Friday, June 30, 2017

Reflections on Canada's 150th Birthday

Canada is the only country in the world that knows how to live without an identity. (Marshall McLuhan)

Tomorrow Canada will be 150.

And the smarmy clichés about our “inclusivity” and our “kindness” and our “helpfulness” and our social conscience and our diminutive military and our former ‘state’ religions and our vast expanse and our riverveins-and-arteries that flow through that huge land mass to three oceans… will all be on display.

There will be singers and dancers, flags and stories, facebooks and twittersfull of stories about what it means to “me” to be a Canadian. We will celebrate those recent arrivals from places of danger and desperate depravity. We will demonstrate that we are NOT the United States, although for many people around the world, there are only marginal differences between our nation and our southern neighbour.

Yet for Canadians the “what we are not” is as important as the “who we are”. It was Irving Layton who remarked that because we lie between the cold Arctic and the monster America, we overflow with poetry, as a deep and heart-felt expression of profound emotion and creativity. Writers by the score have poured their thoughts and feelings about the country, without ever really “nailing it”…and that is one of the most important things about Canada for me.

It is in the mystery and in the ambiguity, it is in the tensions and the divisions, the differences and the normalizing of “all of that” that somehow we keep on keeping on. We are in the “middle” of the developed nations of the world, and so cannot afford or tolerate national news casts that keep their focus exclusively on our national navel. We simply have no choice but to look around the world, for stories with which to compare and to evaluate and to emulate and to discard our national options. We are almost never “first” with cutting edge social policy, nor are we at the back of the line in implementing change. Yet we do it in a uniquely Canadian way..

In fact, it can be argued that it is our “way” of doing things that best captures whatever it is that might approximate our identity. While the media likes to break their coverage into “files” of policy, events, personalities, or even “debates” (and for their purposes perhaps that approach bespeaks a deep vein of formal training and practice in disciplined journalism. However, it is the manner in which they pursue and present those stories that helps us discern a mystical manner…..not so much in the “content” of those stories. The content is about the usual “man bites dog” inversion of the expected. However, it is the civility, respect and decorum for both the sources and the subjects of the story, even if the story has repulsive aspects, that Canadians have come to expect. And we rarely have the kind of high-school vulgarity, immaturity or ad hominum attacks that have become the norm in Washington.

More about how we see ourselves: through our marching band of comedians who take every opportunity to poke fun, to ridicule and to enlighten, without spilling the blood of their targets. Ron James, Red Green, Rick Mercer, Mark Critch, Cathy Jones, Shaun Majumber, Susan Kent…and before them the cast of Air Farce. We can and do laugh at ourselves, our political leaders and our deeply embedded inconsistencies, hypocrisies, and every instance of our “overblown” sense of importance.

Here is a random pot-pourrio of quotes about the country:
Margaret Atwood: If the national mental illness of the United States is megalomania, that of Canada is paranoid schizophrenia.
Mordechai Richler: Coming from Canada, being a writer and Jewish as well, I have impeccable paranoia credentials.  
Northrop Frye: Americans like to make money; Canadians like to audit it. I know no country where accountants have a higher social and moral status.
Dave Broadfoot: Canada is a collection of provinces with strong governments loosely connected by fear.
Leonard Cohen: I want history to jump on Canada’s spine with sharp skates.
Margaret Mead: Britons put up with, Americans fix, Canadians cope.
John Ralston Saul: Canada is either an idea or it does not exist. It is either an intellectual undertaking or it is little more than a resource-rich vacuum lying in the buffer zone just north of a great empire.
Edgar Friedenberg: Canadians are more polite when they are being rude than Americans are when they are being friendly.
Jack Granetstein: Canadians were the first anti-Americans, and the best. Canadian anti-Americanism, just as the country’s French-English duality, has for two centuries been the central buttress of our national identity.

Polite, self-effacing, easily snowed, civil, born of British and French parents, yet indigenous peoples were here first (we are finally belatedly coming to recognize and acknowledge)….yet somehow, we seem to “muddle through” (Arthur Lower, Canadian historian)

It is impossible not to notice the forest of Canadian flags that have sprouted on homes, office buildings, ferries, stores, main streets and everywhere you look. And this flurry of red maple leaves is a stark contrast with the national birthdays of our past, when English Canada barely mentioned a national birthday. (Quebec, on the other hand, has celebrated St. Jean Baptiste Day, as a celebration of the French language and culture that underpins the province’s culture.)

