complicated about that. He is a noted casino magnate, and that is what casino moguls do. They rig the game. He is effectively a part of the "show" being produced by our entertainment complex. For this monied antagonist the American political landscape is just a piece of real estate to be exploited and eventually flipped for a quick profit. The hopes and dreams of those who seek to be tenants in this fools paradise are just props he is using to dress it up so he can pawn it off to the next political charlatan. A candidate for President of the United States of America? This is a terrible hoax, one being perpetrated to maximize its entertainment value. As has been stated elsewhere, Donald Trump has no fluency in any of the issues that an aspirant to the highest office in the land must command. He has a snowball's chance in hell of being POTUS. This is all a game to him, and one that he is mastering to the chagrin of the Republican Party. They are fainting in their tents in the GOP. But this is the chicken they have hatched after seven years of roosting with the TeaParty. That chicken has come home, and is indiscriminately defecating all over everything they claim to represent.

Even if those cheering him on had the existential clarity to discern his real intentions, they might still follow after him with that disconcerting fealty that vassals show their feudal lord. For these "tenants" of that fool's paradise; to be is to be like, and to be like... is to be like Trump. Yes. They actually want to emulate his lack of virtue. They parrot his ugly bluster as if they were demonstrating fluency in a second language. They cheer his arrogance as if it will add some luster to their dull lives. They flex their ignorance as if it were proof of some philosophical dominance. Never mind the fact that he is as disdainful of them as he seems to be of everyone else; they just long to be near him so that they can breathe in the air that he breathes out... Foul and poisonous though it may be. As disgustingly deficient as their lives may be, they are like him... fear-filled, hateful bigots. Birds of a feather flock together. Even those whose plumage appears more illustrious than the rest.

As Americans we must definitively express our revulsion at the crass bigotry of this character. That has now become our civic duty as a people who cherish the rule of law and decency. For better or for worse the rest of the world is watching this Trumped-Up production. And to most observers this is not in the least entertaining. The twenty five percent of the world's population that are Muslims do not find Mr Trump's antics to be a laughing matter. Those wanting to do us harm for one reason or other are finding enough hurtful content in this clown's performance to potentiate their already volatile inclinations. Our neighbors to the South are definitely NOT entertained. There is something hate-inspiring in being lumped in as rapists, drug mules, and murderers; when most immigrants are just in search of a better life for themselves and their families. No nation is without faults, but the Russians, Iranians, and the Chinese, must be giving undue extra thought to being villainized in the minds of the not so sophisticated among the American public.

Make no mistake about it, the show being put on by Donald J. Trump will have consequences beyond the theater of American political life. These consequences, intended or unintended, have the potential to bring harm to all of us. That is the reason we must now lift our voices in rebuke of a circus that is no longer entertaining. The cheering on of Trump's vile braggadocio must now end. It is time for Donald Trump to pack up his act and exit this stage.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Season of Giving

As we approach what is usually a very hectic time of the year, let us take a moment to reflect, and look forward to how we can engage the lives and relationships around us in meaningful ways in the days ahead. The stresses of finding the right gift for someone and the joy of receiving a longed-for wish can enliven us, moving us from fatigue to a sense of fulfillment. On the other hand, the head-shaking blandness of getting something as redundant as a tie... or another pair of sock... or sweater that we do not need or want, can leave us with feelings of emptiness. Just picking something for the sake of picking something to give can leave us exhausted to say the least. Every year we swear that we are not going to go crazy ‘doing this thing again". And every year, to some degree, we all do. I have told my friends, my children, my co-workers, that instead of buying me stuff that I am sure I don’t need; they should instead  find someone who is in need, and give them something for me. For the most part they do not listen, and I understand. I suppose we all want to feel that we have done our duty.
This has always been, and maybe still is, a season of complex emotions. There is a genuine need to reach out and touch someone. There is a need to be touched ourselves.  We want to share the love that in many cases has gone untold, or is dormant in our chests and in our stomachs, or that has sort of become sub-conscious. Our love often goes underground in our lives, waiting for a time and place to be expressed. All too often that time is usually when one of us is about to have our physical remains placed beneath the ground... Unfortunately. This then is a season when we become acutely aware of the many significant others around us, and of the impact that our presence makes in each other’s lives.
This is also a time when some become acutely aware of their loneliness. In the midst of all our merry making, the increase in the number of suicides this time of year is a critical reminder to us of how absent we are in the world of someone who really needs us.  In the very midst of great abundance, there is a desperate poverty that afflicts many. The Good News we can all share is that in fact we, none of us, need to feel abandoned to the destiny of hopelessness that is implied in our existential  poverty. Hope for our world comes in the form of the God in us that is Love. It is this God that became incarnate in the life of the Christ that we should be celebrating all year long. The Christ who comes to comfort the afflicted, heal the broken-hearted, set the captive free, and declare that the time is now when Love can be that light in the darkest corners of our existence.
Everything that we need is to be found in a world balanced through Justice.  Love is the infinite resource of that world. The God of infinite resources comes to us in all our circumstances of need. Our needs vary. Some of us need some things. Some of us need something more. The God who is Love calls us to shelter the homeless, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, comfort the widow and the fatherless, speak the Word of healing and wholeness to those in prison, liberate the oppressed and the oppressor… The gifts of the God who is Love are tailored to our individual needs.  Love gives His/Her gifts indiscriminately to us in accordance with the circumstances of our poverty. 
So as we make a big deal of our efforts in what has essentially become an orgy of commercialism, let us not forget the reason for the season. The caroling will go away. We will take down the lights. And if we are not clear about that reason, we return to the ‘being absent’ in each other’s lives that really is our standard. In the end it is not the things that we purchase with money that matter most, but our continued loving/caring presence in each other’s lives. It is how we continue be with one another down the various roads of life. It is the crucial matter of how we continue to do right by each other when no bells are ringing.
Let us rediscover the spirit of generosity this season. Let's not restrict that generosity to those we know, and to whom we are somehow related. Let us reach out and touch someone who is in need... Anyone. And let us remember that the greatest gift we can give in this Season of Giving ... is the gift of a Love that endures.

Friday, November 20, 2015

For Every Drop of Blood... For Every Tear Shed...

The circumstances of our time that occupy our attention by the force with which they press their hurtful presence into the vulnerable flesh of our shared humanity keep us wide-eyed and broken-hearted. We witness the pain of those whose flesh and hearts are torn asunder by the brutality of cruel actors in our midst. Men, women, and children are daily torn apart by the harsh and inhumane edges that fly indiscriminately through the air we breathe, destroying the places we once found to be safe. Bodies are literally being torn apart, ripped limb from limb by actors whose hearts have been hardened by their own inhumanity, and by cruel circumstance.

Blood everywhere. Ominous smoke-filled skies bear witness to habitats once bubbling with hopes and dreams... Now rubble. Men and women cut down in the prime of life; a few blowing themselves to unrecognizable bits and pieces in their quest to express the hopelessness cultivated by a warped sense of being. Some believe they are doing the will of a god whom they believe beckons them to a new and better world. The noise of war, and the strife all around, deafens and numbs so absolutely that it becomes impossible to distinguish between the call and the rebuke of their God. Between Good and Evil there exists a gulf of amorality. Between those who care and those who don't, are those who celebrate their corrupt sense of being as if it were a  necessary virtue... An existential prerequisite... A badge of honor.

