Monday, February 12, 2018

Sometimes Heartbreak is A Necessary Thing...

We all feel it. You know we do. It's that low grade melancholy that is humming in the background of our days... like a radio accidentally left on behind the scenes... droning on for so long that we don't notice it's still there... we don't even hear it anymore.

We have become acclimatized to the murmur of looming extinction. On our present trajectory, if something isn't done, isn't changed, it's not a question of "if" anymore, but "when." We are so deeply gripped by the stages of grief, we can't recognize them for what they are. Denial... anger... fear... bargaining,.. depression... resignation... helplessness... acceptance.

Yes, denial is one simple way to deal with the unthinkable. Ignore it and it will go away. But something that spiritually demands attention and cannot be ignored... well, it haunts.

When humans are faced with overwhelming danger they default to 3 defenses: fight / flee / freeze. This film "How Do Humans Heal a World?" is designed to move grief that is frozen in place and inspire you to move through the grief to the place where we began and belong-- a place that's familiar, that feels like home. A place called "love." And there is where you make a difference. Love is where you heal the world.

Barbara is the Founder and Director of Walking Moon Studios, an international studio of artists dedicated to storytelling with art that moves-- metaphorically and literally. Walking Moon  films represent art with a message.

Sometimes Compassion Must Be Fierce: Revolution, Renewal and Angela Davis

Angela Davis Free Angela Art They predicted it would be standing room only, so I   came early; it offers me time to reflect. Sitting at   the edge of the balcony with my notebook and a   clear view of the entire concert hall, I’m startled by   a  wave of wistfulness. Suddenly and acutely, I am   aware of the passage of time, and momentarily,     the passing of an era that invigorated and felt right.

Angela Davis 4 smile
She walks into the hall and a cheer goes up while a tear rolls down...

Read the story here.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The GIft in the Shadow of Climate Change

Or: How do Humans Heal a World?
Heartbreak is a Necessary Beginning

To an observer, the world can look extremely dysfunctional. Humankind seems mired in violence and hate, in political posturing and war-mongering; people who are supposed to be people-of-faith make “illegitimate” and make “other,” those whose beliefs are different; greed and corruption seem to be running the world and we brace ourselves daily against terrorist attacks like those in Paris and more recently, Belgium. As if that’s not enough, we are bombarded with concern for the environment and climate change.

With everything already in chaos, we are afraid to admit to ourselves that the planet may be dying even though we suspect there’s truth in it. It seems that we feel the distress on some level whether it’s conscious or not. We can’t wrap our minds around the idea that life on this planet, which includes human life, could cease to exist. We flee in terror from our feelings in order to avoid pain and having to comprehend annihilation. The mind simply cannot embrace the truth for there can be no evacuation — there is nowhere else to go.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Standing Rock: The view from 2 women who attended Oceti Sakowin Camp

Singer-Songwriter Aliza Hava and Scholar and Operations Manager for the Dominican University School of the Arts and Humanities, Keiko Ehret, tell .us about Standing Rock and their adventures at the camp. This interview is not what you expect- it will startle you from another view.


Photo Credit Adam Alexander Johannson

This is destined to become an iconic photo of an iconic event

“Standing Rock” refers to Camp Oceti Sakowin, an encampment of water protectors from the Dakota and Lacota Sioux Nations near Lake Oahe along the Missouri River.

The water protectors are exercising their first amendment right to peacefully assemble to protest the building of a new Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) that is routed under the Missouri River.

The Missouri River Basin supplies water to millions of people and an oil spill would affect everyone downstream.  Energy Transfer Partners had to reroute the original pipeline because it came too close to Bismarck and the predominately white residents there objected.

The Sioux Tribes filed a lawsuit alleging the Army Corps of Engineers violated several U.S. Laws treaty provisions when they gave DAPL an easement to build on federal land and land that would endanger sacred sites on the Sioux Reservation.

Standing Rock is an unparalleled historic event...

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A new way of being in the world:

Cooperation, not competition, survival not of the fittest, but of the kindest. Jon Ramer is the CEO of the global Compassion Games. Here's our interview:

It turns out that the hard work of fixing the world, uniting the divisions among people and solving painful social problems doesn’t have to be work at all. It can be fun, inspiring, invigorating and playful and everybody is welcome to get in on the game!

Just when you think the world can’t get any darker... poisonous politics, terrorism, militarization of public streets, conflicts, war zones and inhumanity that makes people refugees and then makes them “other” coupled with climate changes that threaten life itself... along comes something and with a flash of insight sparked by the fire of inspiration, the torch of compassion is ignited and hands from every corner of the world reach for this torch that resembles, in the moment, something too often elusive-- called hope. Then along come others to shine a light on how human compassion plays out in the world.

