My Open Letter to the DNC

 

Today I received yet another email from the DNC — one of hundreds a month that flood my inbox with all manner of messaging. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a liberal Christian Democrat independent voting my conscience since turning 18 in 1980, when I proudly voted for who is arguably the greatest American leader of the 20th century, President Jimmy Carter. In the old traditional American way, I support who I see as the best candidate.

I, too, heard the giant sucking sound and supported and organized for H. Ross Perot in 1992. I even wrote him a letter which he got and read aloud to a crowd in Delaware. Which was pretty amazing. And I designed a bumper sticker which he used that day on his podium.

Likewise I was moved by the character of then-Senator Barack Obama. Who turned out the only candidate I supported in 39 years who won.

In all cases, I voted with my heart AND my head, in allegiance to my basic principles of leadership: humility, heart, brains, vision, and spine. These are the pillars of leadership I value.

So today I couldn’t help but write the following reply to the Democratic National Committee. Because I am pretty sure my email reply will go nowhere, I decided to publish it here, on my nearly secret blog. This probably won’t go anywhere either, but I’ll feel better making it an Open Letter to the DNC.

The DNC’s email subject line:

SADLY: BOLD Democrats 2018

Laurel A — are you reading our emails???

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Here’s my reply:

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Honestly?! No!

I tend to vote for your candidates, mostly, but your email campaigns—they are atrocious.

Go study Law of Attraction (search YouTube Abraham Hicks and study at least a years worth of content, fast) and hire better copywriters! Hire me!

Look at that subject line: SADLY: BOLD

Good grief that is the WORST!

Those two words cancel each other out. No energy. Dead. Flat. No momentum. One cannot be SAD and be BOLD at the same time!! Hello??!!

Your campaign needs copywriters trained in drect response marketing and law of attraction. You need to stop saying a negative word about anyone or anything. People are looking for HOPE not more fear!! The DNC needs a heart-centered law-of-attraction-based PR campaign that uplifts and inspires.

Why the heck don’t you hire Barack and Michelle Obama?? Remember 2008, and his Canpaign for Change that ignited the hearts of millions?

I was a City Leader in a red county, outnumbered 4 to 1, but because of our hearts, we exceeded vote goals here 25%.

You, DNC, show all the time you don’t have a heart. Just like Hillary, you aren’t listening to the people.

You idiots were so stupid you pushed Hillary unfairly ahead of Bernie. You failed to cry foul in 11 states that tampered with the primary vote. And so did your candidate. Tsk tsk tsk. With that idiot move, you PROVED yourself just as bad as the GOP — invisible and heartless, ruthless, not listening, not seeing the people, disrespecting not only us, the voters, but our entire system of government. You got right down there in the muck, became like your enemy. Not feeling our hearts. You showed your colors; You are not to be trusted.

And in that, you handed the election to Trump.

I probably just wasted my time writing all this because you probably set up your DNC emails not to be responded to.

Like there is anyone there, actually reading, caring, and responding.

You guys mail out questionnaires all the time, too, that have only one purpose: to raise money. Just like the GOP.

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So there. That’s it. I emailed my reply. By their lack of response, DNC proves it is as disconnected as always. Dragged down by bad leaders, just like the GOP.

Whoever is in charge, hire the guy who WON big in 2008, who is a professional organizer, who can attract the cream of the crop talent: artists, writers, entrepreneurs, and independents like me, to put our shoulders to it, and vote with our heart and our feet. Who will get behind today’s new crop of leaders who are humble, who have a heart, and brains, and spine, and backbone.

Honor, treasure, and shower love upon our beloved elder, President Jimmy Carter! Honor all the good he and his wife has done with his life! He is a living model of every good American value. HE is what we want our children to become. Not THEIR guys!

And for God’s sake, DNC, fess up! Publicly acknowledge the malfeasance, investigate to find all responsible, and apologize for the vote tampering. It is not too late! NOW is the time for confession! Before the next election! Why should we EVER trust you again if you don’t clear that slate?

We’re not stupid, you know. Just hurting.

And you: wise up, would you? Anyone is insane if they keep doing the same things over and over again, expecting different results. If they don’t learn from mistakes. If they don’t let go of grievances.

Don’t be insane. Lord knows, we’ve got enough insanity.

Humility. Heart. Brains. Vision. Spine. Get some. Fast.

Yes, I read your email, DNC. More importantly, did you read mine?

Laurel A. Kashinn

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Laurel Kashinn is a Certified Ghostwriter, Wellness Advocate with doTERRA, author, mother, wife, Orthodox Christian, amd a student of the Desert Fathers, Law of Attraction, and A Course in Miracles. She helps people find their authentic voice and wellness at WriteStuffResources.com and BeeJoyful.org.

Ten outside-the-box campaign reform ideas

President-elect Trump is outside the box in just about every thing he does. Good, bad, or horrendous, the fact is, we’re living in unprecedented times. It’s time we all get out of our respective boxes and think very differently. With a mis-leader who campaigned on breaking rules, we need lots of brainstorms to find outside-the-box responses and solutions. I’d like to start with campaign reform ideas. Not just campaign finance reform– but the entire campaign process.
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First, the costs. It’s not just global temperatures setting record highs in 2016. As of two weeks post election, the 2016 presidential campaign season is estimated to have cost in the neighborhood of  $6.6 billion.  Since corporations were symbolically gifted with personhood by our Supreme Court, campaign spending has skyrocketed faster and higher than the cost of healthcare, GDP, and income, as Time Magazine reported. Unprecedented in American history.

http://time.com/3534117/the-incredible-rise-in-campaign-spending/

Courtesy, Time Magazine.

