Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Rage viewed from a world without soul

Television dramas seem replete with rage….angry victims perpetrating unlawful acts of rage linked inextricably to law enforcement agents pouring intense physical and emotional rage in their pursuit and capture. Pitting both extremes against each other, as a moral epic, however, too often misses the interstacies of the backgrounds of both victims and power brokers.

Why do people erupt in rage?

This is a question, in many different faces, I have pondered for decades. It was rage that seemed to trigger violence in the form of demeaning verbiage and bruising thrusts of a heavy right arm both erupting from a seemingly unleashed mother, whenever a trigger of imperfection ignited the roiling furnace of her rage. As a youngster, I lived in both fear and anticipation of the “next episode” and learned, without conscious awareness, to scout, to reconnoiter, to smell, and to intuit the danger signals whenever I entered our house. Whistling, the bottom false-teeth plate stuck out of the mouth, seated at the end of the kitchen counter smoking a duMaurier cigarette, frenetic cleaning, huge heaves of fatigued breathing while hanging the washing on the line from the back porch, and the basic withdrawal into the bedroom for days and weeks while the rest of the family ate the evening meal…these were the barlines in a raucous, untempered, unpredictable  score of rage the origins of which condition remain a mystery decades after her actual death.

Was it boredom, servility, perfectionism, the pursuit of the holy, revenge against her father, self-loathing at having married “beneath” her entitled state, competition of the Hollywood mother, volcanic eruptions of a deep-seated devaluing from an  early life of isolation, alienation and depravity??????....who knows. Some might  even diagnose it as a legacy of desperate and pervasive inadequacy and the fear of being “disclosed” especially in comparison with her highly talented, valued, appreciated and even honoured mother.

George Santayana: Depression is rage spread thin.

Paul Tillich: Boredom is rage spread thin.

Tina Brown: Servility always curdles into rage in the end.

What is the difference between the passion of soul and the soul of passion? How can we appreciate the relationship between rage and the conditions of the world in which rage seems to erupt? Is there a relation, given our highly conventional cultural fixation on the depravity of the individual, to the blindness of the social anatomy in which the individual exists? The nature vs. nurture discussion has often taken the form of a painting the different aspects of individual genetics on a canvas of the social laboratory as depicted by sociologists and historians and anthropologists. Are there more nuanced, perhaps refined, perspectives through which to examine rage?

Does the human imagination, for instance, include a conscious or unconscious vision of how things might be in any circumstance in which a human finds him or herself? Does this vision impel both emotions and actions toward fulfilment of that vision? Does this vision also potentially impel/compel thoughts, strategies, plans and even actions that “rebel” against the “what is” when compared with the “what might be or have been”? Is rage one of the potential outcomes of the perceived “deficit” in one’s feeling/experience of emptiness, given the perception of the ethos in which s/he exists?
Let’s look at some of the potential landscapes/streetscapes/kitchenscapes/bedroomscapes/officescapes/boardroomscapes that might potentially evoke, provoke, trigger, motivate rage!

Suffering, in its many forms and faces, pain, illness, scarcity, loneliness, abandonment, impotence, anger …..these are normally associated with an incident, another person, a workplace, and often generate feelings of retribution, revenge, jealousy. Often associated with Mars, masculinity, is painted with the brush of anger. And in a culture in which “talking it out” with and through the professional services of a therapist, a social worker, a coach, counsellor or even a psychiatrist is the preferred approach to healing. Included in this approach, too, is the potential of pharma-therapies. Currently, for example, in the western world, relationships, sex, alcoholism, and excessive emotional outbursts like rage, are considered
illnesses, disease, each requiring “treatment”. We will often hear or read about those who commit violent acts as “mentally disturbed” psychotic, perhaps even as sociopaths or psychopaths. And we are not either apologizing for nor excusing acts of rage that destroy the lives of other people. This argument is trying to shift the lens away from the pathologizing of the illness to the lens of the “world” or the culture as the subject of our perspective. Could it be that the world, itself, incarnates many forms of “disease” that impact the individual personal lives of millions of our colleagues?

Based on early science that discovered “germs” at the root of disease, the term theory “holds that disease in an invasion of the body from the outside by bacteria, each disease being characterized by a distinct malignant biological entity.” (Robert Sardello,
Facing the World with Soul, p.66)

On the other hand, if we were to take a more prescient, insightful, penetrating lens to the “world” and the contemporary culture, we would pay more attention to the conditions of the world that might be negatively impacting human health and well-being:

The present age is characterized by a physical deteriorating of the structure of culture and by a loss of soul. Anonymity abounds with a pervasive incapacity to experience individuality…Emotional life becomes shallow, the will absent, the interior life lost. These disappearing qualities belonged first to the world; the world’s suffering and the neglect of that suffering are secondarily manifested through the microcosmic world of the individual body. (Sardello, p. 71, in his analysis of the roots of AIDS)

When confronting the ubiquitous malaise of cancer, Sardello writes:

Cancer is the most substantial, most concrete, instance of the suffering of the things of the world, a suffering belonging to the body of the world before it belongs to the body of the individual. While actual cancer is pervasive, cancerphobia is now universal, producing morbid fear of everything in the world. Which is to say that everything in the world is in fear….The belief that medicine will conquer this disease brings about forgetfulness of the world conditions that express cancer while it simultaneously enlarges individual fears to neurotic proportions…(ibid, p.72)

After listing carcinogens, made from synthetic inorganic chemicals, Sardello writes:

(T)hey do not belong to nature and they make possible the proliferation of mass-produced objects on a scale unheard of before. These synthetic substances possess a peculiar kind of immortality, because they are incapable of entering into the organic cycle of life and death, and when discarded they do not return to dust because from dust they did not come; they came from chemical factories. As such, they lack the true individuality of things and bear no mark of handiwork. Without exception, the world of cancer is the world of mass objects that individual things. Cancer appear in the body as the uprising of masses of undifferentiated cells destroying the individual structure of the body. Cancer goes together with mass society. (Ibid, p. 72-3)

Through Sardello’s lens, if disease can be interpreted as the impact of a soul-less culture and world, would it also be feasible to posit a credible apology for rage, based on the lack of soul, the absence of beauty and the failure to acknowledge the “dearth” both so requisite to the healthy imagination of the well-being of each human being.
Paying inordinate attention to the performance of the “garden stage,” the “church-stage” of mandatory attendance and literal readings of scripture, the jack-booted rigour of three-hour-piano-practice appointments every Saturday morning for nearly twelve years, the kitchen-based performance of competitive meals larger, more endowed with calories, and officiously served to humbled and overwhelmed guests….perhaps these were some of the conditions that were causative of a mother’s and a wife’s rage. Was she attempting to do more than was either needed or appropriate? Was she compensating for her hidden (and even unconscious) inadequacy in light of her mother’s generosity and equanimity? Did these “world” conditions approximate a soul-less and ‘ill” culture, which could and would generate different psychic ripples and waves in future generations?

