Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Great Divide (11.6.09)

I think I understand
what is happening
in our land.

It's the solution
that evades me.
There is a huge fissure in the social fabric.  Indeed there is, on the part of some, an inability to even see the social fabric.

To those who cry for personal freedom and decry efforts, of whatever type, to care for our brothers and sisters (the least among us, the excluded, the poor, the sick, the illegal immigrant, those who cover their heads or use a different name for god, those who ask simply to marry the one they love), selfishness is a god, not freedom.  But they don't seem to see that.

What pains me most, what makes it nearly impossible to write at all, is this deeply ingrained selfishness and greed, which asserts that individuals are somehow "free" when they most disregard their fellow human beings.  Oh, I'm sure they wouldn't see it that way.  They think of themselves as fine, upstanding patriots - who are only interested in urging others to "stand up" and "fend for themselves".  Yes, they would say this to the sick and the lame and the poor and the downtrodden.

They would tell them, without performing any miracle, to "take up your bed and walk" - something that Jesus is described as saying.  But when Jesus said it, there was a gift of healing.
I am at a loss
for how
to get across
to folks
who are the haves and have mores
that we are put
upon this earth
to share
and care.
This is my dilemma.  This is a source of great suffering to me. 

And if you are reading this - and you fail to understand my suffering or what I've written - then please... this is not the blog for you to comment on.  Because apparently your heart seems unable to open up.  And that is exactly what is paining me.  Truly.

How do we first get people to open their hearts?  This is breaking my own heart!
To dwell with the suffering,
 in the suffering,
 that is sometimes all we can do.

 that somehow,
 if enough of us are willing to dwell there,
 it will become some kind of black hole -
 which pulls others
 into it.

Peace upon all.



Well said, and I completely agree, Thera. rec'd.
This is the same discussion I am having with my family and it falls, for the most part, on deaf ears.
Everyone is scared. They are fearful for what will happen to their family should the country fall into a depression. I think they KNOW, that unlike the last generation to face this, we, today, are mostly ill equipped to deal with hardship. Few have "live off the land" skills anymore, even if they had the land to do it. Most women don't can, or sew or cook from scratch. Most men don't hunt or grow their own food, or do carpentry.
But rather than try to figure out what skills each little neighborhood has at it's disposal and correct any deficiencies, most have their heads in the sand, and a few are trying to make sure no one takes anything more away from them and gives it to the "undeserving."
The most shocking part of it is that the people who are the most vocal about it are the very ones who were commanded by their Lord to take care of the "least" among us. It is a source of profound embarrassment to me.
We often talk about the disintegration of the social fabric in our country, and like you, I just don't know how to fix it.
P.S. Good to see you, Thera. But, I can only imagine how much you must be hurting to feel the need to speak So in that respect I am sorry you are...
What I can say?
To dwell with the suffering, in the suffering, that is all we can do. Hoping, that somehow, if enough us are willing to dwell there, it will become some kind of black hole - which pulls others into it.
Peace and love, dear stilli.
I've added that thought to the post. It seems to belong there.
I would far rather suffer than go through life with blinders on....
Unemployment is up, highest since '83. Friends here have lost their jobs and if they have not lost their jobs they are certainly afraid of losing their jobs or clients or customers....
A demonstration in DC of what I numbered in the hundreds ended up being a couple of thousand...
Were they protesting for jobs?
Were they protesting Wall Street greed?
Were they protesting hundreds of thousands of people shut out of health care?
Were they protesting needless deaths, suffering...
No they were protesting taxes and protesting attempts at reform...attempts to alleviate suffering and death.
So the religious channel blames Muslims...
Our little group is praying for a friend who wakes up facing death every morning and another who just wishes to get back to work.
The 'have mores'...hahahaha. Great line.
The world is a complicated place.
Sadly... that 'great line' was W's line... the man who said "he represented the haves and the have mores."
Great rant, dd!
Yes, the irony that the selfish and the greedy were bumped from the top of the news... by killing. Even though the selfish and the greedy seem ok with killing - as long as it happens to Muslims (or in Muslim lands...).
I have said it before and I'll say it again and again. What we are dealing with is a whole generation of self centered spoiled brats.
People who were molly-coddled and given there hearts desire while young. When what they should have received is a good licking when they got out of line.


