Saturday, April 15, 2006
Today I am grateful for nature. I am not as at home here in the Sonoran Desert as I am in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, but the land here has its own mystery and magic.
And I am grateful for the feedback I have received from some of you on my blog. Thanks!
What are you grateful for?
With the Hierophant (originally known as the Pope), we move for the first time into the human world. The previous four archetypes encountered by the Fool on its journey were isolated forces set off from human affairs. But with the Hierophant, there are two other figures pictured on the card.
When the Tarot was developed, the Pope was the unquestioned representative of God on Earth. Over the next three centuries, with the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, the Pope began to lose power as the supreme symbol of Spirituality. In the 19th century, the card was renamed the Hierophant by Western occultists, and the name has endured.
When we look at the meaning of the word Heirophant -- which is literally, "the one who teaches the holy things" -- the name is well-suited to the role of the card in the Fool's journey. It is with the Hierophant, more than any card so far, that the Fool confronts the "externalized embodiment of man's striving for connection with the godhead -- of his dedication to the quest for meaning which sets man above the animals" (Sallie Nichols, Jung and Tarot).
In the Rider-Waite version of the card depicted above, the Hierophant is much younger than the traditional Pope image. The youthfulness allows an androgyny that betrays the card's role as a further amplification of the masculine Logos of the Emperor. Still, the original role of the Pope was as mother and father within the Church, so the image is not far from the intent of the older images.
Like the Magician, the Hierophant bridges inner and outer, physical and spiritual. But while the Magician required a more contemplative, intuitive grasping of that bridge, the Hierophant does it in a more literal way. His personage is the metaphorical bridge, much in the same way that the wafer and wine are the body and blood of Christ.
The Pope, and therefore the Hierophant, represents a stage in human development when we were unprepared to own our own connection to the sacred. Like all archetypal powers we are not ready to own, the power of that "bridge" energy was projected onto the Pope as head of the Church. In him, we see that which is within each of us when we are ready to become responsible for ourselves.
But at this stage, the Fool is only beginning to develop an ego structure, so there is not nearly enough interiority to accomodate such a powerful archetype. All of the cards to this point have also been projections of the Fool's own inner world, but this is the first time that there is an ego to kneel before the Hierophant and ask for blessings.
The Hierophant and the Emperor go hand in hand, one working with the spiritual life, the other responsible for the public and cultural life of his kingdom. Both of these cards represent variations of the father archetype, a pivotal figure in the young life of the Fool. As such, both cards bring the emerging ego of the Fool into the Blue meme of the human Spiral.
With the Emporer, the focus was on the external, on fitting into the group and learning the laws and rules of conduct that would ensure acceptance -- always an important need for the young ego. With the Hierophant, the focus is turned inward, toward the nascent drive to the know the sacred, a drive that Carl Jung thought was sui generis -- innate, given at birth.
For many of us, the teacher or guru assumes the archetypal power of the Hierophant. For Buddhists, in particular, we are encouraged to surrender ourselves completely to the wisdom and enlightenment of the guru. As described on Wikipedia, "the guru is seen ... as a sacred conduit, or a way to self-realization."
Interestingly enough, Wikipedia goes on to say that, "Guru also refers in Sanskrit to Brihaspati, a Hindu figure analogous to the Roman planet/god Jupiter." The Hierophant is generally considered to be ruled by Jupiter and, in fact, some of the early cards were called Jupiter. Mostly, this is just an interesting parallel, but it demonstrates the universality of this archetype.
I think it's important to note that the idea of the guru is not widely accepted in the West, yet every church has a priest or a minister of some sort. We are willing to petition an intermediary, but we are not willing to concede that s/he is an embodiment of divinity. Even most Catholics in the West reject the idea that the Pope is in any way divine.
Finally, I want to touch on the Osho Zen variation of this card. In this deck the card is called No-Thingness, referencing the Buddhist concept of shunyata.
The Osho deck sees the fifth card as more than just a bridge between the physical and the spiritual -- it is the gap between the two. No-Thingness is equivalent to liminal space, the "betwixt and between" that we experience in meditation and in our journey to the sacred. When we are in liminal space (limen = threshold), we are literally on the threshold of Spirit.
Being in the gap can be scary, and for this reason many of us seek the teacher exemplified by the Hierophant. It is helpful to have a guide who has made the journey before us to help us find our way.
However, the Osho Zen deck advocates that we simply surrender to the liminality and not fight the process:
All you can do now is to relax into this no-thingness...fall into this silence between the words...watch this gap between the outgoing and incoming breath. And treasure each empty moment of the experience. Something sacred is about to be born.And, indeed, with the next card, The Lovers, something will be born: the unification of the conscious and unconscious. Again, the Fool will need to learn the art of surrender, so practicing No-Thingness is a valuable piece of the work.
For many of us who reject organized religion, No-Thingness better reflects our approach to Spirit through the cessation of ego. We do not necessarily need a Hierophant to bridge the gap for us. As we meditate and work with healing and then transcending the ego, we increasingly approach No-Thingness, the inherent emptiness of manifest reality.