Similarly, a rural, isolated and isolating village, in which child abuse was never reported because “everyone ‘covered’ in silence for everyone else” (the authentic Children’s Aid Society’s assessment), in which more literal, evangelical fundamentalist ideology, essentially a weaponizing of that theology against a moderate, liberal, poetic scriptural reading and interpretation, prevailed, where guns and violence substituted for reason and discussion, especially when fears of inadequacy and illiteracy reared their heads, where alcohol was the medication of preference for the repressed anger and rage and where socializing focused on commerce, materialism, and land prices…does this comprise another example of a soul-less world?

Another example comes to mind from an upper-income, elevated social class hub in a parish church proud of its half-million trust fund while street people went starving only a few blocks away, proud of its list of professional memberships, and its so-carved homilies fashioned specifically for various “types” following the Myers-Briggs test administration, hollowed out by an uber-ambitious female priest’s military, power-driven management threatened by an internal assessment that the part-time surrogate was a “real leader and you are not”….urban focus on maintaining the façade of superiority, of superficiality, and a fixation on function and performance….is this just another iteration of a soul-less world, ironically and paradoxically constructed and purposed to “birth, nurture, elevate, develop and sustain the “soul” of the parishoners?

One more! please be patient, dear reader!

This time, the introduction came through the windshield of a mid-nineties burgundy Subaru, loaded with things that would be required for a stay of years potentially. Rolling, dry, sand-covered hills, dotted with the occasional herd of cattle, and a few lines of skimpy pines and cedars, interrupted by the overwhelming beauty of high-wire curve bordering a mountain cliff over-looking a meandering stream reflecting the afternoon sun….comprised the greeting of nature.

Immediately, upon entering the main street, with the tumble-weed blowing up and down the deserted street, the sun-baked store-fronts evoking images of western movie-sets, merely facades almost unconsciously forcing a shift of the head, to the right to catch a glimpse of the sand-rock outcrop that bordered the north edge of the town. An adventure into the American outlier-wilderness, only admissible to the innocent Canadian romantic as a “new challenge” in a foreign place demanding a dramatic shift in what had been an established “picture of the U.S. big-brother” borne of summers of carrying out groceries from the local Dominion store for wealthy American tourists, and earlier Thursday afternoon penny-scrambles on the town dock for the local “poor kids” patronizing performed by the blue-rinse set from Duluth.

And then, the faces and the perspectives of the small tribe of six people still pleading for survival as a mission church in a town with twenty-two other places of worship started to flow in the first few days. Money, that barometer of soul-less-ness, was and remained the core issue in negotiations with this “Canadian alien.” They wanted what apparently amounted to a mere “sacramentalist” for Sunday mornings, funerals, weddings and, most importantly, no threat to their constricted budget and the even more constricted parameters of their individual and shared expectations.

“We can afford to pay for someone to meet only basic needs,” came from the shrivelled and controlling treasurer. “We have been struggling with supply priests for the last while and we have certainly not been growing.”

To which I responded, “If you want only a sacramentalist, I did not drive 3000 miles to fill that role! Either we will engage in a full-time relationship, or I will return to Canada!”

Protests in frowns, shifting bottoms, darting eyes and silence greeted my retort.

For nearly forty months, after securing a minimal commitment, we struggled, screamed, performed and rehearsed a form of ministry that could only be considered a mere placebo, if the growth and development of individual spiritual lives is the measure. Throughout, I not infrequently drove my fist through the giprock walls in the bathroom, bedroom and hallway of the vicarage in a rage that I am convinced has to have its roots both in the repressed rage of my youth and in the impact of the emotional, psychological, spiritual and social desert of this lost and forgotten town on the west side of the continental divide. I recall sitting on a loaned pink sofa many mornings bemoaning the truth that if I were to venture out into the parish community, by visiting or even by phoning just to “visit,” I knew that I would be considered “invasive” and “gushing” because I would be invading the privacy of their frozen and private and isolated and controlling lives.

There is a phrase in jewish lore, “tsim tsum”…translated as presence through absence, a phrase that was brought to my attention in conversations with classmates in theology, as a positive “take” on the tragedy of my factured family and marriage, brought on by my own decisions. While it never soothed my broken heart and spirit, I only hoped my absence in the lives of three daughters would afford them enhanced opportunity and space for their rich imaginations to flourish in their own lives. In that desert western town, however, I could and did only despair that the impact of my ‘withdrawal’ would be to deepen the isolation and the entrapment of the uroborus snake’s head-in-the-tail repetition of their circular, private, isolated and alienated and anonymous lives.

Perhaps, it is long past time for each of us to re-examine the circumstances, conditions and the attitudes and habits and perceptions of the “world” in which we live and breathe and find our meaning and purpose…asking ourselves to what extent we are conscious of our seeding, watering and weeding the world’s soul…and asking how we can cultivate, each in our own way, an acceptance and adoption of that perspective among our peers.

Rage, at least the rage that I punched into those many holes in that vicarage, is a social and a political embarrassment and, also, importantly a scream coming from  a sick soul of the world….and my failure to plant seeds of world soul in that little community is one of the most glaring failures of a long life.

Monday, May 13, 2019

An modest introduction to Robert Sardello's, Facing the World with Soul

There are so many reasons why humans consider the planet, the family, the culture, disease, and all of the images of both success and failure as out there, needing our control and manipulation to demonstrate both our “values” and our purpose. In order to keep up the illusion that ‘we are in control’ of our circumstances, we build in rewards and sanctions to perpetuate this picture of reality.

