Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sharon Salzberg: Force of Kindness


Many of us long for an underlying sense of meaning, something we can still believe in no matter what happens to us, a navigational force to pull all the disparate pieces of our lives together into some kind of whole. Perhaps we find ourselves feeling helpless when even a little too much of the unexpected occurs, defenseless when we find we don’t have control over a situation and can’t fathom what might happen next, unsure of where to turn when we aren’t having the positive effect we want with a troubled family member or a friend. In any of these circumstances, and in so many more, we shut down. Then we go through the motions of our day, day after day, without much dynamism or spirit. 

Many of us experience ourselves as fragmented, perhaps as confident and expressive when we are with our families but a completely different person when we are at work, frequently hesitant and unsure. Perhaps we take risks when we are with others but are timid when alone, or are cozily comfortable when alone yet are painfully shy and withdrawn when with others. Or maybe we drift along with the tides of circumstance, going up and down, not knowing what we might really care about more than anything else, but thinking there must be something.

To explore kindness as that thread of meaning requires finding out if we can be strong and still be kind, be smart and still be kind, whether we can be profoundly kind to ourselves and at the same time strongly dedicated to kindness for those around us. We have to find the power in kindness, the confidence in kindness, the release in kindness; the type of kindness that transcends belief systems, allegiances, ideologies, cliques, and tribes. This is the trait that can transform our lives.

Kindness is the fuel that helps us truly “walk our talk” of love, a quality so easy to speak about or extol but often so hard to make real. It helps us to genuinely care for one another and for ourselves as well. Kindness is the foundation of unselfconscious generosity, natural inclusivity, and an unfeigned integrity. When we are devoted to the development of kindness, it becomes our ready response, so that reacting from compassion, from caring, is not a question of giving ourselves a lecture: “I don’t really feel like it, but I’d better be helpful, or what would people think.” When we are devoted to the development of kindness, we are no longer forcing ourselves into a mold we think we have to occupy; rather, it becomes a movement of the heart so deep and subtle that it is like a movement of the sea close to the ocean floor, all but hidden yet affecting absolutely everything that happens above. That’s the force of kindness.


- Sharon Salzberg

Please go here for the original article:


David Whyte: What to Remember When Waking

 
In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake,
coming back to this life from the other
more secret, moveable and frighteningly honest world
where everything began,
there is a small opening into the new day
which closes the moment you begin your plans.

What you can plan is too small for you to live.
What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough
for the vitality hidden in your sleep.

To be human is to become visible
while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.
To remember the other world in this world
is to live in your true inheritance.

You are not a troubled guest on this earth,
you are not an accident amidst other accidents
you were invited from another and greater night
than the one from which you have just emerged.

Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?

Is it waiting in the fertile sea?
In the trees beyond the house?
In the life you can imagine for yourself?
In the open and lovely white page on the writing desk?

- David Whyte
 

Gregory Orr: It's Not Magic


It's not magic; it isn't a trick.
Every breath is a resurrection.
And when we hear the poem
Which is the world, when our eyes
Gaze at the beloved's body,
We're reborn in all the sacred parts
Of our own bodies:
the heart
Contracts, the brain
Releases its shower
Of sparks,
and the tear
Embarks on its pilgrimage
Down the cheek to meet
The smiling mouth.
 
- Gregory Orr
  

Friday, May 29, 2015

Chris Hedges: Choosing Life


AP / Carrie Antlfinger
MINISINK, N.Y.—The affable, soft-spoken dairy farmer stood outside his 70-stall milking barn on his 230-acre family farm. When his father started farming there in 1950 were about 800 dairy farms in New York state’s Orange County. Only 39 survive. Small, traditional farms have been driven out of business by rising real estate prices, genetic manipulation of cows, industrial-scale hormone use that greatly increases milk production, wildly fluctuating milk prices and competition from huge operations that have herds numbering in the thousands.

