Author Archives: Paul Nyklicek

The Shame of it All

There is an understandable temptation to shame the perpetrators of the attempted insurrection earlier this week at our nation’s capital. Perhaps even more tempting is the desire to shame all those in power whose rhetoric fueled the eruption of violence we saw. To shame any such person is to forcibly impose on them the label of sub-human (usually with much more graphic phrasing) and to unilaterally declare them unworthy of humane treatment. To shame someone is to humiliate them. There is, of course, a reactive desire for retribution when we feel assaulted or offended and we feel very tempted to “get even” with the perpetrator and we make a case (publicly or in the privacy of our our thoughts) for the justification of the “payback” to be delivered. The Grand Fantasy, of course, it that this will somehow be corrective and healing for us or at least make us “feel better” (translation: a massage session for our ego) and that it will “teach them a lesson” and will “make them think twice before they act that way again.”

Someone from another world might look at us and ask: “How’s that been working for you humans?” I think if we’re honest, the answer is that it isn’t working for us. I suspect that we keep at it because we think it “should work” (because we’re the smartest people we’ve ever met!). So we keep punishing each other and wonder in amazement when those being punished “don’t get it.”

Here’s the thing: Shaming does not produce enlightenment. Shaming does correlate to violence. Significantly so. I contend that this is the case because shaming is violence. It is a direct attack on the human spirit embodied within every one of us (no matter how obscured it might be by multiple layers of “baggage” we have accumulated over time) and attacking anyone in this way does not induce them to become well behaved. When any of us is in enough pain we will tend to either lash out at others or lash inwardly against ourselves. We saw lashing out in Washington, D.C.

I am not in any way condoning or making excuses for the would-be insurrectionists or those who egged them on. I am adamantly opposed to their actions and beliefs. People, however, are not the problem. The problem is the problem. So what’s The Problem? Here’s my answer: The Problem is the belief that violence in whatever form is an effective way to resolve conflicts or heal injuries. Certainly we in America have romanticized and relentlessly promoted the fiction that “violence works.” This fiction permeates our politics, our economics, our legal system, and our popular entertainment just to list a few examples. We have been swimming in this fiction for far too long. We have learned to revel in the defeat of the “other” and to glorify ourselves in our “winning.” This may serve the pleasure center of the National Ego and our little individual ones but it does not serve our actual wellness as members of the Human Family.

It stops when we stop it.

Peace Day

In 1981 the United Nations declared by unanimous resolution that September 21 be recognized as The International Day of Peace. This is a “globally shared date for all humanity to commit to Peace above all differences and to contribute to building a Culture of Peace.” (see: internationaldayofpeace.org).

Why is “building a Culture of Peace” so hard for us?

Every reasonably intelligent person will say that they want peace and yet a Culture of Peace eludes us. At this point many a reasonably intelligent person will also reflexively qualify their desire for Peace with some form of the following: “…but we can’t have Peace as long as they…”. So the work to establish a Culture of Peace stalls.

“Who do you think you are?” is usually expressed as the indignant rejection of an insult but if we consider it as a serious question for ourselves to answer, it may shed some light on why it’s so difficult for us to establish that Culture of Peace.

Maybe we think we are inherently a violent and warlike species. Maybe we think it’s “in our genes” and that “we can’t help it.” Maybe we believe that, despite our best efforts, we are killers from a long line of killers.

That is the Old Story.

This is the story of us, locked into a world of toxic competition in which some must “lose” in life in order for others to “win.” It’s the concept that supports capitalism as we know it and keeps us in seemingly endless wars.

But is this who we really are?

There is a New Story (see: mettacenter.org) of humanity that is emerging. This story paints a very different picture of who we are. It shows us that, at our core, we are actually good rather than evil. We are inclined to cooperate and help each other succeed in life. We see this truth emerge again and again when some sort of disaster strikes (remember how people treated each other right after 9/11?) and our differences are quickly put aside. For however brief a time, we see each other clearly. We see each other as fellow human beings instead of as members of some artificial category.

Creating a Culture of Peace becomes not only possible but natural when we start to remember who we really are and start letting go of the false narratives that hold us prisoner.

As a means to reaching this end there is the concept of the two hands of Real Peace. One hand is closed and says “I oppose your injustice and destructiveness” while the other hand is open and says: “I’m open to you as a person.” This is a realistic practice. We can affirm the humanity of every person without exception while standing firmly against all systems that oppress any person anywhere.

This Real Peace rests on the foundation of our relationships with each other. These relationships form the bonds of our inter-connected nature. That is where our real security begins and how it thrives. It is not our neighbor’s fear of us that makes us feel safe. We feel safe with each other because, in some way, we see each our neighbor as family. Security is the result of knowing that what happens to any family member happens to all family members. We have defined “family” in an exceedingly narrow way for far too long. That needs to change and change fast.

Building a Culture of Peace does not mean that we will live in a conflict-free world. There will be conflict well into the future as long as human beings are involved with each other. What it does mean is that we solve our problems without resorting to violence. It means we recognize that the problem is the problem and not that people are the problem. It means that we give up the illogical belief that hurting others, or ourselves, is a viable way to resolve conflicts.

Building a Culture of Peace is both realistic and natural for the human family when we understand who we are in relationship to each other. We hold ourselves back from this realization by continuing to cling to our artificial categories of identification. We imagine that we are members of a particular nation, religion, political party, profession or class. No such category gets close to the depth of who we really are as beings. That would be like going for your regular medical check-up and having your doctor assess your health by examining the clothes you’re wearing. It doesn’t get to the heart of the matter.

If we want to establish a Culture of Peace in human society we will need to establish that culture within ourselves as part of the process. We need to heal the injuries sustained by our fragile humanness by claiming the truth of our own sacredness. Not only our own but the sacredness of everyone else as well. There is no one who isn’t. This sacredness is by no means limited to human beings. It encompasses all of creation.

We get to the heart of the matter when we recognize the sacredness of All. There we will find the Culture of Peace.

Hitting Bottom

We are moving through a remarkable period in our history. We are contending with the COVID-19 pandemic. Racist behavior continues to emerge in our country and elsewhere. Authoritarian governments are on the rise both in the United States as well as in the international community. As a nation we have been involved in the so-called War on Terror in multiple fronts in the Middle East for nearly twenty years with no end in sight. People everywhere are facing the consequences of toxic human behavior upon the biosphere that we are completely dependent upon. The potential devastation from this situation alone is dire enough to dwarf all others. In short, we find ourselves in a “perfect storm” scenario.

