Cancer of Our Society

Hands of different races
Hands of different races

“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.” – Mahatma Gandhi

“Islam teaches tolerance, not hatred; universal brotherhood, not enmity; peace, and not violence.” – Pervez Musharraf

“Prejudice of any kind implies that you are identified with the thinking mind. It means you don’t see the other human being anymore, but only your own concept of that human being. To reduce the aliveness of another human being to a concept is already a form of violence.” – Eckhart Tolle

“Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” – Isaac Asimov

“Dignity does not come from avenging insults, especially from violence that can never be justified. It comes from taking responsibility and advancing our common humanity.” – Hillary Clinton

Something important I’ve learned in my sixty-two years is that we repeat a lesson over and over again until we learn it. That goes for individuals as well as groups, businesses, societies, and nations. As I write this, there has been another mass shooting this time in a church. I guess we haven’t learned that violence only begets more violence which means, we’ll keep repeating this insane scenario until we get it. Humans are stubborn and we often have to be pushed to the brink before we are willing to change.

Violence in all its forms in our country is a cancer that is eating away at our society from the inside out. It’s exactly what our enemies are hoping for, that our society will collapse in on itself. And we are teetering on the brink of doing just that because the people haters are declaring their right to freedom. But what of the rights and freedoms of those who become victims of violent acts? They get blamed for not carrying a gun.

This is what I think about the gun debate. This country was founded on the fight for freedom against tyranny. Each member of the army had to own a gun, and that was even written into our constitution that individuals have the right to own a fire arm. The reasoning behind that was obvious. This was a wild country at the time, not to mention many people needed to hunt to provide food for their families. Do we really need to own so many guns now? I guess we do if we see every other person as a threat. That’s sad. We’re so busy being proud of our heritage of standing up to the bullies that we continue to look for them everywhere and have become the thing we fight against.

In my opinion, our country was founded on the masculine ideal. We think of a man as being tough, stoic, invulnerable, and he rules his domain with an iron hand. And if a man isn’t like that we look down on him, or at least we used to.

Basing our culture on those principles may have helped us grow and develop at one time, but that time has passed. We’ve evolved as a nation as evidenced by the way we treat our returning soldiers now as opposed to the way we treated them after WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam. During WWI men who suffered from PSD, or shell shock as it was called back then, were treated with distain, disrespect and if they were in the field and were unable to perform their duties, they were shot for cowardice. With each successive war the attitude about PSD changed ever so slowly. Now we understanding that being a part of all the violence that is a part of war, is highly corrosive to a person’s psyche. In other words, again in my opinion, our society is moving toward a more feminine perspective.

Those with feminine qualities are loving, vulnerable, understanding, supportive, inclusive, peacemakers, and healers. All the people most of us profess to admire and aspire to emulate throughout the ages have had more feminine qualities than masculine, Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King, Jr. to name just a few.

So I ask, do we want to heal the cancer, or kill ourselves because we don’t want to acknowledge the diagnosis?

I hope you will consider this quote from the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. My copy was translated and annotated, and with an afterward by Victor H. Mair, thus the two different numbers.

41 (76)
Human beings are
soft and supple when alive,
stiff and straight when dead.

The myriad creatures, the grasses and trees are
soft and fragile when alive,
dry and withered when dead.

Therefore, it is said:
The rigid person is a disciple of death;
The soft, supple, and delicate are lovers of life.

An army that is inflexible will not conquer;
A tree that is inflexible will snap.

The unyielding and mighty shall be brought low;
The soft, supple, and delicate will be set above.

In other words, the meek shall inherit the earth. I believe that if our society is to survive, we need to become soft and supple with each other.