From the letter to the Spirit of the Law

Inside the box, for years conventional wisdom has been to focus has been on the letter of the law. For a change, let’s look instead at the spirit of the law—it’s overall purpose and intent.
The founders of the United States designed a system to prevent corruption specifically by preventing consolidation of power. Lots of people today are saying we should eliminate the electoral college. But actually, what happened this year is the result of decades of elimination of checks and balances on power, moving us closer to a true democracy, and a direct election. A hundred years ago, there were no primaries. If we eliminate the electoral college now, that will truly be the end of our democracy and morph straight into tyranny, just as Plato predicted. If its not already too late. But that’s another discussion.

The intention–the spirit of our U.S. election process–was to serve as a means of sourcing, vetting, and then electing good, qualified candidates for leadership. That’s what an election in a representative democracy is supposed to do. I’m certainly not saying it’s doing that now. Nor has it in years. But would you not agree – that is supposed to be the function and purpose of our democratic process? In non-Democratic societies, led by dictators, oligarchs, or Communists, where the voice of the people is suppressed, elections are purely a sham, just for show. And certainly that’s what the box we’re in these days is looking more and more like.
But it certainly is not what the Founders intended for us. The founders intended to unite the people, and keep us united, for generations.

Thinking now through the lens of the spirit of finding good, qualified candidates, and unity, as in the UNITED States of America, let’s superimpose a new paradigm onto our country. Just for this brainstorming session, let’s replace divisive terms like politics and politicians Instead of “with or against,” and “us versus them,” let’s use the “with” and the “us.” Let’s imagine we’re all one big family. Family members fight. Brothers and sisters argue. Sometimes there might be a feud, that maybe lasts a few years. But families always stick together in the end. Unless they are super dysfunctional. But since we’re trying to get outside of one dysfunctional box, let’s not imagine another. Let’s picture our nation, for a change, as a family that’s more on the functional side.

And believe it or not, there are such families out there, lots of them.

So how about, in this new paradigm, we the taxpaying voters are the Wise Elderly Grandparents. And our representatives in government—because of how they’ve been collectively behaving lately –they get the roll of our just-come-of-age teenage grandson, Sonny.
Why might the Grandparents say?

“What’s Sonny spendin’ all that cash on?”
“Good Lord, where’d he get all that money?”
“Where did it all go!? “
“Anything good coming out of it?”
“Did he make us proud? Or did he do some dang fool thing that’s gonna cost us more?”
“Where are his parents? What were they thinking??”

So those are the first questions to ask in brainstorming. $6.6 BILLION dollars? Good grief, is that really necessary? Particularly today, given easy access to low-cost, nearly free promotion spaces websites–couldn’t we source and vet good candidates better –with YouTube, Facebook, and LinkedIn? How many videos went viral in the past year — without spending a dime?

Did $6.6B put people to work, and strategically help grow our economy? Did it invest in our future—our children? Did it care for our veterans and elderly? Did it help repair our crumbling national park facilities, clean up lead in our pipes or Superfund sites, or rebuild our ailing bridges, electrical grid, or wifi infrastructure?  How about hiring a tutor to help us with our infrastracture grades —  we currently score as a dismal D+.

 

Or did $6.6B help out the growing number of states struggling with budget crises of their own?

What if, next time, we rewarded the guy or gal who spends the LEAST amount of money on a campaign–and without terrifying half the country with threats of bodily harm and to their families? What might that leader look like?

So, the question next is, how can we improve two things: the sourcing and vetting process of new candidates for elections, plus reduce the amount of money spent. Or use the money spent more wisely, more fairly, and more equitably? Something that doesn’t get the monkeys all riled.


An aside:  Want to stop all the protests? Treat the monkeys fairly. Really. Even monkeys will tell you that, as this 2:36 TED Talk excerpt shows.


In light of all these ideas questions in our brainstorming session, here are some election reform ideas I’ve come up with, for 2020.
Let me know if you come up with any more ideas.

Ten Outside-the-Box Election Reform Ideas

1) Election Spending Tax (EST). Every candidate and PAC gets charged a tax, dollar-for-dollar, equal to what they spend on producing and buying space in the media. (Sorry mass corporate media, after this year’s election, you deserve to lose ad revenue.)  We earmark that EST money for the states, reinstating that back-in-the-good-old-days idea from President Nixon called revenue sharing, to reduce local property taxes.

That $6.6 billion would provide $132M to each state. In Wisconsin, that would amount to $284,483 to each of our 464 school districts. Households in my district of 1,135 students would receive a property tax credit of between $150 to $250 per student.

If corporations really are people, and money equals political speech, then is it not fair that corporations should pay a tax on that privilege? I think a $250 stipend to every student in the country, for the privilege of “speaking” out to influence our elections, would be fair.

2) Set up Sister Districts. Years ago there used to be an organization called Wisconsin-Nicaragua Partners, which instituted this idea. Communities in Wisconsin “adopted” communities in Nicaragua. There were cultural exchanges and charitable giving. So why not do the same for our schools? Here in Wisconsin, there are a number of very wealthy suburbs. How about each of the wealthy school districts “adopt” a Sister District that’s not so wealthy. There could be cultural exchanges with potluck joint PTA meetings, fundraisers, mentor programs, and charitable giving. Let the wealthy district lend a helping hand to give the poorer district’s kids a hand up–not a hand out. Take them under the wing, lovingly, and teach them how to fly.

OK. This wasn’t a campaign reform idea. See what happens when you get outside the box? Other ideas happen.

3) Waive the tax for any low-budget videos featuring talking heads only–the candidate just speaking to voters, on camera, without high-priced, slick ad agencies. Prior to the 1960s, for nearly 200 years, that’s how all our candidates spoke–just facing the audience. Use technology to level the playing field for all challengers.