It is well understood by people in recovery that an active addict will need to “hit bottom” before they are ready to commit to meaningful changes in their way of life. A person, caught up in an addiction process, will resist and deny with all their strength until the painful reality of the consequences of their lifestyle comes crashing through their last layers of denial.

Hitting bottom for an individual can take many forms, among them are: broken trust, job loss, homelessness, losing friendships, being shunned by family members, serious injury, divorce, and the death of a loved one. This is a person’s direct experiencing of the natural consequences of a destructive way of life. The common denominator is that hitting bottom is extremely painful. The painfulness is ultimately what breaks the fantasy bubble of addiction and reveals the hard truth of What Is. The fantasy world of addiction is inherently unsustainable.

This is all fairly straightforward and understandable when we look at it thought the lens of individuality. Any individual person can get caught up in an addiction process if they are in enough pain. The challenge we face now is to see the same process occurring on a societal level. This is difficult because we are heavily conditioned to think in terms of individual responsibility rather than in terms of shared responsibility. In the world of addiction this is exemplified by the active addict’s false assertion that “I’m not hurting anyone but myself.” This is one of the many variations of his or her denial system.

However, what if we take an honest look at ourselves through a communal lens? Would we see that, as a species, human beings are also caught up in an addiction process? Are we as a human community addicted to a destructive way of life? Are we also in a state of denial to some degree?

Obviously, we cannot speak of every individual human being behaving in lock-step conformity. We can instead speak of a “critical mass” of humanity whose collective behavior makes a significant impact on the world. What is it that enough of us do with regularity that would constitute an addiction process?

What is humanity addicted to?

Control and domination. In other words, we play God.

We do it to each other, we do it to countless other animals, and we do it to all sorts of plant life that share this planet with us. We convince ourselves of our superiority in order to justify the way we use and abuse human and non-human life in order to make ourselves more comfortable and to feel special. We get a rush when we imagine that we have “conquered nature,” “tamed the wilderness,” or somehow defeated someone or something. In our addiction to control and domination we act with little concern for the consequences of what we do in the name of “civilization.” In our addiction we care about getting what we want. Anything else is secondary at best.

We are tragically addicted to polluting the air, water, and soil that every form of life on this planet depends on. Humanity does this in so many ways that we simply consider them to be part of “normal” life. The list is extensive: Extracting and burning fossil fuels, industrial waste, plastic waste, nuclear waste, and, of course, the extensive toxicity of our constant warfare. This constitutes an incomplete list to be sure but I think the point is made. We do a lot to try to control and dominate the world that is truly devastating to animal and plant life in global ecosystems. Basically, we treat Mother Earth as if it’s exclusively our species’ Town Dump.

Part of what characterizes an addiction process is the absence of awareness or concern for the natural consequences of one’s actions. While our awareness and concern has definitely been increasing over the past 50 years or so, it has not been nearly enough to significantly change our destructive behavior patterns. Is it possible that, at this point in our collective history, our addiction to poisoning the biosphere so that we can feel dominant and “in control” of “our world” has finally caught up with us?

Has our addiction to believing in “human exceptionalism” and the multitude of quick fixes and instant gratifications we have indulged in for so long finally brought us to the point where we are hitting bottom?

Maybe.

Responsibility is a choice but accountability is inescapable. We can choose to avoid our responsibilities for some period of time but they will always catch up with us. We can choose to accept our responsibilities but if we do not, accountability will be imposed upon us. If this happens and Nature ends up holding us accountable it will be a much more unpleasant process. Being proactively responsible won’t be painless but it will be a lot better than being forced into accountability.

If we willingly choose to be responsible for our destructive behaviors we will need to accept humility. Genuinely humbling ourselves means a lot of letting go. We will need to let go of our assumed “human exceptionalism” and our assumed right to dominate other people as well as other life forms with whom we share the Earth. We will need to let go of our assumed “master-servant” relationship with the world. We need to let go of our belief that Mother Nature is supposed to clean up after us no matter how big a mess we leave for Her.

Maybe the toughest thing to let go of is our allegiance to the materialistic paradigm that has dominated our society for so long. This mindset is something that most of us have been conditioned to see as “natural” since childhood. This is a belief in the primacy of things and that these things must be bought with money. This paradigm claims that having enough things will make us happy and satisfied. Having enough things will make us safe and secure. It says that this is the way we need to live our lives. This is a perspective that tells us that “greed is good.” It spins fairy tales about who is deserving of a “good life” and who isn’t. This paradigm supports an implicit justification for cruelty as a necessary component of a grand competition that rewards the “strong” and punishes the “weak.” This is all logical if we on our tiny planet moving around within an unimaginably vast universe are nothing but a collection of randomly assembled atoms and molecules. Such a premise requires an enormous level of human arrogance. It means asserting that we know all we need to know about our world, what it consists of, how it operates and that we are quite comfortable with dismissing whatever doesn’t fit with what we “know.” That’s a lot of arrogance.

So if we let go of our desire for control and domination, embrace genuine humility, and stop playing God, where does that leave us?

If we can overcome our fear of change we will be able to see something we’ve been blind to just as every addict is initially blind to what recovery is really all about. We will become open to a new framework of a healthy individual and communal life. What might such a new framework look like? We can begin by re-examining the framework of active addiction and ask ourselves: What would be radically different from this?

The unofficial mantra of the active addict is as follows:

“I want what I want when I want it!”

This expression emerges from a particular mentality. This mentality is the problem as well as the point from which real change emerges.

Our growth begins when we addicts finally hear Reality answering us with Tough Love when we beg for things to stay the same:

“Please, don’t make me do that! I promise this time I’ll…”
“It’s too late for that.”
“Wait? What do you mean? Do you actually mean that I have to……?”
“Yes! That’s exactly what I mean!”
“But what about…?”
“No!”
“But….”
“No!”
“I promise that this time…”
“I said No!!”

Left with no other option, we relinquish our desire for control, dominance and and our imagined greatness and we finally dare to place our trust in something beyond ourselves. In the language of recovery, we surrender to a Higher Power.

