Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"With malice toward none, with charity for all..."

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, ...let us strive on to finish the work we are in, ...to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations." Abraham Lincoln

President Lincoln delivered these words in the state of the union address of 1865 at the end of a long and painful war that nearly tore our nation apart.

Many of us read those words in the context of this nation today and hearing words from a president today. Today our presidents seem remote - removed from our lives. National issues seem remote. In those days, the words were not remote. Fresh were the wounds. The war was not a remote thing that happened far away. It tore families apart. Nearly every family in our nation suffered some kind of loss.
On the Mason Dixon line the war was most personal and most painful. Some years ago I lived just north of Hagerstown, MD and sat for many hours on the front porch of a man who had heard first hand stories from the civil war. Charlie had known a woman who was 10 years old when confederate soldiers passed through on their way to Gettysburg. He relayed her story, his family story and the town's story as we shared the summer hours on the porch.
On the way to that famous battle, he said, they found his friends farm. When they left, she told him, there wasn't a thing left but a single egg that they had failed to find. But an interesting part of his story was that confederate scouts had preceded and had been killed by locals. He said they had actually been buried under the town tavern but after the war, monuments had been erected outside of town indicating a proper burial site but the bodies were not there. I saw those monuments many times. I asked why the monuments were made. He said they knew family would someday come looking for their kin. It was a matter of proper respect.
And then he explained a part of civil war history that I did not understand. His own family had been splintered by the war. Some chose to fight for the north and kept their last name starting with C. Others chose to fight for the south and changed their last name to start with G. It was the Mason Dixon line. With this story, I began to imagine this great war in much more personal terms. I saw a mother or grandmother with sons and grandsons on each side pointing muzzles at each other. I saw through the eyes of a 10 year old girl as her farm was pillaged. I saw through the eyes of a community that had done what they thought they should but knowing and understanding the pain of family in the aftermath of horror. I felt the words of Abraham Lincoln ""With malice toward none, with charity for all, ...let us strive on to finish the work we are in, ...to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves.."
And in all of that I look at the battles I face today and I am humbled. Nothing - Nothing, I face today or have faced in my life comes close to the challenges faced at that time in history. And so I must strive in my small way to live ""With malice toward none, with charity for all, ...let us strive on to finish the work we are in, ...to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves..." If they could, can't we?

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

I believe

I believe.
I believe big.
I believe more.
I believe in more.

Often I have challenged mainstream religious belief. And often friends have expressed fear that I am a non-believer. The opposite is true. I believe in more than mainstream religion teaches. I believe with all my heart and soul that there is so very much more.
I see it. I feel it. I want to shout about it. There is more! There is so much more!! And it is more beautiful and more fulfilling and more joyful!!! I want to scream "Be free... Fear not"!!!!
We are not separate. We are separate from god. We are not separate from heaven. We are all one. We don't need to earn it or achieve it. It's not here for one but not another. It is all freely given and right here, right now. To be reborn, we just need to see that.
We need to open our eyes. We need to embrace what is in front of us. We need to love what is here. We need to LOVE. We need to be at peace. In that moment when someone in front of us is not at peace, we need to be at peace. We need to believe. We need to believe big. We need to believe more. We need to believe in more. We need to keep our hearts and souls firmly grounded in peace and love.
In all situations imagine a see-saw. Your mission is to keep the balance. That might mean standing right at the mid point and it might mean walking a little one way or the other. Everything is meant to be in balance. Don't run too fast one way or the other. It takes finesse and you are not the only one. We are all connected. Be grounded in peace and love.
We must stop thinking of ourselves as disconnected in any way from anyone or anything. That includes god, the past and eternity.
And yes I use god in small letters for a reason. There is more. It is big. I believe. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Old Tricks...