I left the house this morning as the first light was coming over the horizon. After four years in Tucson, I decided last night that today would be the day I finally get up to see Seven Falls in Bear Creek Canyon, before what little snow melt we have is gone.
I'm glad I decided to do it this weekend. Bear Creek was very low after the dry winter we had. I expected more water, but was grateful for the little that there was. Plant life around the trickle that made it as far as the entrance to valley was lush, and the birds were enjoying the gnats floating in small bunches above the water.
Today's hike has a ulterior motive. I want to get up to the falls early, before the other hikers get up there, to do a little meditation sitting on the rocks. I have always found it easier to get centered when I am in nature, and even more so when I am beside a creek or river. The sound of moving water soothes me in a way few things can.
When I was in college, following the end of a relationship, I spent many hours sitting beside Lithia Creek in Ashland, OR, getting lost in the water's engulfing voice. That was my first real experience with meditation it seems, looking back at it now, although then I would not have called it that.
So this morning I was up at my usual early hour and on the trail. I took my camera with me so that I could get some pictures to use on my blog, and just to get some practice with using it. I find that photography gets me out of my head, as well. And when I am alone, I have a tendency to keep going further and further from the trail in search of the perfect shot.
I am easily fascinated by the way water changes the desert. In a few months, much of the foliage now greening the valley will be dried and brown. The rich scent of water flowing over and through desert rock will be reduced to a stagnant stench. But not today. Today the scents of water, vegetation, wild flowers, and wet earth swirl into an intoxicating mix.
One of the other reasons I enjoy hiking in these canyons (Sabino Canyon is more accessible and more used, but still a good hike) is that the sheer size of the canyon walls reduce me to a sense of triviality. In this desert, among these rocks and canyon walls, I am tiny and insignificant. I love that feeling. I love that my sometimes-raging ego feels so small and fragile in this place.
And there is a definite sense of fragility out here, although I really don't dwell on it much. I tend to violate most of the basic rules of hiking, such as letting someone know where I am, taking a cell phone, leaving a projected itinerary in my car or at the trail head. Anything can happen out here. Mountain lions roam these valleys, some bobcats, coyotes, and maybe a few Mexican grey wolves. But there are also rattlesnakes. That's the one thing that can scare me a bit.
But none of it stays in my mind for long. I'm not pushing to get to the falls too quickly, but I do want to get up there before other people make their way up the canyon on this fine morning.
The farther in I get, the more amazing the cliffs become. The rock is jagged in places, and much of the cliff face is banded in various colors of sediment.
Aside from various small birds I can't identify, and the occasional cardinal, the only wildlife I've seen is an enormous raven who circles over me from time to time to check up on what I'm doing. He caws a couple of times, then soars back up onto the wind currents generated by sunlight heating the cool air in the canyon.
Ravens have always intrigued me. Such smart, huge birds. Yet they love nothing more than playing -- with each other, by themselves, or with other creatures who aren't generally pleased about being the subject of raven games. Ravens are, by most accounts, the smartest non-mammal on the planet, and have usually scored much higher than most primates on intelligence tests.
When I see a raven in an area where I am hiking, in some strangely prerational sense I feel safe. I feel as though I am being watched over by a God who cares nothing for what species I am, only that I am. Raven is the creator god for many Northwest Coast tribes, and also for most Alaskan tribes. And not without good reason.
After a relatively easy early section of the trail, the last mile or so gets steeper and higher, winding along the ridge far above Bear Creek below. The trail is wide enough and feels safe, but my fear of heights surges and recedes a couple of times.
After about two hours, I reach the falls and there is no one else around. For that I am grateful. I had actually passed a couple of people coming out on my way up, so I wasn't sure I'd be alone.
The falls aren't very big. I guess most of what I'd heard about them was from people who had been up here when there was much more water. Last winter was very wet and the falls were said to be spectacular.
The next chance to see them in all their glory will be in monsoon season this summer. I'll to try to make it back then to get the full experience.
The best part, though, is that there is no one around. The only sound is the water and the birds. Even in my native Southern Oregon Cascades and Siskiyous, there is seldom complete silence. I was often disturbed by the sounds of jets flying over. But there is nothing here but the water and the natural sounds of the canyon.
I sit for a few minutes to relax. Being in good shape as far as weight training goes is not the same thing as being in shape for a long hike. My calves and knees are sore. I'm glad that I brought a lot of water.
After getting settled for a bit, I sit. Back against the rock, at the base of the third falls. The pool of water looks inviting enough to swim. But the water is far colder than I would like for swimming.
It's so easy to clear my brain up here. My whole life back in the valley is gone. As I breathe out the stress, I feel my body relax, my shoulders loosen, my brain stop working so hard. I relax my vision and stare into the movement of the water in front of me. Reflected colors from the rocks above swirl and mix in a way that totally undoes my orientation.
For at least thirty minutes, I allow myself to be absent from my life. There are no problems to solve, no bills to pay, no chores to run. There is only water, rock, and sound. I become expansive, ego relaxed and willing to be set aside.
As I type this, thinking about the feeling I had, I am reminded of Walt Whitman, that old hippie from the 19th century:
I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,~ From "Song of Myself," Section 52
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.
