Grace and Greatness at a Vigil at the Village Church

[The words of this sonnet about Grace Paley are printed below. It is closely connected to another poem and reflection on this site, “In the Shadow of Absence” that you can see by clicking here. It also relates to a recent sermon, “My Feets Is Tired but My Soul Is Rested” that you can see here.]

All Saints Day approaches.  One way to define saint is as a hero who also is a great soul.  This poem is about Grace Paley who would have laughed at being called a saint.  She was a true hero, though, and more than once she was called a great soul.  I think it honors the name “saint” to call her one.

We are at a moment of history that needs heroes and great souls.  We have no time to wait for them to appear.  We need to be them ourselves.

Some feel we need one great leader to emerge, but the world needs every hero and great soul it can get.  We don’t have to worry about being just ordinary people.  Most heroes and saints have been so only because the moment required it of them and they rose to meet its need.

What does it take to be a hero with a great soul? Continue reading

The Harder Task, Revisited

[The words of this sonnet are printed below.]

We have a task that is of the highest priority.  It will take us all giving our all to accomplish it.  It will also take a cultural change of consciousness, maturing to a new Enlightenment, in order to have the wisdom, commitment and courage we need.

Elections are part of the task, Friday climate strikes and Black Lives Matter protests are part of it, the Poor People’s Campaign and all the liberation movements—they are different means to reaching the same goal, a world that is livable, lovable, sustainable and worth giving our all to save.

David Attenborough has produced an extraordinary film, David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet, that includes both his witness to the existential crisis that humanity has created and his vision of how we could still change course and reverse the damage and restore the stable planet that humanity has enjoyed for millennia. (You can see the film’s trailer below and find ways to watch it on YouTube or Netflix.)

His perspective is specifically focused on the biodiversity that we are rapidly destroying without which we may well become extinct, but the hopeful task he gives us is essentially the same in every crisis of injustice and abuse that we face, whether social, economic or environmental. Whatever issue concerns you most, listen to his words and see how they apply: Continue reading

Judging at the Ox Pull

The presidential debates, climate change, George Floyd—the news is full of human power gone beyond sane limits.  Yet we see even more displays of power restrained and used responsibly. Gandhi was right when he said that violence is not the dominant human instinct—nonviolence is far stronger in us. If that were not the case, he said, cities could not exist.

We can still choose the path of lovingkindness that represents our truest, best homo sapiens self.  This poem reflects on that choice.

[The words of this sonnet are printed below.]

This sonnet relates to another on this site, Waking the Power, and also Gandhi’s Path of Higher Power: From Zero to One” on The Golden Room website.

Bill McKibben wrote a sobering but ultimately hopeful book entitled Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?  The great hope he finds is that humans can destroy, “but also we can decide not to destroy.”

He writes in his epilogue, “Yes, we can wreck the Earth as we’ve known it, killing vast numbers of ourselves and wiping out entire swaths of other life—in fact, as we’ve seen, we’re doing that right now. But we can also not do that.”

McKibben sees two technologies as most important in changing the course of human civilization away from self-destruction.  The first is the solar panel.

The second is nonviolence, which most people do not think of as a technology because they do not understand it fully.  It is a technology that enables us “to stand up to the powerful and the reckless.”

Many people know of the dramatic incidents of civil disobedience led by Mahatma Gandhi in India.  Fewer realize that most of his campaign was made up of constructive programs designed to create a strong, independent Indian society—improvements to farming, local business, education and health care.

Even fewer people realize that there was a third part of his “technology” of nonviolence: Gandhi firmly believed that anyone could do what he did, but he was equally adamant that no one could do it without being grounded, guided and empowered by the spirit.

Gandhi is a model for everyone in the inner source he turned to in order to guide and empower his life, but not everyone shares his calling to lead a social revolution.  Some of us, thank goodness, feel called to work with oxen or to be teachers or healers or countless other vocations.