Play” being the operative word.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Sometimes Compassion Must Be Fierce: Revolution, Renewal and Angela Davis

I have had a secret for all these years that I finally admitted-- I have an unnamed hero. It's been held in the quiet recesses of a heart that kept its own council and kept silent about an admiration that was once controversial and likely to raise eyebrows, questions, or worse yet, ire. 
What happens to women of a certain age is that they can become bold enough to exit whatever closet they may have been hiding in. That courage, with its late arrival leave one wondering "why" does it suddenly seem important to speak your uncensored truth and let the heart step into the vulnerable.

It may be that it's legacy calling. Or it may be that the time comes when not speaking a truth is the same as a lie.
Meet my unlikely hero in this article...
"Sometimes Compassion Must be Fierce: Revolution, Renewal and Angela Davis.


The World Talks Climate Change: An existential conversation

The conversation about Climate Change is existential.

Decisions that are made right now will determine whether human life will continue on the planet. The best argument for human beings to start getting along with one another on this planet is taking place as we speak. We are one. We'd better "get"that, and soon. We're already past a benchmark set by the scientific community to continue life as we know it. Climate change is already underway under your feet.

The glaciers are melting, the ocean is rising, the weather is changing... and humans are engaging in activities that may lead to the extinction of the species. Whether or not humans will  extinguish themselves depends on what we do immediately.

We can't afford to take time to invent a strategy. There is no time. We've talked it to death; we have to stop talking and start doing. The first thing we need to do is a mental adjustment: awaken to the idea that we're all in this together. We are an interconnected and intimate shimmering web of life; the times demand that we stop thinking "I" and start thinking "we." We need an adjustment that opens the heart as wide as the arms and lets everybody in. If we continue this path of "them" and "us" and xenophobia or separation, we will be drafting our own death warrant.

When I talk with people about what they are feeling about the Earth, the environment and planetary stewardship, they all speak to a feeling of sadness, sometimes crushing sadness, sometimes melancholy that is similar to a low grade fever, sometimes a deep grief that lodges as an ache in the region of the chest or rib cage.

I think we all feel it. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we feel a thick sadness. One can freeze in that grief which prevents any movement. What is underneath that bone-aching sadness is love. The love for Earth and all of sentient life is immense. We are, after all, mammals. We feel the connection and we feel the hurt. People will try to avoid the deep heartache that wants to take up residence in the body with distraction, denial, distancing, bravado, avoidance, overwhelm, paralysis, grave sadness, a cavalier indifference, avoiding the subject, becoming and staying angry, disgust, minimizing... Those are all the ways we humans are "whistling past the graveyard" which means creating an illusion of safety so as to deny the danger. Danger motivates. Let it. Love motivates better. Let it.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Every Earth needs a good song...

It turns out that  not only are we, the collective, journeying through the stages of grief about what is happening to our planet— whether we are conscious of that grief or not, but we are all personally grieving and inhabit a unique stage of that grief.

Journalist Richard Schiffman writes about the environmental crisis through the eyes of Dr. Elizabeth Kubler Ross' seminal work that showcases the stages and coping mechanisms of those facing the end of life and its loss. His essay “The Five Stages of Environmental Grief” is included in a trilogy of his work featured with permission, in the 4th edition of “Words and Violence”—one of the Charter’s educational programs and a permanent installation at Voices Education Project Pedagogical Institute, now adopted as the educational arm of the Charter for Compassion International.

Schiffman traces the stages of grief as we travel the environmental path together that we have constructed or allowed others (mindfully or not) to forge into the predictable future. All toward our tomorrows-- on this planet. Or our no tomorrows. Our fate hangs in the balance and is dependent on our awakening and when awakened, engaging in earnest, in the work of healing the planet.

Last summer, I  staffed a booth for the Charter Environment Sector at the Midwest Renewable Energy Association annual exhibition and conference at their headquarters in Wisconsin. For the 3 days and nights that I immersed myself in dialogue with people walking through the exhibits, a common narrative emerged. I came away knowing one thing to be true: We know. We know and we feel it. We sense what is happening to our world. Everyone I met was feeling it. It was in their speech, in their eyes, in the way they held their bodies, in their language, in their involuntary sighs, in their breathing.

