Friday, September 22, 2006

Bamboo--the versatile, sustainable, eco-wonder

In Dance Rose and other villagers roll out a bamboo dance floor for a night of dancing under the stars.

Used worldwide for food, medicine, clothing, furniture, housing, bicycles, weapons, boats, packaging, kitchen and household utensils, bamboo is the eco-wonder of the world.

Stronger than hardwood, and touted as the fastest growing plant on the planet (some species grow 1-3 feet a day), bamboo is a highly renewable resource. Resilient and persistent, bamboo is reported to have survived the bombing of Hirsohima, according to the Florida Caribbean Chapter of the American Bamboo Society.

But that's not all. Bamboo consumes carbon dioxide and soil toxins and returns 30 percent more oxygen to the atmosphere than trees. Because of its rapid growth and root structure, it can stabilize soil destroyed by overgrazing and over-building.

And if all that weren't enough, bamboo is just plain beautiful.

Native to all continents except Europe and Antarctica, bamboo grows in climates both tropical and frigid. There are estimated to be more than 1200 species worldwide, with about 450 of them in the Americas, according to Gilberto Cortes, Regional Director of Bamboo in the Americas. Only one species, Arundinaria gigantea, commonly known as Cane Brake or Cane Reed, is native to the United States.

Using bamboo does not mean we are off the hook environmentally. Bamboo is the major food for endangered pandas, bamboo lemurs, and mountain gorillas, whose habitat shrinks daily.

Civilization increasingly encroaches on bamboo forests and plantations. Make sure the bamboo products you purchase are from sustainable plantations that do not destroy habitat or endanger other species.

For more information on bamboo, its uses, and the people and creatures who depend on it, visit these sites:

Monday, September 18, 2006

Music and Books

Sometimes a villager in Ordinary mentions a book or song title that exists in our world. In those cases, I link to a commercial web site, such as, where you can learn more about the book or song.

I prefer Amazon because I'm a tad lazy, and they make it easy to find book excerpts and audible song samples.

Below is a list of titles that have appeared in Ordinary posts, as well as on this blog.

The list is divided in two sections: Books and Music. It includes the original post in which the title appeared, and a link to the commercial web site where you can find information and, frequently, excerpts and samples.




Note: To find the audible song samples, scroll down the page. It may be necessary to expand the track selections as the web site does not display them all at first.

This post will be updated as new books and song titles are added.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Tap, tap, tap

So I keep working with this concept of replacing the need for vengeance with love. Guess what! It's working!

The more I let go of my fear and loathing and respond to Brenda (not her real name, but time I gave her one) with loving kindness, the more frequently I succeed. Lately, I care less about her behavior toward me, and a whole lot more about my behavior toward her.

Lately, I see her more as a human being who is trying as best she can to be the best person she can.

Trust me: it's not easy. Baby steps are giant leaps compared to my micro-steps, but you can measure the distance all the same.

One big help the past couple of weeks is Life Coach Wanda Tucker's First Aid for Trauma technique.

This is something I need privacy for--I can't stop wherever I am and do it on the spot--so I have to take a few minutes to get away, but it works!

When I am hurt or betrayed and the tooth-grinding, eye-squinting, stomach-churning anger rises, I step behind closed doors and tap.

Try it! Let me know how it works for you next time you feel hurt or betrayed or just plain out of sorts.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Welcome the children

In an Ordinary world, people rarely do violence to one another, emotional or physical. The strife revealed in Love as Retribution and Wounded Dog are unheard.

Is this possible in our world today? Consider:
  • In the world of Ordinary, people of child-bearing age take care to conceive only when they are certain of their desire and ability to nurture their child with tenderness and love. Every birth is cause for high celebration. Every child is cherished.

  • Ordinary children are nurtured not only by their parents, but by all the villagers, each of whom feels responsibile for the well-being of the children.

