Friday, December 31, 2010

Love in Action

This will be sort of a wrap up post--at least for this calendar year, although I will be referring to a lot of posts that I wrote through the two and a half years of this blog.

My last post was on the importance of love (Love is the Source, 12/25/10). But in my very early post on Loving-Kindness and Social Change (6/24/08) I pointed out that love wasn't enough. You need to work as well. You need to put love to work.

Freud said, "Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness." Kahlil Gibran puts it even better, "Work is love made visible." So my question is, how do we take our love and make it work in the world?

The first, and a very important way as far as I'm concerned, to put love into action, is through forgiveness. I wrote a post on this a couple of years ago (Forgiveness, 8/7/08) where I quoted Martin Luther King as saying, "Forgiveness is not an occasional act: it is an attitude." Being forgiving and taking an attitude of forgiveness seems a very real way of making love visible.

The Buddhists have some very definite ideas about making love visible. One of these is doing a loving-kindness meditation. (I wrote about this in my posts on Spreading Love, 3/26/10, and Resources for Loving-Kindness, 3/30/10.) They also talk about the 'Brahmaviharas' (or Four Immeasurables/Boundless Virtues/Heavenly Abodes,etc). These are loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity--or as I put it in my post, The Four Gardeners (2/14/2010), simply Love, Compassion, Joy, and Serenity. I later talked about Patience, Forgiveness, Generosity, and Healing, in a post I called And Their Four Offspring (2/24/10), since I saw them proceeding from the four 'boundless virtues'. The more that we practice all of these the more that I think we can spread love in the world.

Rachel Naomi Remen (see my post on Blessings, 3/9/10, and More Blessings, 3/23/10) doesn't talk much about love, but she does talk about blessing others and serving others which I think are marvelous ways of putting love into action. The Dalai Lama uses the phrase 'to benefit others' (see Benefiting Others, 7/21/10) which I think conveys much of the same thing.

Another direct way of showing love is through physical affection--both nonsexual affection and sexual affection. (I have written about this in my posts on Love and Affection, 7/28/08, and Touch, Affection, and Sex, 6/30/09.) In fact, I think any form of closeness can show love. (Also see my post on Intimacy, 7/3/09.)

A great way of demonstrating love and creating closeness is by simply listening. I've written about it in my post on Listening to Each Other (6/7/10). I've also written about it in terms of Stephen Covey's fifth 'habit': 'Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood' (see Seek to Understand, 11/11/10) and in terms of Marshall Rosenberg's 'Nonviolent Communication' (also known as 'Compassionate Communication'--see my post on Nonviolent Communication, 11/25/10). When we really listen to each other, when we truly seek to understand another person, we are doing more than simply showing them respect. In a very real way we are loving them. (I have been studying and trying to practice Tonglen which is a very radical Tibetan Buddhist meditation where you imagine yourself taking in all the hard and awful things in the world, and send out good stuff, like love, joy, and healing. I realized a little while ago that when you can listen to another person's tales of woe--their irritations, upsets, worries, fears, and stories of maltreatment--and respond with compassion and caring, you are doing tonglen.)

Finally, as we go beyond loving each person to loving the whole world--not just the people but the animals and plants and microorganisms and the entire ecosystem--we are truly spreading love. Joanna Macy talks about seeing the 'World as Lover' (see World as Lover, 1/15/10) Yes, I believe that we can love the entire planet--and this means we need to show our love by taking good care of it. I've been thinking a lot about what I will call the great triple love: loving ourselves, loving each other, and loving the world--and in action that becomes caring for ourselves, caring for each other, and caring for the world. This is what I see as major social change, and what I see as love in action.

May you have all the love you could ever want and may you spread much love through the world in this upcoming year.

Quote of the Day: "We cannot avoid Using power,
Cannot escape the compulsion To afflict the world,
So let us, cautious in diction And mighty in contradiction,
Love powerfully." - Martin Buber

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Love is the Source

When I began this blog, my third post was on Loving-Kindness and Social Change (6/24/08). My very first quote in my very first post was from the Dalai Lama, "My religion is kindness." While I've been clear that this blog is about social change, I've also been clear that love, kindness, forgiveness, and compassion are at the base of any real change.