4) Shorten the election season to 6 months–90 days each for primary and general.
5) Limit terms of office by leveling the playing field for challengers. Establish a dedicated public broadcasting station, mirrored on cable, online, and published to YouTube, and give all candidates free equal airtime on that channel. (I don’t support arbitrarily term limits without including a clear method of recruiting new qualified candidates chosen by the people. Think we’ve had puppet candidates now?  Who will feed the mill of new candidates if we arbitrarily set term limits on members of Congress?)
6) Here’s an idea aimed at getting better quality leaders, who are more responsive to the people, and happier voters. For any federal election to be valid, require there to be at least 66% voter turnout in the general election. If there’s lackluster candidates and less than that turn out to vote, the encumbent admin goes into overtime, and a new primary election in 3 months followed by new general election 3 months after that–all new candidates required.
All salaries in Congress are frozen 2x the length of the overtime.
Maximum 2 overtime election attempts. After 3 strikes, if no worthy candidates can be drafted, the country reverts back to being a British colony, and all federal politicians are immediately subject to forfeiture of all worldy possessions including their homes and cars, requiring them to live homeless and start over from scratch–the penalty for dereliction of duty.
7)  Change the constitution to make our election days fall on a Saturday instead of a weekday. It would be a really simple, 1-word edit. Change second Thursday to second Saturday. Thanks to Bernie for this idea.
8) Automatically register all voters whenever people turn 18, and when they relocate. Another idea inspired by Bernie.
9) Hello. This is the 21st century. Create an online voting system.
10) Require all candidates to have a public LinkedIn profile. Let them compete on their actual qualifications for office, and let them make the case publicly, on LinkedIn. That’s what all the recruiters are using these days.

So there’s my brainstorm of an idea. What do you think?

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Laurel Kashinn is a certified ghostwriter, resume writer, Orthodox Christian, student of A Course In Miracles, and mom living and writing in Cedarburg, Wisconsin.

Breathe. Nothing has changed but you.

Our dearly beloveds, breathe. Have no fear. Everything happens for a reason. Judas long ago played his part. There is only one Savior. There is only one spark of Precious Life, given this world which we all miraculously share, only One Animating Spirit, One Unifying Field, throughout all time space, that beats our hearts, energizes subatomic particles, Unites us all. Only one.

What reason for darkness and for evil? Evil is a teacher. What is the lesson our young child ancestors gifted us with, when they tasted of the Forbidden Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil? What lesson learned by those who looked Evil right in the face–Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Victor Frankl, Mahatma Gandhi, and our beloved Jesus of Nazareth. What did evil teach all of them?

Peace. Is. A. Choice. Peace is an INSIDE job. Peace is not out there. It’s not in Washington or books of law, written by men.

The law of peace is written in our hearts, in our DNA.

Peace is not ever going to come from guns or locks or walls.

Peace is not, never was, never will be–out there in the World, separate from us.

The politicians over and over and over again promise us change.

If we want real change, we must BE it. If we want true and everlasting peace, we must CHOOSE it.

Right here. Right now. One day at a time.

Our dearly beloveds, breathe. Everything happens for a reason.

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10 ways the government works for us

Today on Facebook someone commented that “most people cannot remember a time when the government worked for us instead of against us.”

I was moved by this idea to write about the concepts of government, perception, optimism, and consciousness. Mostly I wondered, don’t people remember and keep the words of Abraham Lincoln, and the founding fathers? That ours is a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people?” And how can people not see all the good things the government does for us?

To me, seeing the good things our government does is a lot like the ability to perceive God. How could someone not see evidence of God everywhere? I see evidence of both a good God and a good government everywhere.

To me, seeing good is like seeing a lot of things that are there, but we’re not aware of. It is a matter of wanting to see something, putting yourself in the right place, at the right time, and tuning your attention appropriately.

For example, we don’t often see bats in the summer, at least in Wisconsin. But there are quite a few around. If I want to really see them, I discovered there’s a roost in an old building next to the Grafton Public library where I used to work. Go to the parking lot at dusk any night all summer long, and see hundreds of bats coming out of their roost at night. It’s quite spectacular. Another example is looking through a microscope to see tiny lifeforms, invisible to the naked eye. Or using a telescope at night to see details on the surface of the moon we just can’t perceive without help.

Or even just becoming aware or conscious of something you never noticed before, can help you see it. For example, before I test drove and then bought a Honda CRV, I had never seen one before. But after I became aware of them—amazingly—I saw them everywhere!

We also have to engage our will to see things, too. We have to want to see things. One can look at a partially-filled glass and call it half empty, or half full. We make such choices. And it is purely a matter of choice.

So for those who say the government does nothing for us, really? Is that true? Or is it that you’re just not perceiving things correctly?

I decided to started a list of things I can see that government does for me. Below are just 10 things I can think of off the top of my head.

  1. My ability to read, do math, have understanding of lots of subjects—all courtesy of the fine education I received at Wauwatosa Public Schools and the University of Wisconsin system. I had an excellent education in public schools: primary, secondary, and college
  2. The Internet. Public academic institutions attempting to share information developed the first internet.
  3. My favorite radio station I listen to daily, which is WUWM-FM. If not for FCC regulations, turning on a radio station would be a mass of noise.
  4. Traveling safely on the roads. From speed limits to stop signs, rules of the road and police officers, I might have crashed and died long ago
  5. My ability to worship freely—and in a building exempt from taxes. Our government guarantees my freedom to worship — something we take for granted in this country.
  6. A clean healthy home and yard thanks to garbage pickup. Imagine if there were no garbage trucks to pick up our waste. It would get pretty smelly and we’d get pretty sick.
  7. A safe house that doesn’t fall apart on me. Thanks to building codes, permits, licenses, and inspectors—and people cooperating with them all—our homes don’t fall apart in the wind and keep us dry in the rain.
  8. Mail delivery. Wish it was still the Pony Express sometimes (I just love horses) but I’m very grateful for the ability to send and receive mail.
  9. Roads kept paved and clean of snow, ice, leaves, trash, and dead animals (imagine the graveyard our highways would be if no one ever picked up roadkill!)
  10. Laws that make it very easy to start a small business and that reduce my tax overhead. Think we’ve got red tape? You should hear how much harder it is in other countries. A friend from Germany heightened my consciousness to how easy we have it here. Again, half full, or half empty?

