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Kingston, NY, Friday, July 17, 2009

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Discovering Fire One More Time
By Judith Gayle | Political Waves

Carpe diem - seize the day. I proposed that a while back, a call to action that encourages us to put timidity aside, sends us forward in search of adventure and success and progress; a reminder not to waste the moment, when so much can be achieved. As goal setting goes, I'm currently in revisionist mode; everything's speeded up to the point of absurdity and I'm only seizing about a tenth of what I used to. In this current period of overabundant information, stress and worry, I find the prospect of seizing anything exhausting; maybe it's just me, but my lethargy is about all that's keeping me grounded at this point. Sorting out the signals is a full-time job, and you don't have to seize much to do it; what you need will come to you.

It is helpful in seizing what we will of our day, or let's call it embracing our experience, to push aside the bullshit -- and I mean that literally: 'bull' as in imposingly solid and immovable, and 'shit' as in excremental leavings, processed and eliminated. For instance, at this writing if you turned on CNN you would find a 'wise Latina woman' with a stunning record of achievement being chided like an errant child by a group of partisan old coots that still can't believe that a historically White, Male and Elitist America is ready to leap into a diverse new century. Sonia Sotomayor, being vetted as a Supreme Court candidate, is patiently holding her own against attacks that cannot be called anything but personal and more than vaguely racist; sexist as well, but covertly, as Republican lawmakers talk down to a woman whom they refuse to acknowledge as their peer and more. They are not attacking so obviously with their 'legislating from the bench' rhetoric this go-round; and it would be wise if they didn't, since their choice of Roberts and Alito has fundamentally moved the court even farther to the Right and is an example of that very behavior they pretend to eschew.

There has always been bullshit in the American dialogue; some of our dearest mythologies are as dead and petrified as dinosaur dung. Impassioned flag wavers were not among those many of us who questioned the "land of the free and the home of the brave" meme during the first part of this century; who looked on in dismay as the Gunslinger Philosophy became not only justified but romanticized to the strains of the Star Spangled Banner. Our little guru, George Bush, succeeded where so many before him had failed; he broke us, inside and out, exposing decades of underlying rot and even now those who refuse to fault him want to return the nation to the downward spiral that brought us here. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty much disgusted that these unhappy people want me to be as miserable as they are because they've determined it "the American Way."

If their voices seem louder to you lately, remember that the decline of the paternalistic energy has caused those who benefit from it to push harder than ever to keep it firmly in place. Sotomayor is Hispanic, a woman and a Liberal; none of that is acceptable to the Old Guard who see their influence weakened by those variables; and make them ever more obnoxious in an attempt to reassert their fading authority. I find myself humming an old Jackson song ... Janet's ... as I watch them whine and pontificate and insist that only they can protect the soul of America: What Have You Done For Me Lately?

These are the voices of the resistance. They will not let loose of power until it, like their NRA card, is pried from their cold, dead hand; won't move forward into a new day, not if they can help it. And from these shores to the sterner boundaries of China, Burma, Iran and North Korea, these old paradigm voices are harsher and meaner lately; their defensiveness can only mean that they are increasingly more frightened. One hears a pitch of hysteria in their insistence that everything remain the same, that only they can provide good; and that is wonderful news, even as we suffer their remaining power over the political process. New York Times columnist Frank Rich recently penned an op/ed on Sarah Palin's resignation as Alaska's Governor that nailed her appeal to those who think she's the best thing since sliced bread, the It Girl for an ideology quickly fading away: "Most important, she stands for a genuine movement: a dwindling white nonurban America that is aflame with grievances and awash in self-pity as the country hurtles into the 21st century and leaves it behind."

As it turns out, I know a little something about 'nonurban' America, and I have no doubt that Rich has it right; if they do not accept the changes that are crashing in on them, come to some clear assessment of their own motives and fears, they will be left behind to fester in self-pity and limitation. I see too much of it here, in the Pea Patch -- racism that will not accept that skin color does not define patriotism or intelligence; elitism that somehow makes even the most impoverished and undereducated feel they are superior by virtue of their church allegiance or their political persuasion; unyielding conservatism that prevents growth and change, even as their old social model has now become unworkable; combine that with projection that the destabilization they have reaped is someone else's fault, never their own.