I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.
I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.
For a short time, I ceased to be anything more than the elements of nature. The perfect morning.
Friday, April 14, 2006
It's hard to give up things that aren't working in our lives. Or, I should say, it's hard for me to give up things that aren't working in my life. I started blogging in December of 2004 with no clear vision of what I wanted out of blogging except that I felt "called" to do it. Over the last year and half, one blog became three specialty blogs.
Raven's View was a good outlet for me at first. But over time, the more I gave it my energy and attention, the more it consumed my time and my life. Giving it up feels like giving up an addiction. I find myself with a hole in my life that was filled by that blog. However, for good or bad, I have some experience giving up addictions, so I'm sure I'll get through this period of withdrawal.
I'll have more energy now to devote to IOC, which feels like a good move. It feels important to give more energy to the areas in my life that nourish me and less to the areas that consume me. I have been so caught up in the flow of news cycles that I have forgotten what it is like to have free time to do whatever I want. I want to use that time in ways that will feed my soul.
So, today I am grateful for the strength to give up an unhealthy addiction. I am grateful for the self-awareness to see that Raven's View had become an addiction. I am grateful for the people who have been supportive of this decision.
AND, I will be grateful if regular readers might tell me what they'd like to see more of in this blog. Please leave your comments in this post, or use the email button in the sidebar.
So, what are you grateful for?
in illo tempore
as shadow cast (original face)
dense as fog, across
a desert of sage and stones
first communion, stale wafers
and sour wine: belief
cannot make it so
sweet flesh and blood
of the first kiss:
joins two worlds: tasting
the word made soul
in vessels and arteries,
flowing from womb to urn
that this is outlived,
revealed only when the mirror
falls to floor
ivy shrouds the body’s
the sky painted
black and flowered
with stars, transient,
shifting a little
then one falls
screaming to the ground
a smile on the lips
of an iris: a blooming
where heaven kisses earth
I wasn't sure if or when I was going to do this, but today seems like the perfect day. And now seems like the perfect time.
For Christians around the world, today is Good Friday, the day Jesus died for their sins. On Sunday, millions of people will celebrate the Resurrection, the foundation of Christian belief.
This form of sacrifice is an old myth, pre-dating Jesus by many, many years. It captures the essence of the spring renewal celebrations that have existed as long as humans have been growing their own food. People used to sacrifice virgins or warriors to ensure fertile fields and the health of the community. Jesus' death echoes that pattern of sacrifice.
We no longer hold such mythic beliefs, for the most part, yet such practices have power in our psyches or Christianity would have died out centuries ago.
On this day, in keeping with the theme of sacrifice, I am shutting down Raven's View indefinitely. If and when it is resurrected, it will be with a new focus, and maybe on a new service. Blogger is a good place to start, but the frequent outages are driving me crazy.
This blog started as a way for me to write about what mattered to me. Over time, it became more and more focused on politics (especially as I launched Integral Fitness Solutions and Integral Options Cafe).
What was once a space for me to vent my frustrations has become an obsession with exposing the stupidity I see in government at all levels. There are many other blogs that provide the same service and do it better than I can. Besides, I find myself being more and more angry, which is not very productive.
So I am going to focus my blogging efforts on finding what works in the world and how we can lead better lives -- and I will be doing it at Integral Options Cafe. I hope that you will join me over there as I explore ways to change the world one person at a time, starting with me.
I want to thank those who have read my blog on a semi-regular basis and who have linked to me over the last year or so. This was hard work at times, extremely educational, and often fun. But it is time to move in a new direction.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
What happens when you choose to live at the level of Spirit, in a state of gratitude from morning to night? In his new book "Inspiration," best-selling author and spiritual teacher Dr. Wayne Dyer explains that when you're living in Spirit, your "vibrational energy is more attuned to that of the creative energy of the Universe." Strange, even miraculous things can happen at this level of energy.[Buy the book]
Nice sentiment, and one I agree with.
So today I am grateful others are extolling the virtues of gratitude.
I am also grateful for a certain Latina client who is smart and wise and makes training her a pleasure. When the training hour can be passed in good conversation, it's easier for the client who isn't focused on the pain, and for me.
So what are you grateful for?
They refer to subs as selves, which is one of the common ways of talking about subpersonalities. Their view is role-oriented in that all subs have a unique role which brought them into existence. The problem is that each new self also brings an equal and opposite self with it, which they call disowned selves. These are important in understanding our relationships, but more on that in a bit.
I want to try to explain their system as briefly and clearly as possible.
The Primary Selves
When we are born, we are just a vulnerable collection of cells without any kind of "self" in the way we normally think of a self. It doesn't take long for the ego to begin its development. Not long after the ego emerges, the first alternate self emerges, the protector/controller. Its job is to protect the fragile and vulnerable self and to control our behavior and (as much as possible) the behavior of those around us. It quickly develops an awareness of which behaviors are rewarded and which are punished and acts accordingly. It continually seeks out new info and changes its "rule set" accordingly. This is a basically rational self (although it can't express itself that way until the ego reaches rational thinking stages) that attempts to explain the world and ourselves and provide us with a frame of reference with which to make sense of our lives.
