Timely reminders…

This coming Tuesday marks the 3rd anniversary of #1000Speak, and the realization that the date was coming up fast has derailed my original posting plans for today. So… while I wrap myself up in compassionate thoughts – and think about the anniversary post, I leave you with these words from historian Howard Zinn – I’ve always loved the notion, and the imagery, that the future is an infinite succession of presents:

“To be hopeful in bad times is based on the fact that human history is not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand Utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

Photo of the sloop Clearwater on the Hudson River between the Walkway Over The Hudson and the Mid-Hudson Bridge, April 2015.

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Love and Compassion

Originally posted February 20, 2017 on the second anniversary of 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” — Albert Einstein

The ancient Greeks defined four distinct types of love, and modern psychologists and poets and philosophers have expanded the list a bit, but at the core of compassion lies “Agape” – which is defined as the love we feel for our our fellow humans, warts and all. We don’t necessarily need to ‘like’ them, but as fellow humans, we do love them –  and it is from this love that compassion springs forth.

In the two years since 1000 Voices Speak for Compassions first began, bloggers from across the globe have been contributing their own posts and sharing the posts of others.  We covered a range of topics through the lens of compassion, but the overarching theme of these posts is love. The subject matter may be different, but love it surely is. Love, and hope for the future, is why we participate.

“Love and compassion benefit both ourselves and others. Through kindness to others, your heart and mind will be peaceful and open.” — Dalai Lama

Reflecting on the past two years, I think that participating has made me more aware of my words and actions – and of the impact that they have. I still find that I sometimes focus more on the global than on the local because there never seems to be enough time, but that’s okay, too. And I still believe that as we act with compassion within our our own small parts of the universe, when and how we can, those acts ripple out. And if enough of us are acting compassionately, and kindly, the message, and the love, will spread. The world is often a terrible looking place these days, but we humans are, by an large, caring, compassionate people who just need to see that we are not alone in order to rise above the darkness. We all have the capacity to bring about change. And that change has to start within ourselves. And when I started writing this, I was infected by an ear worm of Under Pressure a collaboration of David Bowie & Queen, that is one of my favorite songs:

“‘Cause love’s such an old-fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves
This is our last dance
This is our last dance
This is ourselves
Under pressure”
— Queen & David Bowie “Under Pressure“

And love, compassion, does indeed call for us to care for our fellow humans – and it is crucial to human survival that we heed that call.

This weekend, the Charter for Comapssions email newsletter arrived, and within it I found this reminder of why it is so important that we keep on doing what we can to make the world a better place:

Hold on to what is good,
Even if it’s a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe,
Even if it’s a tree that stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do,
Even if it’s a long way from here.

~Pueblo Prayer

Omnia vincit amor

Image from https://www.pinterest.com/explore/water-ripples/

Happy (early) Birthday, Reverend King

“If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.” Martin Luther King, Jr  –  Atlanta, GA 1967

The world is a troubled place, still, and the US still seems to be suffering an abundance of misplaced anger and unnecessary fear. So, in honor of the birthday (tomorrow) of Martin Luther King Jr, I’m just going to share some of my favorite quotes.

For those in the US, enjoy the remainder of the 3 day weekend.

“Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind”

“Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts”

“We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right”

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final say in reality. Right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant”

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

 

 

 

Hoping for a better week ahead…

The past couple of weeks, and this week in particular, has seen an incredible display of hypocrisy, willful ignorance, and a blatant lack of a moral compass from so many in Washington – and more alarmingly, from their supporters. From those that see any behavior acceptable as long as the one doing the misbehaving, or saying the disturbing things,  is if the same political party or religious denomination. Anything is better than ‘the other’.

Ultimately it is only by our actions, by the things we say and do,  that we demonstrate to ourselves, and others, who we really are. Find our purpose. Avoid hypocrisy.

When our values are at odds with our actions, that is when we suffer the greatest turmoil. In order to be at peace with ourselves, we have to live our values. As John Ruskin put it over 150 years ago, “What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do.” True words indeed.