I’ll write one last thing. I saw Malala Yousafzai on Jon Stewart’s show last night and I’ll paraphrase something she said that I’m trying to get across with this post. She said that one person can do one thing to make the world a better place. And I say, if each of us does one thing, then it won’t be long before the world we live in becomes a very different place than the one we’re living in now.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Minding Your Passion

Tarantula Nebula
Tarantula Nebula

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” – Maya Angelou

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” – Harriet Tubman

“We can each define ambition and progress for ourselves. The goal is to work toward a world where expectations are not set by the stereotypes that hold us back, but by our personal passion, talents and interests.” – Sheryl Sandberg

“You can do anything as long as you have the passion, the drive, the focus, and the support.” – Sabrina Bryan

For a little over two years I’ve been writing this blog and today is the first day I wish I could skip writing for a week. It’s not that I don’t like writing it, it’s that I’m deep in the process of revising my novel, The Space Between Time and I almost resent any time spent away from that task. So I hope you’ll excuse me if this post is short because I’m in full creative mode.

Having written that, I want to emphasize that anything we do that fills us with passion and gives us pleasure, in a creative way, of course, should be our top priority. I have lots of theories about why we deny ourselves the pleasure of losing ourselves in work that grasps us. We’re sure we don’t deserve to be happy, or we’re addicted to misery. Getting pity from others can be a powerful draw. In a way our DNA is imprinted with the idea that we can’t have the things we desire most. Most people throughout history accepted their lot, did all they could to survive and didn’t allow themselves to dream beyond creating a better life for their families. We have few examples of people living the life of their dreams and being successful at it. In a way, that’s good because every single person must discover their own way to their deepest passions. The thing is, though, you need to believe that it’s possible to put aside the miseries of our existence and cross over into a happy, fulfilling life. Seek out the stories of people who’ve realized their deepest desires. Discover how they did it, and believe you can do the same.

Once you discover your purpose, I encourage you to go for it. I can testify that you might not realize your dream right away, but if you keep your commitment alive, eventually, you’ll be living the life of your dreams. When that happens, you’ll look back and be thankful for every time you chose to take one step closer to fulfilling your dreams.

Every morning when I wake up, I’m grateful I stuck with my quest and I’m grateful for the full support of my husband who has been my cheerleader our entire married life. Find your cheerleader, and be a cheerleader to someone else.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go back to working on my manuscript. Good luck on making your dreams come true.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Do We Want to Live in a Society Like Nazi Germany?

Barbed Wire Fence
Barbed Wire Fence

“If we desire a society of peace, then we cannot achieve such a society through violence. If we desire a society without discrimination, then we must not discriminate against anyone in the process of building this society. If we desire a society that is democratic, then democracy must become a means as well as an end.” – Bayard Rustin

“Sexual, racial, gender violence and other forms of discrimination and violence in a culture cannot be eliminated without changing culture.” – Charlotte Bunch

“People respond in accordance to how you relate to them. If you approach them on the basis of violence, that’s how they’ll react. But if you say, ‘We want peace, we want stability,’ we can then do a lot of things that will contribute towards the progress of our society.” – Nelson Mandela

“Social justice cannot be attained by violence. Violence kills what it intends to create.” – Pope John Paul II

“Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refused to hate him.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Most of the time, I’m a positive person. I believe that humanity is making progress toward more peace, love and fulfillment for all people. I work to see the positive aspects of people and societies. However, there are times I’m brought down to despair by events. Today is one of those days.

This afternoon when I was eating lunch I found articles in both The New Yorker and The Atlantic which were posted on Facebook about Kalief Browder who, when he was 16 years old, was picked up for a theft he didn’t commit. He subsequently spent more than a thousand days (three years) on Rikers Island without a trial and nearly two years of it in solitary confinement. However, he was never brought to trial and eventually he was released, but by that time his life was shattered. While he was being held, he was abused and tortured. Much of this torture and abuse was recorded on tape, so no one can deny it happened.

Last Saturday, June 6th, Kalief Browder committed suicide. He’d finally succeeded after many attempts to kill himself, which were interspersed with attempts to put his life back together. His story came to the attention of celebrities who tried to help him, and who aided in bringing his story to the public, but none of it helped in the end.

When I read the articles about what happened to Kalief, I wept for his pain and for the pain of his family. And I had to ask myself are we’re living in a similar situation to Nazi Germany? We have more people in prison in this country than in any other industrialized country in the world. Most of those in prison are people of color, many convicted of crimes that, in other countries get light sentences. Are these people our Jews? Do we white people think we’re so superior that we have a right to mistreat those who aren’t like us? Are we so afraid of losing our way of life that we attack people who aren’t white? I just want to know how we think that perpetuating violence against anyone is going to make this country better. And I really don’t see how these kinds of acts uphold our Constitution.

