Harry, The Lord Gives and the Lord Takes Away and The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow

For the most part, I focus on posting stories in this blog that point to paths towards respect for all human beings and the increase of justice in the world.  As I type the words “point to paths” I am reminded of the Buddhist injunction to not mistake the teacher’s finger for the moon. Of course we need to pay attention to the pointing, but we need to keep our focus on the goal. Our eyes should be on the moon. (Which is not to say that we should be mooning over justice and human rights, but then, this may be that kind of free associating blog? So stay awake. Watch out for slippery slopes!)

 So, here is a story for you. A bit of an old chestnut (well worn story) I think.

 Once upon a time in middle America there was a god fearing farmer named Harry. Harry was a devout member of his church, a well respected and generous member of his community, married with a son and daughter. He and his wife, Matilda, were deeply in love. They worked together tending the farm that had been in Harry’s family for untold generations. From the farming, some crafts they sold, they managed a comfortable living. They worked hard, but by and large life was sweet.

 And then Harry’s wife was taken ill. They used up all of their medical benefits, and still the doctors could not diagnose her illness. She just kept wasting away. Harry prayed. All the members of the church and community prayed. But Matilda’s illness persisted. Harry consulted with the local pharmacist to see if Kohlberg might be right, but the pharmacist had no remedy to suggest, not for any price. And all too soon, Matilda passed gently into the light at the end of the dark night.  Harry was bereft. And then his faith carried him, he dried his eyes, looked up to the moon, and with a heavy heart said to his children, “the good lord gives and the good lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the lord.” And life on the farm went on.

 And as time went on, Harry Junior was walking down the road to school when a drunk driver struck the boy and killed him. Harry Junior’s death was instantaneous. Harry Senior was inconsolable for a time. And then, he heaved a sigh, looked up to the moon, and said to his daughter, “the good lord gives and the good lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the lord.” And life on the farm went on.

 And life went on for a while. And then the draught came. And Harry had to take out a mortgage on the farm. And he and his daughter worked even harder to make ends meet. And then the daughter got wanderlust, enlisted in the army, was sent to Afghanistan and was killed when her truck drove over an IED.  Harry was devastated. He wept – an act that was unheard of for a middle American farmer, but he wept. And then, sighing deeply, he looked up to the moon, and said to no one in particular, “the good lord gives and the good lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the lord.” And his life on the farm went on.

 And then a draught came, Harry had to take out a mortgage on the farm to pay the bills. His heart was breaking. One day he was out in the middle of the fields working the land that he loved. The land that he had grown up with. The land that had nurtured him body and soul. The land that was now so dry he could barely coax subsistence from it.  And the winds began to pick up. Soon the winds were howling.  As Harry looked up from the field where he was working, he saw a tornado the size of a New York skyscraper thundering right towards him. Before Harry could think to react, the tornado was on him. It lifted Harry and the tractor like they were bits of wheat, tossed them about like a child playing with her first baseball, and then dropped them like a hot potato – with the tractor landing squarely on top of Harry squishing him like a pancake. Harry died, walked toward the light, and found himself at the Pearly Gates where indeed he met his maker. Harry looked up, took a deep breath, and said, “Dear god, why? Didn’t I honor you? Didn’t I follow all your commandments? Didn’t I …”

 And at that point, god grimaced, and said, “Harry, I don’t know, there’s just something about you that pissed me off.”

 Now, that was a too long story. And what does it have to do with respect for human dignity, what does it have to do with human rights and social justice? Not much – except that sometimes we just can’t know. Sometimes you do all the right things and everything goes wrong. Sometimes there is no knowing why. But all the time, you just have to dust yourself off and keep going. Because even as we gaze at the moon, even at the time of the waning moon, we can always know that the sun will come out tomorrow!

 Be of stout heart and good cheer … the sun will come out tomorrow. And then together we can sing our songs of hope and peace.

