Thursday, May 28, 2009

Beautiful, Brilliant, Important - A Message From Paul Hawken

Warmest greetings. Thank you to my friend Diana and to Leslie Temple-Thurston for sharing this incredible speech by someone I have the utmost respect and appreciation for: Paul Hawken. Peace & Blessings ~ Molly

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To: Teacher Training Students and Graduates, Spiritual Warriors and Friends

Hello Dear Friends,

As the energy of change moves through us all at this amazing time in our evolution, we are being solicited for our insights and dreams for the future. The political opinions, sociological and philosophical issues we hear spoken by others and face personally each day have become so polarized and controversial that it is easy to become overwhelmed, confused and to opt out of the decision-making process. Our response can become one of distracting oneself in an attempt to find a moment of peaceful stability. Yet it behooves us, now more than ever, to look directly into "the light of truth" and from our hearts to ask ourselves some searching and serious questions about the future. So that, hopefully, as we race through our days, we can begin to vision the principles and the structures we want to see manifesting in the world yet to come.

I would love to share with you this truly invigorating commencement speech by someone for whom I have a lot of respect: Paul Hawken. If you have already read it, please forgive me, but I decided to pass it along in case there were some who had not.

Much love always,
Leslie Temple-Thurston


Commencement Address to the Class of 2009 ­ Paul Hawken University of Portland, May 3rd, 2009.

When I was invited to give this speech, I was asked if I could give a simple short talk that was direct, naked, taut, honest, passionate, lean, shivering, startling, and graceful. Boy, no pressure there.

But let’s begin with the startling part. Hey, Class of 2009: you are going to have to figure out what it means to be a human being on earth at a time when every living system is declining, and the rate of decline is accelerating. Kind of a mind-boggling situation ­ but not one peer-reviewed paper published in the last thirty years can refute that statement.
Basically, the earth needs a new operating system, you are the programmers, and we need it within a few decades.

This planet came with a set of operating instructions, but we seem to have misplaced them. Important rules like don’t poison the water, soil, or air, and don’t let the earth get overcrowded, and don’t touch the thermostat, have been broken. Buckminster Fuller said that spaceship earth was so ingeniously designed that no one has a clue that we are on one, flying through the universe at a million miles per hour, with no need for seat belts, lots of room in coach, and really good food ­ but all that is changing.

There is invisible writing on the back of the diploma you will receive, and in case you didn’t bring lemon juice to decode it, I can tell you what it says: YOU ARE BRILLIANT, AND THE EARTH IS HIRING. The earth couldn’t afford to send any recruiters or limos to your school. It sent you rain, sunsets, ripe cherries, night blooming jasmine, and that unbelievably cute person you are dating. Take the hint. And here’s the deal: Forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done.

When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse.

What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world. The poet Adrienne Rich wrote, "So much has been destroyed I have cast my lot with those who, age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world. There could be no better description. Humanity is coalescing. It is reconstituting the world, and the action is taking place in schoolrooms, farms, jungles, villages, campuses, companies, refuge camps, deserts, fisheries, and slums.

You join a multitude of caring people. No one knows how many groups and organizations are working on the most salient issues of our day: climate change, poverty, deforestation, peace, water, hunger, conservation, human rights, and more. This is the largest movement the world has ever seen.

Rather than control, it seeks connection. Rather than dominance, it strives to disperse concentrations of power. Like Mercy Corps, it works behind the scenes and gets the job done. Large as it is, no one knows the true size of this movement. It provides hope, support, and meaning to billions of people in the world. Its clout resides in idea, not in force. It is made up of teachers, children, peasants, businesspeople, rappers, organic farmers, nuns, artists, government workers,fisher-folk, engineers, students, incorrigible writers, weeping Muslims, concerned mothers, poets, doctors without borders, grieving Christians, street musicians, the President of the United States of America, and as the writer David James Duncan would say, the Creator, the One who loves us all in such a huge way.

There is a rabbinical teaching that says if the world is ending and the Messiah arrives, first plant a tree, and then see if the story is true.

Inspiration is not garnered from the litanies of what may befall us; it resides in humanity’s willingness to restore, redress, reform, rebuild, recover, re-imagine, and reconsider. "One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice," is Mary Oliver’s description of moving away from the profane toward a deep sense of connectedness to the living world.

Millions of people are working on behalf of strangers, even if the evening news is usually about the death of strangers. This kindness of strangers has religious, even mythic origins, and very specific eighteenth-century roots.