Wars and rumors of wars grab our attention and occupy us in ways that foster a disequilibrium which is in essence the state in which we have come to exist. In this state we stagger from one scene of death and destruction to the next. From Iraq to Syria... From France to Mali... From Oklahoma City to Paris. From Colorado Springs, Colorado, to San Bernardino, California. The bleeding and the burning predominates in our Media-cultivated subconscious. In the absence of a profoundly critical sense of awareness despair replaces hope, and fear corrupts our yearning for community. In this kind of environment the carnival barker out-shouts the sage. The self-serving opportunist builds a monument to raw ambition. And all this while our country in particular and the world in general lags in its need of moral leadership. The signs of the times are obscured by dollar signs. And, of course, the merchants of death and their faithful servants fill coffer after coffer, all the while ignoring the trail of grief that runs parallel to their profit margins.

Let us pause for a moment and balance ourselves. Let us occupy again that place in our lives where we are in fact and in deed the determiners of our destinies. In the midst of every effort to constantly occupy us with a life-sucking pessimism, let us find a place and a moment to recalibrate our sense of being co-creators of our world. It is not that the whole world has gone mad. It is not that we have all of a sudden lost our moral compass as a civilization. In the midst of all that is so disastrously terrible, are voices calling us to account for what we are now experiencing as the overwhelming expressions of Man's inhumanity to Man. Let us be a part of that choir of hope-filled voices. Let us join our souls together with those who even now are requiring an accounting for the apparent madness that impacts us all through our connectedness of being.

For every child laying dead on a beach or in a shot-up or blown-up building somewhere, a thousand children hope and pray for a more secure world. Let us be loving family to these children. Let us reach out to them with all our substance. Let us open our borders and our doors to them and to their kin. Let us join forces against those who would allow fear to deny the widow and the orphan a place among us contrary to the values that we claim as an exceptional people. For every violent incident in a city somewhere there are a hundred cities committing to work for a more just and and a more peaceful world.

Let us in this moment recognize and affirm the inseparable link between our yearning for Peace and the necessity for Justice in this our world. Let us be a part of that movement for Justice and Peace in our own cities, and towns, and districts, and countries. In the presence of the injustice that destabilizes communities and countries, there must be a world willing to work together for greater equity. Let us get involved. Let us say something. Let us write something. Let us do something to make a difference. Speak up. Act up. We remain silent and complacent to our own detriment, because our connectedness of being will not spare us the pain that our fellow humans must witness and endure.

Against the cycle of harshness and pessimism that would engulf us, we who hope for a more peaceful world must rise up against the clamor of desperation that would have us believe that all is lost. Let us become sources of warmth and light in the presence of doom and gloom. The voice of Reason demands that we not ignore the mayhem that jolts us so profoundly. That voice requires us to look beneath and beyond all the superficial analysis to find the true causes of the sickness that is becoming an epidemic in our midst.

For every drop of blood... For every tear shed... For every life lost... For every limb and every heart broken... We, yes... you and I, must resolve to never give up hope... We must resolve to never give in to despair... We must never stop working for a better world here and now. We, through our singular and collective resolve, can be bulwarks of the promise that through Love, expressed as justice for all, we can conquer Fear and its torment. We can build oases in the desert places where hate has scarred the landscape of our lives, and brought death where life once flourished. Let us be like that. Let us live like that. Let us.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Who The Cap Fits...



It does not matter how rich he is... A fool is a fool is a fool.

The predicament of moneyed fools lusting after political power is nothing new. History is full of examples of such characters. They come and go in every generation. The definition of a fool here is one who does not know, and knows that he does not know, but does not care that he does not know. What he lacks in terms of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding; he makes up for with vile braggadocio. What the fool lacks in accomplishment, he makes up for with pomp and circumstance.

In a superficial world all an ambitious fool needs to know is how to look and sound the part. Ceremony becomes the vehicle for conquering the crowd... Artistry becomes the substitute for real substance. Looking the part suffices for the credulous. Add to this the desire on the part of many in his audience to be as "successful" as he seems to be, and we have in every sense of the sentiment... A fool's paradise.

Stop wondering who l am talking about. In the words of Ludwig Wittgenstein, a disciple of Sigmund Freud...  "Don't think, look!"... At your television sets that is. It's that season of our political lives.

Monday, November 9, 2015

A Note to University of Missouri's President Tim Wolfe... On Racism - The facts on the ground vs The line in the sand

In America today and in other places around the world, the tormented hound called bigotry barks loudly...and incessantly. The resounding terror of its constant noise sometimes shake to its very foundations the communal aspirations of a world that yearns for greater civility. But beyond the terrorizing bark of the hounds of bigotry, reality bites. The inevitability of change is a fact of life staring down the pack of tormented barkers across the lines that they have drawn in the ever shifting sand of their tenuous reality.  Day by day, year by passing year, they find themselves having to rationalize their irrationality to a world evolving to greater degrees of moral and cultural literacy.

We no longer need to psychoanalize the bigot, that work has been done. And what we know for sure is that beneath the mask of terror that the racist hater wears is a soft yellow core of fear. Beyond the show of force that they must constantly exhibit, is an insecurity that finds its reason for being at the base of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. For them this is about survival in a world that now challenges their existential assumptions. They find threats everywhere outside of their ever shrinking world. The more that world shrinks, the louder their bark. But that bark will eventually become a whimper... That is the inevitable destiny of the pathetic course that they have chosen. Racism and its expressive bigotry is the function of a way of seeing that bets the viability of its own existence on the oppression of "others". In the prophetic words of Robert Nesta Marley:  "Now the weak must get strong,... Oh what a tribulation!"

There are white men in the South today with the Confederate flag tattooed all over their bodies, while their children and grandchildren proudly and lovingly bear the children of black men. In ever-changing circumstances like these it is up to those old soldiers to opt for their own redemption by learning to love their children's children. We have a President of these United States of America who is a living testament to this reality. That may be a reason why the South is so threatened by the reality of this President Barack Hussein Obama. He is the very real expression of their unsustainably primitive anxieties. The "facts on the ground" of American life are about to overtake "the lines in the sand" of an unsustainable legacy of fear.  And fear, my friends, is the womb in which hate is carried. The shaking ground that we feel from time to time is a precursor to ...and a cause of the necessary abortion that must be effected to save the lives of the bearers of this terrible offspring of developmentally warped parents. 


And so, Mr Wolfe, you are being cordially invited to get the hell out of the way of a tide you can no longer pretend is not rising. In the words of  your neighbors at the University of Alabama ... "Roll Tide!". The time has come when you must either change your ways... Or perish in the downstream of an angry deluge.