There's an old trick we played as kids when we wanted to pull something over on someone. We would point at something else to distract them. And kids use other tricks to get friends to go along with bad ideas. It's another distraction method. Make the other kids believe that something will happen to them if they don't go along with it. The "dangers" can have no basis in fact but tell it with enough enthusiasm and you'll get followers.
I'm not sure if people are just clueless, mindless or willing participants in what they know is distraction. When the Supreme Court ruled narrowly in favor of Edie Winsor last year overturning DOMA, I knew there would be backlash. We have watched federal courts rule in favor of same sex marriage in the majority of cases since.
There is a very loud and determined minority of our population that will have none of this. They demand their "Religious Freedom" to treat a whole segment of our population as badly as they wish to treat them. In court, these religious groups have had opportunity to prove harm to society if same sex couples are permitted to marry. In court, this requires actual proof. The myths and scare tactics that have long been promoted and supported in our society cannot be proven in court.
So, now having failed in court, the opponents of same sex marriage are back in State Legislatures with a "Religious Freedom" movement. They need legislative protection to allow them to treat an entire class of people as badly as they wish. But they don't want to come right out and say it that way so they insist that it is about protecting preachers from their sermons being censored. Or it's about business owners being able to keep difficult or unruly customers out of their businesses.
PEOPLE! When someone has to lie about what they are doing to get you to go along with it, there's a problem. If you fall for that lie, you've got a problem.
If you know that's what they are doing and you agree with it - we've got a problem. Please don't look at me and say "one of my best friends is gay," but....but...but...

Saturday, March 28, 2015

It's all an editorial....


As a young broadcaster learning to do the news, my mentor said, "No matter how you present the news, you are creating an editorial." Simply by selecting what I thought was a top story and how much of the story to tell, I was being subjective, he said. And I was choosing stories from a wire service that had done the same. "Never be fooled that the news you read or the newscast you prepare is objective," he cautioned. "Make the best choices you can."
Everything ever written - every story ever told - is an editorial. At best, it's inspired by actual events. Something is always missing and there is always a greater context. It is always subjective.
We tend to think science as most objective but quantum physics identifies a variable called the observer:
"In quantum mechanics, the observer and the system being observed became mysteriously linked so that the results of any observation seemed to be determined in part by actual choices made by the observer." (http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/K-12/Numbers/Math/Mathematical_Thinking/observer.htm)
We should never be fooled that a given source has not been influenced by the "observer". There is no exception. It's dangerous to believe otherwise. If you find yourself reading this and saying there is an exception, study the origins of that source. Someone chose the words. Someone chose what to include and what not to include. If it originated in another language, someone decided how it should be translated. Even if everyone made the best choices they could, something is always missing and there is always greater context.
If we approach everything as though there is more - we don't have the full picture - we are much more careful in the choices we make. We leave room to learn something. And we aren't so quick to try to impress people with what we think we know.



Wednesday, March 25, 2015

For Dad

If you have seen the movie, The Big Fish, you will understand what set my mind in motion as I picture my Dad asking "How's it gonna happen?"

Well Dad, when the time comes a fire truck will be waiting and we'll help you climb on. It will rush away, with lights flashing and siren blowing, as fast as any ride you ever made. It'll head for the river and as it pulls up to the shore everyone will be there to cheer you on. Up and down the hillside - all your family - children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins, friends from all over, family representing every fire call you ever answered... And standing in a straight line along the shore in both directions will be firefighters in uniform who came from near and far.
As the truck swings into place, several firefighters quickly carry you to the edge of the dock and just then, a boat appears with a water skier - It's MIKE -  slalom - cutting a fine spray. He swoops at the dock and picks you up with one arm just as the boat makes a grand turn and you both follow leaning hard. A wall of water nearly a story and half tall trails behind you catching the sun and showering rainbows with flashes of images of all the best times of your life - camping trips, places explored, cars, snow skiing and water skiing... Beautiful birds of all kinds - all the ones you have carved - form a fly over to rival any military formation ever flown.
As you swing toward the other side of the river, and the wall of water falls away, we can see them cheering you from the other side.... Your brothers and sisters, parents, aunts and uncles, mommy, old friends... They are all there as you gently fall into waiting arms. You are instantly healed. As you fade from our view, we see you as full of life as we all have known you. You are free. You are loved.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Are you? Do you?

