Sunday, June 30, 2013

July 1 Tip: Learn about teaching creative writing in prison

Learn about teaching creative writing in prison

(The July 1 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

Teaching writing behind bars is transformational work for the teacher as well as the taught. The intense focus of a locked room and locked life creates a tension that resonates deeply in the teaching and learning process, as revealed in Helen Elaine Lee’s essay “Visible Men” (June 16) 
Almost 40 years ago I participated in an innovative program at the Fulton County Jail, Atlanta, where classes were offered to provide stimulation for long-term inmates assigned to that facility. I was inspired to participate by Kenneth Koch’s work in the New York City public schools, which demonstrated how poetry can transcend boundaries.
I especially appreciate Lee’s resilience over 12 years of institutional work and her emphasis on meditation as integral to the writing practice, to the sense of community. The ritual of beginning class with a check-in followed by the line “And with that, I’m in” speaks to the sense of belonging that words and stories bring, a becoming of something more. Somehow creative writing could save the world, one better self to another.
Madison, Wis.
The writer is a professor emerita in the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

June 30 Tip: Learn the simple "Relaxation Response" meditation technique

Learn the simple "Relaxation Response" meditation technique

(the June 30 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

Here's how to practice:

Sit quietly in a comfortable position.

Close your eyes.

Deeply relax all your muscles,
beginning at your feet and progressing up to your face.
Keep them relaxed.

Breathe through your nose.
Become aware of your breathing.
As you breathe out, say the word, "one"*,
silently to yourself. For example,
breathe in ... out, "one",- in .. out, "one", etc.
Breathe easily and naturally.

Continue for 10 to 20 minutes.
You may open your eyes to check the time, but do not use an alarm.
When you finish, sit quietly for several minutes,
at first with your eyes closed and later with your eyes opened.
Do not stand up for a few minutes.

Do not worry about whether you are successful
in achieving a deep level of relaxation.
Maintain a passive attitude and permit relaxation to occur at its own pace.
When distracting thoughts occur,
try to ignore them by not dwelling upon them
and return to repeating "one."

With practice, the response should come with little effort.
Practice the technique once or twice daily,
but not within two hours after any meal,
since the digestive processes seem to interfere with
the elicitation of the Relaxation Response.

* or any soothing, mellifluous sound, preferably with no meaning.
or association, to avoid stimulation of unnecessary thoughts.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

June 30 Tip: Read a poem by Jane Hirshfield

Read a poem by Jane Hirshfield (courtesy of Poetry Chaikana)
(The June 30 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

By Jane Hirshfield

Some stories last many centuries,
others only a moment.
All alter over that lifetime like beach-glass,
grow distant and more beautiful with salt.

Yet even today, to look at a tree
and ask the story Who are you? is to be transformed.

There is a stage in us where each being, each thing, is a mirror.

Then the bees of self pour from the hive-door,
ravenous to enter the sweetness of flowering nettles and thistle.

Next comes the ringing a stone or violin or empty bucket
gives off --
the immeasurable's continuous singing,
before it goes back into story and feeling.

In Borneo, there are palm trees that walk on their high roots.
Slowly, with effort, they lift one leg then another.

I would like to join that stilted transmigration,
to feel my own skin vertical as theirs:
an ant-road, a highway for beetles.

I would like not minding, whatever travels my heart.
To follow it all the way into leaf-form, bark-furl, root-touch,
and then keep walking, unimaginably further.

June 29 Tip: Learn about the life of singer/songwriter Carole King

Learn about the life of singer/songwriter Carole King
(The June 29 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