Abolitionists were the first people to create a national and global movement to defend the rights of those they did not know. Until that time, no group had filed a grievance except on behalf of itself. The founders of this movement were largely unknown ­ Granville Clark, Thomas Clarkson, Josiah Wedgwood ­ and their goal was ridiculous on the face of it: at that time three out of four people in the world were enslaved. Enslaving each other was what human beings had done for ages. And the abolitionist movement was greeted with incredulity. Conservative spokesmen ridiculed the abolitionists as liberals, progressives, do-gooders, meddlers, and activists. They were told they would ruin the economy and drive England into poverty. But for the first time in history a group of people organized themselves to help people they would never know, from whom they would never receive direct or indirect benefit. And today tens of millions of people do this every day. It is called the world of non-profits, civil society, schools, social entrepreneurship, and non-governmental organizations, of companies who place social and environmental justice at the top of their strategic goals.

The scope and scale of this effort is unparalleled in history.

The living world is not "out there" somewhere, but in your heart. What do we know about life? In the words of biologist Janine Benyus, life creates the conditions that are conducive to life. I can think of no better motto for a future economy. We have tens of thousands of abandoned homes without people and tens of thousands of abandoned people without homes. We have failed bankers advising failed regulators on how to save failed assets. Think about this: we are the only species on this planet without full employment. Brilliant. We have an economy that tells us that it is cheaper to destroy earth in real time than to renew, restore, and sustain it. You can print money to bail out a bank but you can’t print life to bail out a planet. At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product. We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future instead of stealing it. We can either create assets for the future or take the assets of the future. One is called restoration and the other exploitation. And whenever we exploit the earth we exploit people and cause untold suffering. Working for the earth is not a way to get rich, it is a way to be rich.

The first living cell came into being nearly 40 million centuries ago, and its direct descendants are in all of our bloodstreams. Literally you are breathing molecules this very second that were inhaled by Moses, Mother Teresa, and Bono. We are vastly interconnected. Our fates are inseparable. We are here because the dream of every cell is to become two cells. In each of you are one quadrillion cells, 90 percent of which are not human cells. Your body is a community, and without those other microorganisms you would perish in hours. Each human cell has 400 billion molecules conducting millions of processes between trillions of atoms. The total cellular activity in one human body is staggering: one septillion actions at any one moment, a one with twenty-four zeros after it. In a millisecond, our body has undergone ten times more processes than there are stars in the universe ­ exactly what Charles Darwin foretold when he said science would discover that each living creature was a "little universe, formed of a host of self-propagating organisms, inconceivably minute and as numerous as the stars of heaven."

So I have two questions for you all: First, can you feel your body? Stop for a moment. Feel your body. One septillion activities going on simultaneously, and your body does this so well you are free to ignore it, and wonder instead when this speech will end. Second question: who is in charge of your body? Who is managing those molecules? Hopefully not a political party. Life is creating the conditions that are conducive to life inside you, just as in all of nature. What I want you to imagine is that collectively humanity is evincing a deep innate wisdom in coming together to heal the wounds and insults of the past.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years. No one would sleep that night, of course. The world would become religious overnight. We would be ecstatic, delirious, made rapturous by the glory of God. Instead the stars come out every night, and we watch television.

This extraordinary time when we are globally aware of each other and the multiple dangers that threaten civilization has never happened, not in a thousand years, not in ten thousand years. Each of us is as complex and beautiful as all the stars in the universe. We have done great things and we have gone way off course in terms of honoring creation. You are graduating to the most amazing, challenging, stupefying challenge ever bequested to any generation. The generations before you failed. They didn’t stay up all night. They got distracted and lost sight of the fact that life is a miracle every moment of your existence. Nature beckons you to be on her side. You couldn’t ask for a better boss. The most unrealistic person in the world is the cynic, not the dreamer. Hopefulness only makes sense when it doesn’t make sense to be hopeful. This is your century. Take it and run as if your life depends on it.

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Paul Hawken's Blessed Unrest:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My Personal Message to KPOJ Regarding the Debate on Releasing the Torture Photos

I recently sent off a quick email before going to work with the below message to the wonderful people on the local morning radio show on KPOJ. I felt compelled to add my voice to the conversation in response to the debate which was happening on whether or not it was best to release the torture photos. Barack Obama had just made the decision to not release the latest photos, which are already being seen in other countries. I disagreed with the President's decision and my message communicates why. (The local morning show from 6-9am is followed by Thom Hartmann's national show from 9-12:00.) Peace ~ Molly

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Hi, Carl, Christine, Paul, and Thom. I really appreciate your conversation this morning about the release of photos. I can truly see and could argue both sides. However, I do come out on the side of releasing these photos. I have been deeply politically involved for a few years now, and have attended numerous events, including Winter Soldier speaker panel conferences, Iraqi speaker events, just seeing Archbishop Desmond Tutu on May 4th, and more. The thing is, people around the world already know that this torture has been happening. The killing of American soldiers has already been passionately undertaken for years now due to this knowledge of atrocities committed in our name.