I think that love is at the core of most spirituality. Many religions acknowledge this. In the Gospel of John, Christ tells his apostles to "Love one another." In fact, in the First Letter of John, he says it outright: "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." This goes all the way back to Leviticus in the Torah, "Love your neighbor as yourself..." Love even extends to our 'enemies'. In Matthew, Christ says to "Love your enemies" and in the Torah, in Exodus, God tells Moses, “If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help them with it." (In other words, be kind and helpful even to those who hate you.)

The Qu'ran begins with the line, "In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate..." and most of the following chapters (or suras) begin with this also. In Islam, in other words, God is mercy and compassion. The Sufis are particularly taken with love. I've heard it said that to the Sufis, God is Love, Lover, and Beloved. In my post on Rumi Night, a few days ago (12/20/10) I quoted from Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi, Sufi poet and mystic, "Love comes on strong, consuming herself, unabashed."

The Buddhist scriptures contain a whole piece on Loving-Kindness, the Metta Sutta, which says, "Even as a mother protects with her life, her child, her only child, so with a boundless heart, should one cherish all living beings..." In Hinduism, Bhakti Yoga is focused on love and devotion. Practitioners (according to the Bhagavad Gita) need to be "devoted to the welfare of all beings" and be someone who hates no one, "is friendly and compassionate... and... forgiving". (Chapter 12, The Way of Divine Love)

The witches I've hung around with follow the Charge of the Goddess that proclaims, "My love is poured out upon the earth..." and "...all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals." Thorn Coyle, a witch from the Reclaiming and Feri traditions says that "Love is that which uses the life force well, and for the good of all. ... It is a sharing, the underpinning of life that infuses all."

Some very radical folks also speak highly of love. Emma Goldman called love "the strongest and deepest element in all life, the harbinger of hope, of joy, of ecstasy..." Che Guevara said, "At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love." Malcolm X said, "...understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity." And Martin Luther King claimed that "Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend."

It's Christmas, which seems to me a celebration of love. Whatever path you follow, may it be a path of love. I believe that love is the source, the very foundation of what we need to do in the world. Whatever you do, do it with love. Loving one another is social change.

Quote of the Day: "The success of love is in the loving - it is not in the result of loving. Of course it is natural in love to want the best for the other person, but whether it turns out that way or not does not determine the value of what we have done..." - Mother Teresa

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Darkness and the Light

I have blogged about the Solstice before (see Winter Solstice, 12/21/08, and Yule, 12/20/09) as well as blogging about darkness (usually at Samhain at the start of November; see Darkness, 11/1/08, and Out of the Darkness, 11/1/09). For me this time of the year is a magical combination of darkness and light.

As un-sustainable and un-ecological as it is, I love the holiday lights and pretty much the gaudier the better. I also love candles and starlight and even bonfires, and I am very aware of how important darkness is to all of these. There is a reason we never see the stars during the day and candles at noon go unnoticed and Christmas lights look silly in daylight and even bonfire are not impressive. We need the darkness to see these lights, and it is the mixture of darkness and light that makes these so inspiring.

This year, the winter solstice was supposed to come with one of the most impressive displays of darkness and light in four hundred years: a full moon with a lunar eclipse right at solstice. Unfortunately, here in New England, we are getting a snowstorm and won't be able to appreciate it. Still the snow is beautiful in its own way and very appropriate for the solstice.

What does any of this have to do with social change? Just that this is why I do my bit towards it--so that we may all have a world where we can appreciate the seasons, and the darkness and the light.

May you have a blessed holiday season whatever you celebrate.

Quote of the Day: "This is the night of Solstice, the longest night of the year. Now darkness triumphs; and yet, gives way and changes into light. ... This is the stillness behind motion, when time itself stops; ... We are awake in the night. We turn the Wheel to bring the light. We call the sun from the womb of night." - Starhawk (Miriam Simos)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Rumi Night

(There will be a break for a while in my series on Survival Resources while I publish some posts on other matters but I have a bunch more to come on it.)

I have been Sufi dancing a lot lately.

On Friday night, my local Sufi group held a Rumi Night. Apparently, December 17th, 1273, was when Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi, Sufi poet and mystic, died. Every year at this time, festivals are held in his honor.

We were asked to bring a poem of his and be prepared to recite it. I didn't recite my poem (shy person that I am) but I did memorize one, and I want to post it here:

Love Is Reckless

Love is reckless; not reason.
Reason seeks a profit.
Love comes on strong, consuming herself, unabashed.

Yet, in the midst of suffering,
Love proceeds like a millstone,
hard surfaced and straightforward.

