EMPOWERING YOURSELF TO CHANGE THE WORLD

The Winter Bites My Bones

“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.” 
~ Margaret Mead

terrorism

Each and every day precious orchids wither in the garden of life, and die. They never have the chance to fully bloom. These orchids are the men, women, children, soldiers, police, and innocent civilians whose lives are cut down by senseless acts of crime, violence, war, and terrorism.

We awaken daily to see promising lives and futures swallowed whole behind cowardly and senseless acts of terror and we, the survivors, caretakers of the garden, begin to struggle behind the unanswerable:

“Why?”

grief 2

Each and every day nations grieve after having once more stared into the bloody, gaping maw of death and destruction visited upon their cities: Munich, Aleppo, Damascus, Homs, Benghazi, Misrata, Ferguson, New York, Dallas, Baton Rouge, Baghdad, Basra, Nice, Paris, Grozny…

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REFLECTIONS ON FREEDOM by D.L. McHale

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Zenos Frudakis Freedom Sculpture

On December 10th 1948, the United Nations General Assembly ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration enshrined the principle that human beings could no longer be treated in law or public policy as mere tools of the powerful or subjects of the state, but that they possess inherent value, and must be permitted to live their lives according to the priorities they themselves identify, in so far as they do not infringe the rights of others. This enshrined the definition of freedom that extends beyond international borders and political regimes.

Personal freedom is “the legal allowance to do whatever a person wants insofar as he or she does not offensively harm or coerce other people against those other people’s wills”, and insomuch as the desired end does not constrain, suppress, or deny the freedom of others. Remember, this limitation is a logical requirement. Freedom obviously cannot include the legal right to limit other people’s freedom because that would be illogical. Ensuring the freedom and rights of others in pursuit of what we desire for ourselves is commonly known as the principle of self-control (or “self-ownership”).

Social Freedom expands the concept of personal freedom to include sharing equally and without general exceptions the rights and liberties of one’s fellow man. Taken a step further;  freedom is not true freedom if one accrues such rights and privileges while turning a blind eye to freedom denied his fellow man. Freedom gathered to oneself while others are denied theirs is not in fact freedom.  It is, rather, class privilege. For example, freedom does not include the legal right to enslave someone else because freedom includes the legal right to not be enslaved. In another example, freedom does not include the legal right to non-defensively punch other people in the face against their will because freedom includes the legal right to not be offensively punched.

Freedom is being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint, unless such restraint is in place for the protection of society as a whole, and insofar as such restraints are the minimal necessary to ensure society’s safety and does not excessively limit the human rights of the confined, and remaining freedoms not deemed harmful, of the restrained. Our eyes must always be cast upon the horizon; the day in which our words and our actions restore and enshrine full freedom for others. We must draw from the well of tolerance, acceptance, and, yes….love. In doing so, we find that freedom for which we so eternally thirst.

To this end, I would suggest that it is time to revisit the treatise of Animal Rights. The ascription of moral and legal rights to animals and their enshrinement in a United Nations Declaration of Animal Rights is a logical and inevitable progression of ethical thinking. Inasmuch as there is ample evidence that many animal species are capable of feeling, we should condemn totally the infliction of suffering upon our fellow creatures and the curtailment of their behavioral and other needs save where this is necessary for their own individual benefit and protection.

This 4th, we are all invited to celebrate the current state of our freedom and personal/national independence.  It cannot escape the historical reality that we bear a responsibility to remember those we enslaved and those we continue to oppress as we continue to work toward “a more perfect Union.”  We can never be truly free until we acknowledge the bitter lessons of slavery and the marginalization and exclusion of individuals and groups with whom we might take exception, be they gender, race, creed, sexual identification, or other “freely” embraced definitions of self-determination.  Freedom is the inherent right not only to hold an opposing view, but ensuring holding one’s view is coupled with the responsibility not to impose such views at the expense of the freedom of others.  We must resist arriving at an ego-centric idea of freedom, but instead move toward a definition of liberty that embraces full and unencumbered freedom for all.

In conclusion, it is helpful – in fact it is essential – that we view the concept of freedom and self-determination as an evolving and fluid pursuit.  We have not arrived at, but are on a continuing journey toward discovering of ourselves and our collective values.

It is also helpful to acknowledge that the most important tool we possess in achieving persona freedom is tolerance.  Equality means equal opportunity for all.  It does not mean “the same.”  We are individuals first, and members of a social network second.  Respect for the unique individuality of others should be the unshakeable foundation upon which we build upon and define our personal freedom.

History is replete with the atrocities, pain, and horror of forming a definition of freedom and tolerance for others.  We cannot, and must not, view this from a “Me” perspective, but rather a view always be in a state of embracing the “We.”

Outgrowing Her Shoes…

The Winter Bites My Bones

Photo Credit: Jopet Arce's photo of a pair of shoes Photo Credit: Jopet Arce’s photo of a pair of shoes

She spent half of her life
wearing the same pair of shoes.

