Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentines Day 2017

Yesterday we had a major blizzard and this morning the sun was so bright and the glare was very intense from all of the sunshine on the accumulation of snow and ice. As I drove to work, it made my eyes tear even with sunglasses.

Cyndi Lauper’s song Time afterTime was running through my mind:

If you're lost you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you, I will be waiting
Time after time

I thought about the period of my life right after my first husband left me. It was 1990 and it would be almost ten years until I met my present husband. It was a long dry season and I was intensely lonely, isolated from family and friends, holding onto my sanity by a thin thread. There was no solace to be found from school which was the only thing in my life that I thought had meaning. The one place in the universe (I believed at the time) that would ever give me any hope of a meaningful life. I tried very hard to find a footing in the “work” but I think I was pretending most of the time. Solace from the people who told me “you are born alone and you die alone” did not really exist.

I felt an intense flashback from that period of my life and I started to cry in the car in the midst of all that bright lively sunshine, my heart felt black and dark and I wondered how I ever survived that period of time. Especially with my ex-husband and his new wife sitting there as she grew fat with the babies I would never have. I felt like the wind was knocked out of me. It's been a while since I have been so intensely "triggered" by something having to do with "school".

Of course, school was supposed to be the alpha and omega to all of my existence – it wasn’t supposed to matter how I felt. I had all those essence friends so why should I be lonely? I had the “work” so why should my life feel flat and empty and devoid of meaning? I tried desperately to find hope somewhere in the work but the moments were few and far between. I lived with a fickle “God” who changed her mind frequently, especially in relation to loyalties, interests, and affections.

Sharon was capricious, changeable, variable, volatile, mercurial, inconstant, undependable, unsteady, unreliable, faithless, flighty, giddy and skittish. She was a fair weather friend and the storms moved in on her with regularity. She professed a deep love for all of us. Well, that's what she said in public but in private she would badmouth even her most devoted followers.

This was not love, not even close.

I thought about our society’s dictum that we shouldn’t “take things for granted” but isn’t something like the unconditional love that a parent has for a child something that a child takes for granted? Isn't it every child's right to take their parents for granted and to feel their unconditional love?  Maybe it's not a bad thing to take something for granted in the right way. Yes, we grow up and strive to pay our parents back or to "pay it forward" but don't we deserve to have someone we can rely on? A safe harbor in a storm. We all deserve to be loved with a love that does not waver or cease. We all deserve to have someone who will catch us when we fall. We all deserve to be safe and secure. Someone we can count on when we are lost…

Sobbing, I called my husband and at first I couldn’t talk and he thought that something had happened, that I was hurt or had been in an accident. I couldn’t talk for a moment, I could only cry. I just wanted to tell him how much I love him and how much I appreciate his unfailing love and support for me. I wanted to wish him a Happy Valentine’s Day.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it--always.”

Saturday, June 4, 2016

My Apologies

For all of the years that I was in school, I never brought (recruited) another student. I knew somewhere in myself that I could never bring someone into a group that I had so many doubts and questions about myself. I was never comfortable trying to talk to someone about school or why I believed they should join because I didn’t believe they should join. I got a lot of flack over the years for not bringing people as it was my “responsibility’ to do so. It was a mark of your advanced “standing” in school to be assigned to this “line of work”.  I was involved in this for many years but never brought anyone. I just couldn’t do it and now I am glad that I didn’t.

The closest I ever came was convincing my ex-husband’s new wife to stay in school. I was completely devastated by our divorce which he had been instructed to do by school. I later learned that he met “someone else” two weeks after he moved out. Time passed and I had to sit in class and listen to him talking about her, which was sheer torture. One day he stood up and said that she was pregnant and they were getting married. I was devastated again by the loss of my husband and by my inability to get pregnant. I felt humiliated and ashamed.

