“The skies were clearing, the remaining clouds scudding fast across the blue as Watergate Bay stretched endlessly ahead. We followed the beach, too fragile to face the up and down of the clifftop. The wide expanse of sand lay pristine and empty beyond the restaurants and cafés. The only person ahead came into focus as an old man with two spaniels. He stopped to speak as we passed.
‘Are you walking the coastal path?’
‘Some of it. To Land’s End a least.’
‘I’ve always wanted to do that . .. just walk for days and days.’
‘Then do it. Just pack a rucksack and do it now. You never know how long your fetch will be–depends on the wind'” (p. 129).
From: The Salt Path by Raynor Winn
“The uplifting true story of the couple who lost everything and embarked on a journey of salvation across the windswept South West coastline. …” Google Books
What do you want to do? Start now. Aloha, Renée
Today as I was volunteering and getting to share the latest in humpback whale information at the Maui Ocean Center, one group – a mom and her four daughters – seemed particularly interested. Most people at the Ocean Center come to see the many beautiful fish and other sea creatures, and I get to say a few facts as they pass by. But for this particular group, I got to tell about why the humpbacks don’t eat while they are in Hawaii, how the male humpback whales have the most complex acoustical display of any in the animal kingdom, and more. Since I could hear a slight accent, I asked the mom and girls where they were from — Saudi Arabia! Uncovered, unescorted, all speaking English well (and of course, Arabic, and they are learning French); the mom says that the women drive; the girls are learning guitar too, and tomorrow, they are taking hula lessons at their hotel. The mom said that life in Saudi Arabia isn’t really as it is portrayed in the news. I asked if they were afraid of traveling in the U.S. They said, “No.” They are having a wonderful time and find everyone friendly. They see the sensational news as just the news. I would have loved getting to know them.
That seeking out of people, especially ones from cultures much different than his own is what Rick Steves shares in his book Travel as a Political Act, which offers many significant insights. For instance, in describing his time in Iran, Rick Steves notes,
“It’s not easy finding a middle ground between the ‘Great Satan’ and the ‘Axis of Evil.’ Some positions (such as President Ahmadinejad denying the Holocaust) are just plain wrong. But I don’t entirely agree with many in my own government, either. Yes, there are evil people in Iran. Yes, the rhetoric and policies of Iran’s leaders can be objectionable. But there is so much more to Iran than the negative image drummed into us by our media and our government.
I left Iran impressed more by what we have in common than by our differences. Most Iranians, like most Americans, simply want a good life and a safe homeland for their loved ones. Just like my country, Iran has one dominant ethnic group and religion that’s struggling with issues of diversity and change–liberal versus conservative, modern versus traditional, secular versus religious. As in my own hometown, people of great faith are suspicious of people of no faith or a different faith. Both societies seek a defense against the onslaught of modern materialism that threatens their traditional ‘family values.’ Both society are suspicious of each other, and both are especially suspicious of each other’s government.
When we travel–whether to the ‘Axis of Evil’ or just to a place where people yodel when they’re happy, or fight bulls to impress the girls, or can’t serve breakfast until today’s croissants arrive — we enrich our lives and better understand our place on the planet. We undercut groups that sow fear, hated, and mistrust. People-to-people connections help us learn that we can disagree and still coexist peacefully.
Granted, there’s no easy solution, but surely getting to know Iranian culture is a step in the right direction. Hopefully, even the most skeptical will appreciate the humanity of 70 million Iranian people. Our political leaders sometimes make us forget that all of us on this small planet are equally precious children of God. Having been to Iran and meeting its people face-to-face, I feel this more strongly than ever” (p. 192-193).
Wherever you are, find someone of a different culture–listen, reflect, and learn. Talk to people with accents; you are likely to be glad when they share something of their lives.
If you can’t go traveling tomorrow, get Rick Steves’ Travel as a Political Act.
Happy traveling; happy reading. Aloha, Renée
Banner photo: Rick Steves with schoolgirls in Iran.
Call Me by My True Name
–by Thich Nhat Hanh (Jul 13, 2015)
Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.
Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.
I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.
I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time
to eat the mayfly.
I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.
I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.
I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.
I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands,
and I am the man who has to pay his “debt of blood” to, my people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.