I believe that the best way to begin to scratch the surface of what Americans have done is to own it. The Muslim world and the rest of the world needs to see America become accountable. We have been like a hugely dysfunctional family. We cannot make amends as a nation as long as we continue to hide behind minimizations, secrecy, denials, justifications, and the shame of the profound horror of what has been done in our name.

Because American atrocities are so well known by the rest of the world, I believe that the only way to begin to stop the hatred that is directed toward the West and the recruitment of terrorists to kill Americans is to come out - come out in the open and own it all. No more secrets, no more hiding, no more denials. We need to proceed with investigations, with prosecutions, with venues for truth and reconciliation. We need to show the world our humility, our profound sorrow at what we have done, our courage, and our passion to absolutely and totally own and transform all the enormity of this horror of what Americans have done by coming out. As long as we hold back at all, it will be seen as justification to continue to propel acts of vengeance against Americans.

Sometimes things do get worse before they get better. My heart goes out to all who have loved ones in the Iraq and Afghanistan. There are friends of my my sons who are there now. I do hear them in their terror of the impact of releasing the actual photos. And, yes, there is bound to be an initial profound negative reaction. What I am doing is seeing a bigger picture beyond that initial reaction. In the bigger picture, there can be no solution for problems denied, minimized, not fully owned. In the bigger picture, the rest of the world needs to see Americans owning fully what we have done.

Americans also are prevented from this opportunity for healing as long as we are shielded from reality. We need to know the truth. Everyone does. There is a saying that I believe - the truth shall set us free. America needs to embrace our shadow side and allow the light of day to illuminate this horror and others for there to be full acknowledgment, healing, and transformation of all this pain and tragedy we have carried in our cells since the first native peoples were killed by our ancestors. Otherwise our words of morality and values are compromised and experienced as disengenuous by much of the rest of the word. There is a deep need to walk our talk and to have the deep courage to stand in truth, accountabilty, humility, and the values and visions we hold most dear. It is time.

Thank you so much for the incredibly awesome job you all do. I am deeply appreciative of this great service and the wonderfulness I experience in each of you.


Molly Strong
Gresham, OR

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There is nothing to fear except the persistent refusal to find out the truth, the persistent refusal to analyze the causes of happenings... Fear grows in darkness; if you think there's a bogeyman around, turn on the light. ~ Dorothy Thompson

Most truths are so naked that people feel sorry for them and cover them up, at least a little bit. ~ Edward R. Murrow

Reformers who are always compromising, have not yet grasped the idea that truth is the only safe ground to stand upon. ~ Elizabeth Cady Stanton

I believe that ignorance is the root of all evil. And that no one knows the truth. ~ Molly Ivins

The world is too dangerous for anything but truth and too small for anything but love. ~ William Sloane Coffin

Friday, May 22, 2009

Memorial Day with Veterans For Peace, Benji Lewis and Cindy Sheehan

Cindy's son, Casey, who was killed in Iraq on 4/4/04, was born on June 29th, 1979
- three days before my oldest son, Brian, was born. Peace ~ Molly

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Cindy Sheehan will be in Portland on Memorial Day the 25th of May to participate in Veterans For Peace Chapter 72's annual event "From War to Peace". This event begins with a short ceremony at the Memorial Coliseum at 12 noon in the Courtyard of the Korean War memorial. After Taps is played we will march to the Peace Memorial Park where Benji Lewis, a two-tour Marine Veteran/War Resister and Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan will give address to the assembly. There will be music, snacks and good conversation after. As always, the general public is invited to attend.

Later in the day Cindy will give a reading from her new book "Myth America: 10 GreatestMyths of the Robber Class and the Case for Revolution". Doors open at 6pm, reading begins at 630 pm in Main Street Chapel of the 1st Unitarian Universalist Church at 1011 SW 12th Ave in downtown Portland, OR. The reading will be followed by a Reception/Booksigning in the Buchannan Room beginning at around 730 pm. There will be light snacks and coffee available.

Both events are free and open to the public.
For further information send to or call (503) 282-5015
Posted on May 12, 2009 by Veterans for Peace #72 Portland

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How is one to live a moral and compassionate existence when one is fully aware of the blood, the horror inherent in life, when one finds darkness not only in one's culture but within oneself? If there is a stage at which an individual life becomes truly adult, it must be when one grasps the irony in its unfolding and accepts responsibility for a life lived in the midst of such paradox. One must live in the middle of contradiction, because if all contradiction were eliminated at once life would collapse. There are simply no answers to some of the great pressing questions. You continue to live them out, making your life a worthy expression of leaning into the light. ~ Barry Lopez

If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change. ~ Buddha

An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

You don't get to choose how you're going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you're going to live. Now. ~ Joan Baez

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Howard Zinn: America's 'Three Holy Wars'

Howard Zinn speaks at
The Progressive Magazine's 100th Anniversary:

How different our world would be if great numbers of us
knew the wisdom, heart, and knowledge of Howard Zinn.

