Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Dream of Peace for Our Children

Did I hear the man from that gun organization correctly?  The only thing that beats a bad man with a gun is a good man with (I presume a bigger) gun?  Well, I guess, if you're making trillions by selling weapons and representing the armament cartels around the world, that would be a good solution for you.  Everyone knows that the only reason to fight gun violence with more guns is to make money for gun manufacturers.  If you want to hunt, you don't need assault weapons.  But, If your government scares you so much that you need automatic weapons to defend yourself from it, maybe you need another country to live in.   

In March of 1990, Jim was watching the news one evening, when I walked through the room and caught a report about the little Brooklyn boy, David Opont, who was set on fire by kids in his neighborhood for refusing to try crack.  I flipped out.  We lived and worked in Bridgeport, CT at the time with many urban kids and we needed to do something to make life better for them.  Certainly, I felt, this great country can offer its children safety and protection.  So, Jim and I sought funding and over four years produced  "Child’s Play: A Violence Prevention Media Resource" for schools and the community, including  an hour TV documentary, “We The Children: Violence in the Lives of Inner City Children.”

In December of 2012, still living in CT, we experience the tragedy of Sandy Hook. I’m sad, shocked and outraged, but not surprised.  For "Child's Play" we interviewed two of America’s leading authorities on violence, it's impact on children and violence prevention as a public health issue: Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith and Dr. James Garbarino. They both said the same thing; people across America aren’t feeling this problem because it’s happening mostly in urban communities, but the problem of angry young men, violence and too many guns will hit the suburbs.

In a recent MS Magazine blog post on the Sandy Hook massacre, Soraya Chemaly, points out that the problem of angry young men wielding guns and murdering people is quite common in our country.  "Domestic" violence doesn't get the attention a mass killing does, but it is a problem of epidemic public health proportions. After all, she points out, the first to die that day in Sandy Hook was the 20 year old assailant's mother. (Ms. Blog,"Why won't we talk about violence and masculinity in America?")

This gun ad is reprinted from the MS article, it's for one of the guns that made the Sandy Hook massacre possible.   "Consider your man card reissued?" Really? How does this play in the psyche of a disturbed, conflicted, enraged 20 year old male raised on the glamor of guns and the adrenalin of violence?  

Perhaps we have reached the tipping point, there is a lot we can do to make sure Sandy Hook is never repeated again.  As then Chief of Bridgeport, CT Police, Tom Sweeney, states in "We The Children; " America's going to have to choose between keeping children safe and its love of guns. Stop wringing your hands, there are no new arguments, they've been the same for the past 25 years, (and he's talking almost 20 years ago); make a decision."
Motivated by love and the desire to protect our children, we can make effective changes that don't force them to carry the burden of our problems.  I shudder when I think of all the sweet boys diagnosed with Aspergers, Autism or even ADHD who might become the scapegoats and focus of this crisis because the powerful gun lobby can spin the PR and buy a public approach that takes the "heat" off them; even if it is, as usual, blame the victim. 

The idea that we should fight gun proliferation in our communities with more legally sanctioned gun proliferation is ludicrous.  What does it do to your educational experience to have armed guards roaming the corridors? Ask inner-city children or just consider how you feel about flying these days.  Gun control legislation, especially laws controlling public access to military style assault weapons, ammo and mandating careful background checks for licensing is desperately needed; yet, there is no one factor and no one solution to our epidemic of violence.

Together, using many approaches and our combined effort we can create the culture we want for our children.  In my dream of how we respond to this crisis, we each pick something we are passionate about, something that will do the community good, and do it. Here's how the most eloquent among those we interviewed put it:

We can demand accountability of our legislators and tell them to grow a pair and champion our children's interest over the gun lobby or we'll choose someone who will.   As our experts pointed out, the entertainment industry, with its penchant for gratuitous violence aimed at boys and young men, can be held accountable by the American public.  Let's use our imagination to figure out how we can enjoy beauty and goodness as much as we do blood and gore.  Let's figure out how to make sex sweet, safe, and real and how to reclaim it from the predatory sex industry.  Let's animate and film entertainment for our children that's fun, but doesn't involve all the violence for laughs, shock and awe.  