Having died to self-interest,
she risks everything and asks for nothing.
Love gambles away every gift God bestows.

Without cause God gave us Being;
without cause, give it back again.
Gambling yourself away is beyond any religion.

Religion seeks grace and favor,
but those who gamble these away are God's favorites,
for they neither put God to the test
nor knock at the door of gain and loss.

Quote of the Day: "Come, come, whoever you are.
"Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving — it doesn't matter,
"Ours is not a caravan of despair.
"Come, even if you have broken your vow a hundred times,
"Come, come again, come." - Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi

Monday, December 13, 2010

Survival Resources 2: When Technology Fails

Most people don't stop to think about how reliant we are upon technology; the computer that I'm writing this on and the internet you are reading this on are only a fraction of what we depend on day to day. In New England, whether our houses are heated by gas, oil, or electricity, there is technology behind it. Unless you organically grow all your own food, you are dependent on technology to eat. There is technology behind the water that comes out of our faucets and the toilets that get rid of our waste products. Not to mention how technological our health care system has become.

And what happens if any of that technology stops working? What happens if a disaster occurs? Are we ready to deal with any of it?

The book, When Technology Fails, by Matthew Stein, deals directly with these issues. This is a big, comprehensive (and a bit expensive) overview of what's behind technological uncertainty and ways to cope. It includes checklists, information on 'survival kits', survival strategies and survivor personalities, emergency measures, and lots of information on water, food, shelter, first aid, low-tech medicine, clothing, energy, and much, much more. Stein also talks about 'Making the Shift to Sustainability'--proactive ways of living more sustainably and thoughts of how to help our society shift in that direction. (There is a lot more about this book on its website which has some of the main points of the book, plus ideas and interviews with Matthew Stein.)

When I first skimmed this book, I thought it was a pretty superficial overview--that all the information in here could be found in more detail in other places. Now that I am actually reading it, I am amazed by the detail and careful consideration in it. Of course, there are limits to what can be fit in one book, but the author includes annotated references and resources at the end of each chapter to encourage exploration in more depth.

If you are interested, I'd suggest first checking it out of a library so you can look over it yourself. I know several libraries in my area have the book (although a few have the first addition which, I suspect, is not as comprehensive). If your local library doesn't have this book, you could suggest that they get it. After you've looked through it, you may well decide this is a book you should have--and I would recommend it because I think it would be good to have this on hand as you prepare for possible emergencies.

Quote of the Day: "Disaster prep is like car insurance. Everyone hopes that they will never get into an accident, and will never use their insurance, but they thank God they have insurance if the day comes when they get into a wreck." - Matthew Stein

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Survival Resources 1: The Need

I wrote this summer about the notion that there was a collapse coming and, in fact, we might well be in the middle of it. (See my post, Collapse, 7/5/10.) A friend of mine is organizing a band of people who want to learn survival skills in preparation for a time when things may get worse.

I think this is a really good idea, for several reasons:

First, it's better to prepare for the worst and not have it happen, then not be prepared if something really bad does happen.

Second, these same skills may also be useful even if the bad events that happen are personal or local rather than societal. (For example, a fire or flood or earthquake.) There has been a lot of this happening within the last decade--the destruction of the World Trade Center and Hurricane Katrina being some US examples. Of course, you can argue that much of this is related to societal collapse--the increase in the number and severity of hurricanes being a function of climate change and the attack on the World Trade Center coming in response to the US interventions in the Middle East (which I would argue are related to peak oil).

Finally, many of these skills are also skills related to living simply and sustainably, and I think they will be useful even if the social collapse is slow and gentle--or if it doesn't happen and we need to take this abusive system we live in apart and create something new.

So I am going to spend the next series of posts exploring skills and resources that may be useful as we look at ways to survive no matter what happens.

A final question: What's the difference between what I am talking about and those militant survivalists holing up with years worth of supplies, waiting for the world to end? My answer: Most of those survivalists want to make sure that they survive--or maybe that their families survive. I want to see to it that as many people survive as possible--that we look at the idea of community survival rather than just individual survival. Therefore the wider these ideas are spread the better. I want to see 'a World that Works for Everyone' and I think these tools may help us get there.

Quote of the Day: "...for us all, it is necessary to teach by living and speaking those truths which we believe and know beyond understanding. Because in this way alone we can survive..." - Audre Lorde