Monday, November 2, 2015

That Voice Crying in the Wilderness

At the very core of our idealism as a nation is a philosophical insistence that: “… All persons are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. This is the central idea informing the exceptionalism we claim as a nation. The preachers among us constantly remind us of the indelible imprint of the Judeo-Christian influence on our sense of who we are as a nation. Those who insist on the validity of the fundamental ideals informing our nation’s origins, it’s growth and it’s development; must never forget that our core religious belief is founded in a moral and ethical relationship with the God of Abraham and Moses. This is a Being who, throughout History, has declared on behalf of the disadvantaged, the oppressed, the widow and the orphan, and the wanderer seeking a place to build a better life for self and kin. 
If we have ears to hear we will pause and listen to the consistent call to true community that proceeds from a righteous Creator. That would be HIS/HER voice calling out to us from the “burning bush” at the center of our communal experience. That voice is becoming a louder and louder presence in the many heated places where inequity is rooted in our social and political environment. It is a voice that demands that we reign in our scandalous propensity to the kind of violence that issues in torture and murder and wars for profit. It is a voice that calls us to account for the innocent blood that we are complicit in shedding in our own nation, and around the world. The Power from which that voice emanates is defined in the reality that we are inextricably connected in our being, and are therefore essentially affected by all the circumstances that touch each of our lives. This connectedness of being transcends all national and tribal distinctions.
The voice of our supreme moral and ethical Source declares in no uncertain terms that, as a nation, we must take off the boots of moral ignorance which weigh us down in the miry clay of injustice. Those boots keep us from advancing overdue liberty-promoting actions toward our fellow persons withering away as captives of an unjust system. They wither away in Guantanamo and our other prisons, known and unknown. These captives yearn for deliverance from the liberty-suppressing, life-thwarting circumstances prevalent around them. The undeniable dynamism of that Voice holds our feet to the fires of Justice. Cover our ears as we might, that same voice echoes disturbingly from the distant “wilderness” of our beginnings as a nation. A nation founded on the ideals of Liberty, Equality, and Justice, as endowments of our common Creator.
Those among us who would “preach” to us about our religious foundations are required to have an exegetical moment that is ontologically meaningful. A nation that claims the God of Moses as its moral standard-bearer cannot continue to ignore the call of this same God “to do justly, and to love mercy”. This is not a moment in which we can comfortably resort to the kind of meaningless obfuscation that calls our crimes "mistakes”. Slavery was, and is a crime. Racism is criminal behavior. Killing innocent men, women, and children with convenient drone strikes is a crime. The predatory behavior of investment bankers is criminal. A for profit healthcare system that denies care in order to cull a profit for investors and shareholders is legally and morally reprehensible. Criminalizing and imprisoning the victims of addictive substances is a morally bankrupt indulgence. Building jails as investment opportunities is in and of itself an injustice that reeks of criminality.
Repeating platitudes that comfort those who choose various convenient states of inaction while ignoring the need for change will only cement us in a place of cultural and spiritual decadence. Our claims to moral and political exceptionalism are meaningless in the face of our unwillingness to deal with the contradictions in our midst. It is time that we renew our commitment to the faith expressed in our foundational rationale for being America… Land of the Free, Home of the Brave. Beyond the parochialism of our claim to some special existential privilege; ours is a nation that claims a Faith based on an understanding of Salvation that is rooted in an act of Liberation. That Faith resonates in the powerful vibrations of one Robert Nesta Marley when he declares with the emphasis of well chorded drums:  "Jah come to break downpression (every manifestation of oppression)… Rule equality… Wipe away transgression... Set the captives free… Set the captive free!… Set the captive free!"

Friday, October 23, 2015

Hillary Rodham Clinton vs The Republican Machine... What She Taught Us

I am among the many millions who watched former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's responses to the Republicans on the Benghazi panel. At the end of that spectacle I, like so many others, had nothing kind to say about the demonstrated political intentions of these "inquisitors". Nothing. I am certain that the former Secretary has her shortcomings, but to try as these political vultures did to place the blame for this terrorist attack at the feet of this public servant was disingenuous at best, and thoroughly disgraceful at worse. This was nothing more than an attempt to use a tragedy that is unfortunately not unique in our international political experience to derail the Presidential campaign of the former Secretary of State. In this they failed... Miserably. As I watched now Presidential Candidate Hillary respond to the eleven plus hours attempt to break her down, I couldn't help but reflect on a greater lesson unfolding in that very experience.
We have the power, each one of us, to cast off the definitions by which our potentials are limited. We acknowledge that power in declaring our right to name ourselves and thus determine who we are and what we will become. The recognition of this right and this power ushers in a new reality for anyone so inclined. It begins the process of breaking the molds that sabotage our ability to live authentic lives. It makes us available to the empowering possibilities of liberated living.
The responsibility to define who we are and what we will become is a sacred trust. It is the foundation on which we build the futures that beckon us away from the distresses of the imposed impotence of a mimicked existence. The authenticity of our being should never be determined by anyone else’s prescription, nor for that matter, anyone else’s proscription. The process of naming ourselves is an exercise in the kind of courage that takes for granted that we will make mistakes. Our imperfection however, should never be a deterrent to acting out our sense of who we are… Or what we want to become. Let us always keep in mind that we are works in progress. 
To the extent that perfection carries with it the connotation of being finished, it is a claim we cannot even pretend to make… None of us. I couldn't help but notice that Hillary Rodham Clinton is a much stronger candidate for President of the United States of America today. Yes, stronger and more authentic than she was before her "Inquisition". 

Where Our Tears Come From

From ducts deep in our souls
Where pains and joys and compassions swell…

From confluences in the course of our experience
Where we meet and mingle
And recognize our sharing of common ground…
And feel that certain rush
Of our destination’s blue…

From our confessions
Voluntarily or otherwise given…
Verbally or otherwise spoken…
That now allows for the lifting of that lid
Which suppresses a certain internal commotion
In the swollen chambers of our hearts
That threatens to explode unless relieved…

For those who look on and wonder…
That is where our tears come from…

Adapted from: Roy Alexander Graham's "Of Scattered Seed and Broken Souls.”
See this and other works @ www.figtreeenterprises.com

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The So-called War on Drugs... A Travesty of Justice

The United States imprisons more people that any other country in the world. Almost a half of federal inmates are drug offenders. Our so-called “war on drugs” is for every intent and purpose an out and out assault on poor addicts who need medical/psychological help. It is in fact a “war” that enriches dealers, and police departments, and the builders of jails. This is one of the dirty little secrets of this whole business. How many law enforcement officers and departments want to see this war end when in fact it is a cash cow for them? How much of the drugs on the street corners of our inner cities actually come from the evidence rooms of local precincts? How many of the murders paraded before us on the news every day are committed as a result of the culture created by the nonsensical approach we have assumed toward some of the substances criminalized in the prosecution of this war?
We should be working as a society to empower the “broke” and the “broken hearted”. The tide of hopelessness that has swept many into a quagmire of brokenness can be held at bay by building facilities geared toward equipping the economically depressed with life-sustaining skills. Nationwide, three-quarters of our prison population are high school dropouts. We must not overlook this fact. Education, not incarceration, should be our focus. More modern schools, not more modern jails, should be our priority. Let us explore the possibilities of giving “garlands” not “ashes” to those who are disadvantaged among us. Can we make them partners in the building up of more peaceful cities, and thus cultivate “mantles of praise instead of a spirit of fainting”? I believe we can. I believe we must try.
The time is now when we must insist that our government provide the resources for the rehabilitation of the redeemable among those who break the law, rather than hand them over to be exploited by those who see them only as a means to make money. The idea we have been sold that warehousing these prisoners for profit in what is essentially a prison industrial complex is a lie. To somehow advance the untruth that this makes our communities better turns the truth on its head. The prison culture in this country is designed to create "repeat business". The goal of the jailers is to keep their facilities fully occupied. This is the deal they make with their political partners, the ones who run their mouths off about being "tough on crime" in order to get elected. This is how the builders of jails make profits for their stockholders. How can we work to bring out the worst in the disadvantaged among us, as our prison culture does, and expect that this will not come back to haunt us? 
The viability of our communities is a direct function of the viability of our collective humanity, not some crass notion of brute force exercised by those who pretend they want to be “tough on crime”. Enough of the lazy-think of an opportunistic and lewdly gratuitous culture. Our top law enforcement officials acknowledge both the failure of our prison system as it is, and the fact that drug addiction is in fact a public health crisis in this country. It is a travesty of Justice that we continue to address a public health crisis by imprisoning its victims. It is time to wake up from the nightmare of the greed-induced delusions that drive our collective insecurities. In an economic culture that is intent on culling a profit out of every human circumstance, prisons are designed to be necessarily self-perpetuating. The idea is to keep themselves optimally occupied in order to maximize profits for those who now invest in them. Yes, prisons have become business opportunities. The time has come to put an end to this "business".