The country has also spawned an army of writers, poets, playwrights, movie directors, producer and writers, and still struggles with whether or not to continue to fund the national broadcaster, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Having worked in the United States, and having returned, I have been deemed “too eastern (read New England preppy) on the western side of the Continental Divide in the U.S. and in Canada, I have been classed as too American. Married to a native American who has taken out Canadian citizenship, I am now mistaken for an American while she is presumed to be a native Canadian. People will always and everywhere project their best and worst pictures onto us, depending on how we “strike” their memory and perception bank.

Introducing my wife to her newly-adopted homeland has been one of the more challenging and exciting adventures of my life, because she has taken to Canada like a tadpole to the spring lake waters. It is the blue lakes, rivers, and oceans that literally cover the map of Canada, when they are right in front of you, that offer a glimpse of our affinity to this age-old life-source, and the eagerness of Canadians to build our towns, cities and homes as near to water as we can afford.

Having survived two referenda over whether Quebec would leave the federation, and watched the federal government defer to the provincial premiers and their governments, we have left a considerable vacuum in our national capital, Ottawa, and grown very independent provincial daughters/sisters or foster children. We celebrate our history, our hockey prowess, our talent for documentary film-making, and our bickering over the federal government’s spending too much money on purchases from foreign lands, to support the birthday celebrations.

We also hold the Prime Minister accountable for having spent his winter vacation at the Caribbean home of the Aga Khan, as a possible conflict of interest. And we cover our newspapers and television newscasts with stories about whether Senators living in Ottawa while claiming living expenses on homes in distant provinces are abusing the national purse.

Petty, fastidious, book-keeping, anal and self-sabotaging..we are a country that a former Defence Minister trashed for “very poor management skills” and his insight is no more on display than in the convoluted, complex and confounded process(es) that are deployed in the purchase of military ships, planes and materiel. It almost seems as if our convoluted double or triple layers of oversight preclude actually getting the purchase completed. Alternatively, we buy mothballed submarines from Great Britain, and then have to spend a ‘mint’ to retrofit them into semi-sea-readiness.

Sometimes, we are, in a word, hopeless…and yet we continue to muddle through.

And I am proud to be a native Canadian!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Reflections on Poverty in Canada

Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty. (Mother Theresa)

The real tragedy of the poor is the poverty of their aspirations. (Adam Smith)

If our daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for the Creator, there is no poverty. (Rainer Maria Rilke)

The community which has neither poverty nor riches will always have the noblest principles. (Plato)

So much ink has been poured into the roots of, the implications and the solutions to poverty, that another piece seems redundant. Given our failure even to move in the direction of reducing its scourge, (in fact we are rapidly careening in the other direction), it also seems futile to parse it again. Broken records, it seems, belong in the landfill.

Together, can we “be poet enough” to see how through social policy, education, family parenting, faith communities and a shared effort to move the needle forward on an international consciousness that this could be a moment for planetary transformation.
Even, or especially, the most heroic aspirations require the most humble and deliberate baby steps. Planetary change also begins in a single heart and mind and starts to ‘move’ through the heart and mind of another and another….etc. Starting “at the top” with political ideologies is clearly counter-productive and counter-intuitive to reducing all the faces of poverty. The people who represent the poor, it can be said with considerable confidence, have no experience, or appreciation or empathy for those whose lives have drifted off the main roads into one or more ditches or over one or more cliffs. Their language, world view, ambition and even their idealism stand in the way of fully grappling with the gordion knot of scarcity.

In some theology schools, students are sent out on city streets with a $10 bill in their shoe, and told to “survive” for a weekend on that meagre allowance, as part of a pedagogical initiative to simulate poverty for a brief moment. Danger, the spectre of violence, robbery, assault (especially for women) and fear all rise simultaneously like a multi-headed, seering “sun” in the mind of those about to embark on this voyage. Street health workers face the homeless daily, while scurrying to find supplies, funding and the courage and energy to continue their desperately needed work. And while national health care and emergencies rooms and 24-7 clinics have taken some of the edge off the ravages of poverty, in some countries, they have also taken the edge of urgency off politicians and social policy developers. Social workers, at this moment, area visiting homes where children are being abused primarily because of a perception of scarcity of resources ranging through fiscal, social, intellectual and parenting skills. Teachers stand in front of classrooms this morning where unwanted children, and those who believe they are unwanted, try to concentrate on today’s lessons, knowing full well that they will return to the emotional, spiritual and (too often) fiscal desert of their homes later in the day.

