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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Secrets Of A Not-So-Long Life

A young man set out on a quest to find the oldest person in the world, and to inquire of him or her as to what the secret of living a long life was. After much traveling, he came upon someone whom he thought must surely be the oldest person in the world. On a bench just a short distance from a local tavern sat the bent-over figure of a man with weathered looking features. At first he appeared asleep, but a closer look revealed half opened eyes, and his head was moving to the music coming from the tavern. It was just about ten thirty in the morning, so the young man thought this old  man must be resting from a morning walk. He appeared quite tired and worn out, and did not seem to notice as the young man came closer.

Approaching cautiously and with care not to startle this seemingly aged individual, our young traveler spoke: "Excuse me sir, if you don't mind I'd like to ask you how you have managed to live as long as you have?" Barely raising his head, the man answered in a raspy, tired voice: "Who wants to know?", he asked. "Well sir, my name is Andrew, and I am on a quest to find out what it takes to live a very long life". "Huh?", the man responded, as if he did not quite hear everything Andrew had said. "Can you please tell me how you have managed to live as long as you have", Andrew continued in a slightly raised voice.  "Well to tell the truth, I drink as much liquor as I can at every pub and party I can find. If there are drugs to be had, I'm always in. I love smoking cigarettes, and now that weed is legal here, I'm 'bout to get me a regular prescription if ya know what I mean. And as for sex, well let me tell you boy, there is hardly much that I have not done. People say we need eight hours of rest, well if you ask me, sleeping is pretty much a waste of time when there is a party going on...". "Hold on a moment sir", then Andrew interrupted, "you mean to tell me that you have lived this long doing all the things you just mentioned?". "Yup!" the man answered with a jerk of his head and shoulders. "And can I ask how old you are sir?", said Andrew with much consternation in his voice. "Why, boy I'm only thirty five!", the man boasted.

At this Andrew shook his head in disbelief and turned to walk away. "Hold on a minute", the man said as he got up to follow Andrew, "You got change for a cigarette and a burger? Don't think I've eaten since yesterday".

Friday, February 27, 2015

Restoring Our Souls

We all get tired. There are events in the course of our lives that wear us out. If we are committed to the ideal of good mental and physical well being we will look for opportunities to rehabilitate our selves ... To refresh our sagging energies. The events that sap our vital juices are mostly part of the normal experience of living. Sometimes they are unexpected. At times they are inevitable. An unexpected illness. A heartbreak. Storms. A delayed or cancelled flight. An uninspiring job that wreaks of drudgery. Unsubstantiated dreams. Divorce. Death. 

Stuff happens... and we are forced to look again at the operating assumptions by which we program ourselves. 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. If we do not, we run the risk of harming ourselves and those closest to us. The unintended consequences of fatigue have the potential of adding fuel to the fire of our "burnout". So how do we avoid these? What can we do to recover from the depletion of our essential energies? Here are three suggestions.
  • 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”... Being stuck as we often say. 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. In the midst of our daily lives it is important to find the place of stillness... To be led to the "still waters" where we can experience the restoration of our souls.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Butterflies In Our Boxes

Proselytizing is risky business. Religion has always been, and remains a powerful motivating force that captures the attention of people and moves them to act out the convictions they develop. The need to make sense of the various overwhelming circumstances that we face leads many to reach for a "power" greater than the individual or communal self. That need to become connected to a force greater than one’s self, or more powerful than the sum of our communal experiences drives many people to develop a reverence for existential imperatives that are perceived in supernatural terms. Invariably the journey into the supernatural is shrouded in cloaks of “mystery and miracle”. It is for these reasons that I think we should be wary of what I will call the inherent risks in the "reach" for faith. In a world where radical theisms have again become vehicles of  much social and political turmoil, it is useful to remember the well stated realism that theology is what one person says and another hears about "God".