One day awhile later, as I was going to class, I saw my ex-husband enter the building in front of me with a woman I did not know. I hung back. When I got to the door (there was always a “guard” posted at the door to prevent anyone unwanted from entering) I asked the guy on the door who she was. He was a friend on my ex-husband’s and said that he had been to the wedding and it was his new wife. I was stunned. After everything else, I was going to have to sit in class with both of them twice a week: double torture. I said I wasn’t going upstairs and asked if there was a teacher upstairs who I could talk to. Eventually, M came downstairs and told me to “buck up” and get on with my life. She suggested that I “pretend” for the rest of the evening that everything was alright. Fake it until you make it. I went upstairs. I had a couple of drinks.

I decided to basically sit in the corner and say nothing. Unfortunately, another student (a wealthy cosmetics heiress) kept calling me by name across the room. I tried to tell her to stop talking to me but the damage was done. I knew that the new wife probably knew my name and was putting two and two together. Sharon came into the room. The new wife stood up and declared that she had been brought there with out having been told the whole truth. She didn’t know that her husband’s ex-wife (me) was going to be there and this was not acceptable to her and she was going to have to leave.

I am not sure what came over me at that moment. This was the most demonstrable I was ever to be about school. I stood up and told her that she was making a terrible mistake and that whether I was there or not, it had nothing to do with the incredible opportunity that she had to be a part of this amazing school. In short, I was convincing enough that she stayed (long past when I left.) Of course, that was a “shining moment” for me. I got a lot of kudos from Sharon and from the other students for my little speech but I am still not sure whether I did her a favor that day or not. After much turmoil and many years, we eventually became friends. One of my memories of her is the two of us standing in the kitchen in Pawling after having walked out of the room where Sharon was berating another student. We looked at each other: neither of us had the stomach anymore to sit and listen to her humiliate someone again.

For humiliate, you can substitute any of these words: castigate, chide, criticize, condemn, rebuke, reproach, revile, scold, upbraid, blister, chew out, censure, reprove, scorch, vituperate, bawl out, call down, cuss out, give one hell, give what for, jump all over, rail at, rake over the coals, tell off, tongue lash, condemn, reprimand, flay, call on the carpet, give a hard time, find fault with, give a going over, admonish, disparage, denigrate, denounce, tear apart or chastise. Or you might use the one word that sums it all up: abuse. The one thing that Sharon is very very good at.

Often, people would walk into a room and say something to the effect of: The vibration in here is terrible. You should all be ashamed of yourself. You need to "come up in yourselves" and raise the vibrations before our teachers come in. The way you advanced in school was to learn how to become a "mini me" of Sharon. If you learned how to abuse others in the way that you had been abused, you rose up the ranks. I tried not to do this. I tried not to do unto others what had been done to me. I am sure that my memory is faulty and that at some point I did disparage other students. 

I apologize to anyone I may have harmed during those years and ask for your forgiveness.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

10 Clear Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Care What Others Think
By Teddy Lim
"Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner." -Lao Tzu

It is human nature to want to be liked and accepted. However, this often leads to people worrying too much about what others are thinking about them.

This kind of excessive worrying can have a negative effect on your life. It can be so debilitating that it interferes with your ability to feel at ease with yourself and around others. Do not let it prevent you from living your life to the fullest potential.

Here are ten reasons why you should not care about what others think:

1. It’s Not Their Life, So It’s None Of Their Business
People are entitled to think whatever they want, just as you are entitled to think what you want. What people think of you cannot change who you are or what you are worth, unless you allow them to.
This is your life to live. At the end of the day you are the only person who needs to approve of your own choices.
2. They Don’t Know What’s Best For You
Nobody will ever be as invested in your life as you. Only you know what is best for you, and that entails learning from your own choices. The only way you will ever truly learn is through making your own decisions, taking full responsibility for them, and that way if you do fail, at least you can learn from it wholeheartedly, as opposed to blaming somebody else.
3. What’s Right For Someone Else May Be Completely Wrong For You
It’s important to recognize that someone’s opinion is often based on what they would do. This alone is the problem. What is best for somebody else, can be the worst thing for you. What one person considers garbage can be another person’s treasure. We are all so unique. Only you know what is right for you.
4. It Will Keep You From Your Dreams
If you are constantly worried about what other people think, you will never get to where you need to go in life. You are going to have to do things that don’t always meet people’s standards. You will come into situations where you have to put your pride, and your reputation on the line to get what you want. If you are constantly worried about what people are thinking, you will never have the will to do what’s right.
5. You’re The One Stuck With The End Result
In life, you are the one stuck with the consequences of your decisions. For example, if someone suggests you buy some stocks, but you just don’t feel like it’s the right choice, you are the only one who will live the consequences. If the stock falls and you lose a lot of money, you are the one that will have to live with the fact that you didn’t follow your inner call. When people give you their suggestions or even orders, there is no risk for them. They don’t have to live with your choices—but you do.
6. People’s Thoughts Change On A Regular Basis
We are constantly changing. Some philosophers and theorists suggest that we are in a constant state of flux, so much that we cannot even say we have one, specific ‘self’ (or a fixed personality). People’s thoughts, ideas and views change on a regular basis.
That means even if somebody does think badly of you at the moment, there is a good chance they will think differently in the near future. So basically, people’s thoughts don’t really matter.
7. Life Is Simply Too Short
You only have one life to live, so why would you spend it worrying about other people’s opinions? Do whatever you want, be whoever you want. You’re not going to see these people after you’re dead. You probably won’t even see them in a year from now. Live your life without worrying about other people’s thoughts and opinion, and you will live your life to the maximum.
8. You Reap What You Sow
Worrying too much about what other people think of you can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Frequently, people indulge their need to be liked so much so that it actually dictates to the way they behave. Some become people-pleasers or so submissive that many people are turned off. The behavior you use as an attempt to ensure you are liked may actually cause you to be disliked.
9. Others Don’t Care As Much As You Think
People generally don’t think outside themselves a great deal of time. It is a sad but simple truth that the average person filters their world through their ego, meaning that they think about most things in terms of “me” or “my”.
This means that, unless who you are or what you have done directly affects another person or their life, they are unlikely to spend much time thinking about you at all.
10. The Hard Truth: It’s Impossible To Please Everybody
You can’t please all of the people all of the time. It is impossible to live up to everyone’s expectations so there is no point in burning yourself out trying to do so. Just make sure that one of the people you please is yourself!

The weight of other’s thought can become a burden for you. It can inhibit you from living your life, because your entire being (your personality, your thoughts, your actions) are controlled by an idealized standard of what people want to see. When you become so obsessed with other people’s opinion of you, you forget your own.

You can make a conscious effort to stop giving a damn; to let yourself free. It’s a skill that needs to be practiced, like meditating. But once you truly understand how to let go, you will see the world as entirely different.

Once you give up catering to other people’s opinion and thoughts, you will find out who you truly are, and that freedom will be like taking a breath for the first time.

Monday, January 18, 2016

In Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King's Birthday 2016

Image result for injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere
We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Christmas Class from Hell

After one particular Christmas Class in NY, Sharon was at our "Impressions Class" where we were all required to stand up and say something transcendent about what we had experienced.

She was talking about the evening and at one point stopped and asked "Who made the guacamole?"

Time stopped. I couldn't breathe. I had made it and I was scared out of my mind to admit it because her serious tone of voice made me believe that she had gotten food poisoning from it or something equally horrendous and I was about to be tarred and feathered. I said nothing. The room was that kind of silent where people say you could hear a pin drop. I was internally freaking out. No one said anything. She said again, more loudly: "I asked who made the guacamole?" I had no choice. Trembling, I got to my feet bracing myself against her wrath. Sharon said: "That was the best guacamole I have ever eaten in my life."

And that was always the problem, you never knew what might happen. You could stand up to say something totally innocuous and all of a sudden fifty people who you though were your dear "essence" friends were turning on you and ripping you to shreds. You could stand up to say something deeply emotional and troubling to you and it would be dismissed with a wave of her hand and you would be told to sit down and shut up. A simple question such as "Who made the guacamole?" could rip your insides to shreds. You could stand up excitedly to say you just got the job of your dreams and Sharon would tell you that it was the wrong profession for you and you should really consider waitressing or house cleaning for awhile.