And, at least in North America, news stories of lonely and unwanted children, if they make it to the “women’s’” pages, the “Life” pages, or the police report pages, do not warrant serious coverage. How many children, today, are waiting for foster of adoptive homes, attempting to cope with circumstances none of us would wish on our worst enemy. And this is only one of the plethora of implications of feeling unwanted, lonely and desperate. The poverty of parental experience, starving their imaginations from options, especially options when facing serious trauma, bounces onto their own children, in a kind of “second-accident whiplash” (in car accidents, the most lethal impact).

And there is the poverty of simple expectations, for example, as to whether the world will take kindly to a piece of artwork, or a halting attempt at poetry, or a initial effort at gymnastics. If the world has either looked away or poured contempt on a young boy’s or a young girl’s body, mind and spirit, that becomes what that child “knows” about how the world works. And their “hardwiring” (familial, social and cultural, not biological) brings a cloud onto their horizon as the “normal” expectation for their life.
Studies of lonely and unwanted children, however, do not normally attract the attention of social science faculties, unless and until those children become wards of the court, or cases on the social workers’ files. And, once again, we are picking those children falling over the proverbial waterfalls out of the “water” rather than preventing their trauma in the first place. Of course, we would have to acknowledge our collective responsibility for their plight, and that would provoke a revolution in our concept of healthy governance.

“After all, I had to pick myself up by the bootstraps, and I didn’t have it easy, so why shouldn’t they!” is the lament chanted by the “rugged individualists” and the neo-cons who are on the throne these days.

Another typical lament, from the opponents to everything written here, is the old adage, “Suck it up! and quit complaining! Better people than you had it much worse than you, and look at them!”

Both of those laments, and many others of a similar theme, are little more than rationalizations to cover any guilt, and certainly any responsibility we might experience. And then we can and do glibly pass by and carry on with our self-absorbed lives.

Their anticipation of a life of deep and profound struggle and loneliness, just as they have known it so far hangs over every hour and every day whether they give voice to that world view or not. They also curb their hopes and their dreams for attaining even modest success, having watched their families dig an ever-deepening trench of “tradition” and social class, language, entertainment and a kind of life stripped of poetry. Stereotypically, poetry is for the “educated” and the upper class, or more cynically, for those who think they are better than we are. We can only hope that some day in the not-too-distant future, some social scientist will receive a grant for a doctoral thesis investigating the cost of the trash-heap of unrealized potential to the national and the local economies. Of course we celebrate the rare stories of rags-to-riches success; however, this is not about Horatio Alger and the promise of great wealth in fiscal terms. It is about human lives that have intellect, imagination, curiosity, and determination, without the human and/or fiscal resources to climb the mountains of their highest dreams. (And please don’t read “human” as “other people”…take it as the withered human talents and qualities of the person him or herself.)
The Rilke quote seems to be a challenge for what is above: for the Creator there is no poverty. This piece, however, is looking at the potential of each and every child getting to the starting place of the Creator, whose omnipotence, and omniscience and omnipresence put Him/Her at a distinct advantage over the ghetto child. It is nevertheless true that much poetic expression comes from the many ghettos around the world. In fact, many of the poorest and most desperate voices cry most poignantly, almost clairvoyantly, about their loves and their plight, in language that seems to escape the ears and the conscience of those in power everywhere.
In fact, in spite of the scriptural note that the poor will always be with us, our interest in their plight and in addressing their realities is so shamefully low that we seem indifferent. And indifference is the opposite of love, not hate as some might expect.

In Canada, just today, two days prior to our national 150th birthday, indigenous people struggled to get permission to erect a teepee on Parliament Hill, for the four days of the national celebration. However, these indigenous people are not celebrating; they are trying to draw attention to their prolonged plight.

A lack of clean drinking water, unsafe housing, broken school systems, and a crisis of suicide among indigenous youth are just some of the issues they are protesting, issues that have been outstanding for over a century.

From Canada Without Poverty website, here are some statistics for serious consideration:

·       1 in 7 (or 4.9 million) people in Canada live in poverty.
·       In Edmonton, 1 in 8 individuals are currently living in poverty.
·       Poverty costs Canada as a whole between $72 billion and $84 billion annually; Ontarians pay $2,299 – $2,895 per year, while British Columbians pay over $2,100 per year.
·       Precarious employment has increased by nearly 50% over the past two decades.
·       Between 1980 and 2005, the average earnings among the least wealthy Canadians fell by 20%.
·       Over the past 25 years, Canada’s population has increased by 30% and yet annual national investment in housing has decreased by 46%.