For a look at conditions in large-scale dairy farming, click here, scroll down to a picture of an array of meats under a heading that begins “Watch undercover videos ...” and activate the video above the words “Milk Cow.”
I grew up in the dairy farm town of Schoharie in upstate New York. The farmers would let me pick through the rocks in their stone walls as I searched for fossils of Crinoid stems, Trilobites, Eurypterids and Brachiopods. I was in numerous cow barns and pastures as a boy. I have a deep respect for the hard life of small dairy farmers. They are up at 5 or 6 in the morning for the first milking, work all day and milk the cows again in the late afternoon. This goes on seven days a week. They rarely take vacations. And their finances are precarious.

When I was in Minisink recently it was the first time I had been on a dairy farm as a vegan. I do not eat meat. I do not eat eggs. I do not consume dairy products. I no longer accept that cows must be repeatedly impregnated to give us milk, must be separated immediately from their newborns and ultimately must be slaughtered long before the end of their natural lives to produce low-grade hamburger, leather, glue, gelatin and pet food. I can no longer accept calves being raised in horrific conditionsbefore they are killed for the veal industry, developed to profit from the many “useless” males born because dairy farms regularly impregnate cows to ensure continuous milk production.

Once the right of the powerful to exploit the powerless—whether that exploitation is of animals by humans, other nations by an imperial power, other races by the white race, or women by men—once that right is removed from our belief system, blinders are lifted. On my visit to rural New York state I saw dairy farming in a new way—as a business that depends on the enslavement of the female reproductive systems of animals, animals that feel pain, suffer and love their young.

“As long as they keep breeding back they [the cows] can stay here,” the farmer said to me as he stood in mud-splattered rubber boots. “That is three to four lactations. We get a few that get up to eight or nine lactations. They don’t calve until they are 2-year-olds. You add about four lactations to that and it is about seven years. We try to breed for better production. The biggest reason for cows leaving the herd is not breeding back. Then we send them to a livestock market and they are sold for beef.”

The normal life span of a cow is 20 to 25 years. The life span of a cow on a dairy farm, one whose reproductive system is often speeded up through administering hormones such as estrogen and prostaglandin, is five to seven years. At points during the final four or five years of their lives, ovulating cows are restrained in a “rape rack” and inseminated with a sperm gun that is thrust deep into their vaginas. Once their milk productivity decreases, usually after a few pregnancies, they are killed.

Please continue this article here:  http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/choosing_life_20150419

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Martin Luther King, Jr.: A True Revolution Of Values

A little girl points out of the window of her dilapidated home in one of the states of America's Gulf Coast*

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere... A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. 

- Martin Luther King, Jr.

*********

*Liss's photographers have travelled around the country – shooting 
everywhere from California to New York, and Minnesota to Texas – 
to expose poverty in the US.

Chris Hedges: The Pathology of the Rich White Family


  Portraits of former Presidents George W. Bush, left, and George H.W. Bush, his father, part of the show “The Art of Leadership: A President’s Diplomacy.” The exhibit of portraits of world leaders by the younger Bush are on display at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas and runs through June 3.(AP / Benny Snyder)

The pathology of the rich white family is the most dangerous pathology in America. The rich white family is cursed with too much money and privilege. It is devoid of empathy, the result of lifetimes of entitlement. It has little sense of loyalty and lacks the capacity for self-sacrifice. Its definition of friendship is reduced to “What can you do for me?” It is possessed by an insatiable lust to increase its fortunes and power. It believes that wealth and privilege confer to it a superior intelligence and virtue. It is infused with an unchecked hedonism and narcissism. And because of all this, it interprets reality through a lens of self-adulation and greed that renders it delusional. The rich white family is a menace. The pathologies of the poor, when set against the pathologies of rich white people, are like a candle set beside the sun.

There are no shortages of acolytes and propagandists for rich white families. They dominate our airwaves. They blame poverty, societal breakdown, urban violence, drug use, domestic abuse and crime on the pathology of poor black families—not that they know any. They argue that poor black families disintegrate because of some inherent defect—here you can read between the lines that white people are better than black people—a defect that these poor families need to fix.

