Before I begin this poem, I’d like to ask you to join me in a moment of silence in honor of those who died in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11th, 2001.
I would also like to ask you to offer up a moment of silence for all of those who have been harassed, imprisoned, disappeared, tortured, raped, or killed in retaliation for those strikes, for the victims in Afghanistan, Iraq, in the U.S., and throughout the world.
And if I could just add one more thing…
A full day of silence… for the tens of thousands of Palestinians who have died at the hands of U.S.-backed Israeli forces over decades of occupation. Six months of silence… for the million and-a-half Iraqi people, mostly children, who have died of malnourishment or starvation as a result
of a 12-year U.S. embargo against the country.
…And now, the drums of war beat again.
Before I begin this poem, two months of silence… for the Blacks under Apartheid in South Africa, where “homeland security” made them aliens in their own country
Nine months of silence… for the dead in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where death rained down and peeled back every layer of concrete, steel, earth and skin, and the survivors went on as if alive.
A year of silence… for the millions of dead in Viet Nam­—a people, not a war—for those who know a thing or two about the scent of burning fuel, their relatives bones buried in it, their babies born of it.
Two months of silence… for the decades of dead in Colombia, whose names, like the corpses they once represented, have piled up and slipped off our tongues.
Before I begin this poem,
Seven days of silence… for El Salvador
A day of silence… for Nicaragua
Five days of silence… for the Guatemaltecos
None of whom ever knew a moment of peace in their living years.
45 seconds of silence… for the 45 dead at Acteal, Chiapas…
1,933 miles of silence… for every desperate body
That burns in the desert sun
Drowned in swollen rivers at the pearly gates to the Empire’s underbelly,
A gaping wound sutured shut by razor wire and corrugated steel.
25 years of silence… for the millions of Africans who found their graves far deeper in the ocean than any building could poke into the sky.
For those who were strung and swung from the heights of sycamore trees
In the south… the north… the east… the west…
There will be no dna testing or dental records to identify their remains.
100 years of silence… for the hundreds of millions of indigenous people
From this half of right here,
Whose land and lives were stolen,
In postcard-perfect plots like Pine Ridge, Wounded Knee, Sand Creek, Fallen Timbers, or the Trail of Tears
Names now reduced to innocuous magnetic poetry on the refrigerator of our consciousness…
From somewhere within the pillars of power
You open your mouths to invoke a moment of our silence
And we are all left speechless,
Our tongues snatched from our mouths,
Our eyes stapled shut.
A moment of silence,
And the poets are laid to rest,
The drums disintegrate into dust.
Before I begin this poem,
You want a moment of silence…
You mourn now as if the world will never be the same
And the rest of us hope to hell it won’t be.
Not like it always has been.
…Because this is not a 9-1-1 poem
This is a 9/10 poem,
It is a 9/9 poem,
A 9/8 poem,
A 9/7 poem…
This is a 1492 poem.
This is a poem about what causes poems like this to be written.
And if this is a 9/11 poem, then
This is a September 11th 1973 poem for Chile.
This is a September 12th 1977 poem for Steven Biko in South Africa.
This is a September 13th 1971 poem for the brothers at Attica Prison, New York.
This is a September 14th 1992 poem for the people of Somalia.
This is a poem for every date that falls to the ground amidst the ashes of amnesia.
This is a poem for the 110 stories that were never told,
The 110 stories that history uprooted from its textbooks
The 110 stories that that cnn, bbc, The New York Times, and Newsweek ignored.
This is a poem for interrupting this program.
This is not a peace poem,
Not a poem for forgiveness.
This is a justice poem,
A poem for never forgetting.
This is a poem to remind us
That all that glitters
Might just be broken glass.
And still you want a moment of silence for the dead?
We could give you lifetimes of empty:
The unmarked graves,
The lost languages,
The uprooted trees and histories,
The dead stares on the faces of nameless children…
Before I start this poem we could be silent forever
Or just long enough to hunger,
For the dust to bury us
And you would still ask us
For more of our silence.
So if you want a moment of silence
Then stop the oil pumps
Turn off the engines, the televisions
Sink the cruise ships
Crash the stock markets
Unplug the marquee lights
Delete the e-mails and instant messages
Derail the trains, ground the planes.
If you want a moment of silence, put a brick through the window
of Taco Bell
And pay the workers for wages lost.
Tear down the liquor stores,
The townhouses, the White Houses, the jailhouses, the Penthouses
and the Playboys.
If you want a moment of silence,
Then take it
On Super Bowl Sunday,
The Fourth of July,
During Dayton’s 13 hour sale,
The next time your white guilt fills the room where my beautiful brown people have gathered.
You want a moment of silence
Then take it
Now,
Before this poem begins.
Here, in the echo of my voice,
In the pause between goosesteps of the second hand,
In the space between bodies in embrace,
Here is your silence.
Take it.
Take it all.
But don’t cut in line.
Let your silence begin at the beginning of crime.
And we,
Tonight,
We will keep right on singing
For our dead.
-Emmanuel Ortiz