How can we find that source within us?  Eknath Easwaran explains how Gandhi found it in his invaluable book, Gandhi the Man: How One Man Changed Himself to Change the World.  Gandhi confessed to having been a coward as a boy.  A wise elder taught him to say the mantra “Rama” (a Hindu name of god) whenever he was afraid.

He tried it, and he found it helped, so he kept using it even when he was not afraid.  He credited all his power, wisdom and love to that practice combined with daily meditation.

The results were amazing.  Easwaran tells the story of an evening prayer meeting when a deadly cobra came into the outdoor space where hundreds were sitting on the ground.  Panic began to rise and people could have been trampled in the stampede, but with a motion of his hand Gandhi signaled for people to remain where they were.

Maybe drawn by the motion, the cobra came toward Gandhi.  It slithered up onto his bare thighs.  Gandhi remained calm the entire time, no doubt saying “Rama, Rama, Rama” to himself.  The calm seemed to affect the cobra as well as the crowd of people.  It slithered across his lap and off into the brush.  (Gandhi the Man, p. 115)

The story is emblematic of Gandhi’s encounters with individuals and empires.  His presence was transformational.

The consequences of human abuse of power are creating suffering on a massive scale, whether from killer climate events or economic inequity or racism.  We are undergoing convulsions of fear in our society, leading to even greater violence.

We do not need to give in to that base instinct.  We have a deeper impulse in us.  We call that nonviolent, generous-hearted, highest law of human nature by the simple word, “love.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky gave us the teachings of his character, the spiritual master, Father Zosima, in The Brothers Karamozov.  Zosima said:

“One may stand perplexed before some thought, especially seeing men’s sin, asking oneself: ‘Shall I take it by force, or by humble love?’  Always resolve to take it by humble love.  If you so resolve once and for all, you will be able to overcome the whole world.  A loving humility is a terrible power, the most powerful of all, nothing compares with it.” (Pevear and Volokhonsky translation)

I have been deeply moved by the power of that love in the judging ring at the Tunbridge World’s Fair.  You can see sometimes a small eight year old girl guiding two gigantic oxen around the circle in perfect harmony with merely a word and a light tap, her love of them and their love of her evident in every move.

The poem below takes place in another area of the Fair—not the quiet, open, airy and light ring but the loud, dark, crowded, walled-in runway of the pull contests.  Even there, the power of humble love can be seen doing its transformative work.

Judging at the Ox Pull

The idling tractor’s new hydraulic winch
hauled back the stone boat easily each try
even when loaded so to move an inch
the massive oxen foamed with wild rolled eye.
Some drovers screamed and whipped their ox so hard
they laid a lash mark down the fair-groomed hide,
and though the goading left the charged air scarred
the crowd would laugh to see so little pride.
But other teamsters kept themselves restrained—
a quiet word, a tap or pat or prod,
and even losing, dignity remained
as something worth more, something won for God.
The diesel fumes and screams and whips all show
the limits past which power should not go.

copyright 2020 Thomas Cary Kinder

Waking the Power

[The words of this sonnet are printed below.]

This poem and reflection follow the poem and reflection How to Walk on Water.

Astronauts look back at the earth from the moon and see how tiny it is in relation to space, like a lifeboat on an endless ocean.  Today the lives on that boat are in great danger.  We have created a violent storm that threatens to sink us.  Our thoughts and desires have created the storm, expressed in the way of living our societies have promoted.

Humanity has caused this danger and humanity can prevent it, but not without a higher power of wisdom and creativity than we currently possess.  As Albert Einstein said, speaking of one aspect of the entire storm: “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe…. A new type of thinking is essential if [humanity] is to survive and move toward higher levels.” (New York Times – May 25 1946, p.13 – ‘Atomic Education Urged by Einstein’)

The wisdom of the 12 Steps lays out a practical, tested way to transform human thinking and behavior. The first step we need is to acknowledge that our wisdom, our strength of will and our current level of thinking is inadequate to save us from the insanity that threatens to destroy our life—and this is true whether that insanity be addiction to alcohol or shopping or nuclear weapons or fossil fuels.