Because the problem is earth-sized, (soul sized, really) we can easily stagger around in a state of overwhelm at the magnitude of what we face. And because we can feel so insignificant in comparison, we sometimes cope with defense mechanisms that protect us from allowing that grief in. We armor ourselves against it. Every person I met and spoke to at the MREA was personally in some stage of grief and feeling things like—anger, overwhelm, hopelessness, pain, despair,... All felt a sense of urgency. Some were even using denial, indifference or distraction to cope. There was a lot of anger. There were mostly failed attempts at denial or minimizing. There was some resignation but mostly there was frustration. Many felt powerless. They felt helpless. Impotent. And nobody wants to feel impotent.

As a former nurse, I know well the varied stages of grief Elizabeth Kubler-Ross identified in those facing a loss of life. I have accompanied people through those stages during their final journey. I witnessed the same phenomenon in everyone I spoke to at the conference. To a person, each of them was inhabiting a stage of personal grief. Some demonstrated multiple stages. I listened. I understood. I validated.  And I congratulated everyone for their capacity to love and the magnitude of that love for their planet—for that is the truth of where and why these feelings arise. And I told them about the Charter for Compassion and the hope intrinsic in a movement racing toward critical mass that aims to spread compassion over the earth and create a more humane narrative for humankind on this planet.  I acknowledged the collective pain and vowed to do something to help thaw frozen grief, for grief that is stuck in the human heart-- harms. It can prevent action. To move beyond the grief, we must first acknowledge it and feel its impact to allow it to move through unimpeded. If impeded, it cannibalizes our energy and produces an emotional stalemate. When we thaw, we are freed to move forward.

The film featured here is a journey where we are accompanied to our feelings, through our grief (whether unconscious or not) and to the soul-sized message that underlies our anxiety-- LOVE. (Big love.) What triggers this grief is a deep and fathomless love for our planet and its gift of life. 

Author and scholar Karen Armstrong, founder of the Charter for Compassion International has said that a compassionate community is an uneasy community-- uneasy because where there is a lack of compassion, there is suffering. And there is likely suffering somewhere in the ecosystem we call "home." 


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Health and Human Rights and Women

Women heal the world.pngIn the International Health and Human Rights class I'm taking at Stanford, I'm having to confront some very uncomfortable issues. I knew "intellectually" about the oppression of women planet-wide, but that kept me safe at a distance from real harm or real emotion. Since joining the class, I've not just "learned" about how women all over the world "give up" their rights involuntarily at the hands of men, I have come to know some of those women. They have become real people to me because I can interact with them in real time. Imagine the stories that begin "in my country.." and that recount similar yet divergent ways in which women's sovereignty is violated.

How does this happen in the modern age? In the 21st century? Well, it's an old tradition the arises out of ignorance and a sense of "entitlement" on the part of men. Many men around the world believe it's a privilege of their gender to do whatever they wish to women in their culture. Incredulously, some of these same men complain about fascism, cast systems, domination and slavery.

Entitlement and domination come through economic suppression, illiteracy or lack of education, an accident of geography or birth, cultural traditions, religious doctrine, tribal and other rivalry, attempts at ethnic cleansing through forced procreation, war-making and just plain... opportunity.
What is it about human nature that welcomes superiority and an opportunity to wield "power over" another human being? Do we believe so little in our own intrinsic worth that we feel compelled and satisfied to diminish someone else's?

What's really striking about the practice of entitlement, superiority and domination over other beings is that as humans we are NOT hard-wired for barbarism. We are actually hard-wired for empathy and compassion. It's hard work to overcome one's natural inclinations so as to justify the submission of other humans in whatever form that takes. It's a practice of the ego, not of the human heart. We literally have to "harden our hearts" to accomplish violence, barbarism, terrorism and war.

Given the times in which we live and the urgencies that face us as a planet running out of resources, running out of tolerance for human consumption, waste and folly, and running out of time-- we might want to look at how to develop solidarity instead of creating differences artificially and acting out of illusion or delusions that there somehow is forever or endless capacity for human infantilism and egocentrism.

Newsflash: This is not the planet I signed up for:
Bully Women and You Risk the Planet:
(Article at the Charter for Compassion)

And neither did you.

Friday, January 23, 2015

One Billion Rising

A couple of years ago Eve Ensler (Vagina Monologues) quietly started a movement. It's not quiet anymore. One billion people joined the movement and scheduled activities and staged flash mobs all over the world.

We continue the tradition February 14 in 2015 to stand up and speak out about violence against women. The statistics are sobering. The stories are compelling. The violence against women on this planet is mind-numbing.

