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Saturday, March 28, 2015

A NAME, A DESTINY...The journey to your authentic self

~~~If you do not know who you are… you will end up as someone else. If you do not know where you are going… you will end up someplace else. ~~~
The statements above express the ultimate dilemma of a lost soul. To choose to limit ourselves to the names or titles that we have been given is to give up the power that we have to be everything we can be. It is to deny ourselves the promise of realizing our fullest potential. We are constantly experiencing opportunities to change, to grow. In the truest sense of the word, life is a journey of discovery. The mantra of the soul in discovery mode… the soul that would claim his or her power to be, is courage. Contrary to the belief that many have come to assume to be true, there is nothing inevitable about our destinies. We have heard many people put forward the false notion that our journey and destination in this life is set. Some people believe that one’s fate is predetermined, and that there is nothing one can do about it. To live meaningfully we must divest ourselves of the untruth of such a way of thinking. As a way of effecting the release from such ideas, one must courageously apply oneself to the discipline necessary to do so.
The Mantra Of Courage...
Mantras are understood to be powerful words/ideas that we repeat verbally and in our actions. To adapt to the mantra of courage is to walk step by fateful step into a future full of possibility. It is to moment by moment, event by event, deny the hold that fear would have on us. Through the repetition of a mantra, the meanings and manifestations of the ideas we want to commit to are imprinted in our subconscious. In time they become the template for the change that we desire in ourselves. Through the daily practice of our mantric exercise we are able to create a new template by which we connect with our most deeply held intentions. This eventuates because we are actually inducing a deep connection with the Creative Spirit …the source of everything in the universe. The more adept we become at connecting with this deeper consciousness of life, the more we are able to silence the ideas that are contrary to our most deeply held ideals.
A template of courage silences fear. The mantric exercise by which we replace thoughts of self-defeat with thoughts of self-fulfillment; strengthens our minds,  bodies, and wills to accomplish the higher ideals of the Creative Spirit. This practice trains us to quiet the noisy internal dialogue within with all its under developing cross-talk about who we are expected to be, and who we can be in the worrisome… sometimes ego-degrading opinion of others. We determine our destinies first and foremost by speaking and subsequently acting them into being. And so, to begin with, I tell myself that I am who I think and say I am. Subsequently, I will act in accordance with that logos …the creative thought/word. That word is always becoming flesh in my life…in my world. My ideals take shape and find expression in my daily experience. My thoughts become flesh and live all around me. I become who I say I am.
Name Yourself... Chart Your Own Course
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 heels 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.
Ultimately it is not the names that we are called that will determine our destinies. Those will come across with a sometimes deafening loudness. As a bulwark against the adversarial beckonings on our journey, always be mindful of the reality that your most sacred responsibility in this journey called Life is to chart your own course. The power to do so is a built in feature of the act of naming yourself. The names we are called are critical to our knowledge of what is expected of us. We take due notes of those. Above all however, know that the power that comes from naming yourself is crucial to your living into a destiny that is truly fulfilling.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Just Shall Inherit The Earth

Before we are Black or White or whatever other color... We are human beings. The thing that sets us apart and lifts us above the rest of the animals with whom we share this planet is our ability to reason, and to codify our reasonableness in order to create the kind of civility that allows us to generate civilizations. As humans we have the advantage therefore of developing and maintaining communities. We develop languages to articulate our reasonableness. We write things down to create a sense of history. We develop comparative perspectives on our ways of seeing and believing and remembering. We are able to reflect on our reflections. As a function of our common interest in creating and maintaining functional communal entities, we establish core values that are used to undergird the very foundations of our communal life. We further create mechanisms to force compliance with these core values. We do this out of our hard gained realization that in the absence of core values we cannot build sustainable communities.

Our experience in community building has taught us that we must prioritize the teaching of our core values in our education system as a part of its very foundation. From their earliest days, we must teach our young right from wrong. Before all else, every member of any community must come to know that all civility is a function not just of laws, but of the individual and communal pursuit of justice. The earliest systems of Justice, as early as the Code of Hammurabi in ancient Babylon, recognized the necessity for a set of laws that had universal appeal. The old dictum "an eye for an eye" came out of this code. The Code of Hammurabi predates the Ten Commandments. Many scholars have concluded that Moses was familiar with this set of universal principles that came out of ancient Babylon. They further posit the view that these principles formed the basis of his work to provide the Hebrews with the set of laws we now know as the Ten Commandments as they emerged from a wilderness entity into the semblance of a settled community.