Carole King initially found it extremely difficult to navigate the social hierarchies of high school. The Grammy Award-winning songwriter was a few years younger than her fellow classmates and was often dismissed as being "cute."
"And it was like, no, I don't want to be cute, I want to be beautiful and smart," she tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "And that wasn't happening, and then I connected through music. So music became a way of identifying my particular niche. How lucky for me."
King, a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, has written for everyone from Little Eva to Aretha Franklin to James Taylor. Her 1971 solo album Tapestry spent 15 weeks at the top of the charts, and stayed on the charts for more than six years.
But King was just 15 when she and three classmates formed a vocal quartet called the Co-Sines at James Madison High School. At night, she attended disc jockey Alan Freed's concerts — a veritable "who's who" of rock 'n' roll performers — and later set up a meeting with Freed, an internationally known rock promoter she thought could help her break into the songwriting business. Freed told her to look up the names of record companies in the phone book.
She recounts the story in her memoir, A Natural Woman, explaining that she called Atlantic Records and arranged a meeting. Soon after, she wrote her first big hit — the Shirelles number, "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?" — with Gerry Goffin, who would later become her husband.
She met Goffin at Queens College, where she also met Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel and Neil Sedaka. Simon and King helped record demos for other bands but never wrote together. Instead, King collaborated with Goffin. It was a partnership that worked instantaneously, she says.
"What made him so extraordinary as a lyricist was his ability, in really simple words, big ideas, big feelings, big thoughts," she says. "He had the ability — he's a straight man — to get inside a woman's head and say the things a woman was thinking."

Friday, June 28, 2013

June 28 Tip: Encounter "Meredith Monk's Voice"

Encounter "Meredith Monk's Voice"
(The June 28 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

A kind of archeologist of the human voice, singer and composer Meredith Monk says that "the voice could be like the body" — flexible and fluid with practice. Through music as through meditation, the longtime Buddhist practitioner pushes the boundaries of what we can do without words.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

June 27 Tip: Learn about "Growing Peaceful Families"

Learn about "Growing Peaceful Families"
(The June 27 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

"Growing Peaceful Families,"  is a team of certified parenting instructors who provide hands-on workshops and parenting courses to organizations and small groups.  
Parents and teachers learn how to improve their relationships, find ways to enrich their family and classroom settings and most importantly, discover ways to experience more peace in their lives.

"Growing Peaceful Families" teaches  the Redirecting Children's Behavior Course 
along with a selection of workshops and seminars designed to give parents 
and teachers the tools they need to bring more peace to themselves 
and their families, both in the home and in the classroom.

Welcome to "Growing Peaceful Families,"  a team of certified parenting instructors who provide hands-on workshops and parenting courses to organizations and small groups.  Parents and teachers learn how to improve their relationships, find ways to enrich their family and classroom settings and most importantly, discover ways to experience more peace in their lives.

"Growing Peaceful Families" teaches  the Redirecting Children's Behavior Course along with a selection of workshops and seminars designed to give parents and teachers the tools they need to bring more peace to themselves and their families, both in the home and in the classroom.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

June 26 Tip: Watch a short video called "The Caretaker"

Watch a short video from the NY Times  called "The Caretaker"
(The June 26 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

A short documentary explores the tender relationship between a caretaker who is an undocumented immigrant and an elderly woman in the last months of her life.

Monday, June 24, 2013

June 25 Tip: The Importance of Literacy in fighting poverty and chronic incarceration

From WFPL:  A discussion with experts about the importance of literacy in fighting poverty and chronic incarceration
(The June 25 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

Illiteracy impacts the economy. Children who can't read are less likely to go to college. It can effect their lifespan and it correlates with the School-to-Prison Pipeline.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

June 24 Tip: Learn about Cpmassionate Louisville Trackers

Learn about Cpmassionate Louisville Trackers
(The June 24 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

Compassionate Louisville Trackers is an initiative to praise, promote and document compassionate acts happening in the Louisville area. We strive to increase the amount of acts of compassion happening and to increase awareness of the Compassionate Louisville initiative. This page is for participants to share stories, questions and frustrations. For all of us to offer support to one another as we strive to make Louisville a more compassionate city and to document that increase.

June 23 Tip: Learn about Living a Meditative Life

Learn about Living a Meditative Life
(The June 23 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

In the last discourse given by the Buddha called the Parinibbana Sutta, the Discourse concerning his passing away into total nibbana, there is a special section on body movement and posture:
And again when the meditator is walking, she or he is aware of walking, when standing, aware of standing, when sitting, aware of sitting, when lying down, aware of lying down. Whatever position or movement the meditator is in, that is what she or he is aware of.
In other words, sitting meditation is only a part of the meditation. What the Buddha wanted us to do was to develop a meditative life—to know what we are doing at all times, leading a life of full-time awareness.