The assumption that we can fix ourselves can sink us.  People who are suicidal need higher power to attain a new way of seeing, understanding and functioning in their life.  They need the higher power of wise guides and psychological tools and spiritual practices to help them transform their consciousness and behavior.  It takes a higher power to save suicidal societies as well as individuals.

We need to change the way we live to keep life on earth afloat, we need to change governments, businesses and homes, and we need to change fast, but no material change will be possible without humanity changing its heart, mind and spirit sufficiently to transform our dominant culture.

The success of the 12 Steps depends on believing that a higher power can restore us to sanity and we by ourselves cannot, and then turning our will and our life over to the care of that higher power, however we define it.  The 11th Step is to increase our conscious connection to the higher power through meditation and prayer, seeking its guidance and the power to follow it.

Secular and spiritual mindfulness and meditation practices transform the brain in ways that neuroscience is able to document.  Thomas Keating co-founded the Christian forms of heartfulness and Centering Prayer, and he observed over decades that the real transformation they created was visible not as much in the inner experience as in the way people lived.

The fruits of mindfulness and meditation are the very changes we need in order to save life on earth: an evolution toward universal compassion and unconditional love based on a new perception of the oneness of all beings and all the earth.

This is what Gandhi saw released when people ‘reduced themselves to zero,’ as he did through his own contemplative practice.  It is the power that enabled him to change the thinking and behavior of the greatest culture the planet had yet seen, the British Empire.

Human consciousness has evolved in miraculous ways in the past, and we seem to be on the verge of the next leap.  The wisdom and power we need are in the boat with us even now, they are latent in every heart and mind, asleep in the stern while we are flailing desperately to avert disaster by our old way of thinking and working.  This poem is about waking the power we need. Continue reading

They Shall Run and Not be Weary, They Shall Walk and Not Faint

[The words of this sonnet are printed below.]

 

This is the second poem I am posting in honor of Rep. John Lewis and the Rev. C. T. Vivian who both died in Atlanta on July 17, 2020. The other was “In the Shadow of Absence” and by clicking there you can read an introduction relating to this poem as well.  I talk there about Lewis, Vivian and other leaders of the Civil Rights Movement .  I talk especially about Grace Paley whose death moved me to write that poem.

I wrote this sonnet after the death of the Rev. William Sloane Coffin. It is a cliché to call a prophet a lion.  The late Donald Hall would probably have called it a Dead Metaphor, but the metaphor was alive and well as long as Bill was, and from what I have read and seen on film it lived in John Lewis and C. T. Vivian.  If you want to see a living lion, watch this short video of the Rev. Vivian confronting Sheriff Bull Clark in Selma, Alabama:

Or you can see a living lion here in the Rev. William Sloane Coffin even after he had a stroke:

This poem, “They Shall Run and Not be Weary, They Shall Walk and Not Faint,” connects Coffin (and Lewis and Vivian and all lions) to the Hebrew prophets.  The title is a quote from the prophet Isaiah.  The poem uses a Hebrew word, ruach, which has three meanings, the same as the Greek word pneuma.  It means breath, wind and spirit.  Here are two passages that show how it is used in the Hebrew scriptures:

“The Ruach of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.”
(Genesis 1:2)

“Behold, my Servant whom I uphold…I have put my Ruach upon him.”
(Isaiah 42:1)

There is no question that Lewis and Vivian, and Paley and Coffin, were extraordinary people, but what made them extraordinary was the ruach that filled them and flowed through them, and they would insist that it can fill us each.

The hope of the world that Bill talks about in the video above is that the same spirit will fill Jews and Muslims and Christians and people of all faiths and no faith—the hope of the world rests in humans who are filled with the spirit of love and compassion, justice and peace, the spirit of nonviolence that forms beloved community out of conflict and chaos.