It is important for us to learn a language, history, science, mathematics, and all the other foundations of knowledge. Along with these however, and even before these, we must learn the fundamentals of community life. These fundamentals are stated in laws that forbid murder, stealing, lying on each other, and coveting that which belongs to your neighbor. One can survive and be successful without a knowledge of physics or chemistry; but you may not enjoy much of life if you are a thief, or if your neighbor finds you sleeping with his or her spouse, or if you shed the blood of the innocent. No one who understands much about the human experience trusts a murderer, or a liar, or a thief. We may be well versed in sociology and history and politics. We may know the history of race and class and caste in our societies, but we are not yet educated without a foundation in moral values.

Without individual adherence to a sustainable moral foundation, our communities suffer the kinds of behavioral deficits that lead to chaos and instability. The dysfunctions that plague us in our various communities have their origins in the blatant absence of a moral education. We suffer through the social dysfunctions that plague us because we have not prioritized compliance to a vitally uplifting set of core moral values. In the absence of these we revert to the default "law of the jungle" that characterizes the corrupted hearts and warped minds that eventually create the criminal cultures which are a prominent feature of many societies. It is for this reason that it has been duly noted that " at the heart of our education, is the education of our hearts". The definition of a state of social and spiritual equilibrium as "a healthy mind in a healthy body" is an appropriate articulation of this ideal.

The universal symbol of Justice is a balanced scale. When the scale of Justice is tilted in favor of any group or individual, what results is the prevalence of insecurity in the social environment. It is true that in its most primitive expression, the Law is skewed in favor of those who are privileged to be its custodians... the ruling class. Such laws are often designed to protect their interests against those who are "less privileged". It is a fact that the real history of many societies has its roots in a history of ruthless exploitation. To the extent that the Law is designed and written to protect a ruling class that has acquired its status from a history of exploiting the less privileged, what we end up with is a proliferation of moral contradictions. Simply put, those who have plundered and murdered to attain their place of prominence are now insisting on their right to tell everyone else to behave themselves. When we critically analyze such historical realities, we end up with commonsense declarations such as "when a thief steals from a thief God laughs". The challenge of establishing and maintaining an adhereable moral code in such situations is obvious. The ultimate question becomes... What is an appropriate response to the murderer who now insists: Thou shalt not kill?

And so we come full circle to the old Babylonian dictum: An eye for an eye. This is one of those instances where we are forced to reflect on our reflections. At certain critical junctures in our civilization we find it necessary to reevaluate our commitment not just to the development of law, but to is perfection... It's essential evolution. At some point we must agree with the teacher who says: "An eye for an eye leaves us all blind". A durable civil society must ultimately be the function of our real commitment to an 'oft reflected-on' moral ideal. It must not, and indeed cannot be based on our memory of and insistence on a temporarily satisfying "tit for tat". Such tendencies are based on our human propensity to live out our insecurities even when that means that we sacrifice the needs of others for our own selfish inclinations.

Justice in its truest form becomes its own reason for being. Human beings share an innate longing for happiness based on the satisfaction of their most basic needs...our security needs. The instinct for survival creates in us and among us an unqualified claim to the right to live and be secure in our lives. It illicits from us the primal cry: "I AM SOMEBODY...JUST LIKE YOU!". The compliant statement that "all men are created equal" will set in motion a certain socio-legal evolution despite the political and semantic intentions of its most vocal proponents. As such it will at some point necessarily indict even those whose intentions were to protect themselves from the just wrath of those against whom they have transgressed. It is this reality that has lead us to the observation that "the wheels of Justice grind slowly".  They do. But in their hearts and minds the Just believes and knows and declares that eventually right will overcome wrong. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled... And the Just shall inherit the earth. So Jah say...

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Ode to Spring

A new season arrives… and with it comes new opportunities for embarking on, or continuing, the lifelong task of improving ourselves. Spring is the season of rebirth and renewal. It is a time when we notice all around us the signs of new life coming into being, and the resurrection of many things that became dormant during Winter. We experience a rush of exuberance with the coming of a season of growth, as it calls us to rid ourselves of the heavy coats and other encumbrances connected to a season of retreating from the cold. The energizing of the new season motivates us to open ourselves to the joys of a more abundant life, symbolized everywhere around us in the blossoming that even now is taking place. For many this is a season to embrace and celebrate all the things that sweeten life. It is a time for the carnivals that highlight and promote the erotica of our existence. Winter has thankfully said its goodbye… and we gladly bid it “Adieu!” in anticipation of the opportunities to embrace and celebrate the coming forth of our season of mirth.