Anything you can add to this list, of things government does for us?believed-by-the-masses-plato-daily-quotes-sayings-pictures

“In the Image and Likeness of God – The Human Person in Orthodox Spirituality” a Lecture by Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware)

MILWAUKEE–This week I had the privilege to attend a lecture at Marquette University by one of the most preeminent authors, scholars, and theologians of our generation: His Eminence, the Most Reverend Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia, MA, D.Phil, titular metropolitan of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Great Britain.

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With his bishop’s hat, flowing robes, scraggly white beard, and distinctive British accent, this esteemed professor emeritus at Oxford could surely be mistaken for a Defense-Against-the-Dark-Arts instructor at Hogwarts. (To see what I mean, check out this interview with Metropolitan Kallistos on the Philokalia.)

A prolific theologian, many would count him a worthy candidate for eventual sainthood, possibly even of the kind called Equal-to-the-Apostles.

Like every Orthodox bishop I have ever met, his warmth, grace, and above all, humility was most noticeable. He’s very down to earth. What brought him to Milwaukee? Word has it His Eminence was drawn to view the collection housed at Marquette of the original manuscripts and writings of his esteemed Oxford predecessor, J.R.R. Tolkien. Thanks to Marquette for that! The Metropolitan gave us much to think about and mediate upon, particularly as we are about to embark upon our inner journey through Lent.

Given the state of the world “out there” today, our collective prayerful journey through the Lenten desert “in here” in 2016 may well be one of the most crucial, or perhaps most meaningful, of our lives. May our prayers bear much fruit.

Lenten Meditation: In the Image and Likeness of God

In Orthodoxy, we learn to hold our hand in a very specific way to make the sign of the Cross. Join together index, middle finger and thumb, to represent the holy Trinity. Fourth finger and pinkie, folded down into the palm, represents the dual nature of Christ as both fully God and fully human.

 

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Meditate upon this: three fingers together represent the Trinity, two fingers represent Christ’s dual nature, fully man and fully God–and our own true nature as well.

This theological symbol we make using our own hand could summarize Metropolitan Kallistos Ware’s lecture.

Paradoxical Duality

Like Christ’s paradox of being both fully human and fully God, Kallistos pointed out how we human beings, too, are full of paradoxical duality. Humankind embodies both hope and disappointment, frailty and strength, beauty and ugliness, “Godlike apprehension and the quintessence of dust,” he said. We are both earthly and heavenly, temporal and immortal, spirit and flesh. In theological terms, we know from Genesis that we are made “in the image and likeness of God,” while formed out of dust. Grounded in the earth, “our personhood reaches out into infinity and into eternity.”  This paradoxical duality causes us human beings to be a mystery–to our very selves.

Even though we may know we are “‘made in the image and likeness of God,’ we understand only a very small part of our personhood,” said Kallistos. “We don’t understand ultimate fulfillment. We don’t yet know what we will be. And so we ask ‘Who am I? What am I?’” Perennially, in every generation.

Human beings are born with a sense of needing something. We are driven to find it. It is like we’re born as a puzzle with a missing piece. There is always a sense of something missing, which drives us to go out and seek for something: a yearning for fulfillment.

Kallistos’ comment parallels a core teaching in  A Course in Miracles, how there is really only one problem in life –separation from God–we often go looking in the wrong places to find the solution. It might be relationships. It might be material wealth. It might be adventure, a good time, a sense of wonder. It might be creating a life of comfort around us, in which we feel physically safe—which we do by accumulating wealth or power. Or it might be investing our lives in something more than ourselves—raising our children, or contributing to a cause.

Yet none of these truly, deeply satisfy. When we chase things and power—we always seem to need more. When we seek fulfillment in others, they all seem to leave us, eventually: if they don’t let us down, they grow up and move way, or they die. When we seek wealth and power, we find it never lasts: the more we have, the less safe and more vulnerable we feel, and we never can take it with us. And though we may devote our lives to a “cause,” often that cause is never truly fixed, but continues on past our time here.

The only way to find that missing piece of the puzzle—to fully know ourselves—is through getting to know God.

“We have within us a God-shaped hole,” Kallistos said. “Only when it is filled can we become fully human.

‘You see, the two questions, ‘what is God?’ and ‘what is man?’ are intimately connected. It is only when we look into the depths of our hearts: it is there that we find God, reflected back to us. Self-knowledge and God-knowledge are utterly co-dependent. If you know yourself, you will know God. And if you know God, you will know yourself.”

In the image of God is the image of the Trinity, and the image of Christ, Kallistos explained. Quoting Charles Williams, he said: “It is not good for God to be alone.” God is three persons in relationship, loving one another, in an interpersonal way:  “not just a unit, but a union,” he said. God is communion. God is a relational being. God is social and dialogic. God is self-giving: sharing, reciprocal, responsive, and in solidarity.

We are formed in this same image and likeness. We, too, are social, relational beings, sharing, reciprocal, responsive, and in solidarity. Dialogic means two persons in communication with one another. “It means ‘I need you in order to be myself.’”

“I need you in order to be myself.”

I understand this idea very well. I was born into a wonderful, loving, kind, generous–yet flawed–family. Like so many families, mine suffered some kind of breakdown in structure long before I was born, leaving it bereft of stable emotional support structures. Emoting was just not safe. Love was conditional: fail to behave properly, and love was withheld.

For many years I suffered the consequences of conditional love: self-loathing, low esteem, self-harm, depression, suicidal thoughts. Thank God, my one attempt at suicide was very lame and I failed.

Psychologist Frank Dance described growth in human communication from birth on to traverse a spiral shape like a helix. At birth we are the center of our universe: there is only us and our needs. We cry, and God in the form of our mother meets our needs. We think we cause everything. As we start to move higher and see farther, we realize we share this world and live in the context of others: family, parents, siblings, cousins, extended family, neighborhood, city, state, planet. We circle back around, reflecting upon our past experiences while moving forward, higher up in an ever-enlarging circle. We learn that are NOT the center, we are not alone, who we are affects others, they affect us, and so forth.