But we must not be numbed. We must be moved. We must bear witness to some of the most heinous crimes on the planet and the senselessness of harming women and girls. There are so many ways women are wounded by a kind of patriarchy that is cowardly and criminal. One in 3 women will be assaulted in their lives. This is completely unacceptable. Untenable. It must stop. Womens' lives must be valued. They are the nurturers and bearers of life.

Women are valuable. Real men know that. Real men are kind. Real men stand up for their daughters and their daughter's futures.

No looking away. No excuses. No passes. We must act. And we must build solidarity among women. From mean girls to sex trafficking to the kidnap, torture and killing of women because they are diminished people is inexcusable.

Join us. Stand up. Speak. RISE!

For resources go to and create and promote your event!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Words and Violence 4th Edition "Bullying the Planet"

This is the fourth year that Voices has compiled a new edition of Words and Violence 
The emphasis in this edition is on Mother Earth, and how resilient she has been in the wake of our endless "bullying." We've all heard stories of climate change, deforestation, global warming, pollution, and the misuse of our natural resources. This new edition helps concretize the planet's reality, and offers hope for a new beginning, providing ways to take our concern and move us to action.

"Who will save us now?" is our invitation to examine the problem of "Bullying the Planet" and to find the antidotes for becoming the solution. As we consider this poignant question we come face to face with a trilogy written by environmental journalist, Richard Schiffman. Schiffman introduces us to the "Five States of Environmental Grief," forces us to consider still another question, "Are the Oceans Failed States?" and concludes with exposing us to the issues of "Hunger, Food Security and the African Land Grab." 

In a second trilogy, this time written by Chicago Tribune columnist Robert Koehler, he unmasks his life mission and invites us to join him in undoing the mythology of violenceWalk Softly, speaks from the Indigenous voice and looks at what the earth's marginalized peoples may have to teach us about balance and how to protect the context from which we live. He explains why We Can’t Afford to Lose Another Decade and why and offers a reasonable request in asking us to grow up and act In Partnership With Mother Earth.

Poet and author of Harlem Renaissance Encyclopedia, Aberjhani, contrasts the philosophy of shared community with guerilla decontextualization—the insidious and deliberate art of manipulation in order to discredit and nullify, in Creative Flexibility and Annihilated Lives.

We enter a day-long healing chamber where we begin Awakening the Dreamer, a process of waking from the modern trance, healing the grief, and creating an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling and socially just world.

Artist and storyteller Carol Hiltner, who works with the Altai of Siberia guides us on a journey with those who have been pushed aside in favor of modern progress and with Maia Rose, we learn their story from the inside out in Mother Earth Cannot Be Bullied.

There is something you casually do every week and more often, that graphically demonstrates bullying to your children-- from the time they are toddlers until they become adults. You personally escort them through a gauntlet of bullying that illustrates, in living color, precisely how to brutally bully someone, humiliate them, dehumanize them, and sometimes even dismember them publicly-- for sport and entertainment. This demonstrates to your children how to take this bullying public by publishing it to a wide audience. And you do this a minimum of 500 times before they graduate from school. Your silence gives them permission. You may then wonder, "where do these kids get these ideas?" And when the principal calls to tell you that your child has been involved in an incident of bullying-- and not as the victim-- you may be shocked and asking yourself how in the world your child learned to be so mean. How? You taught them how and your silence was permission. You exposed your child freely and willingly to this toxic environment and you never once complained. Did you Teach Your Children Well ? 

In this edition, educator, author and admitted tree-hugger Kate Trnka takes us on a fanciful journey with her students as they explore the magic that awaits them in the forest as they communicate with trees and get to know them intimately in If These Trees Could Talk, Park I 

Lesa Walker, M.D. leads us through some classroom exercises, antidotes and compassion games in Bullying the Planet: Is There an Antidote? Community Activist and Environmental Guru Karen Plamer shares ideas for organizing a community and teaching kids about eco-responsibility with her game “Let’s Save the Earth” as she finds out Can Educating Them to Be Stewards be Easy, Educational, Engaging and Fun?

Voices Education is the education arm of the Charter for Compassion InternationalThe Charter is committed through its work and network of partners to bring compassion to the earth and all living things that call this place "home." You might even want to join the global movement toward compassion and make a donation.

Friday, August 15, 2014

4th Editon of Words and Violence to be released soon

We are working on the 4th edition of the Words and Violence Project at Voices Education (dot) org, a humanitarian organization and pedagogical institute. The work addresses bullying in all its incarnations and seeks the antidote to bullying grown to epidemic proportions in words and images.