A poem has emerged in the past few days, in the wake of meditation and inward gazing and listening. Here it is!:

Deep pool, rich, surface trembling, yet undisturbed.
Within a cavern. Slight light, from distant moon and stars above the surface.
Deepest Dark Center, with a cord, a root,
Extending far below, deeper within than can be consciously known or seen.

Beautiful Darkness, rich gentle comforting waters,
Waters, extending far down in the space between the moist rock walls.
Waters, much arises from the depths.
Dredging up, calling, listening, receiving

Journeys over the Earth. From dwelling to dwelling.
Wanting to settle, desiring and sensing MORE.

The Cord-Root deep within, reaching the riches far below,
Connecting to the Path Ahead.
Energizing and Light for the Way.
Darkness and Light as One.

Today, unexpectedly, yet in an oddly familiar way, I have felt called, quite deeply, to solitude, to quiet, to stillness, to purposely NOT “staying busy.” And this is in keeping with today being a Saturday — yet a very distinctive, special one.

In the calendar of the Christian Year, this is “Holy Saturday.” The day between Good Friday, when a momentous death occurs, and Easter Sunday, when a momentous New Life begins. I’ve always been attracted to this Day, without really knowing or being able to explain why. Something about contemplating the space and time between death and life, perhaps. Or, a strange gap, a bizarre waiting, a necessary but unnerving delay. Something happens — but nothing like what happens the day before or the day after. Just waiting, a “between time.”

All Saturdays are like this, in a way, at least in the culture I have inhabited all of this lifetime. Monday – Friday is the work or school week. Saturday and Sunday are “the weekend.” But Friday is a special day in the “regular week”: it’s the last day of work, and the first day of relaxing, releasing, changing one’s orientation — and in earlier seasons of my life, a Great Party Day! Sunday, too, is a special day in “the weekend”: it is already an anticipation of the “week to come.” And officially, it begins the New Week. So Saturday is always a “between time,” a special day.

This Saturday, though, feels quite different. Something especially tender about it. Certain “regular Saturday things” have already happened: tasks, errands, a different time to awaken from bed than on other days, etc. But Today seems sacred, tender, a comforting open space. I don’t have the same relation to this day as a “Christian Day” that I used to. In fact, it feels more sacred for being “less official,” less purposely important.

Even though there is “plenty to do,” all of it can wait. All that needs to be done, will be done. This Special Saturday, there is something remarkably resonant in the passing hours: the in-between, the waiting, the stillness, the silence. As is often the case in a sacred journey, NOT doing, NOT going anywhere (in particular), staying quiet and still, is the best way to proceed. Finding beauty in “simply being.” And allowing the beauty which is present to be more prominent to awareness and attention (sunlight shifting as the sun heads towards its setting; bird songs of various tunes proclaimed from nearby trees throughout the day; the occasional hiss of tires passing on the often-quiet street; sensing one’s breath, sweetly and silently; the pleasant sensation of smiling, and knowing happiness which is rich and ultimately indescribable . . .).

This is a Special Saturday. May we savor each Saturday that brings us such sweet stillness, and enjoy the gap, the beautiful in-between day. A Sacred and Special Time.

