Sometimes a Trail of Tears can lead to Kindness


The Trail of Tears is the name given to the forced relocation of Native Americans following the Indian Removal Act of 1830.  The relocation was mostly from the southeastern United States to present day Oklahoma.  The removal included the Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek), Seminole, Chickasaw and Choctaw nations.

This forced movement not only dispossessed many Native American nations, it also resulted in thousands of deaths from exposure, disease and starvation. The name, Trail of Tears, originates from a description of the removal of the Choctaw Nation in 1831.

Sixteen years later, in 1847, the Choctaw survivors of the Trail of Tears heard of the Great Famine in Ireland. They heard about the dispossession and starvation that had been going on in Ireland since 1845. Though clearly not wealthy or advantaged themselves, they responded by collecting $710 and sending it to help starving Irish men, women and children.

According to a written account at the time, “Traders, missionaries, and (Indian) agency officials contributed, but the greater part of the money was supplied by the Indians themselves.“(1)

The Choctaw sent the money to Memphis – one of the cities in which the military had gathered them before they set out on the Trail of Tears.  From there it made its way to Irish famine victims.

The astounding actions of the Choctaw are an example of how suffering acquires meaning when it is transmuted into understanding and generosity.

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Photograph – Famine Memorial, Dublin, Ireland.

(1) https://pantherfile.uwm.edu/michael/www/choctaw/retrace.html

The Roots of Rights


On December 10th, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

Nowadays, when we think of human rights, what exactly do we think?

Do we think that human rights are nothing to do with us?

That human rights are best left to activists?

Experts.

Professionals.

Eleanor Roosevelt, Chair of the UN Commission that wrote the UDHR, had a very different vision of human rights –

In small places, close to home—so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.

Butterfly effects for human rights?

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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?


We are What we Believe


Belief is not just an optional extra – it is the primary influence on our actions.

However, sometimes we don’t take enough time to think about what we do believe and so our actions leave us feeling uncomfortable and out of kilter with our true selves.

It’s worth thinking about what we believe.  It’s our humanity after all.

The video below is interesting (and fun) – have a look:

 

http://soulpancake.com/perspectives/view/1643/conversation-couch–taboo-topics.html

The Still Face


Humans are social beings.  We’re not the only ones on the planet but we most definitely belong to that group.

Our interactions with other people do more than just shape our manners and our view of the world, these interactions actually shape our physical brains.  As the saying goes, neurons that fire together, wire together. 

As we lumber about in our lives, we often believe, erroneously, that only our big actions count.

If I don’t hit you or shout at you or curse or show my disdain I can tell myself I haven’t revealed anything of myself – or done any damage to you.

But what if that isn’t true?

What if our sensitivity to response is so ingrained in us and so long-standing that we don’t consciously recognise how subtly influenced – or influential – we can be?

Everybody knows that new-born babies respond to the world around them and we instinctively try to interact even with the youngest babies.  But do we realise how vital this seemingly trivial interaction really is?

Watch the video below – if you can handle it – it tells a very interesting story.

Suffering…what is it good for?


Evil causes suffering and evil is preventable, but even in a paradisiacal world without evil, suffering would still exist.

In the most wonderful and peaceful of worlds, completely free of war and violence and famine and prejudice, children will still die and be bereaved, people will become ill and have accidents, make mistakes – there will be natural disasters and unfortunate events. Suffering will still exist.

So.  What is the point of suffering?

Viktor Frankl, concentration camp survivor and author of Man’s Search for Meaning, said that suffering should be alleviated whenever possible but when it isn’t possible it presents us with an opportunity for change.

When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves. (1)

What does this mean?  Perhaps it means that suffering changes us anyway and we can either be a part of that change or allow ourselves to be formed against our will by circumstances outside of our control?

The more you plough and dig the ground the more fertile it becomes. The more you cut the branches of a tree the higher and stronger it grows. The more you put the gold in the fire the purer it becomes. The more you sharpen the steel by grinding the better it cuts. Therefore, the more sorrows one sees the more perfect one becomes…Strange it is that I love you and still I am happy that you have sorrows. (2)

Maybe the purpose of suffering is so incredibly individual that there is no one answer other than that its very inevitability suggests it does have a purpose – however hidden?

Maybe it exists so that we’ll question the things around us that seem real and permanent and important and learn to distinguish between them?

Maybe our suffering can soften our hearts so that when we see others suffer we respond?

I don’t presume to know.

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(1) Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning.

(2) ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, published in “Star of the West”, volume 14, number 2, May 1923.

Chaotic Butterflies


Photograph of David Bohm, taken from this page.

David Bohm

In ordinary life chaos means disorder – random, disorganised confusion.  In science it means something entirely different – it means apparent randomness. In other words, things that appear to be random and disorganised but actually obey an order that we either can’t see or don’t understand.