Hoping for a better week.

And yes, December has brought cold and snow to much of the country, including here in the Northeast – photo taken last night as the snow was winding down.

Tuesday’s Quotes – November 21, 2015 – Gratitude

“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.”

— John Milton

In keeping with the spirit of this week’s Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday, I wanted to share Milton’s reminder that feeling, and expressing, gratitude has the ability to positively impact our lives.

Image of john Milton from http://www.britannica.com/biography/John-Milton

Thoughts about gratitude and compassion

Originally posted November 21, 2015

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

— John F. Kennedy

The quotes above is one of my favorites. It serves as a reminder that expressing gratitude is more than saying ‘thank you’.

It’s fitting that this month’s optional theme for the #1000Speak posts is ‘gratitude’. After all, here in the US, the Thanksgiving holiday falls on the 4th Thursday of the month. And, although, I have no regard for the highly idealized, largely untrue, story of the Native Americans and the Pilgrims sitting around a big table eating turkey, I do appreciate the notion of having one day a year set aside to think about what we have to be thankful for. Especially those of us living in an area not plagued by war or famine, with steady jobs, and homes, and cars, and families to connect with – even if not geographically close.

So then, this month’s post should have flowed so easily, but it hasn’t. Just as Pope Francis has recently expressed his frustration with the state of the world at to the start of global Christmas celebrations “We are close to Christmas. There will be lights, there will be parties, bright trees, even Nativity scenes – all decked out – while the world continues to wage war. It’s all a charade. The world has not understood the way of peace…. The whole world is at war.”

I, too, am having issues expressing gratitude for what I have when so many have so little. And when many others have no regard for human life. And it’s discouraging that the kindness in the world, and there is still quite a lot of it about, gets lost in all of the reporting of violence, and the fear-mongering hate speech that drowns out the voices asking for reason.

“Whether one is rich or poor, educated or illiterate, religious or nonbelieving, man or woman, black, white, or brown, we are all the same. Physically, emotionally, and mentally, we are all equal. We all share basic needs for food, shelter, safety, and love. We all aspire to happiness and we all shun suffering. Each of us has hopes, worries, fears, and dreams. Each of us wants the best for our family and loved ones. We all experience pain when we suffer loss and joy when we achieve what we seek. On this fundamental level, religion, ethnicity, culture, and language make no difference.”
― Dalai Lama

Fundamentalists from all three of the major Western religions have convinced themselves that the end times are upon us, and they seem to feel obligated to do their part to make sure it happens. There is a massive refugee crisis now due primarily to the wars and terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa. And yet, too many people choose to focus their time and energy on manufactured outrage – like whether or not Starbucks’ holiday cups are an affront to Christianity. Which is discouraging, at best, when there are so many real things happening that we should be concerned about.

So yes, I feel like what I have matters little in comparison. Which is not to say that I’m not grateful, I very much am. But I’m frustrated. I just wish that there was more that I could do to affect a positive change for the rest of the world.

And so I have to remind myself that, while changing the course of the rest of the world is out of my hands, the small things I can do for others, and even continuing to share thoughts about compassion in my writing, do in a small way help bring about change. Every person that I touch in a positive way has the potential to share that positivity with others that they come into contact with. And the very fact we do pay positivity forward, even when we don’t realize that we do it, is something else that I’m thankful for. AIt demonstrates that there is hope for humanity  to somehow move past the current traumas, and find a way to build a better tomorrow.

“To be hopeful in bad times is based on the fact that human history is not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand Utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”
– Howard Zinn

The future is indeed a succession small events. And in order to maintain our own inner balance, and remind ourselves good can be done, we need to build from the small. Self-improvement and spring cleaning gurus will always tell you to break your list down into small manageable pieces so that you don’t feel overwhelmed and just give up. So it is with life and hope. Focus on what you can do, and work from there.

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”
― Marcus Tullius Cicero

Happy Thanksgiving.