Thursday, October 1, 2020

The Debate

The Mystery within...
The jarring “debate” between president Trump and Joe Biden was very unsettling. It highlighted the giant step backward America has taken politically. In my first memoire, God Never Hurries, I wrote, "Transformation is an on-going process, and not without some backsliding." I pray America will soon take two giant steps forward with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris leading us politically. 

I needed some comfort for my angst so I searched my past posts with the word “politics”. Eleven posts came up. I found the most comfort in the following paragraph from my July 16, 2018 post, titled “Spirituality and Politics”. 

 “I see great paradoxical promise in the scary political turmoil of our time that can give us all pause to reflect on our past, present and future. Will the quest for more and more money enslave some of us while others languish in poverty? Can the over consumption and destruction of our earth’s resources become an urgent understanding for a more reasoned and protective stance; or will we continue down a self-destructive path of no return? Can we see it takes a healthy village to raise a healthy child to create a healthy future? Can we replace judgment with compassion for others’ desperate acts? Can we be open to being changed? True forgiveness of the other, and ourselves, heals relationships. It is a never-ending task. The ability to love creativity is what spirituality is all about. The potential exists in all of us. Find and nurture it. In my heart, mind and soul I see no separation between spirituality and politics.” 

 I also took comfort in understanding I can look for ways to do my small part to help bring spirituality and politics together. My second memoir, Both/and Things—The Power in Reflection, brought to mind the late priest/paleontologist, Teilhard de Chardin, who believed we are all on an evolutionary path toward learning how to love unconditionally. Chardin’s prayer, which is in my blog’s Comfort Messages, “Above All Trust in the Slow Work of God”, suggests taking the long view: 

"Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. Yet it is the law of all progress that is made by passing through some stages of instability and that may take a very long time. And so I think it is with you. Your ideas mature gradually. Let them grow. Let them shape themselves without undue haste. Do not try to force them on as though you could be today what time -that is to say, grace- and circumstances acting on your own good will will make you tomorrow. Only God could say what this new Spirit gradually forming in you will be. Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete. Above all, trust in the slow work of God, our loving vine-dresser."  Teilhard de Chardin 

Also in my blog’s Comfort Messages is a poem that I understand as Ego Training: 

People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Love them anyway. If you do good, people may accuse you of selfish motives. Do good anyway. If you are successful, you may win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway. People who really want help may attack you if you help them. Help them anyway. Give the world the best you have and you may get hurt. Give the world your best anyway. The world is full of conflict. Chose peace of mind anyway. Author: Anonymous

What if we could all remember transformation is often two steps forward and one step back; know the power in reflection; have a stash of comfort messages, and appreciate the long evolutionary path we are on toward becoming more empathic, compassionate, forgiving of ourselves and all others, and ultimately learn unconditional love.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Learning Unconditional Love

The Mystery within

You know how good it feels when you begin to understand you are learning to do something right for yourself and others. What if we consciously built upon those insightful moments each day? In seeking to learn unconditional love, together we can find the stepping-stones on the long winding path toward loving unconditionally. It is a challenging path but the rewards along the way are immeasurable.

 

Teilhard de Chardin’s prayer, “Trust in the Slow Work of God”, became a critical grace for me as I struggled to know what was right as I wrestled with my aging parents’ care as told in my first memoir, God Never Hurries. My second memoir, Both/and Things—The Power in Reflection highlights the priest/paleontologist Chardin’s belief that we humans are on an evolutionary path toward loving unconditionally.      

 

Getting started on that evolutionary path was easy. All I had to do was accept I am my most important piece of work. The gift of that acceptance is humility. The real work lies in putting my ego aside each day and consciously living from my heart. By opening my heart to the world, I grow closer to the goal available to us all—unconditional love.

 

Disorder is so prevalent in our time. Reordering ourselves toward unconditional love is our primary work. I pray we each search our hearts and become aware of the next step to take toward loving unconditionally.

 

I invite you to share your insights on what stepping-stones you have discovered on the path toward unconditional love. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Complicity

The Mystery within...
Admitting I have been part of the problem in the racial unrest of our time has been an eye and heart opening experience for me. 

I was born on Milwaukee’s Polish south side in the early 1940s. My grandparents’ parents emigrated from Poland. My father was a lawyer, my mother a homemaker. I was unaware of my white privilege, but remember my father’s deep offense with Polish jokes. 