The physicist, David Bohm believed everything was governed by a hidden – or as he termed it – implicate – order.  He demonstrated this using a very simple but graphic experiment copied from a BBC Children’s TV programme.

Take a vessel composed of two glass cylinders, put glycerine (or other viscous fluid) in the space between the cylinders, then put a drop of insoluble ink into the glycerine and turn the outer cylinder.  As the cylinder turns, the ink is drawn out into a thread that eventually becomes so thin it disappears from view as it is enfolded in the solution.

But if the cylinder is then turned in the opposite direction, the thread form reappears and retraces its steps until the original droplet is reconstituted.

Bohm offered this as a visual example of how order exists even when it is hidden and not obvious to us.

But David Bohm is far from the only scientist to suggest that the seeming ‘chaos’ that surrounds us may not be as haphazard as it appears.

In the 1960s, Edward Lorenz, a MIT meteorologist and the originator of the Butterfly Effect theory, tried to explore why it is so hard to make good weather forecasts and as a result chaos theory was born.  Lorenz was the first to recognize what is now called chaotic behaviour in the mathematical modelling of weather systems.

Soon, many other scientists – including social scientists – were attempting to use chaos theory to search for the hidden order in everything.

Nowadays, chaos theory (and it’s offspring, complexity theory) provides us with models we can apply to everything from epilepsy to social problems.

So, organised chaos is not a contradiction after all – who knew?

Courage


Courage is not the opposite of fear – it is the defiance of fear. Looking fear in the eye, we gird up our loins and act anyway.

However, to be courageous doesn’t mean to be reckless.

Recklessness is thoughtless.

Courage is thoughtful.

When we are reckless we don’t recognise – or acknowledge – the dangers, therefore it requires no courage to act recklessly.

Courage is what’s needed when you know what you stand to lose and act anyway.  We admire courage in others and, if we want to feel good about ourselves, acting courageously will generally help with that.

It’s easy to say we should have courage – we’d all like to think of ourselves as courageous – but if it was that easy to have we’d all be brave all the time.

Still, we can but try…

Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.  John Wayne

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Death Valley Lives.


This picture was taken in March 2005 when Deat...

This picture was taken in March 2005 when Death Valley had a tremendous display of wildflowers after an extremely wet year.

Death Valley, in Eastern California, is situated within the Mojave Desert. It is not only the lowest, driest and hottest location in North America but also one of the hottest spots on the entire planet.  Most of the time Death Valley lives up to it’s name as it has all the appearance of a barren, inhospitable landscape hostile to life. Nevertheless, every few years – given that there is enough rain and the soaring temperatures hold back a little – Death Valley is carpeted in lush and beautiful wildflowers.

These flowers come from seeds that hide under the ground and protect themselves with a waxy coating when the conditions are hostile.  When these seeds are concealed within their waxy armour, Death Valley not only looks barren but it gives absolutely no hint of the potential lying under the baked earth.  But appearances are deceptive in this case (as in many others) as the potential does exist even though it’s not obvious and is simply lying dormant as it waits for the correct conditions it needs in order to flourish.

In any organic system if some elements are missing – in Death Valley that would be rain – then it is impossible for the system to achieve its potential. Human beings and the systems they create are not isolated, separate entities but rather complex, dynamic, inter-related, synergistic, organic systems.  Just like those wax-coated seeds, as individuals – and societies – we have potential as yet unknown because we have never had an occasion when the conditions were correct for these latent qualities to flourish.  If the correct environment for true human development could be achieved, who knows what beauty might be just waiting to erupt?

Regarding reciprocity…


Humanity is a complex, dynamic system of oneness – that’s a fact.  We doesn’t act in a unified way (unfortunately) that’s also a fact but that doesn’t change the reality that the human race is a system of oneness, it just shows we don’t know how to operate the system.

A system of oneness is a system of reciprocity and it’s more than just the simple action of give and take. It’s all about co-creating environments and conditions that work for all involved. There are many examples of reciprocity in nature – examples like the hermit crab and the anemone.

The hermit crab finds its home in vacated shells of whelks or other mollusc.  One species of hermit crab 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 relations, 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.  It is now widely believed that our greatest advantage lies not in individualism but in reciprocity and cooperation – and that’s not just because it’s a ‘nicer’ way to be but because it’s a more practically advantageous way to act.

Like the anemones and the crabs we share our planet.  Whether we like it or not we are interconnected.  One family.  One unit.  As well as being undeniably cousins according to our genome, we are all now living in a world that is becoming increasingly smaller.  Like an extended family packed into a small house we need to accept our interconnectedness and work out how to get on with each other.