Happiness: exuberant, shy or essential

Mostly I post stories in this blog. Stories that I’ve written or revised or that I found here or there and like a lot. Today is a bit different.  Today, I want to share three quotes about exuberance  and happiness with you.

The challenge to you – to each of us – is to reconcile the three quotes.

Have a read … think about it …

From Natalie Goldberg’s Waking up to Happiness. In Shambhala Sun July 2012, p. 26. . . . Happiness is shy. It wants to know you want it. You can’t be greedy. You can’t be numb – or ignorant. The bashful girl of happiness needs your kind attention. They she’ll come forward.

From Living My Life (1931) Emma Goldman. . . .  The free expression of the hopes and aspirations of a people is the greatest and only safety in a sane society.

At the dances I was one of the most untiring and gayest. One evening a cousin of Sasha, a young boy, took me aside. With a grave face, as if he were about to announce the death of a dear comrade, he whispered to me that it did not behoove an agitator to dance. Certainly not with such reckless abandon, anyway. It was undignified for one who was on the way to become a force in the anarchist movement. My frivolity would only hurt the Cause.
I grew furious at the impudent interference of the boy. I told him to mind his own business. I was tired of having the Cause constantly thrown into my face. I did not believe that a Cause which stood for a beautiful ideal, for anarchism, for release and freedom from convention and prejudice, should demand the denial of life and joy. I insisted that our Cause could not expect me to become a nun and that the movement would not be turned into a cloister. If it meant that, I did not want it. “I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody’s right to beautiful, radiant things.” Anarchism meant that to me, and I would live it in spite of the whole world — prisons, persecution, everything. Yes, even in spite of the condemnation of my own closest comrades I would live my beautiful ideal. (p. 56)  A revolution without dancing is not a revolution worth having. If I can’t dance, I won’t be part of your revolution.

And from that great American Bard, Mark Twain: Sing like no one’s listening, love like you’ve never been hurt, dance like nobody’s watching; and live like it’s heaven on earth.

Happiness may well be the heart of a world where respect for the dignity of all living beings is the foundation of societies of compassion, peace and justice.  Let work together to build a world where the gross national happiness is more carefully measured than is the gross national product!




Laughter the path to Justice and Compassion; The Gift of the Festival of Song

Once upon a time, in a land very near, our Native American sisters and brothers tell us that there was a time when the human race knew no joy. Their whole life was work, eating to keep body and soul together, and sleep. Every day went by like every other day. People worked and struggled, they ate plain food, they slept, and they woke to return to work. The tedium and dullness of their relentless routines rusted their minds, hardened their hearts and corroded their souls.

Our Native American Ancestors tell us that in those days there was a couple who lived together in their home not far from the ocean. They had three sons, each committed to being good hunters like their father. Even as young children, each young boy worked hard to become strong and to develop his stamina and endurance. The couple was proud of their sons, and trusted that the sons would provide for them as the couple aged and could no longer provide for themselves.

As the couple’s boys reached near to manhood, one day the eldest son went hunting and never returned. Some weeks later, the middle son left to go hunting and to search for his elder brother, and he too was lost to the family. The parents grieved deeply, and kept an ever closer eye on their youngest son keeping him close to home and carefully under their close protection. But, after a time, the son grew in size, strength and wisdom, and he could not be kept tied to his mother’s apron strings nor his father’s side, and so eventually he set off moose hunting.

One day, as he was stalking a moose, Ermine saw a grand and glorious eagle circling in the sky near to him.  Ermine pulled out his bow and arrows, but his inner guide held his hand still and he did not shoot. As he watched the eagle flew down and perched on a small tree near where he stood. As Ermine watched, the eagle took off his hood and transformed into a young warrior who said to him:

“It was I who killed your two brothers. I will kill you also unless you pledge to hold a festival of song when you return to your home. Will you give your pledge?”

“Most certainly I would give my pledge, but I do not understand your words. What is a festival? What does this word ‘song’ mean?”

“Will you or will you not give your pledge?”