    Because they were raised, themselves, in loving homes and a supportive community, the adults have full capacity to provide appropriate care. No child need fear the misguided—or worse—adult. There are no "funny" uncles or aunties in Ordinary.

  • Children and adults in Ordinary are encouraged to explore their individual creativity, to develop their highest talents, and to share their creative work with the world. Work is play.

  • Children are taught responsibility from an early age, and even the smallest children share age– and skill–appropriate chores. This sense of responsibility carries through a lifetime.

    While each Ordinary inhabitant contributes her or his best skills and knowledge—people who love to cook work more in the kitchens and bakeries; people who love to teach or build or garden work more often in classrooms, construction, or the fields—everyone rotates through chores in all other disciplines.

    This ensures respect for all the labor required to maintain the village and meet the needs of its people and their animal companions.

The children, receiving carefully considered attention, instruction, and ample love, learn early to respond to others with compassion and love. Cooperation, respect, and understanding are as natural a part of their lives as air and breath.

In her book Sent by Earth: A message from the Grandmother Spirit after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, Alice Walker tells of the Dagara people of Burkina Faso:

The most important thing that happens in a person 's life is that they be welcomed when they are born. If they are not welcomed, all their lives they experience a feeling of not quite having arrived. There is anxiety. There is unease.

Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, in their book Freakonomics: A rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything, suggest provocatively that legalized abortion so cut the incidence of unwanted children as to instigate an unexpected and dramatic drop in crime of all types throughout the nation, stunning researchers and government planners alike.

They attribute this dramatic drop twenty years after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision to the single fact that women ill-prepared to support a child emotionally, physically, and financially now had a choice. Fewer unwanted children were born. The cycles of poverty, drug and alcohol addiction, and crime were interrupted.

While there is much to be said on both sides of the issue of abortion, one thing is certain: In societies around the world, where children are loved and desired from conception, nurtured by their communities, and offered ample opportunity to explore their talents, crime and strife are nearly non-existent.

Could it be possible that bringing only wanted children into the world, welcoming them joyously, and consciously meeting their needs day to day could change the world and bring about world peace at last?

What do you think?

Wounded dog

So I have been working on this concept of love as retribution. I'm not doing as well as I would like.

Days I must see the woman who seems to enjoy hurting me, I visualize greeting her with a smile and kindly thoughts. The smile does not come easily.

My pulse quickens. My palms sweat. I feel anxious. A little trill of fear runs down my spine. What has she planned for today? Spitefulness rises like a snake, and I feel false, forcing a smile I do not feel.

The minute-by-minute effort to replace anger and pain with compassion is exhausting. I resent the need to spend my energy this way.

What foolishness! She wastes so much of her own energy, and what can it possibly gain her? What reward does she find watching me struggle with my personal ethics--watching that first hit of pain, followed by teeth clenching, eyes blazing (I am prone to a bit of Irish temper), then the effort to seek peace in my soul and bring it to my face, my body, perhaps to bridge the space between us. Does this give her such pleasure? She smiles, a funny, twisted, small smile, and turns away.

Love can heal. I have seen it many times. I have seen it with this woman. Simply returning her hatred with unspoken love, a prayer for peace, a vision of her as a child beloved of Spirit, has brought a generous smile from her face, warm and true. And momentary.

In my resentment, now, I want to hang onto my "righteous" anger. Anger protects me, keeps the wounds fresh, reminds me not to trust again, not to extend myself only to be rewarded with betrayal or worse.


I quiet myself.


I acknowledge the ragged breath, the unhappy thoughts. Let them go.

Ask for guidance.

Several days this week, in that still space, Wanda Tucker's advice came to mind (see her comment to Love as Retribution) that wounded individuals who attack repeatedly are like a dog hit by a car. You've seen it, too. In his agony, the dog strikes at every helping hand, lashing about, running blindly into objects, hurting himself the more.
The image of the terrorized dog arrests me. I don't understand how a rational, well-educated person can enjoy hurting others (I am not her only target), but I can understand the impulse of a crazed, injured animal.