The protector/controller is usually in charge, even after we become adults -- it becomes the "acting ego" in their system. It generally does not like anything to upset its system and is often closed to outside input unless that input can help it in its role without challenging its assumptions about the world. The downside is that this self keeps us isolated from direct experience of reality. In the system these therapists advocate, weakening the power of the acting ego is crucial in experiencing a more full life. In general, I agree with this position, especially since my own "protector/controller" is a literal control freak.
The protector/controller has as its primary ally the pusher. The pusher makes lists, pushes us to complete tasks, and keeps us busy doing the things we are "supposed" to be doing if we want to think of ourselves (and have others think of us) as good people. The pusher makes it difficult to relax and just be. This is another one that I am intimately familiar with.
Another major self is the perfectionist. This self strives to make us perfect in every way it can. This self essentially wants to protect us from criticism and often works closely with the pusher to make sure we are doing everything we are supposed to be doing, and doing it perfectly. This self gets lots of positive feedback in family, school, and work, so it can get very dominant. The downside is that it prevents us from taking risks and doing things we might not be perfect at.
The inner critic, which is often the introjection of one or both parents to start with (and later, teachers, peers, and society), works along with the perfectionist and pusher to catch all of our mistakes and inadequacies before anyone else does so that we won't displease anyone. The downside here is a shattered sense of self-esteem. We may end up feeling as though we can do nothing right and that we are unlovable. The pusher and the perfectionist will then work even harder to make us acceptable.
The last of the primary selves is the pleaser. The pleaser is very good at tuning into the needs and wants of others and working to meet them no matter the cost to us. When the pleaser is running the show, we tend to forget our own needs and the result can be latent hostility. In a relationship, we have to learn to work past the pleaser to see what our true feelings are and to honor those feelings.
All of these primary selves work to protect the vulnerable inner child from pain. All of us will have one or more of these that is more dominant than the others, or some combination of them. These selves are not unhealthy unless we continue to be unaware of them and act from their needs without any consciousness of what is happening.
The Disowned Selves
Nathaniel Brandon coined the term "disowned selves" in his book by the same name (The Disowned Self, 1972). These are shadow expressions of the primary selves -- feelings and needs that run in opposition to the primary selves.
For example, in my own life, my pleaser would do its best to not rock the boat, to keep everyone happy. But at a certain point its shadow would emerge and sink the boat and everyone on it, often with as much rebellion as possible. It took a lot or work to own that I had a pleaser, and even now I think it is still a problem in intimate relationships. I'd rather swallow the anger (since I won't express inappropriate rage at an intimate partner) than take care of my own needs sometimes. This is a sure way to destroy a relationship. Learning to express healthy anger and displeasure is crucial to relationship health -- I'm still working on this one.
A lot of us tend to identify with one or more of our primary selves. This will result in its opposite being the primary flavor of our shadow material. They don't talk about it that way in the book, but that's the essence of what they are saying. Like all shadow material, these disowned selves then get projected onto objects and people in our world. If no one around us currently fits the role, our psyche will find someone or something that does.
Let me give another example from my own life. I've written here in the past about my preference for the rational over the emotional and how that has shaped my life. Well, in this system, my rational ego is the primary self that I have identified with and its opposite, my emotional self, has been largely disowned. It would not be surprising then that I have dated a lot of people who are emotionally centered. Kira, my current partner, is a perfect example. She is deeply emotional and has an enormous range of emotional expression that is probably what drew me to her in the first place.
This is where this stuff applies to relationships. We project our disowned selves onto others and we are then either drawn to them as friends or partners, or we are so set off by them that they clearly hold some part of ourselves that we can't tolerate (this last part is the classic view of projections).
Disowned Selves in Relationship
When we first fall in love, we are falling in love, partly, with our disowned selves, those parts of us that we need to reclaim to be whole people. This is the origin of that stupid line in romantic movies, "you complete me," or of the whole idea of the "better half," "other half," or "missing half" that our partner represents in relationship.
This is a normal and healthy part of relationship. But if we never get beyond it, we will either live in a somewhat shallow relationship or struggle with the end result of not owning our selves, conflict. We need to be two whole selves coming together in partnership, not partial selves looking for completion.
When the blush wears off a new romance, we start to see the other person more clearly. And those parts of ourselves that they represent then become a problem. We disowned them for a reason -- we are not comfortable with them. So when conflict arises, and all relationships have conflict, we withdraw more and more into our primary selves, becoming at times almost purely what that self represents. The less self-awareness we possess, the more this is likely to happen.
This reaction pushes the other person more and more into his/her primary self as well, and so we lose the ability to embrace one another's way of being. We tend to become extreme in our identification with our primary selves, and this leaves us disowning the partner who still represents to us that disowned self that our primary self never liked in the first place.
We must learn to reclaim our disowned selves. Sounds easy, huh? Not so much, though. The authors developed an approach called voice dialogue that they claim works wonders in reclaiming disowned selves (this is spelled out in Embracing Our Selves). The approach is basically developing a dialogue with the self and finding out what it needs and wants to be happy and a more integrated part of the psyche.