We can organize community resources so we have things to do together - places to dance, sing, drum together, whether we're single, a couple or a family.  I know a lot of people will point to their church and say, we've got all that right here in our faith community.  With all due respect, if Westboro Baptist Church or Mike Huckabee is what comes with church suppers and socializing around bible studies, I think we need alternatives.  Let's create community centers that aren't focused on creed, but on bringing diverse groups together for the good of all.

One big move at home would be to turn off TVs, computers and other wired devices long enough to be present with the people we love.  Be inventive, find other things to do together - games, word puzzles, story telling contests, nature adventures and walks.

I'd like to suggest that, especially in the evenings, instead of watching TV, a family can play with dreams the way we do in Active Dreaming: creating theater from dreams, writing stories and reading them to each other from dream themes or making up a story from just the title and first line of a dream, each person taking turns adding a line. Pull out the art supplies and draw or paint from dreams, share the pics and talk about them, hang them on the refrigerator. With stories and pictures, we can practice resolving dream conflicts or fears in creative ways.  Always, we respect the dreamer as the only owner and authority of his or her dream, no matter her or his age. 

It is possible to dismantle this culture of violence, if we want to. We can dream a culture we want to bequeath our children for many generations to come and we can set about creating it right now.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Prayer for Sandy Hook

I'm sharing this moving tribute to the children and adults who crossed over in the tragedy of Sandy Hook, CT last week because I found it very healing.  It's written and performed by Eileen O'Hare, a teacher, who posted it on youtube.  Thank you, Eileen.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

God and Huckabee

I share Mr. Einstein's dream for the future, but even so, Mike Huckabee's cannot possibly truly be the voice of American Christianity today, can it?  So God was absent from Sandy Hook and this is what we get?

It's time to hear from the real Christian America, the majority of Christian people who know what Jesus would do, how he would feel and act.  Jesus, the model for Christian practice, is compassionate and loving.  Huckabee sounds  like the lot Jesus called, Pharisees.  At any rate, I at least know this, Jesus would want to help in any way he could; he'd bring comfort, not callous words.

Please, anyone who wants to preserve American Christianity for Jesus, please fire the lot of hypocritical, loud ignoramuses that have risen through the media as the voice of Christian or Moral Majority.  Let's hear from the real Christians, the ones who love and the ones who care, just like Jesus.

I'm not in any formal sense a Christian; I don't belong to a Christian or any other church. I'm not big on religion.  I am very keen on spiritual practice and matters of the soul.  In a Huffington Post piece, a commentator  contrasts Huckabee's awful comments and the wonderful multi-religious speeches at the service at Sandy Hook.  Then she goes on to say that even if you don't have a religion, if you're an atheist...

See, that's where I'd like to widen the scope a bit.  Regardless of your religion or your spiritual practice, your belief or your non-belief, your heart cannot let you say such heartless things to those in grief.    Your heart should want to help.

So let's hope this is a tipping point for those who love their Christian faith and their country, for those who follow Jesus; fire those sorry-ass distorters of Jesus' Word and bring back a religion based on the Love Jesus taught.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Calling all Dreamers

We are reeling from the news of the brutal massacre in Newtown, CT., home to so many friends.  Everyone here, around the country and the world is stunned.  

Early this week, I began reading Dr. Raymond Moody's book, "Reunions: Visionary Encounters with Departed Loved Ones"  and did one of those nose dive's into a good book. Thursday morning, I walked to the computer still reading Moody’s description of the practice and history of mirror gazing, the ancient scrying art used to contact the departed.   At the computer, I opened Facebook; first post on my feed, Robert Moss: The Science of Mirrors.