Those who will not change are destined to choke on their own bile, and none of that needs to happen; yet the sad truth is many of them will die before they allow themselves to feel the new inclusiveness that is spreading across the globe. Like Dick Cheney, the man who literally thought himself to be King, they will wallow in their self-righteousness until they get planted in the dirt. Here in cattle country, they will defiantly stand in the old, familiar bullshit and refuse to understand what the cosmos is trying to tell them; that their self-centered intolerance is blinding them, starving them of necessary growth and ultimately, isolating them from the possibility of release from the anger and sorrow that is consuming them.

In the same manner, there are those who continue to fault Obama's foreign policy as not being tough enough; in fact, although the President has spoken of America's exceptionalism, it is always the higher vibration of its attributes and accomplishments he points up. The old notion of win-lose -- zero-sum in the political vernacular -- that has driven us as a nation has little resonance in Obama's view of Americanism. "Any world order that tries to elevate one nation or one group of people over another will inevitably fail. The pursuit of power is no longer a zero-sum game -- progress must be shared," the President recently told the Russians. Added to various foreign speeches, especially that given in the Middle East, this attitude is quickly becoming known as the 'Obama Doctrine.' Compare that with the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive attack, alive and well mere months ago, next time you think we aren't moving quickly enough.

With the Right bellowing that Obama is secretly a Muslim and the Lefts concern that his Christianity is too traditional, I see a good deal of Buddhist in this President. "The spirit of Buddhism is inclusiveness," said Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Zen master and social activist I've long admired, and one whose quotes I've included here before; his books, Being Peace and Peace Is Every Step, have brought the Ram Dass Be Here Now dialogues into this new century. He is famous for his teaching on mindful consumerism; surely that's a 21st century topic. In his newest book, Answers from the Heart: Practical Responses to Life's Burning Questions, he discusses intolerance and gives us a compassionate way in which to view those who remain reluctant to come open-handed to the table:
Someone who discriminates against others and causes them to suffer is someone who is not happy within himself. Once you've touched the depth and the nature of your ground of being, you'll be equipped with the kind of understanding that can give rise to compassion and tolerance, and you will be capable of forgiving even those who discriminate against you. Don't believe that relief or justice will come through society alone. True emancipation lies in your capacity to look deeply....Don't wait for things to change around you. You have to practice liberating yourself. Then you will be equipped with the power of compassion and understanding, the only kind of power that can help transform an environment full of injustice and discrimination. You have to become such a person -- one who can embody tolerance, understanding and compassion. You transform yourself into an instrument for social change and change in the collective consciousness of mankind.
I would love to convert all my neighbors to tolerance and compassion; reach in their unhappy brains and replace their old programming with a big dose of understanding, but we all know that's an inside job. I'd like to see them smile with the relief of laying down that heavy baggage, but sadly, these kinds of folks will ever be with us; the refusers. I don't know why they can't dig out of their consciousness hole, maybe it's their path to be miserable this time; but nobody can put shovel to dirt but them. If God/dess is good, those of like mind will continue to lose their public approval by degrees until they have no power to either influence or mandate from their closed box of perceptions. Change is already here, thanks to a confluence of energies and probabilities that provided us a perfect storm of opportunity. Along with that came sad realizations of brokenness and unsustainability, loss and struggle; the pain of that is very present with us, now, and what we need to realize is that the stress of change is much more painful when we resist it. We must all tread lightly, now -- surrender and allow, trusting good to happen.

We need to breathe into this birthing process of a new era, relax as best we can with the challenges that mark our day-to-day passage. As difficult as life is these days, safety will only be found within our own fearlessness and faith in the future; compassion can only come with understanding and tolerance even toward those whose unhappiness has twisted them into adversaries; growth can only open us to opportunity if we are willing to let the suddenly slamming door point us to the open windows that await us. We can no longer live our lives in zero-sum, competing with one another; we're in it together to make it work for all of us.