The danger for meditators is to elevate the sitting meditation practice to the level of a magical ritual, as if all we need do is a little sitting in the morning and in the evening, perhaps, and liberation from suffering is assured. It is this dependence on meditation sitting, alone, that leads eventually to disillusionment and disappointment, and the abandonment of a ‘useless’ practice.

Sitting meditation is only part of the Buddha’s path and, in a sense, is the end piece, the finishing school. It’s what caps the whole method of purification. Too often meditators think there is nothing more to be done. I once met a meditator who was in despair over this point. He had been tremendously ardent, spending months in intensive meditation only to come out and live the high, fast life. After years of this so-called practice, achieving very little in terms of inner peace, he felt nothing but sorrow and despair. He felt that the five years or so he’d spent on the meditation practice had been a great waste.

But we can see quite clearly—especially if we look at the rules that guide the monastic life—that the Buddha wasn’t teaching simply a meditation practice, but a way of life, a way of living from day-to-day.

The Middle Path, then, is a description of how life as a whole should be led by someone eager to attain liberation from all suffering. This Middle Path in its broader aspect means not to fall prey to sensual pleasure, not to overindulge in sensual delights. Nor should we believe that self-mortification, such as long fasts, will bring us nearer the goal. Moderation in all things is the motto here.

Secondly, we should be careful not to transgress the basic moral laws, for this produces harmful effects for us and for others.

Thirdly, we should make great effort in improving ourselves by the practice of the Perfections. This is all put as the Four Great Efforts of the Eightfold Noble Path—to eradicate existing unwholesome habits and practices, and not to allow any new ones to establish themselves, to introduce new wholesome ways of thinking and behaving, and to develop what wholesomeness we already have.

Friday, June 21, 2013

June 22 Tip: Learn about Claes Oldenberg's Art Manifesto

Learn about Pop Artist Claes Oldenberg's Art Manifesto
(The June 22 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

 In an exhibition-catalog entry in 1961, Oldenburg made a famous manifesto: "I am for the art that a kid licks, after peeling away the wrapper. I am for an art that is smoked, like a cigarette, smells, like a pair of shoes. I am for an art that flaps like a flag, or helps blow noses, like a handkerchief. I am for an art that is put on and taken off, like pants, which develops holes, like socks, which is eaten, like a piece of pie ... "

Thursday, June 20, 2013

June 21 Tip: Learn about Goodwill's Cars to Work Program

Learn about Goodwill Industry's "Cars to Work" Program
(The June 21 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

Goodwill Cars to Work helps people with disabilities or other disadvantages—who have been referred by a qualified social service agency—obtain affordable, dependable transportation to achieve and maintain employment.

How can you help?

Donate a vehicle! Many potential donors believe they can no longer deduct the fair market value of a donated vehicle on their taxes. However, the IRS does allow a donor to deduct the fair market value of the vehicle if it is sold to a low-income family at a price significantly below market value. Call us to discuss how we might be able to help you obtain the maximum allowable deduction for your vehicle and, at the same time, make a huge difference in the lives of a struggling family.
Transportation to and from work is a major factor in keeping a job, and finding reliable and affordable transportation can be a major hurdle. The options for owning a vehicle can be limited, and the cost for a quality vehicle is often unaffordable. You can help and possibly maximize your tax deduction by donating a vehicle.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

June 20 Tip: Attend today's World Refugee Day Festival at KRM

Attend Today's World Refugee Day Festival at Kentucky Refugee Ministries
(The June 20 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

World Refugee Day Festival
Thursday, June 20, 2013
Kentucky Refugee Ministries
969B Cherokee Road

World Refugee Day, observed June 20th each year, was established by the United Nationas to honor the courage, strength and determination of women, men and children who are forced to flee their homes under threat of persecution, conflict and violence.

The festival will include food, music, kids' activities and information booths.  Please join us!  Help support the lives of refugees and enjoy an international celebration.