The power that formed the earth and informed the prophets wants to work through us to save the earth and save democracy, equity and freedom, values and ideals based on the Golden Rule that ruach has been causing to evolve in humanity for millennia because they are necessary for life to flourish on earth.

Please rise to this moment.  Please be as much of a lion as you can in the place and with the life given you.  Trust in the spirit to carry you in your weariness.  Trust that if you let it flow through you, you will not faint or fall, you will fly.  Trust that we can do far more than we can even imagine with this power in us.  So say all the lions before us, and they prove it so.

They Shall Run and Not be Weary, They Shall Walk and Not Faint
(after hearing that the Rev. William Sloane Coffin had died)

Have you not known? Have you not heard? Adonai is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth….giving power to the faint, and strength to the powerless…. those who wait for Adonai shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.  Isaiah 40:28-31

What happens to old lions when they die?
This morning I looked up above the hill
behind my house and learned.  The lions fly.
I saw a golden eagle spread and fill
his wings with ruach—spirit, wind and breath.
I watched him circling up and up to soar
above the shadowed valley of his death,
echoing still with his last ringing roar.
Nothing is lost in God.  Have you not known?
Have you not heard?  God gives the weak great power
when strong ones fall exhausted to the bone.
Our old guard lion dies.  Let us not cower.
Those trusting God mount up on eagle wings.
Old spirit fills new prophets.  On it rings.

copyright 2020 Thomas Cary Kinder

In the Shadow of Absence

[The words of this sonnet are printed below.]

 

I am posting this poem in honor of Rep. John Lewis and the Rev. C. T. Vivian who both died in Atlanta on July 17, 2020.  This is a sonnet in free verse form that I wrote when I heard that my neighbor, the author and activist, Grace Paley, had died.  I know people in Atlanta are feeling this kind of loss of someone near and dear to them, and throughout America and the world.

I was only thirteen when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968.  I participated in the march of protest, grief and rage through my small town in Ohio, but at the time my impression of the Civil Rights Movement came through my friends and through snippets on national television news.  I could name only three or four Civil Rights Movement leaders.

I learned more in high school and college but it wasn’t until the late 1980s that John Lewis, C. T. Vivian and so many other inspiring heroes came alive to me when I watched Eyes on the Prize.  (You can stream all fourteen episodes and download a study guide for free by clicking here. I highly recommend it as important historical background to the movement for social, economic and environmental justice today, and as a deeply moving experience.)

The women of the movement whom I had not known particularly moved me, including Diane Nash, Myrlie Evers and Fanny Lou Hamer, among others.  Many more men stood out for me, as well besides Lewis and Vivian, like the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth.  The intensity and intimacy of Eyes on the Prize made these all feel near and dear to me, the way I felt about Grace.

We have lost two at once now and feel that grief, but Lewis and Vivian died with hope in their hearts because at this very moment people as heroic and inspiring as they were are rising in a movement that is fighting not only for individual issues like defunding police or climate legislation but for what King called “a revolution of values,” a “restructuring of society” built on social, economic and environmental justice.  It is fighting for the survival of our democracy and democratic ideals, and for the survival of humanity and all living species.

This is the greatest social movement the world has ever seen and the heroes of the Civil Rights Movement and Peace Movement and all the liberation movements of the mid-Twentieth Century are the reason it exists.  We owe them much, so it is important to take the time now to honor them and grieve their loss and let their memory inspire us to carry on the struggle, giving our all as they gave theirs.

I was lucky enough to serve for many years as the pastor in the Vermont village where Grace Paley lived.  We worked on peace and justice campaigns together and we shared poetry (although she was disgusted by my choice of the sonnet form, which is why I disguised “In the Shadow of Absence” as free verse—for my excuse for writing sonnets click here).

I loved most our regular casual encounters at the Post Office or concerts or Town Meeting because even when she was struggling she was full of warmth and love and light.