Peace ~ Molly


Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. ~ George Santayana

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

The essence of love and compassion is understanding, the ability to recognize the physical, material, and psychological suffering of others, to put ourselves "inside the skin" of the other. We "go inside" their body, feelings, and mental formations, and witness for ourselves their suffering. Shallow observation as an outsider is not enough to see their suffering. We must become one with the subject of our observation. When we are in contact with another's suffering, a feeling of compassion is born in us. Compassion means, literally, "to suffer with." ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Unexceptional Americans: Why We Can't See the Trees or the Forest

The Torture Memos and Historical Amnesia

by Noam Chomsky

The torture memos released by the White House elicited shock, indignation, and surprise. The shock and indignation are understandable. The surprise, less so.

For one thing, even without inquiry, it was reasonable to suppose that Guantanamo was a torture chamber. Why else send prisoners where they would be beyond the reach of the law -- a place, incidentally, that Washington is using in violation of a treaty forced on Cuba at the point of a gun? Security reasons were, of course, alleged, but they remain hard to take seriously. The same expectations held for the Bush administration's "black sites," or secret prisons, and for extraordinary rendition, and they were fulfilled.

More importantly, torture has been routinely practiced from the early days of the conquest of the national territory, and continued to be used as the imperial ventures of the "infant empire" -- as George Washington called the new republic -- extended to the Philippines, Haiti, and elsewhere. Keep in mind as well that torture was the least of the many crimes of aggression, terror, subversion, and economic strangulation that have darkened U.S. history, much as in the case of other great powers.

Accordingly, what's surprising is to see the reactions to the release of those Justice Department memos, even by some of the most eloquent and forthright critics of Bush malfeasance: Paul Krugman, for example, writing that we used to be "a nation of moral ideals" and never before Bush "have our leaders so utterly betrayed everything our nation stands for." To say the least, that common view reflects a rather slanted version of American history.

Occasionally the conflict between "what we stand for" and "what we do" has been forthrightly addressed. One distinguished scholar who undertook the task at hand was Hans Morgenthau, a founder of realist international relations theory. In a classic study published in 1964 in the glow of Camelot, Morgenthau developed the standard view that the U.S. has a "transcendent purpose": establishing peace and freedom at home and indeed everywhere, since "the arena within which the United States must defend and promote its purpose has become world-wide." But as a scrupulous scholar, he also recognized that the historical record was radically inconsistent with that "transcendent purpose."

We should not be misled by that discrepancy, advised Morgenthau; we should not "confound the abuse of reality with reality itself." Reality is the unachieved "national purpose" revealed by "the evidence of history as our minds reflect it." What actually happened was merely the "abuse of reality."

The release of the torture memos led others to recognize the problem. In the New York Times, columnist Roger Cohen reviewed a new book, The Myth of American Exceptionalism, by British journalist Geoffrey Hodgson, who concludes that the U.S. is "just one great, but imperfect, country among others." Cohen agrees that the evidence supports Hodgson's judgment, but nonetheless regards as fundamentally mistaken Hodgson's failure to understand that "America was born as an idea, and so it has to carry that idea forward." The American idea is revealed in the country's birth as a "city on a hill," an "inspirational notion" that resides "deep in the American psyche," and by "the distinctive spirit of American individualism and enterprise" demonstrated in the Western expansion. Hodgson's error, it seems, is that he is keeping to "the distortions of the American idea," "the abuse of reality."

Let us then turn to "reality itself": the "idea" of America from its earliest days...

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Our ignorance of history causes us to slander our own times. ~ Gustave Flaubert

History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again. ~ Maya Angelou

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Please Lend Your Support For This Courageous Woman

Warmest Greetings

This came to me through, which "is a new global web movement with a simple democratic mission: to close the gap between the world we have, and the world most people everywhere want." “Avaaz” means “Voice” in many Asian, Middle Eastern and Eastern European languages. This message also came to me through friends in Oregon and Canada and I thought it important to share. I hope you will consider adding your name to the list. Thank you so much.
Peace ~ Molly

I just joined a global movement to free Burmese democracy leader and Nobel Peace prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi and 2,100 other political prisoners and I thought that you would want to get involved.

The only crime Aung San Suu Kyi and her fellow prisoners have committed was to peacefully call for democracy. Days before she was due to be released after 13 years of detention, the brutal regime has locked up again on trumped up charges. She is seriously ill, but the brutal military regime wants to keep her under lock and key so that she cannot challenge them in next year's elections.