I'm not sure if we can assume that all of them never got spanked. But that they somehow congratulated themselves for their good fortune - as if being born white, intelligent, and living in a home which provided food, clothing, shelter, and free college education was PROOF of their own "freedom" and "independence"!
Try adding "means testing" to social security or medicare contributions and see how "the greatest generation" starts to scream. Selfishness isn't generational, it is in our nature.
Which is why we must struggle to be our better selves.
C, It isn't all the spoiled generation/s. The 2 members of my extended family that are yapping the most against reform are in their 70's and 80's, both on medicare and going to the VA...go figure.
The political rift in this country eats at me every moment. At work, with family, even friends--much less political discussions on the net.
What gets me most is that the whole "left/right" dichotomy is just used as a wedge for the powerful to keep us at our throats. Just like powerful countries throughout history have fomented dissent between neighbors in order to keep their foothold, so we are being used.
If you drive a hummer and live in a $400K home, I at least understand why you are a replublican. But it confuses me to no end to see someone in a beat up 1987 toyota corolla with a "Bush/Cheney 04" sticker on it.
It seems like the Teabagger-Bachmann people are just a protofascist group whose main identifying feature is that they're willing to not give a shit about anyone but themselves. Maybe that's a bit hyperbolic, but maybe not.
I feel your pain, Thera.
Peace and all blessings upon you. Thank you for your willingness to suffer, to be part of this "black hole" - this "nothingness" which touches what is most sacred within the human heart.
Coffee you have just laid out the quiz of the century.
I have no answer. It is a puzzle that some software giant/genius should figure out sooooooooooooooooon.
I'm with you in sentiment, if not exactly getting all of what you say. I really like your style, Thera, but I have to admit I can't always follow you. I think it's because we come from very different styles of thinking (neither of them "wrong"). I'm very much an analytical thinker, whereas you strike me as very much of an empathic thinker.
Blessings upon you! Yes, sometimes we may confuse each other because of how our neurons fire or our brains are wired. In terms of "following" me, in some ways I'm honestly working on the very edge of where we humans can "think" or "perceive" or "feel our way". So I'm not sure I can always follow - myself - the journey that is my life, my "calling" you might say. Sometimes I'm "just" barely "touching" the direction I'm heading into. I feel at times like I'm operating in multiple dimensions simultaneously. And sometimes words fail... (MBH could give us a nice lecture on Wittgenstein here.)
Peace. Thank you for your efforts to follow, to empathize, to grope toward what I'm aiming at - here and elsewhere.
The funny thing about Ludwig Wittgenstein is that his dad was, what we now call, a master of the universe. Ludwig was born into a world of endless means (Brahms would play piano in the family's living room and his sister's therapist was Freud). Ludwig's intuition told him, “this world is not real.” He calls his intuition his “interlocutor.” It would function as his connection to a world outside of consumerism. In religious language, we call the interlocutor “angel.” I think he would see it as the communication of reality. These are the reasons, I think, that Thera and those like her struggle to understand their journey. To truly be spiritual is to remain connected to something outside of space and time – to trust in something beyond your experience. That takes guts and heart and head. And you can never physically see that with which you're connecting. You can only see it through intuition and emotional intelligence and social intelligence. Wittgenstein and Thera re-cognize that real vision oftentimes places you in a world that can be dark and lonely. Her question is: how can we reach people from this inner and eternal space?
Oh my God! That is a comment for the ages!
(I read a biography of Wittgenstein once. I seem to recall that he wrote his most famous work "in his head" during wartime. Something like that. Some of the most interesting works have been "written" in heads (and hearts during times of extremity). Viktor Frankl comes to mind. As does Solzhenitsyn.
Yes! "It is death that gives life its meaning and shape." (This saying also expresses the Masonic meditation on death.) Wittgenstein wanted to be on the front-lines so that he could find meaning in the face of death -- giving life its spiritual dimension. His conception of philosophy-as-therapy is uncannily close to Frankl's logotherapy.
Maybe that's part of our answer: to provide logotherapy on macro and micro levels. Meaning is more fundamental than pleasure and power. The latter only hold weight within a particular background of meaning. That's where terrorism goes wrong: it entangles meaning and power. But meaning stands alone. It doesn't need anyone to substantiate it -- especially through violence. If some terrorists are motivated by anti-consumerism, then they ought to recognize that it is systems of meaning which should be overthrown, not power-structures.
And it must be a struggle for meaning that is going on in this nation. Or it pretends to be a struggle for meaning. (Certainly as dd tells us, it's a struggle for string!
The right would like to wrest meaning away from our founding ideals and even spiritual ideals. Transcendent ideals and the pursuit of transcendent meaning lays bare the emptiness purveyed by a right which has little to offer except war and the glorification of finance and even worse, the belittling of groups of people who are in need or who care about those in need. (I'm not good at analyzing abstractions. You're better at that! So I'll quit while I'm ahead... or behind, as it were...)
That's a huge point! That sums up the tea parties perfectly: a power-struggle with the pretense of a meaning-struggle.
Yeah, dd's blog is perfect -- as is your chime-in that the Right is trying to lure people to their string (since it's connected to ours)!
dd's notion of "the price of string" is another huge point. That's the perfect way to phrase our object in free-market language: make string free!
Free String! And no strings attached!
I'm thinking it might look good on a T-shirt.
Wonderful! ;)
From one who may be sort of hopelessly over-analytical: beautifully said.
It put into words better than I've been able to until now the sense of despair I am battling often these days. I find myself entertaining more doubt than I would like to as to whether we will as a society be able to respond in accordance with the better angels of our nature as we in many ways did in the 1930s (still not towards blacks, who were excluded from key New Deal initiatives that benefited many others--see Ira Katznelson's When Affirmative Action Was White if you want to know more about that).
Some people respond in contexts such as the one today with rage or even hatred. Yours is the path of love and if we are going to get through these times to a better place the path of love will be very much in evidence.
A person who loved me deeply would say to me sometimes when I was down "This too shall pass." Yes, true. One way or another, it will. It's just what transpires during the passage that is so hard to take sometimes.
I've not participated in direct non-violent action for awhile now, probably since the 20th anniversary March on Washington rally I attended in DC or the Nuclear Freeze event in Central Park in the early-mid 1980s. But I find myself these days considering becoming re-engaged at that level. My hopes for what electoral politics, mostly by itself at the moment in the sense that there are currently no visible progressive mass social movements, can accomplish in the current context are being tested regularly these days.
You write beautifully and yours is a special soul, one which inspires.
Bless you, AmericanDreamer! And blessings upon your path - wherever it takes you. Yes, LOVE is the key. Compassion. Brotherhood. Justice.
Thank you for your lovely comment. And your kinds words. Never forget that one candle - even in the darkness - may light the way for others.
I've faced this in my own family this year, and it promises to be a tense Thanksgiving...
I am at a loss for how to talk to these people who are so damn certain.
Here's some advice I came upon yesterday:
It's hard to change hearts. Suffering may ultimately do that for you. I mean the suffering that enters the lives of "certain" people. Then again, some people have such an ability to deny and compartmentalize, that nothing will get through to them... not even a terminal illness, as they may not believe "they" will actually die.
Peace, dear Dorn. Try to maintain inner peace and live from the heart - no matter what.
Thanks. I'm going to be saying "I don't know about that" alot over the Holidays!
I predict our holidays will be similar, though my response will tend to be "I do not agree"...
Sometimes Thera you cannot succeed at opening the hearts you would like to open. Sometimes you have to settle for opening those you can and, in one way or another, prevailing over those whose hearts are hardened to your message. Some of those with hardned hearts can be healed and it is a massive irony that those whose hearts are hardened and minds closed are the ones who need healing most. We are only human. Not everyone can be redeemed. It is sad, but we cannot let that sadness overwhelm or overcome. You're desire to redeem those folks in question and the pain caused by not being able to win them over is admirable. I think many share your viewpoint on this.
Good to see you hither and thither on the sire lately!
Hither and Thither. Yes!
The sadness may be very deep, but it does not overwhelm me. Indeed, as I may have said above, there have been many blessings associated with living from the heart and letting the heart open wider and wider as suffering enters in.
Good to see you, dear oleeb.
Possibly I shouldn't insert myself in here and should just let Thera respond for herself. But I didn't think that was Thera's point.
I didn't think she was principally focused on the "redemption" of those most of us would probably think of as our political opponents. I thought she was focused on the millions of our fellow citizens who are suffering now, unnecessarily so, because not enough of us care enough about the suffering of these "others", and are willing to act on that care to mitigate that suffering.
I thought her words were applicable to many on "our" side as well as "their" side. At least I was able to interpret what she wrote in a way that challenges me to rethink, take stock, and refocus.
I don't get to determine whether someone else cares or not about "others" who are suffering, and how they do or don't respond to what is in their heart. All I can do in the end is work to do what I can, in collaboration with like-minded others. If that serves as a positive example to anyone else who is observing, so much the better. But I don't get to control that, either.
In many contexts in my life I don't think of myself as "potential role model". It's all I can do just to get and keep my own head straight and do what I think I should be and need to be doing.
I firmly believe that character is about what a person does when no one is looking--or, equally, when a person believes no one is looking.
I observe sometimes in progressive social and political analysis a proposed or assumed antinomy between a focus on the "personal" versus a focus on the "social/political". I've never agreed with that way of looking at things. I think personal emotional and spiritual strength and effective collaborative (social and political) action, rather, go hand-in-hand. They tend to mutually reinforce one another.
A focus on personal, spiritual development which, however, lacks a social and political component drives social, cultural and eventually political change--but only accidentally, as it were, not in intended political ways. OTOH, a focus on progressive political action probably needs, as a practical matter, ethical, spiritually strong and grounded leadership (at all levels, not just the "top", formal leadership) as a necessary, albeit an insufficient, condition for success at movement politics level.
The folks who were the leaders during the civil rights struggle in this country joined together to move mountains none of them could move on their own. They were also extremely strong spiritually (not to be taken as necessarily religiously grounded, although for many of them that was the case) as individuals.
Yes, of course I am talking about MLK and John Lewis and "famous" people in formal leadership positions. But I'm talking as well about a great many people who will forever remain invisible in the written historical accounts, people without whose efforts MLK and John Lewis would not be thought of in the way they are today. Extraordinary "ordinary" people who just acted and did the right thing for the right reasons, with no requirement for acclaim or reward.
Very few of us are doing everything we could be doing--me certainly included. A lament about what others are not doing can become profoundly disempowering if it becomes a fixation. A focus on what each of us as individuals can do, on the other hand, is profoundly empowering, because each of us can act, can think or rethink, can make adjustments to our outlook and in our actions.
Powerful comment! I think you should turn it into a blog. Lots of food for thought there.
MLK and Gandhi were profound influences on me. I wrote about that long ago when I wrote a blog about Barack Obama at the beginning of the primaries. My youth was a time when Kennedy was killed. MLK was killed. Gandhi too, of course. But the message that we got from wise elders was not to turn inside and become selfish, but to care about our fellow person. And to keep on caring.
Peace be with you.
This has no relationship to the post - at least not any I can discern at the moment. But it's beautiful and I just wanted to share it:
I hope my keyboard recovers from all the tears...All the hawks should have to read stories like this over and over...
I've shared this with friends. I always worry when pieces like this use the past tense that there's going to be a sad ending. Keeping my fingers crossed.
I have a friend finishing his 2nd tour within about another month in Afghanistan after two tours in Iraq. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed for him, too. He's a great guy, like the two kids written about in this piece appear to be.
He votes Republican and I wish Thomas Frank had included interviews with people like him in What's the Matter with Kansas? even though my friend isn't from Kansas, because I think progressives could learn a lot from listening to people like him. It might dent some stereotypes that hinder folks on our side, I believe. We disagree with one another on all manner of issues. When he gets back to the States, we're agreed the first lunch is on me.
Yes, I had that same ominous thought....
Thanks for your comment!
and from the back of the room a slightly older man smiles sadly as the voice of our collective conscious tries once again to light a candle in the darkness.
Thera, as you and a few others that are regulars here know I seldom comment but that is largly because I already know what I'm thinking will be posted in some form or other by one of the others but I felt this one was extra special and I wanted to personally commend you for trying to find a way to open the hearts and minds of those few disenters that dare to wander these areas of the internet.
I live in one of those painfully red states where even last year they didn't vote for Obama. This is a state with mostly middle to lower income farmers and small business and, thou I don't know any numbers I'd wager less than one half of one tenth of one percent will ever make more than $100,000. in a year much less several million. Still by usually wide margins they will vote Republican at the drop of a "Raise your taxes...take away your guns"...or the demon "Socialism" even though, if they bothered to try and understand the truth they'd realize they're largely voting against their own self interests.
I have dared to reach out to some of thEm in thE local coffe shop only to be ridiculed and shuned as a radical. I have listened to them long enough to know that these good and honest people also believe that thE bible books Matthew, Mark Luke and John were actually written by those named Aposotle's even though any honest student of the bible knnows this to be impossible.
As I venture forth daily unto the lions den I am frequently heartened by two quotes. The first from Star Wars where Luke is about to enter the cave on Dagoba and he states "I am not afarid" and Yoda softly replies. "You will be" and the second from Carl Sagan, "For Small Creatures Such As We, The Vastness Is Only Bearable Through Love"
I salute you Thera, you are a special soul we are all honored by your presence and your words.