One of my favorite stories about her was told at her memorial service in the Thetford Hill church.  Someone found her late in her life bending over and backing out of a public restroom.  It was a comic position, and knowing her sense of humor the person laughed and asked her what she was doing.  She said her feet had been all muddy and she was cleaning the floor as she came out so that an underpaid custodian would not have to do it.  It was a matter to her of both courtesy and justice.  She was generous-hearted, truly great hearted,  and I am among the masses that miss her. Continue reading

Fiddling While We Burn

[The text of this sonnet is printed below.]

I wrote this sonnet years ago as many problems were increasing—poverty and economic inequity, racism and religious nationalism, militarism and environmental destruction—and too few people seemed aware of the threat to our society and world.

The poem asks, “How long before the people feel the heat?”

The good news is that millions of people are waking up to what is happening and are rising up to demand human civilization change.

We cannot let up.  The transformation needed is more than any government alone can solve, as Greta Thunberg and the Rev. William Barber and countless others are saying.  Greta says, “The climate and ecological crisis cannot be solved within today’s political and economic systems,” she said. “That isn’t an opinion. That’s a fact.”

Yes, it is absolutely crucial to elect new leaders this year at every level of government who will work for change, but the global arson that has been accumulating power and consuming the earth for decades requires a fire brigade that is hundreds of millions strong, dedicating their time, talents and resources to creating a sustainable and just civilization and restoring the earth.  We need to make up our minds that this will be our work beyond this election and as long as we live.  We need to make working together toward this new world a joyous, hopeful part of our daily lives.

It is not enough simply to feel the heat. We need to wage a revolution of values, we need to legislate public policies and regulations based on the principles of compassion, the Golden Rule, the love of neighbor and the recognition of our oneness—that everyone and every creature on earth is our neighbor.

So it is urgent that we stop “fiddling while we burn” and spread this revolution of values.  Thank you for doing your part!

Continue reading

The Choice

[The text of this sonnet is printed below.]

We are so close!  We are closer than we have ever been to creating the ideal realm that the wisest humans have foreseen and been working toward for the past 2,500 years—a short time compared to all of human evolution, and yet long enough for us to develop the ethics and tools we need, long enough to get good and ready.

The arc of the moral universe is long and it has been bending toward this moment, this terrible polarized, destructive yet miraculously transformative year when millions of children rose up to demand we create a sustainable, harmonious, healthy relationship to the earth, and millions of people of all races rose up to demand that we create a society that is socially, economically and environmentally just and equitable for all.

These two uprisings are branches of the same tree of life, they are one forward movement of growth into the ideal society that treats all life and all the earth as sacred, meaning worthy of compassion, care and respect.  Both uprisings have demanded the ethic of the Golden Rule and the love of neighbor, grounded in a vision of oneness that sees that everyone and everything is our neighbor.  These are the foundational laws of the society that humanity’s spiritual, philosophical and wisdom traditions have called us to create.

We are so close!  Humanity is awakening to this expanded consciousness, eyes are opening to new perspectives, public opinion is rapidly shifting.

We can do this!  And the way we do it starts with making our own choice to be the change we wish to see in the world, and going out from there to help others awake and change, thinking of ourselves as part of a movement, as being one, every step of the way.  The choice is to be a positive force, to be on the side of love and life and light and give our time, talents and resources to that cause.

This poem is connected to “Light Muscle Building” and the introduction to it also applies here, offering practical steps to be part of a movement that can reach the ideal world that is so close. Continue reading

PS to Where Is the Howl?

PS…Of course I can’t write a poem about howling without Ginsberg’s “Howl” echoing in my mind, and the line that haunts me is “ah, Carl, while you are not safe I am not safe, and now you’re really in the total animal soup of time.” That is the line in the poem that best spans the sixty-five years of its life and my life and speaks to where we are now. My friends, while you are not safe, I am not safe, while the cities are not safe my small town is not safe, while the earth is not safe none of us is safe and with only eight years left to reconstruct our society and way of life we are all really in the total animal soup of time. So howl, please! Together.