Some engage in spiritual work for greater personal growth. Some seek “inner peace” through spiritual practice, hoping to experience a calmer and more relaxed pace in life. Others search for clarity, balance, self-knowledge, or enhanced skills. Still others walk the paths of the Spirit because they have already attempted to travel other roads, and found them wanting.

However, whatever our motivation for setting out on the terrain of the Spirit, we always find great blessings from this endeavor. If there were no results from this practice of watching the breath, being attentive to our bodies, examining and polishing our minds, exploring inner realities, the deep and true aspects of ourselves – our souls – we simply would not bother. But all who enter the spiritual realms know: we experience wondrous things and taste of sweet fruits, beyond what words can describe or express.

Each person who journeys inward, and is thereby able to discern and act wisely in the outer world, receives their own special gifts. Each can testify to their own unique learnings and insights, growth and expansion. And each soul, as it travels the Spiritual Road, unfolds its own qualities and character, its own beauty and truth. The early Christian writer Paul sets out what he thinks the Spirit provides: “love, joy, peace, patience, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). However, though many of us have received these things, we each receive something unique and different.

In our time, however, I have found that, whatever else we receive from the Spirit when we seek it, explore it, and grow from it, we receive POWER. And this is the Spirit’s most valuable gift!

As the outer world’s forms shift, break, and disappear; as what we see and experience is transformed, re-formed, and constantly altered, many of us may feel confused, disoriented, uprooted – and even disempowered. Some may seek money, fame, or physical strength as forms of power; to express power, to maintain power. And though each of these is a kind of power, none is the deepest or truest power. All are fleeting. All are impermanent. All will fade.

The power of money DOES assist us – and in the current economic and cultural structures, it remains necessary. But money itself is only a sign, a marker, a humanly created instrument of exchanging items and measuring value. It is only as real as we believe it to be so, and only powerful when we operate according to its rules. Money has no power on its own, apart from what we give to it. Pieces of paper printed with green ink; circles of silver or copper-colored metal; sets of numbers in apparent accounts in supposed locations – these are cultural constructions, which can easily pass away – and they WILL pass away.

Fame: notoriety, “being seen,” being celebrated – all of us wish to be noticed, valued, and loved. But those who become “public figures,” and seem to influence others through their actions or speech: this, too, is an unspoken “cultural agreement” that people make with “the famous.” All human stars, whether stars of music, film, or some other aspect of mass media manufacture, are always fading stars. They rise into the firmament of fame – and begin their dissolution even before they are fully formed. Fame is an ephemeral power – it cannot stave off change, or loss, or shifts in circumstance. It is truly weak; a false pseudo-power, dying even before its birth.

Physical power — especially violent physical power — whether it comes from blows of the fists of one person to the body of another, or from weapons like swords, knifes, rifles, missiles, or bullets – or the threats to use them – this too is limited, though apparently effective. Physical strength can do great harm to bodies. And when it kills someone, its destructiveness causes great grief to those who love and cherish the one who dies. Physical strength can also do great good, when utilized to build, to defend, to create. But like fame and money, this form of power arises, and then falls away. As the Tao Te Ching teaches: “Green plants are tender and filled with sap. At their death they are withered and dry. Therefore the stiff and unbending is the disciple of death. The gentle and yielding is the disciple of life. The hard and strong will fall. The soft and weak will overcome.”

All three forms of power – money, fame, and physical strength – are useful, when understood and exercised wisely. But they become weaknesses when they are the primary object of those who use them. They are mere things – they rise and fall, are born and die. They are derivative types of power. They are passing forms of the greatest power.

The greatest power is the Power that Creates, Upholds, and is ever Re-making the universe: All Life, All Physical Reality, All Things, All Unseen Energies. Love may be one of its manifestations, but in its essence, its truest existence, the Real Power is deeper by far than any one attribute or characteristic. It is deeper and stronger, more vast and intimate, even than Love.

It is ours. It is yours — and mine – and everyone’s. It belongs to each, and to all, and to none. It is always available. It costs no coin. It never fades. It has greater strength than bombs or bullets, fists or weapons. It is always available.