In that moment, a tiny bit of healing takes place. I release a breath I had not realized I was holding. I take another breath, and another, deeper and deeper. I move a little closer toward compassion and love.

I'll keep you posted on the progress of this experiment in creating peace from strife. I invite you to share your stories. If one person can make peace with one person, there is hope for peace in the world.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Love as retribution

Do you have someone in your life whose mission seems to be to torment you?

There is a person like that in my life.

I have spent hundreds of hours trying to determine what I said or did that made this person decide to be my enemy and an equal number attempting to build a stronger, healthier relationship.

Inevitably, just as it seems we are succeeding, just as I feel we have turned that corner toward mutual respect, even affection, she attacks with a vengefulness that takes my breath and my equilibrium.

Perhaps it is my naivete, but each time I am stunned anew.

And each time, I respond at gut level, whether I choose to show it or not, with anger and a bitter desire for retribution.

Have you experienced something like this in your life?

How do such events, and the emotional responses they trigger, fit with your desire to create a peaceful world?

When I experience that bitterness, that longing to place a curse on the head of the woman who chooses to be my enemy, I feel like a hypocrite.

In those moments, I do not want to find peace. I want to use my intellect and the force of my being to cause her the harm she has caused me.

Then I begin to understand the impulse for war.

So again I pray, as so many times before:

Give me the love I do not feel for this woman. Soften my heart that I may want to love her, that I see her as you do, a child of all that is good and holy, a child beloved.
Sometimes my bitterness is too great and I ask for helper spirits to stand between me and her, to shield us each from the pain and suffering we may wish upon each other, to shower us both with love.

Surprisingly, these prayers work, though I may have to sacrifice my anger and desire for revenge again and again.

Each time I ask for love--and in absence of a sincere desire to love--ask to want to love, I am softened. When I am softened, the situation diffuses, if only that I regain a sense of calm and peace in my own heart.

Sometimes--not every time--but sometimes, she softens too. Once or twice, she has come to me later and apologized, an amazing admission for a proud woman.

In her post What More is there to Say?, Wanda Tucker quotes Goethe:
If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.
This is the person I want to be.

I am not alone. More and more people are exploring ways to respond to personal violence with peace.

In her post, wisdom-girl, Michelle O'Neil suggests we thank the people with whom we have grievances and give "up the victim mentality completely."

There are times I am indeed grateful to the woman who torments me, for she has challenged all my beliefs and revealed to me just how deeply my anger can cut.

She is a reminder of the reasons peace must always start within my own heart. Her hatred forces me to confront my political and spiritual beliefs on a visceral level.

It is easy to be at peace in meditation, in spiritual practice alone and with others. It is something altogether different when cut by another, whether through malice or thoughtlessness.

So I propose, after much experience with the phenonema, love as retribution. Try it. Let me know how it works for you. It can't hurt.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Metamorphosis - Time for change

In Tadpole, a child is enthralled with frog's metamorphosis.

Thanks to our love of fast vehicles and carbon fuels, our Earth is undergoing a metamorphosis of its own.

Like so many endangered species--Panda Bears, Snow Leopards, Gorillas, to name a few--the frogs and toads that thrilled my child self with their ability to change from a "fish" to a "hopper" are disappearing at an alarming rate.

One of my most comforting childhood sounds was the cacaphony of crickets, toads, and frogs on a hot summer eve. With every window and door in the house wide open (it was safe then, even on the ground floor), faint breezes slowly cooled tired, sticky arms and legs till they stopped twitching.

Lulled by the breezes, the chirping and peeping, we little ones drifted contentedly to sleep.

My seven-month old granddaughter hears cars racing up and down her street at night, though toward the back of the house, where she sleeps, she can also hear songbirds in the dusky evening and again as dawn approaches.