Using their own system against them, this approach seems to create problems in that the perfectionist and inner critic are not likely to want to play along with such an approach -- especially if they are the primary selves. So there must be other, less vulnerable ways of working with these selves.
Journaling is one way. Allowing the disowned self to surface through visualization and then letting it say whatever it wants to say. One can even ask it questions to reveal the same info the voice dialogue technique uses, without having to do it in front of someone and without having to move from one chair to another when changing "selves."
I think meditation and traditional shadow work also offer viable approaches.
This is only a small taste of what this book offers. As I read more, I will post anything I think might be relevant to others. Working with subpersonalities can be a powerful tool for creating a more consolidated ego, which I believe is necessary before we make and huge strides in transcending the ego.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
[Sunrise at Picture Rocks]
Today I am grateful that what I do for a living can help people lead better lives. A client told me today that she was able to go on a hike on rough ground that she could not have done when we started working together a few months ago. I love that feeling. I am grateful that she was grateful.
There's not much better than that.
What are you grateful for?
But he feels liberals need not abandon authentic spiritual belief and practice to be good progressives. Rabbi Lerner, Cornel West, and Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister have founded the Network of Spiritual Progressives as a way to delineate a way by which progressives can reclaim the moral authority of faith in the political arena.
Rabbi Lerner explains the origin of scientism, and sounds a little like Ken Wilber:
So why has the left become so attached to scientism? The left emerged as part of the broad movement against the feudal order, which taught that God had appointed people to their place in the hierarchical economic and political order for the good of the greater whole. Our current economic system, capitalism, was created by challenging the church's role in organizing social life, and empirical observation and rational thought became the battering ram the merchant class used to weaken the church's authority. Many of Marx's followers thought they were merely drawing out the full implications of their new worldview when they adopted a scientistic approach that not only dismissed God and spirit as being without empirical foundation but also reduced all ethical and aesthetic judgments to little more than reflections of class
The idea that people are only motivated by material self-interest became the basis for a significant part of what we now call the political left, or labor movement, and the Democratic Party ("It's the economy, stupid"). But in the research I did with thousands of middle-income working-class people, I found that there was a pervasive desire for meaning and a purpose-driven life, and for recognition by others in a nonutilitarian way, and that the absence of this kind of recognition and deprivation of meaning caused a huge amount of suffering and could best be described as a deep spiritual hunger that had little to do with how much money people were making. Granted, most people on the left would probably agree, in the abstract, that money can't buy love (or meaning). But when it comes down to the choices they make in trying to formulate goals for a union or a political party or a social change organization, they often revert to their deeply internalized materialistic assumptions, which leads them to deny the potential efficacy of addressing the "meaning" needs.
The truth is that most people on the left already have a set of moral principles that guide their lives and have led them to be Democrats or Greens or social change activists. But their scientistic worldview makes them feel slightly embarrassed to acknowledge and articulate those values. And the intense skepticism about religion and spirituality on the left makes them reluctant to talk in a language that could be seen as inherently religious or spiritual. In this, they are reflecting a long history of indoctrination into the scientistic assumptions of the dominant secular society, assumptions that have shaped our educational system, permeated our economic marketplace and been internalized as "sophisticated thinking" by the self-appointed (and capital-sustained) arbitrators of culture.
One the exemplars of scientism familiar to many of us is Sam Harris, author of the End of Faith and more recently, the Athesit Manifesto, but he doesn't embrace the progressive values Rabbi Lerner is talking about.
Scientism is not a uniquely progressive stance. Harris uses scientism to defend torture as a viable method of gathering information from alleged terrorists, totally rejecting the inherent right of human beings not to be tortured, no matter the circumstances.
My point here is that, although I agree with Rabbi Lerner in principle, scientism is not a distinctly lefty stance for the person on the street. It may be true of the "academic elite" that Faux News loves excoriate, but most of us have faith in something other than science.
If we want to really undertand the reasons the left has abandoned religion, we must look at the Spiral of human development. As a first step, Rabbi Lerner's vision of a spiritually engaged politics is intriguing:
I've used the word "spiritual" as a label to identify a meaning-oriented approach to politics. Its focus is on the yearning of human beings for a world of love and caring, for genuine connection and mutual recognition, for kindness and generosity, for connection to the common good, to the sacred and to a transcendent purpose for our lives. Understand human history and contemporary society and individual psychology from the standpoint of these needs and the ways they have been frustrated, and then develop a strategy that addresses those needs, and we will be able to build a movement and a political party that will be in a position to bring about all the good things liberals and progressives have fought for with such limited success over the past 100 years.
In order to implement this view, we need people who are reaching into the Green meme of the Spiral in their spiritual developmental line. Sceintism -- as a belief systems -- is a distinctly Orange meme structure. It cannot exist in any person whose spiritual line is either below or above the Orange meme.
I think Rabbi Lerner is somewhat mistaken in his view of why the left has rejected traditional religion. I am not convinced scientism is the real culprit, although I'm sure it is for some people, especially the Marxist division of the left that he describes above.