Bless you! I am moved by your words. And moved that you felt prompted to write here. You have honored this post. Peace be with you in the lion's den - so to speak.
Someone once told me: If you want to be a peacemaker, what better place to do that than in a war zone.
Each of us inhabits these 'war zones' - and we need to try and make peace there. In spite of all the difficulties.
May you be well.
I think you're confusing libertarians (such as, most of the time, myself) with conservatives. I think you're also confusing failure to care for one's fellow man with failure to believe that the Federal Government should expropriate property from all citizens and provide it according to an arbitrary formula to "care for" people.
I'm never impressed by appeals to freedom, these days, because they're so often appeals to greed. But for most Americans, freedom is about being left alone by the Federal Government. And that really is freedom, and it really is at stake in these debates over health care, climate change, and immigration.
The Federal Government should not enforce equality of outcomes on the population. That's what I believe. That doesn't mean we can't care for our fellow man. It just means we shouldn't be forced to give up what we have so that bureaucrats can distribute it according to some formula about who needs it or deserves it more.
Short answer: Why do you believe that the state is better situated to care for people than they themselves are, or than we ourselves are?
The only reason to use state power is that people don't believe something is worth doing themselves. You hold a gun to their head to make them. That's fine, we do it all the time. But it's worth remembering.
Ahhhh.... hmmmmmm.... it's all so confusing, isn't it? In the middle... of the middle... of the muddle.
Peace be with you.
Why do you believe that the state is better situated to care for people than they themselves are, or than we ourselves are? el Presidente
The state is very good at taking care of those who take care of themselves very well, and who have the money left to buy politicians and fund political campaigns.
Some of us would like to see an even playing field.
For instance the recent usurpation of H1N1 flu vaccine by non-priority greedy me-first Wall Streeters while more susceptible children and pregnant women have to wait, or the ongoing bank bailout and the indirect bailout of those firms gaming the system like Goldman Sachs, which plans $20 billion in bonuses or 3/4 million per employee this year.
Well said! Very well reasoned! :-)
You seem pretty sure of yourself.
government, in our country, is one way people do things together for the commonwealth.
Like all human instituations(be they govt, corporate, business, coops, loose coalitions of neighbors, etc)can become corrupt. Vigilence is needed in all endeavors. Bath water and the baby. Govt isn't special in that regard. If you set up an institution outside of govt to perform some task, it would be just as susceptible.