·       Nearly 15% of people with disabilities live in poverty, 59% of which are women.
·       Estimates place the number of homeless individuals living with a disability or mental illness as high as 45% of the overall homeless population.
·       Children with disabilities are twice as likely to live in households relying on social assistance
·       21% of single mothers in Canada raise their children while living in poverty (7% of single fathers raise their children in poverty).
·       Women parenting on their own enter shelters at twice the rate of two-parent families.
·       Indigenous Peoples (including First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples) are overrepresented among the homeless population in virtually all urban centres in Canada.
·       28%-34% of shelter users are Indigenous.
·       1 in 5 racialized families live in poverty in Canada, as opposed to 1 in 20 non-racialized families.
·       Racialized women living in poverty were almost twice as likely to work in manufacturing jobs than other women living in poverty.
·       Overall, racialized women earn 32% less at work.
·       Nearly 15% of elderly single individuals live in poverty.
·       Nearly 2 million seniors receive the Guaranteed Income Supplement, and live on about $17,000 per year. However, the most basic standard of living in Canada is calculated at $18,000 per year for a single person

Typically, whenever data like the above is presented, eyes glaze over, ears go deaf and minds quite literally close. The litany of poverty statistics is so dulling that it evokes somnambulance, indifference, and if we are going to be direct, insouciance.
Remember, in Canada, in 1979 then New Democratic Party Leader Ed Broadbent moved, and received unanimous agreement from all members of the Canadian Parliament to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000.

Here are the statistics on Child Poverty in Canada:

·       In Canada, 1.3 million children live in conditions of poverty (that’s 1 in 5).
·       1 in 2 Status First Nations children lives in poverty.
·       8% of children in British Columbia live in poverty with children under the age of 6 representing an even higher poverty rate of 20.1% (both are higher than the national average of 18.5%)
·       1 in 5 Edmontonian children (under the age of 18) live in poverty, which increases to 1 in 3 children in single-parent families.
·       40% of Indigenous children in Canada live in poverty, and 60% of Indigenous children on reserves live in poverty.
·       More than one-third of food bank users across Canada were children in 2016.
·       About 1 in 7 of those using shelters in Canada are children.

Food insecurity is another area impacted by poverty in Canada

·       Residents in Nunavut spend twice as much on food as the rest of the country on average ($14,800 v. $7,300 annually).
·       4 million people in Canada experience food insecurity.
·       1 in 8 Canadian households struggle to put food on the table.
·       In 2014, the majority of food insecure households – 62.2% – were reliant on wages or salary from employment.
·       8 out of 10 provinces saw an increase in food bank usage in 2016.
·       62% of children living in the North are food insecure.
·       2 out of every 5 Northern households are food insecure.
·       Food bank usage across Canada is 3% higher than 2015 and 28% higher than it was in 2008.
·       7 of 10 Inuit preschoolers live in food insecure households.
·       Food bank usage has increased in all provinces since 2008, apart from Newfoundland and Labrador.
·       2% of food bank users are Indigenous.

Impact of poverty on Health in Canada

·       1 in 10 Canadians cannot afford to fill their medical prescriptions. Canada is the only industrialized country with a universal healthcare system but without a national pharmacare policy.
·       A McMaster University study found a 21-year difference in life expectancy between the poorest and wealthiest residents of Hamilton, Ontario.
·       Researchers have found that men in the wealthiest 20% of neighbourhoods in Canada live on average more than four years longer than men in the poorest 20% of neighbourhoods.
·       Estimates place the cost of socio-economic disparities in the health system to be 20% of all healthcare spending.
·       It has been estimated that $1 invested in the early years of a child’s life can save up to $9 in future spending in the healthcare system.
·       Food insecure households were 80% more likely to report having diabetes, 60% more likely to report high blood pressure, and 70% more likely to report food allergies.