There can be no recovery from addiction without mindful healing from the traumas that sparked and fueled the addiction process itself. As a a nation, we have a number of unhealed injuries that desperately still need healing. A short list includes our history of racism and its fallout, patriarchy that still regards women as second-class citizens, hyper-individualism that shames those who are not “successful”, and our destruction of nature in the name of promoting our civilization. Perhaps most critically, we must understand that trauma is actually a two-way street. Trauma occurs in the act of one injuring another and both parties are negatively impacted. This means that the perpetrator is also traumatized during the act of injuring another. This is most tragically revealed in the current epidemic of suicides by both past and present day military personnel. “Moral injury” is the term that has become recognized as this perpetration-induced trauma that so many of these men and women are suffering from. It’s a kind of karmic blowback and it painfully demonstrates the illusion of our supposed separateness from each other. It similarly shows how we are profoundly connected to each other which means that what we do to another we are also doing to ourselves.

It’s no wonder that so long ago we were advised to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

That continues to be a very difficult lesson for humanity to learn. Thousands of years in our classroom and we are still struggling to get a passing grade.

So the opposite of the addiction mantra might be something like this:

“We know that we can wait for what we want. We know that the needs of others are just as important to them as mine are to me.”

We need a change in our consciousness. It’s actually very possible for us to do that. Millions of recovering addicts have been showing us the way for a long time. It’s ironic that the very people that society has so long despised are the very same people that have implemented this change in their lives. A teacher of mine claims that the universe runs on irony!

One way to begin is to choose to cultivate a consciousness of compassion. It needs to begin as a choice just as one chooses to exercise and eat a healthy diet in order to get in shape. It requires consistent practice and dedication. We have to do the work. Shortcuts won’t get the job done.

What does all this mean for a society addicted to whatever it can get its hands on to feel in control and to not feel the pain of all the injuries it has caused and endured?

It means that we truly appreciate the gift that this world is for every life that shares it. This gift is not just for humans to do with as we please for our exclusive enjoyment. Mother Earth is a gift for all who live on her land, in her waters, and in her air. It is a gift that deserves to be respected.

We are not respecting this gift when we make excuses to keep dumping toxic material wherever we please. When we engage in the state-sanctioned mass murder known as war, when we perpetrate deforestation on a mass scale and destroy whole ecosystems, and when we burn whatever will burn in order to “advance” human society we are not respecting our gift.

It means that we stop expecting others to clean up after us. Healthy adults clean up after themselves. Viewed through the communal lens this means that humanity grows up, stops treating Mother Earth as our town dump, and starts to clean up all the mess we have made.

It means that we accept responsibility for what we have done and hold ourselves accountable for all of it. We need to make amends and reparations everywhere it is appropriate to do so. We need to express our genuine regret and remorse to all whom we have injured. No phony “celebrity apologies” will suffice. It’s got to be real.

We need to continually commit ourselves to growing in wisdom and compassion.

Finally, we need to remember that we are always susceptible to relapsing back to our old addictive ways. We are either busy recovering or we are busy relapsing. We become the process that we invest in.

Have we “hit bottom” as a society? Are we ready to say “Yes” to our recovery process?

We are about to answer those questions.

The Child of Fear

It seems that all too frequently we see eruptions of hatred in our world. We see episode after episode of hatred boiling over into violence. We see this on the international stage, locally, and everywhere in between. It has become an un-ending parade of horrors that we are compelled to witness. Our schools and places of worship have been consistently targeted. People who have been marginalized within our society have also been targeted although they often don’t get the same level of media recognition.

Hatred is the child of fear. When it grows large enough, hatred gives birth to violence.

There is nothing new about hatred boiling over into violence. Tragically, this has played out in human history from our very beginning. Here we are, now in the 21st century, still hating and killing each other.

In one respect, fear is the beginning of our evolution. Our ancient ancestors survived, in no small part, due to their ability to experience fear. As they learned how to balance their fear by applying their intelligence to dangerous situations they learned how to be careful. As our ancestors developed the habit of cautiousness, our existence as their descendants became assured.

Long ago we humans learned to fear whoever seemed “different” in some way. Long ago this was literally a matter of life or death. It’s not so hard to understand the power of such primal learning. Once upon a time it was highly adaptive and beneficial. Such conditioning runs deep in us even now.

Hating can be understood as going on the offensive in order to protect and defend against some perceived threat. Attack “them” first and make “them” think twice about attacking ”us.” Assuming, of course, that “they” are actually planning to attack.

Haters are afraid.

They fear annihilation. They fear degradation and humiliation. They fear being displaced, replaced, and having their culture erased.

This is an intensely painful fear!

How can such pain-fueled hatred be met?

Conventional wisdom would suggest that you “fight fire with fire” and respond with exactly the same kind of energy and if at all possible, do so with even greater force. The main problem with this conventional wisdom is that it’s really unwise It is the inside-out, upside down logic that wants us to believe that someone with cancer is going to be saved by having more cancer cells injected into their body. If your doctor told you that was your treatment plan you would probably seek a second opinion.

Instead, we need to go further down the rabbit hole. It’s not enough to see that hatred emerges from fear. We are speaking here of a fear that is the result of not recognizing the difference between fact and fiction. We need to understand where that fear comes from. When we go deeper we find this fear is product of ignorance.

In human terms, this ignorance is the belief that someone or some group is actually not good enough and therefore undeserving of equal treatment or even existence. Such beliefs are based on irrational judgements of perceived danger: “They are threatening our way of life.” “They are going to take over and we will be at their mercy.” “There’s not enough for all of us so someone will not get what they need.” Will it be “us” or “them” that is deemed unworthy? Ignorance says that someone doesn’t deserve to stay in the lifeboat and everyone in the boat looks at everybody else while silently thinking “It’s not gonna be me that gets kicked out!”

What are the people in the lifeboat ignorant of? What don’t they know? More to the point, what are they believing that is not true?

Here’s the Big Lie:

The tragically-believed lie says that we are all separate from each other and the rest of Creation. The Big Lie is that we are separate from the Ultimate Mystery that created us. This ignorance of our true inter-connectedness and interdependency keeps us stuck in an Illusion of Separateness and trapped in the Fear of the Different Other.

The liberating truth is that each of us is profoundly inter-connected. We are intimately part of each other and all of Creation. All of Creation is likewise part of each of us.

We all come from the same creative energy, the same Sacred Source. In traditional religious language, we are all part of the body of Christ. If you prefer a more secular narrative, we all come from the same recycled stardust. As far as we can tell, biodiversity appears to be the modus operandi of the Ultimate Mystery that all of us have emerged from and continue to be a part of. Diversity, not uniformity, seems to be the way of the universe. It is interesting to note, however, that uniformity seems to be the clear and consistent preference of all authoritarian groups throughout human history.