That being said, there are people, like me, who think differently than you. Govt is also here to bring us together. We call that politics. Else there might be civil war.
I like that so much. "Libertarians" often confuse independent systems and interdependent systems. You can push anti-state rhetoric all day, but to oppose interdependent systems is -- literally -- insane. On the most general level possible, no system is independent from any other system. Reality is an unbroken, unfragmented whole (to paraphrase theoretical physicist David Bohm). To think otherwise is to mistake appearances for essences. And that is insane.
"You hold a gun to their head to make them."
Or, you get a majority to vote for policies that mandate everyone is entitled to a minimum standard of living. Same thing, I guess.
You people that elevate the right to acquire and hoard property to the status of a divinely sanctioned, unrestricted and inviolable right (really, in your world, the only right so unfettered humans should grant one another) are the problem, no matter what you call yourselves.
You think that millions should starve in the streets so that the pursuit of luxury for a few can go forth unimpeded. It's disgusting. There's really no other word for it.
If you put a gun to someone's head you fail to see them as "part" of your common humanity. Passing laws is a much more humane way of pursuing the values of a caring society.
I understand your rage. But beneath anger is usually pain and sadness for the plight of others. It is their plight which should move us. That's a more painful place to stand. But ultimately more fruitful - for oneself and others. IMVHO.
I don't have an answer to how to open 'their' hearts.
But I can recommend two things to help you with your suffering.
1) Byron Katie's 'The Work'. The worksheet is available online. It won't change what's needed but perhaps open up a little of the thinking that may be causing suffering/desire to stop suffering.
2) The Buddhist practice of Tonglin
I can share that it is possible to focus on love so completely and fully that I can embrace suffering like a mother holding a wounded child and find peace and by focusing so completely on the beauty of innocence I can embrace great rage and find calm with practices such as these.
Believe me I am one who completely understands the drive to 'do' something. And you naturally always do offer a great gift that does help to open hearts just being who you are and who you continue to choose to be.
Big Heart. Big Mind. I see you as pure consciousness coming to know itself as TheraP and you are immensely beautiful and an embodiment of love.
I am familiar with the practice. Indeed, this is what is needed. Not the practice itself, though that is to be commended, but its end result. And the end result can be gained in many ways. The embodying of Compassion. That is what we need. And that compassion, that Presence, does affect others.
Peace be with you. And perhaps some who read your comment will be prompted to look into the practice. Thank you so much. For this. And all you do.
Thera - I have, in a book by the late, great Lewis Thomas, a comment about how tied to each other we are, how un-alone we really find ourselves, how inextricably bound we must be, both in fact and in language, and how the delusion of "individuality" and "alone-ness" (manifest as the egregious cult of libertarian conservatism so loudly prevalent today) is just that - a delusion. For to point it out, we must communicate it. Through words, thoughts, ideas - language, be it speech, flyers, books, blogs, whatever.
We not only need each other, we are inextricably linked. When we seek to harm each other, as I'd pointed out before, we harm ourselves thereby.
The book is not in immediate reach, or I'd key in the relevant phrases. It's somewhere in "The Medusa and The Snail" if you want to look.
Your comment reminds me of the quanta. The quanta... all over the universe... yes, inside us as well... all leap together! There is no predicting the "direction" of the leap. But it's a simultaneous "happening" and we're all part of it. Something - deeper even than the quanta - holds this fabric together. There's a social fabric, but there's also a deep "cosmic fabric". And yes, it's a delusion to deny it. (But of course, denial and delusion run rampant nonetheless....)
This made me think of the movie the Dark Crystal
when the mystics knew it was time and started slowly heading for the castle of the Skeksis prepared to merge with them. Then they started sounding and light moved through them and the Skeksis were pulled into the light.
One of my favorites. Muppets can be very, very dark. And there is an interesting backstory to that movie. They first devised the world, and then the creatures inhabiting it took form as a result.