Some would consider this approach to be “Alice-in-wonderland,” topsey-turvey. For some, the “world” has its own soul, meaning, purpose and message, and in order to us to approximate a more realistic and sustainable stance we need to develop the capacity, the willingness, the sensibility and the metaphoric “ear” and perspective that is open to, receptive to, willing to comprehend and vulnerable to integrate what the world is telling us. We are, after all, part of, and not separate from, the things in the world that are trying to get their messages into our psyches. The writer who introduced this scribe to the notion of the world’s soul, and our need to begin to stay quiet and listen to what messages might emit from that ‘world’s soul,’ is Robert Sardello, co-founder of the School of Spiritual Psychology in North Carolina, formerly head of the psychology department and the Institute of Philosophic Studies at the University of Dallas.
Sardello’s book, Facing the World with Soul, (Lindisfarne Press, 1992) includes this passage:

We are accustomed to taking concentration, meditation, picture-making (or imaging) and contemplation as belonging to individual consciousness when they are, it seems to me, a giving over of individual consciousness to the consciousness that is the soul of the world. Concentration is the art of forgetting our own subjectivity in order to be fully available, to what presents itself. When the activities of personal thinking and personal feeling are stilled, the subjectivity of the outer world expresses itself. Meditation is a new kind of thinking, not going off to an ashram or a private room to ah and om, but leaving behind the physical brain, which can only reflect the material world in its outer aspect, in order to enter into the intelligence of things. Thus, meditation is the intensification of intelligence, the warmth and light within things. Picture-making or imaging unfold from the action of meditation. Images are reflections of the warmth of meditation, they are a reflective intelligence. But this intelligence must maintain intimate connection with concentration and meditation; alone, imaging focuses only on the product and picturing becomes looking at pictures. And then contemplation-the call to contemplative life no longer implies removal from the world, but the exact opposite, constant mobile relation with the movement of the soul of the world. (p.25-6)

A continuous “flow” between the human being and the “world” is based on the notion that, at a very profound level, we are intimately connected to the world, and not separate from, detached from, isolated from or even abandoned by the world.
The implications of this reversed perspective are monumental. Let’s look at a few of them, starting with disease and medicine.

Sardello writes:

I want to speak of disease, letting disease tell the condition of soul in the world. In order for disease to speak in this way, the modern medical attitude must be suspended. There are many aspects to this modern outlook: the viewing of the body as a conglomeration of parts, of disease as the invasion of the body be destructive entities, of the physician as heroic warrior; the assumption that death is evil; the optimism that the marriage between science and technology will produce cures of all diseases, disease itself being seen as evil. This outlook now extends far beyond the bounds of medicine and constitutes a way of looking upon everything in the world that we now find uncomfortable or do not like. Everything from drinking to sex to relationships that are difficult now counts as disease and thus as being in need of medical treatment. I want to approach disease from an entirely different standpoint, to give it a hearing as a presentation of the soul of the world. (p. 65)

Without exception, the world of cancer is the world of mass objects rather than individual things. Cancer appears in the body as the uprising of masses of undifferentiated cells destroying the individual structure of the body, Cancer goes together with mass society.
Sardello here references Victor Bott, who posits two invariable pre-indicators of cancer. The first is the onset of fatigue that will not go away, a particular kind of fatigue unlike exhaustion from work and also unlike depression. The fatigue can be described as more like a lack of animation, an inability to feel engaged in the world. The second symptom is insomnia. Bott says, ‘One could even say that any insomnia beginning without evident cause must make one suspect latent cancer.’ Only to the materialist eye do these symptoms appear assigns of the body under attack by a deadly enemy; by some unknown virus. The fatigue of the natural body, the stressed-out body, that no longer find the wold a home, calls for a different kind of engagement with the world—an engagement alert to all that is unnatural in the world, alert to the dying body of the world, committed to enlivening the world, the reclothing it with acts of imagination. The inability to sleep, to enter into the dream world, suggests the necessity of seeing the world through the spontaneous act of image making characteristic of dreaming. (Op Cit., p.73- 74)

Sardello offers a similar perspective on heart attack.

Heart attack relates to the world in panic, the world that has lost rhythm, pace, tone, the world in anxiety. The Greek word for anxiety is mermeros, meaning division of an entity into smaller and smaller portions—dismemberment, that it. The Latin word for anxiety is angor, meaning strangling. I suspect that we have received our word “anger” from this source, as well as the world “angina,” the narrowing of the arteries, the anxiety of the heart no longer connected to the flow of time. Smoking, drinking, overeating, lack of exercise—these behaviours cannot be taken as reasons for heart failure, for they serve merely as means to cover deep anxiety, anxiety that belongs first to the dismembered, angry, narrow world in which there is no connection between one thing and another. Does not anxiety come when there are too many things to pay attention to, when there are too many disconnected demands, producing limitation in the field of attention, an underlying apathy, depression of spirit, a wish to keep the world with all its demands at bay through excessive control? Anxiety, then connects with the attempt to keep the anxious world away from the body. Ironically, a culture that keeps the wor5ld separate from the body produced the artificial heart, the heart that locates the world-as-object right at the centre of the body. Thus far, such a procedure ha snot been able to sustain life, while borrowing the hearts of others has prolonged it…
Before the onset of the metaphor of the heart as a pump, heart was felt throughout the body as the rhythmic activity of the body. The pump changes rhythm into mechanical circulation, as activity in the world as also viewed as mechanical circulation—of money, goods, ideas, traffic water. The idea of circulation goes together with the idea of progress; progress does not advance culture, but keeps the same old things circulating in more and more mechanical, automated ways while no substantial transformation over takes place. With progress what begins as heart becomes more and more brain; the activity fo the brain now determines life and death. (p. 75)

For each of us to begin to open to what appears as the inverse of everything we have been taught in a world dominated by the notion of the separation between the human being and the “world” as compared with the persistent, inevitable, and highly impactful flow of “soul-sounds” from the world would open up a much more enriched, “connected” and interdependent, if complex, relationship between our lives and the culture of the world. It would also serve to render much more modest the role of the physician, the machines, the medicines, and the objectification and disconnection between us and all things.

What a  poetic prospect!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Despotism itself qualifies as "high crimes and misdemeanours"

Memo to Nancy Pelosi and Chick Schumer:

Despotism qualifies as “high crimes and misdemeanours”

It does not take a Philadelphia lawyer to discern the malfeasance that corrodes the Oval Office, and all branches of the government touched by its occupant. (And this scribe is no lawyer!)

However, for Democrats to take the “tortoise (versus hare) approach to impeachment, even if the face of the iceberg facing their ‘titanic’ struggle in the form of the Republican-dominate Senate, and concentrate their “investigation of the facts” to the legal minutiae uncovered by Mueller, and then putting their trust in the capacity of their multiple investigations by House Committees of the trump administration, campaign, business dealings, bank relationships, inauguration committee, and potential for compromise by foreign powers is to wander blindly into the midnight forest looking through a microscope at the legal reasons (leaves) for impeachment.

