Monday, October 20, 2014

Understanding requires context

One of the most troubling things in this world - particularly in the US - is the lack of civility. We seem to be polarized and driven by extremism. We don't know how to really talk to one another about difficult issues. Too often we resort to name calling. Let's try to be civil.
It's not just a problem on the right or on the left. It's becoming a cultural problem. On both sides of the isle I see people calling one another idiots for expressing a viewpoint. While I may radically disagree with a person's perspective, I pray to learn to be civil in my response to it. It is not easy.
There are so many sources for information and so many variations of media coming at us every day. Many have learned that they need to evoke an emotional response to get our attention. They seek to push our buttons - "Can you believe..." It's a sound bite... a headline... with no context. Far too often we bite. We respond and look no further. We react and make no effort to understand the opposing viewpoint.
This is why we get no where. This is why we fail to solve big issues. We are shouters and have lost our ears.
While we may be able to provide a headline for events of our lives, the headline is not the whole story. There will be 20 other people who were part of or witness to that story who have 20 different points of view. Some will be quite similar and some will be radically different. It's about perspective and a greater context that somehow ties into the whole.
We must build compassion for - capacity for - an ear for - the opposing view. Not a shut down response or a "you're an idiot" response but an honest review of the logic behind the argument.
It may be totally illogical to us. It may be based on crazy assumptions. But if we fail to listen and carefully, civilly break the logic and assumptions down into their parts, all we will do is call one another idiots.
Often we face huge projects that appear to be overwhelming. If we break those projects into parts and tackle the tasks one by one, they become manageable. The individual parts are the context.
The next time you see a headline, don't react until you gain some perspective on the context. We can only truly make a difference if we begin to understand one another. Understanding requires context.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Just see us...

Some months ago someone I deeply respect asked to interview me about the "gay community" for a college class.  While I wanted to help and agreed, I felt I had little to offer.  He was searching to understand and define something that I could not myself define. I reached into my past and sought to describe times I felt part of a distinct community that included many gay and lesbian people but we were not distinctly separate and different. I'm not sure what he walked away with. I never heard how his "study" went and do not know who else he may have interviewed.
Today a friend posted this comedic view of a family trying to understand a "gay wedding" and it wakened my senses.

One day we will stop saying "gay wedding". It will just be a wedding.

If you want to really drive me crazy, make a reference to "gay life style". Picture the sketch above with people asking about how gay people live. We are not singing "gay hymns". I don't have a gay dog. I don't walk on a gay street. I don't shop at gay stores. I don't spend gay money.
I realize now in talking to my friend we both missed the whole point. Yes, I have experienced and still experience places and times where I feel more accepted and free to be me but I do not live in a separate community. My gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender friends are not living in an alternative community.
Back in the '80s I heard a story about an establishment in Franklin with a new manager. The new manager heard that lesbians liked to hang out there and they expressed concern. The worker opened the cash register and asked, "Can you pick out the lesbian money?'
Like everyone else we are part of a work community, a religious community, a volunteer community, a family community. We are a living, breathing, contributing part of many communities. There is no separate and subversive group that drives some commonalty in any way that divides us from humanity at large. We are more the same than we are different. And we are as different from one another as we are the same.
We do not seek to destroy freedom of religion. We seek the choice of inclusion. We do not seek to destroy freedom of speech. We seek the freedom to speak. We do not seek to destroy. We seek the right to build with you. We do not live separate from you. We are your sisters - your brothers - your family - your co-workers.
Just see us.
Judge us by "the content of our character" - how we love not the gender of whom we love.

Monday, October 13, 2014

That simple. That pure.

Where there is love, there is god. That's all. That simple. That pure.
Not a mystical far off unattainable being.
That's all. That simple. That pure.
Love is God. God is Love.
That's all. That simple. That pure.
Not a system of right or wrong or sin and salvation.
Love. That's all. That simple. That pure.
Call it peace. Call it harmony.
Call it acceptance. Call it submission.
It is love. It is god.
That's all. That simple. That pure.
No judgement. No need. No suffering.
That's all. That simple. That pure.
That pure. That simple. That's all.
Walk in it. Bask in it. Accept it.
Be in awe of it.
That's all.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Bogeyman isn't there.....

Today the Supreme Court did something very significant by deciding NOT to do something. For those not following the march toward marriage equality, this may be confusing.
The Supreme Court decided not to review cases decided by Federal Appeals Courts and in deciding not to review these cases, the stays on the decisions are now lifted. 
From USA today...
"Federal appeals courts already had struck down bans against gay marriage in five states — Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin — and those rulings will be allowed to stand. Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming are in the same judicial circuits, so they must abide by those appeals court rulings, too. Nineteen other states and the District of Columbia already permit same-sex marriage."
These same federal courts have jurisdiction over multiple states so while their ruling may have applied specifically to a ban in a particular case and a particular state, bans in other states are implicated. In refusing to review the cases, the Supreme Court seems to say that there was no legal issue or procedural error that justified their intervention. In all, the states impacted total 30 by present rulings that the Supreme Court has chosen not to review.
District court rulings in other regions are pending. Some presume that these are conservative courts and will rule against marriage equality.  But others, and I am one, feel that the justices will review the cases on merit. Other conservative districts have ruled against marriage bans based on merit and constitutional grounds. Now, the Supreme Court has made a statement. They found no reason to intervene based on legal issues or procedural issues. What legal ground could another district find that the others have not explored? What procedural issue could be discovered that no other has found? provides up to date information on what is happening.
Basically as I see it, the argument against marriage equality is that there is a bogeyman under the bed that certain people are sure God sees and certain God following people see under the bed. But once described and once scrutinized, the bogeyman disappears to all but the most imaginative God creative engineers.
I hope people stop imagining the bogeyman. He ain't there folks.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

"I'm nobody. Who are you?"