KRM's World Refugee Day Festival is free and open to the public.  Please bring a salty or sweet snack to share.  
KRM staff

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

June 19 Tip: Take part in a retreat on "Exploring your life story as sacred text"

Take Part in a Retreat with Terry Taylor June 28-30 at Bethany Spring on "Exploring Your Life Story as a Sacred Text"

(The June 19 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

Please join Terry Taylor at Bethany Spring for a weekend retreat June 28-30 at Bethany Spring.

Participants will use contemporary forms of the medieval monastic meditation tool called "Lectio Divina" to explore stories from their own lives as sacred texts. 
Lectio Divina uses reading, meditation, prayer and contemplation to go deeply into scripture. We will begin by working with Bible stories, then explore writings from other religions before using Lectio Divina to delve deeply into our own stories, which are (of course) sacred in themselves. The retreat will include time for silent reflection and journaling. 
Participants will receive a complimentary copy of Terry's 2009 book,  A Spirituality for Brokenness.

Registration fee: $285 (includes housing, meals and a complimentary copy of Terry Taylor's book, A Spirituality for Brokenness.

To register:

Monday - Friday  between the hours of

11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
eastern time

We look forward to having you with us!

Monday, June 17, 2013

June 18 Tip: Read op-ed piece on Mental health care key to ending mass shootings

Mass shooting survivor Rep. Ron Barber on why mental health care is key to ending mass shootings

(the June 18 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

As a survivor of the mass shooting in Tucson, Ariz., two-and-a-half years ago, I am determined that no one else should have to endure such grief and loss.

So this week, as we observe the six-month anniversary of the senseless and tragic murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I am determined to lead a bipartisan effort to get more done in Washington.

Since I came to Congress one year ago, I have worked to find common ground and solutions for Southern Arizona and for the good of our country.

In the wake of the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., many of my colleagues in Congress knew that we must work together to make sure such a tragedy was never allowed to happen again.

While there is no single answer to preventing mass shootings, we know that untreated or undiagnosed serious mental illness has been a factor in a number of the recent tragedies. We must do more to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. And we must invest in the early identification of mental illness and in treatment programs.

This issue was among the topics discussed recently at the White House mental health summit, which I attended.

The event, hosted by the president, brought together mental health experts, faith leaders, advocates, service providers and state and local elected officials. The goal was to connect a broad range of interested parties and build national support for improvements in mental health services.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, states have cut $1.8 billion from their mental health budgets during the economic recession. Sixty percent of people living with a mental illness are not receiving the care that they need. We must do better.

It is important to note that more than 95 percent of individuals living with a mental illness are not violent. They are far more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators.

The young man who killed six people and wounded 13 in Tucson on Jan. 8, 2011, had displayed symptoms of mental illness for at least two years prior to the shooting — and yet he never received a diagnosis or treatment.

We are left to ask, “Could this tragedy have been prevented if he had been provided mental health services?” I believe this and other such mass shootings could have been averted if the public were more aware of the indications of mental illness and how to get help.

It is clear that we must expand mental health awareness of, and treatment services for, 100 percent of individuals living with mental illness. That is why I introduced the Mental Health First Aid Act earlier this year with strong bipartisan support.

This legislation would provide training to help first responders, educators, students, parents and the general public identify and respond to signs of mental illness.
This is one bipartisan step we can take to increase mental health awareness, but there is still much more we can do to improve mental health care in our country.

We must invest in mental health professionals and resources in our schools and throughout our communities, ensure timely and accessible services to our returning war veterans, and guarantee that insurance plans provide coverage for mental health care alongside physical health care.

This is not a partisan issue, and it should be one that unites all of us in Congress. I call on my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to stand with me in support of the expansion of mental health services.
Americans are calling on us to get something done. This is an area in which we can make progress if we do it together. The country is watching and anxiously awaiting our response.