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With each passing experience, our circle of experience grows bigger and we rise higher. Only by interacting with others do we see ourselves: our gifts, our talents, our abilities, within a context of a social structure. As we come around to higher levels we develop the ability to empathize: to imagine ourselves in someone elses’ shoes, feel what they feel. We develop perspective, empathy, and compassion.

But for some of us who grow up with conditional love, movement forward along the growth track can feel like an electric shock. Perhaps because of abuse, neglect, or addiction, we stop moving forward. We recoil. We put on thick gloves and shields. We build a wall. We, in essence, get stuck at a developmental stage of feeling like we are at the center of the universe. The world “out there” is going to harm us, and we have to defend ourselves, put up walls.

That was the kind of family I grew up in, emotionally. Lots of walls.

Then I had the transformative experience Metropolitan Kallistos described:  “I need you in order to become myself.”

I distinctly recall the moment. I was in my mid-20s, newly married, deeply in love with my new husband. We spent a lot of time gazing into each other’s eyes, sharing our stories. And then it happened. I saw myself as he saw me: I saw what he loved in me, in myself.  Unconditional agape love: so strong and pure, no matter what I  did, how I behaved, what mistakes I made, it forgives and endures forever. I will never forget the uplifting sensation of the opening of my heart, when I was first experienced seeing my own value, my own worth, reflected in the eyes of another. To clarify: it was not that I was validated by him. My husband did not validate me. My husband was simply the mirror–not the source. What I saw was who I REALLY am–love itself. I saw the I AM that is love, that is God–reflected in his eyes. I AM, HE IS, WE ALL ARE, that LOVE. There is only One.

God’s love. “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.”—John 4:16   There is no love but God’s love, says A Course in Miracles.

That sensation of opening, of seeing that love, felt uplifting, as a revolution completed in the helical journey. I was up at the next level, looking back, and a whole new vista appeared. I experienced level of compassion for my own broken family that I had never been able to perceive or conceive of before. They simply were stuck back there, and did not know about this kind of love! How sad! (I won’t get into the years spent trying to share it with them. That’s a whole ‘nother discussion!)

Our society today is stuck, like I was, in a conditional love. Society needs to move along the path of growth. We have all suffered so much hurt, so much abuse, so much pain, many of us frozen in fear, are afraid to love, afraid to move on, afraid to trust, afraid to fall, afraid to let go.

A wonderful anthem for this generation:  Let It Go!  Good Lord: help us let it go! (Queue up Disney.)

Here is the point: as tightly as we cling to our fears, that does not stop the unconditional love from being there, right here, right now, right before our eyes. Love is eternal. It has and always will exists. Remember: death was overcome! John 8:51. Why hold on to fear? What is needed is to open our eyes, to simply be able to perceive God which is love. In order to perceive it, we must seek mirrors — those who reflect that love back to us. We must become mirrors ourselves: we must look deeply and with love into the eyes of anyone and everyone with whom we interact, and reflect that love to them, and act upon our love.

An inner work

People make mistakes all the time, every day of the week. Whether surrounded by unloving people, terrorists, or conditional love, many in this broken world go through life alone, with conditional love. We withdraw our love for them, put them in prison, and leave them to suffer alone.

That, in a nutshell, is the problem.

“One human being in solitude is no human being,” Kallistos said.

We are not being fully human when we are like abused children, hiding alone in the closet. We all need to come out of the closet.

The answer, of course, is that we are never actually alone in the closet at all. So long as one child hides in a closet, we need to rescue them, get them out, look into their eyes, reassure them of the truth: What is real is Christ God within us, complete man and complete God, a relational being–that’s Who is real. He is right here, inside our hearts, ready for us to find him. He promised and he keeps his promises. A heart that seeks Him, finds Him.

This message is arguably the most profound truth in all of human history. This message represented a re-setting of our reality as human beings: an entirely new paradigm. It was so profound, back in the day, that it reset our consensus calendar to begin retroactively with Christ’s birth. Look at the calendar we all share. We are in the Year of Our Lord, 2016.

“Christ’s birth,” Metropolitan Kallistos said, “was the birthday of the whole human race. Not until then were the full dimensions of human personhood revealed.”

“Theology is actually a branch of Christology,” Kallistos said, not the other way around. Above all else, “we are to be faithful imitators of Jesus Christ.”

Kallistos issued a challenge to all Christians: we must go beyond simply imitating Christ. “We will greatly err unless we take it further.”

“Let us not forget Hamlet, who reminded us: ‘I have bad dreams,’” he said. “Human beings reside midway between majesty and lowliness. While we are flawed icons, always remember: Christ is our constant companion until the end of days.”

Freedom, Self-Knowledge, Creativity, Growth and Cosmic Dominion or Priesthood

Metropolitan Kallistos encouraged us to consider five points: freedom, self-knowledge, creativity, growth, and cosmic dominion or priesthood.

With regards to freedom, he challenged us to recognize that God’s freedom is absolute and unlimited, while human freedom is limited. It is within our limitations that our freedom is to be found. Don’t worry about shackles and injustice and prison bars. They mean nothing.”You must change your mind about the purpose of the world, if you would find escape,”as A Course In Miracles so eloquently states.

Self-knowledge

Knowledge of self arises out of knowledge of God. What is He always telling us? “God says: become your true self,” Kallistos said. That’s it. Everyone can become their true self. Everyone. “Recognize that nobody is dispensable, unnecessary, or useless. It is tragic that anyone ever feel that no one would notice if they died.”

Creativity

It is in our own creativity that we “bless the Lord….for in wisdom hast thou made them all.” (Psalm 103-104)  All of us are made in His wisdom.

