And now for something completely different…

In July 2009, Jill Petersen and Kevin Heinz posted a video of their wedding on YouTube so that their families could see it – within 48 hours 3.5 million people had watched it.  By August 2011 68 million people had watched it.


Definitely.  But then they did something really constructive.  They used the attention to raise money for charity.  To quote Jill and Kevin –

We hope to direct this positivity to a good cause. Due to the circumstances surrounding the song in our wedding video, we have chosen the Sheila Wellstone Institute.

Sheila Wellstone was an advocate, organizer, and national champion in the effort to end domestic violence in our communities.

We are so grateful for all the love, kind words, and joy that have been shared with us from around the world. It has moved us deeply and filled our hearts.

By October 2010, they had raised almost $35,000 for the Sheila Wellstone Institute.

I wasn’t one of the 68 million people who saw this video until recently – I first saw it thanks to sufilight at Love is the Answer –

If you’ve seen it before you might like to watch it again.

If you haven’t seen it, watch and enjoy!

Really Human

Dr. Sunitha Krishnan has dedicated her life to rescuing women and children from sex slavery.  She and her organisation – Prajwala – have rescued and helped to educate, train and reintegrate thousands of victims of this form of slavery.  She is an inspiring, forceful and committed individual and she has some very specific requests.

She asks that everybody moved by the horrific stories she tells, takes it upon themselves to tell two people of the plight of children and women who are sold as slaves in the sex industry. She asks that we each tell two people and try to convince them to help.

That’s a pragmatic idea.

Her other request is even more heartfelt and if we all took it to heart it would probably change everything in the lives of all children, everywhere.

She asks that everybody give these victims acceptance, support and love.

Not because we are kind or altruistic.

Not as philanthropy.

Not as charity.

It’s nothing to do with us.  We should give them our love and support because they deserve it – as human beings.

As Sunita herself puts it –

Because no child – no human being – deserves what these children have gone through.

Simple truths are the best arguments.

(Be aware – this video is worth watching but know that it is also graphic and disturbing)

Joy Gives Us Wings

Joy gives us wings! In times of joy our strength is more vital, our intellect keener, and our understanding less clouded.

We seem better able to cope with the world and to find our sphere of usefulness. (1)


(1) Paris Talks, ‘Abdu’l-Baháp.184


What is justice?

It’s a hard concept to pin down and even harder to put into effect.

But most definitely worth pursuing.

When we live without justice we also live without –






There really isn’t an easy formula for justice, even within our legal systems. But maybe there are principles we can apply, both personally and in our societies, in our pursuit of justice?

How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust?…To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.

Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr.

A Radiant Heart

A radiant heart is a wonderful thing.

It simply makes everything seem better when we are the recipients of purity and kindness from a radiant heart.

Roots of Empathy is an anti-bullying programme that was begun by Mary Gordon, in Toronto, Canada in 1996. Since its inception, Roots of Empathy has reached more than 450,000 children worldwide.

There are hundreds of anti-bullying programmes but ROE is a programme with a difference – the teachers are all babies.

In the Roots of Empathy program, a parent and baby (two to four months old at the start) visit a class nine times over the course of a school year. A trained Roots of Empathy instructor comes to the class along with the family to guide the children as they observe the relationship between the baby and his or her parent.

The instructor leads the children in noticing how the baby is growing and changing. The children also watch the loving relationship between the parent and baby and see how the parent responds to the baby’s emotions and meets the baby’s needs.  The relationship between a baby and parent is an ideal empathic model.  The children in the classes learn to understand the perspective of the baby and are helped to use this information to help them better understand their own feelings.   This emotional literacy helps to not only reduce bullying but also helps children to challenge cruelty and injustice.

Roots of Empathy places babies in the role of teachers because babies love without borders or definition. Babies respond intuitively to love. They are blind to differences as defined by the world. It is only when young children learn from the adult world that some are more worthy than others, because of some perceived difference, that we see the unfolding of the intergenerational legacy of racism, classism and a host of other “isms.” (1)

There is extensive evidence regarding the success of the ROE programmes and in 2012, the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington, in Seattle, USA, will undertake a study that will include neurophysiological evaluations that will look at structural (MRI) and functional (MEG brain imaging) changes associated with participation in the programs.

There is no heart more pure or radiant than a baby’s heart – we can learn a lot from them.