What drives a segment of the human population to embrace a social system that requires everyone to “follow the leader” in order to avoid being severely punished? What is the incentive for people to stop thinking and being responsible for themselves and allow “those in charge” to think and decide for them?

In a sense, this can be seen as a choice made out of frustration with the democratic process-how nothing ever seems to “get done” to improve things. In another sense, this choice can be understood as an evasion of personal responsibility insofar as it is a consent to let the powerful make decisions without interference from those without power. In return the powerless are promised to be looked after and protected by the reigning elite. It’s the old deal of trading away freedom in exchange for security.

If we know what a bad deal this is how do we keep agreeing to it? What motivates a person to sign on the dotted line?

A conspiracy of ignorance and fear.

Our “old programming” for irrational fear has never been deleted. It remains dormant within us just waiting for an injection of energy into its system. Unfortunately, there are groups who want to cultivate fear in as many people as possible. The reason for this is simple: People are much easier to control when they are scared.

We are presently caught in a riptide of fear-based hatred in our society. This is the consequence of a culture that has been structured according to a primitive fear of the Different Other. The violence that is the natural progression of hatred is the response to a misperceived threat. This misperception is part of the “old programming” that remains within us such that different-ness is misunderstood as danger. Since this fear is embedded in our culture we must recognize that it is systemic in nature and systemic problems must be met with systemic solutions.

We need to recognize this fear as a remnant of our ancestral survival. It is now time for the old way of survival to step back and make room for living as we were meant to live as human beings, as Sacred Children of the Ultimate Mystery. While we recognize the old way as an early human adaptation, we must now firmly assert its obsolescence. This primitive fear has served its purpose and now our evolutionary journey needs to continue toward a rational compassion that excludes no one. This attitude of compassion rests on the scientific foundation of the inter-relatedness of all life on this planet. The reality is that we are all part of the same family. Perceived differences are superficial and obscure our unity only by a veil of ignorance.

The work of our time is to remove the veil of ignorance that interferes with the expression of natural compassion for all. We seek to open the way for an appreciation and expression of the healthy diversity of the human family. The challenge we face today is to love courageously in response to all forms of hatred and any violence that emerges from that hatred. We do our best to love the person infected with hatred and refuse the temptation to retaliate with violence when the hate-infected person lashes out. It is extremely difficult work but it is absolutely necessary because we are all in this together. We cannot escape our inter-connectedness. Either we will all go down together or together we will all rise up and be who we really are: People of Courageous Love.

We Are Family

Why are some people so opposed to refugees coming into our country? Why do some see them as a threat and believe that it is acceptable to treat them as somehow less than fully human?

These questions point to a source of major suffering in our world now.

There is something of a mythology associated with the perceived threat posed by frightened, desperate people entering our country.

The deeper problem, though, is that we are clinging to a far too limited and frankly obsolete understanding of what a family is. It is this narrow vision of what makes a family that is keeping us stuck in fear of whoever we perceive as “different” and conflating “different” with dangerous.

We need to radically expand what we mean by the word “family.” Our definition of what makes a family has been far too narrow for far too long. There has been a strong tendency to think of family in terms of those who are our blood relatives as well as those who we are related to through marriages. This has been our means of determining who “we” are and who “they” are.

Although a traditional extended family is more expansive and inclusive than the traditional nuclear family of biological parents and their children, it still leaves us with a perspective that invites us to see everyone else as non-family. In others words: not one of us. As soon as we recognize someone as “one of us” or “not one of us” we quickly decide how we will treat that person based on which category we place them in. We human beings have a long history of social programming that predisposes us to give preferential treatment to those we see as “one of us” and a heightened sense of suspicion toward everyone else.

There are, of course, additional dimensions of the “one of us” family paradigm. We may identify with our professional colleagues as our “work family.” We can also attribute a family-like affiliation to various other kinds of groups that we have at some time been a part of: schools, sports teams, the military, political parties, clubs, fraternities, sororities, etc.

So there are some added circles of inclusion with respect to who we regard as family but even so, there are always those “others” who are outside those circles who do not get included in any way as part of “us.”

Have we reached the limit of expanding our definition of family or is there still somewhere else to go with it?

Although it may seem that we have reached a dead end with respect to how we understand the meaning of family, we have actually come to a closed door rather than a solid wall. This door can be opened and we can step through it and enter what lies beyond it.

Stepping through this door requires the proverbial leap of faith. This step is the acceptance of the idea that everyone and everything is our family. There is no one and nothing that isn’t a family member. There is no human being anywhere on this planet that isn’t your brother or sister. There is no animal or plant that isn’t a relative. The land, the water, and the air are members of the same family to which we all belong.

This is actually quite realistic and practical when we remember that a central truth common to all families is that every family shares a common point of origin. They all start somewhere at a particular time. Maybe this is why lovers reminisce about where and when they first met. It matters.

Human beings all share a common point of origin on our little blue planet. We have been referring to her as Mother Earth for a very long time. This is where we all started. We human beings all share 99.9% of the same DNA. That’s how much we are all more alike than different from each other. If we allow our vision to be a bit more expansive, our home planet and our home solar system all originated from the same recycled stardust. On a cosmic level we all come from the same raw material.

So much changes when we realize that we are all part of the same family.

We realize that “othering” a family member just doesn’t work. We cannot escape our relatedness. Competing with and defeating a family member just doesn’t feel right. Competition somehow becomes less interesting while cooperation becomes very interesting.

We realize that generosity and compassion are sensible and natural. Giving something good to a family member becomes an act of giving to oneself. Receiving from a family member is a gift back to the giver.

We have no need to be afraid of refugees. It is they who come to us afraid and needing our help. They are our brothers and sisters.

We are all children of the Ultimate Mystery. We are all members of the same family.

Too Political?

How can it be that veterans who want to speak to schoolchildren about their experiences in the military are told that they cannot do so because their pro-peace views are deemed “too political” for young ears to hear? Is peace really too controversial a subject to be discussed openly in our schools? What makes peace “too political” but war somehow apolitical?

Our children go to school to learn about a variety of subjects. They learn facts about the world they will inherit and ultimately inhabit as young adults. They will make meaningful decisions that will significantly impact their own lives and the lives of others. There is great hope that they will learn to think critically and creatively. To achieve this skill they will need to be exposed to different perspectives and supported in analyzing those perspectives intelligently.