This moment in history, however, demands more muscle, insight, imagination, team discipline and courage than required by a “legally defined” approach. If it were to be a legal approach, then this president would have/should have been impeached on day one of his presidency, just based on his flaunting of the emoluments clause. The world, not only the American people, need and demand the removal of this presidency, at the earliest possible moment. And, it is not the first time the world has faced the prospect of a despot operating in a so-called enlightened and developed nation.

Inspiration from history is a well from which the Democrats can drink the waters of hope, courage, and imagination. De Toqueville coined the term  “soft depotism” describing a country overrun by a network of small complicated rules” might degrade.

 Soft despotism gives people the illusion that they are in control, when in fact they have very little influence over their government. (Wikipedia) Historically, soft despotism has been considered to be most likely held by the aristocracy, in a democratic nation.

In the current state of the union in the United States, there is a wannabe Casesar, upheld by a cult of obsequious mandarins, comprising a new and different class of iconoclasts, bent on using the unitary executive (theory and practice) to thwart the will of the people, or at least a majority of the people. Fear of the remaining sycophants, that 35-38% of trump red-necks, cannot and must not be the determining factor in mitigating, circumscribing, or mediating, in any way, the approach of the Democrats in their discharge of their constitutional obligations. The fact that Republicans in both houses of Congress bear the same constitutional responsibility, while currently hidden, denied or avoided by those blinded by their desperate need for power, is an obvious and unburied political mine field, around which the nation, led by the Democrats, has to navigate. Democracy itself is founded on the notion that eventually the will of the people will subdue the nefarious, malevolent, malicious and destructive tendencies of those upholding cancerous power-brokers. It is for the push, the engine, the rocket fuel and the political will that everyone looks to the Democrats to launch this over-due removal from office.

De Toqueville posited two “weapons” of freedom in a democratic state:
Ø Freedom of the press
Ø Freedom of association

He saw both of these forces as agents of decentralizing power, both the power of ideas and the power of individuals. And the prospect of “administrative despotism” (De Toqueville’s term) was his view of the most likely to take hold in America. “This ever-changing administration grows over time to become the ultramonarchical monster which initially prompted the American Revolution from the portrayed despot of England.” (Joshua D. Glawson, on

Glawson goes on to quote De Toqueville:

The doctrine of self-interest well understood seems to me of all the philosophic theories the most appropriate to the needs of men in our time, and that I see in it the most powerful guarantee against themselves that remains to them. (Democracy in America, 502-503)

We cannot rely on the Democrats alone to bring about the result the world needs and the American democracy demands. A free press, unencumbered by the mandate to drink the kool-aid of the aphrodisiac of ratings (and advertising sales and corporate profits), can and will release the coverage of mendacity, depravity and despotism so incarnated in this administration without regard to the kind of euphemistic, clinical, analytical and academic analysis that tends to “fog” the danger. Chamberlain succumbed to the “fog” of propaganda in Munich, and the American people have to be guided by the hand of the media, supplemented by the thought leaders like Bill Weld, Ralph Nader, Lawrence Tribe, David Cay Johnston,  each of them given more time and exposure, not only on MSNBC but also on Fox, PBS and CBS and ABC, as well as in national dailies like the New York Times and Washington Post. Noam Chomsky, too, that linguist so renowned for his continual, persistent, acerbic and prophetic unmasking of political verbiage of all political actors from all sides for decades deserves a far more prominent place of time and attention by the American public, if the corporate cabal that undergirds the Republican (and to a lesser degree the Democrat) “establishment” soldiers. The president is the current and malignant symptom of the American malaise; he is not, however, the root cause of the disease that is threatening the very life of the republic.

Freedom of association, while acknowledged among individuals as a potentially decentralizing energy in a healthy democracy, has become a form of interior, if unofficial collusion among corporate executives. Private, personal profit, stock options, golden parachutes, fixed prices, unregulated financial services industry, and the outflow of action plans to advance, enhance and assure their respective and collective “normalcy” underlie the American political and economic culture. And one clear symptom of this underlying malaise can be seen in the determined and blatant initiative to “sell arms” (including withdrawal from the UN arms control agreement) anywhere and any time to any buyer by the trump administration. This flagrant attempt to fan the flames of military conflict, as a ruse to generate American employment numbers, (not to mention enhanced revenue and dividends for American oligarchs), is just another of the many “high crimes and misdemeanours” that fall outside the purview of the American legal, judicial system, and certainly of the current Justice Department, headed by William Barr.

Unless and until the corporate layer of “leadership” finally takes off their addictive blinders and opens their eyes to the deliberate, public, insouciant, self-serving, debilitating actions, beliefs, attitudes and sleuths that rush like a cataract from the administration, all of the legitimate, limited and polite legal overtures of the Democrats to remove this administration will crater on the shoals of defiance from the Oval Office.

The self-serving approach of both Republicans and corporate executives (seeking the preservation of their own power and wealth) is an unnamed, legal, and socially approved kind of obstruction to this blocked “bowel” of the American democracy. And this moment in history in so many ways requires a tectonic cultural shift from the pursuit of personal, private wealth and power, to both an acknowledgement and acceptance and honouring of the public interest, the public good, and the public institutions that have sustained that public good/interest for centuries.

Another shift in the culture needed for this moment of history to become the kind and degree of catharsis that is desperately needed focuses on the addiction to the “heroic star” of the public entertainment appetite. The current president has ridden, manipulated and essentially owned the archetype of the “star” in American life for decades, all the while masquerading in that mask while defrauding the IRS, the New York tenants who happened to live in his buildings, likely also many American banks who will allegedly no longer loan him money. And taking him out will not reset the American political and cultural health prognosis.

Charging Barr with contempt of Congress, and even the potential of bringing him to heel in a now-out-of-mind-and-use jail cell in the basement of Congress will only demonstrate the hollow emptiness of the Democratic labours. Similarly, while needed as a micro-measure, the petition to the court for release of the Grand Jury testimony will not comprise adequate proof to convince Republic Senators of the need to impeach the president, nor will it move any of those hardened trump cult members so deeply intoxicated by his political, financial and theatrical snake oil.