(1) Roots of Empathy, Changing the World Child by Child, Mary Gordon, p.7

Photograph – Northern Buttercups, Alaska – 1973 – photographer – Dennis Cowals

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What does it mean to be true?

Definitions of ‘true’ include –

In accordance with fact or reality. Accurate or exact.(1)

So, does that mean being ‘true’ is simply a frills-free declaration of every whimsical thought that flits through my head? ‘That makes her look fat’, ‘What a dumb thing to say’, ‘I hate those shoes’.

Or is it something else entirely?

Other definitions of ‘true’ include – Exactly in tune, correctly positioned, upright, level. (2)

Same question then – what does it mean to be ‘true’?

We all have opinions and views  – likes, dislikes, tastes etc – but they are just that – our opinions and views and understanding of the world and not necessarily ‘true’ in any objective sense.

However, if I say something and do something different – e.g. say I believe in kindness and then act unkindly – I am definitely not being ‘true’ because there is a discrepancy between my words and deeds. My actions are – out of tune, not ‘on the level’, not in accordance with reality. Definitely not ‘true.’

Which suggests being ‘true’ is the opposite to this.

Let deeds, not words, be your adorning.(3)

Ticks all the boxes?


Photograph – Mrs. Louis C. Smith – archery [between ca. 1910 and ca. 1915]

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(1) Oxford Online Dictionary

(2) ibid

(3) The Hidden Words, Bahá’u’lláh

All Bets Are Off

Josephine Green works in industry.  She is Senior Director of Trends and Strategy at Philips Design and she is making a great case for how the day of the hierarchy is over.

According to Green, we need to find new ways to be and act in the world if we are to prosper and flourish in the future.  Because of the diffusion of new technologies, ordinary people can now not only consume but also create.

In the past, the structure of the world was hierarchical – basically shaped like a Pyramid – where power, ideas, innovations etc were at the top and the inventions and ‘products’ of one kind or another, emerged at the end.

Now, though it’s messier it is also more democratic, as people are increasingly creating their own music, film, books, social networks etc.  She says that this change is mirrored in the world as people begin to see that they have the power to decide how they want to live their lives.  Which Josephine Green describes as a Pancake model of life.

As we all thinking and talk about the effects of phenomena like social media on modern life, Josephine Green’s ideas offer an interesting perspective on how we might not only adapt to the change all around us but also actually channel this change – as we cease to be merely passive consumers – to create healthier, happier and more just societies.

Have a look –

A Poor Outlook…

The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other.  It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich.  Consequently, the modern poor are not pitied…but written off as trash.  The twentieth-century consumer economy has produced the first culture for which a beggar is a reminder of nothing.  

John Berger


All Together Now

Reciprocity is more than just simple give and take – it’s about co-creating environments and conditions that work for all involved.

There are many examples of reciprocity in nature – take the hermit crab and the anemone, for example.

The hermit crab lives in vacated shells of whelks or other mollusc.  One species carries a large pink anemone on its shell so that when octopi or fish – who like to feed on the hermit crab – approach, the anemone shoots out it brilliantly coloured tentacles, and stings the intending predators.

This is a good example of living co-operation as the crab returns the compliment to the anemone, which feeds on the droppings and discarded food of the crab. When the crab needs to move to a larger home, it gently detaches the anemone and takes it along.

In human society, just as in nature, reciprocity creates an actual environment.  Once this environment is created all manner of new and wonderful things can happen and the co-operation we need to learn in order to survive and prosper will get a real chance to take hold.

Apart from the obvious, the difference between us and hermit crabs with their anemone companions is that we have free will.  We get to decide what to do, and in our efforts to do what is best for ourselves we can think that acting only from self-interest will be the most advantageous.  This isn’t true.

Like the anemones and the crabs we share our planet.  Whether we like it or not we are interconnected.  As well as being undeniably cousins according to our genome, we are all now living in a world that is becoming increasingly smaller.  We are very much a hugely extended family, living together in the same place, interconnected even when we don’t get on.

Wouldn’t it be easier to just work out how to get along?

Not Splitting Hairs

It’s not splitting hairs to say that actions speak louder than words.

Or that talk is cheap,

Or even free.

The only currency that you can really bank on

Is action.


Photograph – Rockport’s Barbershop 02/1973 – Photographer: Parks, Deborah

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Repository: Still Picture Records Section, Special Media Archives Services Division (NWCS-S), National Archives at College Park, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD, 20740-6001.