Sunday, June 20, 2021

LOVE… The Only Cure!


                                           Norman Rockwell Mosaic “Golden Rule”

The ultimate expression of our wholeness as individuals and as communal entities is seen and heard and experienced in acts of loving

I am not just speaking about the romantic notions of being together with which we are all familiar. Romance has most certainly earned its place in any discussion of “love”. It is in fact the seasoning without which the experience of companionship becomes bland - as in dull and unremarkable. Romance is the sugar and the salt and the pepper necessary to “ spice things up” in our intimate relationships. As such it is the engine at work in the joyousness that enhances our procreative efforts. It informs and generates the potency necessary for the execution of the desires of our hearts. 

All detractors aside - romance is nice, but it is just one of the agencies through which we express our need to be connected to one another. Let us therefore not limit our understanding of Love to the efforts we engage in the achievement of our most intimate desires. Unfortunately what many deduce when the words “I love you” proceed from the mouth of many, is the desire to selfishly exploit the human need for intimacy. Love is, and must be more than just that. 

In its most radical form, Love is an unconditional commitment to what is just. Just… as in even-handed, fair, equitable, morally right, and decent. We will not always like each other. We may not always tickle each other’s fancy. Sometimes we will get on the wrong side of those with whom we share some identifiably common ground. But even then the radical propensity of Love compels us to conduct ourselves in our relationship with one another as we would expect to be treated. 

This altruistic nature of Love is summarized in 1Corinthians 13 verses 4-7:

 “Love is patient and kind; does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 

In a poem titled “Clear Now” I found myself ruminating on the above notions. Allow me, if you will, to quote myself:

“We feel so much

That we cannot touch…

We say so little

With so many words…

And then it happens…

And then it is clear…

Sensations cease…superfluous

Words too…

All inadequate in expressing

That one thing we try to do

With words and bumbling acts…

And we discover

That to love

Is to allow Love

To have its way with us…

Not us to have our way

With each other…”

Yes, to love… and to be in Love, is to give ourselves and our most basic instincts over to a Higher Principle - some say God. I agree with the writer of 1 John. “No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his/her Love is brought to full expression in us”. - (1 John 4 vs 12). This Love is meaningfully expressed as Humility, Patience, Kindness, Forgiveness, Faithfulness, Benevolence… . These qualities become the agencies that facilitate the meaningful operation of this dynamic among us. The absence of these qualities renders impotent all the Love-related rituals and utterances that effectively replace real service to one another with lip-service.

Our lives take on a whole new dimension, and we come into the experience of a whole new range of possibilities for living when we spend time and effort cultivating these qualities. Our hearts and our minds will expand in ways we never thought possible, and we will become the beneficiaries of a more wholesome world when we begin to live in Love. 

This expansion happens when we set out each day to do no harm… When compassion becomes the hallmark of our existence… When doing the work of justice and loving mercy becomes the reason we breathe… When faithfulness facilitates the forgiveness we all need, and that we need to extend to one another… When humility replaces that crass self-aggrandizement that fosters corruption… When we practice a benevolence that neutralizes our self-serving approach to charity…

When we can live like that… When we can love like that… When we can be like thatThen we will realize… then we will bring into being the season of existential wholeness our world so desperately longs for. Then, and only then will we discover that place in our experience where our humanity and our divinity intersect.

Love working its will in us and through us, has the power to heal us. It fills the empty spaces in us that are created by the many hurts and disappointments that will inevitably be a part of our life-journey. It chips away at the ragged edges that result from the many assaults on our fragile egos, and that cause unnecessary friction in the course of our interactions with one another. It replaces the poison we build up from fear-induced fatigue, and it replenishes our being with a novel vitality. 

Love has the power to make us better persons. It is the antidote we need so we may address the existential malaise that results from the sting of hatred to which we are constantly subjected in a conflict oriented culture. Many are the prescriptions that are presented as ready fixes to the problems confronting us in our world; but Love remains yet the only viable cure for the brokenness that haunts us, and which sabotages all our efforts to establish truly peaceful and prosperous lives. 

If you are exhausted from your search for a more balanced and truly meaningful life, this may be the season to …let Love have its way with you.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Clear Now

We feel so much

That we cannot touch…

We say so little

With so many words…

And then it happens…

And then it is clear…

Sensations cease…superfluous

Words too…

All inadequate in expressing

That one thing we try to do

With words and bumbling acts…

And we discover

That to love

Is to allow love

To have its way with us…

Not us to have our way

With each other…

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Blessings and Curses... Venerable Notions for Our Modern Times



We give to the world around us everything that we are and everything that we become. We touch each other’s lives in ways that we are, for the most part, not conscious of. Intentionally or not, we have an impact on the ocean of human experience that surrounds us not unlike that of the pebble dropped into the liquidity of the many moments that become our lifetime. We touch, and are touched in return by the presence and dynamism of all those, and all things with whom and with which we occupy time and space.