Barber entered the House of Representatives in June 2012, representing Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District and serving on the Armed Services, Homeland Security and Small Business committees. He was wounded in the Tucson shooting in January 2011 that also seriously injured his predecessor, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.). 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

June 17 Tip: Read about award-winning author Colum McCann's new book, "Transatlantic"

Read about award-winning author Colum McCann's new book, "Transatlantic"
(the June 17 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

Newfoundland, 1919. Two aviators—Jack Alcock and Arthur Brown—set course for Ireland as they attempt the first nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean, placing their trust in a modified bomber to heal the wounds of the Great War.
Dublin, 1845 and ’46. On an international lecture tour in support of his subversive autobiography, Frederick Douglass finds the Irish people sympathetic to the abolitionist cause—despite the fact that, as famine ravages the countryside, the poor suffer from hardships that are astonishing even to an American slave.
New York, 1998. Leaving behind a young wife and newborn child, Senator George Mitchell departs for Belfast, where it has fallen to him, the son of an Irish-American father and a Lebanese mother, to shepherd Northern Ireland’s notoriously bitter and volatile peace talks to an uncertain conclusion.
These three iconic crossings are connected by a series of remarkable women whose personal stories are caught up in the swells of history. Beginning with Irish housemaid Lily Duggan, who crosses paths with Frederick Douglass, the novel follows her daughter and granddaughter, Emily and Lottie, and culminates in the present-day story of Hannah Carson, in whom all the hopes and failures of previous generations live on. From the loughs of Ireland to the flatlands of Missouri and the windswept coast of Newfoundland, their journeys mirror the progress and shape of history. They each learn that even the most unassuming moments of grace have a way of rippling through time, space, and memory.
The most mature work yet from an incomparable storyteller, TransAtlantic is a profound meditation on identity and history in a wide world that grows somehow smaller and more wondrous with each passing year.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

June 16 Tip: Listen to "Music of the Desert, not silenced by war

Listen to "Music of the Desert, not silenced by war
(the June 16 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

Although it was inspired by traditional festivals held by the Touareg people, the Festival in the Desert is a distinctly international symbol of modern Africa. Popular music has become a reliable export from many African countries, increasingly recognized as a force to bring diverse people together. Frequent guests appear from outside the continent. As is often noted, rock veterans like Bono and Robert Plant have attended and performed at earlier Festivals.
That said, the folk elements of the music are a bit straight-up and unfiltered in the middle of Live From Festival au Desert Timbuktu. Pure voice-and-percussion works tend to leave me cold and make language barriers harder to cross; a track called "Traditional Chant" is one I skip every time through, though that's not more serious than walking away from a stage toward one you like better. Indeed, the voice-heavy "Odwa" is pretty crazed and, at less than three minutes, a song I would never skip.

Friday, June 14, 2013

June 15 Tip "Touch Wood" with Bach in a Japanese Forest

"Touch Wood" with Bach in a Japanese Forest
(the June 15 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

Go to the woods of Kyushu, Japan. Engineer a massive xylophone (or is it a marimba?) to run down the slope of a forested hill. Take a wooden ball, place it at the top of said instrument, and push it. What do you get? Bach's treatment of a traditional church hymn! Namely, "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring."

Thursday, June 13, 2013

June 14 Tip: Krista Tippett, Reconnecting with Compassion

Krista Tippett, Reconnecting with Compassion
(the June 14 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

The term "compassion" -- typically reserved for the saintly or the sappy -- has fallen out of touch with reality. At a special TEDPrize@UN, journalist Krista Tippett deconstructs the meaning of compassion through several moving stories, and proposes a new, more attainable definition for the word.
Krista Tippett hosts the national public radio program "On Being" (formerly "Speaking of Faith"), which takes up the great animating questions of human life: What does it mean to be human? And how do we want to live?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

June 13 Tip: On Finding the Poetry in Conversation

Blog from TRENT GILLISS: On Finding the Poetry in Conversation
(the June 13 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