The petition is calling on the UN Secretary General to act now -- he can require the prisoners release as a condition of renewed international engagement. The petition will be presented on May 26th by brave Burmese democracy activists -- so we have just 6 days to build a massive global movement. Click on the link to sign the petition and send this email on to friends and family!

Thank you so much for your help!

P.S. For more information read the full alert below.


Dear Friends,

Burma's democracy leader and Nobel Peace prize winner, Aung San SuuKyi, has been locked up on new trumped up charges, just days before her 13 years of detention was due to expire. She and thousands of fellow monks and students have been imprisoned for bravely challenging the brutal military regime with peaceful calls for democracy.

Risking danger to speak out for their jailed friends, Burmese activists are demanding the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners and calling on the world to help. We have six days to get a flood of petition signatures to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon calling on him to make their release a top priority -- he can make it a condition of any renewed international engagement. Follow the link to sign the petition, and forward this email on to friends to ensure Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners are freed. Burmese activists will present the global petition to the media on May 26th:

On May 14th, Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested and sent to jail to charged in connection with an American man who allegedly sneaked uninvited into the compound where she is being held in Yangon. The charges are absurd -- it is the Burmese military, now charging her with breach of house arrest, that are responsible for the security of the compound.They area pretext to keep her detained until after elections which are set for 2010.

The Burmese regime is renown for its vicious repression of any threat to full military control - thousands are in jail in inhumane conditions and denied any medical care, there are ongoing abuses of human rights, there is violent repression of ethnic groups, and over a million have been forced into refuge across the border.

Aung San Suu Kyi's is the greatest threat to the junta's hold on power. Her moral leadership of the democracy movement and the legacy of her landslide victory in 1990 elections means that she is the only figure who could face down the military in elections next year. She has been detained over and over again since 1988 -- under house arrest and allowed no contact with the outside world. But this scandalous new detention in the notorious Insein Prison without medical care could be very dangerous because she is seriously ill.

Sources say that the military regime is fearful of this unified and massive online call to the UN -- over 160 Burma exile and solidarity groups in 24 countries are participating in the campaign. And the Secretary General and key regional players that are looking tore-engage with the Burmese regime, can influence the fate of these prisoners. Last week Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said: 'Aung San SuuKyi and all those that have a contribution to make to the future of their country must be free'. Let's overwhelm him with a global call to urgently act on his words and stop the arrests and brutality:

As with the release of Nelson Mandela from years of prison in South Africa, the freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi from years of unjust detention, will bring a new beginning to Burma and hope for democracy.This week could be that historical time for change - let's stand united behind Suu Kyi and these brave men and women and demand their release now!

With hope,

Alice, Brett, Ricken, Pascal, Graziela, Paula and the rest of the Avaaz team

PS.For more about Aung San Suu Kyi visit:

For more about the Global Free Political Prisoners Campaign visit:

A Letter from former Presidents for the release of political prisoners:

For the West and Asian countries reactions to Aung San Suu Kyi's arrest:

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Everybody Loves Something

By Pema Chödrön

According to Pema Chödrön, love and compassion are like the weak spots in the walls of ego. If we connect with even one moment of the good heart of bodhicitta and cherish it, our ability to open will gradually expand.

The Buddhist term bodhicitta means completely open heart and mind. "Citta" is translated as heart or mind; "bodhi" means awake.

The cultivation of the noble heart and mind of bodhicitta is a personal journey. The very life we have is our working basis; the very life we have is our journey to enlightenment. Enlightenment is not something we're going to achieve after we follow the instructions, and then get it right.

In fact when it comes to awakening the heart and mind, you can't "get it right."On this journey we're moving toward that which is not so certain, that which cannot be tied down, that which is not habitual and fixed. We're moving toward a whole new way of thinking and feeling, a flexible and open way of perceiving reality that is not based on certainty and security. This new way of perceiving is based on connecting with the living energetic quality of ourselves and everything else. Bodhicitta is our means of tapping into this awakened energy and we can start by tapping into our emotions. We can start by connecting very directly with what we already have.

Bodhicitta is particularly available to us when we feel good heart; when we feel gratitude, appreciation or love in any form whatsoever. In any moment of tenderness or happiness, bodhicitta is always here. If we begin to acknowledge these moments and cherish them, if we begin to realize how precious they are, then no matter how fleeting and tiny this good heart may seem, it will gradually, at its own speed, expand. Our capacity to love is an unstoppable essence that when nurtured can expand without limit.

Bodhicitta is also available in other emotions—even the hardest of feelings like rage, jealousy, envy and deep-rooted resentment. In even the most painful and crippling feelings, bodhicitta is available to us when we acknowledge them with an open mind and heart and realize how they are shared by all of us—when we acknowledge that we are all in the same boat feeling the same pain. In the midst of the most profound misery, we can think of others just like ourselves and wish that we could all be free of suffering and the root of suffering. When we tune into any of our feelings, become aware any of our feelings, they have the capacity to soften us and to dissolve the barriers we put up between ourselves and others.

