Today We Choose

Twenty seven years ago today, an amazing and unthinkable thing happened – a terrible wall that separated a city, a country, and the world fell.  Families that had been divided for nearly three decades were reunited and a world torn apart by the Cold War began to feel a little more friendly and united. A standing Republican United States president had called for its destruction and this wondrous call to action became a reality not long afterward. We cheered and cried and viewed the destruction of the Berlin Wall as a victory for freedom and democracy.

Yesterday, another amazing and unthinkable thing happened – the United States elected another Republican president – one who has promised to build walls in the name of patriotism, one who proclaims unity while encouraging division, one who uses his power for self-gain while touting the greater good. How far we’ve come only to take so many rapid steps backwards and away from the direction of greatness.

Today, we choose, not who will lead us, but rather how we will respond to yesterday’s election and the future that it promises.

For those of us who are anxious and fearful, who are feeling disenfranchised and unwelcome in our own nation, who are vulnerable and at risk… we can choose to let this fear drive us to despair.  We can choose to hide away from the world. We can also choose this time to find deep within ourselves the courage to reach out to our allies and support networks.  We can choose to let our fear motivate us to make positive changes and to  let our anxiety become a catalyst that drives us to a higher purpose.

Those of us who are thicker-skinned, who have learned to withstand bullies and hatred,  whose souls have been tempered by fire and force… we can choose to harden our hearts against this world.  We can choose to respond to hatred and intolerance with our own brand of the same.  Or we can choose to reach out to those who are vulnerable, weak, and afraid. We can choose to use our hardness as an shield to protect those who need shelter. We can choose to let our thick skins be an armor for ourselves as we battle on the side of compassion and love.

Today, we can choose to change the narrative.  We can choose to make this, not the ending, but the beginning of our story.  We can choose to tell it in voices proud and strong and to be the voice for those who have been silenced. We can choose, as we once did, to tear down walls instead of building them.

For those of you are capable, please take this opportunity to support those who need it. Grand gestures are wonderful, but it is the small compassion-filled actions that are often the most needed.  Whether volunteering to help a vulnerable part of the population or simply checking on a friend who might be feeling unsettled and frightened by the election results,  every compassionate action you take will make a positive difference.

I encourage you, if you are one of the vulnerable, to reach out to your support system  and to know that you are not alone.  You are loved, important and valued.  You have worth and beauty. Your story is not finished and there are people out there who will help you to write it in dark and difficult times. No election result will ever change those things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hate (PBP Week 15 – Belated as Usual)

 “Hate is too great a burden to bear. It injures the hater more than it injures the hated.” ~ Coretta Scott King

I feel like I need to say these words out loud in light of recent events in Boston and in the wake of personally witnessing instances of homophobia, fat-shaming, and racism….

Hate is not acceptable. There is no room for hatred on my spiritual  path.  Hating someone because they are different in any way – physically, cognitively, socially, culturally, sexually- is simply not acceptable to me.  One of the most beautiful things about the human condition is that, as individuals, we are each an unique expression of both innate and environmental influences. To hate someone because they are in some way different is to hate the very nature of human existence.

Hates invests far too much time, energy, and emotion into a no-win situation.  No matter how justified a person might think their hatred is, nothing will be gained from either the verbal or physical expression of hatred.  The person who lashes out in hatred may feel a sense of satisfaction that the object of their anger (or fear, etc) has been hurt, but at what cost does this satisfaction come?  There is something more than simply wasting resources when we make the choice to hate.  Hate dehumanizes the person it is being directed at, but more importantly, it dehumanizes the hater themselves.   When we stop seeing the humanity in another person, we lose touch with our own humanity and our ability to be compassionate, forgiving, and empathetic.

The dehumanizing factor of hate is what, in my opinion, makes hate such an attractive option when we feel fear, anger, or confusion.  By viewing a person as something less than fully human, we feed into our own false sense of superiority and allow ourselves an excuse for expressing the ugliest parts of who we are.   Hate is a choice to devalue another person and it is a choice that we will all be faced with at some point.  All of us  will come face to face with someone who makes us want to shout, ball up our fists, and possibly do much worse.  There are individuals whose actions will be so despicable and destructive that we will struggle to see them as anything other than an inhuman monster.  We may never fully come to terms with the actions of another person, but always, we have a choice of how to respond to that person.  We can choose to perpetuate hatred  or we can make the choice that hate stops here and now.

This is my choice:  Hate is not acceptable. There is no room for hatred on my spiritual  path.