 

[The text of this sonnet is printed below.]

The wooded hills where I live echo sometimes with coyote howls.  Hearing them at night is haunting, but hearing them in the day is alarming—you know then that something is wrong, and you can feel in your gut the threat they face or their grief of loss.

We also hear the prehistoric cry of the pileated woodpecker, or hear its powerful drumming on a hollow tree, and those sounds can also feel haunting or alarming.

Sometimes silence can be even more piercing—the silence on death row when an inmate has been executed.

Far worse is the silence of those who have given up on this world as hopeless when there is still time.

Over the past year we have heard Greta Thunberg and millions of other youth crying “Our house is on fire!” as they watch the clock tick down on our chance to preserve an inhabitable earth. We have maybe eight years to make a change that will require the united will of humanity to accomplish.  In a sense we have only until November of 2020 if we fail to change the White House and Senate.

Right now we are hearing the cries and howls of people who have been oppressed and murdered for centuries.  You can listen below to one of the most eloquent and powerful by Kimberley Jones, and one of the rawest by Star Wars star John Boyega, and there are millions more to hear in the streets and on the internet.

Nature gives creatures this gift, the ability to translate our grief, rage and life-or-death needs into songs that stir other hearts to empathy and compassion, and create a feeling of oneness that can cross any difference, between races, socio-economic places, even between species.  We need that oneness now.  We need to be haunted and alarmed on one another’s behalf.  We need to be moved to meet our shared life-or-death needs.  We need humanity to change, and change fast.

So…

Where Is the Howl?

Coyotes howl their protest song, harsh sun,
the hottest year as long as we’ve kept track.
Too early, acorns drop off one by one,
reminders that this chance will not come back,
and of the howling pain that is to come
and is already felt out on the edge:
high, blighted trees the pileateds drum,
huge ice shelf thunder, sloughing off a wedge.
Of all the haunting signs the most distressing
is humans who refuse to howl or change,
who should be wearing sackcloth and confessing.
The silence on death row is sad and strange,
but now when we could save ourselves it’s wrong.
We need to howl a powerful new song.

copyright 2020 Thomas Cary Kinder

 

Where Is the Howl?

[The text of this sonnet is printed below.  See the postscript to this post by clicking here.]

The wooded hills where I live echo sometimes with coyote howls.  Hearing them at night is haunting, but hearing them in the day is alarming—you know then that something is wrong, and you can feel in your gut the threat they face or their grief of loss.

We also hear the prehistoric cry of the pileated woodpecker, or hear its powerful drumming on a hollow tree, and those sounds can also feel haunting or alarming.

Sometimes silence can be even more piercing—the silence on death row when an inmate has been executed.

Far worse is the silence of those who have given up on this world as hopeless when there is still time.

Over the past year we have heard Greta Thunberg and millions of other youth crying “Our house is on fire!” as they watch the clock tick down on our chance to preserve an inhabitable earth. We have maybe eight years to make a change that will require the united will of humanity to accomplish.  In a sense we have only until November of 2020 if we fail to change the White House and Senate.

Right now we are hearing the cries and howls of people who have been oppressed and murdered for centuries.  You can listen below to one of the most eloquent and powerful by Kimberley Jones, and one of the rawest by Star Wars star John Boyega, and there are millions more to hear in the streets and on the internet.

Nature gives creatures this gift, the ability to translate our grief, rage and life-or-death needs into songs that stir other hearts to empathy and compassion, and create a feeling of oneness that can cross any difference, between races, socio-economic places, even between species.  We need that oneness now.  We need to be haunted and alarmed on one another’s behalf.  We need to be moved to meet our shared life-or-death needs.  We need humanity to change, and change fast.

So…

Where Is the Howl?