On Cape Breton Island, where I live in Nova Scotia, the lakes get so hard in the winter that people can drive trucks and cars on them. Alexander Graham Bell flew one of the early airplanes off that ice. It's that solid. Our habits and patterns can feel just as frozen as that ice. But when spring comes, the ice melts. The quality of water has never really disappeared, even in the deepest depths of winter. It just changed form. The ice melts, and the essential fluid, living quality of water is there.

The essential good heart and open mind of bodhicitta is like that. It is here even if we're experiencing it as so solid we could land an airplane on it.

When I'm emotionally in midwinter and nothing I do seems to melt my frozen heart and mind, it helps me to remember that no matter how hard the ice, the water of bodhicitta hasn't really gone anywhere. It's always right here. At those moments, I'm just experiencing bodhicitta in its most solid, immovable form.

At that point I often realize that I prefer the inherent fluidity of situations to the frozenness I habitually impose on them. So I work on melting that hardness by generating more warmth, more open heart. A good way for any of us to do this is to think of a person toward whom we feel appreciation or love or gratitude. In other words, we connect with the warmth that we already have. If we can't think of a person, we can think of a pet, or even a plant. Sometimes we have to search a bit. But as Trungpa Rinpoche used to say, "Everybody loves something. Even if it's just tortillas." The point is to touch in to the good heart that we already have and nurture it.

At other times we can think of a person or situation that automatically evokes compassion. Compassion is our capacity to care about others and our wish to alleviate their pain. It is based not on pity or professional warmth, but on the acknowledgment that we are all in this together. Compassion is a relationship between equals. So in any moment of hardness, we can connect with the compassion we already have—for laboratory animals, abused children, our friends, our relatives, for anyone anywhere—and let it open our heart and mind in what otherwise might feel like an impossibly frozen situation.

Love and compassion are like the weak spots in the walls of ego. They are like a naturally occuring opening. And they are the opening we take. If we connect with even one moment of good heart or compassion and cherish it, our ability to open will gradually expand. Beginning to tune into even the minutest feelings of compassion or appreciation or gratitude softens us. It allows us to touch in with the noble heart of bodhicitta on the spot.

When I was a child there was a comic-strip character named Popeye. At times he was really, really weak and at those vulnerable moments, the big bully Bluto was always standing there ready to reduce poor Popeye to dust. But old Popeye would get out his can of spinach, open it up, and gulp it down. He'd just pour the spinach into his mouth and then—wham! Full of confidence and strength, he could relate with all the demons. That's what happens when we use our emotions to touch in with our noble heart. Bodhicitta, it's like spiritual spinach. But please don't quote me on this!

Pema Chödrön is a fully-ordained Buddhist nun and the resident teacher at Gampo Abbey in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. She is the author of The Wisdom of No Escape, Start Where You Are, When Things Fall Apart and The Places That Scare You.

Everybody Loves Something, Pema Chödrön, Shambhala Sun, March 1998.

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Compassion is a relationship between equals... Our capacity to love is
an unstoppable essence that when nurtured can expand without limit.
~ Pema Chödrön

In a world so torn apart by rivalry, anger, and hatred, we have the
privileged vocation to be living signs of a love that can
bridge all divisions and heal all wounds.
~ Henri Nouwen

Every act of love is a work of peace no matter how small.
~ Mother Teresa

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mothers' Day Proclamation: Julia Ward Howe, Boston, 1870

Mother's Day was originally started after the Civil War, as a protest to the carnage of that war, by women who had lost their sons. Here is the original Mother's Day Proclamation from 1870, followed by a bit of history (or should I say "herstory"):


Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether our baptism be that of water or of fears!

Say firmly: "We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.

We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says "Disarm, Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.

"Blood does not wipe our dishonor nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.

Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after their own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.

In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.

Julia Ward Howe
Boston 1870


Mother's Day for Peace - by Ruth Rosen.

Honor Mother with Rallies in the Streets. The holiday began in activism; it needs rescuing from commercialism and platitudes.

Every year, people snipe at the shallow commercialism of Mother's Day. But to ignore your mother on this holy holiday is unthinkable. And if you are a mother, you'll be devastated if your ingrates fail to honor you at least one day of the year.

Mother's Day wasn't always like this. The women who conceived Mother's Day would be bewildered by the ubiquitous ads that hound us to find that "perfect gift for Mom." They would expect women to be marching in the streets, not eating with their families in restaurants. This is because Mother's Day began as a holiday that commemorated women's public activism, not as a celebration of a mother's devotion to her family.

