Unless you have deliberately turned off every last electronic device in your house, you’ve probably heard about Richard Dawkins’ embarrassing slip up this week.
On radio 4, he’d been championing a poll run by his organization, The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, which showed that many people who call themselves Christian do not believe in some of the most basic of Christian doctrines, read the Bible or go to church.
In 2007, my husband Bryan and I paid a visit to Liverpool as guests of Phil and Rosa Hughes. Phil, a homeopath, had asked me to speak in front of his group, but couldn’t afford to pay me my usual speaking fee. I told him that I’d do it for a barter: show us two diehard Beatles fans where John, Paul, George and Ringo first rocked, and I’ll throw in your conference keynote, essentially for free.
During our a Magical Mystery Tour through Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields and the Cavern Club, we heard about Rosa’s journey after developing a golf-ball-sized tumor in one breast.
For three-plus months I’ve been patiently waiting for numbers, hoping there would be fewer of them than usual.
The numbers to which I’m referring comprise the casualty statistics of the fallen in Afghanistan among both civilians and the military from the combined forces.
Last week during his State of the Union address, President Obama spoke about the need of all Americans (but most particularly those in Congress) to ignore their differences and work together on ‘the mission’ – putting America back together again.
Recently, I discovered some fascinating brain evidence, which bolsters the idea that the most constructive thing we can do to connect with people across deep ideological divides during these tough times is to quietly sit together, meditating on neutral topics, but all thinking common thoughts.
I am watching the extraordinary spectacle of the American presidential nomination with nothing less than astonishment. Here we are in 2012, beset with crises on every front – banking crises, terrorist crises, sovereign-debt crises, climate-change crises, energy crises, food crises, ecological crises – during very year the Mayans warned would mark cataclysmic change, and the best we can come up with as candidates for US President is a rogue’s gallery of business-as-usual opportunists, corporate flunkies and scaredy cats.
Thank you all for the wonderful comments last week. Many people made fantastic suggestions for our community activism, including ideas for new Intention Experiments on the large corporations or banks. Others bemoaned the fact that we are passive because we’re all just shell-shocked on account of the abrupt and savage end to our comfortable way of life, or the sheer enormity of the tasks involved in fixing our world.
Tell this to 96-year-old Grace Boggs.
Grace is the quintessential story of how to make lemonade from lemons. A first generation American from Chinese immigrants, she went to college and then earned a Ph.D in philosophy at Bryn Mawr in th 1940s largely because the anti-Oriental prejudice of the time made it impossible for her to get a job.
The old hippy in me is cringing. For this historic New Year of 2012, I’m surveying the state of things in the West, particularly in America, and wondering what’s been in the Kool-Aid, particularly the variety that the American left has been drinking. What on earth ever happened to public outrage? Or protest? Or any sense of anger translating into action?
The figures continue to be bad around the world. By way of example, the latest American figures show that half of all Americans are struggling to get by on low incomes. The financial markets continue to worsen, soon to eclipse those of the 1930s. Millions of people have been turfed out of their homes, surrounding homeowners have lost $1.86 trillion in home value, 13 million people are out of work, and the collective wealth of American households has dropped by $16 trillion.
Last week the journalist Christopher Hitchens died. Thousands of column inches have been written about Hitch – brilliant journalist, iconoclast and, most noisily, atheist. For Hitch, like Richard Dawkins, was a bully atheist – not simply a non-believer, but an anti-theist, desirous of crushing the all notions of faith in anything other than what has been scientifically ‘proven.’
Although I found many of Hitch’s ideas about organized religion and religious myth refreshingly contrarian, like many atheists, Hitch confused religion with belief in the divine or indeed a sense of the spirit. To him all spiritual or religious devotion began and ended with literal belief in the white-bearded being sitting on a cloud.
Anyone who believes that the Occupy Movement is a ragtag batch of hippies who have had their day now that the police are cracking down had better look again both at the churches, the civil rights leaders and religious leaders now joining in the fray.
Yesterday, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, veteran of four decades of civil rights protest, showed up at Occupy London’s headquarters at St. Paul’s cathedral, during their ‘Occupy Everything’ day of protests. He likened the Occupy movement, which he called a ‘global spirit’ now sweeping the world, to the civil rights struggles by Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu chose the same day to release a message of solidarity with the Occupy Movement and appealed to Trinity Church in South Africa to house the protesters.
Today, while watching a barn raising during an episode of Living with the Amish, the British Channel 4 series I’ve blogged about earlier which arranged for six British teenagers to live among the Amish and Mennonites for a summer, (watch it here on: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/living-with-the-amish, I was moved by the simplicity of the message and struck by how many our current problems could be sorted out by some modern form of barn raising. And apparently, according to the reaction of thousands of British viewers, I am not alone.
In this episode, the three British boys join 40 male members of the community to do all the carpentry, while the three girls joined dozens of women in cooking a vast lunch for the 80 neighbors. Within five hours the main body of the barn had been raised, and by sundown, the last nail was put in place. But even more astonishing to the teens was the simple reminder, as the Amish narrator Jonathan puts it, of ‘what can be achieved if we all stand together.’
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