Yes, at one point I was told to forget about Architecture and become a waitress.

One year, after I had been in Boston for awhile, the topic of the Christmas Class came up and J said that I should lead it. I immediately said that I was not interested in the job, had too many other pressing issues in my life at the moment, I was not qualified, did not want to, etc. I already had one foot out of the door and maybe they sensed this and thought that a major responsibility would draw me closer into the fold.  J listened quietly to all of my objections and then said very simply: "Well, now that you have expressed your "NO", you will now be able to say "YES".  I continued to argue but it didn't get me anywhere. Against all my objections and better instincts, I was leading the Christmas Class.

Leading the Christmas Class was one of the "honors" that people aspired to and vied with each other for. I had absolutely no interest in it. When I had been in NY, I had lead the "cooking" committee for a number of years and also headed up cooking for various "classes outside of class" as well as catering private parties for Sharon. I became adept at planning and cooking a sit down dinner for 100 people without the use of a kitchen. Of course, after I stopped doing it, a friend lead the cooking for a "class outside of class".  The meal was horrible and Sharon loved it so much that my friend got an all-expense paid trip to Italy. You just could never tell what would lead to what; it was continually confusing. (The story of my cooking adventures will come later).

The Christmas Class that I headed in Boston, I have come to fondly refer to as the "Christmas Class from Hell". Since I had been in Boston, I had only helped with decorations and that was really the only area that I knew even slightly well aside from cooking. When I arrived in Boston, I never told anyone that I could cook because I didn't want to go throughout that all again and besides, there was already a dedicated "chef" in Boston and I had no interest in engaging in a competition with anyone. Usually the various areas of responsibility for the CC (Christmas Class) were headed by people with a degree of expertise in each area: Food, Decorations, Clean-up, Serving, Presentations, Teacher's Gifts, etc. One of the principles of school was that you really didn't need to know anything at all about anything to lead a group, you just needed to know the ideas of the work and how to apply them and that could get you through anything.

This CC was different from the very beginning. Previously, the "older" students would be in charge of the preparations and the "younger students" would be invited as quests. This time, the idea was that the "younger students" would be in charge of each of the areas and there would be an "older" student assigned to assist them. Lists were drawn up. I was to supervise the ten or twelve "older" students who were advising and working with a group of "younger students" in each area of the preparations. The work commenced.

As I said in a previous post, I am going to continue to call the man who runs the school in Boston Mr. Manchurian Candidate (Mr. MC for short). For some reason, Mr. MC was visibly absent during this whole preparation time for the Christmas Class. Often, he would vanish completely for a period of several months and people might say that he was ill. I thought sometimes that he was sick - sick of school and all of the pretense. The definition of pretense is "an attempt to make something that is not the case appear true". That has got to be quite difficult to do and it must take an incredible emotional toll on one's psyche. In any case, Mr. MC was not around and the "younger" teachers were in charge.

For the first week or so, I would call some of the younger teachers on a daily basis to keep them abreast of the progress that was being made on the party preparations and ask any questions I might have. It was what I would have been expected to do in NY. After leaving lots of messages and getting absolutely no response from anyone, I stopped trying to stay in touch because they clearly didn't care at all what was happening and I assumed that they just didn't want the responsibility (neither did I but that's beside the point.)

What do I remember about those frenzied weeks between Thanksgiving and the Christmas Class? Not a whole lot. I remember that it snowed a lot that winter. I remember driving through a blizzard up Route 3 because I was expected to be at the "space" at all the times that people would be working there on the preparations. I remember being at work (I was a real estate appraiser at the time - another job that school had "suggested") - driving around in the snow and fielding phone calls from the younger students with all kinds of questions.

There were two lists of all the people in school with their contact information. One list for the younger class and one list for the older class. It was "TOP SECRET" and I was the only one allowed to have this valuable information. So, if a call had to go out to everyone (which happened frequently), I was the only one who could do it because no one else could be trusted with the "list". Hence, I really didn't have a lot of help and I was spending hours and hours on the phone. The older students who were supposed to be in charge of the various areas made themselves very scarce and I wished I could do the same. I did not get a lot of help from anyone.