One night when I couldn't sleep, I decided to listen to the latest On Being podcast, which was a really arresting conversation between Krista Tippett and a poet I'd never heard of, Marie Howe. There were so many words, lines, thoughts that stood out to me as I listened, and I kept thinking, I should write these down. But then they were more than just thoughts; it all sounded like a poem to me.
When I was about 19 or so, I found a book of poems in the library by the amazing Annie Dillard, who'd written a book that had recently blown me away (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, of course). Annie handled words like a cross between an athlete who performs stunning feats without a second thought [apparently] and an astronaut who sits on a thin ledge between life and death and fixes some billion dollar spaceship part with a jerryrigged toothbrush. (Okay, that sentence proves that I'm not Annie Dillard. w00t!)
My point simply being that Annie could've been putting out loads of volumes of profound, elegant poetry made of her own words if she wanted to, but instead, she put out this odd and brilliant book of "found" poems. Basically, she played around with scraps of words and phrases from the random sources she so delights in (e.g., an 1800s manual of boys' projects, a Russian hunting memoir, van Gogh's letters, the Apocrypha) and found the poetry in them. Anyway, I recalled the book and thought,Why not?
As Annie says in her Author's Note, "I did not write a word of it." In other words, Marie Howe said all of this. I might have contributed punctuation; I might not have.
The Poetry of Ordinary Time
an interview with Marie Howe (a found poem)
The parables and the stories—
all those great old stories—
so much mystery and complexity.
The story’s all there, but we know
that the story, the real story
is inarticulate.
The spaces in between.
You can hold what can’t be said.
The mystery of being alive;
a basket of words that feels inevitable.
A counter spell.
This is what we all need to walk around with.
Maybe the first poem
was a lullaby a woman sang to her child,
the incantatory everything is okay, everything is okay, everything is okay.
We prayed for rain, or we thanked the gods for the corn,
or we sang to the deer we were going to catch.
Its roots can never wholly be pulled out from
sacred ground.
Language is almost all we have left
of action in the modern world,
unless we’re in Syria or we’re in Iraq.
Action has become what we say.
In a big house different people experience different things.
Trauma shatters a unity. You are now in separate shards.
As much as you want to be all in the same room,
trying to speak to another,
shard to shard.
When I was a girl, I would have to go to the backyard and
pick up
every cigarette butt.
I would think of Saint Teresa.
Just do every act as a prayer.
Then my father would come out and say,
You've missed this one, this one, and this one.
Everything in the world is trying to tell us this now,
even as we’re speeding up and speeding up,
and speeding up, and staring into our screens.
It hurts to be present.
Rinsing the glass
under the water.
Slow down enough to just
simply be there.
My daughter used to say to me,
Mom, slow down. If you slow down, you're going to get there faster.
Just watch. See that white car? Slow down.

Then we would get to the place and she’d say,
See, the white car is behind us.
When you’re very sad,
the only thing to do is to go learn something.
Write 10 observations of the actual world.
Just tell me what you saw this morning
in two lines.
I saw a water glass on a brown tablecloth.
And the light came through it in three places.

No metaphor.
You have to actually endure the thing itself,
which hurts us for some reason.
It hurts us.
We want to say,
It was like this. It was like that.
We want to look away.
And then they say,
There's nothing important enough.
And then its whole thing
is that point.
No abstractions, no interpretations.
Then this amazing thing happens.
Clinkety, clank, clank, clank, onto the table pours all this stuff, and it thrilling.
The slice of apple, and then that gleam of the knife, and the sound of the trashcan closing, the maple tree, the blue jay.
it almost comes clanking into the room.
Last spring,
somebody was drawing on the sidewalk in blue chalk.
All it said was HAPPINESS,
with a big blue arrow, THIS WAY.
One day,
I was waiting for my daughter and her friends to
get off one bus to get on another.
was the big blue chalk HAPPINESS,
and a big circle drawn on the sidewalk said HERE.
And everybody who walked by stood in the circle. We did too.
It’s the
This is the whole
Why would I compare that to anything
when it’s
There’s a silence
in the center of everything.
Maybe that’s the thing
we are afraid of.
Silence is the heart.
It has everything in it:
our death;
our life—the universes beyond
this universe, the galaxies.
The cricket, the snow.
Such a relief;
you can rest in
The robots were going to take over
and the machines were going to take over.
Just last week it occurred to me: They have.
It's just different from what we expected.
You think evil is going to come into your houses
wearing big black boots.
It doesn’t come like that.
It begins in the language.
What face do you look into more
than any other face in your life?
I gaze into that face.
I do what it tells me to do.
It’s different from what we expected.
It’s like sugar.
There’s this new firmament,
and there's no one in charge.
I don’t even know what I mean by soul.
I don't know anymore.
Real time is true;
redundancy that’s happening now.
Remember those swaths of time between high holy seasons:
Ordinary time.
Nothing dramatic is happening;
this is where we’re living.
Finally we’re stopped long enough
to feel ourselves alive.
To move through the world transparently—
that would be a relief.
All I know is that
things have happened that I don't understand
that feel like the most important things
that have ever happened to me.
The unendurable happens.
People we love die;
we’re going to die—
one day we are going to have to leave our children,
leave the plants, the sunlight,
the rain and all that.
It's unendurable.
Art knows that
we’re both living and dying
at the same time.
It can hold it.
I thought, I can either let this crack my heart
open or closed.