I think the real reason lies more in the fear many progressives hold that all organized religions are dogmatic and repressive. While this is true for many mainstream churches in the major denominations of the major religions, it need not be the case. There are more and more Christian churches who embrace the teachings of Jesus and are setting aside the less compassionate teachings of Paul.
Judaism is even more progressive than the most progressive Christians in some temples, and there are progressive Islamic mosques as well. Buddhism is considered progressive by many, but the real teachings can be quite conservative to those of us who are solidly liberal.
Religion need not be repressive and intolerant, but the major religions often are. This is what progressives are responding to -- they are not embracing scientism out of a belief that it is a viable faith system.
Although I disagree with Rabbi Lerner, in the end, I still encourage everyone to take a look at the Network of Spiritual Progressives website.
[Cross-posted at Zaadz.]
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
I am also grateful for a day when clients cancel, and I get to sleep in. Doesn't happen much, but it's nice. Just as long as it doesn't happen too often. :)
And mozerella cheese.
What are you grateful for?
learning about shadows
a young boy kicks through
leaving a distinct trail
as he weaves
around trees and parked cars
making it up
until three crows glide down
to the street
only a few feet from the boy
who stops cold
while the crows squawk and hop
from spot to spot
then spread their wings into
a gust of wind
leaving the boy standing
frozen in place
Immigration has become a very sensitive issue, especially here in Arizona where, as Erica mentions in her comment, many Mexican-Americans know how this land was stolen from Mexico much in the same way the U.S. stole so much land from the tribal peoples who had lived here for thousands of years.
There are no easy answers. We cannot deport 12 million people as Jon Kyl and John Cornyn would like to do, or build a big fence as Kyl has proposed. We cannot criminalize them as the House would like to do. We cannot charge them with criminal trespass as the AZ House wants to do.
So what do we do?
I think the first step is to take an honest -- and integral -- look at the situation to see what really is happening.
For many people, the bottom line is that millions of people are trying to illegally enter the United States through Mexico each year. They feel we need to stop this from happening by whatever means necessary (a wall, military presence, citizen militia, killing them, and so on). They want to address illegal immigration solely as a behavior, and solely from their own values position.
Most of what we talk about in this country treats illegal immigration as a behavior and offers punishment for that behavior without looking at what prompts it in the first place. This is why we have not solved the problem. Taking this view, we never will.
Many people do come here legally. Those who can afford the paperwork and lawyers (and some might say the bribes) jump through the hoops and come to the U.S. to work and send money back to their families. Many others don't have access to the help they need to come here legally, so they pay a coyote or they take their chances with crossing the unforgiving desert. Many hundreds die each year of dehydration or exposure.
Still others, especially women, try to sneak across the border to have their child born in the U.S. so that the child will be a citizen. Mothers are rarely sent back with their newborns, so the current U.S. laws reward the behavior of sneaking across the border.
Those who oppose having people come here illegally patrol the border with guns to scare the migrants away or with phones to notify the border patrol. Others advocate for better government security to keep migrants out.
But if we look closely at the exterior behavior, we also have to look at the interior motivation behind the behavior. Why would people leave their families and risk their lives to come here and be treated like dirt? What is the intention that inspires a willingness to risk so much?
Obviously, for most who come here illegally, even the low wages they get paid as illegals is better than what they might get in Mexico or Honduras or Guatemala. So there is certainly a monetary reward for the risk.
But there is also the despair that they feel in their homeland when they cannot provide for their families and feed their children. Added to the despair is the risk of illness from poverty and a fear for the lives of those they love. What would you do in such circumstances? Probably whatever it took.
Many have family who have already found their way here legally or illegally, so they have the motivation of being with family -- of shared struggle. This is a strong motivation among a people who are strongly rooted in family. America's political right talks about "family values," but Hispanic cultures place a huge emphasis on family.
This is one of the cultural components. There are others. In Hispanic culture a man is not a man if he cannot provide for his family. This is a powerful motivator -- it will push a man to risk his life to come here to make money he can send back. This is also what makes many of these men outstanding workers (and I have worked with many illegals here and in Oregon).
Another of the cultural values is one we have created ourselves: America is seen as the land of opportunity. This is a belief shared by many around the world. It has only been during the last five years that our reputation around the world has been shaped by torture, wars, racism, and arrogance. Still, many see America as a place to create a better life. We worked hard to create that belief around the world.
On the other hand, our culture looks at immigrants who come here illegally as criminals, not as brave people doing their best to survive. We see them as "wetbacks" who cross the Rio Grande to get to America. We pay them to tend our gardens and clean our pools or houses, but we look down on them.
In other parts of the country, they pick our fruit and vegetables. They work on Forest Service land planting trees or picking weeds on tree farms. They are hired as temps through agencies who don't ask and the immigrants don't tell.
And we despise them. There is an unspoken racism in this country that targets brown-skinned people, whether they are Indian (from India), Arab, or Hispanic. Otherwise liberal people I know are afraid of South Tucson (where the population is largely Hispanic). I have seen unqualified white people get hired over qualified Hispanic people.