So if this is the purpose in educating our young people why would they not be served by hearing from those who have served in wars of the past and hear what those individuals have to say about the subject of peace? Our present-day culture goes to great lengths to honor veterans (e.g. “Thank you for your service.”) when such recognition is in alignment with the power structure and agenda of our government. This kind of national etiquette effectively separates those who serve in the military from the government foreign policy of which they are the tangible extension. This also serves to discourage questioning that policy. The pro-military paradigm is now constructed in such a way that if one openly disagrees with the government’s actions it is equated with “disrespecting the troops” who are “fighting over there so that we can be safe and free here” at home.

This framework encourages us to assume that all veterans are unified in their support of our government’s policy of military interventions around the world. This is, in fact, a false assumption. A recent survey of veterans by the Pew Research Center indicates that the majority believe that our current military involvement in the Middle East (casually known as the War on Terror) is a waste of human and material resources.

Why do we choose to value only those veterans whose perspectives agree with our government’s military actions and try to silence those who express skepticism and disagreement with how our government is using our military in the world?

How can we “respect the troops” if we don’t listen to them, particularly when they are saying what some of us (and our government) don’t want to hear? The fact is that we need to listen to what all of them have to say if the respect we say we feel toward them is more than just a matter of social etiquette.

As to the matter of whether or not it is “too political” to allow students to hear from pro-peace veterans we must come to terms with the pre-existing condition of pro-military bias in our schools. Students are already exposed to the political aspect of military service in various ways that have become so normalized that they blend in without much notice. Military recruiters are allowed direct and indirect access to students. Posters promoting careers in military service are in school hallways along with the various colleges student can attend after high school. And, of course, students are allowed hear from veterans as long as they don’t invite students to think about the possibility that peace is a real alternative to war.

This is the established pro-military status quo in most schools. Veterans who are overtly pro-peace may represent an uncomfortable disconnect for some who expect them to support our government’s military interventionist behavior. This position of explicit support for and implicit endorsement of this status quo is certainly political but is assumed not to be because it has become so normalized. It is a mistake to assume that such inherent biases are somehow apolitical.

Do we really want our students to grow up without the capacity for appropriately expressing and demonstrating dissent? We need our future leaders and contributors to be ready, willing, and able to question authority. If our education system succeeds only in teaching young people how to conform to existing social, political, and economic power structures we are doing them a great disservice.

Everyone agrees that we want our children to live in a better world and we all agree that that this better world needs to be one of meaningful justice and peace. There are members of our society who have had the direct experience with the unglamorous reality and horror of war. They have valuable lessons to share from their experiences. It would be a mistake to try to silence those voices that are calling for precisely that better world we all want. Our students need to hear the messengers that invite them to be participants in that cause.

Loving the Strongman

The Strongman says “My way or no way” to the Different One. He demands conformity to his way “or else”. He sees and understands only in absolutes. Black or white. All or nothing. Total Good or Total Evil.

The Strongman always sees harmful characteristics in the Different One and refuses to acknowledge them in himself. The Strongman declares himself to be highly intelligent and rational. Whoever disagrees with him is obviously wrong. He projects his extremism onto the Different One who is thus framed as the threat to society that must be contained, converted, excluded or eliminated.

When anyone dares to challenge the virtues of his Empire, the Strongman wastes no time in attacking whoever has blasphemed in any way. The flag must be stood for and the anthem must be sung. No dissent is acceptable.

The Strongman thrives on the fear he cultivates in his followers as he presents himself as fearless in the face of the looming danger. He is the Only One who can stand up to the Approaching Evil and defeat it.

The Strongman craves uniformity that fits his vision of reality while at the same time he desperately needs someone to oppose him so that he has someone to fight with. He has no idea what to do if he has no one to attack.

The euphemism of the “strongman” has been around for a long time. It has been a way to refer to the leaders of nations who operate as ruthless dictators. It’s a code word for despot or tyrant.

It may be tempting to imagine that the individual Strongman is the only problem and that his elimination solves everything. If only it were so easy! The real problem is that the Strongman is only the most visible representative of an evil system. It is this system that supports his power. The reality of this system is more dangerous and more powerful precisely because of its comparative invisibility. We tend to see people not social systems yet social systems have the quality of magnifying whatever people put into them. They also tend to organize people into their framework.

The Strongman System poses a very real danger to many. There is not much real debate about whether or not to oppose it. This system and its figurehead must be opposed because of the extreme dehumanization it imposes on everyone, including its proponents. The Strongman System is inherently exploitative and sees human beings as well as the rest of the Natural World as mere resources to be taken and used for its own purposes. This is the system that strives to crush one’s spirit. It is anti-Love.

The real question is how to oppose the Strongman System.

One option is to “fight fire with fire” which amounts to being empowered by our own fear and hatred and attempt to use this energy against the Strongman System. This is a dangerous option because it defines the framework of opposition in terms that are extremely familiar to and comfortable for the Strongman System. It knows very well how to fight within this context. It has an enormous “home field advantage” and in all likelihood is eager to have the fight on these terms and on its “home turf.” Even if this approach “succeeds” it is dangerous because of the toxic levels of hatred and fear that those engaged in such an opposition group would be exposed to in the process. The real danger is in the replacement of the original Strongman System with a newer version of the same thing. We risk becoming the evil we are trying to overcome.

Love is the radical alternative to the dubious approach described above. Love is the means to the desired end that is not contradictory. We don’t get to a loving place by hating. We get there by loving. When we adhere to the principles of Love and act accordingly we are no longer on the opponent’s “home field” but instead we have determined the framework of the conflict. We force him to meet us on our turf and on our terms. He will not be comfortable. The Strongman System will bring its materialistic power to bear against the followers of Love. Those who follow Love will bring their spiritual power to bear against the Strongman System.

What does it really mean to love one’s oppressor?

Arguably the most difficult of all commandments to follow is the one where we are directed to Love Our Enemy. This is very counter-intuitive for most of us. We may find ourselves pleading “Oh God! Do I really have to?” hoping that we will receive some sort of divine dispensation. This directive offers no such loophole.

Perhaps first we should be clear about what this kind of love does not mean. It does not mean that you have to like the oppressor or condone his behavior. It is not affectionate love. It also does not mean that we must comply with the oppressive system that the strongman manages. It is not submissive.

So what does it mean?