Imagine that you were the observer of a discussion that two parties were having about the super butterfly in each of their boxes... boxes that only each party could see into. So the one party describes in exotic detail the attributes and actions of the butterfly in his or her box. The thing is said to be beautiful and skilled at flight. It has colors that were too exotic to name and had features that defied one’s ability to detail. This butterfly is said to have appeared out of nowhere one day after a storm. That thing of might and beauty could also talk... in every language... And was able to tell stories not only of the past, but prophesy about the future.

Now the other party, not to be outdone, looks into his or her box and sets about describing the butterfly therein. Not only does that creature possess all the attributes and abilities of the already described butterfly, but it's wings are larger and more powerful. The looker into the box states that every time this creature moves in flight, it becomes the source of all the winds. The back and forth between the two parties is sometimes heated as each attempts to describe the occupant of a particular box in terms that would give it supremacy over the other’s butterfly.

As an intelligent observer, you look on with great interest as the banter goes on. The rivalry between each protagonist grows and becomes more and more obvious. You notice that at times they make claims about their butterflies without even looking into the box in which the creature dwells. This tends to happen especially when the conversation gets very heated. Eventually they turn to you, each one of them, and ask you to vouch for the veracity of their individual claims... based on their assumption that you know something about butterflies. It is then that you are struck by a singularly astute observation... No one can see into the box of each of these persons but them. The experience of actually seeing into those boxes is exclusive to each. No one else has access to those boxes.

And so you awaken from the more than momentary incursion of consciousness only to hear them each clamoring for you to take sides. Not only do they expect you to believe the stories they tell, they each want you to be a witness for their version of things. That is until you confront each of them with the question: How do I know that there is even a butterfly or any other creature in your box? You know that they won't give you a meaningful answer... They will of course forbid you to look into their boxes, that is how they maintain their hold over other acolytes. Mystery. The power of each’s claim is maintained by way of its given mysterious nature. It is enough for them to get you to just “believe”. And I'm thinking that I will give due regard to the claims of each; that is if they in turn will recognize my right to not believe in the very existence of the butterflies in their boxes.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Of Paper Roses, A Mansion Called Folly, And Dreams Of True Love

Paper Roses
We look forward always to the opportunities to celebrate Love with its trail of enlivened hearts, or broken ones, beating faster and louder as we are reminded of the passion that makes it such a life affirming force. Beautifully arranged flowers and assorted candies become the gifts by which we say "I love you!" to those with whom we share the wonder of a romantic connection. Roses and chocolate become the symbols and elixir of hearts that beat to the rhythm of sweetly loaded emotions and intentions. Who among us does not live for those moments when we are told and reminded that we are the very reason why someone else breathes... That for us someone would climb the highest mountain, or swim the deepest sea, or walk through fire, or stand in the way of any threat? And that would all be so great and noble... if only it were always true. 

 Unfortunately the words "I love you" are sometimes loaded with intentions that are neither noble nor life-affirming.  We know from experience that those words are the harbingers of notions that do not always have one's best interest at heart. Too often "I love you" only signifies someone's selfish intention to use and eventually abuse unsuspecting hearts and minds and bodies and pocket books.  In the place of genuine roses we often see a proliferation of fake flowers, and fake intentions, being paraded and presented as gifts to sometimes unsuspecting hearts not just on occasions such as Valentine's Day, but in life in  general. It is to the perpetrators of such fraudulent intentions that the rebuff made popular by singer Connie Francis is addressed:
"Realized the way your eyes deceived me
with tender looks that i mistook for love
So take away the flowers that you gave me
And send the kind that you remind me of
Paper Roses
Paper Roses
Oh How real those roses seem to be
But there only imitation like your imitation love for me

I thought that you would be a perfect lover
You seemed full of sweetness at the start
But like a big red rose that's made of paper
There isn't any sweetness in your heart"

A Mansion Called Folly

A few miles east of Port Antonio, a quaint little town on the beautiful northeast coast of the island of Jamaica, is to be found what has come to be called "The Folly Great House". In reality it is the ruins of a two story 60 room mansion that was built around 1905 by wealthy American Alfred Mitchel for his wife, who belonged to the Tiffany family, jewelers from New York City. They both lived in this ostentatious manor until Alfred's death in 1912. Abandoned a few yeas later, by 1938 the roof had collapsed, and the place is now a spectacle symbolizing the corruption of noble intentions by a mixing of incompatible ingredients. 

