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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Our Shared Values and Objectives

An impressive fact of our common experience is that advances in technology are always combining to have the effect of shrinking our world. There was a time when it took months to physically make contact between various land masses and countries. The journey that once took months now takes a few hours. Email has replaced snail mail and the Pony Express. Wire transfers have made the old methods of moving currency redundant. Telephone has progressed to video phone. In fact we have come so far technologically, that the possibility of actualizing the “beam me up Scotty” phenomenon no longer seems far-fetched.  

We have shrunk both time and space, thus making our world smaller, more accessible, and more connect-able. All these facts have combined to create a reality in which we are now able to affect each other in ways not previously possible. A smaller world brings us closer together. As we become closer, our shared values and our common goals and objectives become more obvious… and so do the things that create conflict between us. 

One outstanding reality of an ever shrinking world is the need for us to learn to share the spaces we occupy, and the resources in those spaces, in ways that do not create and elevate conflict as an inevitability in our communal experience. The creation of conflict is antithetical to the most basic of human instincts… the instinct to survive. This instinct is at the very core, and is an essential part of the foundation, of every wholesome value system we have developed. Ideas about unity in diversity speak to the very essence of the values at the heart of our "village" experience. We have come to know the cliche that it takes a village to raise a child. We must also now acknowledge the reality that we need that same coordinated effort to sustain our corporate possibilities. United, we grow and prosper; divided, we become unviable.

In the long run we rationalize and define our behaviors, both individual and corporate, in accordance with our perceptions of how we should be, and what we must do to thrive in our social environment. The shared values and objectives we have articulated in our communal experience are expressions of such perceptions. The ultimate formulation of these values is codified in the commandment: Do unto others as you would have them do to you. It is our obedience to this code that allows for the possibility of peaceful and functional community. It is our violation of it that creates violence, and the subsequent destruction of community. 

Implicit in this code is a CommonSense born of our common experience. Except for those who suffer the dysfunction of enjoying not only their own pain, but that which they inflict on others; we can agree that it is in the interest of each to look out for the best interest of the other. It seems therefore that our coexistence, as individuals and as communities, must be a function of morally informed shared values, and social objectives that are undergirded by the best interests of everyone. When we discover the wisdom of the golden rule we will avoid the pitfalls of trying to impose our convenient dogmas on each other. This imposition now seems to be a threat to our ability to live together. It won't matter what our fundamentalist beliefs are if we are all dead.

There is no heaven for intolerant haters. If a person says they love God, while he or she hates ... That person is a liar.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Uncovering Pandora's Jar


There was a time when the earth was a vast, largely unexplored, seriously misunderstood place.The world was, for many, a frightening multiverse of reality, unreality, and spectacular fantasies. These perceptions inspired notions of security and insecurity based on fanciful myths about our connectedness, or lack thereof, with each other and the various phenomena around us.

In an unexplored world, the fear of the unknown drove a sense of danger that tended to cripple the possibilities for growth and needed change. Oceans were seen as the home of terrifying monsters. Heaven was above and beyond the vast blue yonder. Hell was below the ground underneath us. There was up and down, and most people were safely unaware of the dynamic outer-ness of our experience in time and space. Our fate was in the hands of the gods who ruled over us like impetuous bastards, more preoccupied with their own vanities than with the needs of their unfortunate subjects. For many in such a world, fear, inspired by a sense of ever-present danger, reigned supreme.

An uncontainable inquisitiveness coupled with an unsuppressable adventurous nature have combined to empower our desire and determination to face down the gods. In this quest we have come to realize that the only real limits to our ability to master and enhance our world are those we place on ourselves through fear and a lack of industry. So much has changed in our world, but the sense of danger that we have come to know so well still lurks.

Danger is real. It wears human and animal faces, and it takes the form of every element in and around us. It lives and moves with us in every facet of life. It is, as we are. In the presence of danger our world either shrinks...or it becomes larger. Facing a perceived threat, we may limit ourselves to the narrowed path forward created by it, or we can look beyond the presumed source of that threat to a more expansive view of our world and the variety of options available to address it. And yes… there are options available to us beyond those reflexively proposed by parasites who have an interest in cultivating the fears of others toward their own ends.

Beyond the “acts of God” over which we have little or no control, and beyond the convenient formulations of vultures who thrive on the tragedies that consume the lives and prospects of multitudes, we have a responsibility to critically examine the causes and sources of many of the threats we all face. This responsibility is all the more critical at a time when terrorism is alive and well among us.