But will she ever know the roar of frogs and crickets, the whirr of moths against the porch light? Will she smell air so pure it makes her lungs inflate large all on their own?

How were we tots of the Forties and Fifties to know these simple pleasures could disappear forever, that they might not always be a part of our lives, our children's lives, and their children's--part of their going-to-sleep-safe summer nights?

There is hope.

In "A Leap of Faith: Embracing Our Native Frogs," (Bay Nature April-June 2002), David Rains Wallace cites the resiliency of amphibians, whose populations have risen and fallen since the Jurassic period. Bellweathers of our Earth's heated response to our use of fossile fuels, those amphibians not yet extinct have a chance to flourish, if we help.

Which means we have time to reverse global warming.

It's up to you and me. Our leaders are not going to do it. Their fortunes are tied to fossil fuels. It is up to us, we who must put one foot in front of the other day after day, to lead them. We lead by the choices we make.

When we take a reusable mug to Starbucks instead of buying a throw-away cup, we lead. When we insist on Fair Trade coffee, we lead. When we ride a bicycle to work, take the bus, or walk, we lead. When we buy organic produce, we lead. When we recycle our water bottles and junk mail, yes we lead.

But I am only one person. When so many are doing otherwise, what I do doesn't really count.

Yes. What we do, each individual, counts--no matter how insignificant we feel.

Lead by example.

What steps are you taking to reduce your use of carbon fuels? What new step can you take today? Share your steps here--one foot in front of the other--and congratulate yourself on every action, no matter how small it feels.

Lead by example. Celebrate success.

Monday, May 22, 2006


In Moon, Rose and her friends drink water from the stream. It is unlikely there is a stream anywhere in this country from which one can safely drink these days. This is a great sadness. My children have never known the delicious taste of water from a mountain stream. Very likely, my grandchildren will miss that incredible pleasure as well.

But I remember. Squatting on the firm, hard-packed river bank, I dipped my hands into icy water that sparked with sunlight and the glint of micas and quartz gravels not a foot under the surface. I yelped at the cold, even in the middle of summer, hands shaking almost immediately as I lifted them to my face, sucking the water between my teeth.

My lips felt instantly numb, but I grabbed handful after handful of pure liquid. It tasted so good. I drank enough to make my belly ache and my teeth chatter with the cold.

That was Oregon in July, half a century gone.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Making peace

Before I saw PBS's Frontline story on global sex slave traffic, (See The Slave Trade--Alive and flourishing in every country including this one.) I promised a discussion on ways to handle the inevitable interpersonal clashes that come our way.

Turns out, the two may be more related than you might think.

I will start by asking a question and telling a story.

Have you ever encountered an individual in your work with whom it seemed every interaction was fraught with conflict, misunderstanding, even betrayal?

Was a time, I worked with a woman--call her Miranda--who in my youthful, judgemental state, I dubbed The Screamer.

Inevitably angry, Miranda seemed incapable of speaking in a normal tone of voice.

One day I was the target of her bile. In a 20-minute tirade, she hurled accusations that bit me to the core.

Anger boiled. Time gone by, I would have given as much as I got, but I was learning new skills for conflict resolution and wanted to live by them if I could.

I attempted reasoning with her. She would have none of it.

I attempted using the broken-record, I-statement techniques of assertiveness training classes (from the Eighties--are you familiar with these communication tools?).

Miranda simply talked over me. Each time I spoke, she interrupted and began her tirade again.

When she was finally out of steam, in the calmest tone I could muster, I told her it looked like we were not going to reach an agreement. Surprisingly, she was silent.

Unable to control my shaking voice, I told her I understood she was angry, I was sorry for the difficult spot she was in, and that my intention was to support her in any way I could.

She said nothing.

I told her I felt she was unfair in her accusations, that I deserved her respect as another human being who also worked hard in pursuit of our organizational goals, and that I wanted an apology for her behavior.