The reasons given for the demise of this once illustrious abode of this wealthy family have taken on mythic proportions. One often repeated reason has to do with alleged shortcuts that were taken during its construction. The story is told that salt water from the sea just below the mansion was used in the mixing of the concrete, leading to corrosion of the steel components of the building. Some accounts dispute that assertion, going as far as to say that all construction materials were imported from abroad, including the water for mixing the concrete.  Be that as it may, what was once the pride and joy of these lovers is now a symbol of what results when the best of loving intentions is corroded by what I have called "the salted cement of incompatible ideals". In a poem titled "Uninhabitable", I wrote the following about Folly:
"Now here it stands
On a pastured rise...
A sad place... Wasted by the many generations of its emptiness...
Hope discolored... Columns that weep
Under the burden of helpless beams...
Day by day it falls apart
Materially... And in every heart that has ever known love
And sought to build a monument
With the steeled character of passion determined
And the salted cement of incompatible ideals...
Here it stands... A monument to passion... A concreted folly
Uninhabitable"

Dreams Of True Love
We should all have dreams... Dreams of true love included. Without them we have little to aspire to. It is a wonderful thing to reach in our minds and imaginations beyond the ordinary. But then we must wake up and do the work necessary to realize those dreams. The dreams that true love inspires are life affirming. They tend to expand our horizons, and the horizons of those we love. They make us want to do extraordinary things for our beloved no matter how ordinary our resources. Ultimately however, the proof of true love is not in the grandiosity of our virtual aspirations. The proof of true love lies in our willingness to put our shoulder to the wheel to make sure that we do right by those we say we love.

As a teenager at Summer camp one year, we became engaged in a discussion of what the definition of Love was. I have never forgotten the words of one of my fellow campers who blurted out the following: "Love is a feeling you feel when you are about to feel a feeling you have never felt before!" Many of us laughed. Some of us had a good idea  what he may have been talking about, but we dared not mention it since this was in fact a church camp. Beyond the poetry of my friend's exciting revelation, one grows to understand that Love is about more than how we may feel at given times. We do not stop loving because we are not excited in one way or another. We do not stop loving when we grow old. As husbands we do not stop loving when stretch marks appear on our once "perfect" lover. We do not stop loving in the face of physical changes and disabilities. Our passion should not be defined by our orgasmic experience. This is not the mark of true love. Incompatible values and incompatible aspirations, are like salted cement. Any mansion built with these will eventually crumble; no matter how powerful our initial feelings are.

Love is an action word. True love is what makes us wake up and go to work even when we do not feel like it sometimes. True love acts to provide nourishment and shelter. True love heats the house in Winter and makes sure it is comfortable in the heat of Summer. True love makes us live out a commitment to our own growth and development, and the growth and development of those we say we love. True love is respectful. It enables us to forgive one another our trespasses. It is non-judgmental, selfless, humble; it seeks wisdom in all things. An essential piece of wisdom in the building of durable relationships is the dictate that lovers must have righteous affection for each other. We learn eventually that this kind of affection is nourished by the values and aspirations that are shared... that are held in common by persons in love. Two cannot walk together on the roads of this life unless they agree on some fundamental values. Shared values and aspirations... Common ideals... These are the components of the cement  that holds the mansion called Love together. The durability of that mansion is predicated on these shared values and aspirations; not our romantic notions of being together, despite their ego-enhancing features.  

In a world where paper roses and corrupted ideals proliferate, we still hold on to the Hope that a true love inspires and substantiates. It is the inspiration of that hope that we seek to rekindle on occasions when we fittingly remind one another of the vital connections that make life so meaningfully enjoyable.   







Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Brian Williams and Me... Myth-Weaving In Our Time

Brian Williams, the quintessential media persona of NBC Nightly News, has temporarily removed himself from his duties at that desk. This as he faced daunting questions over differing versions of a story he repeatedly told about coming under rocket fire while riding in an Israeli Defense Force helicopter in 2006. In various reports Williams made it seem as if he were in imminent danger as rockets passed " just beneath the helicopter" he was riding in. Stuff like this tends to lend "street cred" to what is without doubt a sometimes dangerous profession. Eye witness accounts of the incident have since contradicted the story repeated by the erstwhile anchor; and now, with his credibility being eroded, there are calls for him to resign from his post which he has held since December 2002.

 In the super-hyped dog eat dog world of today's Media the line between truth and fiction is more of  blur than reality. To maintain one's edge in such an environment, embellishment becomes something of a norm rather than an assumed exception. The selling of information is in large measure a function of the hype surrounding the personality of the salesperson. Brian Williams' persona is thus a vehicle of his professional function. We deem the information that he presents to be credible based on our perception of him as a credible source. In this environment myth weaving is an essential piece of the whole presentation. And thus the narrative about the presenter is essentially woven into the myth, in this case the "news", that is being created... I mean reported. And so the consumer is left with a dilemma... We must always consider the source... We must learn to undress the hype; to sort fact from the fiction in which it is woven for effective presentation. This takes me back to something I wrote about myth-weaving in my book "Of Scattered Seed And Broken Souls":

"The uninitiated mind often becomes confused in its consideration of what truth is. This confusion is a state of being that proceeds from a mind preoccupied with faulty assumptions about reality. If we begin with the wrong assumptions, we ask the wrong questions, and logically arrive at answers informed by our assumptions.

Such a mind approaches an event and begins its evaluation by asking, “Did it happen?”. The assumption being, if we cannot place that event in specific time and a specific place, then its truthfulness is to be challenged. When we equate truth to facts, not only do we overburden the facts; we shortchange the truth.


Wisdom teaches us that the truth is often larger and more encompassing than a particular set of facts. When we limit truth to the boundaries of our particular experience, we end up with dogma. Historically, dogma has been used to serve the purposes of those who would negate the validity of those positions that derive from the experience of others. Herein is to be found the raison d’etre of so many tragic conflicts.


Instead of beginning our quest for truth by asking whether or not an event actually occurred, perhaps we consider the accuracy of its depiction of the human condition. As an example, when we analyze the Biblical account of what we term “ original sin,” instead of preoccupying ourselves with questions about the “apple” or “the “serpent,” we may more usefully contemplate the reality of temptation and beguilement in our experience. Is the story true? Yes. Is it factual? I do not care.


Seriously considered, myth serves us more completely than fact. This is so because myth takes the truth out of the rut of a particular life experience and re- presents it as a universal reality. A contentious point, I will admit, to those who would rule the world with the prescriptions of their dogma. But “truth” was always “offensive.”


Myth is truth that is larger than fact, and story telling is still a safe craft. Well, that is what the ancients keep telling me."


Maybe the "truth" that this News Anchor was trying to tell was something that was much larger than his own real experience would or could bear out. To be sure, the helicopter he was riding in did not get shot down. He obviously did not get maimed or killed in this ongoing crisis. This, however, is not the reality of many who lost life and limb in the unfortunate drama which is the Middle East Crisis. As I write this the death of Kayla Mueller and the grief of those who were close to her is being reported on all major news outlets. Kayla was a young American who from all reports believed that Peace must be a function of Justice. She went to Syria as a volunteer for that justice which she hoped will bring peace. She went to live and work among the displaced victims of an ongoing conflict. Over 200, 000 have died as a result of the conflict consuming the people of Syria. Kayla became a victim of the incessant bombing that the people of Syria now suffer through. 