Leadership, starting with the look-in-the-mirror honesty and courage to the self, an activity so divorced from the political arena, is the missing ingredient from the Republican-trump-cult cabal, epitomized and even honoured by the cult leader himself. He is clearly one of the most anaesthetized-from-reality (especially his own) persons to occupy a prominent position in American life, since Barnum and Bailey. Declaring himself the most intelligent, best educated and most capable person in America, “I alone can fix this!” trump paradoxically betrays his own vacuity, and projects that vacuity onto the environment, the battlefield, the diplomatic conference room, and especially the mass anaesthetics of television and twitter.

Drunk on his own hubris, trump overflows the definition of “high crimes and misdemeanours,” threatening not only the American democracy, but also the highly fragile, brittle and thin world order. As a megaphone for white supremacy, an incarnation of “mob” culture, a “transformative” president (in all of the most dangerous nefarious ways imaginable) so named by Steve Bannon, as an agent and emblem of dictators, racists, misogynists, and fraudsters, this president more than fulfils the dictates of the political (not merely legal) definition of “high crimes and misdemeanours”. No matter how high the Dow climbs, nor how low the unemployment numbers fall, this administration warrants impeachment supported by all political parties and a majority of American voters.

Can the Republican/cult dupes take off their blind, obsessive addiction for personal power and begin to act on behalf of the democracy and the oaths they swore to uphold the constitution of that democracy?

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Petitioning for a fulsome literacy in our public discourse

There is so much noise around these days about the moral and ethical transgressions of the American administration, including both “sins of commission” and “sins of omission.” The talking heads including both pundits and reporters, assuming/presuming the ‘high road’ of parental and moral rectitude, are, of course, enjoying considerable impunity from similar critical cross examination. What results is a shouting match between trump-cultists and their media echo chambers (Fox, Washington Examiner, National Inquirer) and the rest of the American media behemoths.

Watching and listening at the back of the ‘bar’ of contemporary political culture are millions of observers, students, critics and, naturally, committed supporters of the current excuse for legitimate governance that is Washington.

It appears that neither side is listening to or even hearing the other. “Guilty”-not guilty,” “indictable-not indictable,” “impeachable-not impeachable,” “trust-worthy-not trust worthy”….these canons/verbal missiles continue to echo across the battlefield, in a charade that is failing even to approximate a minimal, grade nine debate. No side wins and it seems, no side really loses, if the opinion polls are any indication: the numbers vacillate barely beyond a digit or two in any direction.

Along comes Stedman Graham (partner of Oprah Winfrey) in a new book today, Identity Leadership, in which he argues that we must “lead ourselves” before we can lead others. Getting to know ourselves, our strengths, skills and passions, and the designing a pathway toward the life that emerges from those positive aspects of our identity, in a nine-step menu, is Graham’s prescription for social transformation. Naturally, the routine of the daily grind in millions of homes, kids, school, work, evening television, bed and then repeat is hardly a recipe for putting Maslow’s “self actualization” in front of, and not following, the need to meet basic needs. Graham’s offering is to bring that reversal about.

While the Graham approach is legitimate, it perpetuates a reduction of highly complex, nuanced, non-linear, accidental, incidental and partially developmental pathways to an authentically lived life. As Katty Kay, BBC Washington correspondent puts it in answer to the question about the likelihood of Americans becoming “socialist,” there is absolutely no chance, given the American driven-ness to individual achievement, accomplishment, and the profits thereby derived.

Socialism, or any minimal movement in that direction, intimately and necessarily involves a very different perspective: the significance of the public good as a starting and supportive foundation for private pursuits. However, any discussion of the relative merits of hot-button words like “socialism” especially in the U.S. where “capitalism” is the established religion, brings about more shouting. John Hickenlooper, Democratic candidate for president, former Governor of Colorado, when asked if he were a capitalist at the beginning of his campaign, shrugged off the question preferring to avoid all labels, only to reverse himself as the campaign unfolded, to a champion of the capitalist system. The very notion (also a basic truth of the American economy) of a mixed economy, with strong public and private sectors, seems anathema to the current public discourse.

Regardless of emotional attitude, or the geographic, ethnic, linguistic, ideological, religious territory of one’s life, one’s capacity to embrace multiple perspectives simultaneously is a far more complex and worthy goal for leadership, in all cultures, for all issues. At the core of this noble path to mature, sentient, balanced and modest/humble perspective lies the highly complex process of literacy. Far from the simplistic “readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic” of the past, UNESCO defines literacy in the following way:

Literacy is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written (and visual) materials associated with vary contexts. Beyond its conventional concept as a set of reading, writing and counting skills, literacy is now understood as a means of identification, understanding, interpretation, creation and communication in an increasingly digital text-mediated, information-rich and fast-changing world.

UNESCO continues (UNESCO website)

Globally, however, at least 750 millions youth and adults still cannot read and write and 250 millions children are failing to acquire basic literacy skills, This results in an exclusion of low-literate and low-skilled youth and adults from full participation in their communities and societies.
To advance literacy as an integral part of lifelong learning and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, UNESCO takes the following approaches to promote literacy worldwide, with an emphasis on youth and adults:
·        Building strong foundations through early childhood care and education
·        Providing quality basic education for all children
·        Scaling-up functional literacy levels for youth and adults who lack basic literacy skills
·        Developing literate environments

While UNESCO’s commendable goals apply to the developing world, ironically, the need for their application, implementation and integration in North America stares all of us in the face every day. The spectacle of a persistent shouting match between political adversaries, over much more than the “fitness” of the president for office, echoed minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day on 24-7 news channels illustrates, demonstrates and unequivocally proves the failure to apply the skills of literacy, and/or the cognitive vacuum of never having learned them among the political voices, on all sides.
Of course, the argument from the political class will focus on the ability/willingness/ time/dedication/ and level of intelligence among the consumers of national media that determine their simplification of the public issues. As a former Cabinet Minister in the Pierre Trudeau government in Canada reminded his audience, “any national issue cannot be adequately explained in a 30-second news clip”. And, he would likely continue, “the attention span of the national audience is no longer than that 30-seconds.” Today, Information World reports: “the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds today (2018); the average page visit lasts less than a minute and users often leave web pages in just 10-20 seconds; 59% of senior executives would rather watch a video than read text, when both area available.” (This blog’s aspiration to enhance “reading and reflection” is under deep, serious and persistent threat of human reality!)