When she first saw them, they were dazzling…
full of promise (and promises!)
Tightly laced and polished,
glistening like diamonds upon her feet.

          They were immediately comfortable, and comforting.

At first, she walked through dark night forests
and midnight-winding streets; breaking them in,
smiling at the melody of new leather creaking
in harmony with the violin-sawing of cricket wings,
with the ruffling of the night owls feathers.

          She dared to share her dreams, and danced in her new shoes
          with abandon and trust and hope.

The shoes spoke to her or wondrous things to come…
making promises shoes should not make
but new love demands –

          of forever cradling her…

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Living for Today: Necessary Choices in My Emerging Journey – a Personal Reflection by Dennis

three-roads

Three Roads: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. Which One Shall I Choose?

The reason most people find themselves stuck in a rut is because they insist on seeing tomorrow as an extension of today, and today as an extension of yesterday. This has been the most difficult, and necessary, lesson of the past year and a half of my life. My ignorance in adhering to this faulty belief invited me to voluntarily step into mental leg irons that have no key. It has hobbled me in everything I have striven to achieve, for it is a false assumption and a dangerous one at that.

Yesterday is a story that has already been told. The book is closed. The lessons, oh dear God, hopefully, learned. No amount of regret can change the ending of a story that is now complete. How can I ever hope to begin a new chapter if I continue to dwell upon an ending that cannot be altered? My past has served its only purpose, which was to instruct and to deliver me to today. My only regret, my biggest regret, is that the lesson came at such a cost to another.

Today is all that truly matters. Today, I write the story, big or small, dull or incredible…the words are all there – and it is up to me to arrange them as I see fit. I am the protagonist. Only I can determine whether I turn left or right, whether I move forward, stand still or retreat backward. I have come to the realization that to stand still or move backward is to settle for a weak plot. Only in moving forward can the inspiring stories be written… and written well.

And what of my tomorrow? It is nothing more than a blank piece of paper not yet ready for my pen. If I live with one foot planted in today and the other in tomorrow, all I will have managed to do is straddle the fence of possibility. To be stuck on that fence is to surrender half of the possibilities of today. I have chosen to get off of the fence and plant both feet firmly on the path of “ Now.” The fallacy of tomorrow is the falsehood that I need to “plan for.” Plan for what? All the things I missed today?

This worldview is not clever or unique. I did not come up with it. Smarter minds than mine have been advocating this for eons. I am just serving as the echo of their wisdom. If I choose to live fully at this moment which is today, I have no choice but to surrender yesterday to the sweetness of memory, and tomorrow to the providence of faith.

Beginning now, I choose to immerse myself in the wonder and infinite possibility that is today. I do so with the humility to comes from the sacrifices of others who helped me find my way.

Genie, You’re Out! (or Reflections on the Death of Robin Williams)

BuzP7p0CMAE3_-cI am devastated about the loss of Robin Williams, as are the millions of his fans, and more so by the fact that he took his own life.  Despite all of his money and all of his available resources, depression reached its bony fingers into his life (and dragged him to an untimely death as it certainly has for millions of others.)  Drugs and alcohol are certainly a part of his story, but make no mistake…this is a story about the savage blow of depression.  The pills and booze were only a symptom of this man’s sad demise.  Depression was the death blow.

Anyone who has never suffered from the savage effects of deep depression will find it hard to comprehend his decision to take his own life. Depressed people don’t kill themselves out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life isn’t worth living. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. Depression is an invisible agony that for many reaches a certain unendurable level where life and death are near equal terrors and death becomes a lesser terror than living.

For those who decide to take their life, they spend their final days and hours in much the same way a trapped person  eventually chooses to jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames.  For the depressive suicidal, it’s not the desire of death, it’s the terror of living. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.

In this same way, a person who doesn’t suffer the agony of depression will never be able to understand the torments and terrors suffered by those afflicted. Never. Just as depression is an invisible agony, so, too is the understanding of true depression invisible to those who do not suffer it.

We can, and should, have a conversation about depression, but unless you’ve ever stood on a ledge with flames coming closer and closer, you will never truly understand the agonizing decision to jump.

Rest in peace, Robin Williams..your Genie is out.

If Writing Is Not Your Day Job, Are You Still a Writer?

For all you doubters and haters…don’t be so hard on yourselves…or us!

Waiting Outside of Parnassus

At what point is one allowed to call oneself a writer is a question that I’ve spent far too much time contemplating. When I was younger, I would shy away from calling myself a writer because my writing wasn’t serious, wasn’t good, wasn’t published, wasn’t published in a paying magazine, and myriad of other reasons. I now say that the only thing that makes a person a writer is that they write (something I’ve heard a lot of other people say for a long time before I accepted its obvious truth). As long as I spend a good portion of my time getting words on the page, I am a writer. Maybe not a good one, a successful one or any other qualifier, but I am inarguably a writer, though there is always a little (or huge) part of me that doesn’t think I can call myself one. Part of the…

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