I believe that this kind of love contains a crucial understanding of the deeper nature of who we are as well as the real identity of the Strongman. This love recognizes that the Strongman is, in fact, profoundly ill and spiritually lost. It is through this kind of love that we comprehend that the Strongman is trapped in a form of deep suffering. Love sees that the cruel oppression of the Strongman is the projection of his suffering onto those around him. This is his futile attempt at escaping his agony. This agony is likely compounded by a very deep sense of shame that prevents him from acknowledging to anyone how much internal pain he is experiencing. In understanding this, those who are oppressed can act from a sense of deep and powerful compassion. This loving compassion allows one to see how sick and lost the Strongman actually is and then to act accordingly toward him. This compassion is possible because of our recognition of him as one of us. He is our lost and suffering brother.

What might this type of action look like?

I think it looks a lot like the way a good doctor interacts with a sick patient. The doctor’s first goal is to “do no harm” which means not to cause any new damage or in any way to worsen the patient’s condition. That translates into nonviolent noncooperation with the dictates of any oppressive system. We don’t enable someone who is caught in the cycle of a destructive addictive process. At the same time, we take great care not to shame or humiliate the patient who is already suffering. If laws are unjust and dehumanizing then submission to these laws becomes a form of enabling the suffering addict-Strongman. Enabling is a violation of “do no harm.”

This kind of radical love seeks to very actively promote healing in the one who is sick and suffering. This healing process flows out of the awareness and acceptance of who we really are as beings.

There is an established view that we humans are an incredibly complex arrangement of sub-atomic particles that fit together in just the right way such that we live, learn and have awareness of ourselves and the world around us. In this paradigm we mysteriously transcend the inanimate and non-conscious nature of our sub-atomic particles to reach a state of animated life and consciousness.

There is an alternative perspective that states that our fundamental reality is consciousness itself and that energy and matter are secondary to that consciousness. This brings us into the realm of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s assertion that: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” If this is in fact true, it has staggering implications for all of us. It says something crucial about who we really are. It points us all to our sacred identity as manifestations of the Source of Ultimate Love. It would mean that each of us is part of a vast spiritual family within which there can be no strangers. It would also mean that differences of culture, religion and nationality are largely superficial and insignificant and can no longer serve as excuses for conflicts.

In the language of traditional religion: Each of us, without any exceptions, is a Holy Child of God.

This is the basis and rationale for loving the Strongman. He is a Holy Child of God just like the rest of us. He is no exception. He has become trapped in his sickness because he has so detoured away from who he really is that he has become lost. We have a family responsibility to help him rediscover his true identity because we are his brothers and sisters. Giving him hatred will not help. Giving him punishment will not help. What will help him is this Radical Love. This Love says “We know who you are behind that mask. You can take it off now. It’s time to come home.”

Befriending Strangers

How are we to deal with people who come to us from the homes they have left behind?

These people are strangers to us at first. He or she is the Unknown Person and at this point we know practically nothing about this Stranger. Maybe we know something of his or her homeland’s reputation or maybe all we know is what this person looks like to us. Until there is initial contact there is no real knowing of the person and no meaningful shift can begin toward “de-strangerizing” the Unknown Person. Before we can actually know the Stranger as a fellow human being it is all too easy to project our own fears onto that person.

Perhaps the most common thing to imagine, as well as perhaps the most understandable, is to see the Stranger as a threat. This is a bit of ancient survival programming we have inherited courtesy of our distant ancestors. We modern people might be tempted to Boo and Hiss at our primitive ancestors for burdening us with this innate fearfulness but let’s not. Instead let’s honor them because the truth is that without their survival skills we wouldn’t be here to reflect on this issue. We, their descendants, need to recognize that bit of ancient programming for what it is: A once-upon-a-time necessity. The mistake that we must avoid now is to use this relic of human programming as if it is today’s cutting edge technology.

One of our characteristics as human beings is our inherent capacity to transcend our primitive instincts. We are built to learn and grow from our mistakes and slowly evolve toward becoming more enlightened beings. As a species, we are a work-in-progress, thousands of years into a process that is still quite incomplete.

Growing up requires us to move beyond our primitive Fear-based orientation to life. We need to mature into a Love-based orientation to living in our world. Embracing a Love-based mode of being and interacting does not mean that we no longer get scared. We cannot simply delete the old programming. Like it or not, it is part of who we are. What it means is that we no longer have to be limited by fear as we live our lives. As we increasingly move into a more mature level of consciousness we have greater access to our intrinsic capacity for Love-based interactions with others.

None of this means that we suddenly throw all caution to the wind. It means that we move through our situations with appropriate care based on a rationality that naturally emerges from healthy love.

As we return to our hypothetical Stranger, we need to make contact with this as yet Unknown Person in order to have actual observations to take the place of our primitive fear-based fantasies. A meaningful question to consider is: How shall we choose to initiate contact with the Stranger?

The most reasonable way to make contact with Strangers is to welcome them as potential friends. Yes, we still need to be aware of possible dangers and observe proper caution as we start making contact but this choice represents the best way to utilize our own freedom for maximum advantage. If we initiate our encounter with the Stranger in a benevolent fashion the probability is that the Stranger will reciprocate. If we treat him or her as a threat it is likely that he or she will respond to our fear with fear of their own and start seeing us as a threat as well. This ultimately leads to preparation for the anticipated attack.

Perhaps our greatest “sin” is our willingness to de-humanize and demonize our fellow human beings. Under the right conditions it becomes tempting to reduce the Different Other to some sort of Offending Impediment to our way of life. Part of this temptation may also include a component of righteousness that can (and too often does) reach the level of the Arrogant Assumption that one is “doing God’s will” by de-humanizing the Different One. There is, however, something vitally important that needs to be recognized: It is entirely possible to escape from the prison of fearing and hating the Different One and emerge into what can legitimately be called a state of recovery. This involves an initial process of step-back-from Untruth and then a step of move-toward Truth. At first this recovery can be understood as a growing awareness and conscious rejection of the lies previously assumed to be truths: the mental-trap illusion of “Us vs. Them” and the associated false belief that there just isn’t enough of what we all need so someone will have to do without (“and it’s not gonna be us!”). It is also becomes a process of discovering what is actually true and consciously moving in that direction: every one of us is very human and we are not nearly so different or separate from each other as we once thought. There is also enough for all of us if we are willing to let go of our fear and the greed that emerges from it.

Our fear of the Stranger is solvable and it is solved by becoming aware of the Truth. The Truth, in this case, comes as the answer to the question of who we and the Stranger really are. In each case the answer is the same. Each of us, without exception, is a Sacred Child of the Ultimate Mystery. We all come from the same Original Source of Creation regardless of whether one prefers to think of this as the story of the cosmic “Big Bang”, the Genesis story or any of the countless creation stories human beings have been sharing with each other for thousands of years. If we can accept this perspective, the Stranger is nothing more than someone at a costume party who has not yet taken off their mask and allowed us to see their true face. It may help them to do so if we are willing to show them our true face first.