The awareness of this reality should cause us to be more conscientious about how we live our lives. Not that we should force upon ourselves the innumerable variations of the human experience in ways that would negatively constrain us. No… We can acknowledge the variety of our experiences as a fact of life, and at the same time allow ourselves the liberating joyousness of lives well lived. The ability to do so is encapsulated in a notably timeless formula. That formula finds expression in the wisdom that implores us to “do unto others as we would have them do unto us”.

Those who refuse to be guided by this timeless piece of wisdom become the creatures and servants of the dysfunction which causes malice among us, and consequently chaos. The resulting inhumanity that we display toward others, and our disregard for the creative/generative capacities of the world we inhabit, renders impossible the very possibility of a durable community. It invalidates our justification for being, and renders unviable all our attempts at creating the kind of domestic tranquility that we seek to establish as an ongoing fact of our lives. 

Blessings and Curses are not outdated notions that we can now ignore. They are constructs of the perspectives that we operationalize as a result of the quality of our engagement with each other and with our environment. They are as real as our experience of joy and sorrow… of pleasure and pain.

Curses, we may say, are the flaming arrows of an unforgiving bow. They can strike and keep us down. They can hurt and eventually destroy us via the wrath of their ragged edges. Curses force their way into the vulnerable souls of those who become their victims, and they disable the vital systems that make us viable human beings. 

Out of an assumption that we can manufacture our own best interests through the misery we cause in the lives of others, we create illusions that invariably come back to haunt us. The seeds of distress that we sow produce a harvest of sorrows. We get back that which we seek to give… in double measures. The curses we intend for others boomerang, that is their nature, and we reap in their wake a harvest of hurt. Do not wish upon others that which you would not want for yourself. The delusion that we can escape the harvest of our own dysfunction is just that… an ill-informed myth that the true story of our shared humanity has debunked in its entirety.

Blessings on the other hand, are like beautiful melodies. They join forces with the Wind to give our spirits needed wings. Blessings lift us up like Love expressed… and they inspire us to rise to our fullest potential. Blessings generate the joy expressed in an open smile. They build up in us healing resources that we can benefit from, and then share with those around who are in need of restoration.

We can choose to live our lives in a way that validates the claim of others to all the benefits of our shared humanity.  There is no greater Blessing than that which comes with this kind of Livity. What is “Livity” you ask? Livity is a spiritual concept espoused by those who seek an alternative to a worn-out religiosity and its culturally hollow formulations.

“Livity is the Rastafarian concept of righteous, everliving living. Its essence is the realization that an energy or life-force, conferred by Almighty Jah (God), exists within, and flows through, all people and all living things. This energy is the presence of Jah living within us, and is often expressed in Rastafarian vocabulary as "I and I", where the first "I" refers to the Almighty, the second "I" for oneself. A primary goal in Rastafarian meditation is maintaining awareness of I and I.” - Wikipedia —*{Now you know… Add this concept to your existential vocabulary.}*

In its anthropological application the appeal of “I and Isupersedes its context as a basis for talking about our relationship to or with any god. In the post-colonial world that gave birth to the necessity to re-examine our theology, it was a rebuke to what the philosopher Martin Buber describes as the I /it conundrum of an oppressive society. You see, I and I challenged the social structure of oppression by destroying the very foundation of all “Supremacy”. No one was superior to another person… not by virtue of race, or gender, or nationality, or possessions. “I and I was not just about one’s relationship to a god, it was now a declaration for equality and justice in the relationship between You and I! Thus was articulated the end of cultural imperialism and all forms of oppression. 

Rasta Livity for iver!! (forever that is) - - - Remember the feeling you got from helping an elder across a busy intersection… Remember the joy of a gift needed, and given, and well received… Remember the upliftment of a heartfelt “Thank you!”… Remember the satisfaction you experience every time you are able to complete a day of worthwhile work. Remember the empowerment that becomes your birthright when you embrace a commitment to preserve the sacredness of this shared space in the universe that we call home...Earth... by being just in all that you do. Let us live our lives in a way that blesses others, and the world. In so doing we shield ourselves from the raging arrows of a cursed existence. Now hear this...

Thursday, December 31, 2020

It’s The Season To Be Jolly

 It’s the season to be jolly.

Of course there are many reasons we can point to in an effort to negate this sentiment. You name them, and I will say you have a point. But after all these have been listed I will be silent in due recognition of their validity, and then I’ll declare again… It’s the season to be jolly!

Life throws us many curves - some bring us a sense of joy and imbue us with a sense of enthusiasm, others generate a sense of sadness and melancholy. At the end of the day we have a responsibility to determine which set of circumstances we will allow greater play in the ongoing adventure which is our life.