This unfortunately sad episode continues even as we focus on the factual aberrations in Brian Williams' account of his experience there. No amount of discounting his narrative is going to diminish the danger that many, including news personalities, face in this continuing tragedy. We can make this storyteller feel bad, but we cannot diminish the real suffering of those who face the real threat of death and dismemberment daily in war zones; some of which are created through the execution of the economic and political desires of powerful interests among us. 

This piece cannot end until we note the sad irony in the fact that certain media outlets that are reporting the assumed fall from grace of Brian Williams because of the inconsistencies in his reporting are the very ones still giving a platform to the shameless cast of characters who lied us into the Iraq War. Maybe that is attributable to the existential partnership between predators and scavengers... Foxes and crows for example? Incongruous bastards!

The line between fact and fiction often becomes a casualty of the compelling force of a storyteller's narrative. The innate impetus of a powerful narrative casts aside superfluous and sometimes inconsequential "facts" that would stand in the way of effective narration, and replaces those facts with a vicarious accounting of the overwhelming reality of the storyteller's vision of the story to be told. 

The inconvenient issue that Williams and others like himself faces is founded in the fact that "storytelling" may not be as safe a craft as he has been led to believe.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

History as Destiny... A Black History Month Reflection

"Don't forget your history;
Know your destiny:
In the abundance of water,
The fool is thirsty."- Bob Marley


There is an old saying that:  "It doesn't matter how tall your grandfather was, you have got to do your own growing". Keep this in mind. Ever since the early decades of the 20th century it has been our custom to set time aside to commemorate the contributions of African Americans to American society in particular, and to the development of human civilization in general. This period of reflection on this significant topic is also observed in Canada and the United Kingdom. February is Black History Month in the United States. During this month every year we make an effort to bring to the fore the achievements of persons of African descent here and all over the world throughout history. The celebration of the achievements of Black People is especially significant in a culture in which the Supreme Court once ruled that " Blacks were not American citizens and could never be citizens, ... ... Because slaves were property, not people, ..." (The Dred Scott Decision)

So for the last hundred or so years we have been reminding ourselves of the great achievements of our ancestors and those among us who have done and continue to do great work to benefit mankind. And we have been educating the racist bigots among us, who in their hate infused ignorance would deny us a place at the table of prosperity, not just about our essential humanity; but about the fact we have contributed in no small measure to the development and advance of human knowledge and accomplishments. From the Arts and Sciences to Religion and Politics, from the creation of great literary works and music to the construction of remarkable architecture; we have been and continue to be significant contributors to the building of the enterprise called human civilization. The list of our contributions to the development of society in all these areas is long and continues to grow. Resources to inform ourselves of such contributions exist in great abundance to those interested enough to avail themselves of such knowledge. (The Eurocentric propaganda that has consistently sought to treat us as nonentities in History has been well debunked. Click on this link for some great examples of Black scholars doing this debunking work. Knowledge is most empowering!)
10 Black Scholars Who Debunked Eurocentric Propaganda

And so each February we are called to a process of being empowered through the affirmation of the significant role that those who look like us have played and continue to play in History. We are justly proud of that role. It makes us feel good about ourselves and our potential and promise. We experience a great vindication as we give the lie to the effort of bigots who would treat us as unworthy by seeking to systematically tear us down through the tyranny of hatefulness. This is all good, but to be completely honest we must acknowledge the fact that there is much work that we must still do to live up to the promise and potential of greatness that we would celebrate. 

Bob Marley is an example of prophetic and artistic greatness in our time. We celebrate his Earth Day (Birthday) every year in this month also. He aptly reminds us :  "Don't forget your history; Know your destiny: In the abundance of water, The fool is thirsty."  The truth of this statement is powerful and timely. In this statement Marley echoes the wisdom of Marcus Mosiah Garvey, the great educator and visionary who was adamant about the old piece of African wisdom that: "A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots." Yes, History informs Destiny. Where we have been and what we have done is an indicator of where we can go and what we can do. On our road to greatness we need the quenching of Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding that is all around us. Sadly... Unfortunately... In the abundance of water, many of us remain thirsty. We are parched because we ignore the oases of knowledge and wisdom all around us. The result of this is evidenced in the absence of industry that afflict existentially de-energized people.