My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all walks of life.
My pain is like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.
On March 23, 2017, President Trump signed the permit approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline – where Native American led protests, says Wikipedia, have united environmental groups, citizens, and politicians over the potential negative impacts of the Keystone XL project. The main issues are the risk of oil spills along the pipeline, which would traverse highly sensitive terrain, and 17% higher greenhouse gas emissions from the extraction of oil sands compared to extraction of conventional oil.
On that day, Mekasi Camp Horinek, a member of the Ponca Nation, told reporter Alleen Brown:
“I want to say thank you to the president for all the bad decisions that he’s making — for the bad cabinet appointments that he’s made and for awakening a sleeping giant. People that have never stood up for themselves, people that have never had their voices heard, that have never put their bodies on the line are now outraged. I would like to say thank you to President Trump for his bigotry, for his sexism,
[for his attacks on our environment, for his support of gun rights over the rights of our children to be safe in schools, for his attacks on immigrants – in this country that is filled with people whose ancestors came as immigrants, for snubbing our Allies and becoming cozy with ruthless dictators, for celebrating hate and disrespect, for filling the pockets of the richest from the suffering of the poorest, . . .]
for bringing all of us in this nation together to stand up and unite”
From: Naomi Klein’s NO IS NOT ENOUGH: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need, p. 190-191.
Let’s stand together and VOTE on November 6th.
Aloha, in light and action, Renée
Ilana Fernandez, Psy. D. is mother of NINE children: seven step-children and two biological! She has experience raising children, “the best training of all.” Plus she earned a Doctorate of Psychology, practices psychotherapy, gives parenting classes and workshops, and trains other professions. Dr. Fernandez has written the best parenting book I have ever read. IF KIDS CAME WITH INSTRUCTIONS STEP #1 WOULD BE CHERISH YOUR CHILD EACH DAY IN SOME WAY has many practical and inspiring guidelines.
One of my favorite ideas is “Peace Talks.”
Ilana notes, “One of the more effective techniques I learned about helping children learn how to solve their own problems in a non-violent way was from a tape that my mom sent me from Canada by a parent educator named Barbara Calarosa. . . . I’ve come to call it peace talks. It is worth explaining to children that it is very much like what our world leaders do when they come together to solve their conflicts with one another.
- Siblings or fighting peers sit in chairs facing one another just out of kicking or reaching range. [Ilana’s experience with children shines through here].
- The main rule is neither person can get up from the chair until the other person says they can. This forces them to reach a consensus that they have at least made peace for the time being, if not an agreement.
- Usually one person is especially mad and they swear they aren’t going to let the other person up. Comments like “you can sit there until your face falls off for all I care” are common. The hitch is they can’t get up either until they let the person up. This leads, invariably, to a discussion of what the real problem is beneath the anger.
- They learn to communicate and problem solve and they are forced to listen and be heard by the other person. . . .
Hash it out until each is ready to let the other person up. You can at least model respectful language and talking from the heart” (129-131).
You can find out more about Dr. Ilana Fernandez at https://www.mauimetamorphosis.com/
Aloha – in peace & light, Renée
The small book by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles shares advice from the residents of the Japanese village with the highest percentage of 100-year-olds in the world. In addition to the wisdom about purposeful, active, shared lives of these seniors, the authors note the importance of the Japanese concepts of wabi-sabi and ichi-go ichi-e.
“Wabi-sabi is a Japanese concept that shows us the beauty of the fleeting, changeable, and imperfect nature of the world around us. Instead of searching for beauty in perfection, we should look for it things that are flawed, incomplete.
This is why the Japanese place such value, for example, on an irregular or cracked teacup. Only things that are imperfect, incomplete, and ephemeral can truly be beautiful, because only those things resemble the natural world.
A complementary Japanese concept is that of ichi-go ichi-e, which could be translated as ‘This moment exists only now and won’t come again.’ It is heard most often in social gatherings as a reminder that each encounter –whether with friends, family, or strangers–is unique and will never be repeated, meaning that we should enjoy the moment and not lose ourselves in worries about the past or the future.
The concept is commonly used in tea ceremonies, Zen meditation, and Japanese martial arts, all of which place emphasis on being present in the moment.