Finally, it is not so much a question of who the Stranger is but rather a question of who we are and what kind of people we want to be in relation to that Stranger. What are our intentions? Do we want them to be afraid or do we want them to feel welcome?

How would we want to be treated if we were the Strangers?

Sacred Cows and False Gods

Military spending is the Sacred Cow of present-day America.

It makes no difference who the President is or which party has a Congressional majority. There can be heated debate about whether there is enough money for healthcare or education or infrastructure maintenance but there is to be no consideration whatsoever to the idea of reducing defense spending in order to allocate those funds to other purposes. This Sacred Cow must be fully insulated from all critical thinking and examination. Its virtues are assumed to be self-evident and are not to be questioned.

We must not question or criticize the Military-Industrial Complex or any of its supporters. Instead we must keep repeating the National Mantra of “Support the troops”. We must always remember to say “Thank you for your service” when speaking to someone who is or has been in the military. Beyond this point of social etiquette there are to be no serious discussions about the actual merits of the Multiple Wars that America is currently engaged in. Or how much this costs us. Asking veterans how they actually feel about their time in uniform and really listening to what they say is not part of our protocol.

When we thank a veteran for their service to our country we need to remember that this person has chosen to risk their life on our behalf. This willingness to make the Ultimate Sacrifice deserves the greatest respect. If we are being fully honest, however, there is more appreciation that we need to express to every veteran that we acknowledge in this way. Not only must we thank them for their willingness to die on our behalf, we must also thank them for their willingness to kill on our behalf. The truth is that every member of the armed services is making a contribution, directly or indirectly, to the death of the designated enemy. They risk being killed by strangers while they try to kill those same strangers.

Why do so many veterans struggle with their return to civilian life? Is it improper ask why so many in the military are committing suicide every day during and after their time in uniform? Can we ignore the meaning of “moral injury” sustained by the men and women who have served in our military? Should we seriously investigate the extent to which soldiers during and after their time in the service are suffering from PTSD and CTE? Posing such questions will make people too uncomfortable.

Another uncomfortable question to avoid is the matter of why the most powerful military force in human history has not been able to “win” the War on Terror after 16 years of fighting. Don’t ask that one.

We must certainly not inquire about who in our society has benefitted financially from so many years of continuous warfare. That sort of question is unwelcome in polite society. That sort of question might suggest that the “War on Terror” is not actually meant to be won but rather is meant to go on indefinitely so that certain groups of people can become exceedingly wealthy. It is not appropriate for us to think about these possibilities.

It is in poor taste to question if, as a nation, we are doing what is right as we intervene around the world. It is improper to ask whether or not spending millions of dollars per day for the past 16 years to pay for these wars has been money well spent.

We certainly should not wonder if this Sacred Cow is just a Cash Cow in disguise.

The never-ending quest for “National Security” ends up being the worshiping of a kind of false god. We go to great lengths to convince ourselves that if we have enough weapons we will finally be safe. We may imagine that our legitimate desire to feel safe can only be accomplished by making others sufficiently afraid of us. As we have come to believe that this is true, we have made a modern-day Golden Calf in the shape of a Pentagon. In various ways we have been taught to worship this false god as if it the source of our salvation.

What if real security does not flow out of the Department of Defense? What if our safety does not depend on threatening someone else with superior firepower?

What if we actually consider embracing the radical idea that real safety and security comes from God?

Imagine a group of children placed in a very large playroom. Almost immediately they discover that it’s full of Legos that they can use to build whatever they want. They quickly start building all sorts of things. We notice that some of the children seem to like each other and play well together and others do not. The children start to arrange themselves and the playroom accordingly. They form groups and try to create ways to feel safe in the playroom. They fortify their territories, develop defense strategies and build various Lego weapons because they feel unsafe with the “other children” who are part of other groups in the playroom. Every group is fearful to some degree that if they are not strong enough and careful enough the others will quickly act to take or destroy the little societies they have created.

This is the situation we find ourselves in.

Here is an experiment to attempt to answer the question about where our true security can be found.

Imagine having a private audience with Jesus. Imagine being face to face with him. You look him in the eye and tell him that his teachings are wrong. Tell him that he is wrong about teaching us to have faith in God. Wrong in how he taught us about God’s love for us. Wrong in what he taught us about who we really are as human beings.
Tell him how wrong he was for teaching us to love each other the way he loves us.

Can you imagine doing this without hesitation or is there something inside you that doesn’t want to allow such a confrontation? If there is something inside you that doesn’t want to let you go through with the experiment, what do you suppose it might be?

So we come back to the central question: How can we trust God for our security?

The problem with this question lies in our desire to answer it in accordance with the rules we have established for ourselves in the Lego World we have created in the playroom. We assume that our rules, based on our perceptions, are the correct ones. We make the assumption that the playroom is ours because we created everything in it out of the Legos. We “forget” that our playroom is just one of a great many such rooms in an incredibly expansive House.

The real Builder and Master of the House must not be confused with the sacred cows and false gods fantasized by some of the children in the playroom.

We need to be clear about what trusting our security to God actually means and what it does not mean. It does not mean that we have some sort of mystical permission to behave recklessly. We still need to look both ways before crossing busy streets. It does not mean that we wash our hands of personal responsibility. What we choose to do matters and has consequences.

It does mean that we need to remember whose House we’re living in and that we have a responsibility to be good guests in that House.

That Which Divides Us

That we are a divided people is not breaking news.

Our divisions are reflected back to us every day. We are consistently presented with the forced-choice of our social, political and religious identities. One belongs to a particular social class and not others. One is either a “conservative” or a “liberal”. One is a “Christian” or a “Jew” or a “Muslim” or a “Hindu” or a “Buddhist” or some other religious label. These are just a few of the ways we identify ourselves. Somehow it became very important to label ourselves and each other. Perhaps this helps us stay with the illusion of “knowing” who we are.

There is another form of division that transcends the “usual suspects” of the various labels already described. This is the division between the opposing agendas of materialism and spirituality. One of the central features of these differing agendas is the question of whether or not violence is deemed acceptable as a means of solving problems. This question also correlates with the contrasting views of separation and connection. Materialism emphasizes the separateness between each of us while realistic spirituality focuses on the connections we share with each other and our world.

