nicholas babaian

Poem For The Day II

A day of ominous decision has now dawned on this free nation.
Save us then from our obsessions!
Open our eyes, dissipate our confusions, teach us to understand ourselves and our adversary.
Let us never forget that sins against the law of love are punishable by loss of faith,
and those without faith stop at no crime to achieve their ends!
Help us to be masters of the weapons that threaten to master us.
Help us to use our science for peace and plenty, not for war and destruction.
Save us from the compulsion to follow our adversaries in all that we most hate,
confirming them in their hatred and suspicion of us.
Resolve our inner contradictions, which now grow beyond belief and beyond bearing.
They are at once a torment and a blessing:
for if you had not left us the light of conscience, we would not have to endure them.
Teach us to wait and trust.
Grant light, grant strength and patience to all who work for peace.
But grant us above all to see that our ways are not necessarily your ways,
that we cannot fully penetrate the mystery of your designs
and that the very storm of power now raging on this earth
reveals your hidden will and your inscrutable decision.
Grant us to see your face in the lightning of this cosmic storm –

Thomas Merton, Prayer For Peace.

Parker Palmer on our current crisis and our lesser angels

apocalypse_now  cretense

….the parallels between psychological depression and economic depression. I finally learned….that depression didn’t need to be pictured as the hand of an enemy trying to crush me, but rather the hand of a friend trying to press me down to ground on which it was safe to stand. And through that realization, I understood that part of what took me into depression was that I was living life at artificial heights, at untenable elevations, so that the elevation involving a kind of inflated ego or a free-floating spirituality or a detached sense of “oughts” and in that sense a false ethic, or simply living intellectually in my head more than in my feelings and in my body, that all of those things put you at such altitude that if you trip and fall, which you’re inevitably going to do.…

….One of the breakthrough studies recently done in what makes schools successful on behalf of kids is a factor they call “relational trust.” They found that if a building is full of people who trust each other, you’re going to get great outcomes for kids even if that school is unfairly deprived of the resources it needs. Because if people trust each other, they will come into community, they will generate abundance, they will love the kids and love each other, and good education will emerge. If a building is full of people who don’t trust each other, you can throw a lot of money at them, state-of-the-art curriculum and teaching technique, and not much good will come out the other end.

… but the fact that we have those lesser angels and that they have enormous power. At the same time, once you see that, you also start to see the possibility that the better angels of our nature that Abraham Lincoln talked about and tried to invoke and evoke as the Civil War came to a close, that those angels are real too and that we have some very fundamental groundwork to do in our culture about the notion that you can educate the heart as much as you can educate the mind.

What I learned early on from some great teachers is that violence is not just a matter of dropping a bomb on someone or shooting a bullet at them or hitting them in the face. Violence is done whenever we violate the identity and integrity of the other. Violence is done when we demean, marginalize, dismiss, rendering other people irrelevant to our lives or even less than human. Violence is done when we simply don’t care or don’t look hard enough to evoke our caring for another.

So for me, living a nonviolent life means, first of all, doing what’s within my reach so that every day in every way in every relationship I have, I’m trying to ask the question how is it that I am called to honor the identity and integrity of this person?

I think the story of human greed is very simple. It’s the story that you can never have enough stuff. Once you go down the path that stuff is where my meaning lies, you can never have enough of it. But what we’re really looking for, I think, is the kind of abundance that comes from knowing that we are willing to feed one another, knowing that we are in those generative relationships where when you need my support, I’m there to offer it as best I can and when I need yours, the same is true of you.

And there’s as Leonard Cohen song of fairly recent vintage that has a great lyric in it that actually simply updates in more contemporary musical terms what the spiritual traditions have said for a long time. The lyric goes like this: “Forget your perfect offering. Ring the bell that still can ring. There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” And it’s in those cracks that we connect with each other. It’s in the brokenness that we connect with each other and that we generate very mysteriously the abundance called hope that actually can make us move our feet and move our hands and move our minds towards something better in very practical terms.

I have that fear. When I listened more carefully to the words “be not afraid,” I realized that they didn’t say you can’t have fear. They say instead you don’t need to be your fear. And I think there’s a big, big difference. That if you learn your inner landscape well enough, you realize, yes, there’s a piece of turf in there called fear. And you can choose to stand there if you want, but there are other places in that inner landscape where you can stand as well if you work at it. You can stand in a place of hope. You can stand in a place of fellow feeling. You can stand in a place of appreciation of beauty. You can stand in a place of being aware of your own mortality, mindful of the simple fact that you are going to die, which, as you cultivate it, kind of relativizes a lot of other things.

You can choose where you stand within yourself if you know your inner landscape, where you stand as you move toward other people, the news of the day, the events of your own life, the situation of the moment. Those are actually choices that you can make. They’re not always easy, but they’re impossible if you’re not reflective about your own inner dynamics. Once you become reflective there comes with that the possibility of making choices and then the next frontier is the courage to make good choices about that, to move from a place in yourself, and the way I like to say it to myself is to choose to move from a place of myself that is more likely to have life-giving results for me and other people than death-dealing results. There’s no perfection in that. You screw up. But you can also stand in a place of self-forgiveness, which is also somewhere in there, and cut yourself some slack and try it again.

Parker Palmer, interview with Krista Tippett for NPR

Quaker Parker Palmer is founder and senior partner of the Center for Courage and Renewal. He speaks widely and lives in Madison, Wisconsin. His most recent book is A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life.