In the West, we’ve grown accustomed to the permanence of the stone buildings and cathedrals of Europe, which sometimes gives us the sense that nothing changes, making us forget about the passage of time. Greco-Roman architecture adores symmetry, sharp lines, imposing facades, and buildings and statues of the gods that outlast the centuries.
Japanese architecture, on the other hand, doesn’t try to be imposing or perfect, because it is built in the spirit of wabi-sabi. The tradition of making structures out of wood presupposes their impermanence and the need for future generations to rebuild them. Japanese culture accepts the fleeting nature of the human being and everything we create.
The Grand Shrine of Ise, for example, has been rebuilt every twenty years for centuries. The most important thing is not to keep the building standing for generations, but to preserve customs and traditions–things that can withstand the passage of time better than structures made by human hands.
The key is to accept that there are certain things over which we have no control, like the passage of time and the ephemeral nature of the world around us.
Ichi-go ichi-e teaches us to focus on the present and enjoy each moment that life brings us. This is why it is so important to find and pursue our ikigai [a meaning and purpose in life that keeps you busy or as the New York Post says, “ ikigai is the art of doing something—and doing it with supreme focus and joy”].
Wabi-sabi teaches us to appreciate the beauty of imperfection as an opportunity for growth” . . .
One step in lasting longer and being happier in your life is –
“Get rid of the things that make you fragile . . .
Ask yourself: What makes me fragile? Certain people, things, and habits generate losses for us and make us vulnerable. Who and what are they?
When we make our New Year’s resolutions, we tend to emphasize adding new challenges to our lives. It’s great to have this kind of objective, but setting ‘good riddance’ goals can have an even bigger impact. For example:
- Stop snacking between meals
- Eat sweets only once a week
- Gradually pay off all debt
- Avoid spending time with toxic people
- Avoid spending time doing things we don’t enjoy, simply because we feel obligated to do them
- Spend no more than twenty minutes on Facebook per day.
To build resilience into our lives, we shouldn’t fear adversity, because each setback is an opportunity for growth. If we adopt an antifragile attitude, we’ll find a way to get stronger with every blow, refining our lifestyle and staying focused on our ikigai.
Taking a hit or two can be viewed as either a misfortune or an experience that we can apply to all areas of our lives, as we continually make corrections and set new and better goals. As Taleb writes in Antifragile, ‘We need randomness, mess, adventures, uncertainty, self-discovery, near traumatic episodes, all these things that make life worth living.’ . . .
Life is pure imperfection, as the philosophy of wabi-sabi teaches us, and the passage of time shows us that everything is fleeting, but if you have a clear sense of your ikigai, each moment will hold so many possibilities that it will seem almost like an eternity” (p. 172-179).
No matter your age, Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life is likely to give you useful ideas on how to lead a good life.
“[T]he Count had opted for the life of the purposefully unrushed. Not only was he disinclined to race toward some appointed hour—disdaining even to wear a watch—he took the greatest satisfaction when assuring a friend that a worldly matter could wait in favor of a leisurely lunch or a stroll along the embankment. . . .
When all was said and done, the endeavors that most modern men saw as urgent (such as appointments with bankers and the catching of trains), probably could have waited, while those they deemed frivolous (such as cups of tea and friendly chats) had deserved their immediate attention” (391).
From: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (I recommend this well-written novel)
Take time for a friend today – and make time for a good book too. Fulfilling these two resolutions each day will likely result in a wonderful 2018.
Happy New Year.
“There are three ways,” says Deepak Chopra, “to break down old conditioning:
— reflection, contemplation, and meditation. Their power increases in that order. . . .
Reflection–taking a second look at old habits, beliefs, and assumptions.
Contemplation–focusing on a thought or image until it expands as far as it can.
Meditation–finding the level of the mind that isn’t conditioned.
From: Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul, p. 59-60.
Meditating can elevate us out of old, negative patterns.
Take the time. Do it.
Photos in Bali by RR
In this year when so much seems out of control – earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, floods, a mass shooting by a lone gunman in the U.S., ethnic massacre of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, refugees trapped on borders, two world leaders with nuclear arms goading each other, the world seems more dangerous and full of suffering than ever before. Is there any cause for hope?