The materialistic perspective attributes the highest priority to creating, selling and acquiring Things. This view asserts that the centrality of Things is what life is really all about. In this framework, people are a means to an end. This is sometimes known as “productivity”. If one is “productive” in the proper way then one is recognized as a valuable person. One is considered an “asset”.

The spiritual perspective embraces a very different orientation. It holds to the belief that it is not things that have significant value but rather it is Love and Life itself that is truly valuable. People are to be loved and things are to be used. This perspective is grounded in the belief that all life is inter-connected and inter-related rather than separate and in a state of competition.

This division becomes most apparent in terms of those who are willing to use violence to get what they want and those who refuse to resort to violence to achieve their goals. When a person, when life itself, is seen as a means to an end it becomes acceptable, even laudable, to control, exploit or destroy if that’s what it takes to reach a goal. Domination and destruction are contradictory to the goals of healthy spirituality.
When life is considered sacred it can no longer be objectified as simply a means to an end but instead is known and related to as part of the infinite manifestation of Love.

We can belong to the World of Things or the World of Love. We cannot avoid this choice.

Why focus on the contrast between violence and nonviolence? This framing points to the question of how human problems are to be solved. It is the desire to solve our problems that unites us while it is the methods for achieving those solutions that causes us to diverge into the contrasting problem-solving forms of violence (materialistic power) and nonviolence (spiritual power).

The exercising of Materialistic Power essentially says: “Comply or die.” This “death” may be quite literal or it may be metaphorical in terms of deprivation of needed resources or basic freedoms. It is the straightforward imposing of physical force or intimidation on a person or group to induce their obedience.

The exercising of Spiritual Power, on the other hand, presents a perplexing set of refusals and active responses. When operating from a sense Spiritual Power a person refuses to “fight fire with fire” with the oppressor, refuses to run away from threatened harm, refuses to disengage from the oppressor and refuses to comply with the oppression process. Essentially a person acting from this orientation says: “I won’t fight with you on your level. I won’t run away from you. I won’t end my relationship with you and I won’t obey your unethical manipulations.” The active response is at least as perplexing. While under siege from the oppression of Materialistic Power the active response from one grounded in Spiritual Power is an unwavering “I love you.”

Violence exists as a broad spectrum of attitudes and actions. Its trademark is in its seeking to dominate and diminish the Other who is always regarded as quite separate from the perpetrator of the violence. It seeks victory by destroying or controlling the Other who is defined as a threat of some sort. Its manifestation may take the form of a physical attack with weapons designed to amplify the intended destructive power of the attacker. It may also take the form of a more subtle, non-physical attack (e.g. character assassination) that can nevertheless produce devastating results.

Violence as a process can also be understood as a projection of a person’s pain and/or fear. If one has not dealt constructively with these experiences the temptation to disown them becomes very powerful: “I will hurt you so that you will have to deal with my pain and I won’t. It will become your pain. I will scare you so that you will have to deal with my fear and I won’t. It will become your fear.”

There are those who believe in the use of violence as the method of choice to solve a broad range of human problems. If the end result is sufficiently valued then the means are considered justified. Counted among these believers are women and men, young people and old people, the wealthy and the not-so-wealthy, liberals and conservatives and the full spectrum of religious labels. Those who accept this kind of problem-solving are represented across a wide range of ethnic, social and economic backgrounds. There are law-makers and law-breakers, from the local level to the international stage, who subscribe to the idea that the end justifies the means and that this is how problems get solved.

There are also people from all of the groups just named who completely reject the notion that violence is an acceptable method for solving human problems. They maintain that the means to the desired end cannot be contrary in nature of that end: War cannot create Peace, Oppression cannot create Freedom, Hatred cannot create Love. This group holds that the Means and the End are inseparable.

Nonviolence can be best understood as the active expression and demonstration of love and not as the mere absence of destructive attitudes and actions. When we speak of love it is easy to go off on some wild goose chase as to what this really means. The love conveyed in active nonviolence is a kind of sacrificial love. This is the kind of love that consciously chooses to accept and endure real suffering for the sake of another, specifically for the sake of healing the perpetrator. This kind of love does not define the perpetrator as the “enemy” who must be destroyed or defeated. Instead, Sacrificial Love seeks to help the perpetrator become aware of the truth of his or her real inter-relatedness to the person or people he or she is hurting. In traditional language, it is the deep truth that we are all brothers and sisters to each other.

No less an intellect than Albert Einstein stated: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

If we give credence to Einstein’s claim about the nature of problem-solving it becomes logically impossible to believe that the problem of violence, whether this is a problem between nations, between individuals or within ourselves, can be solved through violent methods. The time has come to free ourselves from the mental prison that holds us in the insane belief that declares: “We have to kill people who kill people to show them that killing people is wrong.”

It becomes necessary to change our way of thinking and understanding in order to solve our problems. It is necessary to shift our awareness and our perspective in order to successfully solve our problems. We cannot solve our problems with the same low-level thinking that got us into trouble in the first place. If our house is burning down we cannot save it with a flame-thrower!

The problem of violence within ourselves is a crucial one. As previously stated, if one does not successfully heal his or her inner violence and the injuries from it then one will be very likely to project this destructiveness onto someone else. It is necessary to establish this internal healing as the foundation to solving human problems on an interpersonal level as well as between various social groups.

No less a wisdom teacher than Jesus of Nazareth explained metaphorically that one must first take the wooden beam out of one’s own eye before attempting to remove the splinter out of another’s eye. (Luke 7:5)

If we are to take him at his word, this means that we need to start healing our own impairment and suffering in order to stop perpetuating violence against ourselves which is often invisible to the rest of the world but the individual (who, in this case, is both perpetrator and victim) is acutely aware of his or her own internal self-torture process (e.g. “I’m such an idiot!”, “I’ll never be good enough!”, “No one would want to be with me if they knew what I was really like.”, etc.). We need to attend to our own healing and make peace within ourselves before we start telling, coercing and demanding that the other person (or group or nation) act a certain way to put their house in order.

What divides us is a faulty perception of how separate we are from each other. This misperception supports the belief in the “win-lose” form of problem-solving in our lives. When all we see is our disconnectedness is becomes easy to assume that competition in the only way to achieve needed solutions.

We move from division to unity when we start to see that the truth of our existence is one of connection and belonging. What were once seen as major differences between one another can now be recognized as largely superficial. We begin to love more and more inclusively as we realize that any injuries we do to others we do to our selves and that the compassion we extend to others is also the compassion that we receive.