The resource has grown to more than 600 pages with an audience of educators, civic leaders, and the general public in 140 countries.

We are please to welcome contributors to the 4th edition: Robert Koehler of the Chicago Tribune: Richard Schiffman, Environmental Journalist; Author and Poet Aberjhani whose work in "guerilla decontextualization" examines how bullies attack by dismantling the humanity of their target; Carol Hiltner, Author, Artist and Founder of Altai University who works with the Indigenous in Siberia; Kate Trnka, Author an Educator who takes students into the woods for conversations with nature... and more...

We are excited and hope you are too. If you'd like to become a contributor, please let us know by sending me an email.

The ways in which we bully the planet are countless: irresponsible environmental stewardship; exploitation of the Indigenous; mismanagement of land, oceans, water, air; the greed of earth's resources that belong to all, not to those who wish to conscript them as commodities and commerce; the skewed and exploited economy; climate change; artificial agriculture and food production; political indifference or the abuse of influence; the treatment of animals; land grabs and mismanagement; the collective psychic disconnection and denial; the moral vacuum in business and commerce; racism; double standards; the rising phenomenon of a spiritual vacuum; the abuse of authority and power; the trampling of human and civil rights; slavery; conflict; genocide; war...

If you have submissions, ideas and suggestions, or wish to volunteer to help with the project, please contact me.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Bring your Red Shoes- we're changing the world

Author and Scholar Karen Armstrong asked the question: "If we were truly compassionate with self, others and the planet, what would the world look like?"

The Charter for Compassion is asking, and answering, that question.

Karen described her fantasy in a TED Talk that won her the annual prize. She then set out to meet with religious leaders and luminaries asking them to help her draft a "Charter for Compassion" that would transcend all religious, ideological, and national differences.

At the mystical core of all religions lies the Golden Rule. All gods say the same thing: "be what you want to receive." That also happens to be how the quantum world works, so we are talking about creation here.

We are all living immersed in the invisible quantum soup that determines our experience. Do you want fear? Look for it in the world and stir in more... Do you want violence? Go looking for it; throw more into the pot. Or would you like a compassionate world where everybody is a steward of everybody else and the planet?

What will you stir into the quantum soup that becomes the ecosystem you have to live in? If you want to sour the soup bring hatred, fear, anger, prejudice, violence, war... If you want to sweeten the soup, bring generosity, empathy, kindness, love, compassion...

You might ask "is it really that simple?" The answer is "yes." The creation and the cosmos is a dance of atoms and molecules and minds. What if everybody brought their best game and wore their red shoes to the party, could we create a new Oz instead of a faux one?

The Charter for Compassion is asking you to sign on. So far there are almost 900 partners worldwide and close to 300 compassionate cities. It's the best idea humanity ever had and it's growing exponentially. You can join the charter by signing and you can become a member by making a donation whether that's with your money, your time, your talent, your enthusiasm, or your voice to spread the word. Spread the word, spread the world.

Be the change to make the change.

You're invited to the party. Oh, and bring your red shoes.

Here's how it works:

 Part I
What if the World Gave a Compassion Party and Everybody Came? Or bring your red shoes, were changing the world...

Part II Bring your red shoes...

Part III Bring your red shoes...

Friday, May 16, 2014

Who Remembered Their Mother?

On Mother's Day, mothers were recognized for their care, love and sacrifices while raising their children. Some have done it with partners and some single mothers have done it alone. Some have had the privileges that come with a comfortable life, and some have struggled through hardships in places that are challenging, neighborhoods that are poor, streets that are not safe and housing that is barely habitable.

Some mothers cared for their children in homeless shelters or maybe even on the streets because there is no partner or the partner was downsized and they are unemployed, have lost their home to foreclosure or a health crisis drained their savings and bankrupted them.

Some mothers have had to carry water miles to shacks that are sticks and straw while navigating through territory of marauders, rapists and predators. Some mothers have nothing to feed their children. Some children themselves have become mothers to their little brothers and sisters because their own mothers died from an AIDS epidemic that went unchecked by the uninterested. And yet...

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

For Mothers

It was Mother's Day and mothers everywhere were celebrated.  "Mother" is supposed to be synonymous with "nurturer," "fierce protector," "first teacher," and one who would lay down her life to save her children.

Kevin Durant, who received MVP (Most Valuable Player) award for basketball, thanked his mother in an emotional speech that ended with his mother getting a standing ovation.

A black man who grew up in a rough and poor  neighborhood claimed his stature as a successful professional by saying "we weren't supposed to be here."