A recent newspaper article, an article about a book, and a book provide encouraging answers.
First, a friend pointed me to “Drop Your Weapons: What happens when you outlaw war” by Louis Menard in the September 18, 2017 edition of The New Yorker, pages 61-66.
Menard’s piece gives an overview of a recent Simon & Schuster book – The Internationalists, in which Oona A Hathaway and Scott J. Shipiro, two Yale Law School professors, argue that the Kellogg-Briand Pact [the 1928 agreement that by 1934, sixty-three countries – virtually every established nation on earth at the time had signed] effectively ended the use of war as an instrument of national policy.
The book asks and answers,
“Did a largely forgotten peace pact transform the world we live in?
Please read this article, which is only five – very informative pages (and if possible, the book). Go to: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/09/18/what-happens-when-war-is-outlawed
The second piece I’ve seen recently that offers us hope for now is a book recommended by my friend Melinda who is very familiar with peace activities in the world. She lived in Japan for 18 years. While she was there, she interviewed “Hibakusha” (被爆者). In Japanese, it is the word for those surviving the radiation fallout of 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Last month, Melinda won the 2017 Kellogg-Briand a peace prize for her writing. She lent me When the World Outlawed War:
In this book, David Swanson tells the history of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the law that made war illegal – and offers us ideas what can be done to promote international peace.
Today few people know of the Kellogg-Briand Pact agreement, and the energies of some of our leaders seem to inflame the possibility of war.
“The Kellogg-Briand Pact, 1928
The Kellogg-Briand Pact was an agreement to outlaw war signed on August 27, 1928. Sometimes called the Pact of Paris for the city in which it was signed, the pact was one of many international efforts to prevent another World War, but it had little effect in stopping the rising militarism of the 1930s or preventing World War II.
U.S. Peace Advocates
In the wake of World War I, U.S. officials and private citizens made significant efforts to guarantee that the nation would not be drawn into another war. Some focused on disarmament, such as the series of naval conferences that began in Washington in 1921, and some focused on cooperation with the League of Nations and the newly formed World Court. Others initiated a movement to try to outlaw war outright. Peace advocates Nicholas Murray Butler and James T. Shotwell were part of this movement. Both men were affiliated with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, an organization dedicated to promoting internationalism that was established in 1910 by leading American industrialist Andrew Carnegie.
With the influence and assistance of Shotwell and Butler, French Minister of Foreign Affairs Aristide Briand proposed a peace pact as a bilateral agreement between the United States and France to outlaw war between them. Particularly hard hit by World War I, France faced continuing insecurity from its German neighbor and sought alliances to shore up its defenses. Briand published an open letter in April of 1927 containing the proposal. Though the suggestion had the enthusiastic support of some members of the American peace movement, U.S. President Calvin Coolidge and Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg were less eager than Briand to enter into a bilateral arrangement. They worried that the agreement against war could be interpreted as a bilateral alliance and require the United States to intervene if France was ever threatened. To avoid this, they suggested that the two nations take the lead in inviting all nations to join them in outlawing war.
The extension of the pact to include other nations was well-received internationally. After the severe losses of the First World War, the idea of declaring war to be illegal was immensely popular in international public opinion. Because the language of the pact established the important point that only wars of aggression – not military acts of self-defense – would be covered under the pact, many nations had no objections to signing it. If the pact served to limit conflicts, then everyone would benefit; if it did not, there were no legal consequences. In early 1928, negotiations over the agreement expanded to include all of the initial signatories. In the final version of the pact, they agreed upon two clauses: the first outlawed war as an instrument of national policy and the second called upon signatories to settle their disputes by peaceful means.
On August 27, 1928, fifteen nations signed the pact at Paris. Signatories included France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Belgium, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Italy and Japan. Later, . . . the pact was eventually signed by most of the established nations in the world. The U.S. Senate ratified the agreement by a vote of 85–1, though it did so only after making reservations to note that U.S. participation did not limit its right to self-defense or require it to act against signatories breaking the agreement.”