Blessings ...

Blessings come from Grace and Grace comes to those who live in Graciousness ...
Easy to say. Tough in this world to apply.
There but for the Grace, go I . . .
Grace sometimes comes even when one least deserves it. That is true grace.
May we all recognize the times we receive what we did not deserve - and it happens all the time. For that let us truly be thankful. And therefore ready to share.
Thanks for your words of wisdom, OGD.
With love I would argue that we did deserve it and it is just a story of ourselves as unworthy or having to do 'something' to be worthy... well, for me at least that feels tied to some religious notions.
Yes, there are two sides to this. We 'do' deserve - and that is part of our being. Yet, at times we do not listen to our better angels. Or we reach the limits of our own strength. And, at least for me, often it is in just those "states" that we may receive an unlooked for, even unhoped for blessing of grace. But, as you say, it's because in the deepest heart of Reality, Mercy and Justice meet. We call that Love.
I know you understood me TheraP. But to me more clear for others... the idea that we 'do not deserve' grace for me feels tied to some religious notions.
Oh how I wish Bush, Cheney, Bachman, Beck, et al grace.

Amen to that!
Oh I think it is Seaton who castigates me for being too sentimental.
And I do not wish to sound too unFEELING ABOUT real issues discussed here.
But I must note that I am sooooooooooo happy to see you and Q on top with goooooooooooood comments....waking us all up again.
There I said it. But I would awaken tomorrow and feel like I missed something, if I had not noted it somewhere. I mean Grouch, and Sync, and Stilli, and ducky...and Dorn and Obee, and C and others whom I do not see very often.
Bless you, dd! Yes, it's been a special day here. And please, never, ever lose your sentimentality! It is one of your best qualities. I personally love you for it!
What I love about some people at the Cafe, you included of course, is the vicarious joy for a blog well done by someone else! (That is why I want you on the top of the list, of course!)
Your words, "selfishness is a god, not freedom", reminded me of a song by the unsung band Thin White Rope, which wrote on a more personal level:

Late at night when I'm cooling down
Rattles sound inches from my face
And your voices lashes like a snake
With a phone cord for a tail
And the snake says to me
"You are alone but you are not free."