“How can I pledge what I do not understand? I will pledge if you will teach me these things.”

“Follow me then and my mother will teach you what you don’t understand. Your brothers scorned the gifts of song, dance and laughter; they would not learn. Their morose ignorance saw to their death. Upon your pledge, you may come with me to my mother, and when you have learned to make words into a song and to sing it, when you have learned to dance with joy, when you have learned to honor the gift of laughter, only then you shall be free to go to your dwelling and make your hearth a home.

“Let it be so,” answered Ermine. And off they set.

Together the two walked ever farther inland, across prairies, through valleys, towards the highest mountain, which they began to climb. “On top of that mountain top stands our home,” said the young eagle warrior.

As they neared the crest of the mountain, they suddenly heard a sound like echoing thunder. It grew ever louder as they approached the mountain home. It sounded like thundering hammers. It was so loud that it set Ermine’s ears began to echo.

“What do you hear?” asked Eagle Warrior.

“A powerful deafening noise, like nothing I have ever heard before.”

“That is the beating of my mother’s heart,” Eagle Warrior replied. “Wait here for me. I will ask my mother to receive you.”

In a few moments, Eagle Warrior returned for Ermine.  Together they entered a room where Eagle Warrior’s mother sat on a bed, alone, aged and frail.

Eagle Warrior said to his mother, “Here’s a man who has promised to hold a song festival when he gets home. But he says men don’t understand how to put words together into songs. They do not even how to beat drums and dance for joy. Mother, men don’t know how to make merry, and now this young man has come up here to learn.”

This speech brought fresh life to the feeble old mother eagle, and her tired eyes lit up suddenly while she said:

“First you must build a feast hall where many men may gather.”

So the two young men set to work and built the feast hall, which is called a kagsse and is larger and finer than ordinary houses. And when it was finished the mother eagle taught them to put words together into songs and to add tones to the words so that they could be sung. She made a drum and taught them to beat upon it in rhythm with the music, and she showed them how they should dance to the songs. When Ermine had learned all this she said:

“Before every festival you must collect much meat, and then call together many men. This you must do after you have built your feast hall and made your songs. For when men assemble for a festival they require sumptuous meals.”

“But we know of no men but ourselves,” answered Ermine.

“Men are lonely, because they have not yet received the gift of joy,” said the mother eagle. “Make all your preparations as I have told you. When all is ready you shall go out and seek for men. You will meet them in couples. Gather them until they are many in number and invite them to come with you. Then hold your festival of song.”

Thus spoke the old mother eagle, and when she had minutely instructed Ermine in what he should do, she finally said to him:

“I may be an eagle, yet I am also an aged woman with the same pleasures as other women. A gift calls for a return, therefore it is only fitting that in farewell you should give me a little sinew string. It will be but a slight return, yet it will give me pleasure.”

Ermine was at first miserable, for wherever was he to procure sinew string so far from his home? But suddenly he remembered that his arrowheads were lashed to the shafts with sinew string. He unwound these and gave the string to the eagle. Thus was his return gift only a trifling matter. Thereupon, the young eagle again drew on his shining cloak and bade his guest bestride his back and put his arms round his neck. Then he threw himself out over the mountainside. A roaring sound was heard around them and Ermine thought his last hour had come. But this lasted only a moment; then the eagle halted and bade him open his eyes. And there they were again at the place where they had met. They had become friends and now they must part, and they bade each other a cordial farewell. Ermine hastened home to his parents and related all his adventures to them, and he concluded his narrative with these words:

“Men are lonely; they live without joy because they don’t know how to make merry. Now the eagle has given me the blessed gift of rejoicing, and I have promised to invite all men to share in the gift.”

Father and mother listened in surprise to the son’s tale and shook their heads incredulously, for he who has never felt his blood glow and his heart throb in exultation cannot imagine such a gift as the eagle’s. But the old people dared not gainsay him, for the eagle had already taken two of their sons, and they understood that its word had to be obeyed if they were to keep this last child. So they did all that the eagle had required of them.

