Browsing the blog archives for March, 2010

Claim the Good – End the Hate?

Your goodness matters.  Your words convey meaning.  Today’s indictment of the Hutaree militia may be written off by some as just another violent fringe group.  The news is hard to view in isolation.  We are besieged by an escalation of hate-filled violent language.  What does it mean for us to be well-intentioned, good people?  Ethics, values, meaning and purpose are at play.  Claiming the good is possible.

Freedom to disagree with passionate fervor is a mark of our common life.  The freedom to persuade, discuss and debate is a right that we claim.  It is a right that many in the world long for.  For months we have endured new levels of language demeaning, demonizing, diminishing and of destruction.  Violent words are not just words.  Our demurring silence gives permission. Begging to Differ is a choice!

Is this the time to claim the good?  There are values at stake about the increasing diversity of our society.  The inherent value in honoring diversity of opinion, culture, race, gender and sexuality says “You matter” to each person.   Is compassion for others a value that gets translated into what we say and do?

A consequence of demonizing language, perhaps unintended by some, is to tear apart the fabric of ethics.  When destructive words invite people to imagine doing violence against another person or group we teeter on the brink of giving permission to violence or even killing.  It is possible to use words which express strong disagreement but which do not invite us to the laws of the jungle.

Words have meaning.  To claim the good invites active, attentive listening.  Turning up the volume or not listening effectively says, “You don’t matter.”  Most of us don’t believe that about others.  When words are used to say, “I disagree with you and I will write you off” it is difficult to find common purpose.  I certainly don’t want to live in a world where we become deaf to honest difference of opinion and blind to others. Can we create a mindful culture in which the dignity of difference is celebrated?

It is up those who seek the good to be asking about values, ethics, meaning and purpose not just in our national life, but also, in our homes, schools, communities and the organizations we belong to. Throwing up our hands in despair or writing off demonizing language is a way of disengaging.  Too much is at stake for that to be an option.  Whether we like it or admit to it, we’re all made for oneness.

It may be that a universe separates militia groups like Hutaree from the language being thrown around so freely.  It will remain as a vast gulf if the goodness in others is honored by remembering that every word and act of ours has consequences.

This is not simply about “free speech”.  It is not about simply writing off hate group militias.  It is not about dismissing language as “just words.”   It is about how we will look at each other, how we will engage.  It is about values, ethics, meaning and purpose.  Claim the goodness.

Robert V. Taylor – Begging to Differ

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Freedom to Become – A Gift of Passover?

Passover invites us to leave the narrow places in our lives which constrain us from being fully alive.  The familiar Passover story of freedom and liberation is received differently in each season of my life.  I experience the gift of Passover with new eyes each time I share the meal with friends.  Imagine becoming free of a narrow vision of yourself.   Not simply “freedom from”, but, “freedom to become”.

Many Jewish mystics have taught that the Exodus story of liberation from Egypt is freedom from a narrow consciousness.  The Hebrew word for Egypt, Mitzrayim, means “narrow” or “constrained”. So our own personal Mitzrayim is a metaphor for becoming free of a small vision of self.

It is like that friend who, whenever we are in a restaurant, turns his head to look at the meals being delivered to neighboring tables.  He usually says, “I should have ordered that!” as he points to the meal that someone else has ordered.  Much of his life is lived that way, unaware of the self-fulfilling enclosures he has built around his life. How often do we live in a constrained or narrow place, denying the freedom of our own voice, imagination and purpose?

We’re each constrained by different things.  A man I worked with recently yearend to become more fully alive.  William knew what enlivened him.  He could even imagine himself using his skills, voice and imagination in becoming free to experience a fuller vision of his life and work.   He’d sought comfort in a weekly activity that he said gave him “fuel for the week”.   “Fuel” to keep plugging away at the work he was competent to do, but which kept him in a narrow, constrained place.

Often the first step in the Passover gift of freedom is naming that which diminishes the vision we have of ourselves.  For William this naming was one of the most difficult things he’d ever done.  He found courage and enough love of himself to practice mindfulness.  A journey began to become mindfully present to his life and new consciousness about himself.

The Jewish mystics teach that freedom from a narrow vision of self has a goal larger than our own self!  It is the gift of connecting with a truth larger than ourselves.  Our own “freedom to become” is fully alive when we honor that same truth in others and even the Universe itself.

It is no wonder Passover is not observed alone, but around a table with others! At the table the story told and the questions asked, invite us to locate our personal story of moving from a narrow consciousness in the larger story of freedom.    “Freedom from” is easy to imagine.  “Freedom to become” is where we discover becoming fully alive.

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Toasting Water?

I take my good, clean tap water for granted. You probably do too. We don’t usually think of access to clean water as a right. For many in the human family water is not a right, or even safe or clean. Clean Water Week has led me to new mindfulness about water.

In a restaurant this week I noticed a card on the table inviting me to donate one dollar to the UNICEF Tap Project. It promised that my dollar would provide on child with access to safe, clean water for 40 days. Not much water; not much to give.

My practice of being mindful as I cook has undergone a shift during this Clean Water Week. Mindfulness about water has increased. I think of the 1.5 million children who will die this year because of water borne illnesses such as diarrhea. None of the children in our extended family are at risk of dying of diarrhea.

As I reach across the sink to turn the tap on, I’m mindful of the children. The water that I freely use to wash my hands, rinse vegetables and cook with is an unimagined right to at least 425 million children today. I think of the distances so many of them walk every day to fetch water. What does that mean for them? The journey to water trumps an education for them.

In my kitchen I mindfully remember the sacred nature of water to many. I picture the Ganges revered by Hindu’s as a goddess, a mother; a bottle of its water revered as a blessing. I think of the clean-up of that river underway and mindfully remember the workers restoring its cleanliness and safety. I think of the Jordan River so associated with the streams of living water that Christ promised.  Surely the right to clean, safe water is a sacred task?

Turning on my kitchen faucet, the flowing, living water fills me with mindful compassion and thanks for the scientists and others at companies like Halo Source. They spend their days creating technology to bring low-cost water purification systems to market around the globe. I imagine a village having safe point-of-use water available because of their efforts. I wonder how the right to water will transform the lives of kids and their communities.

As I mindfully think of the guests who will enjoy the meal I’m preparing I am filled with mindfulness about people at organizations like UNICEF and PATH who are passionate about access to safe clean water for all. As I rinse out the dirty pots I have been cooking with, I wonder how the flow of water will enliven the human spirit of those for whom it is still a dream?

Thinking about my dinner table and music for the evening I imagine people gathering for a meal in northern Ghana. I wonder what they’ve made of the Ghanaian song, “Clean Water” released this week?

What will those around my table say about Clean Water Week? Mindfully I imagine their compassion, their response. Will a toast to water be acceptable? Or should I pass out the invitation cards from that restaurant as an invitation to mindfulness, compassion and action about safe clean water? We would expect nothing less at our table. Should anyone else?

Are you looking to become Fully Alive?  Receive Robert’s free weekly Wake Up Call! by clicking here.

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