We got through the decorations with relatively little trouble except for one incident where something on a shelf in one of the bathrooms fell and hit someone on the head. The word then came down that everything had to be nailed securely to the walls so that would not happen again. We nailed everything to the walls. Everyone went about their business and as I did not really "report" to my superiors, no one really reported to me. I went around and asked questions and poked around to make sure everything was on schedule.

One of the younger students had an idea to make some orbs out of rope lights to suspend from the ceiling. I allowed (?) her to work on it for quite awhile because she was very excited about trying to make it work and I felt like an indulgent parent. I really hadn't known any of the younger students at all previous to these preparations and I am notoriously bad at remembering names and faces but I did get to know some of them.

I remember being at the "space" for all the work sessions. I really had experience in Boston only with the decorations and that part of it went fairly smoothly although I do remember having to ask that the bathrooms be redone several times. The people who were doing the "presentations" part of the evening were professional musicians. I felt pretty confident that what they were doing was good. I could hear the rehearsals and it sounded fine to me. I tried to stay away from the food preparations as that was also being run by a professional and I only stuck my nose in once or twice to make sure they were on schedule. We were trying something new - having round cafe tables instead of the huge tables for sit down dinners that we frequently did. Doing something new is always dangerous...

Decorating the "teacher's office" was something I had no experience with at all. There was a painted mural on the wall which had been copied from a fresco at Pompeii. Someone mentioned that K had always done the decorations for the teacher's so I called her up and asked if she could help. I also added some things because I had extensive experience with the various preferences of the teachers from New York. Some people wondered how I possibly knew those things (it was a secret that I was from New York).

The night of the party came and it was all a blur to me. It was the usual. Usually Sharon was outrageously late and a dinner that had been planned for 10 pm might not happen until 2 am. Everything was always at the whim of Sharon: when she arrived, what she did, what she ate and drank, who she brought with her from New York, what time she left, what she said (she frequently addressed the whole group)...

I remember that during the presentations, one of the younger students came over to me and said that she though she had seen Sharon across the room complaining or unhappy about something. I told her that everything was going great and not to worry.

So, the class came and went and then we had the "impressions class" several days later. It started out as usual. Someone got up and talked about the party in glowing terms and spoke about how much they had learned from it and how wonderful it had been. Another person then got up and spoke about their remarkable experience and how moving and meaningful the entire evening and the preparations had been. A third person and then a fourth continued to rave about the magnificent evening and what a deep and profound time they had. Each comment was more lavish than the last.

Then Mr. MC said: "Well, let me tell you what Sharon thought of the evening". He then went on to tell us that she had said that it was very simply one on the most awful evenings she had ever had and that EVERYTHING about it was bad and there was not even one redeeming moment.

Of course, then, the rest of the group, unthinking sheep, just jumping on the bandwagon and going whatever the way the wind was blowing, all started to stand up and say how they had the feeling that everything was "off", that nothing was right, that the music wasn't good and the food and the presentations had been awful, and on and on. They also all said that they had known all along that everything was going wrong. So then, they each had to atone for the fact that they said nothing, remained silent and did noting to help. From that point on, no one had anything good to say about the evening because they all had to appear to agree with Sharon in order to appear to be "good students". 

I was sitting there scared out of my mind. If the whole evening was a miserable failure and I was the one who was overseeing it, I was wholly responsible for everything going wrong. I had no idea how it went wrong and I didn't really understand what had happened and I didn't know what to say. I had to stand up and say something. At the very end I stood up. I had prepared myself to take full responsibility for the whole fiasco - what else could I do under the circumstances? After all, it was entirely my fault and I needed to take the blame for everything. I started to make my little speech and I was stopped by K who said that I had done nothing wrong and as a matter of fact, I was the only person who had done anything correctly because I had asked for help. I was floored. Here I was, standing there trying to take the blame for everything. It was made quite clear to us that everyone was to blame except for me. Such a strange twist. Everyone comes out smelling like shit and I am the only one smelling like a rose. 