That last line always struck a chord with me. Something for those obsessed with freedoms to contemplate along with Goethe's admonition that "There are none so enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free".
That last line.... wow, it strikes a chord with me too! And Goethe! His most famous poem, really the perfection of the German lyric, is very short. I know it by heart - in German. And in essence it speaks to the interpenetration and integration of all of nature - and our home in it when we tune into that. To the hush of dusk. A time of contemplation. And coming rest.
I don’t know if this is appropriate or not, TheraP, but I wanted to share a chapter of my story with you.
During the first Gulf War (the one some, too many, call the ‘good one’, ugh) I was in agony almost continually. I had two small children and work and so much to do; it was all I could do to get up in the mornings, but I did must have managed to function, or at least the shell of me functioned.
There was almost no coverage of the war, as per Herbert Walker’s orders. I swear I imagined I could feel every bomb raining down on the Iraqi people: thousands and millions of tons of bombs, a veritable nightmare of incendiaries, with colorful, mega-destructive names. All around us people were war-crazed, and the yellow ribbons were ubiquitous, and those of us against that war were so isolated from each other. In this town we were pariahs, literally.
Finally it was spring, and I could get outside and do the karma labor I love: play in the dirt to grow things, wake up the perennials, trim the fruit trees, things like that. That, and the sunshine, helped. (I may have been suffering a bit of seasonal affective disorder, too.)
When Barbara Kingsolver’s book of essays came out, I got it. Lo, and behold, she had gone through a similar experience. She felt so foreign and distant from the rest of the populace, she and her husband moved to Spain for a few years. But her insights about her depression jerked me up short, and helped me a lot; especially this one particular illumination and I can’t remember how she came to it:
She finally acknowledged to herself that her pain, her daily pain and concern for what was being done in her name, in our name, was in the end, another sort of self-indulgence.
There was, perhaps, some place is us that needed the pain that she and I brought down on ourselves, that we permitted to incapacitate ourselves. We may have thought that our suffering was in some way noble, and that we were powerless over it. It rang true to me, and while it was too late to put myself exactly back in that place, I have tried to be more measured in my pain responses, hunting for those pitfalls she described so well.
Now when I feel myself spiraling down that way, I go be out under the stars, or find other ways to gain some perspective—to still feel things deeply, but not without limit. The living still need some of what I have yet to give.
This may or may not chime for you, but I thought I’d offer it.
Thank you, Wendy. I think this is very helpful here. And I too was never in favor of the 1st Gulf War either. Too many wars... started by repubs... but I digress.
I must say that I too, especially in my work as a therapist, have had to learn to "be" with the suffering, while at the same time protecting myself from getting sucked into a whirlpool. It's a very fine line, isn't it? I've wrestled with that line a lot.
If you've never read Viktor Frankl, you might find that helpful too.
Suffering can be undergone, even ennobling, when you transcend it in some way. When it is not your pity-party, but instead you reach out or you reach inward in a way that stretches you, enlarges your heart. Then, from this place of transcended suffering, you feel a kinship with others which is uplifting.
This is not an easy task. But it is a worthwhile task. In order to work one's way "out" of something, you have to let yourself fall "into" it at first. There is no other way.
Thank you for sharing what you did. And for giving me the opportunity to share back.
Peace be with you. I love your little bird! :-)
I do a lot of soul-work with people; souls and spirits don't exist separately from bodies. I find that if I ever get my ego involved, I end up with a client's pain. I just wanted to make sure that you aren't suffering needlessly; I can't afford to any more. I do think that since I have had so many hard things happen, it does open my heart, and the best way to get others to open up is to share some of myself. But it doesn't require falling into their abysses, either singularly or collectively. That way there be dragons...
Well said. Very well said. Thanks for all your thoughtful comments.

How do we first get people to open their hearts?
If you hold them by their balls, their hearts and minds will follow.
Except that's called torture. And you know the hearts and minds don't "really" follow. They just pretend to....

Nope. That is called politics. Real hard boiled politics. I feel your pain about the heartless. But they wouldn't be winning if it weren't for the gutless.

Well, courage is called for. No doubt about that!
Thanks for a very thoughtful post. My first reaction is that we need a little more suffering. Suffering humbles the prideful. I like your analogy of the black hole, that was a very good image to illustrate your idea.
Glad you like that image. Wisdom through suffering, as the Greeks said. Thanks for your visit, steevo. :-)
Thera, I can read the pain between the lines you write.
The pain you speak of reminds me of a lifeboat adrift at sea full of people. They all wish to be rescued. Unfortunately, there are some who refuse the lifeline tossed simply because the ship that responded to their distress to save them from their current fate is not the ship they are expecting. Some do wish to be saved - they know the ship is but a temporary situation that will move them to a better locale, but they are unable to convince those in the group to accept the choice they've been given.
There are times when waiting for the better option is prudent, however, one must also realize there are times when the first available option presents itself, one must move with all deliberate speed. It all depends upon how dire the situation is. And the problem in the lifeboat is there are some who are not able to comprehend the situation at hand, but insist on holding out for a better option not aware their current situation can only get worst if they don't act quickly.