But how are we to reach it, to access it, to receive it, to shape it, to use it?

It is actually quite simple. As our previous posts have set out, especially “On Beginning” and “On Entering the Realms Within,” all we need is to breathe, become fully attentive to our bodies and surroundings, and then turn our gaze and our attention inward. Look to the place within which is aware of the rising and falling, the coming and going, of perceptions and thoughts. Allow images to arise from our imagination. And go to the source of the risings: the dark place within, the doorway to the Inward Universe. “Darkness within darkness, the gate to all mystery.” It is with us always, awake or asleep, conscious or distracted. It is the Primal Darkness, our own participation in the Unseen Presence. As the poet Rilke puts it:

“Darkness, my darkness, I stand here with you,
And everything passes outside.”

This Darkness, this Source, is the inner ocean from which all things come. Whenever we need power, let us turn to it, stand in it, rest in it, become and remain conscious of it. It is the source of dreams, the place of deep rest, of creativity and command. This is the Power that gives us all other powers.

Careful, consistent, and courageous spiritual practice brings us to the gates, and then the dwelling place, of this greatest of powers. In our inner journeying, we can converse with this power; listen to it; rest in its silent strength; receive its exquisite embrace. Returning to it, we will always discover something new from its depths and riches.

This Great Power will guide us in all our required tasks. Let us allow it to bring to form what we seek, what we need. Let us work with what surfaces from it. Let us claim its beauty. This is the power of the Creator, the Creative, the Creating – our Power, the Spirit’s greatest gift.

Basking in it, we are the Creators. We are the New World Coming. In us, the realm of blessing and beauty and bounty is awake, and alive, and active. “Be really whole, and all things will come to you.”

All of us can sense it.  We can sniff it in the breeze.  We can feel it in the altered ever-changing rhythms of existence; the stresses and overwhelming sweetness of daily living; in the bizarre weather of droughts and floods; in the toxic anxiety of unfulfillable expectations; in a corrupt culture and politics; in endemic violence against the vulnerable.  In an economic system driven by greed and apparently unaccountable executive criminality; in the lack of beauty in public spaces and places; in the transformation of things, people, and the Earth itself into allegedly quantifiable “money value” or “sales price;” all also know that something is deeply amiss.  This unjust decadent unsustainable system, this arrangement of seeming reality, cannot stand.  It is falling apart.  The sound of its crashing echoes in our ears, whether we are awake, sleeping, or dreaming.

Capitalism is ending.  This is not just an economic diagnosis.  It is a cultural and spiritual one.  The “way the world works” which emerged from European feudalism 500 years ago, conquered the world politically and culturally, and now claims to march everywhere triumphant, punishing attempts at democracy and solidarity, killing people of color in the US, Europe, and over the globe with systematic glee.  . . it is over.

Let us sing praises to the Spirits!  The Beast is mortally wounded!  It will not survive.  It is already doomed.  It knows its days are few.  Its violence and cruelty, in Charleston, Gaza, Greece, the Texas detention camps for “undocumented” families, the deaths of refugees from war on the waters of the Mediterranean; in the vast oceans of silent daily suffering; all these are certain signs of the weakness of this Destructive Way.  It is over.

Although the sense that we are in the midst of “the End of the Age” has been expressed in various ways for some time (including street preachers threatening with “Hell” all who refuse to join them in a narrow and fearful worldview), a few recent reflections on war, imperialism, and economics show clearly that all previous forms are unworkable; that the Empire is declining and decayed; that ideologies, whether religious or political, will not birth a New Way; that capitalism and violence are passing.