I had an early childhood picture book, Little Black Sambo, that made me aware there were people with a skin color different than mine. I learned to count to ten to a song’s lyrics, “One little, two littIe, three little Indians…” and then backwards from ten until there were “no little Indian boys.” I loved Walt Disney’s movie, “The Song of the South”. I saw the movie’s black protagonist, Uncle Remus, befriending the white seven-year-old Johnny visiting his grandmother’s plantation, for the good that it was.  I was oblivious to the subtle nuance that Johnny’s grandmother’s slaves were content with their lot in life. Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah, the movie’s song, and Uncle Remus’ parables surrounding the antics of brothers Rabbit, Fox and Bear were precious. And when I went to school, history lessons of America’s founding only depicted brave explorers and happy Thanksgivings.

Fast forward to the early sixties. I was newly married, and sympathetic to Martin Luther King’s nonviolent struggle for equality. But the truth is I was more concerned about my own immediate life. After the birth of our first child, we built a modest home of our own on Milwaukee’s south side. Of the lots we looked at we chose the most expensive one because it was within walking distance of both a grade school and a middle school. 

The assassinations of President Kennedy, 1963; Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, 1968; combined with the violent 1967 riots in Milwaukee’s inner city, made for very scary times. Then came a plan to bus children across town to integrate Milwaukee’s schools. I could not believe putting my then seven-year-old son on a bus across town to be a solution to hundreds of years of discrimination and violence. And maybe it would have been the only way to eventually end segregation and poverty.

My husband and I borrowed money from both of our parents, sold our Milwaukee home, and built another house in Grafton, WI within walking distance of a grade school and middle school. We were part of the white flight to the suburbs that exacerbated the plight of Milwaukee’s poor.  

Three years later, in 1975, my husband died. I became the sole breadwinner. I pieced together before and after school care for my three children and returned to my former work life with the USDA Forest Service in Milwaukee, commuting daily from Grafton. 

The USDA Forest Service, of all Federal agencies, had the fewest minorities and women in their workforce. To comply with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Forest Service developed Upward Mobility Training programs to provide women and minorities qualifying experience for advancement. I was in the right workplace at the right time, albeit a challenging one. I began as a Clerk-typist, then advanced to Human Resource Assistant, Human Resource Specialist, and retired as a Public Affairs Specialist. 

Political conservatives saw the Civil Rights Act, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission it established, as a violation of their belief that fewer government policies would create a strong economy and produce gains that would benefit the historically disadvantaged. I personally know that to be seriously flawed thinking.

I have come to know facing my own vulnerability and complicity to be very freeing. Only then can I find compassion for myself and know compassion toward all others. Only then can I appreciate the late John Lewis’ invitation to be “good trouble, necessary trouble.”  

America will only become great when we all share the role of Good Samaritan to those who need quality health care and education, living wages, adequate housing, safe drinking water, and compassionate care for the incarcerated. What if we each asked to be shown ways to contribute to those ends?

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Virtue in Government

The Mystery within...
As is my usual practice after dinner, I had my television tuned to a PBS station while cleaning up the kitchen. A documentary on China’s long history was playing. A word attributed to the ancient Chinese philosopher, Confucius, regarding successful government, caught my attention. The word was virtue. So when my dishwasher started humming, I went to my computer and goggled Confucius and virtue. An October 2010 Los Angeles Times article by Daniel K. Gardner, East Asian history professor, came up.

I encourage you to check out Gardner’s article for yourself, which got me thinking about some of the more graced teaching in my life relating to virtue in the Eight Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount that you can find on Wikipedia. It is the invitation to be blessed in life through humility, mourning, gentleness, hungering and thirsting for justice, being merciful, having a clean heart, working for peace, and enduring persecution because of a thirst for justice. 

A few days later this quote from Confucius found me, “When walking in the company of two other men [I’ll include women] I am bound to be able to learn from them. The good points of the one I copy; the bad points of the other I correct in myself.”  

There are no perfect people or governments but people and governments can strive to be virtuous. Unbridled capitalism and a ‘me first’ attitude is desensitizing us to the cry of the earth, and the needs of the poor, hungry and sick. 

This worldwide pandemic can be the wakeup call for us to understand how intricately we are connected to one another and the fragility of Mother Earth. It can prompt us to understand we are designed to be here for one another and to protect the environment. 

There are minds and hearts out there that desire a virtuous government. Support them; encourage them; vote for them. 

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Transformative Trouble


The Mystery within...
I hope we never go back to the way things were after this global pandemic ends.

I want the compassion I feel for “essential workers” at the low end of the wage scale to be felt by those who can make a positive difference in their wages and work environment.

I want everyone, everywhere to have clean water, air and wholesome food and that we all contribute something to that end.

I want us all to understand nature’s beauty and delicate balance to lead us to consider what is necessary for our life and reduce what is frivolous.