Beetlejuice, what a brilliant analogy! It's so good when we have minds working together on something! Thank you for that piece! :-)
It's so good to see you here, TheraP. Blessings upon you, too.
For me, your post is timely. I've been reading Max Blumenthal's new book, Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party, and other articles on the subject.
What you have described so movingly is in reality coming from a lunatic fringe group. In many ways, most of mainstream America does not subscribe to this 'freedom to be selfish' theory as you put it. But they are the ones who have had all the political power in the last 30 years, and many of their lunatic mistakes are still in Congress.
My main point here is that there is nothing you and I, or anyone else, can do to change their attitudes. Frank Schaeffer, the son of renowned evangelist Francis Schaeffer, describes these people as the village idiots. And there is no point in arguing with a village full of village idiots. He recommends that we move past them and get on with rebuilding the institutions and government that actually work for the benefit of the people. [From an interview on the Rachel Maddow show. Watch it TheraP - she asks the same questions you do.] None of us should allow these people to give us one moment's worth of suffering.
Many (if not most) of these lunatics are members of the so-called Christian Right and they give Christianity a bad name. Maybe it will help to just call them the Religious Right. And for those of you who are Christians, you need to speak up when stupidity abounds and educate the rest of us. For instance:
Three quarters of Americans believe the Bible teaches that “God helps those who help themselves.” That is, three out of four Americans believe that this uber-American idea, a notion at the core of our current individualist politics and culture, which was in fact uttered by Ben Franklin, actually appears in Holy Scripture. The thing is, not only is Franklin’s wisdom not biblical; it’s counter-biblical. Few ideas could be further from the gospel message, with its radical summons to love of neighbor. On this essential matter, most Americans—most American Christians—are simply wrong, as if 75 percent of American scientists believed that Newton proved gravity causes apples to fly up.
I have to confess, I had no idea it was Franklin that uttered those now immemorial words and not the Bible. But if three quarters of the population believes that a core Republican tenet comes from the Bible, you can see why we have some of our troubles.
or maybe
Let us Prey upon the idiots and use them for our own devices.
Oh, wise puppy dog! I'm getting in the back seat of that car and letting you do the driving! You are perhaps the wisest among us. And I applaud every single word of your comment! As DD said, Let us Pray!
There is so much I could say in response. But let me start with this. In 2004, right after the second stolen election of bushco, I became convinced that the right had hijacked christianity in the service of owning those votes and as dd says preying upon people all to ready to believe a 'word' was the word of their maker. I won't go into the whole story, but I ended up, in effect, infiltrating a bastion of conservative religious bigotry. It kind of "happened" that I was amidst these people - while not really among them or of them - EVER! But I came to see how evangelicals and fundamentalists were twisting dogmas - driven by zeal for power really and by a belief that somehow the political right was going to bring about their "kingdom". It was one of the most painful things I've ever experienced. I was alone when there - for the most part - though there were a few people with whom I could "share" and keep my Reality-Testing intact. And it has equipped me with my own quiet zeal - no power wanted please! - to pursue things on two fronts. One political (but infused with compassion). The other spiritual (and in a sense that is where I am now focused - thus explaining my "absence" from the Cafe).
I am in complete agreement with all you say. And I may well read that book. I will surely watch the Rachel Madow clip. Believe me, I am well aware of the lunacy - and the dogged determination of these folks. And I'm telling you, these folks are organizing not just in the US of A. It goes beyond our borders.
Our problem, as I see it, is that all too many folks - even the non-religious - subscribe to the belief you mention. As if it came from on high. They would help a neighbor down the street - but god forbid the nation used tax monies for anything other than the subsidies to which THEY feel entitled (as productive, worthy citizens). (I have seen this in a family member - you can make a guess here - and even my elderly parents have been swayed to some extent.)
So we're trying to move a battleship here. And it's the charts we're after! They've switched the charts! Like the string dd talked about, it's been spliced!
I am with you every step of the way. As you see I have gone some steps which I would caution folks to never take. But it was not in vain. What I learned could fill a book!
Dearest Puppy Dog, I love you! Forever! :-)

P.S. It may seem to originate within a small, crazy fringe group - but that totally fits, remember, with the agenda of the Leo Strauss folks:
One of their central tenets is to marry religion and the state in the service of war and lies and the elite group's dominance.
Don't think it's only the village idiots! They "use" the idiots in the service of their twisted ideals.
JMVHO here. But I'm pretty convinced of it. Think on this a bit. Thanks!
Take a look here. This is being supported by churches in Uganda. And they are "connected" to churches here in the US. This is something about which we may perhaps be ignorant. This is not being condemned by mainline churches. As it should be. And it is a festering sore that relates to things going on here:
Thanks for this, TheraP. Just substitute a couple of names in here and there's no difference between the US and Uganda:

The second reason why the hate campaign against GLBT is not surprising is that most of those connected to state power, for instance Nsaba Buturo & Co. are born-again, rigid, fundamentalist, revivalist Christians who bring to the public policy process and the management of state affairs, their religious bigotry that they pass off as public morality and ethics.
Yes! And as I say there is interconnectedness between these "churches of bigotry"! (trust me on that...)
Oh, TheraP, I love you, too. You are my favorite music.
And one brave cookie. If I go to Free Republic or Red State via the Internet, I come away feeling like I need to clean my computer. Up close and personal would be traumatizing (I'm not kidding), although in your case the results seem worth the experience.
Your ship of state metaphor is cool. I would add that not only did they switch the charts, they also put sugar in the engines and we've had to use the damn oars for turning. :-)
One of their central tenets is to marry religion and the state in the service of war and lies and the elite group's dominance.
I absolutely recall the Strauss conversation. I don't think it's a coincidence that the rise of the Neocons tracks the rise of the Religious Right. Both groups believe in the power of power, and where they diverge is only in the scope of that power. Neocons believe in global hegemony, while the GOP and Religious Right keep it on the national level. In all cases, the ends justify the means of keeping and retaining it, as the leadership of the groups noticed.
I honor the path you are on today. Just know that you are loved and appreciated. And always welcomed.
You've warmed my heart for sure!
I love the additions to the "ship of state" metaphor. Yes.... so true. And our oars are old and battered.
My path is a mystery to me. But I'm urged to follow it nonetheless.
I'll throw in an oar her and an oar there. What a bunch of ships that need turning!
Thera, I don't want to be argumentative, for certainly there is a case to be made for opening our hearts.
However, where we're really coming up short is in using our heads. Substituting emotion for careful thought and objective analysis has us going off in all kinds of ridiculous directions. Our world is very complex. We need people who know how to put their emotions aside and use their heads, not the theatrical displays, lies and catering to the emotions of the uninformed and then calling that, very illogically, public support.
The adjective for the lowest common denominator which many of our lawmakers appeal to is 'stupid'. Adherence to stupid is what we've gotten.
We can let the dumbasses call the shots but then we can't complain when it doesn't work out. Our senators and congresspersons have to get some balls and make the proper choices in spite of what the dumbasses are calling for.
To do what you're proposing takes tremendous courage. I'm not sure if you'd class courage as an emotion, but courage, fortitude, and compassion, along with inner combat in a sense (to keep our eye on the ball, so to speak) - these go hand in hand, of course, with efforts to analyze and synthesize and so on.
Thank you for thinking deeply about this. And please continue to do that. I think this is territory we have to go over and over - almost like a crime scene - in the search for clues about what's gone wrong. In order to right the wrongs.
Your words did not sound contentious to me. I don't have all the answers. Indeed, I have very few of them! It's the questions that nag at me. And the suffering of so many people. People without jobs. Without health care. With illnesses. Families. Homes they may have lost. So many things...
Caring and sharing. Call it what you will.
Well before we can open hearts, we must open minds. We need more institutions that encourage critical thinking instead of institutions such as Fox News that encourage mindlessness. So we have our own battle for "hearts and minds" right here in the USA.
Amen, Tom! It's toss-up which of these become the "means" of reaching anyone. But no doubt the schools are somehow failing our young people - failing to help them identify propaganda, understand our foundational aspirations, etc. It's such a huge endeavor to try and "reach" people once they are adults. But all too often, it is calamities in their lives that leave them defenseless enough to face what they have resisted facing.
I know you're doing your part! And thank you for that! :-)
I refuse to engage in crippling us/them thinking that blames opposition to progressive egalitarian policies on the alleged psychological deficiencies and emotional inadequacies of our opponents: "greed", "selfishness", "hardheartedness". Let's look within, instead. Progressives have it within their reach to defend a set of policies that will be a demonstrable net benefit of the vast majority of Americans. We should be able to explain it to them in a way that is both intellectually and motivational compelling If we can't do that that, then it is our fault, not theirs.
Unfortunately, many Democrats are not able to explain the policies they claim to support. Not even a little bit. They don't understand their costs and they don't understand their benefits. They don't know precisely where the money is going to come from and where it is going to go. They don't do any homework; they don't sweat the details; they don't know how to defend the claim that their own pet proposal is a more effective harnessing and expenditure of national economic resources than some alternative policy that can be enacted instead. They can't be bothered to engage in that kind of responsible social decision-making and master that kind of detail. They can't spell out in believable detail who will benefit and who will lose as a result of the policies they support.
As a result, it is extremely easy for opponents of progressive policies to paint the policies' defenders as reckless spendthrifts, immature impulsives, self-indulgent deadbeat, enemies of personal responsibility and irresponsible stewards of the nation's economy. If so-called progressives are not doing that kind of homework and due diligence, they should stop bitching about how much "suffering" they are experiencing because their neighbors won't adopt their own half-baked policies. Most people won't, and shouldn't respect that kind suffering.
Most Americans don't think of other Americans as their "brothers and sisters". They just don't. And they never have. They care far more about themselves, their families, their immediate friends and their local communities. But they can be induced to support progressive policies because those policies are better for the people they do care about. That's all we can ask for.
We frankly need more "hard-hearted" Democrats. We don't need more monsters of self-pity and indulgent, disembodied, rationally undirected compassion turning suffering into a religion.
IMHO the place to start is within their own world view. As most of of these close minded people profess to be inerrant christians, the question I ask is their own: What Would Jesus Do?
As a therapist, TheraP, I would gather that you have a better handle on how this is done than I. And what is amusing, for me at least, is that I am most decidedly non-spiritual and nonreligious, yet having been raised by an Episcopalian minister know more about the basic precepts of their religion than they do.
Thank you for a very thoughtful discussion.
You can't change people unless they WANT to change. Even then... it can be very tough going to try and help them "see themselves" differently - enough so that they begin to feel their past thoughts and behaviors as discordant from what they'd like to be doing and thinking. Even then, that's the ONLY the first step.
Very tough to change people. But FEAR is a huge activator - not something that any therapist can make use of - it would be unethical. However, the right and the religious right manipulate fear. Take a look at the Straussian principles and you can see a bit about that:

That's what we're "up against" here. And if you think of the Tea Baggers, you can see those fears coming right out of their mouths.
Seems to me that what's happening in the Tea Bag movement is a kind of Tower of Babel aftermath - where language is being destroyed in the service of trying to destroy the Obama administration. It's a risky strategy. Could spell further decline in this Republic if we no longer have a common "language" to discuss politics, economics, etc. May already be too late....
"...yet having been raised by an Episcopalian minister know more about the basic precepts of their religion than they do."
Then it is not really their religion. Forget about that. Most of the Christianists don't care what Jesus would do. Their ancestors fought a bloody civil war to to prevent the federal government from making them do something they were in no mind to do, even if that thing - freeing slaves - was probably something Jesus would have done.
I do agree with you, Dan K, that we could do a much better job in presenting the progressive case. I have it from first-hand experience that Wonkiness does not win over those that do not think in those terms.
I guess my sort-of aside was a bit distracting. Exactly what they believe is not the point, using it to communicate with them is. So much of this seems to be just talking past each other.

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