Our ability to overcome the sense of danger that freezes us in our path and severely limits our perceptions and our choices, requires us to avail ourselves of substantial moments of truthfulness. The development of this ability is a function of our openness to the fact that we share some responsibility for the awe-full nature of every threat we confront, or that confronts us. All threats have a subjective component. We are either complicit in their creation, culturally invested in their propagation, or we allow ourselves to be objectified by them out of fear.

In a world where we are intellectually and spiritually drenched in the us against them mentality, we have for the most part ignored the reality of the us in them that more truthfully describes the developments around us that occupy our collective attention. It is this critical omission that results in our stumbling from one unfortunate political and cultural circumstance to the next. When faced with the results of our inability or unwillingness to honestly analyze the factors that make up the critical dilemmas confronting us, we resort to the easy answers that ignore our part in their creation. We want remedies for what ails our world, but in the absence of factual diagnoses of the problems as they are, we are left in a quagmire of superficial, and at times dangerous interventions that either lead nowhere, or that make matters worse. In a time when we must move with caution in our every activity, it behoves us to apply the golden rule in all our interactions... Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Muhammad Ali


Once when asked the meaning of his name, he replied... " I am Muhammad Ali, ...  – it means beloved of God, and I insist people use it when people speak to me.” 

These are the words of a man who knew himself in terms of what Life was calling him to be. This was a man who had a deep understanding of what his life should mean in a world that sought to mould him and his character in accordance with its own corrupted myopia. Muhammad Ali was the measure of what a man needed to be in his time.

Born into a world where Injustice created chaos through its double-edged fangs of bigotry and an unjust war, he became a chiseled warrior against every attempt to co-opt him and his many skills for what he rightly saw as a twin evil. His name was meaningful to him, and he would insist with his every breath that he be known as the beloved of God... As a man of Peace... As an angel of light ... As a warrior against every vile instinct that would rise to confront him. His was the indomitable spirit of the cause of Peace.

Muhammad Ali was characteristically uncompromising in his stand against the twin injustices that still persist as corrupting influences in our society and in our world even now. He did not bite his tongue when confronted with the blatant contradictions in a hypocritical society that lies about its real intentions abroad while oppressing those on whose brutalized backs it sought, and still seeks to build wealth for a privileged few at home. He stood against influences that we must to this day be vigilant and uncompromising against. Listen as our champion speaks to us in his own words:

Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality.… If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.”

In these words we have the immortalization of a champion of Justice. Muhammad Ali was a true champion. He trained for, and rose to every adversary with the dynamic resilience of an indomitable spirit. Yes, he was the greatest boxing champion of all time, but not just that. He spoke of himself in terms of a certain greatness… A greatness that far transcended his prowess in the squared circle that was the boxing ring. The man had a sense of himself that made him a superior pugilist not just compared to the great boxers of his time, George Foreman and Joe Frazier, but in the greater circle which is Life.

Ralph Waldo Emerson was deeply and meaningfully articulate when he said: “The essence of greatness is the perception that virtue is enough.Ali was in this very sense a virtuous man. It was his perception that it is enough to be on the side of right that made him exceptional. When asked what lessons today’s athletes can learn from Ali’s life, his friend and confidant Jim Brown responded: “Money is not God, and human dignity is very important...". Yes, in our time, and in our society, we must continue to declare against the idea that money is God… That white is right… That bigotry is insurmountable… That one’s life should be defined by the status quo. Muhammad Ali’s life is a testament to the truth that one moral man in the midst of a multitude of compliant “tools” in an unjust system, is a majority in the sight of a just God.

Muhammad Ali will continue to live in our hearts, in our minds, and through our will to do what is right... no matter what the consequences. We will name ourselves and our children after him... And deservedly so. We will laugh at the expanse of his wit. We will celebrate the vastness of his humanity. We will affirm in our own experiences, the depth of his wisdom and the power of his courage.  We will clothe ourselves in his charismatic virtuousness.

On the third day of June 2016, the physical presence that we knew as the man Muhammad Ali expired. His now frail body could no more contain and express his essence. What we have however in the absence of his body, is the eternal legacy of a life that transcends every physical limit, and a spirit that emboldens us to rise up against every imposed social boundary, and expose their inherent contradictions. His love was unlimited in its expression and in its appeal. His embrace of the human family was universal. With open arms, and strengthened by all he had to face in this life, he invites us to be family… To be one… To be courageously just.

He showed us the path of Love through his wonderful example. We will always love him. His name is Muhammad Ali. It means Beloved of God. And we shall forever call him that whenever we speak of him. And we shall continue to speak of him until ...and beyond that day when the evils of our time are beaten into submission… “Whooped!” , that is.

In the meantime… “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee…”