The people who took the worst beating of all were the "younger teachers" who had supposed to have been keeping an eye on things and had been totally absent. They were told that they needed to apologize to all of us and to Sharon for their total incompetence and lack of attention to the party. I remember the following class that all the younger teachers stood up and apologized to us for their shortcomings. I was particularly moved by J who was having a hard time and as she was talking to us, was constantly hitting herself. Her fist pounding into her leg over and over again as she spoke, berating herself, flagellating herself in front of all of us. It was quite pathetic because she really had nothing to be sorry about but was she just doing Sharon's bidding as they all were. They were all require to stand up in front of both classes and apologize for their egregious sins. Does this sound a bit twisted?

There was one other thing that I remembered about that night. Something was wrong with Sharon's food. I had been cooking for Sharon for years (after the guacamole incident) and she was always happy with my food. The question was asked about who was specifically responsible for this. I can't remember now exactly what the problem had been but at the time I was uncertain if it had been my fault or not and if I should stand up and take responsibility. I didn't but I worried about it constantly.

A few days later, I went into a store and came back outside and was wondering why there was smoke coming out of the exhaust of my car. I then realized that I had locked my keys in my car with the engine running. I knew it was because I was obsessively trying to figure out if I was responsible for the food problem or not. I couldn't think about anything else. My mind was concentrated on only one thing to the exclusion of everything else. I was horrified that I had so lost control of my mind. I felt so guilty for something that I didn't know if I even had done or not. As I sat in the cold waiting for Triple A to come let me into my car, I decided to forget about the whole thing and put it out of my mind. Easier said than done but that decision lifted some of the fog that I had been in for so long.

I also remember leaving the impressions class that night. The "younger students" were having an impressions class after ours and they were all lined up in the hall watching us leave. What could I say to them about the horror that Mr. MC was about to inflict upon them? Even though I left "smelling like a rose", I felt to horribly guilty for everything that had happened. And what actually had happened? Was the party really that bad or was it just time for Sharon to vent her venom on all of us?

The following year, there was no Christmas Class in Boston. We all went to New York. It was nice to see many of my old friends from New York. That was to be my last Christmas Class. By the following summer, I was gone.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Silence, they say, is the voice of complicity.
But silence is impossible.
Silence screams.
Silence is a message,
just as doing nothing is an act.

Let who you are ring out and resonate
in every word and every deed.
Yes, become who you are.
There's no sidestepping your own being
or your own responsibility.

What you do is who you are.
You are your own comeuppance.
You become your own message.

You are the message.
prison writings - my life is my sun dance - leonard peltier

Monday, July 6, 2015

Requiem for Whistle Blowers

(Thank you to The Gentle Soul's Revolution for mentioning Greg Jemsek's blog Quiet Horizon from which I have reprinted this article. I highly recommend the rest of his blog as well but this strikes very close to home because I am a whistle blower.)