A feast hall, matching the eagle’s, was built, and the larder was filled with the meat of sea creatures and caribou. Father and son combined joyous words, describing their dearest and deepest memories in songs which they set to music; also they made drums, rumbling tambourines of taut caribou hides with round wooden frames; and to the rhythm of the drum beats that accompanied the songs they moved their arms and legs in frolicsome hops and lively antics. Thus they grew warm both in mind and body, and began to regard everything about them in quite a new light. Many an evening it would happen that they joked and laughed, flippant and full of fun, at a time when they would otherwise have snored with sheer boredom the whole evening through.

As soon as all the preparations were made, Ermine went out to invite people to the festival that was to be held. To his great surprise he discovered that he and his parents were no longer alone as before. Merry men find company. Suddenly he met people everywhere, always in couples, strange looking people, some clad in wolf skins, others in the fur of the wolverine, the lynx, the red fox, the silver fox, the cross fox–in fact, in the skins of all kinds of animals. Ermine invited them to the banquet in his new feast hall and they all followed him joyfully. Then they held their song festival, each producing his own songs. There were laughter, talk, and sound, and people were carefree and happy as they had never been before. The table delicacies were appreciated, gifts of meat were exchanged, friendships were formed, and there were several who gave each other costly gifts of fur. The night passed, and not till the morning light shone into the feast hall did the guests take their leave. Then, as they thronged out of the corridor, they all fell forward on their hands and sprang away on all fours. They were no longer men but had changed into wolves, wolverines, lynxes, silver foxes, red foxes–in fact, into all the beasts of the forest. They were the guests that the old eagle had sent, so that father and son might not seek in vain. So great was the power of joy that it could even change animals into men. Thus animals, who have always been more lighthearted than men, were man’s first guests in a feast hall.

A little time after this it chanced that Ermine went hunting and again met the eagle. Immediately it took off its hood and turned into a man, and together they went up to the eagle’s home, for the old mother eagle wanted once more to see the man who had held the first song festival for humanity.

Before they had reached the heights, the mother eagle came to thank them, and lo! The feeble old eagle had grown young again.

For when men make merry, all old eagles become young.

The foregoing is related by the old folk from Kanglanek, the land which lies where the forests begin around the source of Colville River. In this strange and unaccountable way, so they say, came to men the gift of joy.

If we are going to build a world were the dignity of all beings is respected, where there is justice, peace and compassion — then there is an important lesson for us in this folk tale. For there to be community there must be music, celebration and laughter!

Laugh my friends like your life depended on it!  laugh.

On loving your neighbor as yourself

 I find the great invocation, “love your neighbor as yourself” which finds expression in many of our world’s religions, to be problematic, not because I have any trouble with the idea of loving my neighbor, but because as I look around my world I simply do not think that many (if any) of us love ourselves all that well. Love your neighbor as yourself. How well do any of us really love ourselves? Psychiatry, psychology, social work and self help industries would not be flourishing to the degree that they are if authentic self love flourished. Rather self love stands as an anathema, it is more often taken as self indulgence rather than acceptance and cherishing based on awareness, knowledge and insight.  More often those who begin to walk the path of self-acceptance experience a duality within themselves – good and evil, angel and demon, love and hate – and then work to nurture one side while banishing the other. But, a house divided against itself will never stand. Until we each learn to fully cherish our selves for all of who we are, in all of our wonderful, delicious complexity, there will be no loving the other well. Until we each learn to fully cherish our selves for all of who we are, in all of our complexity, and until we learn to love each other well, there will be no justice, no respect for human rights, no peace.

 ‘Love yourself well, and love your neighbor as yourself’ is perhaps a better rendition of the precept. Karen Armstrong has eloquently described a path to loving our neighbor in her book, “twelve steps to a compassionate life.” The first step: learn about compassion progresses to look at your own world; develop compassion for yourself; develop empathy with others; practice mindfulness; take action; be aware of how little we know; consider how we should speak to one another; act with concern for everybody; continuously develop your knowledge; expand your recognition; and love your enemies.