Recognize that we humans are sub-creators, as Tolkien said. “God creates out of nothing, we create out of what God has given us.”  It is in offering what we make of the world, and giving it back to God, that we become truly ourselves. We transfigure, revealing in glory, what was hidden.

For example, God gives us wheat which we transform into bread and give back to him. Likewise, He gives us the gift of the vine, we transform it into wine, and give it back to him. He receives our offering, transforms both, and gives them back to us in the Eucharist. He told us to do this to re-call him back to us. Western Christianity translates it “do this in memory of me,” but the correct translation from the Greek is “do this to call me back.” It is in the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, prayerfully made by our own hands, in a circle of giving, that He comes back into us: his sacrifice was not just on the Cross. His sacrifice continues every week Divine Liturgy–a Eucharistic mystical supper of his body and blood transformed mystically–to keep us alive, spiritually.

Of course, Kallistos pointed out, human beings are not the only creatures to whom God loves and gives his fruits and seeds.

“Squirrels collect nuts,” Kallistos said, “but they don’t transform them into liqueur!” Only human beings can transform, transfigure, and transmute what God gives us into something else.

Growth

“To be human,” Kallistos said concerning growth, “is to be a pilgrim, a journey from the image to the likeness.” The image is essentially our equipment, whereas the likeness is holiness. The journey is “the act of reaching forward,” or as I describe, moving along that path of growth, in an ever widening spiral, higher up, seeing more.

And through all of eternity, Kallistos assured us, “God will always remain a God of surprises.”

Cosmic Dominion and Priesthood

Regarding cosmic dominion and priesthood, “dominion does not meant domination,” Kallistos said. It is always to good to “remember the gentle service of Christ washing the feet of his disciples.

“Christ said ‘I am the One who serves.’ We in modern times have forgotten this.”

“Reflect on the contemporary ecological disaster. To say ‘environmental crisis’ is not strictly accurate. The crisis is not ‘out there,’ but in the human heart. The ecological disaster is a spiritual problem. We have lost sight of our true relationship to the world God has given us. Our human image is grievously distorted. What we need is an ecological change of mind.”

It is important, he said, to bear in mind the distinction between the king, the steward, and the priest. The concept of a king is not popular and is widely misunderstood today.

Many Christian ecologists, Kallistos said, call upon us to be “stewards,” for the world belongs to God, not us. But there is a disadvantage in that view. By taking on a managerial or utilitarian point of view, our egos inflate and we succumb to the temptation to elevate ourselves above creation. How do we prevent this?

“See nature not as an ‘it’ but as a ‘thou,’” he said. “Act as priests of the Creation. We are ordained, through the laying on of hands, to a natural, intrinsic priesthood, that is both eucharistic and doxological. How we become our true selves is to be who we are: Man the Offerer.”

“We must turn the world itself into a eucharistic offering—requiring, on the one hand, sacrifice, and on the other, love,” said Kallistos. “Love is at the heart of the Trinity.”

A commandment of God not written down, Kallistos said, is:  “Love the trees.”

Many criticize organized religion for how it causes us to have to worship God, and to believe blindly. But God does not need us to worship Him. Nor does He need us to believe in Him. He exists whether we worship or believe in Him or not.

The fact is, it is us human beings who need to worship. That is our nature. Whether we worship money and stuff, logic and science, sports figures or movie stars, political heroes or villains–the truth of the matter is, we are eschatological beings: we have a need to worship. Why? Because we are designed with that missing puzzle piece that is God; we are designed to come into union with Him. That is what worship is. Worship is about opening ourselves to Him.

The truth of the matter is, “the human person is a mystery,” Kallistos said, “an inexhaustible mystery.”

A day without prayer is a wasted day.”—Metropolitan Kallistos Ware

“Today is all that we have. Pray every day,” he said. “A day without prayer is a wasted day. Today, make a fresh start in all these things. Show compassion. Show practical help to the people around you. Then you will be a true person.”

I am so grateful I got to hear him speak, particularly now, at the beginning of Lent.

And particularly this year, this Lent, in the year of our Lord, 2016, let us all meditate upon our hand and who we really are: you and I are both made in the image and likeness of God. Fully man and fully God;  relational, dialogical beings. In our hearts we find God who is love. We find ourselves, we who are love, and we become true selves: mirrors, divine sub-creators.

May your prayer bear much fruit this Lent, and may the Good Lord have mercy on us.

Amen.

Are parasites sucking the life out of the economy?

Could the answer to our economic woes be to simply apply a model from nature to our economic system?

Take this example.

I’m building my new writing business from the ground up, one aspect of which is offering the service of resume writing. I came up with several ideas for how I can promote this business online, and went to GoDaddy to secure some unique URLs, usually available for $12.99 a year or less. One had been bought by a URL broker, which they wanted to sell for $5000. Way outside my start-up budget, I took a different, less-usefully-spelled, name.  Then I had an idea for marketing my business and came up with the perfect URL for that. It turns out no one else is using this URL, either, but it has been absconded with by yet another URL broker.  This time it didn’t say how much the URL would cost.  I had to fill out a form inquiry.

Here is the response I received:

Hello Laurel,
My name is Jeffrey G…, and I am a Domain Broker with [brokerage firm].
Currently, I am representing the owner of [the URL.] I spoke to my client and based on many criteria his expectations are $11,000.00. Highly premium domain names can provide the competitive edge your company is looking for.
Please let me know if you would like to setup a time to talk.What works best for you?
Jeffrey G….
Vice President of Sales

What works best for me? Excuse me. This firm buys up the URL for $12.99 so they can re-sell it to me for $11,000. Are you kidding me?  This is right up there with the non-profit which paid a drug company millions in donations, so they could develop a life-saving drug which they then turn around and charge taxpayers millions of dollars for years to come.

Here is my response:

Dear Jeffrey,

Thank you for your response. Please don’t take the following personally, but rather, directed to your field of business.