We are coming into a Grand Cross in Cardinal, or initiating, signs -- we are being called upon to define our understanding of the principles and ideals we've rediscovered, polished with our tears in these last years, and seize the new directions that sustain and grow them. We're being given all the information, shown the opposing sides, not to pick one and impale ourselves on it but to incorporate all factors into a broader picture of concerns that face us. If we are to enter into a new contract with the planet, everything we do next must be colored by, shot through and through with, configured in and oozing with love.

Love. Love love love love love love and more love. And did I mention love? Things you need come to you, as I said at the first of this little refresher courses in soul. I recently had a couple of experiences with animals that cracked my heart open even wider; inspiring, painful, remarkable, sorrowful. Pets are like children, their innocence a given that allows us to let down our guard; what we feel for them is no different an emotion than the passion of creation or intensity of mating. We think of love as very complicated and specific, and it isn't; it's simple as pie. Wherever we find instances of love, we are on holy ground; our hearts are designed to pull us through the looking glass of creation and change our perceptions forever. We can't be deeply immersed in lovingness one moment and then put it aside, having a so-so day and responding like curmudgeons at work or the grocery counter; we can't feel the healing power of love and then refuse to extend it out to everything we touch. If that occurs, we have misidentified love and missed experiencing the essential fire of the Universe.

If we are not living lovingness in everything we do, then we have not yet experienced what is waiting inside us to bloom into powerful transcendence. Love is not manipulative, not violent, not competitive or selfish; it doesn't punish, it doesn't cripple, it doesn't judge. It is synonymous in my mind with God/dess. Not only that, it's easy to do despite our fear of it. Love is that elusive thing we keep seeking as something to possess, to achieve, without realizing it is something we ARE; it's the pot of gold and we're the rainbow. Why is it so often overlooked as the solution to all the problems we face? There is alchemy in the world and we already know what it is; all that remains is for us to use it to its fullest potential.

Punishing interests rates on credit cards are not loving; banish them. Health insurance that fails us, cripples us and puts us into receivership is not loving; fix it. Blowing up our brothers and sisters half a globe away for political purpose is not loving; stop it. Judging our neighbor because of their politics or arrogance or meanness isn't loving; quit it and show a bit of compassion for their self-destructive choices. Despising our boss because we've grown unhappy in our workplace isn't loving; replace fear with faith and trust your instincts. Protecting ourselves from our emotions can only stunt our ability to move confidently in our own skin and isn't loving to self or others; be open to feeling your humanness. Our unlovingness has brought us to our knees and created us as a frightened, weary and depressed global population -- we need to stop right now and love ourselves out of this.

We know the questions, we have the answer. There's only one last thing to do, and Mother Teresa gave us a short tutorial: "If we want a love message to be heard, it has got to be sent out. To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it." This is called Practicing the Presence; this is lifting toward the highest aspiration of our humanhood with kindness and charity. Our lives will reflect what we consider important; can you think of anything more important than love? There's only one thing we need to grasp, isn't there? One thing that can make a difference in the world, one person at a time? When you feel your heart expand in a moment of pure lovingness, you'll know there's nothing else going on worth mentioning. Nothing at all.

Thich said it: "Don't wait for things to change around you. You have to practice liberating yourself." If we're still looking for our authentic self, I suggest we take the simple, and radical, short-cut that's been available since Time first dawned; complete the circle of experience that created this planetary experiment in consciousness. Laughter and joy is the province of heart; we must learn how to live there 24/7. Gaia has been waiting patiently for us to catch up with her; if we fail her, and ourselves, she will shake us off like fleas and rightly so.

If we could seize this day with our heart wide open, shining with the best of our humanness and radiating the transforming energy of love, we would not only step into our authenticity but become the solution to all our own problems. Miracles are only a change in perception; they await us when love leads the way, when we realize that what we are is more powerful than any illusion of density. As de Chardin put it, in a quote that stirs the heart with possibility, "Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire." So let it be.

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