Code words, the life-blood of hostile political discourse, serve as weapons in a war of words, and ideological visions and aspirations. And relative moral purity attends this adolescent “paint-ball” diatribe that attempts to pass for political debate. Code words are also the vernacular of choice among marketing professionals, advertisers, and even entertainment writers. In fact, the most recent episodes of Madam Secretary, have depicted a more enhanced, nuanced, conflicted and “realistic” picture of some contemporary issues than we have been given by the “news” outlets. Branding, that most distasteful legacy of the corporate fascism to which we are being sacrificed, demands and expects each person (now become a thing) to identify his or her brand, and thereby offering specific “benefits” to anyone seeking to hire, or promote the candidate. Winning (personally, daily and predictably), in the war of words, as opposed to approaching the question of seeking the full extent of the evidence attendant on any file, has replaced the pursuit of reasoned, reasonable and relevant policies, legislation and enforcement among the political class.

There are armies of closed minds and ears on all sides of each issue, waiting to jump on the hot-button code words coming from the other side, as a legitimate participation in the public debate of the public interest. We have, collectively and collaboratively, complied with the most reductionistic level of the expression of the complex literacy skills of comprehension, interpretation, research, and then authentic communication (from our truly complex and nuanced and even poetic perceptions and convictions). In truth, we have abandoned the most elementary and basic application of our best apprehensions of the intimacies of language, the metaphoric as well as the literal, the imaginative as well as the scientific, and the comprehensive as opposed to the narrow ideological, theological, and superficially and simplistically weaponized.

And we are doing this, under an administration that fosters, encourages, enhances and epitomizes the absolute reduction of all political discourse to a zero-sum war. White supremacy grows, anti-semitic, anti-Muslim, and anti-immigrant attitudes and acts are facing us around the world, as the forces that depend on this fundamental reductionism to succeed.

We all have a significant, personal/political role to play in our water-cooler conversations that call out the code words, the racial appropriations, the sexist slurs, and all attempts to “mat-slam” our “other” (or the other on us) in order to bring a modicum of authentic, moderate, modest and ultimately psychologically healthy (as opposed to neurotic, frightened and insecure) respect to our daily encounters. Falling into the cesspool of the trump cult’s bastardization of both language and power not only does not “become” us; it renders us complicit in his (and his clones’) framing of the current reality.

And we all know where that kind of thinking, communicating, interpreting and coding led us in 1939.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Probing the dark looking for some light!

How does one stumble through the turbulent storm of daily news from around the world?

People have been asking this question for decades, perhaps centuries; yet, the narratives of conflict, deception, contention and failed resolution pile like trash, spilling from the screen, and flooding our conscious minds.

Six years ago, some now-extinct private company shipped six containers of hazardous materials (labelled recycled plastics) from Canada to the Philippines as part of a contract between the two countries. Of course, the Philippine authorities who originally accepted the shipment, have been over-ruled by their superiors, and now Duterte demands their return. And in the hyperbolic rhetoric of the times, he threatens war with Canada if the containers are not returned. Minister of the Environment, Catherine McKenna, says the trash will be returned, although its final burial place is still unknown.

It is not that this story warrants global headlines for its size. It is as a metaphor that the story warrants attention.

The brief life of the private company, clearly foreshadowed by the error in the labelling of the containers, is just one sign of the times. Another is the “out-of-sight-out-of-mind” notion of Canada’s disposal of our toxic trash. Ironic, and tragic too, given Canada’s proud (if thin and insubstantial) public face as an environmental protector. According to Community Research Connections, a recent study states that Canadians produce more garbage per capita than any other country on earth, approximately 31 million tonnes a year, and only recycle about 30% of that material. Each Canadian generates approximately 2.7 kgs of garbage each day. With 10,000 landfills sites generating Methane gas (21 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of impact on climate) some 20% of national methane emissions and 27 megatonnes of CO2. Clearly, Canada has a very long way to go to reduce toxic emissions from our landfills while they are filling at a rapid rate.

Another perspective on this story divulges the blatant, even epic, hypocrisy of my home country, the nation that struts the international stage, behind the face of our photogenic, and admittedly charismatic prime minister, as an international leader on environmental protection. Canada is also committed to continuing extraction of bitumen from the tar sands in Alberta, a heavy crude that is more damaging to the environment to extract that traditional oil and gas. And the federal government has purchased a pipeline for $4.5 billion to transport Alberta’s crude to the west coast for off-shore purchase and distribution.

Naturally, both the toxic trash “story” and the tar sands “story” are portrayed as “out of the hands” of ordinary people, except that real people contributed their trash and real people will burn the refined crude. Also real people work, make a living, buy food and houses to take care of their families….and the “rub” between these two forces will take up much of the ink in many countries as the globe takes even baby steps to address the existential threat of global warming and climate change.

Drug companies are riding a crest of profit from opioids, along with off-shore producers of lethal chemicals like fentanyl, while street deaths continue to climb in many North American cities. And floods are ripping homes from their foundations, and lives from their roots, as tornadoes, hurricanes,  sweep generally from southwest to northeast in North America.

Politicians, especially given the Canadian federal election in October 2019, and the American presidential election in November 2020, promise their often credible, generally simplistic and headline-fitting, remedies, as if the stump and the ballot box still bore an empirical and causational relation to the policies they will ever enact. Fixing the environment, the income/wage disparity, the gender gap and inequities, the corporate elephants, the racial profiling and ethnic identity divisions,  school/education disparities, and the tax code, not to mention the dramatic deterioration of most infrastructure on both sides of the 49th parallel….this is a facile list, provoking nuanced policy differences, generating copy, interviews, op-eds, and water-cooler chit-chat.

However, the disconnect between the voter and the headlines, and the growing distrust in the institutions (including the inordinate influence of money, the obvious deference for dissembling, the clear and pervasive obstruction and refusal to compromise, the self-serving agendas of the candidates among other influences) and the capacity to “vent” without accomplishment, via social media, render each of us on one hand, reporter, editor, judge, jury on the political actors and their decisions, and on another hand, we are also the erosive/corrosive winds and waves that strip the protective cliffs and berms of tradition, custom, respect and honour that once held our institutions in high regard.

Is there a direct (or indirect) connection between the hopelessness of our shared detachment and disillusionment with the public discourse and political debates and our growing dependence on chemicals whether smoked, eaten, drunk and other forms of escapism?