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Righting the Ship of Fear-filled Living

On a recent flight between two major US cities I took the opportunity that my ninety minute flight time provided to reflect on the life I have come to know. At cruising altitude I reclined my seat just enough to maximize my comfort without impinging on the space of the passenger behind me. I am always conscientious about that, unlike those who just recline as far as the seat allows. I must confess my annoyance with people who do that. As the new Boeing 737-800 series aircraft sheared the wind, eliciting an elongated monotonous whistle, I took a number of slow deep breaths and found myself reflecting on what I have called elsewhere... “our fragile existentialism”.
It seems to me the idea that we are free and are therefore ultimately responsible for the choices we make, is a philosophical burden that too few of us are prepared to assume. In a world in which it is sometimes convenient to believe that “what is to be will be”; we tend to cultivate a certain pathos around the reality that whatever is “to be” is up to us. I have come to believe this. Many of us declare a pre-determinism that assumes that our course in this life has been set, and that there is nothing we can do about it. What is to be, will be. Period.
We can agree that there are some things we have little or no control over in our lives; but our fate and destiny are determined by the course that we ourselves set by each decision we make. There are people who will never set foot on an airplane because of their fear of flying. Like bungee jumping, or riding on the latest version of a wild roller coaster, they just wont do it. Our most awe-full phobias are fed by one decision after another not to do something…not to take those steps which will ultimately give us power over our irrationality.
In other contexts in our lives we parrot the dogma : “practice makes perfect”, but we fail to see its implication for the “finishing” of ourselves with regards to our fears. Yes, the word “perfect” means “finished”, and it is an often stated fact that none of us are. We are impacted daily by the formative influences of the hands of experience. The perfection that life nudges us toward is a function of the steps we take to overcome our worries and our fears. Sometimes the nudges of reality are painful and unsettling, but they force us to look more clearly at the ground around our feet. They make us look again with more critical eyes at the assumptions in which we have anchored our expectations.
Our fears sabotage every aspect of our existence. They prevent one from asking for a deserved salary increase at the job one has done well for five, six, seven years. It is fear that causes an unhappy spouse not to declare to the world that his or her marriage is a miserable sham that should end. The desire to maintain the status quo at the expense of one’s fulfillment demands unreasonable self-sacrifice. Too often we sacrifice ourselves at the alter of public vanity; we wither away under the pressure to live up to the imagined expectations of others. We worry about outcomes that may never be, because fear breeds irrationality. My existentialism says, if a thing is unreasonable it is wrong. There comes a moment when we are forcefully shaken by the need to right the ship of fear-filled living.
As my flight continues, my thoughts go by like the wisps of cirrus clouds beneath the Airbus. A multitude of “what ifs” find their way in and out of my mind, despite the protestations of my rationalism. I eventually surrender to the reality of the moment, recognizing the fact that there are some possibilities that rest on the heap of fate which are out of my control. My mind goes back to something that Cypher Raige said to his son Kitai in the Will Smith movie After Earth. In an effort to get the boy to sort through his responses to the life-threatening threats he must face, the father says to his son: “Danger is very real. Fear is always a choice”. We won't always get to choose the challenges we will face, but we have the ability to choose how we will respond to each. At times we must dig deep to find that ability, but it is there in each one of us.
I try for a moment to reconfigure the notion… I tell myself ... Fear is a natural response to danger… My reformulation sounds reasonable, it is congruent with what I have heard others conclude. But I find no comfort in the conclusions of others. I choose to stick with Cypher Raige’s dogma…Fear is a choice. Something about this formulation engenders a sense of being in control. I like the idea of being in control of my life and my destiny... I identify with that. The thought appeals to something in the DNA of my personhood, so I let it soak in. It fleshes out my existentialism, fragile as it may be.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Drought of Compassion in Our World

It rained on the day that I wrote this piece. We needed that rain; the grass all around had turned a brownish green. It was reported that the rainfall deficit for the preceding month was just under four inches. It started raining overnight, and the system that brought this well-needed relief continued its presence for the next few days. With these well needed showers there was renewed hope for everything that grows, the grass included. We all enjoy sunny days, but no one wants a protracted drought under the influence of which things wilt…and die. The period without rain has run its course, and we look forward to saying goodbye to the themes of wilting and dying which have predominated in the experience of many.
All over the Globe that we share we are witnessing what seems to many to be an interminable drought of reasonableness and compassion. The season of wilting and dying is expressed in the suffering, displacement, and killing of many.Thousands of men, women, and children, have had their lives shattered as a result of heated conflicts that seem to have no end in sight. The need for showers of hope to green again the scarred landscape of war-torn countries is acute. This is the reality in Iraq and in Syria, in Nigeria and in the Central African Republic, in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, in Kinshasa and in Libya… the list of places goes on and on.
The number of dead from these conflicts in just the last year exceeds a quarter of a million people. All over Asia and Africa and Europe, people displaced by these conflicts are on the move daily in desperate search of a place where they can again hope for some stability for self and kin. Their collective desperation is exacerbated by a drought of workable ideas among those who lead. This desperation is worsened by a drought of moral rectitude on the part of those who see war as the only solution. Combined with a drought of economic opportunity in the circumstances created by strife, multitudes come to believe they have no choice but to succumb to their role as victims.
There are no easy answers to the dilemma we face, much as we would like there to be. Digging into the anatomy of conflict is an exercise in exploring the uncomfortable underground of the human psyche. The motivations of the primary actors in the tragic dramas of death and destruction are at times perplexing, as perplexing as the contradictions in the human psyche itself. What moves us to act out our abrasiveness in the tragic ways that we do? At what point in the experience of being human do we settle for the idea that it is ok that “the good suffer with the bad”? Where in the dark recesses of our consciousness do we build an existential monument to the idea that it is acceptable to blow up women and children? What kind of person chews on the roasted limb of some creature while he wallows in the blood of innocents? What kind of human being virtualizes rape, and murder, and the conscienceless exploitation of those who can’t or won’t defend themselves? What kind of human-being “brands” another, marking him or her for ruthless exploitation? At some point, as individuals and as societies, we must face these questions with the force of a civilized morality. We must face them with a view to effectively resolve the many contradictions in our ways of seeing things.
Not all villains roam around the earth as bloody brutes. Some indeed present themselves as “respectables” among us. They sit on the boards of giant corporations. They occupy the halls of our congresses and parliaments. They are the genteel-appearing bastions of industry that many idolize in ignorance. Instead of the cliched fatigues of brutes, they wear the teflon suits that appeal to the superficial sensibilities of many among the masses. But, by their deeds we know them. They deliberately reduce workers to chattel by refusing to pay a fair return for work done. They build their estates at the expense of the lives of impoverished workers. They bask in the glow of material “success” while the masses are left to scrounge for the “crumbs” that fall from their tables. In many instances they appear to keep their hands clean while they harvest the “blood diamonds” of an iniquitous underworld. They share one particular feature of the human experience with tyrants and warlords… Heartlessness. They don’t give a damn about anything or anyone except themselves and their brash ambitions. What they are not prepared for is the coming flood... A deluge of compassion that will usher in the establishment of a more humane world. That day will come.

