See Beyond Yourself [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

pray for our nation copy

Rounding the bend en route to Fort Atkinson we passed this billboard. It stands, not in church yard, but in a small grassy patch, a teeny tiny park.

prayer [noun]: a solemn request for help or an expression of thanks addressed to a deity or other object of worship.

This morning as I pondered what to write I was struck by this: I took the sign to be a solemn request for help. It never occurred to me that the sign might be an entreaty for thanks giving.

The United States is by far the single most individualistic country on the planet. We place the accent on the individual over the communal. Our hyper-focus on the individual has a nasty side effect. It makes us a bit more than narcissistic. We over-worry about how we  look. We create things like Facebook so we can talk about ourselves. We define success as climbing over the bodies of others to reach the top. We extend to corporations the rights of the individual.  Dog eat dog. Every man/woman for themselves. We’ve created a long-running “reality tv” show called Survivor. We relate to it.

These are expressions of who we are. Manifest Destiny and all of that…

And then we wonder why our elected representatives act [or do not act] based on their re-election chances rather than on the real needs of their constituents. We wonder why we fight to the death over ideas like universal health care or placing limits on guns. We wonder why conservatives pundits routinely scream “Socialism!” to frighten their listeners. “They will take away your rights!”

We wonder why we lack empathy. We wonder why our streets are violent.

Empathy requires a look to the other. A consideration beyond the limits of the self. A larger relationship with the other people in the neighborhood. A consideration of an opposing point of view. ‘Nation’ is, after all, a communal word.

Perhaps our ‘nation’ requires something simpler than an appeal for help from a deity: a consideration that what we do impacts others. What we say and how we say it matters. Maybe we should stop asking a deity to do for us what we need to do for ourselves.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PRAY FOR OUR NATION

 

feet on dashboard website box copy

 

 

 

Look To Each Other

my latest work-in-progress

my latest work-in-progress

Josh laughed from the back seat of the car. He read aloud the text that made him laugh: I’m in MoMA (the museum of modern art) and someone dropped a glove. Now, people are walking around it because they don’t know whether it is art or not!

I’ve spent a goodly amount of my time on the planet in museums of contemporary art and know that most folks passing through the museum have the same confusion about the pieces on the walls. What makes something art and something else not-art?

Almost a century ago Marcel Duchamp entered a urinal in an exhibition and gave it the title, “Fountain.” At the time it was scandalous and now represents a major milestone in art history. Today, a urinal in a museum exhibition would get the same treatment as the glove on the floor: confused consideration. Is it or is it not art? The beauty of the glove moment, the thing that binds it to the urinal moment, is that, in both cases, the gallery goers looked to others, perfect strangers, to ascertain a proper response: it is art if they say it is. Art, in this case, is an agreement.

This agreement, looking for approval about how to behave when confronted with the art-or-not-art question may seem superficial until you consider that recently people in Paris lost their lives over a disagreement of what was art and what was not. In recent history (2001), the Taliban destroyed centuries old giant statues of the Buddha in the Bamiyan Valley. They considered the statues idols (not art) and dynamited them off of the face of the earth (I will leave you to discover and ponder the irony between my Paris and Bamiyan Valley examples).

the words written into my work-in-progress

a close-up: the words written into my work-in-progress

Art is meant to open our perspective, to make us question, to help us see. A society that is capable of seeing is also a society that is capable of questioning; they go hand-in-hand. Questioning is always present when people are growing – so is art. Questioning also begets tolerance – it requires us to doubt our perspective and consider the view from someone else’s shoes. In these times when I hear someone bemoan the end of civility and the horrors in the world, I wonder if they’ve argued to cut art from the schools or  recently attended a concert to hear music to move their soul. Art is dangerous to leaders who like their people blind. Art is offensive to people who want their community thought-less. I delighted that somewhere in the world, in a museum of modern art, a group of people walked around a lost glove and looked to each other for guidance.

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Change Your Story

653. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

I just finished reading Thom Hartmann’s book, The Last Hours Of Ancient Sunlight. It’s now on the top of my, “If you want to understand the forces that are shaping our world and thought, you have to read this book” list. Turn off the television and get this book. It’s that relevant; it’s that important. I’ve been diddling around these past few years with my observations and beliefs about power-over and power-with cultures and his book has slapped me into immediacy.

On the front page of my website is the banner, “Change yourself, change the world.” I work with people to change their personal story and it follows that they will then inhabit and create a different world. In reading Thom Hartmann’s book, my words are coming back at me with a force that takes my breath away. It’s not just a good idea to change your story and change your world; it is a necessity. It’s the second time in as many weeks that I’ve been smacked with a call to urgency. Kevin Honeycutt said, “Our kids are dying in our schools. What are we waiting for?” His call to action was a few days before New Town. He meant it metaphorically and the literal horror happened yet again. It is not that we do not know what to do; it is that we do not believe that we have the power to do it. The wall between our political will and the corporate dollar, something our forefathers warned us to keep distinct and well maintained, has disappeared. Is anyone truly in doubt about what force drives our national debate?

I realized this morning that my previous two posts have been about bullying. In a power-over culture like ours there are predictable and horrible impacts on the community. These things, bullies, school shootings, gun violence, disenfranchisement, gang warfare, stupidly high teen suicide rates, etc., are expressions of a power-over culture not anomalies of that culture. Manifest Destiny is a story of violence visited upon others. The narrative of a chosen people is a story of violence perpetrated against others. Power-over cultures wreak havoc on others but ultimately the sword cuts both ways: it is a cancer that eats the communal body from the inside out. Haves must have have-nots. It will always create a resource gap and separation that collapses the center, luxuries are confused as values, money with morality, and resources are exhausted in the insane pursuit of perpetual growth (consumption). Historians will surely write of us that yet another power-over culture relegated itself to the trash heap. We are playing the story perfectly.

I used to teach that there was a radical difference between self-help and self-knowledge: the difference, of course, is where you seek your answers. In a self-help world we look for our answers in other people; we want to be saved (savior stories are big in dominator cultures). In the pursuit of self-knowledge the answer is sought and found within your self. You don’t need saving because you are not broken or separate from the nature that surrounds you. In a power-with culture, your nature is not corrupt so there is nothing to tame or suppress or deny or control. These stories are fundamentally different; they are fundamentally different orientations into life. Cultures of power-over breed stories of self-help as a power-over culture is comprised of people who seek power from others. A power-with culture necessitates seekers of self-knowledge and is comprised of people who know that power is something that is created with others; all are powerful or no one is.

Our challenge is not about guns or violent video games or Hollywood movies; these are expressions of the story we tell and nothing will change, no matter the laws we pass or fingers we point until we decide to tell a different story. It begins with you and me. No one is going to save us. Change your story, change our world.