Then I closed my mouth and breathed, raggedly for sure, heart pounding so hard I thought it might break.

At first Miranda screamed again.

Shaking visibly, tears flowing, head pulsing with the desire to tell her what-for, I prayed to anyone bigger than me for the universal salve, compassion.

Singlemindedly shutting out her voice, her cutting words, I focused on an imaginary Miranda--calm, serene, and hearing me.

Immediately, her voice dropped to conversational level. She said she could not talk about this any more and hung up.

Puzzled by Miranda's sudden soft tone, unnerved that she had abruptly ended the conversation with no resolution, still filled with anger and hurt, I wanted desperately to retaliate. I wanted someone bigger than me to hurt her as she had hurt me.

I also wanted very much to make peace with Miranda. I had a growing sense that if we are ever to achieve peace in the world at large, it must begin in moments like this.

That evening, I meditated for some time. Then I prayed.

I prayed to the Great Spirit.

For you, the Higher Power may have another name. Perhaps you pray to Allah, to God, to Jehovah, Qwan Yin, or the Goddess. I have absolute faith that the Higher Power by any name, who loves the children of the Earth, sees the intention of our hearts.

Though I felt more vengeful than loving, I prayed that Spirit heal my heart of the anger and hurt I was not yet ready to let go. Righteous in my rage, I wanted to hang onto it, feel it, express it. The tiny part of me that believed peace is possible, prayed on.

I asked that Spirit shower Miranda with love I did not feel, with the tenderness that Spirit feels toward all the beings of the Earth, no matter our behavior.

Fill Miranda's heart so full of love, Spirit, that she knows only love, can feel only love.

Heal her of all that causes her to behave this way toward others, toward me.

Heal the wounded child that grew up to need to hurt others.

Salve her. Bring love into her life so full, so fresh, so lasting that she need never hurt another again.

Heal me, that I might see her as the perfect being you see.

The following day as I readied for work, I continued this prayer. On the way to work, and entering the office, I said this prayer.

Even then, I did not feel the love for Miranda that surely Great Spirit felt for her.

Guess what? That morning, Miranda the Screamer apologized. In a voice soft, conversational, and sincere, miraculously she apologized.

For the remainder of my time in that position, Miranda was a different person. I became quite fond of her.

Human nature being what it is, inevitably conflicts occur in any organization.

When I feel betrayed or hurt by another's actions, if I am able to pause, breathe, and pray for loving kindness to come to the fore, those relationships tend to improve instantly.

The times that I hold onto my anger and hurt, the times I do not call on the love of Spirit when I have none in my own heart for the other individual, are the times the conflict deepens.

Try it the next time you feel injured by another.

Let me know how this concept works for you.

Then, begin thinking about utilizing the power of peaceful intent and love to help heal the hearts of those who do harm in so much more egregious a manner--such as the individuals who enslave and torture others for their pleasure.

This is one way we might build Ordinary right now.

I welcome your feedback and dialogue.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The slave trade--alive and flourishing in every country including this one

I interrupt the regularly scheduled post, a follow-up to "Chi choen? - What's the point?," to acknowledge a heightened awareness to the human trafficking going on, perhaps in our very neighborhoods--yours and mine.

Think you are immune? That it does not affect you?

Read on and tell me what you think at the end.

The other night I stumbled across a PBS Frontline report on the sex-slave trade in Europe. Not that it occurs only in Europe. There is more than enough going around every city of the United States. (See Sex Trafficking of Women in the United States."

In their report, the Frontline producers told the story of a Moldavian husband in his desperate search to get his kidnapped wife back from the violent pimp to whom their acquantaince had sold her in Turkey.

Sex slavery and atrocities against women are not new, of course. Inexplicably, men--and all too often their female procurers/enforcers--have been enslaving women, children, even other men for millenia.

Is it merely naivete that makes me think by now we human beings should have learned to behave better?