No one can determine for us which set of circumstances will become the template for our social and spiritual existence, but Wisdom dictates that we should choose that course of being that will result in the good health of ourselves and those who are part of the world in which we live. To do otherwise is to bring grief and pain where these could very well be avoided. To be sure, we, for reasons that are myriad, do not always choose according to the dictates of Wisdom. We make crazy choices based on the fragility of our egos… and we inevitably suffer the consequences. Oh that we would disengage from such egoisms. 

I do not know what the circumstances are that will determine what choices you make. I am not privy to the foibles of our fragile egos. Of one thing I am convinced however… our destinies, for better or worse, are the end product of the choices we make from one small circumstance to the next. Choose wisely.

The sentiments we cultivate become flesh and live themselves out in our lives. The many seasons of our lives teach us about the wisdom of good choices on the one hand, and the painful folly of bad choices. A season to be jolly is by consensus the wise choice at this time of year. Give yourself permission to live into it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Shake The Foundations!

The Black Lives Matter mural on Hamilton Avenue in front of Palo Alto’s City Hall, California 

Drought Broken... Shaking Our World to its Very Foundation 

It is frightening…

The raw unfettered life-giving energy of lightning

With its spontaneous thunder

Breaks the air…

And speaks in violent monotones

To earth and sky and sea…

And all that in these dwell

The living…And the dead

It is quickening…

The juice of life that falls upon us

Without distinguishing the just from the unjust…

It quenches the thirsty ground

And grows with ever increasing fecundity

The seeds of men and beasts...

And all that for these dwell

Of living…And of dead

It is frightening…

It is quickening…

The raw unfettered juice of Life

That falls upon us

Distinguishing between the living and the dead…

It breaks the fear…

And makes us speak as authentic beings

To earth and sea and sky

And all that in these dwell

As living souls who have come to know the fecundity of freedom...

Souls who no longer

Allow our seeds to fall…And perish…

On what for some…is fertile ground

With freedom comes the quickening

Of an otherwise fettered life…

And they will know the frightening

Who once maintained the strife…

It is violently magnificent

This flash and its accompanying roar… Of truth

That signals the abolition of all the codes

That keep those in their place

Who for one reason…or other

Suffer for the inequities of their ancestors 

Emancipation comes to all

Who by omission or commission

Are residents of those barb-wired spaces in time…

Till now they have only existed…

And now…Now they are...

Quickened from the dead… they live again...

And the sounds of drums you hear

Are amplified reproductions of their hearts’ beats

We know that freedom is no gift

So we dance in celebration of our birthright…

Speak my heart…Shake my world

Shake my world of its complacency…

Rid my world of its indecency…

Speak my heart…

Cause the spark that starts a fire

Build a ladder that takes me higher...

Higher than the fear

That keeps my soul impounded…

That keeps my spirit grounded…

Speak my heart… 

Cause my feet to listen

Inspire my hands to clear the way

That leads to the place

Where the lightning is stored…

Speak my heart… Speak and I will listen

Awaken now and quicken the living and the dead…

Break the drought that makes of my world

The valley… of the shadow of death

Break free my heart… And quench this parched place in my soul…

Guide my feet to the place… Where living waters flow.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Our Brother John Lewis

A few years ago I sat with my wife in an audience at Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia, as Congressman John Lewis gave the Convocation Address to the thousands of incoming students and their families and friends gathered there to mark the start of their careers as college students. Our youngest son Trei was a part of this class.

The Congressman is a great example of someone who refused to live in the mold prescribed by the prevailing socio-historical circumstances into which he was born. He had to overcome much in his own experience…  And he did. 

The following is an excerpt from the biography published on his website:
He was born the son of sharecroppers on February 21, 1940, outside of Troy, Alabama.  He grew up on his family’s farm and attended segregated public schools in Pike County, Alabama.  As a young boy, he was inspired by the activism surrounding the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., which he heard on radio broadcasts.  In those pivotal moments, he made a decision to become a part of the Civil Rights Movement. Ever since then, he has remained at the vanguard of progressive social movements and the human rights struggle in the United States.
As a student at Fisk University, John Lewis organized sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee.  In 1961, he volunteered to participate in the Freedom Rides, which challenged segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South. Lewis risked his life on those Rides many times by simply sitting in seats reserved for white patrons.  He was also beaten severely by angry mobs and arrested by police for challenging the injustice of Jim Crow segregation in the South.

I listened, overwhelmed by a substantial empathy, and I observed the rapt attention being paid to this man by an audience currently reflective of the American demographic landscape. His resounding message: “Never give up! Never give in!” And as I sat there in that audience listening to Congressman Lewis, the words of Dr Maya Angelou came to mind :

You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.

The struggle continues.

LOVE… The Only Cure!

                                              Norman Rockwell Mosaic “Golden Rule” The ultimate expression of our wholeness as individuals a...