Frankly, I find your business to be morally deplorable, right up there with extortion, kidnapping, gambling, ticket scalping, futures trading, the drug trade, and the white collar mafia that is the insurance industry. Your “business” supplies no constructive work, value, or benefit to me or to the economy, but acts instead as a parasite on others, driving up the cost of conducting business for those who do actually DO the work, and driving up costs for clients, benefactors, and society.

I am an experienced entrepreneur and small business owner of 20+ years with a family to support. My goals are not to get rich, but to build a new business from the ground up, after losing my prior family business of 12 years which employed up to 25 workers in two states. I simply seek to support my family, pay off our now-bloated mortgage, restore my retirement fund, accumulate savings to be able to put my daughter through college, and cover our health insurance cost. When we had to cut our losses, lay off our staff, and liquidate our assets to pay down as much debt as possible, my husband and I were denied unemployment compensation, despite having paid in thousands of dollars on our own behalf. As the owners, we were deemed the “responsible” parties to our own lay-off.

The true “responsible” parties to the economic “crisis” our country and the world has gone through are businesses like yours, that operate on a model of parasitism, which supply no true value, no real service, to people and the economic system, but simply operate as opportunistic leaches, stealing ideas and sucking the wealth from those who actually DO the work.

Again, please do not take this personally. It is a criticism of the system in which we all operate, a system built and maintained by people who choose to participate in it.

Please extend to your employer my thanks for his “offer” of $11,000 to use my good idea for a URL for MY fledgling business, which he is holding ransom.

Also please extend my counter-offer of $100 — which according to “many criteria” I have, should cover his “costs” incurred for kidnapping the good idea I had for MY business, which, by the grace of God, will grow to take care of my family.

I look forward to your response to my counter-offer.

Maybe a bit harsh, but perhaps you can tell, this really annoyed me.  And it really got me to thinking.

Parasites. That business is truly acting like a parasite. Everything I wrote is true.

I have long been a proponent of the collaborative Deming system of  business management. As you may know, W. Edwards Deming was an American sent to Japan by our government in the 1950s, where he taught the same system he’d used to help our American industries rapidly re-tool to wartime production with a new, untrained workforce at the start of the war. In a nutshell, here’s how it works.

First, assume the best about people. People are inherently smart, good, and want to do well in their jobs. Problems are caused by systems, not by people. Problems are solved by people, making very small changes to the system.  Give people their freedom, communicate, and entrust them to change the system they use in their jobs in ways that improves their ability to do those jobs, and they will. Efficiency results naturally. This collaborative management system was foreign to Japan. But because they were down and out and had nothing to lose, they tried it.  It worked incredibly well and within a generation, Japan’s economy and reputation was restored. This system works because it is filled with the spirit of Truth.

Often Truth is found by looking at things with a new perspective, changing perception, changing the paradigm.

Many of us today — growing numbers, in fact — are down and out. Perhaps what economists, politicians, pundits, and all of us who care, need to do — if we genuinely seek to solve the economic problems which are leading to all kinds of other problems in the world, rather than play the shame, blame, guilt game — is to give a fresh look at our economic system.

I propose we look afresh at our economy through the lens of nature.

Consider the premise that our economic system is an interdependent, complex organic system: our economy is an organism.  If we want to heal our anemic economy, we should start by eliminating the parasites which drain it of its resources, drain it of its energy flow–which is money. Money is the oxygen of the economy.  It energizes everything. When oxygen is blocked, things die. When the flow of money is blocked, businesses choke, flow of money to consumers stops, and conditions worsen.

I could have found some really gross images of parasites, but decided the definition is gross enough.

I could have found some really gross images of parasites, but decided the definition is gross enough.

Let’s digress a moment to talk about consumers. Truly it is a ridiculous notion that corporations are “job creators.” I challenge anyone to show me a single corporation that operates a department of “job creation.”  Instead, corporations are ALWAYS looking to get as much work out of as few people as possible.  I’ve been writing professional resumes for almost two decades, and one of the best things you can boast of is an achievement showing how you did something that “improved productivity:” a euphemism for “job elimination.” Whether it’s bringing in new equipment or software or reinventing processes – the corporate goal is profit – frequently and without regret, at the expense of jobs.  Jobs will only be created in so far as the job produces profit. Companies won’t hire until they absolutely have to.

So what truly creates jobs?  Demand is the ONLY thing that creates jobs. What is demand? Consumers with disposable income are the true job creators – consumers with extra cash, over and above what they need to live on, and which they are able and willing to spend, to put into circulation.

Just like trees give us oxygen and allow us to live, consumers with money to spend create jobs. Consumers are an integral part of the organism. Without consumers with extra cash, the economy dies. In the natural organism analogy, consumers are the different cells throughout the body.  Public sector, private sector, small business and large — diversity and interdependence creates a healthy organism.   Consumers are brain cells. Bone cells. Blood cells. Muscle cells. Skin cells. Even fat cells. The body needs them all. And all of them need oxygen–money–to do their jobs. Smart economic policies support the movement of oxygen — money – through the body – to all consumers. Smart economic policies support anything that enables consumers to engage in spending:  family-supporting wages,  good health, security, peace, freedom to use their God-given gifts and talents. A stable environment. In this way, the whole organism — the economy — thrives.

Parasites Must Go

The truth is, policies and  business can be analyzed for how much they help circulate oxygen (money), or choke the flow.  Smart leaders who truly care to fix the economy will identify the worst offending policies, businesses, and business models that serve to choke the flow, that suck the life and wealth out of the system, and don’t give back. These policies, businesses and business models are parasites, pure and simple. A healthy economy should do everything in its power to eliminate parasites.  Either change the laws and alter the practice in ways that share and encourage flow. Or eliminate them entirely.

