Today was about young lives lost – and somehow more.
At Jubilee today, our phenomenal visiting minister Alba Onofrio spoke strong and straight about the high school shootings in Parkland, FL. She called out the lies of politicians who send their “thoughts and prayers” to the victims and their families – but take money from the gun lobby and do nothing to pass common sense gun legislation. She said that the surviving students themselves are taking the lead in calling out the lie in politicians who are saying it’s “too soon” to talk about gun control, when really it’s too late.
The Jubilee choir sang a song by Martina McBride – Anyway – about the need to take action in the face of total uncertainty about how things will turn out. It’s very beautiful.
Somebody made an announcement that in the afternoon there would be a rally downtown to remember the victims of the shooting. I had actually been numb and distracted at the time of the shooting and it was all just catching up to me today at Jubilee – so I knew I wanted to go to the rally.
The rally was wonderful – well attended, with powerful and touching speeches, and great signs.
Highlights from the speeches:
– from a Stoneman Douglass High School (the school of the tragedy) alumnus:
– “I will not fall back into silence” and
– “I will not accept inaction”.
– from a mom who is a survivor of gun violence:
– “I see the tide shifting. We must throw out officials who take money from the NRA. We must vote out politicians who don’t vote for common sense gun laws.”
There was music, including one of my favorite classic protest songs, “Blowin’ in the Wind”: “How many deaths will it take ’til we know that too many people have died?” Peter, Paul and Mary
Want to take action? Moms Demand Action
– to connect with organizers in your area, text “ready” to 64433
At the end of the Jubilee service, the band – which tends to rock out at the end of the service (people dancing, etc.) – offered us an almost incomprehensibly sweet, happy, hopeful song: Jimmy Cliff’s “I Can See Clearly Now”. I danced and cried. Playing it now, I am happy and hopeful and crying. I recommend it.
Given all the confusion, pain, death and destruction in the world, it is incumbent on any conscious person to try to come up with some coherent cosmology – what is the meaning of all this? Confronted with all the lying, treachery, hate and destructiveness present in our national politics, we need – if our spirit is to survive – to go underneath all this to some sense of meaning.
All the offerings from Releasing the Force will have several spiritual underpinnings. I won’t try to prove them – they just are my experience of what’s true in the world. You can participate fully in any of our offerings without agreeing with any of these, but I think you will get more out of our programs if you wrestle with these ideas.
Everything is connected. Our analytical mind likes to break things apart, sees separation everywhere. When we drop out of the analytical mind and perceive with our hearts, we see connection everywhere. I am not separate from you – we are part of the same whole. Thich Nhat Hanh would say that we inter-are – I am you and you are me.
Life is intelligent. It’s not chaos – it has meaning and purpose. Even when it looks like chaos, underneath that chaos is order.
Life is benevolent – it is working towards our good. This is the toughest one for me to get my mental hands around. My analytical mind just doesn’t get it – yet I know that it is true. Life continually sends us the experiences we need for our healing. It’s Groundhog Day: if we don’t get the lesson the first time, Life keeps sending us opportunities to learn it.
It doesn’t matter how you conceptualize the Divine – whether you think of it as my sweet Lord or some more abstract Life Force. It doesn’t matter what your religion, or if you have a religion at all. It doesn’t matter how you fight the notion of some kind of cosmic Intelligence – that fight is your dance and you are exactly where you are meant to be.
It doesn’t matter if you meditate or do yoga or pray – social activism may be your spiritual practice.
Call 828-582-9822 and talk to me about this or just bring it up when we get together in a program offering or wait until it comes up, because it will.
We are very excited to offer three new experiential programs to fit your needs. These are:
The Something Squad
For people who want to do something about the current state of our country (state, city), but may not yet know what. Or maybe you have some sense about the what, but don’t know how to go about it – or how to fit it into the circumstances of your life.
Or people who are already doing something, but want to do something more.
If you believe that our connection with other species keeps us in balance, read on. If you experientially know that the dogs and cats in our lives offer us healing, see the movie The Shape of Water. The moviemakers also know these truths and display them in a powerful and beautiful way. (The movie is up for several Oscars and should be playing in most major markets until the Oscar show on March 4.)
If all this speaks to you, I would also encourage you to read Kinship with All Life, written by J. Allen Boone . (Originally published way back in 1976 – and first read by me in 1977 – it has been nicely reprinted and is available on Amazon and at many independent booksellers like Malaprop’s in Asheville.) The writer was a free-lance journalist who frequently dog sat for Strongheart the famous movie”Wonder dog”.