Friday, September 25, 2015

A Clash of Antagonistic Ideals

Comes a revolution to change the circumstances of our dehumanization. That revolution begins with a more dynamic sense of our potentials as human beings. At some point it falls to each person to make a decision as to whether he or she will continue to permit the kind of victimization that robs one of one’s true humanity. This is the seminal moment in which every true revolution begins. It begins with the idealization of the notion that one can own and control the circumstances of one’s life. It begins with a rejection of victimhood.
The culture of oppression takes root with the imposition of ideas that limit the rights of the oppressed to a life characterized by the essential qualities of liberty. A life in which the pursuit of happiness is claimed as a human right. Thus liberation must begin with the rejection of ideas that limit one’s right to life fulfilled. The clash of civilizations has its genesis in a clash of antagonistic human ideals… A clash of opposing aspirations. A revolution is inevitable when the hopes of a determined group breeds despair in another group which is equally determined to claim and live out their perceived potential. Every struggle begins as a clash of ideas competing for supremacy in the common experience of peoples. First the ideas… Then the fists.
The conscientization described in the preceding paragraph leads to the determination to get rid of the spiritual, cultural, and physical shackles that weigh down the dispossessed. It expresses itself in the determination to collectively work for the change necessary to live into the new reality of a life liberated. This new consciousness is powerfully articulated by Marley when he declares: “You can’t educate I For no equal opportunity: (Talkin’ ’bout my freedom) Talkin’ ’bout my freedom, People freedom (freedom) and liberty! Yeah, we’ve been trodding on the winepress much too long: Rebel, rebel!”. Marley, in the powerful anthem called “Redemption Song”, calls us to live into a revolutionary consciousness. He reminds us of the responsibility that we each have to personalize the work of personal redemption when he channels Marcus Mosiah Garvey: “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds… “.
 The Season of Rebellion Beckons
The Season of Rebellion comes. It is inevitable. The contradictions inherent in the perpetuation of hope and despair in our social and economic relationships must be resolved. The societal dysfunctions bred by this antagonism cannot be wished away.  That resolution of which I speak must necessarily lead to a better world in which the hopes of some do not breed despair in the lives of others. The prophetic vision of a more just society fuels the fires that burn in the hearts of displaced and dispossessed people everywhere. That vision is the tip of the burning spear that threatens the old status quo of the cultural and economic domination of the many by the few.
Those who have ears to hear can hear even now the voice of the prophet Amos as he declares: “… let Justice roll down like a river, and Righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” An economic culture in which CEO compensation increases over nine hundred fold while the average worker barely sees a five percent increase must be rehabilitated. A political culture that perpetuates the cult of vampires must be obliterated by the cultivation of enlightened self interest in all our economic relationships. We cannot continue to accommodate corporate greed while people are left to subsist on a less than livable wage. The militarization of the police to suppress the just rebellion of people against the brutality of law enforcement must end. The use of the police as enforcers for a parasitic political culture must cease. The injustices that find expression through racism, sexism, and genderism, must be exposed for what they are… Injustices.
The Season of Rebellion beckons us into a new, more liberated sense of ourselves. It calls us to be the definitive architects of our destinies. As architects we reject the world imposed on us. We claim with our every breath the responsibility to build something new with our own hands and hearts and minds… Something more in keeping with our own needs and aspirations. As the prime movers in the new, more hope-filled world we desire, we look forward to that more fertile earth in which we can realize a greater rootedness. And so we live in anticipation of the showers that will “water” our just aspirations. By the same token we rise up in affirmation of our own fecundity, and against every dried out idea that would suppress our innate abundance.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Preoccupation With Trump... A Case of Preemptive Rubbernecking

Rubbernecking: a human trait that is associated with morbid curiosity; a voyeuristic interest in someone else's business or affairs. A common example of rubbernecking is drivers trying to view the aftermath of a traffic accident.

The American media in particular, and the vast majority of the American public are waiting for the political phenomenon called Donald Trump to crash and burn. There is a general perception that candidate Donald is the antithesis of everything that we have come to expect of an aspirant to the highest office in the land. If the polls at this stage of the game are to be taken seriously, "The Donald" is  turning conventional wisdom on its head. The more he rises (in the polls), the greater the anticipation of a catastrophic end to what has been a most unlikely candidacy. Instead of the kind of inspirational rhetoric that we have come to expect from any serious candidate for national office, he has engaged in the kind of demagoguery that has blown up other campaigns in the past.

The list of his transgressions are long, and continues to grow. He has alienated the fastest growing demographic in the country. Trump's unfavorables among Hispanics, according to Gallop, is the highest of any of his Republican rivals. He has insulted women in ways that would sink the candidacy of other aspirants. In America, women elect Presidents. Trump has an unfavorability rating of over sixty percent among women. Among African Americans, that number is close to eighty percent. He has demonstrated no fluency in any of the issues that demand the attention of an American leader. What Trump is very fluent in are the gross insults and indecent aspersions that he carelessly casts at anyone who dares to require him to speak intelligently to any issue. Instead of any effort to be a meaningfully articulate candidate, what we have in Donald Trump is a carnival barker... And he is the show to which he invites all who are unfortunate enough to be within reach of the sound of his voice. It does not take a genius to see that this character has no chance of being elected to the Presidency. That being the case, we might ask why the "lamestream media" follows him around to the extent they do. What explains the apparent fascination with this "entertainer"?

It is easy to exploit the well cultivated frustrations that many constituents have toward the average politician. Any charlatan can establish a soapbox from which the sins of our political culture can be bellowed and exploited for gain. It does not take much to get loud agreement from the discontented with the fact that idiocy, general incompetence, and wanton graft are rampant features of our governing class. We are all aware of these obvious problems, but the idea that we should replace our political undesirables with a charlatan who presents his gross vanity as his only virtue is immeasurably untenable.

The Media's preoccupation with Trump is an exercise in preemptive rubbernecking, based on the expectation that he will at some point suffer a catastrophic failure. He will either wear himself out via the unsustainable nonsense he espouses, or he will crash and burn on the low road he takes in his vile attack on others. The anticipation of what is expected to be a spectacular descent into ignominy is what is fueling the feeding frenzy around what is essentially a circus of political bigotry. Trump's braggadocio has become his trademark. As a feature of some kind of existential comic relief, it is excusable. As a quality of leadership it is generally reviled. The voyeurism that this character invites is repulsive. This morbid fascination with Mr. Trump will come to an end. The sooner, the better.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Exploring the Absurd : Religious Objections to Variations in Gender Identity

The Christian doctrine of Creation teaches that God made a man, Adam, and then because the man was still without companionship after all else was created... God put the man to sleep and took "a rib" from the man out of which he made a woman. We won't complicate matters here by pointing out that the word "Adam" is more exactly to be interpreted as "Mankind". For the purposes of this little piece we will stick to the notion that it is the name given to the first man. Eve was therefore...essentially an afterthought. Please excuse me... I'm just trying to think this through.

If woman was a by-product of Man, isn't a woman essentially a man with the capacity to satisfy the companionship needs of Man? Again, you have to excuse me... I'm just trying to make sense of this... Story. After all, the Omniscient One didn't take a different kind of "clay", into which he breathed the "breath of life" and then declared "You are Woman, because you were engineered to be the biological opposite of Man!". No, no, no, ... She is Woman, because He made her "out of the man"... That is what Adam said, "bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh".

And then there is the Doctrine of Salvation. You see, the woman that was made from the flesh and bone of the man was tempted by a serpent and sinned. She then led her man to sin, at least that is what he claimed... He told his Creator that he messed up because of "the woman whom thou gavest me". He ate of "the tree of good and evil", and wasn't bold enough to take responsibility for his actions when confronted by his Creator. I guess he bent under the pressure of his guilt because he was missing a rib.

According to the Christian doctrine of Salvation we are all screwed because of the sin of Adam. So, to save us from damnation the Omnipotent One found himself a virgin (who was by the way, engaged to one Joseph) and put his holy seed in her. Seriously? Seriously. Joseph was mad as hell when he found his espoused "with child". But the All-powerful One sent one of his angelic crew to let the young man know that it was OK... This was the doing of The Boss. So Joseph cooled off and went through with the marriage. To paraphrase Bonhoeffer, a Christian theologian in Hitler's Germany: When the Almighty One wants someone... He takes him...or her, repercussions be damned.