In “The Superpower Conundrum,” Tom Engelhardt reflects on the decline of the US as a great power.  Though it once held an invincible position as the capitalist victor after World War II, it is now in a faltering and uncertain position in what is often called a “multipolar world.”  With the advent of nuclear weapons, “total war” (as practiced in the 20th Century’s “world wars” by the capitalist powers) gave way to “limited war,” with the most powerful weapons becoming useless, since they would incinerate the world which the rulers wished to control.  Even the use of “surgical strikes” in the “War on Terror,” exemplified most of all by President Obama’s favorite weapon, the “Drone,” has not defeated the current demonized enemy, “the Terrorist,” but can only destroy, leaving more corpses of “collateral damage,” constantly producing more Terrorists.  Attempting to strike fear into those who would oppose being dominated has merely created more brutal forms of response (e.g. Nigeria’s Boko Haram or the infamous “ISIS” movement).  Weapons themselves are becoming useless; even as they become more sophisticated and destructive, they cannot accomplish their stated goal. They only express revenge.  Engelhardt concludes that “military power no longer seems to act as it once did on Planet Earth.  Under distinctly apocalyptic pressures, something seems to be breaking down, something seems to be fragmenting, and with that the familiar stories, familiar frameworks, for thinking about how our world works are losing their efficacy.  Decline may be in the American future, but on a planet pushed to extremes, don’t count on it taking place within the usual tale of the rise and fall of great powers or even superpowers. Something else is happening on Planet Earth. Be prepared.”

What does it mean, to be prepared to live as human beings, in a world where all that is familiar is passing away?

Vijay Prashad’s July 4 consideration of the current state of the “Global War on Terror” comes to a similar conclusion.  Though states can be destroyed (Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Mali are current examples), “Global War” cannot build anything to replace what has been bombed and dismantled.  Even “great powers” like the US or Europe are unwilling to engage in unwinnable wars with soldiers and ships.  In situations of purposely constructed chaos, the most effective actors are NOT armies or navies of “legitimate governments,” but non-state militias like the Taliban and ISIS.  But even these provide no answer; they only offer the violence of revenge against the violence of bombs and missiles.  Neither imperialism nor religious sectarianism is workable.  A dead end has been reached.

So much for Violence, whether by States or “independent forces.” Though Violence can kill, brutalize, harm, and destroy, it cannot create.  Its power is limited, and ultimately ineffective.  War as an economic and political strategy, and the use of the barrel of a gun to express power, is fading.  The Beast is brutal, but its swords are the claws of a dying animal.

On the economic plane, some still see capitalism as the most dynamic, powerful, and adaptive system that has ever existed – and that it will continue to shift and create new forms of power and domination, even as old ones disappear or are themselves consumed by the all-consuming “Market.”  However, other writers, without discounting the current system’s power to produce immense pain and suffering, and without relying on blind or wishful hopes, are describing the current time as one of transformation and transition to “post-capitalist” human existence.  Arundhati Roy, novelist and chronicler of our current terrifying and empowering time, has carved a beautiful description of what we face and what is arising.  “The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling – their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability. Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them.  Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

Paul Mason, writing in The Guardian recently, notes that leftists and progressives once thought a frontal assault by an “armed working class” would overthrow capitalism and usher in a new age of freedom.  But with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the betrayal of revolution’s promise in violence and state terror, and the apparent splintering of the human race into commodities by ever-expanding individualism and isolation, these older modes of understanding have proven untrustworthy or false. However, Mason sees capitalism being transformed from within, by its own developments and tendencies, rather than by being conquered by some direct attack.  Mason sees “post-capitalism” arising from three things, all related to the appearance of information technology.

(1) The line between work and free time is blurred, as automation and machines make production costs fall, the need for regularized schedules and in factories and offices fades, and the necessity of physical labor for survival decreases. (2) The amount of information increases as the Market seeks to set prices based on scarcity.  This contradiction means that the way “supply and demand” has produced “cost” and “value” in the past is no longer workable.  (3) Forms of “collaborative production” are arising spontaneously.  One example Mason cites is Wikipedia, which is run by volunteers for free and has effectively eliminated the “encyclopedia business” reduced advertisers revenue by billions of dollars per year.  Although Facebook and Amazon are monopolistic corporate forms of Internet-based business organization, cooperatives, time banks, and other forms of shared production and distribution (like Farmer’s Markets in CA!) are proliferating, successful, community-creating, and largely outside the dictates and power-processes of “the Market.”