 In the midst of our annual celebration of Black History Month we are reminded that it is not enough to just recall and feel good about what some among us have done. The consciousness of the potential greatness that lies within us as a promise must find fulfillment through a dedicated effort to make our lives count in all the ways we can. Each one of us must be about that task. In every way we can... no matter how small we may think our contribution is, we must do what we can to make our lives count. Through education and industry, we must execute our duty to make our world better. There is no task too small. Wherever we find ourselves, and in whatever position, we must do our work to the best of our abilities. We must never stop looking for opportunities to develop the gifts and abilities we have... to make ourselves better, and to ensure that our descendants prosper. As we celebrate the life and efforts of great men and women of all ethnic origins, let us be reminded of that old saying :  "It doesn't matter how tall your grandfather was; you have got to do your own growing".

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Our Karma Will Inevitably Overrun Our Dogma

Driven by the inherent tensions of a dynamic environment, every generation produces its crop of “seers” proclaiming the “end of the world”. We have seen more than a few of these in our recent history. From leaders of religious sects to perusers of the Mayan calendar, all of them proclaiming various end-times scenarios. Whether religious or quasi-scientific, these eschatological prognostications may all be traceable (in our psyches) back to the anxieties related to an inability to deal with inevitable changes in the natural, political, cultural, spiritual, and social order of things.
One may observe, on further examination, that such predictions are a result of the clashes between inescapable chronological /historical realities and our kairotic under-development. In other words, when we are unable to reconcile the changes around us with our own inability to grow our worlds come crashing in. The anxieties associated with the crumbling of our sacralized assumptions about life in the world cause us substantial psychological trauma that we then express in terms of "the end of the world" ... Meaning the end of the world as we know it. What then ensues is the real struggle between those with competing interests in an emerging new reality. The events that mark these critical developments in human history are well documented in the transitional epochs of various societies and civilizations. The revolutions and other social upheavals that mark these transitions remain lessons we must continue to learn from.
We cannot escape the consequences of our proverbial “dogma” being over-run by our “karma”; when our unwillingness to adjust our point of view makes coping almost impossible. So, for example, in a culture where racism proliferates, a person of the oppressed class ascending to the highest office in the land presents those who insist on maintaining the status quo with a crisis of gargantuan proportions. It happens in economies where workers rise in revolution against bosses who make more in a day than they make in a year. The world as they know it ends, and the readjustments necessary to cope with the new reality is, to say the least, overwhelming.
The same thing happens in the cultural/political environment when persons of the same gender begin to insist on the same conjugal rights as heterosexuals; or the female politician in a patriarchally oriented society insists on the shattering of the “glass ceiling” of male dominated preeminence.  It happens when “widow cleansing” is called by its real name “abuse”, wherever it occurs. It happens when women and girls insist on going to school when the males of those societies would rather they be uneducated and subservient. Why can’t women be priests and bishops and cardinals and pope? I would ask why homosexuals are rejected for ordination in all denominations, but you would laugh at me ... and rightly so.
It is this crisis that drives reactionary groups having to deal with a new cultural/political reality to announce that they have come to take their country “back”. This backwardness of which they speak is not just a function of chronology... as in “back to a time when”; it also expresses a wanting to repeal the socio/political/ cultural advances that they now see as a threat to an old status-quo. It is what happens in the shift of power that then makes meaningful the declaration that "every person has a right to determine her/his own destiny”.
The demands of change are no respecters of persons and their philosophical positions. Change moves us to an examination of all our positions. The only thing sacred in this process is its necessity. For every finger pointed, three points back at our own “sacred cows”. Change necessitates a thorough re-examination of our most dearly held biases. It forces conversations about our held beliefs on family, religion, gender and sexuality, race and nationalistic claims, and all the alliances we have come to take for granted. It calls into question all the convenient  positions that we have built to maintain the status quo in our lives as individuals, groups, and nations.