PBP Week 31 – Pagan Family Values?: One Perspective

“Family values” has become a bit of buzzword in the last decade.  It seems to be particularly popular with certain conservative groups.  However, these folks do not and will never have a monopoly on raising and encouraging strong families.  I don’t know about anyone else, but I get tired of hearing words of hate, dissension, and prejudice wrapped up neatly under the heading of family values.  I get even more tired of hearing that because I am not raising children, I don’t have a right to speak about family values (a statement  that I’ve heard no less than three times this week).

This pagan’s family values/5 things I’d like to instill in my children:

  1. Love. Above all, love and take care of each other.  Let each person thrive and grow in ways that allow  their hearts to sing.  Celebrate the bonds that hold you together.
  2. Respect. Respect others, even (and especially)  those with whom you don’t agree.  You don’t have to like someone else’s views nor do you need to actively support those views if they are in conflict with your own.  What you do need to do need to respect the right of that person to hold those views.   This applies to all things… from their favorite color crayon to the god that they believe in.
  3. Equality. Never deny or deprive someone else of the rights and privileges that you enjoy.  The universe did not bless you any more or less than the next person.  If you deny the rights and privileges of others, you cannot expect anyone to stand up for yours.
  4. Compassion. If you see someone who is suffering or need, help them in whatever way you can.  While you cannot fix everything that’s broken in this world, you can take small steps to make it a better place.
  5. Responsibility. Never assume that you are powerless or that life is beyond your control.  While it may only be in the smallest of measure, you do have control over what happens to you.   Do not deny responsibility for your own life and actions.

In case you’re wondering how I came up with these items, they’re the family values under which I was raised.  Yes, that’s right, I inherited my family values from parents, neither of whom were pagan.  For me, family values don’t need to based on religion… or even touch on the topic. Nor do they need to be about political viewpoints.  The only thing they need, in my very humble opinion, is to teach us how to love and care for each other.

PBP Week 27 – Nurturing Ourselves

I only have a few moments for this week’s post, but wanted to share something that appeared on  Tcich Nhat Hanh’s Facebook Wall earlier this week:

The Foundation of Love. If we do not know how to take care of ourselves and to love ourselves, we cannot take care of the people we love.”

You know, I don’t think anything I could add would make this statement more profoundly true or meaningful.  A thought occurs to me, though:  Learning to love, nurture, and care for oneself is an incredibly important step on the path to finding, understanding, and celebrating our spiritual selves.  And it can be one of the toughest and most difficult lessons that we encounter on our journeys.   That’s all for now… just take care of you and the rest will follow.

Random Thoughts – Putting a Window in that Wall

When life is not going well, I tend to withdraw into myself and put up barriers that would make a certain wall in China look less than Great. I am a Cancer after all and we excel at the fine art of retreating into our shell in times of turmoil. We also tend to snap at those who would try to come near us during those times, often whether they deserve it or not. Cancers have been known to snap at their dearest friends when feeling vulnerable; never mind what we do to those who we hold less dear. It’s not right, but it is how we sometimes cope.

I have to admit that, in recent weeks (ok, since October) I’ve been playing the role of the crab a little too well. Those who know me well are aware of all things that conspired between Andy and myself, some of which I’m just not willing to share publicly. Sometimes I feel like I was handed a couple of very precious gifts only to have them taken back and smashed to bits in front of me. I miss him and I miss the life that I only had a mere moment of. Aside from love and loss, life in general just hasn’t been very kind lately. So I’ve been slowly building layers of brick and mortar, withdrawing from my own life.

Closing doors and shutting out people is a well-honed skill for me. I excel at it after a childhood of constantly moving and a lifetime of battling depression. It’s a good skill to have, unless of course, you close all the doors and shut everyone out. I’ve been edging closer and closer to doing just that.

Fortunately, I have a couple of friends and one guardian angel who will not stand for it. If the walls start getting too high, they start taking bricks down as fast as I can put them up. Between them, they always find some way to bring me out of myself. When simply saying “Stop behaving this way”, one of them always manages to come up with a more subtle way to bring me out of my shell. This time they did it by giving me several pokes to check in with an online group where I had previously been fairly active.

After much resistance, I finally took a quick peek at the group. Someone who reminds me too much of myself (a depressed hermit crab!) had posted that day for the first time in weeks, a post full of deep pain, sorrow, and hurt. It was what I needed to snap me out of my self-imposed isolation and into action. It is impossible to stay withdrawn when I know that someone else needs desperately words of encouragement and acceptance. The geas to comfort and aid those I can is too strong and ingrained in me to be ignored. So I put a window into the wall I was building. I’m not quite ready to completely emerge, but I am ready to let in some light and air. Thank you to the people who helped me do that; you cannot know how much it means to me. I thank my Lady every day for putting you all in my life.