Put away the heavy coats…
In the real world in which we live it gets very cold sometimes. Not just in winter, but in the many and varied times and spaces of our numerous relationships. For our own protection, and to maintain our good health, it becomes necessary to cultivate spaces of warmth and comfort for ourselves; and to dress our souls in the kind of physical, emotional, spiritual, and cultural attire that protects us from the pervasive risks of our challenging life environment. “Coming in from the cold” is not just something we do in the chronological period between Fall and Spring; it should be, and becomes a part of protecting ourselves from the debilitating chill of those kairotic interludes in our day to day life experiences. Indeed there are times in our politics, in our culture, in our families, in our intimacies, in the many and varied circumstances that make up the totality of our existence when we are forced to recognize and deal with the real discomforts of being in this world.
But we can’t live with any real sense of joy in a perpetually clothed, or an unrelenting threat-prevention mode. There comes a time when to truly live we must unfold our arms, disrobe,  and let our guard down. This is not to temporarily or otherwise deny the real threats around us as evolving persons in an ever-evolving environment. Those threats always exist. Despite them however, we must eventually let our guard down in recognition of the fact that to survive and fulfill our sacred obligation to multiply ourselves in all the essential ways, we have to at some point make ourselves available to being embraced …and to be embracers of others.
To truly live it is necessary to engage with passion in that bountifulness of being that affirms our true humanity. This is what  allows us to be prolific in accordance with those creative expectations that make our hearts race and that enliven minds. Our heavy coats and other protective gear get in the way of that vitally creative process. And so, as with the coming of Spring with its potential for birth and rebirth and renewal, we must shed the obstructive camouflages that keep us isolated, and that stunt the possibilities for growth and its consequential fruitfulness. This new season beckons us to live into the blossoming that portends that fruitfulness. We accommodate that beckoning by opening our minds and hearts and our very being to the possibilities of both a chronological and a kairotic season of abundance.
Embrace and celebrate the things that sweeten life…
That moment arrives, and is now, when we should emerge from the weighty grayness of a dormant existence into the sun-enhanced new season of growth possibilities. The feel of its glow on our uncoated bodies, our unencumbered minds, and our ever-expanding spirits, is exhilarating. The refreshing breeze of its empowerment joins forces with our breaths, and our first instinct is to inhale as deeply as we can in order to affirm and hold on to the qualitative difference of this abundant moment… this new season with its many blossoms and seeds… it’s proliferation of possibilities. And so we savor that deep breath. We close our eyes to every imposed or imagined reservation, and we savor the wonderful expectancy of our blossoming abundance.
The vernal moment is upon us in all its enlivening splendor. We welcome its coming with our every breath. We celebrate the possibilities for renewal and re-engagement that had gone dormant in the cold season of our superficially and otherwise burdened lives. We look forward now to the effervescence of blooming possibilities with renewed zest. It is time again to reset our tables… to decorate them with sweet smelling flowers, and the wonderfully enticing spread of the best that Life has to offer. We prepare a feast for our palates, indeed for all our senses, that is commensurate with the best expectations of our appetite for truly living. And as we take our place at this delightful table, in our palms we gently grasp and warm the tumblers that hold the new wine of an enriched life, enhancing its bouquet.
We smile invitingly at strangers. We open our lives’ doors to the season of growth and change. We prepare appropriately, and we engage with others in a feast celebrating the invigoration of an existence now shared… and so sweet. We laugh. We dance. We sing. We affirm together the truth that “… with all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.” And somewhere in a distant thought we acknowledge the persistent challenges that we have faced… and will face… as facts of our lives… courses to be endured… difficulties to be overcome. Yes they are. We refuse to allow them to prevent us from living into the real possibilities that encourage us to be more than just unwitting victims of our fragile idiosyncrasies. And with that in mind we necessarily silence the voices around us, both the artificial ones on our radios and televisions and those from the people immediately around that incessantly bombard us with their scenarios of gloom and doom.
We determine that we will sharpen our senses and regain our attention… That we will set our own existential agendas. We agree that we are better off together, and so we will refuse to cultivate the sense of otherness that is constantly being foisted upon us. We reject the attempts to engender the kind of insecurities about each other that allow for the marketing of the puffed up coats and straight jackets that encumber and confine us.  We will no longer treat the masks of our discomforts as if they were our true faces. We will not buy into the vapid nonsense that ultra-sensitizes us to our own innate fears and the biases that drive them. The superimposed heavy jackets from the “winter of our discontent” are nothing more than the props that aid us in eliminating the joys that are discoverable when we are truly and essentially together.
