The Prayer of the Children

I was at an audio show yesterday in Denver. In one of the endless demonstration rooms, a gear manufacturer was playing a song I had heard years ago, and forgotten how moving it was. I’m supposed to be there critiquing audio products and instead I’m sitting on their couch, weeping. Just a moment ago, I found the song with a video. This is hard for me to watch all the way through. The theme is religious, but the call is universal. Anyone touched by this poem cannot help but make the world a better place, regardless of their belief or tribe. Alas, human separation and alienation resulting from tribal and religious belief is part of the  

Create Something Beautiful

“Give me one wild word, and I promise I will follow. The word the Sea rolled back to me was “mosaic.” I began to see through acts of witnessing, that the extermination of a species and the extermination of a people are predicated on the same impulses: prejudice, cruelty, ignorance and arrogance, all circling around issues of power and justice. The world is broken. We are broken, whether it is through our distractive, fragmented lives or war. Taking that which is broken and creating something whole is an act of healing and restoration. Call it reconstruction. Mosaic: an art form, a form of integration. Finding beauty in a broken world is creating beauty in the world we find. It is more than the act of assemblage, it is the act of daring contemplation that leads us to action. To bear witness is not a passive act. To be present with a piece of art, with a prairie community, with a Rwandan mother who is telling you a story of what happened to her children during the war, is to be moved to a different point of view. Empathy is the word that comes to mind. Through acts of witnessing our consciousness shifts and as a result, we can choose to act differently. Pete Seeger says, “Participation is the key to rescuing the human race.” I believe him. I certainly do not have any recipe for engagement, I can only share three things that have made a difference for me. Trust your heart, follow your passion and share it with others. Become biologically literate — learn the names of the plants, birds, and animals where you live, extending your notion of community to include all life. Become part of that community with all the rights and responsibilities that it offers, both human and wild. We can improvise. We can create without a map. And we don’t have to live in isolation. The gift of an attentive life is the ability to recognize patterns, and find our way towards a unity built on empathy. Empathy becomes the path that leads us from the margins to the center of concern. The pattern is the thing. The beauty made belongs to everyone. Finding beauty in a broken world becomes more than the art of assemblage. It is the work of daring contemplation that inspires action. Create something beautiful.” – Terry Tempest  

Hope I Don’t Die

My friend Nick sent me a powerful video essay on the Western ethos of war. Incredibly moving four-minutes. Hard to watch this film and not be changed. (You can view the film on its homepage here.) The line was continually blurred between perpetrator and victim, between hero and villain. In time, the labels that heretofore defined my perceptions of the world became meaningless. You see what you want to see. You see it the way you want to see it. You see what you can bear to see. – Peter van Agtmael The structure of the current global economy is not designed for equitable, plodding growth; it’s designed to reward opportunistic, risk-seeking innovators. Were one to construct an investment portfolio of illicit businesses, it would no doubt outperform Wall Street. – Nils  

Compassion

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect. It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others “even our enemies” is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion. We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings “even those regarded as enemies.” We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensible to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community. – From the Charter for Compassion, a TED Wish by Karen  

Coexoogle

Google is hosting a contest for kids to design their own interpretations of the Google logo. You can vote for your favorite here. My favorite was this simple design by an eight-year-old named Sameek Das from Boulder Colorado. Something tells me that Sameek’s mommy and daddy may have helped just a teency weency bit, but I still think it’s great.  Says Sameek, I wish religious harmony for the world. We all are equal under one God! Our world will be a better place, if we love and respect each other irrespective of our religion. With respectful coexistence of different religions, peace will prevail in the world. Someday, I wish to write with the transparency of my friend Sameek (though when Sameek gets a little older, he will learn that “respectful coexistence of different religions” is not likely to bring world peace by itself. It’s a beautiful thought, and it will help, but the majority of wars have been caused by secular and political strife, not religion.) Sameek’s metaphor of the world’s religious symbols working together to facilitate instantaneous global dialogue is really quite stunning. While the religions of the world may not agree on points of metaphysics and morals, there is one overriding quality to which we must agree:  that of love and good will towards all without regard to one’s religious identity or agenda. That, I believe, is essential  