Coyotes howl their protest song, harsh sun,
the hottest year as long as we’ve kept track.
Too early, acorns drop off one by one,
reminders that this chance will not come back,
and of the howling pain that is to come
and is already felt out on the edge:
high, blighted trees the pileateds drum,
huge ice shelf thunder, sloughing off a wedge.
Of all the haunting signs the most distressing
is humans who refuse to howl or change,
who should be wearing sackcloth and confessing.
The silence on death row is sad and strange,
but now when we could save ourselves it’s wrong.
We need to howl a powerful new song.

copyright 2020 Thomas Cary Kinder

[See the postscript to this post by clicking here.]

 

Come Back to Life and Live

[The text of this sonnet is printed below.]

This sonnet is a call to the veterans of the movements for social change of the 1960s and early 70s.  It was written several years ago in the context of climate change, economic inequity, racism, increasing masses of refugees and wars.

Today the social, economic and environmental injustices we tried to stop in the 60s are destroying our democracy and the ability of life on earth to survive.  We saw this coming when we were young.  We knew it would be the result of the policies and world-views that we were fighting.  Prophetic voices articulated it clearly back then, and now the nightmare fears of our youth have become the reality of our elderhood.

We knew the answers in the 60s and 70s—go back and read Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Revolution of Values” speech, just one example from hundreds of leading voices—and just because those who opposed us fought back and made the problems far worse does not mean we were wrong.

Just because many of us abandoned our ideals and either became inactive or else actively worked on the side of the systemic wrongs does not mean that we cannot come back to our senses now, when our society and planet are in mortal danger.

I know that many of us have been contributing to our families, communities and the world in positive ways, being models of our ideals and always ready to do more.  What I am saying is, now is the time to do more—in fact, to do as much as we possibly can do.

The youth of today are rising as we did, and even more powerfully.  We have something to offer.  They could use our resources, they could use our bodies to stand beside them as allies, they could use our senior positions of influence assisting them.

We have something else, as well.  The world needs the wisdom that can come with full maturity (and not the stubborn closed-mindedness that can also come with age).  People in their 60s and 70s (as most of the veterans of the 60s and 70s now are) have the potential to move into the most mature developmental stage of human consciousness.  At that stage we finally can see clearly the oneness of all people and all life on earth and find a way forward through seemingly irreconcilable polarization.

We could help our society grow into that developmental stage of oneness now, just as we helped the global culture become more pluralistic and liberated in the 60s.

Humanity needs a vision of oneness if it is ever going to live by an ethic of true equality and compassion for the vulnerable and oppressed. Humanity needs a change of consciousness in order to solve the problems that threaten our existence.  That change needs people to articulate the perspective of oneness and model living by it.  And it needs us to be part a powerful social movement that says to Pharaoh, “Let my people go,” and leads humanity from slavery through the wilderness to the Promised Land.

We have so much to offer, and we have very little time to turn things around.  So…

Come Back to Life and Live

O generation of your flowers slid
down rifle barrels aimed at you and songs
rocking your jail cells—how many years you hid,
passive or worse.  A climate change of wrongs
wilts all your blossoms, tortures those who sing.
My generation, voice your silenced scream.
If our world’s ending, let the rending bring
a last bold song, a winter flower’s dream.
If you will, I will raise my voice again
and risk that ache of gunned-down, mocked ideals.
Let’s pick up where we left off way back then
before we chose a life that sleeps or steals.
We wake to find it’s those who sacrifice
who truly live.  Last chance to pay that price.

copyright 2020 Thomas Cary Kinder

 

 

Stop the Seeds from Getting Sown

[The words of this sonnet are printed below.]

Partisan media are inciting hatred and violence, polarizing a democratic, peaceful nation, and helping autocratic, fascist leaders rise to power who use their positions to inflame the situation to the point where citizens take up arms against people they no longer consider fully human, people of another race or culture or people who disagree politically.  The media and leaders and their backers create a crisis situation that gives them the excuse to unleash a civil war and slaughter millions.