Peddle this simplistic and racist garbage and you will be given a column at The New York Times. It always pays to suck up to rich white families. If you are black and parrot this line, rich white people are overcome with joy. They go to extreme lengths to give you a platform. You can become president or a Supreme Court justice. You can get a television talk show or tenure at a university. You can get money for your foundation. You can publish self-help books. Your films will be funded. You might even be hired to run a company.

Rich white families, their sycophants opine, have tried to help. Rich white families have given poor people numerous resources and government programs to lift them out of poverty. They have provided generous charity. But blacks, they say, along with other poor people of color, are defeated by self-destructive attitudes and behavior. Government programs are therefore wasted on these irresponsible people. Poor families, the sycophants tell us, will not be redeemed until they redeem themselves. We want to help, rich white people say, but poor black people need to pull up their pants, stay in school, get an education, find a job, say no to drugs and respect authority. If they don’t, they deserve what they get. And what the average black family ends up with in economic terms is a nickel for every dollar held by the average white family.

Starting at age 10 as a scholarship student at an elite New England boarding school, I was forced to make a study of the pathology of rich white families. It was not an experience I would recommend. Years later, by choice, I moved to Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood when I was a seminary student. I lived across the street from one of the poorest housing projects in the city, and I ran a small church in the inner city for nearly three years. I already had a deep distaste for rich white families, and that increased greatly after I saw what they did to the disenfranchised. Rich white people, I concluded after my childhood and Roxbury experiences, are sociopaths.

The misery and collapse of community and family in Roxbury were not caused by an inherent pathology within the black family. Rich people who treated the poor like human refuse caused the problems. Layers of institutionalized racism—the courts, the schools, the police, the probation officers, the banks, the easy access to drugs, the endemic unemployment and underemployment, the collapsing infrastructures and the prison system—effectively conspired to make sure the poor remained poor. Drug use, crime and disintegrating families are the result of poverty, not race. Poor whites replicate this behavior. Take away opportunity, infuse lives with despair and hopelessness, and this is what you get. But that is something rich white families do not want people to know. If it were known, the rich would have to take the blame.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tara Brach: Awakening Self-Compassion


Awakening self-compassion is often the greatest challenge 
people face on the spiritual path.
 

Tara Brach: Opening To the Vulnerability Of Our Own Hearts


The intimacy that arises in listening and speaking truth is only possible if we can open to the vulnerability of our own hearts. Breathing in, contacting the life that is right here, is our first step. Once we have held ourselves with kindness, we can touch others in a vital and healing way.
 

 

Monday, May 25, 2015

2015 Memorial Day: Praying for Peace While Waging Permanent War?

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'Only when we work for the day when the US is no longer the world leader in war,' writes Quigley, 'will we have the right to pray for peace on Memorial Day.' (Photo: Shawn Harquail/flickr/cc)
Memorial Day is, by federal law, a day of prayer for permanent peace. But is it possible to honestly pray for peace while our country is far and away number one in the world in waging war, military presence, military spending and the sale of weapons around the world? 

Permanent War

Since 1980 the US has engaged in aggressive military action in 14 countries in the Islamic world alone, according to research published in the Washington Post:  Iran (1980, 1987-1988), Libya (1981, 1986, 1989, 2011), Lebanon (1983), Kuwait (1991), Iraq (1991-2011, 2014-), Somalia (1992-1993, 2007-), Bosnia (1995), Saudi Arabia (1991, 1996), Afghanistan (1998, 2001-), Sudan (1998), Kosovo (1999), Yemen (2000, 2002-), Pakistan (2004-) and now Syria.  In this hemisphere, US military forces invaded Grenada (1983) and Panama (1989), and landed 20,000 military forces in Haiti (1994).

US Global War Machine

The US has 1.3 million people in the military and another million serve in the military reserves.  The US has over 700 military bases in 63 countries across the world deploying over 255,000 US military personnel there.  The Department of Defense officially manages over 555,000 buildings on 4400 properties inside the US and in over 700 properties across the globe.   The US has over 1500 strategic nuclear warheads, over 13,000 military aircraft,  dozens of submarines, many of which carry nuclear weapons, and 88 huge destroyer warships.  