After commenting to Robert about the syncro, I turned back to Moody's book.  Later, Thursday, I got to the part where he describes setting up his "modern day psychomanteum" - a temenos/sacred space for communication with our beloved departed, as practiced in ancient Greece.  As he tells the story of finding and equipping his sanctuary laboratory, I remember the wonderful post my friend Trish MacGregor posted on her blog last month about this very passage in Moody's life.  I love the story she tells, which he doesn't include in the book.  The two accounts are a wonderful compliment to each other.

So Friday, Friday the unimaginable happens in a neighboring town and we're again shocked by senseless, cruel, twisted violence, made more shocking because this time, it happens in our home state.  It's excruciating not just for its cold brutality and loss of innocent life, but for it's place in a stream of such events that have occurred over the last few years in our country.

I liken the impact of a tragedy such as this to the concentric circles on the surface of water when a stone falls in.  I stand in an outer circle because I don't have close ties to anyone who suffered this horror today, except the ties of community and caring. From this circle, as a resident of this state and country,  I join my voice to a growing community outcry:  Mr. President and all elected officials, control easy access to guns, especially automatic weapons.  We see over and over again, how one desperate, deluded individual can reek havoc.  Help public welfare trump corporate interests in arms dealing for profit.  Times of crisis are opportunities to do things differently, to transform our grief and rage to healing.  It doesn’t work to put profits ahead of humanity. Private citizens need automatic weapons?  Really?  

I heard the news of this massacre while sitting at our art gallery in Woodbury, CT.  A gentleman customer got off the phone after getting the news from his wife.  He said; “This must be terrorism”.   But, apparently, as in the past, it’s not the enemy without but the one within that attacks, often wearing the face of a lost boy acting out a private rage.  What can we do to stem the tide of violence that sweeps up some of our youth?  

Experts like, Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith and Dr. James Garbarino, both authors of fabulous books on the subject,  have been telling us how to help for years.  I hope we'll all turn our minds and hearts to finding creative, daring, bold and working solutions to the violence, greed, small mindedness, lack of love and lack of soul that's plaguing us.  I dream a future where we all contribute creatively to our children's education and well being. We put their needs ahead of institutionalized rules, and design education around experience and incentive, not testing and categorizing.  

For those of us right now in this outer ring of the catastrophe, who are not understandably consumed with grief, we might ask ourselves; What can we do?  What can we do to alleviate the suffering of those who have remained and of those who have crossed over?   What can we do to ensure that this never happens again?

Friday, December 7, 2012

My Generation

Jim back then
When I think of the changes I, and many of my generation, have witnessed in our life times, and the iconoclastic lives many of us have lived, I feel deeply grateful.  We were born into an amazing time.  The fifties, despite “Papa Knows Best” TV pablum, had brilliant writers, free thinkers and artists laying the seeds for the 60’s.  Some of my favorite teachers were 50s rebels, I’ll always remember the passion of one of my high school English teachers when talking to us about any piece of literature.  He would turn the literary mirror on us and help us imagine, beyond an English test, what these characters were living and trying to do.  I got an excellent education in freethinking, as well as literature, from his class.  He must have had some freedom in selecting curriculum to suit his message because he introduced me to Sartre, Voltaire and  Bocaccio, among others.  For my senior thesis in his class. I first proposed, “Was Mary Really A Virgin” but settled for “The Rise and Fall of the Catholic Church.”  He gave me an A+; I wonder if I have that paper somewhere?  I’m grateful to him and to the many great teachers I’ve had, in public schools, university and post-grad.

My generation was encouraged to think, to feel and to experiment. Yeah, there were definitely failed outcomes to some of those experiments, but we dreamed of making a better world through spiritual values: Peace, Love, Joy, and yes, song.  I came of age living the shifting paradigm of the 60s.  I always remind my peers that we, who have been very blessed, (I mean, come on…the music alone!) have to give back.  We’re not a generation that will fade away into “senior” citizenry. 