He became convinced that Strongheart sent and received psychic communication and went on a national journey to discover and describe animal-human communication. He’s a very good writer.
I’ve heard that some right-wingers have complained that the most recent Star Wars movie (#8 – The Last Jedi) “has too many women”. There sure are lots of powerful, skillful, heroic women on board – probably more than in any previous Star Wars movie. They include:
the seasoned, wise Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher regrettably in her last movie role), now grown into General Organa
Rey (Daisy Ridley) – the young woman, the rise of the new generation of Jedi.
The time is right for this movie – we need women’s power more than ever. Another recent movie character. the quintessentially evil Richard Strickland (played by Michael Shannon) in The Shape of Water, demonstrates what awfulness can happen when unbalanced white male patterns run out of control – unchecked by women’s power. (See the movie if you can – preferably on the big screen, it’s so beautiful – to see how this works out. It will probably be around until the Oscars,) We have examples all around us of this out-of-balance men’s power: Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, John Kelly, Roy Moore, Harvey Weinstein. The list goes on and on.
We need women’s power and wisdom to get us as a society back into balance. We also obviously need courageous and wise male leaders like Barack Obama, Tim Kaine, Bernie Sanders, John McCain (on a good day). But we especially need leaders like Michelle Obama
Elizabeth WarrenOprah Winfrey Kamala Harrisand Ellen DeGeneresto name a few – people who do not carry our out-of-balance male conditioning.
My non-denominational church has for 25 years been led by two white men. They have done fabulous things – have been heroic leaders in their own right, have created a very beautiful spiritual community and kept it vibrant for 25 years. But I believe that the leadership that will take us into our next chapter is going to need to be female.
Our regular minister is on sabbatical right now and last week our service was led by two amazing young women:
The radiant, adorable, extremely funny Lauren Fortuna (on your left) as celebrant
The brilliant, powerful Cathryn Zommer doing the preaching.
Give yourself 60 minutes to feast on the attached audio, in one sitting if you can, it will be more coherent – but that’s not necessary. Listen while you are walking the dog or on the treadmill, while you are cooking dinner, etc. Enjoy.
Today, at a rare slow moment in the store, three of us grocery workers were kibbitzing at the front desk. I had actually missed the first part of the conversation, but as I came up one of the workers who I really admire was saying, “The company may treat us like shit, but we love each other.”
I sometimes think it’s a good company and sometimes less so, but it is clear to me that my co-worker relationships make my experience what it is. My customer relationships too, but the co-workers is the real base. And, blessedly, in our store we mostly love each other.
The obvious topic here is “Power to the People” – and I will go into that in some depth in another post – but here I want to follow up on my last post about men and women to look at men and women working together.
My friend Tom Kilby likes to talk about “creepy old guys”, which we agree we both are, him 60 and me 70 working with a lot of attractive young women. Each of us has horniness, each of us is susceptible to sexual thoughts and feelings about co-workers – and here we are working in close proximity to each other, bumping into each other, exchanging sometimes extended hugs. What to do with all this? What keeps it from crossing into a toxic zone?
Four things I have learned from Tom:
He sees women’s inner beauty. He has described women as beautiful that I would not have thought of this way – but I then started to after he said it.
He loves to use the word “brilliant” to describe a person or something they did or something that happened. He frequently will describe a female co-worker as brilliant. He affirms them. He sees their intelligence. He admires them.
He wants to know more about them – he craves opportunities to learn more about them. He soaks up everything he can in little two-minute encounters in the grocery aisles. He will leap at any opportunity to go watch them perform (many of our co-workers are poets or musicians or dancers or artists).
He is the least homophobic straight guy I know. The creep factor is kept tamped down because he is as interested in guys as women. He wants to know about us, wants to play as we work together, wants to support our art.
Oh, there’s so much more to learn about us working together, men and women. I don’t want to stop writing about this yet, but I think it actually is a good place to stop. I love Sherri Lynn and Pierce and Kelly and Sepi and so many more. I think there will probably be several more blog posts about this.
Oh now, working and being friends with transgender colleagues – of which we have several at work, just the ones I know about…there’s a learning edge for me. Let’s save a blog post for that :).