"I'm nobody. Who are you?" This was graffiti on a wall many years ago. Very profound, don't you think?
Within the billions of people on earth today, the billions upon billions who lived before and will live after us, we are tiny specks of sand. And yet we can become self absorbed and believe the world revolves around US. We get caught up in the drama of our lives. Sometimes we think we are insignificant and sometimes we think we are giants. The things happening around us can skew our realities - or what we think is reality.
I recall watching Phil Donahue at the peak of his career interviewing Kate Hepburn who had no idea who he was. She didn't watch TV. You could sense a great awkwardness as he felt very in tune with her and her work yet she had no sense of connection to him. He was just another guy asking her questions. He was not used to someone having no sense of him as a person or celebrity. He seemed very charmed by her but I wonder if he had ever interviewed a well known celebrity who did not know a thing about him. How did he feel? It was a wonderful interview but I still remember the imbalance.
We feel that imbalance at many times throughout our lives. It is the source of that awkwardness we feel in meeting someone new. A minute before we met them, we were nobody to them. We may well be nobody after meeting them. They were nobody to us and may be after meeting them.
At the end of our lives, we will likely ask - Did I make a difference? Did I matter? Did I do enough?
As I ponder that, I can become self absorbed for a moment. The answer is in me. If I begin to name all the people who influenced me, the list grows long. I have served well if I can be remembered in the same light as I remember them. I can also count the not so nice people who actually inspired me and influenced me to be better. They count too. And so, the not so nice and the nice, have inspired and influenced me.
I want to be remembered in the nice category but it's likely some will have been motivated and inspired when I was not so nice. They all motivated and inspired me, quite likely, in the ways they were motivated and inspired by many others. Then, it's logical to assume, so shall I.
I would rather error on the side of humility. "I'm nobody," but believe strongly that all of us are actually somebody. I believe in the butterfly effect as noted in Wikipedia "in which a small change at one place in a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state."
Yes, we are small specks of sand. But that small speck of sand, in just the right place, at the right moment in time, can change the course of many things.
Maybe even "I'm somebody. Who are you?" Let's be specks that do something that just might be magic in the end.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Connection fabric

Have you ever considered the intricate connections that are interwoven throughout the events of your life? In every moment, at every turn, whether we are aware of it or not, one thing leads to another and another and another. Nothing is independent or isolated. Nothing.
Pick one event in your life and try to eliminate it without impacting all the things connected to it. You cannot. When I look back, even at the most trying events, I can see connections that I would not like to loose. I learned something I needed to learn. I met someone I needed to meet. Those events launched something greater that I would not choose to give up.
Some say "everything happens for a reason". That statement has always troubled me because it implies that some greater force is orchestrating the events of our life in ways beyond our control. For many the idea that a wiser benevolent force is guiding all these things is comforting. I'm troubled to understand our personal responsibility in this context.
It seems to me that we are a great deal more responsible for the reason everything happens and for discovering the reason beyond the happening. We are the weavers of the fabric of our lives and we must learn that every strand has significance.
Is there a greater force? Yes. It's the connection. The strands of my life are not separate from yours. A thread has little strength and can easily be broken. Woven together - they have great strength. The more we understand that concept, the greater our strength. We can imagine this as strands of events in our life - interwoven with strands of events in other lives - interwoven in strands of events of the past and the future.
If I could talk to my younger self in times of trouble or in times of great decision - I would stress this. Everything that happens right now is tied to both yesterday and tomorrow. Choose connection. Choose to see the potential for strength and growth. Be connected now.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Maybe we are complex magnets....

The oddest things can happen sometimes. It's interesting to imagine why.
Some years ago I was traveling alone returning from deep in the hills of western Kentucky. I wanted to get home so I was pushing into the night and began to feel sleepy. As I entered Ohio near midnight, I stopped at a roadside rest to take a walk and decide if I should keep moving or find a room. After a few minutes of pacing around, I heard a deep male voice call my name. I halted. Wondered if I was hallucinating, and I heard my name again. I looked to the sky. Then I looked around to see a friend from work standing 10 yards away.
He, too, was pushing and hoping to stay awake another 2 or 3 hours to get home from another direction. Our paths converged at just that moment and that place. After that, I had no trouble staying awake to drive home - all the while marveling that I would would chance meet a fellow worker with the same goal at the same moment, on the same path, yet coming from different places.
What does it mean? Is it purely coincidence - law of chance?
Some would say God intervened. Others might say our own energies just converged and acted like magnets. Others would say it was just chance - big odds - but statistics show....
We had no personal connection. And I would guess we have no great shared spiritual beliefs. We knew each other from work but didn't share any projects of significance. Neither of us knew the other was on the road. Shortly after that, he moved on to another job so I never had a chance to ask if our running into each other that night helped keep him awake and driving on as it did me. I'm guessing it did.
I tend to believe in some mystical force that plays a role in our existence. And I tend to think we are the larger players in that mystical force. If two people (or more) are seeking the same thing at the same time, I do believe they create a connective energy that is more than the individual alone can create. It's kind of like what happens when you have two magnets. A certain distance apart - nothing happens. The each have energy - positive and negative - but apart from one another, nothing is noticeable.  Bring those magnets close to one another and something noticeable happens - they repel each other or attract each other. I believe we are all connected somehow to all things in just that way. We either create an energy that pushes away or an energy that pulls together.
It's just a simple law - a simple truth.