He thanked his mom:
“We weren’t supposed to be here. You made us believe,” Durant told his mother. “You kept us off the street. You put clothes on our backs. You put food on the table. When you didn’t eat, you made sure we ate and [you] went to sleep hungry. “You sacrificed for us. You’re the real MVP.”

But there were some mothers who did not celebrate Mother's Day. Mothers in Nigeria spent the day in tears and anguished pleas "Bring our girls home."

Poet and author Aberjhani spoke for them...

Saturday, April 19, 2014

An invitation...

The 3rd edition of Words and Violence an internationally recognized (140 countries)pedagogical resource on bullying in all its incarnations... from the playground to the tabloids to the mortuary-- and hosted at Voices Education Project, featured "Performance Arts" in 2013 because they are a quintessential communicator and change agent to impact contemporary culture. It is one of the places where mass change can occur, where minds are awakened, challenged and where a portal opens for the enlightenment of mass consciousness.

"Performance" is story and communicates with words or without, with photos and images, movement and art... it is often where the human first encounters the mirror of self reflection and the glint of (Aha!) possibility. The arts can paint both the horror and beauty of the human condition and make us Think! (capital T.) It inspires some things and expires others. The canvas of human imagination, this table rasa of potential and raw material of human evolution grows the psyche, breathes inspiration and creates the collective future earth narrative. We are, after all, what we imagine ourselves to be and what we make of ourselves and our ecosystems.

The current ecosystem supports bullying and does it in ways that we don't even imagine because they are so acculturated as to have become invisible to us. But they are there-- like background noise that we no longer hear because it is such a constant low drone. We are infected with a virus-- epidemic and pandemic and while we have identified the illness that the virus causes (despair, overwhelm, cynicism, intractable fatigue, adult and horribly-- youth suicide,) we haven't quarantined the virus nor found its true cause. Time to get into the lab and take a look under the microscopic eye of honest and fearless scrutiny. Here's how...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Compassion served here! Now there's a drive up window!

Do you often wonder whatever happened to honor and integrity? Altruism? Compassion?

Are you just plain tired? Some days, dog tired? Were you up all night with a sick child? With your children and family responsibilities is it enough just to get the groceries purchased, food on the table, the car payment made, the lawn mowed in Summer or sidewalk shoveled in Winter?

Can you stand one more thing on your list of things that you have to check out? Is it too much to ask you to be informed on every single issue that affects you-- in the financial world, the political climate, your school system, the news, weather and climate change, what products you use that may be toxic, what is being recalled for what reason and that your food is safe?

Don't you wish people would "do the right thing" simply because it's the right thing to do? Wouldn't it be nice to expect the truth because that's just how things are done-- with unimpeachable honor? With impeccable integrity?

Don't you just wish that everybody on this sandbox we call "Earth" would just get along and play nice?

Wouldn't you like to reclaim your idealism or at least retract your cynicism and ...

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Two Hands (Up) for Compassion

Four years before the shooting in the Sikh Temple, it was my own faith that was under attack. In 2008, a man who sharpened his anger on the jagged edge of hate walked into a Unitarian Universalist Church and opened fire killing two people and injuring eight.

The Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville held 200 members and 25 children that day who were presenting a stage play for the congregation. The shooting was politically motivated. The shooter railed against liberals, democrats, African Americans and homosexuals saying they were the ruination of America.

Unitarian Universalists are free thinkers and the standing joke is that trying to organize UUs is something like herding cats. Each is on a different path to faith and understanding. The bonding factor for Unitarian Universalists is that all believe the questions are the answer and each is on a quest for truth. Call it a search for the holy grail if you will-- and it may be religious (or not) but it requires no allegiance to dogma or doctrine. All faiths and journeys to God (or not) are respected. UUs are known for a common dedication to social justice and to make the world a better place.

The Sikh Temple shooting wasn't a politically motivated act. It was pure racist rage. 

Charter for Compassion

Jeremy Rifkin says we are hard wired for compassion. I want to believe him. I think it's one of those things like buying a red sports car. When your new car is a red sports car, suddenly you notice that there are a lot of red sporty cars on the road. 

Do you see in the world what you are looking for? What you are "accustomed" to seeing? Are you more inclined to notice the vibe you are "attuned" to? It's a kind of resonance. Did you know that a guitar "G" string plucked in a room of guitars will cause all the other guitars to play that same G? And if you strum a "D" all the other guitars will resonate to "D."

A drum struck in a room full of drums will vibrate all of the skins on all the drums. And if you put sand on a on a plate over a drum or music, it will arrange itself in organized geometric patterns.

