January 2009 Archives

How do we pick ourselves up?

January 31, 2009

"Question" asked in a social networking group: World financial crisis. Very good friend of mine wrote me: "It's not important how you got down, it is important how you get up".

Top-down regulations are needed, it is true, to help "fix" and "prevent" the kind of financial non-sense that is killing us. But more importantly, how do we confront the reality that, in our culture as we know it, there will always be people looking to game that system? How do we confront the reality that the financial mess is not a cause, but a symptom? That will require looking deeply at our character, as individuals and as a society. It will require self-evaluation and social exploration, and the cultivation of values that channel human will and energy in better directions (perhaps into justice? into truly equal opportunity for well-being?). In a word: virtues.

Socially, majority-Americans have finally undone hundreds of years of consigning non-human status to non-white Christians. Now that we can see someone as human regardless of color, shape, hair style, etc., what is next? We have to learn to see and feel as one another. That requires patience, magnanimity, loving-kindness, generosity. If we can "get up" with those qualities, then perhaps we'll be less likely to fall down again.

Review: The Graveyard Book

January 26, 2009

The Graveyard Book The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a wonderful, delightful, charming story. Plenty suitable for all ages – so long as you don't mind children being introduced to Neil Gaiman's "subversive" take on fairy tales and magical creatures. Fantastic. Some things are simply too good, too valuable, to bother analyzing in depth. Just enjoy.

View all my reviews.

Change of Laws vs. Change of Viewpoint

January 23, 2009

From a new blog I'm checking out: Raising Consciousness instead of Raising Cain. Addressing a question of what laws should change under the new U.S. adminstration …

If .. we don’t start to think of all humanity as our business, if enough of us don’t start to feel deep down that this is so, if enough of us don’t start to think in terms of what we can do for others rather than what can they do for us, no amount of leadership no matter how charismatic, no amount of money from whatever source, no changes in the law no matter how complex or idealistic will have enough effect.

One thing I've learned in recent years is that the laws and regulations of an administration clearly impact our lives in a very real manner – for instance, a rule that has just been overturned denied money from family planning groups that mentioned the word "abortion." Based on much recent research (for instance), it seems likely that such policies just deny people the opportunity to improve their standards, without actually impacting something like the abortion rate.

This is a matter of a law, but it is also a matter of seeing every single person on this planet as equally deserving of a just and fair life. Which comes first? Periodically the cold light of "reason" will bring us to (more) fair and just rules and regs. But I prefer the combination of reason applied to a "sense of common humanity." After all, the cold light of "reason" all too often says that The Other does not matter. Hence, in my poor understanding, Bahá'u'lláh's claim that unity is a pre-requisite for peace: "The well-being of mankind, its peace and security are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established."

Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity

January 19, 2009

"Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face. Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answerer of the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of thy pledge. Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men. Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression. Let integrity and uprightness distinguish all thine acts. Be a home for the stranger, a balm to the suffering, a tower of strength for the fugitive. Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be an ornament to the countenance of truth, a crown to the brow of fidelity, a pillar of the temple of righteousness, a breath of life to the body of mankind, an ensign of the hosts of justice, a luminary above the horizon of virtue, a dew to the soil of the human heart, an ark on the ocean of knowledge, a sun in the heaven of bounty, a gem on the diadem of wisdom, a shining light in the firmament of thy generation, a fruit upon the tree of humility." (Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, CXXX).

A statement on Gaza - and a tool for interfaith outreach

January 19, 2009

While there may be a ceasefire right now, who knows what next week will bring?

An Interfaith Declaration for Peace in Israel and Gaza

Many of us have watched with dismay the unfolding events in the conflict between Israel and Gaza. In response, members and leaders of the Silicon Valley interfaith community have issued a joint "Declaration for Peace," which begins with these words:

We, members and leaders of the Silicon Valley interfaith community, are anguished by the events that have unfolded in Israel and Gaza. While some of us — guided by faith and conscience — may in other venues express stronger statements of sympathy either for Israel or Gaza, we share a commitment to engage with one another, even, and especially, during times of great stress. We also affirm our common humanity and our common belief that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must cease, that there is no violent solution to that conflict, that all human life is valued, and that all parties must cooperate to achieve a just and lasting peace on behalf of God's children who reside in the land we call holy.

(Received from, and forwarded with permission of, Rev. D. Andrew Kille via the NAIN mailing list. The full statement can be found on the South Bay Interfaith website )

In Need of a Nature Bailout

January 7, 2009

If our economy is in need of a financial bailout, then perhaps our society is in need of a nature bailout. I've often felt that lack of spirituality is one of the strongest elements holding society back from a greater advancement of the general weal. New evidence suggests that lack of contact with the natural world stunts individual focus, resolve, and calm – in other words, it interferes with our ability to approach the world constructively. I'm convinced there is a connection between these two notions, though I'm not ready to explore that connection just yet.

Winter in the City

January 3, 2009

Sub-arctic winds blowing across the
wide boulevard leaving crystalline
mounds glinting and glistening as if
all the stars in the heavens had
fallen to the curb, no larger than
they look from billions of miles away.

NaCL + (crystal) H20 -> salt flats
that would make Utah proud, leaving
car and shoe alike trembling
with dread.

The sky is clear, the air crisp and
pure, every color standing in sharpest
relief against argent fields aground.
That is, until the snow stops falling.

Day by day, what was white turns gray;
and what was fresh, alive and bright,
now is gritty, post-industrial blight.
Then the magic flakes materialize
again, wiping away the grime (or just
covering it), flushing the soot from
the air like a great Gaian sneeze.

Is that another 6 inches on the
driveway? I'm staying in today.

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