The holy rollers among us believe these things. They declare to us that "all things that were created, were created by Him." I'm reminded of the hymn we sung very often when I was in elementary school:

 "All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small; all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all. Each little flower that opens, each little bird that sings, He made their glowing colors, He made their tiny wings." 

All things, from the great eagle to the bumble bee, He made them all. Which takes me to the issue of gender and sexuality in our human experience. 

Let me get straight to the point of the religious objections to variations in sexual identityFundamentalists like to shout down our homosexual peers with the rebuke that " God didn't make Adam and Steve; He made Adam and Eve." Well I hate to screw with your facts here... But that isn't true. According to the story in Genesis, God made Adam. Period. And then, from that same piece of enlivened clay, after putting Adam to sleep, he took a part of the created Adam and made Eve. Eve is a  part of the same piece of the enlivened clay called Adam. Herein lies a subtly inconvenient truth that we mostly ignore. The truth of the story of the creation of Humankind is that  the woman was originally incorporated in the man. Adam is male and female unseparated. Read it in your Holy Book.

If the salvation of our souls is the ultimate goal of religious dogma, then let us be clear about a few things. Believers hold to the idea that God is the Creator... Of all. As in the story of the Virgin Birth, this same God does not ask our permission at critical moments when our experiences are entered into by Fate. Our common experience teaches us that we can as much choose our gender identity as we can choose who our parents will be... Or what color we are born.

This God that Christians believe in  "came upon Mary", and the result was that she became pregnant with the child before whom all "Believers", hypocrites included, now bow. It didn't matter what her social class was. It didn't matter, in a culture where your name was important, that her name means "a rebel". It didn't matter that she was engaged to Joseph. It didn't matter that she was still a teenager. It didn't matter that she would be stigmatized for being pregnant "out of wedlock". It didn't matter what the definition of marriage was at the time... Joseph may not have been able to explain to the hypocrites around why he was still marrying this girl, but he did any way. Imagine explaining to family and friends that... Oh, "an angel of the Lord is the daddy of her baby...". Hah! Which takes me to how we view and treat others whose experience with gender identity is at variance with our dogmas.

Who are we to judge? Who are we to persecute our children and our neighbors because they find themselves in the dilemma of Adam undifferentiated? As for the issue of "Marriage"... Only the most ignorant of hypocrites among us would insist that the standard is, or has always been some version of heterosexual monogamy. All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small; all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all. That is what you say you believe.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Many Voices Calling Out To Us

On our journey through this life there will be many voices calling out to us. Among these will be the many adversarial voices. These include, but are not limited to, the voice of experience; trying to tell us that we can only be who we have been as a result of fortune or misfortune. There is the voice of inexperience; trying to tell us that we don’t know enough to aspire to the greatness we feel tugging at the hem of our consciousness. There will be the voice of guilt and shame; always trying to tell us that we are not, and will never be good enough because of the errors of our past ways. There will be the voice of authority; seeking to limit us to the mould that serves the duties to which we are assigned.
We will, as a function of our senses, hear these voices; but we must not listen to them in ways that limit our lives to their beckoning. Instead let us find time and space to pay attention to the voices that speak in an affirmative way about our unlimitable potential, and our most noble aspirations. Let us listen attentively to the voice telling us that we are never limited to our past with its many scares. Let us give ear to that voice which names us in accordance with a destiny bubbling over with the abundance of our most noble ideas. Hold on to those ideas with the power of your every breath. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

A Treatise Against Trumpism - Beyond Walls... A More Humane Vision of America


Throughout our history people have come to this country in pursuit of a better lifeSome come to escape wars and famine, others just in search of greater freedom and better economic opportunity. For whatever reasons...this is a land of immigrants, by immigrants, for immigrants. We come here and we give our talents and our blood and the blood of our children to build and to secure the “land of the free and home of the brave”. 

The absence of homogeneity is what makes us unique as a nation. We are more than “a people”. America is a product of the whole human experience. This country offers the richness of what it means to be a person to all who are courageous enough to venture into the formative possibilities of its melting pot.

As Americans we have a moral duty to cultivate a vision of our society that is greater than that which is reflected in the convenient political opportunism that colors the ambitions of myopic individuals. Those who want to close the door behind them once they and their households are in will find that door constantly battered by the winds of human opportunity that brought the first ships to these shores. This country is a force of nature powered by the aspirations and the inspirations of the immigrant. Ours is a hope hinged on the hopes of those who dare to rise up against hopelessness.

According to our census experts there are close to 12 million people living illegally in the USA. They build our houses. They help us care for our children. They do our landscaping. They work in our restaurants and hotels. They do our dry cleaning. They work in our livestock industry. They raise and kill and pluck the chicken that is an irreplaceable staple of our daily diets. They do the work that many of us think is too hard.  We underpay them because they are afraid to speak out against exploitation. They are forced to forego any recourse to Justice because of fear. And they are not the factor that they should be in the tax base that goes toward the building of a more viable society. 


Beyond the convenient parochialism of some of those who aspire to leadership, we are inspired by an older and more hopeful vision of this country. It is a vision articulated in the poetry of Emma Lazarus, inscribed on the Statue of Liberty:

"Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"


We are a nation of laws, but we must be more than that. Laws evolve. Let us be a nation of Justice. In the ongoing evolution of civil society, let us author laws that nurture the hopes and dreams of the widow and the orphan. This nation must continue to be a refuge for those who seek safety from cruelty and famine. 


Let us be fair to those whose only transgression is seeking a better life for themselves and their families. The suggestions that we build walls along our northern and southern borders wreaks of the kind of existential backwardness that is best left behind us. While they may "break the law", there is nothing criminal about seeking a better future for oneself and one's children.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Read This... On The Iran Deal

http://www.niacouncil.org/73-prominent-international-relations-and-middle-east-scholars-back-iran-deal/

“In addition to advancing non-proliferation goals, this agreement could be the key that unlocks solutions to some of the most intractable conflicts in the Middle East,” Trita Parsi, President of NIAC, said. “The region suffers from a diplomacy deficit and the nuclear deal paves the way for an increase in dialogue and diplomacy on a whole set of issues – which is critical for stability in the Middle East.”

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Dogs In and Among Us.

Good and EvelThe world we inhabit is in large measure the externalization of our interior states. We project onto the landscape of our lives the cultivated assumptions of our collective experience. Our availability to the impulses to become tragic actors, or otherwise, in the arena of our conflict driven reality is jarring; but a fact nonetheless. In the absence of moral restraint we become the rapist, the child molester, the robber, the terrorist, the murderer, the wearer of the long black coat with the assault rifle hidden beneath looking to create mayhem, the wielder of the long knife on the elevator. In the absence of a moral compass we become the oppressor of the disadvantaged, the enslaver of the stranger, the bigot. Without the compass of moral restraint we become the invaders of countries, the killers of innocents, the abductors of daughters, perpetrators of genocide. 
Without doubt we know that evil exists; we are certain of this because we are aware of its potential in each one of us. Evil thrives unless we make a conscious choice day by day, minute by minute, event by event, not to feed the mean dog within. That mean dog within each one of us fights the good dog all day and all night long. It’s bark is the awful precursor to its terrible, mangling bite. Many of us may resist the fact that we each harbor the best and the worst of all instincts within us. To those who think this I would say that history is full of examples of “good” people who are guilty of committing some of the worst atrocities. For good to be triumphant we must each commit to nurturing that other dog within… the good dog. Essential steps in the nurturing of the good dog in ourselves must take into consideration the factors that give ascendancy to the evil dog. We must identify these factors and act to replace them with more desirable traits. These factors include, but are not limited to the following:
OUR SENSE OF SECURITY OR INSECURITY… The most basic of our needs is the need to survive. Our need to survive is the primary driver of our responses in the various situations of our lives. The quality of our responses to perceived threats is a direct function of the quality of the values we cultivate habitually. Honesty. Courage. Indomitable Spirit. These are values that can be inculcated through commitment to the practice of a wholesome discipline. A wholesome discipline is centered around a true commitment to balanced living. A wholesome discipline strengthens body, mind, and spirit. This strengthening is necessary preparation for the many challenges that living presents. It is a truth well thought out and spoken that "the strong survive". The weak "fall by the wayside", often after taking the easy way out by regurgitating their internal chaos on the world around them. Those who cause chaos are destined for destruction... Self-destruction. The ultimate logic of our existence is that we do to ourselves what we do to others. Thus the ultimate law: Do unto others as you would have them do to you.
OUR INTENTION… The ‘thing’ in us that gives rise to, and that determines the quality of our actions is something called intention. Intention is the big WHY behind every action we execute. To have intention is to be able to determine at the most basic level what we want the desired outcome of an action to be. The good dog in us wants to act in a way that serves the common good. The bad dog’s intention is to serve self, regardless of the consequences to others. Every time we choose to act
in the best interest of the other we are feeding that good dog and starving the mean evil dog. Acting in the best interest of community is not easy, since it requires that we become more and more selfless in our behavior. It demands that we stifle our want of immediate self-gratification in the interest of perpetuating the common good.