I want everyone to have a hot shower and a warm bed to crawl into at night.

I want anger or indifference (mine and that of others) to be transformed into work for peace and harmony knowing how intricately everyone and everything is connected.

I want this pandemic to be an eye opening and heart opening experience for us all.

Life is paradoxical. Adversity mutates and evolves. There are so many critical issues of social justice at stake in our world, our country, and our local communities that beg us to stop and reflect on the needs of others and Mother Earth.

What do you want to evolve from this pandemic?  

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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Losing It

The Mystery within...
I thought I was doing a fairly good job of keeping myself together in these trying pandemic times until I lost it. 

Rare March sunshine was brightening that revelatory day. It led me to hang my freshly washed sheets and pillowcases out on the clothesline to dry in a sunny breeze. I put a lawn chair out and was about to sit down and revel in the warm rays when I was accosted by a wave of poison in the air sprayed by lawn service workers four doors south of me. I was jolted into a rage.  It didn’t help that a few days earlier, neighbors on both sides of me, had their lawn “serviced”. I stormed down the sidewalk toward the offending workers. The level of my rage scared me. But I felt it as a metaphor for all the chaos that is going on in our world.

We don’t need a monoculture, carcinogenic carpet, surrounding our homes. We need a healthy dose of biologic diversity, not only in our lawns, but also in our human communities. We need more human diversity in our religions and governments putting forth a range of ideas, and a genuine willingness to learn from one another. Especially, we all need to learn the skilled art of compromise. 

We need fair maps, not gerrymandering, that subvert opportunities for compromise. We need to be prudent in how we spend our money, not on excesses that pollute our earth, but spending where it is good for the environment and one another. We need equitable tax distribution where everyone pays their fair share, and we need to remove the status of corporations as citizens. We need leaders that promote unity, not division, who have deep concern for the environment and one another. We need to live more wisely from our hearts as well as our heads.

Life is paradoxical. Losing it can help us find our place in the world. Please vote as if all life depends on you. It does.  

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Breaking for Others

The Mystery within...

I am hoping this post is the beginning of my return to a more regular schedule of reflection and writing about the important things in life that find me. Surgeries, two weeks apart in January, on some troublesome veins in each of my legs have slowed me down. Recovery is progressing. I am reminded patience is a virtue.

Walking is the recommended activity to aid my recovery, which I gratefully do everyday outside with my sweet boy, yellow lab, Oliver. We are currently restricted to sidewalk leash walks. We both miss our trek across the bridge spanning the river to the welcoming woods on the other side. The anticipation of our eventual return sustains me for now. 

We walked to the post office the other day, a departure from our now usual route around the quiet neighborhood that also includes a stretch of bike trail. I knew walking to the post office would be easier than the return because the cold, strong north wind at our back would be very unpleasant to face walking home. I was thrilled we caught a brief break in traffic at the busy highway we had to cross that runs through town and pushed on to mail the phone bill.   

The cold wind was worse than I imagined on the return, and at the highway, when traffic to my right had a brief break, traffic to my left was a steady stream of cars, and then it was vice a versa. I felt a little panicky with the icy buffeting wind in my face and the rush of people driving bye. And then there was a break in the traffic to my left, but I could not move fast enough to beat the cars coming from the right until miraculously the lead driver of a long stream of cars stopped and waved me on to cross. My heart leapt with gratitude. Oliver and I hurried across the road as I waved a sincere thank you to the kind driver.

The rest of the way home the kindness of that driver warmed and informed me. I thought how often it is we rush through life not seeing others who need a break, or we are just too busy to care. There are so many critical issues of social justice at stake in our world, our country, and our local communities that beg us to stop and reflect on others needs, and give them a brake. Ultimately we are better off when we are all better off.

What if we all braked for others more often?  


   

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Troublesome People

The Mystery within...
Troublesome people are troubled people. I know this because I have been troubled of late and I became troublesome for another. My awareness gifted me with the opportunity to apologize. As I was apologizing I began to cry because sometimes life just feels overwhelming. My tears were a gift, cathartic for me, and they elicited true empathy from the one whom I had given a hard time. Through the phone line, I heard the gift of sincere empathy in her voice. 

When gifted with the awareness of being troublesome, I highly recommend an apology from the heart. It just might gift the other with an expression of true empathy. And then life no longer feels overwhelming.

“Adversity mutates and evolves.” I found that quote in notes I took during time spent at the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 at the Christine Center in northern Wisconsin.  There, a diverse group of souls spent time releasing 2019 and welcoming 2020. It was a wonderful way to say good-bye to the past and welcome a new year of learning.