Is there a despondency that has set in concerning our shared perception and belief that our future on the planet is not even relatively secure, let alone assured? Those school children who have been skipping class on Friday’s for months, in the belief that their educational needs and aspirations pale in the face of climate deniers and “do-nothingers.”

Is there a seductive ruse enveloping and sustaining our political rhetoric that threatens to put a tub of mascara on a cauldron of dangerous issues and render our leaders little more than rock-star entertainers, and us as their star-crossed pre-teens?

Is  there also an “underground” volcano of white supremacy, in the face of a rising tide of refugees, asylum-seekers, and immigrants, a tide that crashes on the shores of hollowed-out towns and cities and factories, boiling and waiting to erupt as a gas ignited at each political rally by the current president of the United States along with white militias, racist politicians and frightened isolationists?

And are we in danger of succumbing to our insatiable appetite for the minutest detail of publicly exposed personal ignominy in gossip, and expending too much energy on moral “tsking” and “tsking”….while the large, and life-endangering issues are deconstructed and debased right before our eyes?

Have we tilted our national cultures so far toward STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) that we have lost sight of the much more complex and mysterious, poetic and imaginative side of our individual and our collective psyches in the lens we look through to apprehend, deconstruct, diagnose and to imagine alternative options when we look at each of our problems, issues, personalities and expectations?

Have we succumbed to the anesthetizing grammar, vocabulary, ideology and practices of the for-profit corporation, rendering every thing, every person, every thought and every experience a “commodity” for sale in the ubiquitous marketplace of salesmanship, and death by a thousand transactions?

Rhetorical questions? Yes and yet the answers from here appear to be in the affirmative.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Turning the telescope around

I have often complained about the symbiotic relationship between the way westerners envision, and then practice our faith and the secular culture of capitalism, materialism, personal goals and achievements. Making money, building careers, purchasing a lavish dwelling, and a testosterone-octane vehicle, wearing some kind of organizational/military uniform, putting academic degrees behind our names…and of course, producing what was once considered de rigeur, 2.5 children per family, while all very “driven” and compulsively seductive notches on our belts, is so clearly and blatantly a self-sabotage, not only of our personal physical and emotional health, but also of our spiritual maturity.

We have succumbed to the seductive allure of an extrinsic, empirical, visible, “rankable” and ranked ladder that has not, cannot and never will attend to our authentic intrinsic, creative, relational, ideational survival. There are obvious and profound reasons for our misguided and sabotaging, yet foundational, pattern. We are explorers and adventurers in an untamed and untameable universe. We are fascinated by those whose stories of adventure, challenge, discovery, and, yes, achievement and we seek to emulate their “achievements” and their successes. We depict their various narratives of successful travel, trade, invention, social and political organization, and their plethora of percepts and concepts of their relationship with one or many deities and their prophets, priests, shamans and pilgrims. Theirs are the shoulders we attempt to climb onto, and then attempt to walk, or more likely run on.

We read and study their manuscripts, their laboratory experiments, their dwellings, their diets, their designs and their artistic legacies, as well as their rules, and their faith and superstition perceptions, beliefs and practices. We teach their philosophies, their precepts, and their practices, and to a large extent we have “spread” their legacies to people living throughout what we know as the many “round” corners of the planet. And, while we have ‘ingested’ or practiced or imbibed, or swallowed or adopted and even revised many of these foundational precepts and principles, we have never risen above the territorial, the competitive, the jealous, the vindictive, the divisive and the seduction of immediacy.

In the Christian lexicon, Babel exemplifies the many languages, and the concomitant divisions, separations, competitions and exterminations about which we then celebrate and divide into ‘wins’ or ‘defeats’. Our economic narratives, and our political and social narratives have been written and preserved by those who “succeeded” first in survival for themselves, and then for their clans, tribes or families. Periodically, spasmodically and highly intermittently, we know of tribes whose commitment to the ideals of physical and empirical accomplishments were primarily in artistic artifacts and less in tribal warfare. Yet these, by the nature of our “nature” (as we have chosen to perceive and to believe it to be) are far less significant than the narratives of battles won, migrations (especially from slavery and imprisonment), empires built, cathedrals designed and constructed, ships, vehicles, kites and eventually planes designed and built, and trade routes, bank vaults, and their accompanying records, legislative and legal frameworks, and sling-shots, ram-rods, and battlements.

Of course, our narrative celebrates the intermingling of our “work” and our “faith practices. Some faith communities espouse the notion that “God” cannot be circumscribed or contained within concrete walls, or paper scrolls, or altars or even ecclesial trust accounts. And, of course, neither can humanity be adequately or even minimally depicted, or contained in a physical or even a literary encapsulation. Our novels, plays and poetry, along with our symphonies, concertos, operas and ballets dig into and bring forth pictures of the human psyche, its soul in the multiple ways by which we suffer, struggle, attempt to relate, seek to  engage, dominate and fail. And, central to the rationale of attempting to deal with insurmountables and inexplicables like failure, death, defeat and despair, and even the tempest of winds, storms, and the inevitable crashes of our “ships” (both literal and metaphoric) into the rocks of coasts, and other boundaries, is our explanation/belief that our nature requires our “going there” because the mountain exists. Further, we “hold” that our failures, if not terminal, are our best teachers. Even our deaths, resulting from one or more of many different kinds of struggles, whether inside the body, the mind, or in conflict with external forces, are conceived as pathways to another realm.

And central to all of western (and perhaps universal) narratives, is the construct that physical, empirical and observable accomplishments sit atop the ladder of our ideal hierarchy of meaningful, purposeful and worthwhile and even sacred and spiritual meaning and legacy for a human life. We do not, even must not, ignore or denigrate the continuing pattern of altruism, kindness, rescues and compassion that attends each and every human catastrophe, and even to celebrate these almost unbelievable and certainly heroic acts, each moment of every day, in all cultures and geographic regions, regardless of the inherited and practiced faith beliefs and rituals. And to consider these acts of support, compassion, empathy, and heroic struggle in the midst of crisis as anything less than our best “angels” and most admired expressions of our highest and clearest imitation of any deity worthy of the name would be a travesty.

And for all of our successes, monuments to our various and highly complex achievements both in physical and emotional and relational measures, we continue to struggle with our relationship to those components of our perceptions that, while we have put numbers and devices on it, we have succumbed to its seductions and its entrapments.