I turned around and the
billion other people on this earth who’ve
lost a person they love—there they all were.
I turned around: I just joined you.
Welcome. There were millions of people;
I was glad to be with them.
We join each other;
We’re not alone.
Holding human stories up:
it’s so miraculous.
Everything is shared.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

June 12 Tip: Hear a Heartbreaking Interview with a Veteran about Disarming Bombs in Iraq

Hear a Heartbreaking Interview with a Veteran about Disarming Bombs in Iraq
(The June 12 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

Brian Castner arguably had one of the most nerve-wracking jobs in the U.S. military. He commanded two Explosive Ordnance Disposal units in Iraq, where his team disabled roadside IEDs, investigated the aftermath of roadside car bombings and searched door to door to uncover bomb-makers at their homes.
"We would disassemble the IEDs when somebody else found them; we would go on route-clearance patrols with the engineers to trip the ambushes before they would hit our convoys; and we would do the post-blast investigations," Castner tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "Hopefully we would find weapons caches and dispose of a lot of this bulk ordnance before it would be used as an IED. ... But there was no getting rid of all of the bombs."
Sometimes those bombs would go off and Castner's team would be responsible for investigating the gruesome aftermath.
"You would show up and the loved ones would already be picking up bodies or pieces of bodies and they're already loading the destroyed car onto a flatbed, and it's bad enough that you're out there doing this but they're getting in the way of you doing your job," he says. "We could be there for 10 minutes. Because the longer you're there, the more chance you have to get shot at or have a mortar dropped on your head. So you get out as quickly as you can."
In his memoir, The Long Walk, which is currently being adapted as an opera for the American Lyric Theater, Castner chronicles his three tours in Iraq and the life that followed when he returned home as a different man, unable to forget what he saw or experienced in Iraq. He describes his experiences as "Crazy" — a term that is often repeated in the book.

June 11 Tip: Enjoy the Paintings of Robert Henri

Enjoy the paintings of American artist and educator Robert Henri
(The June 11 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

 Robert Henri (June 25, 1865 - July 12, 1929) was an American painter notable for his teaching abilities, and for leadership of the Ashcan School movement in art.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

June 10 Tip: How Not to be Alone (from the NY Times)

From the NY Times: How Not to Be Alone
(the June 10 Compassionate Living Tip from Interfaith Paths to Peace)

How Not to Be Alone 


A COUPLE of weeks ago, I saw a stranger crying in public. I was in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood, waiting to meet a friend for breakfast. I arrived at the restaurant a few minutes early and was sitting on the bench outside, scrolling through my contact list. A girl, maybe 15 years old, was sitting on the bench opposite me, crying into her phone. I heard her say, “I know, I know, I know” over and over. 

What did she know? Had she done something wrong? Was she being comforted? And then she said, “Mama, I know,” and the tears came harder. 

What was her mother telling her? Never to stay out all night again? That everybody fails? Is it possible that no one was on the other end of the call, and that the girl was merely rehearsing a difficult conversation?
“Mama, I know,” she said, and hung up, placing her phone on her lap. 

I was faced with a choice: I could interject myself into her life, or I could respect the boundaries between us. Intervening might make her feel worse, or be inappropriate. But then, it might ease her pain, or be helpful in some straightforward logistical way. An affluent neighborhood at the beginning of the day is not the same as a dangerous one as night is falling. And I was me, and not someone else. There was a lot of human computing to be done. 