The Market and its servants in Seats of Power still seem to hold sway, though, in the short term.  The recent suffocation of democracy in Greece and the ongoing murdering of black people in the US show that “the System” remains strong, oppressive, and murderous.  And despite widespread awareness that more militarism, more policing, and more austerity is a dead end, which cannot be maintained as a long-term mode of life, there seems to be, in the words of Reagan and Thatcher from a former time of shifts in power dynamics, “no alternative.”

Yet, we all know that the current arrangement of low wages and high debts for the many, coupled with increasing advantages for the powerful and well-connected, will not survive.  Ever-expanding profit and greater uncertainty leads to more burst bubbles, less stability, more disturbance.  And beneath it all, the Earth Herself is responding, calling all who tread on her soils, drink of her waters, and eat of her fruits to come to balance.  Or perish in the wake of floods, droughts, earthquakes, or other expressions of her anger.

Given this situation, when many must seek to survive by earning money at low-wage jobs and taking on debts, which only replicates ancient and false constructions of apparent power, we need to seek New Ways ahead.  But the road into the New World Coming has not been built, much less paved or made smooth or clear before us.  How are we to act, when we know the present is flawed in its cruelty and dissatisfaction, but the future is completely unknown and unknowable, and the path is not apparent?

The first step on the untrod path is to claim the Powers that we do have.  Our own bodies, minds, hearts, thoughts, and energy belong to US!  Though we must sell our skills and experiences as commodities in the “Labor Market” to produce the monetary resources for survival under current capitalist economic arrangements, our real value and worth is NOT based on aspects of ourselves that we can sell.  Rather, our True Worth is Infinite.  Our physical health is not beholden to a profit-seeking “health care insurance system.”  Rather, we are healthy when we make wise choices about food, physical activity, releasing stress, life-giving relationships, and solitude which renews.  The rhythm of our lives becomes the strong and steady music of inner and outer Power.  Whatever our current situation, we can build our own Power  with constancy and care, every rising and setting sun, every moon cycle, every season.  Our own lives belong to US, not anyone else, not any other power or person or institution.

As outer structures swiftly change and many dissipate or disappear, we can become Shape-Shifters in a world of incessant shifting.  Being flexible rather than fixed is essential.  Being unattached to particular forms, and watching what rises and falls, takes shape and passes away, we learn to discern ourselves, others, and arising opportunities for new forms of work and life.  We must be ready to adapt, rather than settle for or accept what IS.  And even if we wished a part of external life would last, it will not!  Change is constant, and its pace is always increasing.

As the stream of life flows by, we must be true to ourselves, our deepest desires and hopes, our thoughts and visions.  This is best cultivated, enriched, and manifested by engaging in creative outer life and a deeply engaged and exploratory inner life.  The Source for all things is Within Us.  Crafting a rhythm to our lives that uniquely balances quiet and sound, stillness and motion, exertion and rest, while being certain to turn our gaze inward to the terrain of Spirit and Soul, we find the best Way to continue our journeys fruitfully.  We can plumb the depths of our Inner World, bringing up riches to guide and empower us, while learning to WATCH the outer world, and respond to it wisely and well.  Some features of a wise person are perfectly described in the ancient-yet-timely lines of the Tao Te Ching:

Watchful, like people crossing a winter stream.  Alert, like those aware of danger.  Courteous, like visiting guests.  Yielding, like ice about to melt.  Simple, like uncarved blocks of wood.  Hollow, like caves.  Opaque, like muddy pools.

Who can wait quietly while the mud settles?  Who can remain still until the moment of action?

As the outer world, shifts, changes, disintegrates, and takes new forms, we must watch, be still, and move, all at the right time – which we will always sense rightly if we learn to discern, grow in patience, and respond from within.