Remember the first time you did something you weren’t supposed to do as a kid, knew it was wrong, and were scared about the consequences?  If you remember that, you probably also remember that your first thought immediately afterwards was probably something like “How can I make sure nobody finds out about this?”  
It’s a fact of life that we all make mistakes.  It’s also a fact of life that our fear of facing up to our mistakes frequently leads us to making another, more serious mistake:  that of covering up our actions, even though doing so may bring considerable harm to others.  If, in spite of our mistakes, we instead make the effort to make things right, we drop into a universal narrative of reparation:  one that transcends culture, nation, race, or gender.  A narrative that doesn't hide mistakes, but faces them. Staying on the winning side of this narrative is the inspiration behind the vast majority of music, literature, and film we take refuge in to remind ourselves of how high we can soar, how low we can sink, and what we need to consider if we're to sustain our courage during what could be a long journey.  Whistle blowers are one way people are forced to face the mistakes they have made whether they want to or not:  and, at the same time, are given the opportunity to participate in the narrative of reparation. 
That's why most people who heard about Scott Proudy's decision to release his videofile of Mitt Romney's "47%" comments during the recent electoral cycle immediately knew it was important.  Their assessment would have been confirmed once they learned about  Scott Prouty’s conversation with himself in the middle of the night....the one in which he looked in the mirror and recognized he’d see himself as a coward if he didn’t release and later acknowledge this videofile.   Similarly, people old enough to have lived through the VietNam war knew instantly how critical Daniel Ellsberg’s  publication of the Pentagon Papers was in unpacking the hypocrisy of the American government in that war.  We all recognize the importance of such events because we know that if our society is to remain accountable,  how it operates when noboby is looking matters.  We also know that the nastier side of our nature usually requires intervention from outside if destructive behavior is to be stopped.  
So it's unsurprising that the majority of people recognize the importance of a whistle blowing event  - regardless of whether they agree with the whistle blower or not.  The problem that emerges then is that despite this recognition, people also know that our societal institutions are more threatened  by the act of whistle blowing than they are welcoming towards it.  In addition, they suspect - rightly, usually -  that government, corporations, religions, and even the media are also asking themselves   How can I make sure nobody finds out about this? (whatever their "this" is) 
The herculean efforts institutions and individuals make to hide wrong doing reflects three aspects of fear that are important to understand if we are to collectively reverse our pendulum swing towards hyper-individualism back towards a more communitarian perspective.  The first understanding  is that  fear grows stronger in the dark.  The second is that hidden fear eventually strangles conscience.  The third is that both of these factors sabotage community.
This becomes clearer when considering the fear of a whistle blower next to the fear of a wrong-doer.  The fear a whistle blower faces - having his own life and those of loved ones ruined or ended by standing up to an injustice - is a “moment of truth” fear.  It is nerve-wracking, sleepless-night-inducing, riven-with-anxiety fear.  What will I do with what I now know?  How will the larger community I'm a part of respond?  It’s a fear perfectly capable of swallowing a person up in one big gulp.   
As de-stabilizing as whistle blower fear is, it’s a vision of health compared to the fear of those in power.  Why?  Because if a person desperately seeks to remain invisible (the CEOs of tobacco companies before being outed by Jeffrey Wigand) or fervently defends himself with psychopathic bluster  (Dick Cheney on the virtues of going to war in Iraq), he is either losing or has already lost his battle with fear. He may not think so because outwardly it may look as though he has successfuly pummelled his fear into submission.  So much so that he may not even feel much fear anymore:  he may have heart attacks instead, or just be numb to all his emotions.   But this pyrrhic victory  points to that fact that access to his own conscience, and access to a wider community, has been terribly eroded:  sometimes to a point of no return.  Despite this - as Hannah Arendt brilliantly pointed out in her groundbreaking studies on the "banality of evil" -  a person whose conscience and connection to a wider community has been eroded this way still looks “normal” to folks on the outside.  He is often quite "successful" in terms of traditional definitions of that word.  But behind all of this, he likely lives in dread of the kind of fear a whistle blower experiences.  He has no real confidence in his capacity to still be standing at the end of facing such fear, and insufficient courage to find out.  
All of which means that society’s collective concern about the ability of our institutions to make decisions that reflect the common good - including decisions that protect and encourage whistle blowing when something is wrong - is well-placed.  In fact, we’ve structured many of our institutions in such a way that “getting to the top” is usually easier for isolated people without a functioning conscience (studies of the increasing number of pscyhopaths heading up corporations seem to confirm this). 
But changing the course of a meta-narrative always takes time and persistence.  We swing from agony to ecstasy as we do so in part because we can feel fear, and because we impel ourselves to find ways to deal with it.  At our best we keep pinching ourselves out of the trances we fall into despite our best intentions, picking ourselves up off the floor and turning back to our conscience again and again for guidance.  
The way Scott Prouty, Daniel Ellsberg and a whole historical string of whistle blowers would want us to do. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

None Of Us Are Free - If You Don't Say It's Wrong Then That Says It's Right

listen here:

Solomon Burke and The Blind Boys of Alabama

Well you better listen my sister's and brothers
'Cause if you do you can hear
There are voices still calling across the years
And they're all crying across the ocean, and they're cryin' across the land
And they will till we all come to understand