The longer our conceived and perceived dimension of time, in terms of geologic, the more conscious we become of the brevity of our “time” here. And the more ways in which we are able and willing to fixate on time, in increasingly diminishing units as our instruments for measuring become even more sophisticated, the paradox of obsessive attention to its passing (both in speed and duration) and the even greater obsession of achieving in the time available, we are risking those aspects of our existence that cry out for our consideration: our capacity and need for “time out,” not merely as a time for sleep and relaxation, and not only to enter into the forests and the fields, the rivers and the lakes, and not just to escape to the beaches and the "halcyons" of retreats, cottages, tents and canoes…but the kind of way we conceive and perceive of time itself.

Overriding our various epithets undergirding our perceptional foundation, is the relationship with and perception of TIME. We see each situation as if it were a under a microscope, immediate, fixed, frozen and magnetic, given the altar of mathematics and science on which we currently worship. This is especially noticeable in our relationship with others. “The other”  is perceived, conceptualized and dealt with as a “thing” given his/her identity, ethnicity, presenting mask, voice tone, hair treatment, wardrobe, jewellery and tattoo accessorizing…and even the most superficial (or not) piece of history we know or have been “told” also plays a key role in the way we treat that person. There was/is a meme that depicts much of religious discourse as a “weaponizing” of various single lines of scripture. Today, we have weaponized each other, with whom we have conflict, as a stuttering reprise of each of the major and minor crises that we have experienced. And our narrow, shrivelled, stunted and paralyzed vision of the length of time in which the situation “must” be resolved provides a sabotaging predicate for the resolution/reconciliation/negotiation/compromise that very often never happens.

Ironically, while we all now have devices with which we can “connect” we others anywhere on the planet, or so it seems, we are also facing what, without exaggeration, can be dubbed a different (from planetary, military, economic or ethnic) existential crisis, in that we have reduced our willingness, and perhaps even our capacity to appreciate, comprehend, get to know and to identify with the many individual and shared contexts of the lives of the others whom we encounter…and ultimately with whom we share a finite pool of resources like air, water, land and tolerance and acceptance. In our determination to “win” (as measured by the extrinsic and empirical) we have rendered others as “means” to our “ends” and we have done it on a personal, community, regional, national and global level.

We speak of “politizing of the issues” in our vernacular that depicts our basal attitudes: every letter of every letter is a signal to our opponents about our vulnerabilities; every sigh, smile, face turned away, body closure or gesture is a political statement, depending on our personal agenda. If we are engaged in an open and public conflict (or even and perhaps more importantly inside our own minds) stemming from our victimhood, (race, gender, age, faith, language), then we magnetize each situation to “fit” the parameters of our victimhood, in the moment. And the moment is the crucial aspect, because we have lost sight of the fact that this moment is neither the only or the last such moment.

The ”single frame” snapshot, taken in a split second, while collaged and montaged with other “frames” has conquered the “flowing now” that merges the moments, fuses the images, blurs the lines and gives rationale to the argument of “war” and the extension that we are all on a battlefield, facing the imminent and threatening firing squad of “the other” (from the start, the enemy). In this war, each word of the enemy is a bullet threatening to bring us down, because the exercise of power, by those charged with its discharge, demands that only zero-sum “wins” generate a sustainable career path.

This isolation of “frames of moments” past, present and future, has the added malignity of generating headlines, wounds, reputations and revisionist “histories” of all the moments of recorded time. We are watching, listening to, reflecting upon and “judging” anyone whose life of public service is now rendered an autopsy, long before the passing of that life. Ironically, paradoxically and tragically, we, as a culture in denial of death (global warming, ageism, youth-restoring cosmetics) are drinking the “death-vile” of post-mortems, demonstrating that our Shadows denied will eventually, surreptitiously and inevitably bite us in the butt. Our obsessive reduction of time to nano-seconds, matter to microbes, and words raped of context is and will continue to render all public discourse, and consequentially each of us participating in the dialogue to the vain project of injecting a far different, and far more complex, and far more interesting and complicated, and even ambiguous and thereby perplexing “truth”…that there are no winners in any war, no matter how obsessive are the combatants.

Symptomolgy, the microscopic analysis of the symptoms, (much of this piece has been focused on this) cannot and must not camouflage the underlining dynamic: we simply detest the challenge of working through the compromises, the negotiations, the ambiguities and the patience that the white water, the hurricanes, the droughts, and the idylls of the flow of the river of each of our personal lives, flowing into the giant flow of the river of human culture and discourse. We have succumbed to the entrapment of playing the personal, organizational, corporate, ecclesial, provincial and national “ratings” game, as if, analogized by the pin-ball machine, the score at the end of the game is our “achievement”. At some level, we all know the bounces of that ball have little causal relationship to our “execution” or our skills.

The self-seduction that we can “manage and control” complex variables, by isolating each variable onto a microscope screen, as it is can be etherized, anatomized and dissected like a cancerous tumor, or an insect in a biology lab, is not only untrue; it is also quite mesmerizingly dangerous. The compilation and collation of the plethora of these isolated “diagnoses” into some objectively verifiable projection of how to move forward, in our private lives, and also in our public policy determinations, and the only or primary resource, leaves the future in the hands of the motherboards and the algorithms that drive them, and the soft-ware programmers who generate the algorithms.

If will be no surprise, dear reader, to be reminded that this scribe holds tight to the belief that the creative imagination, as exemplified by the novelists, the poets, the playwrights, the composers and the geniuses are dedicated to the preservation, the honour, the nobility and even the saving grace of the nuanced contexts of all of reality. There is and will always be a piece of imaginative “terrain” between, before and outside the battlefield where the poets paint their personal pictures, inviting us to share their ambiguities, without having to engage in a zero-sum conflict.

Ideas per se, invite their engagement, their appreciation and their reflection in a spirit of community, sharing, like a meal at the hearth of the touching spirits, without ever requiring the acquisition of arms for their defence. Their existence is its own justification, as is the existence of each human on the planet. And if and when we begin (as we already have) to enter into the equation that “your existence” is a threat to “my existence” we have already lost everything that is worth living for.

Educators, thought leaders, corporate executives, religious leaders, and especially political leaders can help in the process of injecting context, nuance, compromise and engagement of a healthy and life-giving nature, and, like Pete Buttigieg, in Monday’s CNN townhall, refuse to take the bait, when we are challenged by an unworthy, illicit, ignominious, defamatory charge.

And we can all learn much from cultures like the indigenous, the Asian and the tribal peoples who know that time has a very long arc...predictions of the apocalypse have proven hollow for millenia.