Bid “Adieu” to the state of dormancy…
And so now we bid goodbye to the cold days of cultural and spiritual dissonance. Goodbye to the alienation that results when we fold our arms and hold our heads down as a function of the downsizing of our world and our possibilities. Say goodbye to the season of dormancy that comes when we surrender to the regressive convenience of growth stunted and or differed. We embrace the season of new possibilities. We bask in the reassuring glow of a surging existential fecundity. Let us together take a brisk walk into the growth oriented radiance of personal and communal inclusivity that leads us to a needed expansion of our livity. In the words of the Rastaman… “Live up!”. Challenge your heart to achieve new levels of functionality. Become more… Unlimit your expectations. Set out to, and create with your very life… An ode to Spring.
One Love!
Roy Alexander Graham. President/ CEO FIGTREE ENTERPRISES, INC.                                                                                                                Copyright 2015 Figtree Enterprises, Inc.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Turn off the noise...

1Blessed is the one 
who does not walk in step with the wicked 
or stand in the way that sinners take 
or sit in the company of mockers, 
2but whose delight is in the law of the Lord
and who meditates on his law day and night. 
3That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, 
which yields its fruit in season 
and whose leaf does not wither— 
whatever they do prospers... From Psalm One 

With all its noises, the world is still a terribly lonely place for many. So many voices around us that say nothing to aid our sense of meaninglessness. We engage our antennae in search of a message that addresses the essential emptiness of our existence, and find only the dead air of an inarticulate void; the dreadful sound of silence. Searching those places where we store our usual encouragement, we find gray clouds…just hanging there. Sometimes it is hard to see the sun, difficult to find the light. And so some of us retreat in silence, into the grayness of an uncertain point of view, into the refuge of our crustacean comfort. We lock ourselves away in our proverbial shells. Others engage with the world around them in ways that are destructive. They "hook-up" with people and influences that eventually lead to their demise.

What is the secret to a happy life? How do we find the meaningfulness that will bring us the joy we long for? We have been told that "the way to be happy is to make others happy". We need to be careful about that piece of advice, because in it lies the risks of losing everything that makes you a viable person. It is not our job in life "to make others happy". Despite everything you have been told in this respect, it is important to understand that one's happiness is one's own responsibility. We find happiness when we find our true purpose for living. All of us are challenged to do everything we can to make our world better. Service is therefore the way to individual fulfillment. Opportunities to serve are everywhere around us... From the simplest tasks to the most complex occupations. Some tasks we get paid for, others we are rewarded for by a sense that we have done what is good and right in a given circumstance.

In the search for happiness there is wise counsel that must not be ignored. That wisdom is laid out in Psalm One.  Stay away from wicked people. Do not keep their company. Do not follow their advice. Do not sit where they sit. Do not walk where they walk. Don't think like them. Don't talk like them. Do not listen to them. There is a way that is about righteousness. Find that path and walk in it. Walk with those who trod therein. Do not kill. Do not steal. Do not bear false witness. Do not covet that which belongs to another. You can find all this in the Ten Commandments. Follow these and live. Scorn them and you will be "like the trash being blown around in the wind..."... Nothing you do shall prosper. Many are the voices that will try to convince you otherwise, but they are just a part of the clutter of a vain existence. These voices will be in your ears constantly... Take my advice ...turn off the noise. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Ferguson Revisited... Racism, Parochialism, And the Corrupting Of Justice





The excessive division  of counties in many U.S. states into separate municipalities; most with their own city hall and police force, is an issue that has gone unaddressed for the most part. It is a development that has taken place 'under the radar' of our political consciousness. This issue needs to be looked at not just because of the lack of viability that is a built-in feature of these divisions, but also because of how this lack of viability impacts on the distribution of Justice among the citizenry.