Creativity, too, is absolutely necessary.  What we love to do, most of all, is create: to express ourselves truly, in whatever form or style best comes forth from us.  As capitalist systems of politics and culture destroy, we create – and are creating the post-capitalist world as we do so.  The less we participate in oppressive economic, political, and personal forms of domination, the less energy we give to the fading and dying ways which are unsustainable.  Giving time and energy to creative activities whenever possible, in ways most expressive of our ever-unfolding inner truths, in images and forms that arise from within us and our relationships, rather than being imposed by the outer worlds of marketing and advertising – this gives us joy, and is our contribution to the New World Coming.  It breathes as we breathe.  It takes form as we give it form.  Creating a culture of care and beauty, emerging from our Inner Power and not the fading powers of Money, Markets, and Weapons – this is our task in these days.

We must also collaborate with other Creators.  Those with whom we are meant to Co-Create will  appear for us.  Whether we create music, dance, healing, writing, acting, teaching, learning, or enterprises of shared work — all these forms and shapes of human expression are meant to be shared, not sold as commodities.  As we create, and continue to seek Inner Realms and find rest in Inner Quiet, the Spirits will provide Co-Workers with us and for us.

Finally, we must dare to imagine a different world.  And then proceed from vision to actualization!  Our imaginations arise from our dreams and visions, whether sleeping or waking.   As we act based on imagining the future rather than fearing it, our work and play, our loves and learnings, will bring the New World Coming into Being.  The path is not easy or obvious.  And yet, it rises up to meet us, becoming clearer as we take each step onward in time and space, inwardly and outwardly.  We need not fear the fading powers of the Old Ways.  The New Ways are already stronger.  They simply need nurturing.

Rhythms of Spirit-Practice, providing Power to Adapt, Shape-Shift, and Sustain.  Dreams becoming Visions Made Real.  Inner Exploration guiding Outer Discernment.  Learning and Teaching.  Sharing and Building.  Above all, Creating and Imagining.  Let us proceed!

Here is a powerful witness from my dear Brother and Co-Worker Rev. Dr. Art Cribbs, in the wake of the Charleston SC terrorist attack. Your thoughts and responses are deeply welcome.

When, America, Will It End?

The massacre inside Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Caroline, cuts deeply into the souls of every decent person across this nation. The faithless, unprovoked act of a 21 year old White man during a prayer service is unconscionable. Yet, it is not rare or historically unusual. The killing of nine human beings, six women and three men, including the pastor of the church shatters any illusion about safety on sacred grounds. It is possible the weapon used had been given to the butcher only recently as a birthday present.

The events on that fateful Wednesday night inside the church where the murderer sat with his victims for more than an hour before pulling his deadly weapon and repeatedly firing and re-loading, creates a veil of tears that blurs any notion of redemption. Is it safe anywhere in America for Black people? The church is the citadel of hope and the sanctuary to escape fear.

The precision and execution of the killer’s plot on the terms of his choosing sends a chilling message to Black people: our lives are at risk at all times in all places. Consider the site of this demonic decision, a historic African American religious institution, where its founding pastor, the Reverend Denmark Vesey, was a martyr to end slavery in Confederate South Carolina in 1822. Emanuel AME is a symbol of Black love, courage, and the advancement of justice.

It must be made clear that the threat of death at the hands of racially-insane culprits will not deter our faith or lower our resolve to address the plague of violence that saturates American culture. Instead, we must re-double our commitment to honor the lives of every human person as sacred. We hold this truth that an act against innocent people is a direct assault on God who creates, shapes, and inspires every human person in divine imagery.

The killer did not act alone. There is a source for his hatred. He was informed by others who share his depravation and support his actions. A culture of callous, criminal conduct produced the basis for his deadly deed. We have witnessed these acts before in school yards, a movie theater, classrooms, and in the House of God. In too many cases, young White men pulled the triggers and left their lifeless victims slumped dead in places where they fell.

How long will America perpetuate domestic terrorism and senseless shootings by her young sons? What will it take to change attitudes, behaviors, and minds to transform this society into a haven of sanity? When are too many deaths enough to say, “No more?” Will the necessary change come only after the last drop of blood splatters on the powerful faces of those who have never felt the cruel course of denial?

For now, once again, Black people in America weep not only for our own who have been slaughtered without mercy, but also for the lost souls who don’t realize the blunt reprisals of unyielding evil and insensitive racism.