So, post-election I commit myself to making what difference I can in the service of those same values.  My spiritual path, of course, is dreaming, and my passion is to share it, as I do here and when I lead workshops.  I know many, many others, friends and teachers I admire of my generation, who are making a huge difference in their communities, country and worldwide following their own spiritual paths.

I admire many individuals from younger and older generations, as well, and I only mean to go on about mine for a bit to strengthen my dream that we will help enable a great shift in consciousness on this planet, all of us dreaming it into being together.  We elders have a great opportunity to help make that happen. 

By now, most people know that the date 12/21/2012, this Winter Solstice on the Mayan Calendar,  is not a prediction of certain doom, but represents the Mayan culture's astrological mapping of the ages of time.  (For a fascinating insight into parallels in Mayan, Egyptian and other ancient cultures regarding the ages of human history, view the fabulous documentary, The Pyramid Code, especially in Pt 2).

According to the Mayan’s, we're at the end of a particularly dark cycle of time, not at the end of the world.  Out of this authoritarian, patriarchal age, we’re moving into an age of balance of opposites, of new awareness and new organizational paradigms.  We can do it, as our parents use to tell us, in one of two ways:

We can resist the awakening and go kicking and screaming into a hell we help create.

Or we can embrace new possibilities, drop old worn out paradigms and dream a new dream of human survival based on our divine being ness that can never die.  I love the interview Eckhart Tolle did at Google with Google personnel; it’s on YouTube, worth looking up.

I wouldn’t have wanted a woman’s life before my own generation.  My mothers?  My grandmothers?  No, thank you.  I’m grateful, especially to my mom, since both my grandmothers died before I could know them, for going out of her way to ensure my education was unhampered by gender role expectations like hers had been.  She didn’t want me to follow in her footsteps, though her own accomplishments, as cook and seamstress, were legend.

Of course, women were shattering the cultural/patriarchal paradigm way before the 60s; Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, Isadora Duncan, Betty Freidan, Ursala Le Guin, to mention but a few. My contemporaries are Gloria Steinem, Mary Daly, Sonya Johnson, Charlene Spretnak, Merlin Stone, and Starhawk, to mention just a few; I had so many women role models my mother and grandmothers didn’t have.  My generation of women opened the door much wider than my foremothers could. 

In this election, my peers helped champion what we deem important. Kudos to the PSA Leslie Gore did that helped me contribute my cyber bit by passing it around. Many of my women friends and I fought long and hard to overturn social and legal restrictions on any woman’s right to govern her own uterus, to earn equal pay and to have equal career opportunity and don't want to see ourselves restricted again.

As without, so within; the 60’s also burst the self-inflated bubble of institutionalized religion.  Many paths for spiritual exploration and practice were open to my generation and we’ve helped illuminate many spiritual paths for soul seekers today. Those of my generation are the grandmothers and grandfathers, the great aunts and uncles.  We have the opportunity to continue to dream our collective dream forward.  I think we are the silver fox warriors of new dimensions of transcendence.   Well, maybe I’m carried away, but I like that image. We’ve pushed so many boundaries and pushing has paid off. We still have a lot to do; the results of this election encouraged me to think that there are many of us, which makes for light work, pun intended.

I was never a fan of the band, The Who, but I can't help ending with this song.  
According to Wiki, “Townshend reportedly wrote the song on a train and is said to have been inspired by the Queen Mother who is alleged to have had Townshend's 1935 Packard hearse towed off a street in Belgravia because she was offended by the sight of it during her daily drive through the neighbourhood...Townshend talked about the famous line "I hope I die before I get old". For him, when he wrote the lyrics, "old" meant "very rich". 

The Who is still performing, the 2010 Super bowl no less. I’m sure Pete’s glad he didn’t die or fail to get rich, but the point is, we are still, many of us, going strong. I see us using that strength to create the world we want, to dream it forward; I'm talking bout my generation.