(Why, in a post about women’s appearance, have I included no pictures – no images? I think I am scared, nervous about this whole topic, a tad defensive. But I love adding photos to my blog posts – they make the text come alive. What might be a helpful image – non-oppressive, opening? I’m going to search around.)
When, in a customer service role, is it appropriate – or even helpful – to validate a woman customer’s appearance? I think I’ll save co-workers, which has been the focus of so much national news, for a whole other post. I think there are different dynamics here.
I know there are lots of women and probably some men who would answer this question with a very strong “Never!” I’m not one of these. I actually think that done with some thoughtfulness, subtlety – and even intuition – complimenting aspects of a woman’s appearance can be a valuable tool in my affirmation toolbox.
When I’m trying to ascertain what I should affirm about a person, I first reach for something meaningful, lean into that area. Today, after driving into work rehearsing a somewhat defensive stance on this topic, I decided to more than ever lean into affirming something meaningful about women, rather than reaching for the low-hanging fruit of appearance – find something more significant to engage them with or to, by thoughtful questions, stretch out the conversation on that topic, maybe take it deeper.
“Talk to her about her art, not her hair!”
“Talk to her about her dancing, not her eyes!”
Go with her topic of the craziness of the EBT foodstamp program.
Talk to her about this blog or my grocery store blog, if the time seems right.
Talk to her about the plusses and minuses of coffee: she seemed to want to talk about this and validating her topic is a way of validating her.
But sometime they only have a few groceries and there just isn’t a chance to connect on a more real level and when I reach for “What shall I validate here?” what I come up with is:
“Your hair”, especially if they have done something unusual with it or if it’s very wavy or curly. It’s a hit if they get to say “I did it” or also if “It’s totally natural – that’s just what it does. I didn’t always like it, but now I love it.”
“Your glasses”, especially if it looks like like they might have stepped out of their comfort zone into some funky frames. Again, lots of proud responses.
“Your eyes” – clearly riskier here, but less risky if I can say something specific like “so big” or “so dark” or “so bright”. If they try to shrug this off as just a body part, I like to say something like, “They’re the windows to the soul – they say a lot about you.” And if I know I am free of any seductiveness and it is simply given freely and lightly, it has only once ever not had a good effect – and that time I think I hit a nerve of some unhealed experience.
“Your beauty” – obviously way more risky, and I don’t teach it when I run my class on customer service, where I show the first five minutes of the Parking Attendant video.
I try to get really grounded before I appreciate a woman’s beauty, and listen to see if my inner voice says “Do it”. If I get a “No” or just no answer, I leave it out. I have a rich background of working male-female issues and being an ally for strong women. And I’m an awesome communicator who can read very subtle body language and facial cues. I want to wear a t-shirt for my male colleagues that says, “I’m a professional – don’t try this at home.”
I don’t do this with really model-style beautiful women, who already probably know it and may in fact often have been objectified about their appearance. The only two times I have ever had a woman show a negative response to my appreciating her beauty – after probably a couple hundred times – it was a woman who, in fact, was classically beautiful. I now leave them out. I reach-reach-reach for something else – maybe “your glasses” – but if I can’t find something I just bless them and let them go.
The overwhelmingly positive response I get to these offerings – especially with women who may not be typically attractive or may not think about themselves as attractive – make me want to continue:
The woman the other day who said – obviously touched by me saying she was beautiful, “You know, as the mother of a young child and a baby, my day-to-day reality is sleep deprivation. I never think that I might still be pretty – thank you for that.”
The woman who was quite overweight but also very pretty, who immediately welled up in tears and said, “You don’t know how much I needed to hear that today.”
The unusual-looking – and beautiful – woman who said, “Me? Well you just made my day – no, my month.”
If a woman says, “My momma gets all the credit for that”, I will often say something like, “To me, beauty is less about your physical features and more about what you do with those features – your facial expressions, your emotions, your attitudes.” This usually provokes an attitude of thoughtfulness – “a new way to think about myself and my appearance.”
I know the Harvey Weinsteins of the world and the powerful and long overdue #MeToo movement have greatly – and necessarily – raised our sensitivities about male-female interactions. One thing I have going for me in the grocery store checkout is that we both know the interaction is going to last 2-3 minutes max – there’s no real chance for it to go beyond the confines of the grocery store.
And I’m old, which definitely helps me to get away with stuff. At 71, women just assume that I’m harmless and don’t mean anything by it. And they’re right – I am and I don’t.