On the positive side, identify and support policies and businesses that demonstrate an increase in energy flow to the greatest numbers of consumers and other businesses–as well as to the environment. Protecting the environment is good policy because without a healthy, stable environment in which to operate–costs go WAY up.  Just ask business owners located along the Gulf of Mexico, the East Coast, Oklahoma, anywhere there’s been ecological disaster — why a stable, healthy environment  is a good thing for the bottom line.  Anything that causes mass destruction — whether war or environmental — costs the health of the economy.

Economy as a living organism. Any thoughts on this idea?

Killer vines, vampires, attack U.S. with giant sucking sound

I could hear “a giant sucking sound,” as H. Ross Perot used to say, as I read about the life-saving drug for cystic fibrosis in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (A Charity’s Investment a prescription for profits for drug maker.) With its insanely outrageous cost borne by taxpayers, clearly this was not about saving lives, but about enriching a very few individuals beyond comprehension.

  • $841 a day (for two little pills)
  • $25,230 a month
  • $307,000 a year for the rest of of their lives (and paid for by all of us, either through Medicare, or through jacked up premiums which all of us will bear.)

In 1992, Perot was referring to the sound of good-paying American jobs being flushed down the drain with the passage of NAFTA.

flushing-money-down-toiletThis time the sucking sound is billions of dollars, being drained out of our weakened and faltering American economy, into a private loo, where it will pool and stagnate.

Next time you hear someone say there’s not enough to pay for health benefits, not enough for food stamps, not enough for schools, not enough, not enough, not enough, remember where this money has gone.

Last month, [Vertex Pharmaceuticals] stock shot up more than 60% again, from $52.87 to $85.60, after positive early data from a clinical trial of Kalydeco and another drug it is developing with funding from the foundation. On April 19, the day after the news was released, the company’s market value jumped by more than $6 billion.

That same day, two company executives sold huge chunks of stock options. Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Ian Smith alone sold 745,685 shares worth more than $60 million. Most shares were sold at $81.50, with options purchased from $29 to $39.

Enough money to run a small country, drained from taxpayer and donor coffers, now hoarded by a few, is where the money has gone.

The broken promise of NAFTA was that it would be good for America by lowering prices — planting the seeds for more  jobs and opportunities.  Does anybody disagree, that  that this two-decades-long experiment has failed to deliver? What NAFTA planted instead was the seeds of Greed, and today, we reap the harvest: a weak, nearly ruined economy, immigration and drug wars, and concentrations of power unprecedented in American history.

This latest corruption of our charitable system — a non-profit foundation financed the development of this drug and will reap “profits” from it, which they will funnel back into creating more drugs — violates the public trust of taxpayer and donor alike. This latest corruption is yet another shoot off the Choking Vine of Greed.

Our founding fathers are no doubt clucking their tongues, shaking their heads. It is a disgrace.

There should be a huge public outcry over this story. There should be united resolve by officials at all levels to take swift and immediate action to fix the system, for the gross violation of constitutional principles. There should be a bipartisan amendment to the Constitution passing quickly throughout the land, to correct the error of Citizens United which led to this, and to the IRS non-profit debacle. There should be clear resolve to not make the same mistake again, and reject the pending Pacific Rim free trade agreement. There should be resolve to heed the historic warnings of the Founders against consolidation of power, recognizing how it as an invitation to the Vampire of Corruption–which will suck the life out of us.

If public outcry and action by our leaders does not occur, it means one thing: America is lost. It means our pledge of allegiance to the ideal of “one nation under God, with liberty and justice for all” is broken. It means we have abdicated our authority as the owners of this country, and sold our Republic to the highest bidder. It means we bought an oligarchy, a Fascist state led by giant corporations, no less bureaucratic and bloated than our old government, but instead beholden to no civil authority, but only profit. It means we have bowed down not to God, but to the almighty dollar.

If this is so, then Lord, help us, and our children.

stock-photo-american-heart-wrapped-with-thorns-an-american-flag-textured-valentine-heart-entwined-by-a-thorny-93840139Is it too late? No, not yet. The corporations have not yet taken away our right to petition the government–although they’re trying. They have not yet stolen our voices–although they’re trying that now, too, at the highest levels, and at the state level. We still have our brains, our hearts, and our minds. But time is short. The time is here to stand up, declare who we are and to whom we pledge allegiance. The time is now, for each of us to make a choice.

Do we blindly succumb to the life-sucking Vampire of Corruption? Do we allow our country to fall to the Choking Vine of Greed?  Or do we open our eyes, reach out, clasp hands, cut the vine and renew our commitment to the common good, and resolve to share with one another, and stop the insane drive to hoard it all?  Do we continue to congratulate those who excessively accumulate wealth, envy them, strive to be like them? Or do we choose instead to follow the founding father’s historic “prime directive,” the guiding principle of the United States of America which unites by way of cooperation, fairness, sharing, and not by hoarding? Do we at last, as I wrote about previously, Occupy Ourselves, see our own failings, and join a 12-Step Program to recover from our own addictions?

What we need is to pass a constitutional amendment correcting Citizens United: we need to say clearly that a corporation is NOT a human being.  We need to reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement: just as NAFTA did in Central American, it will only wreak costly havoc for many innocent people and concentrate more wealth into the hands of a few.  We need to restore, renew and rebuild integrity in our government: reject leaders who point fingers instead of fix systems, and who call for consolidating more power. We need to instead elevate those who stand up for individual sovereignty at the local level. We need to support those who value our government for what it is, a gift from our ancestors which gave you and I the power to make this country what “we the people” want it to be–“of the people, by the people and for the people”–not of, by and for drug lords and corporations. We must, as H. Ross Perot said years ago, stand up and take ownership of the country — not abdicate ownership to those who worship the almighty dollar.

Our system of government — as broken and messed up as it is — is better than any other system on the planet!  Don’t destroy the best system on earth– protect it! Restore it, repair it, and keep it safe for our children, as our veterans did for us, for generations.

It’s up to us. As Thomas Jefferson said, “The People…are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”