Besides giving the history of the Pact, Swanson suggests, “We should learn to support multiple strategies (Outlawry, referendum power, disarmament, etc.) without framing each as the rival or enemy of the others. Here are some [aimed mainly at the U.S. but many could apply to other countries too]:
- Cut a half a trillion dollars out of the $1.2 trillion national security budget, putting half of it into tax cuts for non-billionaires, and half of it into useful spending on green energy, education, retraining for displaced military=industrial workers, etc.
- Bring the National Guard home and de-federalize it.
- Ban the redeployment of personnel currently suffering PTSD.
- Ban no-bid uncompeted military contracts.
- Restore constitutional war powers to the Congress.
- Create a requirement for a public referendum prior to launching any war.
- Close the foreign bases.
- Ban weapons from space.
- Ban extra-legal prisons.
- Ban kangaroo military courts outside our ordinary court system.
- Restore habeas corpus.
- Ban the use of mercenaries.
- Limit military spending to no more than twice that of the next highest spending nation on earth.
- Ban secret budgets, secret agencies, and secret operations.
- Ban the launching of drone strikes into foreign nations.
- Forbid the transfer of students’ information to military recruiters without their permission.
- Comply with the Kellogg-Briand Pact.
- Reform or replace the United Nations.
- Join the International Criminal Court and make it independent of the United Nations.
We should stop appealing purely to people’s selfishness with arguments about financial costs or U.S. casualties and appeal also to their goodness and decency. . . .”(166-167).
“One of General Douglas MacArthur’s last speeches . . . is still worth reading:
‘The great question is: Can global war now be outlawed from the world? If so, it would mark the greatest advance in civilization since the Sermon on the Mount. It would lift at one stroke the darkest shadow which has engulfed mankind from the beginning. It would not only remove fear and bring security — it would not only create new moral and spiritual values —
it would produce an economic wave of prosperity that would raise the world’s standard of living beyond anything ever dreamed of by man. The hundreds of billions of dollars now spent in mutual preparedness [for war] could conceivably abolish poverty from the face of the earth. It would accomplish even more than this; it would at one stroke reduce the international tensions that seem to be insurmountable now, to matters of more probable solution. . . . Many will tell you with mockery and ridicule that the abolition of war can be only a dream — that it is but the vague imagining of a visionary. But we must go on or we will go under.[My emphasis]. And the great criticism that can be made is that the world lacks a plan that will enable us to go on. We have suffered the blood and the sweat and the tears. Now we seek the way and the truth and the light. We are in a new era. The old methods and solutions for this vital problem no longer suffice. We must have new thoughts, new ideas, new concepts . . . We must have sufficient imagination and courage to translate this universal wish for peace — which is rapidly becoming a universal necessity — into actuality'” [My emphasis](168-169).
From When the World Outlawed War by David Swanson. www.barnesandnoble.com/p/when-the-world-outlawed-war-david-swanson/1106980382/2673297777290?st=PLA&sid=BNB_DRS_Marketplace+Shopping+greatbookprices_00000000&2sid=Google_&sourceId=PLGoP24104
The third piece I’ve seen recently is from the October 7, 2017 Honolulu Star-Advertiser, “Nobel Peace Prize: Anti-Nuclear advocates earn honor,” by Rick Gladstone.
“In a year when the threat of nuclear warfare seemed to draw closer, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded Friday to a advocacy group behind the first treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons.
The group, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons [ican], a Geneva-based coalition of disarmament activists, was honored for its efforts to advance the negotiations that led to the treaty, which was reached in July at the United Nations.
‘The organization is receiving the award for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its groundbreaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons,’ the Norwegian Nobel Committee said in a statement” (A3).
Despite all the news with cause for alarm, in some ways, some very important ways, the world is heading toward peace.
Let’s all be the change we hope to see: support peace and sustainability for all. In peace and light,
Ideas do matter – and, of course, our actions. Aloha, Renée
Recently at a Friends’ meeting, Kate and Marv reminded me of The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. Published in 1997, the book is a personal growth classic. Amazon says, The Four Agreements “reveal the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering. Based on ancient Toltec wisdom, The Four Agreements offer a powerful code of conduct that can rapidly transform our lives to a new experience of freedom, true happiness, and love.”
Image from: https://www.facebook.com/donMiguelRuiz/
The Four Agreements offer good guidelines for our lives.