Water Spirit Rising

“Nothing in the world is as soft, as weak, as water.
Nothing else can wear away the hard, the strong
and remain unaltered.
Soft overcomes hard
Weak overcomes strong.
Everybody knows it
Nobody uses the knowledge.”

Lao-Tzu, Chapter 78

“We are water. ”
Saying of the Standing Rock Sioux

Something important is happening, and you are part of it. The Sioux at Standing Rock, North Dakota, are protecting water, and it is a battle of mythic dimensions. It’s like the Ramayana or Lord of the Rings. It’s Mordor vs. Middle Earth, money power vs. people power, wealth and weapons against love and solidarity.

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) threatens the water supply of 18 million people, starting with the Sioux.  American megabanks have each invested hundreds of millions of dollars in DAPL. Militarized police are pushing it through. The pipeline represents the force of world capital and militarism, oil and money, arrayed against Earth and a courageous group of Natives who won’t back down, who react only with prayer and love.

 

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Happy Gratitude Day

Picture this scene. I’m sitting at my laptop at my desk in an apartment in San Francisco.  I’m sick and don’t feel up to going anywhere, but I have energy to write. How many separate things are happening that I can be thankful for in this very moment?

This chair is nice. I’m comfortable.

I’m not in pain right now.

Had a lunch of kale stew and leftover dressing from Thanksgiving dinner. It was good.

I have a working laptop computer.

I have electricity to power it.

I have Internet service.

I have a warm apartment to live in.

Thankful to have money to purchase those things.

The sun is shining in the window.

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Should I Help?

At a San Francisco playground many years ago, I watched as a father lifted his two-year-old onto an elevated walkway. He and I were the only two fathers there, and I took it on myself to advise him. “You might not want to do that,” I said.  “It’s a little high for him.”

“Oh, he’ll be OK,” said the other Dad. “He’s a tough little kid.”  The child ran happily along the walkway, until he found a series of climbing bars going down and grabbed on one to climb.

Next thing we knew he was screaming.

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A Gratitude Story

Kay Redfield Jamison is a psychologist, researcher and author. With the help of the drug Lithium, she was brought back from life-threatening manic depressive psychosis.  She has recovered to have a beautiful career and life.

At an American Psychology Association conference in New Orleans, Jamison met Mogens Schou (1918-2005,) the Danish psychiatrist who, “more than anyone is responsible for the introduction of Lithium as a treatment for manic-depressive illness.”

Dr. Schou revealed that his years of tireless research and activism had been motivated by his family’s history of illness.   Jamison and Schou each sat down with pieces of paper and sketched their family trees.  Each square (male) and circle (female) represented a family member. Anyone who had manic depression had their square blackened. Attempted suicides were marked with an asterisk. Those who had completed suicide had a slash mark through their box.

There were a lot of black marks on both pages, representing lifetimes of pain and suffering. At one point, Jamison looked over and realized, as she wrote in her book An Unquiet Mind,  “Every black circle and square on Schou’s family tree represented someone who helped save my life.”

I cried when I read that line.  What a gift to appreciate all those people whom she didn’t know, most of whom died without ever realizing what they had motivated.  Lithium treatment has saved tens of thousands of lives, although better drugs have since come along.

Think about those blackened squares and circles and realize: we are all boxes on someone’s family tree. We never know the meaning of our life or how valuable we will be.

Our lives intertwine with each other and motivate or change other lives. We don’t know what we ultimately bring into being, or who will be the agents that make it happen.  If we tried to go back and thank everyone and everything that has helped us, we would never reach the end. That’s why some people thank God instead.

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The Things We Do For Control

How much of human behavior comes from a need for a sense of control?  More than you might want to believe.  When it comes to health, money, love or safety, people get very insecure. We want more control, and this drive can take us to some unhappy places.

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Born Again

“This has not been easy,” my friend Marlon said.  “But after 29 years I can tell you, the worst day out here is better than the best day in prison. I’ve come a long way.”

In 2014, I wrote about Marlon’s impending release, his struggle to come home, and the challenges he still faced. Two years later, he has accomplished astonishing things.

Marlon’s story inspires me from two sides. He has received blessings and help from the world, and he has transformed himself.  His patience and persistence made people want to help him.  His energy, flexibility and determination enabled him to benefit from their help.

As Laurel Mellin wrote in The Solution, “Nobody is going to rescue you from your life.” But you can rescue yourself, and when you try, the world may help you in unexpected ways.  It’s working that way for Marlon.shelby

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Life Imitates Facebook

Lately my newsfeed on Facebook has been painful to read. FB sends me stories of war, of death and political corruption. They make me feel bad, yet they keep sending them.

Why? Because I’m telling them to.  Facebook is a bunch of computers. They are programmed to send me more of what I like. How do they know what I like? Because when they send stories about police violence or Palestine, I am likely to click on them. I’m more likely to interact with them with a comment or a “like.” The computers even  measure how much time I spend looking at a picture or video and include that data in their analysis of me.

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Don’t Ask Why

Last week was a hard one on Planet Earth. News came of 500 African refugees drowning in the Mediterranean. On the same newsfeed, I saw a report of the death by global warming of the Great Barrier Reef near Australia, the world’s largest living thing.

I grieved.  Who wouldn’t be saddened by such enormous losses? I stayed sad for days. I tend to such reactions, but there was more going on, and it might be valuable to look at the causes. 

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Five Things Not to Think About

“Name one thing that you can do better without thinking,” my science loving friend Parrish challenged.  It took me a while to call them to mind, but here are five such things.  It turns out a pretty important list.  If you think all the time, you will miss out on the best life has to offer and cause a lot of grief in the process.  Give your thinking brain some time off when you want to:

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Improv with God

Dev Rogers treated her cancer as a kind of liberation. Diagnosed when she was 70, she underwent a year of surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation with all the misery and fear those treatments bring. Her response: she took up acting.

“Cancer gave me permission to act,” she says. “I was attracted to acting as a child, but it never translated. Now I thought, ‘Why not?’”  She took a class at her Neighborhood Playhouse, joined a theater company and has since played in several off-Broadway shows.

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