It is harder to intervene than not to, but it is vastly harder to choose to do either than to retreat into the scrolling names of one’s contact list, or whatever one’s favorite iDistraction happens to be. Technology celebrates connectedness, but encourages retreat. The phone didn’t make me avoid the human connection, but it did make ignoring her easier in that moment, and more likely, by comfortably encouraging me to forget my choice to do so. My daily use of technological communication has been shaping me into someone more likely to forget others. The flow of water carves rock, a little bit at a time. And our personhood is carved, too, by the flow of our habits. 

Psychologists who study empathy and compassion are finding that unlike our almost instantaneous responses to physical pain, it takes time for the brain to comprehend the psychological and moral dimensions of a situation. The more distracted we become, and the more emphasis we place on speed at the expense of depth, the less likely and able we are to care. 

Everyone wants his parent’s, or friend’s, or partner’s undivided attention — even if many of us, especially children, are getting used to far less. Simone Weil wrote, “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” By this definition, our relationships to the world, and to one another, and to ourselves, are becoming increasingly miserly. 

Most of our communication technologies began as diminished substitutes for an impossible activity. We couldn’t always see one another face to face, so the telephone made it possible to keep in touch at a distance. One is not always home, so the answering machine made a kind of interaction possible without the person being near his phone. Online communication originated as a substitute for telephonic communication, which was considered, for whatever reasons, too burdensome or inconvenient. And then texting, which facilitated yet faster, and more mobile, messaging. These inventions were not created to be improvements upon face-to-face communication, but a declension of acceptable, if diminished, substitutes for it. 

But then a funny thing happened: we began to prefer the diminished substitutes. It’s easier to make a phone call than to schlep to see someone in person. Leaving a message on someone’s machine is easier than having a phone conversation — you can say what you need to say without a response; hard news is easier to leave; it’s easier to check in without becoming entangled. So we began calling when we knew no one would pick up. 

Shooting off an e-mail is easier, still, because one can hide behind the absence of vocal inflection, and of course there’s no chance of accidentally catching someone. And texting is even easier, as the expectation for articulateness is further reduced, and another shell is offered to hide in. Each step “forward” has made it easier, just a little, to avoid the emotional work of being present, to convey information rather than humanity.
THE problem with accepting — with preferring — diminished substitutes is that over time, we, too, become diminished substitutes. People who become used to saying little become used to feeling little. 

With each generation, it becomes harder to imagine a future that resembles the present. My grandparents hoped I would have a better life than they did: free of war and hunger, comfortably situated in a place that felt like home. But what futures would I dismiss out of hand for my grandchildren? That their clothes will be fabricated every morning on 3-D printers? That they will communicate without speaking or moving? 

Only those with no imagination, and no grounding in reality, would deny the possibility that they will live forever. It’s possible that many reading these words will never die. Let’s assume, though, that we all have a set number of days to indent the world with our beliefs, to find and create the beauty that only a finite existence allows for, to wrestle with the question of purpose and wrestle with our answers. 

We often use technology to save time, but increasingly, it either takes the saved time along with it, or makes the saved time less present, intimate and rich. I worry that the closer the world gets to our fingertips, the further it gets from our hearts. It’s not an either/or — being “anti-technology” is perhaps the only thing more foolish than being unquestioningly “pro-technology” — but a question of balance that our lives hang upon.
Most of the time, most people are not crying in public, but everyone is always in need of something that another person can give, be it undivided attention, a kind word or deep empathy. There is no better use of a life than to be attentive to such needs. There are as many ways to do this as there are kinds of loneliness, but all of them require attentiveness, all of them require the hard work of emotional computation and corporeal compassion. All of them require the human processing of the only animal who risks “getting it wrong” and whose dreams provide shelters and vaccines and words to crying strangers. 

We live in a world made up more of story than stuff. We are creatures of memory more than reminders, of love more than likes. Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be messy, and painful, and almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. 

Jonathan Safran Foer is a novelist who delivered the 2013 commencement address at Middlebury College, from which this essay is adapted.