Do you see?
Do you see the light?
Do you shine the light?
Do you believe in something?
Do you believe in something more?
Do you long for something more?
Are you one who carries a torch?
Are you one who shares?
Are you connecting?
Are you a light?
Are you?
Do you?

It is so easy to be trapped in darkness. Sometimes we judge ourselves harshly. Sometimes we allow someone else to place a shadow over us. Sometimes we judge others harshly. We walk in darkness.
Forgiveness is not something we do for others. We must do it for ourselves. Normally, we forgive ourselves much quicker than we forgive others. We know all the context around our own misdeeds. We do not always challenge ourselves as we would challenge others to change.
We are not so quick to forgive others. The longer our context with their perceived misdeeds, the harder it is to forgive. And so, we hold anger and bitterness. Anger and bitterness are darkness. As much as we project the shadow onto them, the darkness shadows us. We have to let go. Forgiveness is not about the person or what they have done. It's not about their willingness or our willingness to change. Forgiveness is about turning to the light. Forgiveness is about turning away from darkness.
We don't have to make a point. We don't have to draw a line. We just turn to the light. We decide what we will do. We decide what we will say. We decide what we will seek. Our mission is not to fix or to change anyone but ourselves.
If we can focus on walking in the light for ourselves, we can let it go. There is no need for bitterness or anger. Let it go. When we can let it go, the harm is not our harm. The pain is not our pain. We are responsible for ourselves, not them. Let them find their path. It is theirs to find. If they are walking in darkness, why follow them?

Do you see?
Do you see the light?
Do you shine the light?
Do you believe in something?
Do you believe in something more?
Do you long for something more?
Are you one who carries a torch?
Are you one who shares?
Are you connecting?
Are you a light?
Are you?
Do you?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Carefully Taught

Rogers and Hammerstein wrote a most poignant song for the 1949 musical South Pacific.
"You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.
You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.
You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught!"
There are those who believe, and religions that teach, that humanity is inherently bad - "sinful". It seems to me more likely that our "sinfulness" is carefully taught. Children are malleable creatures. They can be taught hatred and fear or they can be taught love and compassion. Humans are not born with an understanding of one or the other. It has to be carefully taught.
We are born with simple needs - to be comfortable and comforted. Hunger and a soiled bottom are uncomfortable and babies loudly proclaim so. At other times, they wish to be comforted - to feel connected and safe. These are the most basic human needs.
If, throughout our lives, all that we knew was freedom from hunger, basic comfort and feeling connected and safe, we could live happy lives. If we were carefully taught that these basic needs were most honored and to be achieved collectively for ourselves and our fellow humans, our motives would be directed in this way. Love and compassion would be the most honored values.
As a society, we teach greed and cunning. We revere those who hoard money and amass material things. You will not hear the words love and compassion as values of a corporation. The closest you will get to those words in business is respect but we are to respect greed, cunning, hoarding and those who amass the most material things. We are expected to respect power. In business, those who lack power deserve less respect - with the lowest ranks treated as castaways. Our society values the achievers which is measured by money and power.
These things are carefully taught and have grown so deeply ingrained in our society over this last generation - my generation - that the impact is overwhelming. The United States is driven by the stock market. Our elected leaders and our own futures are beholding to large investors. With this focus, decision making is short sighted. Gains must be realized today. Long term strategies are 5 year plans.
There is no longer time for innovation. Research and development is costly and takes time. The gains are not fast enough. Longevity in any form is not fostered. Fostering the needs of people holds no financial value.
As a result, anyone calling for change that would yield results 5+ years from now face great resistance. And anyone focused on love and compassion for those who lack power are dismissed entirely by those with power. These are not "good business" practices. 
The irony is that power is dependent on having power over something or someone. It requires endless consumption. It must be constantly fed with sacrifices of people or the future. Eventually the masses of dis-enfranchised grow to a point they gain collective power that cannot be dismissed. Or the entity collapses under the weight of the consumption of the few in power.
At that point there will be an opportunity to carefully teach something new. Sadly, if we would just look at history, we've already been there many times.