Best Friends...

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A conversation sparked considerable pondering on what friendship means and the concept of "best friends."  There are the Friends I've spent the most time on earth with, Friends I've gotten into the most trouble with, Friends I've broken up with, Friends who went their way and were not seen again and Friends who have wandered back into my life after decades. I supposed if I'd spent enough time in one geographical place, I might have a best friend. 

For me a Friend is the person who is looking into my eyes and listening with their heart. In that moment of recognition, I belong to a community and know my worth to another soul on the planet. 

What if we considered every person we connected with as a potential Best Friend? What would happen if we looked across the artificial boundaries of race, religion or nationality into the eyes of the person in front of us? We have the potential to find friends in the most unexpected places. We have the potential to heal a hurting world one Best Friend at a time. 

 

A hero for the 21st century…

I’ve come to admire Seth Godin and his posts regarding business ethics and motivation. He writes with integrity and courage. Passing on today’s quote from Seth Godin’s blog …

SNARK AND FEAR

The single most appropriate question to someone who attacks, dismisses or trolls: “What are you afraid of?”

It’s incredibly easy to tear someone down, easier still to criticize an idea. The more vehement the opposition, though, the deeper the fear.

The Other

Easter Sunday we visited at the bunkers on the Oregon coast. The most profound epiphany I had for the day was war is stupid. Wasteful.  There’s nothing creative and life affirming about violence of any kind. It doesn’t matter who started it, which of us is the most right or wrong. We end up physically and emotionally maimed when we fight with each other at any level. Doesn’t matter the side we’re on, we’re just as deceased when we encounter the tools of the trade. I find no justification for war. If someone chooses to play at war, that’s their right and I frequently wonder if we’re fighting for the right or the right to be right. Someone will inevitably step up to defend the position of national ego and talk about which side bombed what side first in any conflict. Does any mother putting her son or daughter in the ground really care about a defensive position? Economics as a secondary impetus (religion is usually the first) and territory. I’m no talking head but it seems history is a great teacher if any of us would pay attention. War only succeeds when we turn our fellow human beings into Them to distance the other enough so we can stomach watching them die en masse on the six o’clock news. So where are the mothers and wives and sisters and daughters and aunties and grandmothers when the menfolk are out getting themselves slaughtered? We raise them. What are we teaching them? And now we’re joining them. In the struggle for equality as we shoulder our weapons, kiss our children goodbye and march off,  it’s possible we’ve become the worst of men instead of the best of women but finally equal enough to take life with the impunity of zealous justification. And before we point fingers, we don’t have to leave the comfort of our homes to engage in warfare. Vicariously in the constantly streaming media or raging with a spouse, child, or neighbor, we’re war and war is ignorant. Respect, reciprocity and communication make for interesting relationships, between individuals, groups and nations. For the first time in the history of the earth, we’re at a place where if we’re to survive as a species we must work and play together, learn to communicate no matter what our affiliation, for the good of every one of us. We are at the pivotal place in evolution where simply looking another human in the eyes, seeing them, acknowledging them and their right to live and have peace on the earth might be enough to save the planet, one other person at a time.

Heavy Conversation

I’ve just returned from a meeting of artists, predominantly women.  The exchange centered around professional issues and the lone male in the group asked how to address a group of women in a politically correct way.  We went from there to the ways women have potentially powerful (and largely neglected) influence for non-violence in the world. Someone commented the conversation was “heavy”  and that’s when the meeting disbanded.

As women, we have to get used to the “heavy” conversations. We won’t be able to make a difference until we can sit at ease with ourselves and our power in the middle of difficult  topics heretofore reserved for the men over port while the ladies withdrew to the drawing room. To me, it’s one more evidence of genetic memory - at least the latent effects of social conditioning. We signed the papers for emancipation in 1920 and our knee-jerk response is centuries old. We can’t leave the tuff stuff to the menfolk and co-opt out of uncomfortable conversations because frankly, the males haven’t done such a great job with the planet so far. I’m thinking that’s probably because our female contribution has been, in large part, missing.

 There are women making a real effort toward a peace filled world. Women in the news, on the talk shows, and some who never raise a blip in any media. For most of us, the opportunity to influence for effective peaceful relations come in our circles of everyday association.

 Hossein Bidgoli, who authored The Internet Encyclopedia, stated visual images, especially photographs, have credibility and people believe what they see particularly when words and images are combined to create  “social commentary in more powerful forms than had previously existed.” I’m not saying as artists and writers every piece has to be a political or social statement. That we have the ability to bring beauty to the world in images or words or both is a great contribution to the energy of peace in itself. However, I’m starting to think in terms of how I, as an artist and writer who is also a woman, can participate more fully in the quest for non-violence and peace in the world.

 

Christmas Card

I stopped sending cards because people were too confused about why cheerful Christmas missives arrived in July. A new move-in on the block asked me why I kept Christmas lights up all year. To make the neighbors crazy, of course.  It seems to me the point of a Christmas celebration is bigger and more encompassing than a couple months of frantic marketing and consumption in the winter. Although, a comparison could be drawn between the current holiday madness and the solstice slaughter of flocks with the accompanying orgy a couple thousand years ago. It’s all about evolution and the advance of civilization, right?

 I like the lights and carols and the way people seem to have softer edges at Christmas time. However, for many Christmas marks a dark time of the soul, not only because of the weather or the position of the sun but because it’s a reminder of personal pain. Christmas becomes a marker of grief folded neatly, placed in the drawer with the sachets of memory and denied in deference to polite convention. For all of you who bear hearts of sorrow and move through your Christmas days with grace and dignity, I honor you.