We somehow believe that brown skin means terrorist (Arabs) or ignorant (Hispanic). We have a cultural bias against Hispanic peoples in particular. The cliche used to be that Hispanics were lazy and unproductive (remember the Speedy Gonzales cartoons?), although that has changed as more Hispanics have risen to positions of power and own their own businesses.
Still, our society depends on immigrants -- legal and otherwise. There are twelve million illegals here and most of them are working. Among those here legally, unemployment is lower among immigrants than non-immigrants for the first time ever.
As mentioned above, immigrants take jobs many of us would not want. They fill a crucial role in our economy. Without them our economy would crash. Yet our laws are set up to make it as hard as possible for people to come here legally to work.
This may be the hardest issue to overcome. We have divided our economic need from our legal system. We need these workers, but we want to make it legally impossible for many of them to come here.
Meanwhile, the Mexican and Central American economies still struggle to create jobs -- even after NAFTA and CAFTA. Things are better than they were, but there is much more need than there are jobs.
If we take into account the behavioral, the intentional, the cultural, and the social elements of this issue, as I have tried to do in these preliminary observations, we will have a much better idea of how to confront this problem in a responsible way.
There are no easy answers. We must attempt to see this from all sides and try to come up with an approach that is fair to all involved. We cannot become so entrenched in an us-versus-them mentality that we fail to have compassion in our hearts or justice in our actions.
Provide easier work visas. We need to make it easier for immigrants to get work visas to come her legally. And we need to build into those visas a way for those people to become citizens. This country needs immigrant labor, so why not make it easier to get these people here legally.
Decriminalize those who have been here for five years and hold jobs. Many people see this as amnesty. Maybe it is. So what? They're here, they're working, and we can't afford to send them back to wherever they came from. (Note: there are many illegal Europeans and Asians in this country, as well.)
For those who have not been here for five years, give them the option of paying fines (over time) or going home. Most will stay. If they stay they can apply for a work visa and get in line for citizenship after five years.
Help Mexico (and other Latin American countries) build more stable and productive economies/ This seems like a no-brainer, but we have done little to help them, only to plunder a low-wage work force. This will reduce the need for many to come here for work.
Change immigration laws to make it easier to come to America legally on the way to citizenship, especially for students. We can't let everyone come here, but we can handle more than we are allowing now.
Strengthen border security patrols. There is already a push to do this, and last year more than a million people were caught coming into Arizona alone. So we know that border security works when there is enough of it.
Increase inspection and fines for hiring illegal migrants. But we should not be targeting small businesses, we should be targeting those larger businesses that hire a lot of illegals from temp agencies and pay them low wages.
Target coyotes and drug runners (this may include the Mexican military if recent reports from Texas are true) who bring illegals into this country. These people are taking advantage of needy people and treating them horribly.
And maybe most importantly, we need to provide humanitarian aid for the many citizens of Mexico and Latin American who do not have clean water, enough food, or sufficient housing. It will be a lot cheaper to help these people where they live than to arrest them and send them back when they come here illegally.
What do you think?
This is a tough issue, and I am only beginning to think about the possibility of an integral approach to this. What am I missing? What would you do differently? Let's start a dialogue.
We have many incredible and creative minds in the integral community. Let's try to be part of the solution to this tough problem.
The AZ Daily Star reports that 500 teachers and thousands of students skipped classes yesterday for a lesson in civic responsibility as they joined in the marches and protests.
The recent series of marches is bigger than anything since the Vietnam War or the Civil Rights movement of the sixties. What a great lesson for the kids who get to learn first hand what it means to take responsibility for the nation in which we live.
Nearly 15,000 students and at least 500 classroom teachers were absent Monday, leaving some local schools with less than half their normal attendance and one school missing its entire faculty.
But officials stressed that to the best of their ability, the school day went on as normal.
The largest impact from the immigration protests was on Tucson High Magnet School, 400 N. Second Ave. There, 1,500 of the school's 2,600 students were absent, with 200 more walking out Monday morning. Forty-six teachers were absent.
At Davis Bilingual Magnet School, 500 W. St. Mary's Road, the entire staff of 19 teachers took off and substitutes were brought in to cover their classes."I think it's a well-educated staff," Davis Principal Christopher Loya said about the faculty absences. "These are people who know the issues, and they are also activists. All teachers are activists."
For the most part, students opted to just skip school rather than walk out as they had in student walkouts in late March. Part of the reason was the different nature of Monday's protest, where many students joined their families to march.
It's great that these marches yesterday were family events. We have had several generations of kids grow up believing the system is beyond our control -- that we have no influence on a corrupt government.
For the first time in my lifetime, we may have a generation of kids who grow up believing that the government works for them and that they should take responsibility for how they want their representatives to speak for them in Washington.
[Cross-posted at Raven's View.]
Monday, April 10, 2006
I am also grateful for all the people who stop by this blog to share what they are grateful for.