 And as I come back to ‘love yourself well’ and Armstrong’s second step, ‘develop compassion for yourself’ I find myself thinking about how little we seem to appreciate the depth and breadth of human complexity, of how the trajectory of understanding trends toward parsimony and simplicity. But we are neither parsimonious nor simple beings. To bring Occam’s razor to understanding ourselves (and others) may be nothing more than self injury and cutting at best and perhaps slitting our wrists at worst.

 Recently, as I was reading Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf, on page 75 I came across a particularly apt metaphor for what I am trying to get at here:

A person designs for herself a garden with a hundred kinds of trees, a thousand kinds of flowers, a hundred kinds of fruit and vegetables. Suppose, then, that the gardener of this garden knew no other distinction than between edible and inedible, nine tenths of this garden would be useless to him. He would pull up the most enchanting flowers and hew down the noblest trees and even regard them with a loathing and envious eye. This is what we do with the flowers of our soul. What does not stand classified as either man or wolf, what does not fit neatly into our predefined dichotomies we do not see at all.

 In order to love our selves well, we need to learn to look at ourselves with open hearts and minds, with the eyes of loving kindness and fierce open hearted compassion. Then we can begin to love our neighbors as our selves. Then we can begin to work together to build a world of justice, a world where human dignity (in all of its messy complexity) is respected, a world of peace where differences and diversity is celebrated!

A Fence or an Ambulance

Last week I posted my version of the Allegory of the River. Any time I think about that story, I find myself thinking about the poem about the ambulance and the fence as well.  You can find the poem all over the internet. It is attributed to Joseph Malins (1844-1926), who was a temperance activist in Massachusetts and in England. Malins is believed to have written this poem in 1895.

A Fence or an Ambulance

Joseph Malins (1895)

– a poem about prevention –


‘Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,

Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant;

But over its terrible edge there had slipped

A duke and full many a peasant.

 So the people said something would have to be done,

But their projects did not at all tally;

Some said, “Put a fence ’round the edge of the cliff,”

Some, “An ambulance down in the valley.”


But the cry for the ambulance carried the day,

For it spread through the neighboring city;

A fence may be useful or not, it is true,

But each heart became full of pity

For those who slipped over the dangerous cliff;

And the dwellers in highway and alley

Gave pounds and gave pence, not to put up a fence,

But an ambulance down in the valley.


“For the cliff is all right, if your careful,” they said,

“And, if folks even slip and are dropping,

It isn’t the slipping that hurts them so much

As the shock down below when they’re stopping.”

So day after day, as these mishaps occurred,

Quick forth would those rescuers sally

To pick up the victims who fell off the cliff,

With their ambulance down in the valley.


Then an old sage remarked: “It’s a marvel to me

That people give far more attention

To repairing results than to stopping the cause,

When they’d much better aim at prevention.

Let us stop at its source all this mischief,” cried he,

“Come, neighbors and friends, let us rally;

If the cliff we will fence, we might almost dispense

With the ambulance down in the valley.”


“Oh he’s a fanatic,” the others rejoined,

“Dispense with the ambulance? Never!

He’d dispense with all charities, too, if he could;

No! No! We’ll support them forever.

Aren’t we picking up folks just as fast as they fall?

And shall this man dictate to us? Shall he?

Why should people of sense stop to put up a fence,

While the ambulance works in the valley?”


But the sensible few, who are practical too,

Will not bear with such nonsense much longer;

They believe that prevention is better than cure,

And their party will soon be the stronger.

Encourage them then, with your purse, voice, and pen,

And while other philanthropists dally,

They will scorn all pretense, and put up a stout fence

On the cliff that hangs over the valley.


Better guide well the young than reclaim them when old,

For the voice of true wisdom is calling.

“To rescue the fallen is good, but ’tis best

To prevent other people from falling.”