Impact of Poverty on Housing in Canada
·       3 million Canadian households are precariously housed (living in unaffordable, below standards, and/or overcrowded housing conditions).
·       An estimated 235,000 people in Canada experienced homelessness in 2016, with roughly 35,000 people being homeless on any given night.
·       Almost 1 in every 5 households experience serious housing affordability issues (spending over 50% of their low income on rent) which puts them at risk of homelessness.
·       Three-quarters of Yukon’s population live in Whitehorse where the average price of housing increased 80% over six years.
·       Estimates place the number of homeless individuals living with a disability or mental illness as high as 45% of the overall homeless population.
·       In Toronto, there were 5,219 people who were homeless in 2013 (the latest available data). Roughly half of the homeless population were on wait lists for affordable housing during the same period.
·       Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation predicts that its major national housing program funding will fall from $3.04 billion (2010) to $1.68 billion by 2017 — a $1.36 billion difference.
·       According to new research, spending $10 on housing and support for high-need chronically homeless individuals resulted in almost $22 of savings related to health care, social supports, housing, and the justice system.
·       Youth aged 16-24 make up about 20% of the homeless population
·       The number of older adults and seniors experiencing homeless is rising, making up a combined 4% of shelters users in 2016

The potential impact of this data, however, can not and must never be reduced to numbers. These are human beings whose potential to contribute to our country, on the weekend of its 150th birthday is severely limited. The hopes and aspirations of the children in these numbers are, from the ‘get-go’ crippled and will likely fail to materialize. Not only will the social and economic and legal and medical costs of these facts be astronomical, but the lives of the people inside these numbers will be impaired without their appearing in public with leg braces, or with deformed bodies, or with physical markings that designate them as “special needs” individuals.

And yet they do have special needs and their human rights are being violated every day by a culture that is not even talking about the blight.

It is a tragedy of epic proportions, especially given the relative wealth of our country, in comparison with other world countries.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Reflections on Buddha's wisdom

To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him. (Buddha)

Unfortunately, the exercise, discipline and commitment needed to pursue such a path is so remote and so discouraged in a world in which “action” figures, “action” movies, “action” leaders and most judgements of each person are reliant on “actions”…

·      Whether or not his “fixation” on action stems from Puritan roots in order to avoid the idleness that sucks in “the Devil”…or
·      Whether the fixation has been grafted onto a masculine archetype that has to prove itself as worthy, valuable and relevant or
·      Whether the capitalist modus operandi demands the production of goods, services and above all profits, all of them based on “ACTION” or
·      Whether the fixation emerges from the tanker loads of ink spilled in the writing of history, biography, and the archives of academic research or
·      Whether our psyche is so constituted that it requires action to medicate the pain of the multiple emotional emptinesses we all endure or
·      Whether the human capacity to “move” our bodies, and all things near us and to dig, discover, mess in and with mud or any other substance in our early years expresses or embeds our hard wiring for action

None of these possible roots really matter unless and until we actually see a light that emerges from the Buddha quote. And, for most North Americans who wish to follow a spiritual path, and experiment with a “Christian” church, one of the core beliefs and practices, emerging from the writing of St. Paul, is evangelizing…..going out to convert others to follow Jesus. Perhaps, in the beginning, when the “spread of the gospel” was the pathway to seeding and building worshipping communities, as well as a way for the newly “converted” Paul to validate his conversion, the actions of teaching and preaching, going from place to place, were legitimate and in fact even necessary.

And as with many well-worn paths of behaviour, at least by organizations, the situations change, and the time-worn “prosletyzing” techniques start to wear thin, possibly given a different level of consciousness of the targeted people. We are all open and ready to grab onto a promise of a new and different live, and our readiness is enhanced by our current “poverty” of spirit, heart or living conditions. Those whose lives have drifted under freeway overpasses, and into the back alleys of greasy-spoon restaurants for scraps, or into gangs determined to steel, injury or even kill to regain their power and ascendancy, when offered a new hope, a new friend and a new support system, are not merely hungry but voracious in their appetite for joining the church whose representatives have found them.

Those of a more poetic, or cerebral inclination, however, while retaining a level of scepticism and perhaps cynicism, come from a different place, and are open to a different kind of encounter. Neither group is “better than the other” yet each is more amenable to a different kind of spiritual development. And yet, both paths, that of action and that of mental discipline can, if held in a healthy tension, give balance to a human life, including all aspects.

Unfortunately, to speak of mental discipline as a path to enlightenment, in a congregation whose vision includes a 10% increase in bodies in pews and a 15% increase in dollars in the coffers will be unlikely to find an audience. The relevance and thereby the importance of silence, reflection, mental practice  spiritual reflection are both relegated to words like heresy and secular and worldly, perhaps even apostasy.
Putting numbers of “bums” in “pews” and “dollars” in collection “plates”, has for far too long consumed almost all of the energy in protestant churches, especially those of the fundamentalist, evangelical variety. There is a different kind of prosletyzing in what some call “high Anglican and High Roman Catholic” churches, where incense, ritual, ceremony and formal liturgy are prominent. Those who attend or who would prefer such worship services tend to regard God as King as opposed to “healer” or “shepherd” or “teacher/prophet”.

