Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanks -- and No Thanks
Some Personal Reflections on Thanksgiving Day
Originally Published, Thanksgiving Day, 2014

"Oh, Great Spirit whose voice I hear in the winds, and whose breath gives life to all the world, hear me, I am small and weak,  I need your strength and wisdom." -- from a prayer
by Lakota Chief Yellow Lark, 1887
(Entire Prayer)

"Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children." 
-- Ancient Native American Proverb

The three day feast that brought together 90 Wampanoags and the 50 surviving Pilgrims to a feast at Plymouth Plantation in 1621 has become part of the Mythology of American Democracy.  

Unfortunately, this idyllic tale doesn't portray the stark reality of the Holocaust that ensued as European colonists descended on this continent bringing with them a harshly judgmental Christianity and the European concepts  of Private Property and Capitalism.

Although the set of Democratic Ideals set forth in the Preamble to the US Constitution reflect humanity's universal quest for a just society, "our forefathers" also brought forth on this continent disease, death, domination, and the destruction of a Way of Life that understood and honored humanity's relationship to Mother Earth, to the Great Spirit and to the Circle of All Life.   The Indigenous People's practiced a more advanced Spirituality, an Ethos of connection and sustainability. Our forefathers brought with them, instead, the Unbridled Greed buried in the belly of Capitalism, and the myopic worldview of fundamentalist Christianity with its mindset that reinforces our separation from one another, from the natural world, and from our spiritual connection to all that is.  Through force of arms (including germ warfare and the power of "law"), the bad guys won.

Unfortunately for Mother Earth and her myriad beings, they still are.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Lest We Forget


(I'm sitting here in tears listening to soul singer Marvin Gaye's rendition of "Abraham, Martin, John" as I write this. )

My fingers were fumbling at the keyboard in typing class that day in 1963, exactly 51 years ago, when the teacher from across the hall came into the room and whispered in Miss Jefferson's ear.

Her face turned white.

The other teacher left and Miss Jefferson broke into tears as she announced that President Kennedy had been shot and taken to a hospital in Dallas.

No one said a word.

Moment's later the other teacher returned. He didn't have to say a word.  His face, a portrait of horror and helplessness said it all.  We knew.  He knew we knew.  Holding back tears, he shrugged awkardly, turned -- and left. 

The unimaginable had happened.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Saving a Real Life Saver

I can't tell you how many times I've been called freakin' CRAZY for believing that Peace is Possible, that human beings are, by their very (Buddha)nature, essentially kind and helpful.  A Dreamer, I've not only imagined "all the people living lives of peace", I've hit the wall and blown a fuse a number of times in my own bumbling quest to help make it happen.

At those time, I found that the systemic  responses available in a capitalist society that is characterized by hierarchy, bureaucracy, great inequalities of power and resources, dehumanizing values, and a very limited -- even unhealthy -- view of what it is to be "sane and normal", is woefully inadequate.  Having witnessed as a child and a young adult the ravages of the prevailing "medical model" of mental health on my mother's life, Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" seemed like Gospel to me. Over the years, I saw the woman who had laughed and sang and written poetry disappear into a mire of constantly changing diagnoses and doses of heavy medication, electro-shock therapy, and institutionalization.

So, from the get-go, I wasn't willing to buy the "company line" about mental health.  In fact, as I viewed the widespread pattern of incessant human exploitation, racism, unnecessary poverty and rampant injustice, widespread violence and warfare, and ongoing environmental destruction around me, I was convinced: society itself is pretty freakin' crazy.

A case in point: The person who sits at a computer screen and launches a drone attack that is known to oftentimes cause the gruesome deaths of innocent men, women and children halfway round the world is characterized as "sane and normal" (perhaps even heroic), while a person deeply disturbed by the such horrors that stands on the street corner expressing their anguish and distress may be subject to arrest and enforced hospitalization.


The Western Mass Recovery Learning Community -- Greenfield Center

When I stepped into the room, I knew.  I wasn't alone.  When a person in the room said "The RLC saved my life -- literally" and others nodded, I knew it was the truth.  This special peer support network of people who've experienced extreme emotional distress, trauma, psychiatric diagnoses, addiction and a variety of other challenges in life felt like a vibrant part of the Real Revolution to me. 

At the RLC, the genuine human relationships built within a community that values respect, compassion, self-determination, and mutuality (there are no "service providers" and "service recipients at RLC) are recognized as a source of healing.  Alternatives to Suicide is only one of the ongoing support groups that meet regularly at the RLC's Greenfield Center.

Free access to alternative healing practices (reiki, accupuncture, yoga, meditation), personal and system advocacy, and other creative learning opportunities (art, writing, improv) are also offered regularly, as is access to computers, printers and other resources available during drop-in hours.  The Recovery Learning Community continues to make a difference in the lives of the hundreds of folks who have passed through the doors in Greenfield and elsewhere in Western Mass. 

Now, the RLC's Greenfield Center's  existence is in question!  A shift in CDBG priorities threatens to shut its doors  -- and we are reaching out for your help.  This is about saving a real life saver!

But, I've rambled on long enough.  My identical twin brother Lance picked up his pen (uh, a laptop probably), and his Greenfield Recorder "My Turn" guest column appears here:

Even Better! Save the RLC's Greenfield Center VIDEO

The RLC's own Evan Goodchild produced an excellent five minute video available at:

There is more, including links to more videos
 about the work of the 
Western Mass Recovery Learning Community 

My Humble Take on the Real Deal

I believe that the movement for peace, economic democracy and social justice is a Spiritual Quest. No mean feat, what is called for is a True Revolution of the Heart and Mind--and it starts with each of us.

This revolution has to be Peaceful. The Hippies (and Jesus and Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. King, et al) had it right. It really is all about Peace and Love. Besides being a total drag, violence just doesn't work. It keeps our wheels spinning in fear, anger and pain. Who needs that?

Besides some hard work, I think the Revolution also calls for dancing, plenty of laughter, and some sitting around just doing nothing. (Some folks call it meditation.)

As Stephen Gaskin, proclaimed years ago:

"We're out to raise Hell--in the Bodhisattvic* sense."

Doesn't that sound like some serious fun?

(*The Bodhisattva Vow is a set of commitments made in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition. It basically says I vow to get my act together and figure it out well enough to really help out--and I ain't gonna stop until everybody is covered.

I've found that doesn't necessarily have to happen in that order. It's best to try to help out even before you have it all together! Like right now.)

-----Brother Lefty Smith, Founding S.O.B*