The funding of these ever-multiplying townships is a challenge that has resulted in a model of policing that is antagonistic to the security and economic interests of the people who live in them. Many end up relying on revenue essentially generated from oppressive fines which unequally target the already disadvantaged in many of our metropolitan areas. Instead of protecting and serving, police act as the enforcers in a corrupt scheme that focuses on harassing and fining. A study by the St. Louis nonprofit Better Together, shows how some of these municipalities depend for their economic lives on the misplacement of policing priorities. Former state senator Jeff Smith in a New York Times op-ed points out the following:

Ferguson, Missouri receives nearly one-quarter of its revenue from court fees; for some surrounding towns it approaches 50 percent. Municipal reliance on revenue generated from traffic stops adds pressure to make more of them. One town, Sycamore Hills, has stationed a radar-gun-wielding police officer on its 250-foot northbound stretch of Interstate.”

In the same op-ed piece, the former Missouri state senator and New School professor develops on the previous point:

When a metropolitan area is split into dozens of tiny local governments they tend to duplicate each others’ services, which is of course extremely expensive. But raising taxes so that each tiny borough can afford its own police and fire department is a nonstarter, since wealthy residents can always just move one town over. End result: You have police departments that self-fund by handing out tickets. (same thing goes for the so called war on drugs) And thanks to the delightful racial dynamics of U.S. law enforcement, black residents are disproportionately stopped and accosted, even though police in Ferguson are less likely to find contraband when they search black drivers than white drivers.”

This has unfortunately become a template for police operations in many American municipalities. What is true of places like Ferguson is replicated in almost every state in our Union. The parochial ambitions of many in small town America has led to the continued feeding of the beast of injustice. Their political and social ambitions find a ready and willing ally in the existing prejudices in many places in a historically racist country. A recently concluded investigation of the Ferguson Police Department by the United States Justice Department found the following:

Two-thirds of Ferguson residents are African-American, but from 2012 to 2014:

85% of the vehicles stopped by police had African-American passengers
* 90% of people who received citation from police were African-American
* 93% of those arrested were African-American 
* Police were twice as likely to search cars driven by African-Americans than by whites. But they found contraband 26% less often in cars driven by African-Americans

"The Justice Department found that the police department’s practices were at least partly the result of racial bias against African-Americans. Among the evidence of bias uncovered by the department are emails police and court officials sent using their official accounts that included racist jokes mocking President Barack Obama and suggesting that a black woman’s abortion would reduce crime."

In his remarks subsequent to the publication of this report, Attorney General Eric Holder delivered a scathing indictment of the whole criminal justice system in Ferguson and other surrounding municipalities; every agency, from the police to the courts, is included. What we heard from the A.G. was a list of transgressions by the officers of these systems that should make them inhabitants of their own prisons.The confluence of rabid political ambition perpetuated against a backdrop of economically unsustainable municipalities, and a KKK inspired ideology of hate; produces the kind of toxic cultural brew that poisons places like Ferguson. Instead of a system that "protects and serves', we end up with an operation run by vampires targeting citizens of color to satisfy their unconscionable bloodlust.
The Governor of Missouri called out the National Guard to effect a state of emergency in anticipation of the response to the report of the grand jury in the Michael Brown killing by that now infamous Ferguson policeman Darren Wilson.  What needs to be addressed, in this our country, is the perpetuation of injustice in the parochialism of regressive states like Missouri. A parochialism that victimizes and kills citizens. There is a real and ongoing "state of emergency" in these United States of America. It is one in which we are forced to pay for local governments and their court and police tentacles which are constantly reaching out to threaten our economic lives and our security. This state of affairs must end. We need a citizenry educated and empowered to take charge of their political and economic destiny. We need a Justice Department with robust powers to target, expose, and prosecute the wide spread corruption of Justice that oppresses our people. It is time to arm ourselves with the silver bullet of our own heightened political consciousness; so that we shine the daylight of Justice in the exposed faces of the racist power-hungry vampires among us.


Monday, March 2, 2015

Truth

She requires but a few words to serve her…
For she is forthright and of an open face
And knows not the guile of those
Who are wise in their own conceit…
She needs not the defense of any worldly conspiracy…
For she is content with her own company…
She needs no propping up
Since hers is the only sure foundation
Built to withstand the assault of every fraudulent reason
And the most aggressive ravaging of time…
In her essence she celebrates no emotion…
She neither laughs nor cries…
But looks with a level eye
On every condition of the heart…
One might say she hopes…
The kind of hope that holds that all
May find real balance in this life…
And if we say she is “relative…”
We may be right…
In that we are all related to her…
And she is the origin and destiny of all our quests…
But…she is no closer to us…
Than we are to her…
And when we know her…
She sets us free…
And is that not our desire…?
( “Truth” is from the book “Of Scattered Seed and Broken Souls” by Roy Alexander Graham)