Did you know that if you put a whole room of clocks with pendulums in a room swinging at different rates, when you come back in the morning they will all be swinging simultaneously?

Perhaps we truly are what we resonate with.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The 3rd Edition: "Words and Violence" and the Healing Arts - How to De-Weaponize Words

The Power of Words:

Our weekly Unitarian Universalist Fellowship ("UU church") service ends with these words: “Let us carry the light of compassion and commitment to build a better world." 

 A pledge repeated becomes a mantra and a mantra repeated becomes a vow, a deeply embedded blueprint for how one lives life. Vows coupled with strong emotions construct realities. Vows are not to be taken lightly; they change lives; they change the world. 

I am a storyteller and studio and performing artist and I believe that the arts-- particularly story and  the performing arts-- holds the greatest potential for healing a troubled and broken world.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Dance as Community

Call for Peace Drum and Dance Company
Dance is a communicator, it tells "story;" dance builds community.

This brand new 3rd edition of "Words and Violence" features Performance Arts as a catalyst for change, for compassion, for human evolution in “story” conveyed:
  • Through the force of words
  • Through the eyes of art
  • Through the language of movement,
  • Through the magic of film
  • Through the magic of storytelling via “song.”
It’s part of the movement toward a new narrative on the planet– one that is compassionate, responsible and deliberately created. WE write the script. WE perform the dance and dramas. WE sing the world into being. WE are the narrators and the narrative. WE tell the story of the world. The world is a performance! Our performance!

The world is a vectoring of what we dance.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Finding the Antidote to Bullying

 We (individually at Voices Education Project) and collectively as a culture, have done a good job of pointing the finger at bullies and bullying. We have raised consciousness to the ceiling.

But the culture of violence continues. Why?
Because we have created school curricula, documentaries, anecdotes and antidotes; we say "It Gets Better," or "I Choose."

We pronounce with any number of clich├ęs, tired pseudo-encouragement slogans, and we think we motivate change. But as long as we miss the point, support and demonstrate a culture of violence, or perpetuate a disconnect between adult behavior and childrens' bullying, the violence is not going away.

We need to teach and role model social wellness.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tabloid Journalism at Huffington Post?

Well, I am now duly impressed. This is encouraging: the Huffington Post now has a section: "Tabloid Journalism." Whoa.

I once wrote a piece about an icon-- Whitney Houston, and featured how she was directly linked to Nelson Mandela and his release from prison.

Yes, that Whitney Houston.

Did you know that Whitney Houston was an anti-apartheid activist who began some freedom fighting activities in South Africa disguised as concerts where she sang about freedom? Did you know that  Houston's covert activism was one link in the long chain of events that led to Mandela's release from behind the barbed wire?

I wrote that story. It wasn't published. The editor gave no explanation or feedback. It was just... well, ignored. This was shortly after Houston's death and she was she was the manic topic d'jour so my piece was timely. I suspected it wasn't "sexy" enough or macabre enough. It was the truth. But truth often doesn't sell well; it likely wasn't tabloid enough.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A More Humane Narrative, Please

When did mainstream media become "medialoid" and when did social media become "mean-stream?"

One of the initiatives at Voices Education Project is to: "create a more humane narrative on the planet." Why is the current narrative on this planet so inhumane?

When did mainstream media become "medialoid" and when did social media become "mean-stream?" One of the initiatives at Voices Education Project is to: "create a more humane narrative on the planet." Why is the current narrative on this planet so inhumane? When did mainstream media become "medialoid" and when did social media become "mean-stream?" One of the initiatives at Voices Education Project is to: "create a more humane narrative on the planet." Why is the current narrative on this planet so inhumane?

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Conversation in Need of Having?

Words can, and often are, used as weapons. We have seen what happens when there is a call to arms, an incitement to war, a rousing speech from a dictator who condemns part of his own population, racial epithets and hate speech, an organized and violent response to bullying by classmates in schools.

When words are used as weapons, we are all down wind of an ecosystem in which we live, work and pursue leisure that is made toxic by the introduction of cynicism, greed and bullying of real people. Bullying is now epidemic and not just on playgrounds and classrooms. It is on the front pages of newspapers getting their material used to dismember live people in a public forum from hacking and other illegal means. It is in reality TV, "mock"umentaries, and "harmless" comedy routines.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Wisconsin and the Sleeping Giant

It seems Wisconsin has become ground zero for a new movement that is a push to bring true democracy back with a few new amendments: Integrity, truth, fairness, accurateness and not manipulation in media, an end to partisan politics, a voice for the people, leaders who listen, human rights, civil rights, civility, inclusion not exclusion, a shift in power from leaders to constituents, acknowledgement of human worth...

