One of my favorite contemplative quotes is, “love will heal you from the roots of sin,” from The Cloud of Unknowing. It is short and to the point, written by an anonymous Medieval Christian mystic. I think of sin less as my personal foibles and follies and more as that which harms and causes suffering — pain inflected on myself, others, or the world. I think it helps to view sin this way because it makes sin less about a showdown between myself and an angry god and more about the core of the issue: addressing the suffering and exploitation in the world. When I take sin too personally, I tend to become (ironically) a bit narcissistic, too self centered. When I view sin more holistically, more in terms of suffering and inflicting pain, then I am inspired by the antidote: love. Love is healing. Healing repairs suffering and seeks to end oppression, domination, and violent exploitation. Love heals us from the roots of sin. Love is a lifestyle and Way-of-Being that we slowly cultivate. It takes work but it brings healing.
I’m ramping up for doing some serious writing. My seasonal Alaska work is coming to a close at the end of this month, and this frees me up for a good many months of writing. I’ve got around five books I’d love to write, but I’ll try to take it one at a time…or maybe two at a time. =) In any event, I came across this Don DeLillo quote that really resonated with me:
DeLillo has described his fiction as being concerned with “living in dangerous times”, and in a 2005 interview declared, “Writers must oppose systems. It’s important to write against power, corporations, the state, and the whole system of consumption and of debilitating entertainments [...] I think writers, by nature, must oppose things, oppose whatever power tries to impose on us.”via Don DeLillo – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
One of the keys to spiritual growth (as well as mental health) is not to identify with our thoughts, feelings and other sensations. Think of how toddlers and small children can get completely lost in their feelings: they feel angry so they rage, or feeling hurt they will ball their eyes out for what seems like hours. Part of maturity is allowing our sensations to come and go. This doesn’t mean stuffing things inside. It means fully experiencing strong feelings but reminding ourselves that however strong they are, I am not identified and need not get overwhelmed by them. We can say (as James Finley puts it), “I am not my thoughts/feelings/sensations but I am not other than my thoughts/feelings/sensations.” This is a very healthy paradox that allows us to fully experience our inner world without allowing ourselves to be swallowed up by it. I seem to come back to this on a daily basis in my spiritual practice; it is one of the leading ideas that helps put my inner world into perspective.
A very short article that puts some things in perspective regarding the insane status of football stars (and those who profit from the biz): “Now, after the AP’s report that the NFL received and sat on the video of Ray Rice’s elevator altercation, people are talking about what Commissioner Goodell needs to do to salvage football’s reputation. But I’m sort of confused what we’re salvaging here…Salvaging football’s reputation has been the problem all along. “Think of the program” is the kind of thinking that protected Jerry Sandusky far too long. Protect the reputation. Protect the illusion.This is a pretend-game. Obviously. All sports are pretend-games. Nothing is more deadly serious than things that are ultimately, like football, frivolous. You pretend that things that don’t matter, matter — white lines on turf, a brown leather ball. You pretend that things that do matter — real lives, real people, a woman stunned and groggy in an elevator — don’t.”
There’s nothing wrong with sports, fantasy, illusion, fiction, and virtual reality. But when they assume the status that the football and other sports have, when these games concentrate wealth and create privileged castes, and when these fictitious entertainment bubbles insulate people from being held accountable for hurting others, then it is time to pop the bubble and deconstruct the fantasy.
One of my favorite mantras is “always be a beginner.” Shunryu Suzuki emphasizes this in his book “Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind.” The goal of meditation or spiritual practice is not to become advanced or to master the practice but to practice being a humble and enthusiastic beginner. Simplicity and sincerity are all I need for each practice and for each challenge of each day. Always be a beginner.
I often forget how refreshing it is to dedicate my meditation practice to others — to someone specific like a friend or my nieces and nephews, to a group of people who are suffering somewhere in the world, to animals who are abused, or just to give my practice to the whole world. This frame of mind motivates me because it makes my spiritual practice about something much greater than myself. My growth is better for the world and for my family and friends. With each sitting, day after day, I become just a little bit more grounded, a tad bit more compassionate, and I inch toward being more gracious. Though tedious at times, spiritual practices are an indispensable part of helping to contribute to a better world.
An encouraging article on sustainable projects being implemented around the world.