Have we become so terrified that we attack black youths who go to a swimming pool, where they have passes, because someone there having a party wants to keep them out? Do we always assume that the person of color is the one who committed the crime? Do we assume that people of color don’t have the same feelings we do? Do we assume that poor people are lazy, that men have the right to abuse women physically and dictate the amount of money they can make and what health procedures they can and can’t choose for themselves, that the rich have some kind of superior wisdom, or that Christians should be the dominant religion in this country?

Today I’ve just had it with people who don’t stop and think rationally. I’m angry with people who aren’t willing to try to understand a situation from the other person’s point of view. I’m tired of people thinking they know what’s best for everyone else, and not stopping to examine their own lives. On the one hand I’m tired, angry and fed up, on the other I know that without the vast contrast between the society we have and the one we want, we’d never do anything to change.

I know there are rays of hope. I’m thankful that there are journalists who have been willing to write about tragedies like the one that happened to Kalief Brower and too many others. People who are willing to stand up and defend women and the poor. I’m grateful for people like Jackson Katz, who is an Anti-sexism educator, and who gave a TED talk titled “Violence against women – it’s a men’s issue.” If you can go watch his talk because he talks about how the dominant culture, sexes and religions can become invisible within the discourse of a society by assuming that the discourse should concentrate on those being abused rather than the abusers. It’s one way those who are in the dominant position become invisible and retain their power positions. When we don’t talk about them, they are invisible and are safe from scrutiny. The way we talk and use language is so very important.

There are indications that we humans are waking up and some are rocking the boat. And indications that we’re shaking up the status quo. There are those who are pointing out the thinking that has gone unexamined for perhaps centuries. I want to be one of those people. I’m going to pay closer attention to how I talk about these issues, but I’m also going to pay attention to how my friends, family, students, and colleagues talk about them as well. I’m not going to keep my mouth shut any longer. We need to be more tolerant of others who we think aren’t like us, and one way to do that is to take a good look at our thought patterns and own them.

I weep that almost everyday we hear another story about acts of violence because they deteriorate our ability to be sympathetic. Violence begets more violence and fear. The only way to stop it, is to stop it. To allow ourselves to get in touch with our emotions and realize that all human beings share similar feelings. We all want to be seen, heard, and loved just because we exist. I hope you will allow yourself to hear the stories of others and grieve, or rejoice with them.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment, or share this with others.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Why I Left Organized Religion

Grace Cathedral Window
Grace Cathedral Window

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

“There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness.” – Dalai Lama

“True religion is real living; living with all one’s goodness and righteousness.” – Albert Einstein

Rarely do I talk or write about my break, twenty-five years ago, with organized religion but recently two things happened that made me feel the need to tell my story.

Recently, former President Jimmy Carter announced he is leaving the Baptist Church behind because it has lost its message of love and the Pew Research Center released a report about the decline of all organized religions in the U.S. You can follow the links to read the articles for yourself. When I read those stories, I wasn’t surprised.

My quest for a deeper connection to God began the day I was confirmed into the church. Several generations of my family had been members and that is the reason I joined. I was eight years old. My father, a lay minister in the church, had baptized me the week before and on that Sunday, my father and Al Gardner, another minister in our congregation, placed their hands on my head to bless and confirm me as a member of the church. The moment they touched me, I felt a loving presence surround and permeate my body and I knew it was God. I felt such peace. There was no question in my mind that God and I were friends and would have or perhaps already had had a long relationship with each other.

As I grew up, I forget my connection with God often getting caught up in the events happening around me. I grew up in the 60s and 70s, a very turbulent time. My ego sometimes convinced me that its message was better or stronger than God’s. However, God was always there with open loving arms whenever I remembered S/He was there. Every valuable thing I’ve learned throughout my life is because of my conversations with God.

Over the years I grew to understand that I’m connected to everything that exists, but that each individual must make their own discoveries about who they are and what their purpose is in the grand scheme of this thing we call life.