So, what are you grateful for today?
against the gently flowing spring morning
the arrogant rattle of a passing coach
peach blossoms beckon from the distant village
willow branches caress the shoulder of my pond
as bream and carp flash their golden scales
and mated ducks link embroidered wings
the poet stares about: this way, then that –
caught in a web beyond all speaking
[from The Clouds Should Know Me by Now: Buddhist Poet Monks of China]
[cross-posted at Zaadz]
Sunday, April 09, 2006
“A classic procedure in Buddhism for cultivating compassion is to develop a way of viewing others as if each sentient being is your own mother. To verify by means of cogent reasoning that every sentient being has, in fact, actually been your mother in some life in the infinite past is a difficult task. But that's not the primary reason for viewing all sentient beings as your mother. Why do it? Because viewing an individual as your mother brings forth a sense of fondness, cherishing, gentleness, affection, and gratitude. When you recognize why you should do it, then even if you're not absolutely sure that every single sentient being has actually been your mother, seeing the purpose and anticipating the benefit, you can make the attempt.”~ His Holiness the Dalai Lama
It doesn't matter much where we are in our lives, all of us could be more compassionate toward others – and with ourselves. It makes us feel better emotionally to be compassionate, and it's not just something we feel at random – it's brain chemistry. Feeling authentic compassion changes the balance of neurochemicals in a way that makes us feel better.
If we do it often enough, we create new patterns of neurons that become hard-wired – permanent. We can literally make ourselves more compassionate human beings.
Here's the really cool part: When I am compassionate toward you, you might be more compassionate with someone else. In turn, that person might be more compassionate with someone else we will never know. It can become a chain reaction.
Start with yourself and work outward. Let's change the world.
[cross-posted at Zaadz]
years of anger following
hours that float idly down --
drifts its weight
deeper and deeper for three days
or sixty years, eh? Then
the sun! a clutter of
yellow and blue flakes --
Hairy looking trees stand out
in long alleys
over a wild solitude.
The man turns and there --
his solitary track stretched out
upon the world.
Here is some biography on Williams from the Academy of American Poets:
William Carlos Williams was born in Rutherford, New Jersey, in 1883. He began writing poetry while a student at Horace Mann High School, at which time he made the decision to become both a writer and a doctor. He received his M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, where he met and befriended Ezra Pound. Pound became a great influence in Williams' writing, and in 1913 arranged for the London publication of Williams's second collection, The Tempers. Returning to Rutherford, where he sustained his medical practice throughout his life, Williams began publishing in small magazines and embarked on a prolific career as a poet, novelist, essayist, and playwright. Following Pound, he was one of the principal poets of the
Imagist movement, though as time went on, he began to increasingly disagree with the values put forth in the work of Pound and especially Eliot, who he felt were too attached to European culture and traditions. Continuing to experiment with new techniques of meter and lineation, Williams sought to invent an entirely fresh—and singularly American—poetic, whose subject matter was centered on the everyday circumstances of life and the lives of common people. His influence as a poet spread slowly during the twenties and thirties, overshadowed, he felt, by the immense popularity of Eliot's "The Waste Land"; however, his work received increasing attention in the 1950s and 1960s as younger poets, including Allen Ginsberg and the Beats, were impressed by the accessibility of his language and his openness as a mentor. His major works include Kora in Hell (1920), Spring and All (1923), Pictures from Brueghel and Other Poems (1962), the five-volume epic Paterson (1963, 1992), and Imaginations (1970). Williams's health began to decline after a heart attack in 1948 and a series of strokes, but he continued writing up until his death in New Jersey in 1963.
Over the years, it has become increasingly apparent that there are two major lineages in American poetry of the 20th century -- one that began with Williams and that favors an open, less forced approach, and one that begins with Eliot/Pound and favors a more elitist and contrived approach. Both are important and many poets are now pulling from both schools.
Williams felt he never got the credit he deserved, and to a certain extent that is true. But he helped shaped an uniquely American poetry that led to such important poets as Ginsberg, Cid Corman, Robert Creeley, Denise Levertov (who was British at first but adopted an American style when she came to this country), and many others.
Perhaps no other poem stands out so much from my years in college as "The Red Wheelbarrow":
so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
That poem, along with the work of e.e. cummings, completely up-ended my notion of what a poem could be and how it could work.
Here are a couple of other poems from this master of free verse and imagery.
Spring and All
By the road to the
under the surge of the blue
mottled clouds driven from
the northeast-a cold wind. Beyond, the
waste of broad, muddy fields
brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen
patches of standing water
the scattering of tall trees
All along the road the reddish
purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy
stuff of bushes and small trees
with dead, brown leaves under them
Lifeless in appearance, sluggish
dazed spring approaches-
They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter. All about them
the cold, familiar wind-
Now the grass, tomorrow
the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf
One by one objects are defined-
It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf
But now the stark dignity of
entrance-Still, the profound change
has come upon them: rooted, they
grip down and begin to awaken
The little sparrows
about the pavement
with sharp voices
over those things
that interest them.
But we who are wiser
shut ourselves in
on either hand
and no one knows
whether we think good
the old man who goes about
walks in the gutter
without looking up
and his tread
is more majestic than
that of the Episcopal minister
approaching the pulpit
of a Sunday.
astonish me beyond words.
WC Williams on the web:
William Carlos William page, tons of info.
Academy of American Poets page, more good info.
PoemHunter, 85 poems.