Stand On Any Street Corner [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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For reasons that are beyond my pay-grade to comprehend, human beings are obsessed with seeing conflict and division. The news of the day is generally antagonistic and despair-inducing – and that is not unique to our day. Ancient temples and modern televisions alike are overrun with images of war and hostility.

One of the greatest powers a human being can achieve is the power of focus placement. ‘Seeing’ is, after all, a matter of choice.  It is not passive. In any given moment there are multiple points of focus, there are multiple stories, there are many interpretations to choose from.

Stand on any street corner and watch the world happen. Watch the overwhelming number of acts of kindness and generosity. The small moments of simple kindness and consideration. They are everywhere. People giving way, making way, helping. You will be surprised to find that the kindnesses by far outnumber the rudeness, the antagonism.

Stand on any street corner and watch where your focus goes. In the midst of a tsunami of kindness, if you are human and like all other humans, your focus will be captured by the angry guy honking his horn, the commuter shouting at the bus driver. “Such an angry world,” you think and close your eyes, despairing. Anger is so much louder than kindness.

Tell a story of discord, see a story of discord. Practice a story of discord, live a story of discord. Discord is easily leveraged. Division is easily sold. It is like selling candy to a kid. It is readily chiseled into pillars and hungrily read into teleprompters.  It is so easy to see.

Tell a story of kindness, see a story of kindness. Practice a story of kindness, live a story of kindness. Although it is more readily available it is, somehow, more difficult to see. It is less sell-able and, so, is discarded as trite. It requires choice and discernment rather than default. It requires opening your eyes and your story to what is actual, what lives beyond the thundering chorus of conflict-peddlers.

The angry shooters and tweet-happy presidents live on the far margins yet they garner the majority of the attention. Stand on any street corner and open your eyes. There is a sweeping quiet kindness that permeates the vast majority, that defines the middle ground. You can see it if you so choose.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about KINDNESS

 

 

 

 

 

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Scatter News [on DR Thursday]

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I’m reading a book by Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words. If you google him you will read that he is “hailed as the philosopher poet of the environmental movement.”  He is also described as a “radical environmentalist.” He is thoughtful. He is well researched. He asks very big questions. Agree or disagree, he has strong, clear opinions and reasoned beliefs. Step back from his environmentalism and you will find that he speaks directly into the layers of shadow and denial that wrap our national narrative. He isn’t afraid to call a lie a lie. I suspect he is considered radical not because of his beliefs but because of his insistence on bringing into the open what the national narrative would rather keep hidden.

Lately, this word, radical, has become curious to me. Like so many of my friends, I have felt our community is the rope in an angry tug-of-war. We plug into news sources tailored to our political leanings that seem dedicated to reinforcing our divisions.  Dedicated to keeping us angry. And, we know it. And we eat it up. We tear ourselves apart, define ourselves too narrowly, and that is not understood as radical.

For example, we do not consider it radical that there have been 22 school shootings this year alone (at this writing). We do not see our utter inability and/or unwillingness to address it as radical. That more American school children have died of gunfire this year than soldiers in combat is astounding. Or should be.

What should be radical is now the new normal.

A few decades ago, Neil Postman wrote that we were in danger of amusing ourselves to death, that we were going down a path that would render us incapable of discerning between what has gravity and what is concocted. More to the point, we would invert the two, investing in the dross at the expense of the substance. It seems that we have arrived at the doorstep of his prediction.

Our acceptance of the radical is radical.  And what is the cost?

This is the meditation behind Earth Interrupted VI: News. Worthy. and this week’s morsel, Scattered News.

 

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Drop Beneath The Noise

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a detail of my latest work in progress

“Oppressors and oppressed meet at the end, and the only thing that prevails is that life was altogether too short for both.” Carlos Castaneda, A Separate Reality

A year and a half ago, when I moved to Wisconsin, I made the very conscious decision to unplug from the daily news cycle. I stopped watching it, listening to it, and reading it. My theory was that, if there was something truly newsworthy, I would hear about it. My intention was not to stick my head in the sand but the opposite. I wanted to drop the noise level so I might hear the stories with real value that were being obscured by the hype.

I was feeling more and more assaulted at the way the news was coming at me. I felt that it was literally coming AT me. I was disturbed that friends, family, and acquaintances oriented their truth (their opinions) according to their news source of choice. Events were not being reported as much as created for attention and spun for political leaning. It was feeding us a yummy addictive soap opera as context for our lives. Danger and deception were everywhere. “Us and Them” replayed at the top of the hour. One day, riding a bus through downtown Seattle, listening to the conversations around me, I realized that we were not consuming the media, it was consuming us. Division and drama sell.

Many years ago, Neil Postman in his brilliant book, Technopoly, like a prophet warned of the coming days when everything under the sun would be “breaking news.” What would serve as the touchstone of value (and values) when the monumental and the minimal were granted equal import, when news sources waved the flag of surrender and served the gods of entertainment? How might we hold a healthy center when we’ve so thoroughly blurred the line between ratings and reality?

So, I decided to live at the metaphoric edge of the village. An amazing thing happens when you drop beneath the chatter: with quiet comes the capacity to see how much of the chaos is concocted. Beauty becomes infinitely more accessible. The divisions drop away.