Watching the Moldavian family through their ordeal, hearing the stories of the other 4 women the story profiled, listening to the bravado of the kidnapper who got caught and slapped with 5 years probation, trying to wrap my mind around the appalling statistics--all left me nearly paralyzed with despair.

What hope can there be for the human family when such cruelty continues unabated?

The fact that men across the socio-economic spectrum in every country--read doctors, lawyers, dentists in any city in the USA--buy women, abuse them, rape them, force them to perform unimaginable acts, beat them, then go home to their families and behave, presumably, like gentlemen, is beyond cognition.

Do you know someone like this? Do you understand what causes this behavior?

Do you know how to heal the wounded souls who perpetuate this flourishing business? For it is only in healing the perpetrators that the business of sex, domination, power, and slavery will wither and die.

Frontline reported that one woman, trafficked and sold to a pimp in Turkey, escaped and ran to the car of a police officer who immediately returned her to her captors.

It has always been so. Madames and pimps know that when police and judges participate, chances of being raided and shut down are slim.

There is to be no rescue, no respite for women sold into slavery.

In Ordinary, of course, where human beings are raised from infancy with love and taught to respect all other beings, these things do not happen. Indeed, such behavior was unheard of in Ladakh before Westernization. (See Learning from Ladakh.)

In our lives, yours and mine, these things exist every single day.

Not long after I moved to this city, police raided two homes in a neighborhood where I had only shortly before looked for housing. It was a nice neighborhood. The properties were well kept.

Dozens of young women, smuggled into this country, were imprisoned in the homes, whose exterior revealed nothing of the atrocities occurring inside, and forced into prostitution.

In this extraordinarily beautiful city, in this country where we think of ourselves as egalitarian, democratic and civilized, in homes not so far from my own, men--possibly my neighbors?--were buying women who had no immigration documentation, no way out of their locked rooms, no escape.

How to feel compassion for the men--and the women who assist them--who would use other human beings so?

How to respond with love toward those whose actions are void of any shred of kindness?

How to heal the psyche of perhaps an entire nation, a world, that makes violence against women a regular part of our entertainment diet?

How to put a stop to the notion that one human being has a right to use another?

As so often before, I hear the words of Pema Chadron, "Start where you are."

Where are you in this? Where do you think we should start?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Chi choen - What's the point?

The Ladakhi have a saying when conflict occurs, "Chi choen? (What's the point?) Anyway, we have to live together."

Saying this, they smile and, according to Helena Norberg-Hodge in Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh, shrug off irritations and annoyances.

Even egregious breaches of confidence and trust are shrugged away with a broad smile.

The beauty of this is that the Ladakhi truly let go of ire. No subsurface tensions bubble and boil waiting an eruption. No stomach ulcers, heart disease, alcoholism fester from swallowing unfaced anger or pain.

Norberg-Hodge attributes this lack of bile in Ladakhi relationships to the fact that the children are raised by their entire family. Grandfathers can be seen carrying an infant. Older brothers and sisters play with or feed the baby routinely. Indeed, any one in the village will respond lovingly and immediately to a child's need.

Ladakhi children are constantly and lovingly attended.

Gracefully trained, never over-indulged, simply loved every moment of their lives, happy Ladakhi children grow up to be happy adults who believe that living together in harmony is more important than momentary disappointment.

The Village of Ordinary and its sister villages are patterned after the Ladakhi model.

While parents and close family members are the primary caregivers, the entire village, older children and adults, look after younger ones, always ready with a hug, a listening ear, attention to the child's state of mind and needs.

In such an environment, children learn early on how to handle conflict in their relationships and within themselves.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow, architect of the Hierarchy of Needs, in Toward a Psychology of Being, suggests that when a child's every need is met, the child matures to a fully self-actualized human being.

Unhindered by the psychological baggage of unmet needs, the adult is capable of reaching her full potential.

She is not bogged down, wasting time trying to gain the respect of the father who was unable to love her, the mother who met her basic needs of food and shelter but could spare no time to listen and engage with her child.