The story begins in 1858 when a community activist named Anna Reeves Jarvis organized Mothers' Works Days in West Virginia. Her immediate goal was to improve sanitation in Appalachian communities. During the Civil War, Jarvis pried women from their families to care for the wounded on both sides.Afterward she convened meetings to persuade men to lay aside their hostilities.

In 1872, Julia Ward Howe, author of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic",proposed an annual Mother's Day for Peace. Committed to abolishing war, Howe wrote: "Our husbands shall not come to us reeking with carnage... Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs".

For the next 30 years, Americans celebrated Mothers' Day for Peace on June 2.

Many middle-class women in the 19th century believed that they bore a special responsibility as actual or potential mothers to care for the casualties of society and to turn America into a more civilized nation. They played a leading role in the abolitionist movement to end slavery. In the following decades, they launched successful campaigns against lynching and consumer fraud and battled for improved working conditions for women and protection for children, public health services and social welfare assistance to the poor.To the activists, the connection between motherhood and the fight for social and economic justice seemed self-evident.

In 1913, Congress declared the second Sunday in May to be Mother's Day. By then, the growing consumer culture had successfully redefined women as consumers for their families. Politicians and businessmen eagerly enbraced the idea of celebrating the private sacrifices made by individual mothers. As the Florists' Review, the industry's trade journal, bluntly put it, "This was a holiday that could be exploited."

The new advertising industry quickly taught Americans how to honor their mothers - by buying flowers. Outraged by florists who were selling carnationsfor the exorbitant price of $1 a peice, Anna Jarvis' daughter undertook a campaigning against those who "would undermine Mother's Day with their greed."But she fought a losing battle. Within a few years, the Florists' Review triumphantly announced that it was "Miss Jarvis who was completely squelched."

Since then, Mother's Day has ballooned into a billion-dollar industry.

Americans may revere the idea of motherhood and love their own mothers, but not all mothers. Poor, unemployed mothers may enjoy flowers, but they also need child care, job training, health care, a higher minimum wage and paid parental leave. Working mothers may enjoy breakfast in bed, but they also need the kind of governmental assistance provided by every other industrialized society.

With a little imagination, we could restore Mother's Day as a holiday that celebrates women's political engagement in society. During the 1980's, some peace groups gathered at nuclear test sites on Mother's Day to protest the arms race. Today, our greatest threat is not from missiles but from our indifference toward human welfare and the health of our planet. Imagine, if you can, an annual Million Mother March in the nation's capital. Imagine a Mother's Day filled with voices demanding social and economic justice and a sustainable future, rather than speeches studded with syrupy platitudes.

Some will think it insulting to alter our current way of celebrating Mother's Day. But public activism does not preclude private expressions of love and gratitude. (Nor does it prevent people from expressing their appreciation all year round.)

Nineteenth century women dared to dream of a day that honored women's civil activism. We can do no less. We should honor their vision with civic activism.

Ruth Rosen is a professor of history at UC Davis

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Please also go here for Mother's Day For Peace video and more:

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Afghanistan Needs Troops of Doctors, Farmers, Teachers— Not More Troops!
~ From Women Say No To War Website

"You (Americans) are some of the most generous people on Earth. I can't
for the life of me understand why you don't want to export your generosity."
~ Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Speaking at the University of Portland, May 4, 2009

I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. Each of us must learn to work not just for oneself, one's own family or nation, but for the benefit of all humankind. Universal responsibility is the key to human survival. It is the best foundation for world peace.
~ H. H. the Dalai Lama

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Farewell, the American Century

Rewriting the Past by Adding In What's Been Left Out
by Andrew J. Bacevich

Published on Thursday, April 30, 2009 by
Includes Video

In a recent column, the Washington Post's Richard Cohen wrote, "What Henry Luce called 'the American Century' is over." Cohen is right. All that remains is to drive a stake through the heart of Luce's pernicious creation, lest it come back to life. This promises to take some doing.

When the Time-Life publisher coined his famous phrase, his intent was to prod his fellow citizens into action. Appearing in the February 7, 1941 issue of Life, his essay, "The American Century," hit the newsstands at a moment when the world was in the throes of a vast crisis. A war in Europe had gone disastrously awry. A second almost equally dangerous conflict was unfolding in the Far East. Aggressors were on the march.

With the fate of democracy hanging in the balance, Americans diddled. Luce urged them to get off the dime. More than that, he summoned them to "accept wholeheartedly our duty and our opportunity as the most powerful and vital nation in the world... to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence, for such purposes as we see fit and by such means as we see fit."