“…human consumption has exceeded our planet’s capacity to regenerate…It is now estimated that 86% of the world’s population live in countries that require more from nature than their ecosystems can provide. According to the Global Footprint Network, if everybody were to live like Americans, it would take four Earths to support the global population. The U.S. was ranked 33 on the 2014 environmental performance index (EPI). Consequently, several countries have begun to adopt the ecological footprint model, which demonstrates the energy and resources consumed in each country per person to raise awareness and educate populations about resource demand…”
Click on the link below to see the kinds of sustainable practices that other nations are implementing. It is important, I think, in the U.S. to realize that there are a lot of amazing possibilities for sustainable living. Right now we are stuck in a rut, chained to an old way of living that doesn’t inspire the next generation. But if we were to put our collective energies into building a sustainable economy, we could create something far more beautiful and life giving.
Photo note: Taken two days ago. Fall colors are gorgeous here in McCarthy.
Finally, A Simple Plan That Can Reverse Inequality and Save America’s Sinking Middle-Class | Alternet
There are more alternatives to the status quo than most people realize. There are many ideas percolating out there, aiming to bring more equality and opportunity to average folks. One such idea is to use common wealth (wealth that belongs to all of us) and spread it around to all people rather than funneling it straight up to the wealthy aristocrats. Thomas Paine advocated for something like this, and here in Alaska, we have one such form of “pre-distribution” of income at work. The Permanent Dividend Fund is universally valued and appreciated.
“There’s nothing in this that would run counter to conservative principles and the notion of property rights. There’s no tax increases. There’s no increase in government bureaucracy. There’s no redistribution…I prefer to think of what this system would be as a kind of predistribution. In other words, the government isn’t taking money from anybody, but it’s assuring that income is distributed more fairly in the first place.” – Peter Barnes via Finally, A Simple Plan That Can Reverse Inequality and Save America’s Sinking Middle-Class | Alternet. Barnes has a new book out, With Liberty and Dividends for All.
Hiking up in the clouds. Lots of mountains here in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.
Destination: Bonanza mine. This was one of the mines that was a part of the most lucrative and profitable copper mining ventures of all time. And behind me in this picture are the ruins.
Fall in McCarthy, AK. The leaves are changing early this year and there is a chill in the air.
It isn’t overt racism that is the problem. Most of us deplore it, regardless of our political differences. The challenge of our day is to counter the subconscious racism that has been instilled in our minds over the course of hundreds of years of social conditioning. From the perspective of neuropsychology, our brains are wired to respond to perceived threats. That’s natural. Scientific. Sadly, however, we have been trained to perceive black men as threatening. This is our reality, and we must own it. This article has some interesting facts to consider in this regard.
“Research in the last couple of decades suggests that the problem is not so much overt racists. Rather, the larger problem is a broad swath of people who consider themselves enlightened, who intellectually believe in racial equality, who deplore discrimination, yet who harbor unconscious attitudes that result in discriminatory policies and behavior.”
Near to McCarthy are a pair of glaciers. They are easily accessible. With a pair of cramp-ons, a hiker can hop on top and walk around on the glacier in search of cool little blue ponds and other interesting formations.
I may have just become a big fan of the Lord of the Rings. I was having a discussion with my boss wherein I was advancing my libertarian/anarchist position: that the centralization of power is a root of all kinds of evil. So it just now dawns on me that this is what Tolkien is doing in his books. Centralized power is represented by One Ring To Rule Them All. The bad guys and the good guys fight to have the Ring. The bad guys want to use the Ring to rule over others and exploit them. They are destructive and want power for the sake of power…..And the good guys? Why do they want the Ring?
Really interesting article on how we subconsciously judge each other based on our names. Instructive to me is the fact that we are conditioned to judge if they have racial-specific names. Again, this all takes place at the subconscious level. So, awareness is key.
From the article: “Teachers tend to hold lower expectations for students with typically black-sounding names while they set high expectations for students with typically white- and Asian-sounding names. And this early assessment of students’ abilities could influence students’ expectations for themselves….”
I went out for target practice with my friend Dave a few days ago. We took this NRA good ole boy picture, and I faded the color to make it look like 1974. Yes, I advocate for more gun control and law enforcement of gun laws, but I also live in Alaska, and there are many guns in this state.