Global Harm

Nearly 7000 US military people died as a result of the wars waged by the US since 9/11.  Just as important, in Iraq over 216,000 combatants, most of them civilians, have died since the 2003 invasion.   No one even counted civilian deaths in Afghanistan for the first five yearsof our war there.  Our drone attacks have murdered hundreds of children and hundreds of civilian adults in Pakistan and dozens more in Yemen.   

World Leader in War Spending

US military spending is about the same as the total of military spending by the next eight largest countries combined, that is more than China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, UK, India and Germany combined.  

Since 9/11 US spending on our military cost well over $3 trillion.  Direct combat and reconstruction costs for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq since 9/11 have officially cost US taxpayers $1.6 trillion dollars according to the Congressional Research Service.   Additional trillions have been spent on growing the Pentagon budget and for present and future increased health and disability benefits for veterans.

The US military captures 55 percent of our national discretionary spending and spending on veterans benefits is another 6 percent.  Since 9/11 military spending has increased by 50 percent while spending on other discretionary domestic spending increased by 13 percentaccording to the National Priorities Project.

Corporate War Profiteers

With these trillions being spent on war, there are legions of corporations profiting.

The number one war profiteer is Lockheed Martin, according to USA Today, with annual arms sales of $36 billion.  Not surprisingly Lockheed Martin spends over $14 million a year lobbying the people who make the decisions about how much money is spent on weapons and which weapons will be purchased.  Their CEO is paid over $15 million, according to their 2015 shareholder report, and on their board is James Ellis, a former Admiral and Commander in Chief of US Strategic Air Command, who gets paid over $277,000 for the part time work and James Loy, former Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, who gets over $260,000 for his part time work.  Lockheed receives substantial government contracts amounting, by one calculation, to over $260 from each taxpaying household in the US.  They are so entitled that a 2014 special investigation by the US Department of Energyfound Lockheed used taxpayer funds to lobby for more taxpayer funds.

Number two war profiteer is Boeing with annual arms sales of $31 billion.  Boeings spendsover $16 million a year lobbying. The rest of the top ten corporations profiting from warinclude BAE Systems, General Dynamics, Raytheon, EADS, Finmeccanica, L-3 Communications, and United Technologies.  You can track their corporate contributions to members of Congress, especially the politicians on the Appropriations Committees of the House and Senate on Open Secrets.

While most of the lobbying money has gone to Republicans, all the arms merchants hire lobbyists who can influence Democrats and Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

And these war profiteers do not just sell to the US government.  The US sold more than $26 billion in weapons to foreign nations and has been number one for a long time though recently that title has been going back and forth with Russia as to which is the world biggest international arms merchant.

On Imperishable Honor and Glory

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Korea 1950. Photo by Al Chang/AP

The world's leading war maker marks another Memorial Day, ostensibly a day of prayer for peace that too often betrays those "not fallen but pushed" in our ceaseless wars. Among others, Howard Zinn long cited the day's "hypocritical patriotism" and urged, "Let us not set out on the same old drunken ride to death." Fiercely echoing him long before was MarkTwain and Siegfried Sassoon; later have been  the veterans of Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan. Perhaps the most anguished call "for these who die like cattle" came from World War One's Wilfred Owen, killed a week before the Armistice. In his "Anthem for Doomed Youth" and "Dulce et Decorum Est," thought to have been written between  October 1917 and March 1918, Owen savagely took on the "old lie" that, in the Latin source, "It is sweet and right to die for your country."

DULCE ET DECORUM EST

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, 
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, 
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs 
And towards our distant rest began to trudge. 
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots 
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind; 
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling, 
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time; 
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling, 
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime... 
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light, 
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. 
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, 
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. 
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace 
Behind the wagon that we flung him in, 
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, 
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin; 
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood 
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, 
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, 
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory, 
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est 
Pro patria mori.