A Truism for the World

I’m learning many things during this season in Fiji, what I learned today is a truism for the world. Our tribal, socioeconomic, country, and religious lines of discord and division vanish when we’re confronted with a story like Roslyn’s. There’s a place for debate and civil discussion when it comes to our ideas and spiritual understandings, but it can’t divide us. Many of the powers that be, especially those within religion, are at work to remind us of all that we’re not. Reminding us of how different we are, of our divided history, and of the wrongs that have been done to us or to our friends and family. A unifying movement is finding its roots in the world that I’m seeing. Through the dividing lines, tribal wars, and common misunderstandings, deep within our bones there’s a collective goodness that binds our humanity together. It’s in these moments that I’m awakened to this reality often unseen. Reminding ourselves of our intrinsic unity is our continued challenge. A challenge that can start with a seven year old girl who has a brain tumor and continue with erasing poverty or the lack of clean drinking water. It goes beyond ourselves and into our communities and the world surrounding us. This is true not because of where we come from or because of our religiosity. We come together to help one another because it reflects our one humanity.   –  Stephen and Lindsay Mook Stephen and Lindsay Mook are serving at a school for deaf Fijian children. Read Roslyn’s story  

Rural Dominican

Our Amish friends Troy and Genie have been building an orphanage in the poorest section of the Domincan outback, near the Haitian border. Death threats to them are common, as are devastating hurricanes and the worst of living conditions. They gave up a blossoming music career (over 26 CDs written or produced, over 4 million CDs sold, Nashville farm and studio…) to live simply and help others. Here’s an update I received from them today… . . . With the world economy disintegrating, squatters are coming and camping in little tin shacks around the mountain mission base, not because they want to be separated like us, but because we have a plan, we have work for them, and we have food. It’s like adopting a nation. One 20 year old “Mom”, named Melisa, really a child herself, watched her 4-year old sneak away from the house with another neighbor boy, to a tree. The children pulled down their pants, and started hugging náked against the tree. Melisa screamed, flew to the tree and grabbed her girl, and started beating the girl with a piece of a belt. We heard the cracking like firewood splitting, and the death-screams of the little girl. Over and over again, crack!, bam!, scream! We jumped and ran across the field. We knew two weeks earlier the same thing had happened. Melisa had told us that she had wanted to kill the girl the first time, and that if she caught the girl with her pants down with a boy again she probably would kill the girl. Far across the field, Melisa forced the girl to her knees on a broken concrete coffee-drying pad. Melisa circled the girl, beating her with all her strong farm-servant muscle. “STOP! ENOUGH! YOU’RE KILLING HER!” Genie was screaming at Melisa in English, not even realizing what language she was speaking. Genie rushed to Melisa and grabbed the belt. Melisa kept hitting the girl with her fists. Genie grabbed her arms and Melisa stopped fighting. Bleeding, black, red, purple, fist-size contusions oozed all over the girls body, the girl was sobbing. Melisa started raving, “I don’t want her to have my life. I wanted to kill her. She’s all I have. They took my other child.” Most of Melisa’s children had been born dead, but her other living child had been born at one pound, when Melisa was 17. Another family had cared for the boy while Melisa bled in a ‘hospital’ for 6 months. By that time the family was so bonded with the little preemie boy that they wouldn’t give him back. Melisa said, “When my Father (the man who had impregnated countless women, including Melisa’s Mom) saw the bruises on my baby last week, he tried to have me put in jail, but the police don’t care.” Melisa had started getting pregnant when she was 13. Men have been jumping on her her whole life. She tried birth control pills but they made her sick, so now she’s taking Depo-Provera shots, but they’re just as bad. Melisa says, “I want her to go to school and have a career, not be a farm-worker like me.” The little girl cannot take these beatigs; she’s frail, like a 2 year old; what little calcium she gets from the powdered milk she can’t assimilate, and the sugar water she drinks every day just robs more calcium. This is not because of their extreme poverty: they milk the cow, and they can find and raise food. It’s because they think the white rice and the powdered milk and the sugar water and the injections at the public clinic are good for them. They believe the propaganda. They look at our organic gardens and cream-cheese and fresh greens and say just what the Americans say, “That’s nice for YOU.” What we’re doing here is trying to provide a better example of living in harmony with nature and going away from the commercial emptiness of the world. And maybe we get to keep a little girl alive every once in a while. This happens all the time in richer countries, behind closed doors where insulated walls muffle the screams. In poor countries you hear the screams. And not just in your