Better close up the source of temptation and crime

Than deliver from dungeon or galley;

Better put a strong fence ’round the top of the cliff

Than an ambulance down in the valley.


So, the poem argues strongly for putting a fence around the top of the cliff. I’m a feminist, and I guess a bit of a pragmatist. In my mind there is no fence strong enough to keep everyone away from the edge of the cliff. Prevention is important for sure — it is absolutely necessary!  And, I am a feminist. So, for me it is always both/and. Yes the fence! and Yes the ambulance as well — because some revolutionary anarchist is going to see that fence and take it as a challenge, as a boundary that must be broken — and who will then slip and slide down that slippery slope.  So, fence and ambulance both for me!


what’s your vote? thought? reaction??


An Allegory about Rescuing the Children in the Raritan River

 Sister Septimus had been out walking with Sister Visentia in the woodlands surrounding their cloister, the convent of the good sisters of Mary Magdalene. When Sister Septimus came back into the cloister alone, a search party was organized to look for sister Visentia. Two of the sisters in the search party, Sisters Bryda and Ludwika soon found themselves walking along the banks of the Raritan River as they searched for Sister Visentia. 

The day before all of this there had been torrential rains across all of Hunterdon County, so the river was much higher than usual. This day the typically serene South Branch of the Raritan was swollen to the tops of its banks, the waters were thundering by and all in all the river looked unusually treacherous! As they peered over the banks of the river hoping that they would not see Sister Visentia in such a dangerous location, to their shock and horror, they saw a toddler bobbing in the river thrashing and struggling to keep her head above water.

Sister Bryda immediately slipped out of her cowl, scapular and tunic and dove into the river. She reached the young girl just as the child was about to go under for the third time and handed her out to Sister Ludwika. Ludwika wrapped the child in Sister Bryda’s scapular to cover her and warm her, and was ready to help Sister Bryda out of the water when they both saw another child up river a bit, and struggling. So, Sister Bryda swam up to the child, caught him and handed him up to Sister Ludwika.

Again just a Bryda was about to ask Sister Ludwika for a hand to get herself out of the river, they both hear a pair of children calling for help. Of course Bryda could not let them drown, so back into the cold, torrential river she swam. It was feeling to her that the water was getting progressively colder, and the current faster and deeper. But, these were young children, she just could not let any harm come to them.  So back after them she went.

And, yes, just as she was handing the last child to Sister Ludwika, Ludwika pointed upstream again – more children!  Sister Ludwika was horrified, and she could see that Sister Bryda was near exhaustion. So, Ludwika quickly helped Bryda out of the water and jumped in herself to continue the rescue operation. This went on for a while, and now both Sisters were passed exhaustion and barely able to move.

Sister Ludwika crawled out of the river, and rasped to Sister Bryda, “Someone must be throwing children into the river! I’ve got to go and stop them.”

“But, Ludwika, you can’t leave me here alone. It is taking both of us to get these children out of the water. We can’t just let them drown, and I can’t do this alone.” Sister Bryda gasped.

“Bryda, if I don’t stop whoever is throwing these children into the water, we will both be too exhausted to be any good to anyone.” countered Ludwika. And, with that she turned her back on Bryda and the toddlers, and started to walk upstream to find out who was throwing the children in the river, and to stop them.  It was one of the hardest decisions Ludwika had ever made.

Sister Ludwika’s intention was prevention, but her action looked (and felt) like abandonment. Efforts for change are risky. The outcomes are rarely clear and certain. To those doing the more immediate work of addressing and repairing the harms caused by injustices, energy and resources committed to long term goals can feel like a depletion of much needed emergency resources. To those committed to longer term social change strategies targeting social change to bring about the alchemy of social justice, emergency triage work can feel short sighted. Truth be told, both are necessary. We need to heal the wounds of injustice – we need to pull the children from the river. We need to contain the consequences of injustice – we need to ensure that the children we pull from the river are loved and fed and we need to see that they don’t catch pneumonia. And, we need to build a world where fairness and respect for human dignity are the norm – we need to prevent more children from being thrown into the river. And all of that takes a village.