When I began college, I decided to study religion. I wanted to know all I could about the relationship between humans and the divine. My studies were both joyous and deeply distressing. Each religion began from a pure message that we must love ourselves and one another, but then power hungry men developed doctrines to control the members of their particular brand of religion. Each religion claimed to be THE ONE TRUE FAITH and the original message got distorted causing great conflicts. Many terrible acts of violence throughout the centuries have been committed in God’s name. I didn’t understand the purpose of it all. All I knew was I had to keep my connection to God open and I had to keep searching.

After my husband finished his degree and we moved to Portland, Oregon we were happy with our church duties for a time. We’d chosen Portland because it was one of the more progressive areas of the country and within the church as well. But things changed within the church and our local congregation and my husband and I began to feel like round pegs trying to fit into square holes. The only way we could describe how we were feeling at the time was that we wanted “more” out of our spiritual life. More than the church encouraged and more than any religion that we knew of seemed to offer.

A member of our congregation suggested we read The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. Reading that book was the beginning of the end of our commitment to the church. After that we read in rapid succession, Out on a Limb by Shirley MacLaine, Quantum Healing by Deepak Chopra, Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav and Awakening to Zero Point by Gregg Braden, which he later rewrote and I think is now titled Fractal Time.

In our deliberations about leaving the church we waffled a great deal. First of all, there was the tradition of our family connection to the church. Then there was the uncertainty of where to go from there? Attending church every Sunday morning, going to church camps and retreats and having a spiritual community were compelling reasons to stay. But two things happened to help us break the ties that held us once and for all. First, we attended two or three spiritual growth retreats developed and offered, ironically, by a minister in our church. He had been a dear friend of our parents and we were so hungry for spiritual connection and answers to our dilemma, that we gladly signed up.

The spiritual growth retreats were designed to be silent for the most part. There were short sessions where we were taught various journaling techniques designed to enhance our skills in listening to God’s voice. We learned meditation and were encouraged to be silent out in nature and wherever we went as often as possible. In fact, each participant had a cabin all to themselves so we could have a quiet place to meditate and contemplate at the end and beginning of each day. Silence during those retreats healed some deeply wounded places in my soul and I will be forever grateful for the various practices I learned during those weekends which I still use today.

The other thing that happened was we had an amazing session with Neale Donald Walsch, author of the Conversation With God books, who was working as a psychic in Portland at the time. The actual sequence of events leading up to my disassociation with the church is now a blur in my mind because one aha led to the next in such rapid succession, but I can say without question seeing Neale was the most profound experience of all.

We’d found Neale’s card on the bulletin board in the dressing room at Common Ground Communal Hot Tubs. A church friend of ours cleaned the place and got free tickets, which she shared with us. Our friend and her husband, my husband and I would go soak and talk every two or three weeks or so. I remember on one visit I saw Neale’s business card, pointed at it and Barry nodded. We took down the number and made the appointment. This was really going out on a limb for us. We felt like we were entering woo woo land. But, Neale’s voice and manner of speaking was so kind and gentle. He was open and accepting and the things he said to us rang true in our hearts. The main thing he said was that we were wasting our talents and that we were embarking on an exciting spiritual journey. That was the confirmation we needed to hear. It wasn’t long after that that we relinquished all our responsibilities within our congregation and stopped attending church.

For awhile we searched for a new spiritual home. We attended Silent Friends meetings, the local Unity Church, and a mega New Thought church. None of them felt like home for long. One of the ministers at the New Thought church once said in a sermon, “Religion should be in the business of putting itself out of business. It should give each individual the foundation to establish their own personal spiritual practice.” That’s what my husband and I came to understand was what we had longed for all those years. We wanted a deep personal relationship with God in which we could shed all the things that don’t serve us or the world. We wanted to allow ourselves to be instruments in God’s hands.

I’m deeply grateful for the foundation I received from my spiritual upbringing in the church of my family. It was within the church that I understood that I could have a personal relationship with God. My daily spiritual practice is deeply enriching to my life, however, I know now I don’t need all the trappings of religion to be the conduit between me and God. It seems to me that the Pew research might indicate that there are others who feel the same way I do.

Thank you for reading this long post. Feel free to leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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