While Maslow's theories are controversial, his colleagues agree on one thing: Well-loved children, taught personal responsibility and respect for others from the get-go, grow up to be healthy, happy adults.

Next: given that most of us did not grow up with the joyous nurturing of the Ladakhi, how do we handle the inevitable interpersonal clashes that come our way?

Monday, January 23, 2006

Ordinary peace

Violence was almost unheard of when Helena Norberg-Hodge began studying the Ladakhi in the 1970's. (See Learning from Ladakh.)

How do we create that kind of everyday joy in our lives today? How do we create the peaceful life of the Village of Ordinary?

Compassion, the Dalai Lama tells us, is the path to peace.

If this is true, do we have to have compassion for everyone? Can we only be at peace when we love the most egregious murderer/torturer?

Where lies compassion for one who would kill and torture for greed or power? How do we love a man like Clarence Ray Allen (see Why do we kill people) or the grandfather who molested, or the president who started a killing war with lies?

We can only, as Pema Chadron says, start where we are.

Every single day, in tiny ways, we must begin again, right where we are, to make peace.

So for everyone reading this and puzzling how to develop compassion for the back-stabber at work, the spouse who cheated then got a better lawyer and took everything, the dictator who used biological weapons on his own people, the murderer and rapist, perhaps Clarence Ray Allen, here are two tips for growing compassion and peace in your heart and life.

Start where you are tip:

Try smiling at every person you meet for an entire day.

I guarantee you will be surprised at the difference it makes.

Come back here after you've tried it and tell the rest of us what you experienced.

Growing compassion tip:

Listen to people apologizing for almost anything including, yes, murder in Act 2 of This American Life's November 5, 2004, show Apology. (You will need to select "o4" from the sidebar menu, then scroll down a few episodes to "Apology.")

Come back here afterward and enter a comment about what you felt for and what you learned.

Lastly, don't forget that smile at home, where peace begins.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Why do we kill people? Yup, this one hurts

Why do we kill people who are killing people to show that killing people is wrong?

Holly Near, Entertainer, Teacher, Activist

The State of California killed another man this week.

Clarence Ray Allen was convicted of killing a lot of people. He set up some of the murders from his prison cell.

From the news reports, it appears that he was a cowardly, ignoble, disgraceful example of the human race who did nothing to redress his wrongs or show remorse for his actions. In fact, he seems to have gone to his death proud of his life work.

Reading Allen's story, I am hard put not to feel hatred for him. My personal ethics are sorely tested.

Still, if I judge Allen for his heinious crimes, so must I judge myself, for there is no good killing, and the State of California, my state, killed him in my name, and in yours, if you live here.

There is more to it than that, though.

Somewhere along the way we, the global family of Clarence Ray Allen, failed him. We failed because we did not meet the fundamental needs of the child who grew up to kill.

One of the guiding principles of Ordinary is that every child is wanted, welcomed, and nurtured throughout her lifetime. Every child deserves to be loved and raised in a healthful, peaceful environment.

Such children grow up to be strong, responsible, nuturing adults possessed of the capacity to give more than they receive.

It is our responsibility--yours and mine--to create that environment so that no more children become adults with a desire or need to rob, torture, or kill.

The task is daunting. I am only one person. You are only one person.

Neither you nor I have a right to stop before we begin just because the task is overwhelming.

Pema Chadron tells us, start where you are.

So I begin, and I urge you to begin, by making peace in your life every tiny step of the way.

At work when conflicts rise, at home when the dishes pile up, at weddings, funerals, and holidays when family get-togethers revive unresolved pain and suffering, take timeouts, breathe, dig deep in your heart for compassion.

Do whatever it takes to turn that moment of conflict and suffering to peace.

Most especially, if you have children, teach them through your example how to live peaceably in the world, how to respond with forgiveness, understanding, compassion, and love.