(versions of this story are common among community organizers. some folks attirbute early renditions of it to Saul Alinsky.)

In the beginning was the hearing

In the beginning was the hearing.  In the beginning there were consciousness raising groups.  Over time small groups of women came together to tell each other our own stories.

Sooner or later, one woman would begin. Often the beginnings were hesitant and awkward. We were trying to put the pieces of our lives together. We were trying to find and claim shreds and shards and work the chaos into a collage with coherence.

One day a woman came to the group. She sat quietly listening and waiting.  Finally she said: “I hurt … I hurt all over.”  She paused and sat in silence for a moment, and one of us simply said, “Tell us what that is like for you.” She touched herself in various places as if feeling for the hurt before she added “but I don’t know where to begin to cry.” And then she began to tell us her life. She talked on and on. One story, one memory led to another memory and experience. “I remember waking up alone, hungry, no place to go – I must have been too young for school, no mama, no food. I was cold. I was always cold. It was always cold. School was cold. Too afraid to have friends, but they fed us there. They laughed at me there. They call them bullies now I think. I just remember the hurtin’ they put on me. Every day someone was puttin’ a hurting on me some kind of way. Then I met him, he said he would protect me, take care of me. He was nice – for a while. But then he started in on me. It was worse with him. He would beat me, and tie me down and have his way with me…”  When she reached a point of excruciating pain no one moved. No one interrupted. Finally she finished. After a silence, she looked from one woman to another. “You heard me. You heard me all the way. You heard me all the way to here, to freedom. You heard me into my own skin. You heard me to life. ” Her eyes narrowed. She looked directly at each woman in turn and then said slowly: “I have a strange feeling you heard me before I started. You hear me to my own story.”  

Our truth is found in our stories, our truth is found through our stories.

Listening  to and hearing, really hearing each other is not an easy task. Those who have been abused, oppressed or discriminated against in any meaningful kind of way (and any abuse, oppression or discrimination is meaningful to the recipient of those kinds of acts), those people are often without hope and are mysteriously quiet.  When change is inconceivable, there can be no words to articulate discontent. We can only hear silence in the very moment when it is breaking.  And so, hearing each other is an essential responsibility, calling and task. Consider the image of hearing into speech, hearing into being.  This is a kind of hearing that take place before speech is articulated; it is a hearing more acute than mere listening. Hearing into speech, hearing into being is a hearing engaged in by the whole body. It is a hearing that evokes speech, a new speech, a new creation.  Hearing into speech, hearing into being dares not interrupt, but deepens when the telling halts or the pain becomes intense.  Hearing into speech, hearing into being walks alongside the teller through her agony, and stays with her until it breaks from the inside and she touches her real self – all of her real self.

This story is inspired by the narratives in Nele Morton’s “The Journey is Home”

Mary’s Last Lecture: A Retrospective Pastiche of Potholes and Passages

If you missed the lecture because you had to be somewhere else or because you had a bit of a nap, here it is. 

(You know, click the title): Mary’s Last Lecture: A Pastiche of Potholes And Passages

please feel free to comment, discuss or let me know what you think?


Be well … and … may your work, your love, your lives be filled with beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence!


PS.  more blogs are on their way! this is just my last lecture as an academic.


100th Monkey

I love the story of the 100th monkey — the monkey who tumbles everyone else over the tipping point of social/cultural change. It is one of those stories that floated around in the back of my awareness, and then, MAGIC! I was reading a book by Jean Shinoda Bolen, and she detailed the story in her book.  The glories of the internet enable highlighting bits of narrative detail all the more readily, so here are the words of Jean Shinoda Bolen, followed by story as told by Ken Keyes to whom she gives source credit!

Magic is alive! Change is afoot.


Circles of Compasson and The Millionth Circle 
by Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D.