That was Rwanda.  If you live in America in 2020 and don’t feel alarmed reading that description, I recommend you watch the film Sometimes in April.  It is worth doing anything to prevent it from happening here or anywhere else ever again.

We need not only to change the structures and systems, such as the ability of partisan media to take over a market without regulation providing restrictions and balance, but we also need to be aware of the seeds of fear, hatred and violence in our culture, our government, our homes, and stop them from growing, or from getting sown.

One of the moments in Sometimes in April that made my blood run cold was when the hero finds out that his family is on the list to be killed even though he is in the military and of the approved race. It could happen to anyone. I could imagine it happening to me.  It reminded me of a saying attributed on the internet to many different sources:

Solon (the Lawgiver) c640 – c556 BC Statesman of Athens, writer of its compassionate legal code:
“Wrongdoing can only be avoided if those who are not wronged feel the same indignation at it as those who are.” from Greek Wit (F. Paley) found on http://sqapo.com/aphorism.htm

The film helped me feel as if I were among those being wronged.  It helped me love my neighbor as my self, in true oneness.  I wrote this poem several years ago in response to the film and the genocide and the dangerous situation I saw building in America that today is starting to explode.

All of us who believe in the global ethic shared by all religions need to act now and transform society to live by the laws of compassion for the vulnerable and oppressed, love of neighbor, the Golden Rule in all its formulations.  We need to speak out, we need to organize, we need to vote and we need to watch the seeds and… Continue reading

Reflections On War and the Military: “Training Flights” and “Hanging Between Two Dying Ways”

I share two sonnets below, “Training Flights” and “Hanging Between Two Dying Ways: A Lament,” both from my collection “Sonnets for the Struggle for Peace, Justice and the Care of the Creation.”  I am publishing them here to follow up a facebook exchange that you can see below about the recent use of F-35 war jets to honor medical workers treating coronavirus patients.  This is a long introduction, so if you are more interested in the sonnets, skip to the end of this page.

Many reasonable people disagree with my feelings about war planes overhead and about militarism and modern warfare.  Some of those people are in my family and among my friends, and I respect them.  Their reasonableness and wonderfulness as people does not change my position, but it makes me want to explain myself. Continue reading

The Harder Task

[The words of this sonnet are printed below.]

I recorded this poem in the summer of 2019 which seems like another world, another age of the world.  It seemed then as if the worst of the climate crisis era was still ahead a decade or so. Now we are in it. This is what it looks like: tens of millions of climate refugees; the erosion of democracy and the rise of fearful autocratic entrenched nationalism; the rich grabbing more and the poor suffering more and inequity worsening; ever increasing ecological devastation; accelerating species extinction; and yes, pandemics and economic collapse and social upheaval. We are in it now.

Some of the wealthiest are trying to escape, as this poem suggests, but millions of people of all kinds are working hard to change the world to reverse and heal the damage we have done and create a global society that is just, equitable, sustainable, resilient and at one with all peoples and all nature.

This is “the Harder Task.” Thank you so much for all you are doing for that cause. Please make up your mind now to do even more, to give it all your time, energy and resources. This is the greatest struggle any generation has ever faced, and it will take even more dedication and effort than World War II. Choose an organization and join together with others, contribute what makes you feel good.  Do what you love to do the best that you can do it for the cause. Thank you!

The Harder Task

Plop a banana peel into the compost
and watch the fruit-flies scatter through the room.
The bucket is their world, all else, the moon
and Mars and distant planets that will host
them till they can return.  What distant post
can we fly to when our world meets its doom—
when asteroid zooms in, or human plume
or magma ash turns earth to ice or toast?
It seems we have two tasks to undertake:
first, finding places that will serve as well,
and how to get there.  That task is unnerving.
The next one’s worse.  Somehow we have to make
our life more worth the saving—learn to dwell
in kindness, love and beauty worth preserving.