Supplementing the singing, the reading of scripture, the homilizing (as well as the baptisms, weddings and funerals,) there is quite often a church school for young children, sometimes a teen group, and often a choir. Add to this menu pot-luck suppers, sometimes roaming meals hosted by several homes (members), an occasional summer or winter “outing” and the total is a highly “active” group of people. Squeezed into the calendar is often a “Bible Study” evening during which a book of Scripture is chosen by a clergy or religious education leader. Through some combination of tranlisteration (looking at the language and its derivatives from Greek, Hebrew, or even Aramaic), historical context of the writing, theological perspective and application to contemporary life, topped with personal interpretations and insights, the process engages leaders and followers.

For the most part, private silent reflection is left to an occasional retreat in a religious and spiritual retreat centre, or to the private discipline of daily Bible readings and prayer. And yet, the kind of discipline of the mind that requires a detailed examination of one’s foundational thought, archetypes from families of origin, even belief systems passed along by parents, religious leaders and peers, to uncover and unpack the kind of dysfunctional inheritances we all have been given is left to spiritual direction or perhaps psychiatric therapy or both.

The chasm between the “eastern” mode of spiritual discipline and reflection and prayer and the western “corporatization” of the church institution is wide, prompting some questions about the relative  meaning and importance of one’s spiritual life (outside of the rigorous moral observances that conform with the Decalogue (Ten Commandments) and its relationship to the spiritual community in which one worships.

The very concept of “worship” and the place it plays in transference of religious and spiritual understanding (of the mysteries beyond intellectual comprehension) of the wider relationship between the human and a God as each understands that being to be, while extremely important, is rarely the subject of open and frank conversation, debate, exploration and deliberate sharing among people dedicated to their spiritual growth and development.

Christians are very divided about the importance of a eureka “conversion” as compared with a life-long discipline that presumes and requires openness to the dynamic of individual changes in perception and in evolving circumstances, as one ages. However, on the “practice” of discipleship, there seems to be a general agreement that engagement with a worshipping community, study of scripture, moral purity, consistent financial contributions and ‘growing’ the church, while keeping it fiscally and theologically ‘sound’ hold high priority.

In decades of both worship and ministry, very few minutes or hours were ever spent in my presence on the notion of disciplining the mind, centreing the mind, spending hours, days or even weeks in silence, while reflecting on how one’s life has taken shape, and how introducing changes into one’s daily spiritual practice. In fact, there is very little difference between the way “things” happen in many churches from the way “things happen” in any other organization whether not for profit or profit-driven.
The chasm between ‘eastern’ practice and ‘western’ practice in matters of faith is at least as great as the chasm between ‘eastern’ medicine and ‘western’ medicine. And there is no doubt that both ‘western’ practices (faith and medicine) would benefit significantly from opening the rigid boundaries that keep them separate. Reasons for the resistance at least in the west to influences from the east could fill volumes. 

Overcoming those resistances, likewise, will likely take generations.

Personally, a starting point that defines humans as “sinful” and therefore in desperate need of redemption, salvation, transformation through submission to a code of scripture (regardless of the specific holy book) leaves my spirit out in the “cold”…I have found that starting with the premise that in every person “there is that of God” is a far more life-giving notion leading to deeper penetration into the mysteries that such a premise helps to unlock. This starting point comes from an introduction to the Quaker faith and practice for which I am extremely grateful.

And the silence, reflection, prayer, and discipline of regular sharing of silence opens new insights, new perceptions and new possibilities in my inner life, as well as in the life I lead in the world.

My mind is much more receptive to a premise of light within, than a concept of darkness and sin that overwhelms much of the experience of many Christian churches. God’s love, care, compassion and acceptance, when compared with God’s rejection and a human-designed system of redemption under the watchful eye and hand of God, are already available to me, if only my mind is made ready to accept and receive such grace.

And, setting my own mind and heart on a path of disciplined reflection and prayer, as compared with the multi-demands of “busyness” in a conventional “Christian” church, makes more sense to me.

And this is no argument attempting to ‘win’ over another to this perspective. That is an independent choice for each person to find and take and never to be imposed, sold or bought.