Acting unselfishly engenders a nobility that although uncommon, is essential to the building of viable characters and communities. It is what we mean by “being in the world” but not “being of the world”. It seems like in today's world we invest a lot, too much in fact, in feeding the bad dog. This must cease. The strengthening of the good dog must become our existential priority. Ultimately it is how we potentiate the possibilities of being Mankind’s best friend”. To act to the contrary is to become our own worst enemies.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Word For The Vester Flanagans Among Us

"The essence of greatness is the perception the Virtue is enough"--- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Virtue ... It is defined as: moral goodness; upright living; righteousness. It is the conduct of one’s life in accordance with principles of Righteousness. It is doing to others as you would have them do to you. Virtue challenges us to lift each other up in the face of circumstances that are down-pressing. Virtue is that light in the darkness that warms the cold, comforts the afflicted, reassures the frightened, and points the way to those who may be lost.
Virtue moves us toward each other. It makes us care in a culture where one person’s mis-step or misfortune is treated as nobody else’s concern. Virtue opens our eyes where it is more convenient to be blind. When we care, we align our lives with the cause of Justice. When we align our lives with the cause of justice, we find ourselves in solidarity with the purpose of working to liberate our fellowmen from all circumstances that are dehumanizing. These circumstances range from personal habits of drug and sexual addiction to  the corporate cultivation of inhumane working conditions.
Virtue calls us to call each other to personal and corporate accountability. It challenges us to let our light shine as a guide to others. Virtue reminds us that an authentic love is not a function of our simple-minded heroism. An authentic love... A virtuous love, is the real work that we must each do to save ourselves from the despair bred by dysfunctional living. What we can all do for each other is to lovingly, but firmly, point the way to self-redemption. No person can save another person’s soul. The cultivation of self-control is absolutely necessary in each life. Virtuous self-control is liberating. It leads to a state of good health. Moral health. Physical health. Cultural health. Spiritual health. That is what salvation is! Anything less is religious vanity. Nothing more.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Forbidden Fruit

Enters horned desire with bowing grace
But scant regard for the thorned trunk
That it must climb
To touch and taste
And pluck from its place… The prize of its obsession

Descends again with bleeding hands
And seeming cherished pain...
With scant regard for injuries self-inflicted
Totally oblivious to the slow death
Which creeps upon a soul
That constantly bleeds itself...

Comes stumbling now…
Under the influence of a fleeting satisfaction
And falls... Losing the grip it had
On the forbidden fruit
For which it sacrificed its life
For the promise of vain ecstasies
And finally reaps... The Grim Reaper’s due

Excerpt From: Roy Alexander Graham, In My Element Figtree Enterprises, Inc., 2012.
For more of my poetry visit www.figtreeenterprises.com

We Must Change

Change requires us to make the adjustments that become necessary as a result of the reality that “all things are becoming new”. We change our clothes because physical and physiological dynamics dictate that we do. If we don’t, our place in the socio-communal order becomes compromised. No one wants to be around tattered, stinking individuals. We shower to get rid of the dirt, the dead cells, and stench that results from our being in a physically and spiritually demanding world. Showering is a re-freshing experience. We should all embrace it, but for many resisting change the tatteredness of their general disposition is only superseded by the foulness of their bad behavior.
We change our minds because we should always be learning/ discovering new things. At some point we should accept the reality that the earth is not flat. At some point we discover that the place we occupy in this infinite universe is but a spec, all be it a most beautiful one, but a spec nevertheless in the grand scheme of things. Eventually we realize that each of us are but minuscule pieces in an unimaginably large puzzle. Minuscule, but essential pieces...
The role each of us can play in the functionality of this great puzzle which is Life is not to be underestimated. Ask Gandhi. Ask Martin Luther King Jr. Ask Malcolm X. Ask Yeshua. Ask Moses. Ask Mandela. Ask a tired lady who refuses to give her seat up to a white man and move to the back of the bus to satisfy the demands of a racist society. Yes, ask Rosa Parks! Ask my grandmother…and yours.
In the light of new discoveries, the assumptions we made in ignorance about life, and the operations of day and night, the comings and goings of the seasons, about the oceans, and the stars, and each other... must change. The historical assumptions that led some to deny others their rightful place in society based on pseudo-science, economic bias, and just straight up evil behavior, must eventually end up where they belong… on the garbage heap of history.

"Things" Change

Whether we like it or not, whether we are comfortable with it or not; things change. If you own a cellular phone, or a television, or some other cultural utility, you will attest to this. Nowadays before you learn your way around the newest iteration of your cell phone, it becomes obsolete. This applies to many things in our daily lives. Some of us embrace these changes, even look forward to them, hoping to somehow benefit from every advantage offered in the newest “thing”.
Some of us hold on to the old technologies, insisting that they still perform the “basic” functions so why bother. When the automatic transmission became the predominant trend in automobiles, some older drivers insisted that unless one could drive a “stick shift” with its clutch action and other cumbersome appliances, you couldn’t really “drive”. Instead of embracing the new ease of operation and the opportunities it represented for those whose physical and other challenges were not the same as theirs, they just wanted things to stay the same.
The unreasonableness of this view not withstanding, some people just need to have their ingrained default positions /prejudices overridden. This is necessary for progress, and is as true for advances of a scientific nature as they are for cultural, political, religious, and other advances. Change is endemic in a dynamic universe. It is inevitable in our world. It happens, and when it comes it necessitates the demise of the status quo. We either embrace it, or it envelopes us and renders us functionally redundant. Not a good place to be.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Let Peace Begin With Me...

To realize true fulfillment we need to call out the falsehoods that have prevented us from living our best lives, and abandon them. Number one among these falsehoods is the belief that others are to be blamed for the life we have. We will never change as long as we foster this lie. So let us begin by taking responsibility for the circumstances of our lives. If you don’t like them, get about the business of changing them. Don’t wait for change to come. Be about the business of bringing about the change you need. The greatest spiritual influences always lead us to recognize the seeds of our own redemption within. Jesus said to the man lying on his bed for years waiting to be healed: take up your bed and walk. He knew the potential that lay dormant in this person and called it out.