 Christmas may have begun as a pagan celebration designed to unite subjected peoples under the military conquests of Constantine yet it now has a significance that reaches beyond countries, religion and dogmas. The whole point of Christmas is a man named Jesus walked the earth and learned precept upon precept to become a Christ – the embodiment of Creator’s love to the earth. The Christ spirit and the miracle of burdens lifted is still available after two thousand years, to minister to us and to anoint us as ministers of the Christ spirit.

 When we remember the Jesus of the Christian scriptures we are told he had no place to lay his head. The foxes have holes and the birds have nests but the man who would profoundly influence people for two millennia had no refuge. There are those of us who have homes with all of the comforts and still ache to belong in our family of origin or communities or church. I’ve walked among the homeless and witnessed their tender concern for each other, dividing a sandwich or splitting an egg, so perhaps there’s a lesson contained in the metaphor. It’s just an idea - perhaps if we stop judging the homeless, why and how they got into the situation, it will become easier for us to stop judging ourselves. We would lose the fear separating us from Them – whomever They are. You know - the ones whose only crime is being different from us. The wall between the Haves and Havenots would come down as fast as the separation did in Berlin and we could begin to understand what it means to know the Christ is abundance and there is more than enough for everyone if we can learn to share. We’d know good will toward every person on the planet is possible because we’ve come to nurture kindness and compassion and acceptance toward ourselves.

 Some carry the grief of a parent denied the companionship of children by death, the law, inability to conceive or the right of our children to choose to remain absent from us. We’re supposed to “get over it” and we feel somehow deficient when the pain boomerangs back to become intolerable in the face of Christmas cheer. After all, the holiday is for families. We remember the one missing and even if we take away the vacant chair there remains the empty place in our heart. The seasonal announcement that Christ is come to bring joy seems blasphemous in our pain. The sun coming up every day and the tides flowing in and out somehow discounts the agony like a cheap bargain basement sale. The family of the Christ turned away from him and his community tried to stone him. By alchemy the Spirit of the Christ is able to heal separation. We begin to understand when we become willing to sacrifice the comfortable familiarity and habit of our grief to the knowledge that we are not our story. The unity we desire may come described in people who are not of our blood and yet become our kin. There are those in our sphere who are waiting for a kind word, an embrace of comfort or a smile. Simple therapy for complex sorrow.

 There are some of us who feel rejected by love and despair of making connection with a soul who truly understands. The first place to look for appreciation is inside ourselves and recognize we come with incredible gifts as a Being on assignment to this planet. When we realize the person in the mirror embodies miracles – miracles become possible for ourselves and everyone we meet. It’s recorded Jesus prophesied we would do greater things than he did. We experience the most devastating rejection of all until we truly believe in ourselves and our capability to bless another.

 Many among us live daily with incredibly difficult physical pain. Some are hospitalized. Others face the realization we are not invincible and attempt to wrap our heads around the eventuality of our own death or the passing of someone dear to us. The blessing of the Christ spirit is not reserved for the “other side” like we save the “good china” for a special time in a distant future. The spirit of Christ is for right now. One day at a time. One hour at a time. One minute at a time. And the Christ spirit is available to us in many presentations. If we can breathe through our pain and realize Christ comes disguised in faces of every color and age – people offer us daily opportunities for miracles - if we can accept them and the offerings they bring. Gratitude is a powerful antidote to pain.

 The innocent suffer trauma at the hands of those who are careless of the damage they inflict - often during the holiday at family gatherings.  What was taken can’t be replaced and those who abuse must be held accountable. In the face of violation, the spirit of Christ can alchemize the tragedy into restoration of hope, the belief in the eternal purity of who we are. Anger and fear accompany difficult mortal experiences and time is another gift to mortality - a paradox - since an eternal Being heals because time doesn’t exist. Healing witnessed in this moment becomes past and future encompassing. For those who have suffered under violence even the most barren fields of the soul can be restored and blossom again.

 Gifts often come wrapped up in something we don’t want. We experienced a death during the holiday season and I felt bereft and alone. The only way I could face the day was to turn my attention and intention to gratitude for the life of the one who so violently died. I fasted, abstaining from food and drink for the day in memory of the one no longer with us. The preparation of the feast became a sacrament and when the time came to sit down to the table, the gluttony marking so many previous years was miraculously replaced with deep thanksgiving for all of my blessings. The food wasted in previous years was preserved and we had broth and meat for soups to nourish us in the hard winter still ahead. Gratitude transmuted grief and the holiday dinner became an intimate celebration of life in place of the excruciating misery of wasteful death.

 And one last thing, while I’m on the subject – stress. The stress of the holiday season. Now we even have songs (can’t elevate them to the level of carols) extolling holiday stressors. Stress is only a socially acceptable way to place all of our unresolved issues “out there” beyond our selves and play the hapless victim of circumstances beyond our control. Perhaps it’s time to take charge, cut a few things out, simplify, to remember who we really are and what we’re here for. If we’re struggling with personal darkness, overwhelm and issues we can’t face alone, we can consider asking for help. When we clearly make our request, people are amazing about providing the support we need and serving as vessels to bring the beautiful light of the Christ to us.

 Wishing you a blessed Christmas season and a great new year of possibilities.