Read today, Luce's essay, with its strange mix of chauvinism, religiosity, and bombast ("We must now undertake to be the Good Samaritan to the entire world..."), does not stand up well. Yet the phrase "American Century" stuck and has enjoyed a remarkable run. It stands in relation to the contemporary era much as "Victorian Age" does to the nineteenth century. In one pithy phrase, it captures (or at least seems to capture) the essence of some defining truth: America as alpha and omega, source of salvation and sustenance, vanguard of history, guiding spirit and inspiration for all humankind.

In its classic formulation, the central theme of the American Century has been one of righteousness overcoming evil. The United States (above all the U.S. military) made that triumph possible. When, having been given a final nudge on December 7, 1941, Americans finally accepted their duty to lead, they saved the world from successive diabolical totalitarianisms. In doing so, the U.S. not only preserved the possibility of human freedom but modeled what freedom ought to look like.

Thank You, Comrades

So goes the preferred narrative of the American Century, as recounted by its celebrants.
The problems with this account are two-fold. First, it claims for the United States excessive credit. Second, it excludes, ignores, or trivializes matters at odds with the triumphal story-line.

The net effect is to perpetuate an array of illusions that, whatever their value in prior decades, have long since outlived their usefulness. In short, the persistence of this self-congratulatory account deprives Americans of self-awareness, hindering our efforts to navigate the treacherous waters in which the country finds itself at present. Bluntly, we are perpetuating a mythic version of the past that never even approximated reality and today has become downright malignant. Although Richard Cohen may be right in declaring the American Century over, the American people -- and especially the American political class -- still remain in its thrall.

Constructing a past usable to the present requires a willingness to include much that the American Century leaves out.

For example, to the extent that the demolition of totalitarianism deserves to be seen as a prominent theme of contemporary history (and it does), the primary credit for that achievement surely belongs to the Soviet Union. When it came to defeating the Third Reich, the Soviets bore by far the preponderant burden, sustaining 65% of all Allied deaths in World War II.

By comparison, the United States suffered 2% of those losses, for which any American whose father or grandfather served in and survived that war should be saying: Thank you, Comrade Stalin.

For the United States to claim credit for destroying the Wehrmacht is the equivalent of Toyota claiming credit for inventing the automobile. We entered the game late and then shrewdly scooped up more than our fair share of the winnings. The true "Greatest Generation" is the one that willingly expended millions of their fellow Russians while killing millions of German soldiers.

Hard on the heels of World War II came the Cold War, during which erstwhile allies became rivals. Once again, after a decades-long struggle, the United States came out on top.

Yet in determining that outcome, the brilliance of American statesmen was far less important than the ineptitude of those who presided over the Kremlin. Ham-handed Soviet leaders so mismanaged their empire that it eventually imploded, permanently discrediting Marxism-Leninism as a plausible alternative to liberal democratic capitalism. The Soviet dragon managed to slay itself. So thank you, Comrades Malenkov, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko, and Gorbachev.

Screwing the Pooch

What flag-wavers tend to leave out of their account of the American Century is not only the contributions of others, but the various missteps perpetrated by the United States -- missteps, it should be noted, that spawned many of the problems bedeviling us today.

The instances of folly and criminality bearing the label "made-in-Washington" may not rank up there with the Armenian genocide, the Bolshevik Revolution, the appeasement of Adolf Hitler, or the Holocaust, but they sure don't qualify as small change. To give them their due is necessarily to render the standard account of the American Century untenable.

Here are several examples, each one familiar, even if its implications for the problems we face today are studiously ignored:

Cuba. In 1898, the United States went to war with Spain for the proclaimed purpose of liberating the so-called Pearl of the Antilles. When that brief war ended, Washington reneged on its promise. If there actually has been an American Century, it begins here, with the U.S. government breaking a solemn commitment, while baldly insisting otherwise. By converting Cuba into a protectorate, the United States set in motion a long train of events leading eventually to the rise of Fidel Castro, the Bay of Pigs, Operation Mongoose, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and even today's Guantanamo Bay prison camp. The line connecting these various developments may not be a straight one, given the many twists and turns along the way, but the dots do connect.

The Bomb. Nuclear weapons imperil our existence. Used on a large scale, they could destroy civilization itself. Even now, the prospect of a lesser power like North Korea or Iran acquiring nukes sends jitters around the world. American presidents -- Barack Obama is only the latest in a long line -- declare the abolition of these weapons to be an imperative. What they are less inclined to acknowledge is the role the United States played in afflicting humankind with this scourge.

Andrew J. Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University. His most recent book, The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, is just out in paperback.

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"...No, we apologize to them, but for our own good -- to free ourselves from the accumulated conceits of the American Century and to acknowledge that the United States participated fully in the barbarism, folly, and tragedy that defines our time. For those sins, we must hold ourselves accountable... To solve our problems requires that we see ourselves as we really are. And that requires shedding, once and for all, the illusions embodied in the American Century." ~ Andrew Bacevich