The turn-around we need in our lives, and our relationships, continues when we re-assert that idealism which is founded on the reality that we will reap what we sow in this world. When we sow disunity we will reap alienation. When we sow fear we will reap torment. When we live according to the flesh... that is, when we behave as if everything that feels good is therefore good for us... we will destroy ourselves. When we live according to the Spirit, when we walk away from that self-serving dogma that has us believing that it's all about us, we will reap the abundant life.

Let us be conscientious about the seeds we sow, because they will most certainly have their harvest in our lives. We are constantly being called to engage in an idealism that is fully founded on cornerstones of justice. The balanced scale is a symbol that indicates what must become the new measure of our relationships. This symbol reminds us to live in constant mindfulness of the fact that the justice that we seek must begin with us. The challenge we all face is to do to others as we would have them do to us. The table spread with the "bread of sorrow and the wine of violence", is not the feast our Creator intended. It is definitely not the banquet to which we should be inviting each other.

The media around us are saturated with the tragedies that are the results of our despising the beckoning of Justice and buying into the lies of corrupt influences. When sons and fathers murder each other, they are living out those lies. When we sexually abuse each other we are living out those lies. When we contribute to each other’s demise by peddling poisons for profit through our various enterprises, licit and illicit, we are acting as corruptors of community. When corporations despise their responsibility to be builders of communities, they are sowing the seeds of their own decline. When governments ignore their responsibility to help build a more equitable society, they are fomenting the very insecurity they pay lip service to wanting to protect against. When those charged with protecting and serving our communities become the agents of destructive prejudices, they are creating the conditions for their own obliteration.

We may at times become frustrated by the contradictions all around us, but becoming insensitive to the need for change is not an option. The stability and prosperity we long for will only come through an enduring commitment to Justice. This commitment to Justice is the only sure foundation on which the peaceful communities we long for will be built. The change we long for must begin in each one of us. We... You and I... must do the work necessary to resolve the contradictions within ourselves, and in every single relationship we inhabit. In the end it is an act of futility to expect of others what we ourselves are unwilling to give.





Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Our Prisons

Not very long ago I worked as a medical professional in a couple of our prisons in Pennsylvania. It was, to say the least, one of the most depressing vocational experiences I have ever had. I can state without hesitation that these places are the most dis-spiriting, the most de-humanizing environments that I have ever been in. It is a blatant untruth to speak of these places as experiences in rehabilitation. Anyone who has ever been in one of these facilities will not escape the impression that the culture of our prisons is in essence self-perpetuating. The prison experience as it is results for the most part not in a “correctional” outcome, but in the kind of broken person who will keep going back.
Human Rights Watch in a report in December 2013 has this to say about prison and detention conditions in the USA:
“Prisoners and detainees in many local, state and federal facilities, including those run by private contractors, confront conditions that are abusive, degrading and dangerous. Soaring prison populations due to harsh sentencing laws—which legislators have been reluctant to change—and immigrant detention policies coupled with tight budgets have left governments unwilling to make the investments in staff and resources necessary to ensure safe and humane conditions of confinement. Such failures violate the human rights of all persons deprived of their liberty to be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and to be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
One of the foundational underpinnings of our ever-evolving civility is a belief in the inherent dignity of every person. It is this belief that guides our morality. It is what rationalizes our prohibition against discrimination in all its forms. A belief in the inherent dignity of the human person prohibits discrimination based on age, or gender, or race, or national origin. It is what has led us to insist on treating persons with disabilities as deserving of the right to life and liberty, and all the facilities that go with those rights. It is what makes us legislate against cruel and unusual punishment for those who violate the laws of our society, no matter how gross their transgressions. And so we must ask why it is that we are creating the conditions described by Human Rights Watch. A cursory look at the evidence may in fact lead one to conclusions that are not hopeful for our society.
In an economic culture that is intent on culling a profit out of every human circumstance, prisons are designed to be necessarily self-perpetuating. The idea is to keep themselves optimally occupied in order to maximize profits for those who now invest in them. Yes, prisons have become business opportunities. Some people speak of prisoners as “animals” and prisons are designed to make sure they remain as such. In truth I have come to believe that the recidivism that we complain so much about is in fact a desired outcome of those who operate these dens of human degradation.

Crime and Incarceration

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” ~Nelson Mandela
In the interest of the maintenance of law and order, civil society creates appropriate mechanisms by which it holds those who violate the strictures of the social order accountable. Our courts along with the prison system are a vital part of this process. Persons found guilty of breaking the law often find themselves at the mercy of the Court and it’s various agents. Our guiding principle at judgement is that “the punishment should fit the crime”. In his inauguration speech President George W Bush stated that: ‘A civil society demands from each of us goodwill and respect, fair dealing and forgiveness.’ This is a standard worthy of our remembrance as we reflect on our perceptions of those who find themselves at the mercy of our courts, since our collective perceptions are operational in our eventual treatment of them.
Incarceration is a necessary part of the Justice system. Our society, through its courts, sometimes finds it absolutely necessary to imprison people…some for the rest of their lives. Because of the absolutely critical consequences of sentencing people to serve time in prison, we have a serious responsibility to make sure that our court system functions justly. Avoiding cruel and unusual punishment is a sacred duty that we must be vigilant in upholding. While we set out to appropriately punish offenders for their crimes, we have a responsibility to make sure that we make every effort to rehabilitate those who can be rehabilitated. Most important of all, we have a responsibility to put in place every safeguard against unjust imprisonment. This is a most crucial responsibility as we set out to guarantee the freedom that is idealized in our most celebrated creed.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Three Suggestions For Enhancing Our Lives

There are events in the course of our lives that cause us to reassess the assumptions we develop when things do not go as we would have them. An unexpected illness. A heartbreak. Storms. A delayed or cancelled flight. Unsubstantiated dreams. Divorce. Death. These reassessments are necessary and useful. When life hands us lemons, we need to see the opportunities for the refreshment of our old, thirsty, outdated ideas and insipid attitudes. “Make lemonade”, someone says. We can, and we should. These are the thoughts and possibilities that keep us vitally connected to reality. We can practice this essential connectedness through the following basic exercises:
  • Relax. Calm down and find time for rest and the rehabilitation of your physical and mental parts. The fatigue that results from inadequate rest wears us out, and eventually tears us down. It depletes our sensory capabilities, and makes us prone to accidents of thought and physicality that jeopardize our own safety, and the safety of those around us. So the good we do ourselves by resting issues to those around us who are impacted by our presence and activities. It is essential therefore, that we become aware of this at home, at work, and in the public spaces that we share.
  • Pay attention. There is a tendency to develop tunnel vision when we allow ourselves to become worn out by work, and the frustrations and disappointments that are inevitable in the course of our lives. Tunnel vision is a function of the anxiety that is part and parcel of our being tired and overwhelmed. It keeps us from seeing the other possibilities available to us in the face of mechanisms that fail in our expectations. The voice of Wisdom speaks to us in these circumstances, and hopefully we listen. It tells us to stop and look around. It suggests that we silence that other voice in our heads that keeps telling us there is no other way out. When wisdom gets our attention we begin to take those deep breaths which add needed oxygen to the blaze of the fire of our possibilities. That fire is extinguished when we suffer “burn out”.
  • Reboot. Rebooting is the act of shutting down and restarting a computer that gives it a bounce intended to clear its “wedgitude”. Wedgitude is tech slang for “the state of being wedged”. We all get to that point in our own experiences where our “operating systems” need a wedgitude adjustment. Shut things down for a moment. Give yourself that bounce necessary to face the new challenges ahead.
Replace the worn and obstructive pieces of your operation, personal and otherwise, and give yourself reasonable time to “come again”. In other words, reboot! Trying to operate with a “wedgie” in your os (operating system) results in debilitating dysfunction. Avoid system failure. In the words of the Desiderata: “with all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams; it is still a beautiful world.” So reboot, and carry on.