*antidote: 1: a remedy to counteract the effects of poison. 2: something that relieves, prevents, or counteracts. ~ Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary

 The Hundredth Monkey

An idea whose time has come depends upon a critical number of people embracing a new way of thinking, feeling, or perceiving. Once that critical number is reached, what had been resisted becomes accepted. What was once unthinkable, and is then adopted by more and more people reaches a critical mass, and then becomes a commonly held standard of belief or behaviour.

When an idea is ridiculed, especially when men discount the possibility and label it as illogical as well, a story to hold onto while continuing to work on bringing about a change is a powerful inspiration. That concerned citizens could be effective in ending the nuclear arms race between the United States and Russia was a ridiculed idea, for example, and yet people began to try and the movement grew, inspired by the idea of a critical mass examplified by the story of “The Hundreth Monkey” written by Ken Keyes and spread by word of mouth. Predicated on the intuitively grasped morphic field theory, postulated by theoretical biologist Rupert Sheldrake, it told the story of how new behavior initiated by a young female monkey spread through her colony and then was observed by scientists to now be done in all other monkey colonies on separated islands, without any means of direct influence. “The hundredth monkey” was the one who became the critical number, after which all monkeys now did this new thing because every member of the same species is connected to the same morphic field.

The 100th Monkey

A story about social change.

By Ken Keyes Jr.

The Japanese monkey, Macaca Fuscata, had been observed in the wild for a period of over 30 years.

In 1952, on the island of Koshima, scientists were providing monkeys with sweet potatoes dropped in the sand. The monkey liked the taste of the raw sweet potatoes, but they found the dirt unpleasant.

An 18-month-old female named Imo found she could solve the problem by washing the potatoes in a nearby stream. She taught this trick to her mother. Her playmates also learned this new way and they taught their mothers too.

This cultural innovation was gradually picked up by various monkeys before the eyes of the scientists. Between 1952 and 1958 all the young monkeys learned to wash the sandy sweet potatoes to make them more palatable. Only the adults who imitated their children learned this social improvement. Other adults kept eating the dirty sweet potatoes.

Then something startling took place. In the autumn of 1958, a certain number of Koshima monkeys were washing sweet potatoes — the exact number is not known. Let us suppose that when the sun rose one morning there were 99 monkeys on Koshima Island who had learned to wash their sweet potatoes. Let’s further suppose that later that morning, the hundredth monkey learned to wash potatoes.


By that evening almost everyone in the tribe was washing sweet potatoes before eating them. The added energy of this hundredth monkey somehow created an ideological breakthrough!

But notice: A most surprising thing observed by these scientists was that the habit of washing sweet potatoes then jumped over the sea…Colonies of monkeys on other islands and the mainland troop of monkeys at Takasakiyama began washing their sweet potatoes.

Thus, when a certain critical number achieves an awareness, this new awareness may be communicated from mind to mind.

Although the exact number may vary, this Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon means that when only a limited number of people know of a new way, it may remain the conscious property of these people.

But there is a point at which if only one more person tunes-in to a new awareness, a field is strengthened so that this awareness is picked up by almost everyone!

From the book “The Hundredth Monkey” by Ken Keyes, Jr. 
The book is not copyrighted and the material may be reproduced in whole or in part.

Read the whole book.

One hundered monkeys and tipping points — have you ever notice a time when a critial mass was reached around an issue you were struggling to transform? Have you been witness or participant to the birth/growth of justice? what were some of the key elements that fed the alchemy?


Alchemy is about not waiting for the world to change

Just Alchemy?  sure. 

Just as in justice as in fairness.

Alchemy as in a process to transform matter such as turning base metals inot gold, so a process leading to paradoxical — transformative results.

For me, the alchemy of justice and human rights come together in stories, poems, myths and the principles and rules that guide our lives. So, here I will write about all of that, about those things that in some kind of way hint at transformation to a world that honors justice and celebrates  dignity and human rights.