Is there an app for that?

Read about Barbara's immersion experience at the Wisconsin Capitol Rally:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Speaking of Violence- Words in the Wake of Tuscon's Tragedy

There are words and phrases in every language that convey the intention of violence. In colloquialisms, slang and everyday speech we find violent references and military metaphors. When did our casual language get so violent? It is worth examining our speech for indicators of violence. The result may surprise you. The Huffington Post featured my article after the shootings in Arizona that many speculate were politically motivated by a climate of violent rhetoric. What do you say?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bullying is Not Just for Playgrounds

Working on the "Words and Violence" Curriculum for the last year has made me acutely aware of the power and impact of words. 

The power of words has been recently demonstrated with a worldwide protest against the use of an image and program that crossed a line of civilty and a in the worldwide focus and  discussion about a fallen leader-- U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

People are dead including a nine year old girl because for whatever deranged reason, someone found what someone else was saying unacceptable and tried to silence a voice. People died in the crossfire. Crossfire and crosshairs-- those were the buzzwords. They are words that hold charge. And the words we speak should be examined for their lethalness-- just like any other wielded weapon. We can maim, harm and murder people with the weaponry of words.

Words harm or they heal. Words bully. And sometimes they kill.

See my article on bullying with words and images at the Huffington Post...

Friday, March 11, 2011

If They Asked you to "Come Change the World" would you RSVP?

How many times do we receive an offer to change the world? To make it a better place? To reach the hearts and hands of people across the globe? If that moment comes, the question is first of all, do we recognize this opportunity for what it is? Or do we spin around and look behind us to see whom "they" are talking to? Who me?

If and when that moment arrives what would you do? Laugh? Grin sheepishly? Stammer? Put your nose back in your book? Pick that fuzz from your navel?

It's not widely believed that one person can change the world. Such a giant idea is hard to wrap one's head around, no? Because we expect a full marching band with the arrival of that kind of announcement or invitation, maybe we miss it when it is whispered in ordinary company or flickers by in a fleeting moment. Would you know it if it arrived in your life? And would you RSVP?

A few Thoughts...

When I think about it, my own life is no less rich and the living no less inspiring than my pioneering ancestors and I come from a long line of Indians and outlaws so don't ever turn your back on me!

Life is, after all, a slice of human consciousness lived from its place in human evolution. "From here to eternity" as it were-- from earth to the stars, from personal space to cyberspace, from a small local footprint to the world reduced to the size of a notebook and sitting on your lap!

As a child I lived with the perpetual and immenent threat of annihilation. That's child abuse! It wasn't a kid-friendly world and I couldn't understand why the grown-ups who were in charge weren't doing something?

So at age seven with my face in the window eyes turned up into the night sky and staring at the stars I made a vow: "When I am a grown-up, I will do something."

My writing is that something and I write to "simply change the world." If that sounds like a lack of humility it isn't because I know that one person absolutely can change the world and I've met some who have.

Kay Kennedy put together an anthology that puts the reader in the midst of history to view it from the inside out.

When I was in high school and even college, history classes were stale and boring featuring memorization and regurgitation of dates that coincided with events that had no human face, certainly no magic, and no life!

Anthologies are great fun and stores are rich remembrances. History books chronicle; stories are little narrative slices of living. History comes alive through story. I often think of my grandmother and her story, her life-- the history she lived. In her lifetime she saw humankind evolve from horse and buggy to man on the moon.

I was a sixties kid and for the youth of the sixties, turmoil, disillusionment, and revolution were everyday 'business as usual'. Like a radio perpetually on low volume, fear and death dronned on in the background. The superpowers threatened to extinguish all life on the planet, the Vietnam War was escalating and peers were being escorted home under American Flag blankets. The civil rights and equal rights movements were testing human civility, and faster than one could recover from one shock another real life hero would fall to yet another assassin. Despair was commonplace. Contrast that with a man on the moon... we could conquer space travel but couldn't make nukes or war obsolete! It was a time when youth needed hope because hope was scarce. When it was finally resurrected, it came in the form of idealism and a philosophy of brotherly and universal love. Perfect principles; imperfect execution.

For others who contributed to "Looking Back," the history is different for each because the "times" were different as well as the perspective of the individuals. The stories of human societal evolution are enlightening, heartwarming, poignant and spellbinding. They put a human face on the past.

And there are people now who are putting a face on the future...