Rev. Dr. Art Cribbs
June 2015

Having just completed a season of teaching and learning at my current workplace, the process and experience of these mutually related enterprises are more sparkling and sacred than ever. In the context of Spiritual Exploration, especially! Also, a short piece has come to me, by Adrienne Huber, who has run a “democratic school” in Australia. She calls it “The Getting of An-Education.” In her piece, she writes that the school is based on the principle that “regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, ability, background, people who are trusted with their own learning will learn what they need to learn when they need to learn it.”

This is what Spiritual Exploration entails! The learning of what we need to learn, when we need to learn it. But in our current cultural and political situation, real learning is rare, or often happens in a haphazard or even accidental way. The surrounding culture contributes to a scattered and unfocused cast of mind. We often jump from one external stimulus to the next, without intentionally claimed time and space for reflection, inner exploration, self-understanding, or growth.

To truly learn the Ways of the Spirit(s), in our time, does NOT mean ingesting and then repeating a set of information. Rather, we must learn how to watch, to be attentive to time and opportunity, to be ready both to move and be still. But always in a dance with what is within and without us. There is no prescription, no universal principle, no “right answer.” There are only experiences, discernments, deeds and their consequences. Learning the Spirit(s) Ways is to learn how to see, hear, respond, and be still, in an authentic rhythm. And, in a way that brings us Power.

Any school where students and teachers explore the Spirit would go in and out of form. People would gather, in groups small or larger, in pairs, or in solitary self-direction. Books can be read; stories can be told; practices can be learned and explored, honed and polished. Music would be heard and created, dances performed, songs and silence experienced. As the outer world we now know continues to change form, with even major economic enterprises undergoing constant transformation, appearing and disappearing rapidly, a School of Spiritual Exploration would be a “formless form,” with various people sharing skills, insights, experiences, opportunities, ideas.

The New World is Coming. In the hearts and dreams and desires and deeds of many of us, it is already taking shape. It is always and everywhere about SHARING. It is de-structured. But it is NOT about destruction! It is always creating, yet never holding onto a particular form. Responding, supple, attentive.

To live spiritually in and for the New World Coming, we need to engage in two things, it seems. First, all who wish to thrive will constantly gain skills of Spiritual Practice. Yes, there are certain ways to access and discover the Spirit(s). This takes time, care, focus. These things are learned, like the discipline of learning a musical instrument or the playing of a sport. We spend time with certain gestures, exercises, ways of breathing and moving and watching, activities of mind and body. We use our physical actions and the caressing pulse of our souls to shape the time and space where we find ourselves. As we continue in the path of practice, we carve out sacred temples in our lives: sources and locations of energy for making our own Way through the difficulties and uncertainties which are so often before us. A line from the Tao Te Ching puts this simply: “in meditation, go deep in the heart.” All the details of Spiritual Practice are this single admonition, lived out in various ways.

The second is the skill of Discernment. This entails learning how to see, to watch, to wait, to move wisely, to utilize energy rather than to be overwhelmed or troubled by what we encounter. Again, the Tao Te Ching speaks of this eloquently, yet only suggestively, when speaking of the knowledge and appearance of the ancient masters: “Watchful, like someone crossing a winter stream. Alert, like people aware of danger.” This also requires learning to see more than the surface. In both personal and social realities, what is apparent to the senses is only a portion of what is actually present. Discernment guides us to see by looking through the external, to the Inner, the Deep, the Real.

All this takes discipline. Not in the sense of the word’s verbal meaning, to “punish.” But in its original sense, of the ability to learn. Discipline means, for spiritual learners, to build rhythms, patterns, actions, stillness, into our lives, so our own spirit-power is nurtured, made conscious, and utilized, to bless and to heal, to protect and to build. A discipline is a field of learning; spiritual discipline means to plow the fields of the social world, the universe, and our own souls, and live from the deep connection between them. A disciple is a student; one who knows how to learn.

May we look for and listen to the Spirit(s). And find our way to greater learning, together, with the guidance of the Unseen. “Stand before it and there is no beginning. Follow it and there is no end. Stay with the ancient Tao. Move with the present.”