None of us are free, none of us are free
None of us are free, if one of us are chained
None of us are free

And there are people still in darkness, and they just can't see the light
If you don't say it's wrong then that says it right
We got try to feel for each other, let our brother's know that we care
Got to get the message, send it out loud and clear

None of us are free, none of us are free
None of us are free, if one of us are chained
None of us are free

It's a simple truth we all need, just to hear and to see
None of us are free, one of us is chained, none of us are free
Now I swear your salvation isn't too hard too find
None of us can find it on our own
We've got to join together in spirit, heart and mind
So that every soul who's suffering will know they're not alone

None of us are free, none of us are free
None of us are free, if one of us are chained
None of us are free

If you just look around you, your gonna see what I say
'Cause the world is getting smaller each passing day
Now it's time to start making changes, and it's time for us all to realize
That the truth is shining bright right before our eyes

None of us are free, none of us are free
None of us are free, if one of us are chained
None of us are free

Thursday, February 26, 2015




Saturday, February 21, 2015


Every once in awhile a strange funny little story pops into my head that sums it all up. I was folding the napkins and putting them away the other day. Napkins.

It was one of the early years of Christmas class preparations in New York. We were told that there were more people and we needed new napkins. We were each to make one new napkin. We were given very specific instructions about how the napkin was to be made. The fabric was to be durable, not flimsy and should be flowery. Not like a light Liberty of London small patterned fabric but more like a sturdy French Proven├žal fabric. The example that was given was Pierre Deux, the classic French country fabric and "antique" store on Bleecker Street. I was familiar with the store and their fabric which was very pricey. I found something similar at P and S, the discount fabric store below the old space on Broadway.

The other very specific direction that was given was that the napkin was to be 18"x18" square. I was a good sewer and I made my napkin and brought it in at the required time. 

The following class, there was a somber mood and one of the teachers got up (I forget who) and started lashing into us about the napkins. They had measured them and they were not all precisely 18"x18".  Some of them were 17-1/2"!!! I knew that my napkin was the required 18"x18" so I was not worried. The teacher was indignant: all the napkins had to be re-done! I thought I would be exempt since mine was correct but there was no distinction being made between those people who had done them correctly and those who had not. I wanted to search through the pile of napkins and pull mine out to show that it was correct. No such luck. I was guilty along with everyone else. We were all made to feel ashamed and inferior and wrong. Over a fucking napkin!!!!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year 2015

I am so grateful to be free, whole and alive this New Years Eve...

This evening, I thought back to one of the worst New Year's Eves I can remember. That year, New Year's Eve was on a Sunday evening and it had been a CR weekend. I believe that we had been at the house in Mahopac that weekend before we moved to Bethel, Connecticut and then on to Pawling. My best friend was dating someone in school at the time and had been in love with the man for years. He had picked New Year's Eve to tell her that he wanted to break up with her which was an unbearably cruel thing to do. I think that the story was that he was unhappy and Sharon had told him to end it as soon as possible. She was heartbroken. Since it was New Year's Eve, no one was driving and we all took MetroNorth back to the city. That particular weekend, I spent the whole train ride back to NY sitting with my friend who had been sobbing hysterically for hours. I remember getting off the train at Grand Central feeling totally disoriented and everything seemed to be starkly in black and white.

I always felt broken after a CR weekend. All I ever wanted to do after one of those weekends was to go home, order in Chinese food and sleep for about a month. I remember that for the first year that I went to CR, I threw up every weekend. Nerves, stress, no sleep, bad food, too much intense physical labor, too much intense emotional and psychological pressure. You would have thought that I would realize that my body was trying to tell me something. No, I was actually happy the first weekend that I didn't throw up. I felt that I must have passed some sort of test and was now a better and more evolved person. So many self delusions...

Because New Years Eve was on a Sunday that year and given my own feelings, I am sure everyone just wanted to go home to bed as badly as I did.  D felt that we should all promise to go out to a New Year's Eve party that night. Why? To prove that "school" wasn't getting in the way of our lives? One more thing to do at the end of an impossibly long string of things to do? I got home and I decided that since I had not been invited to a party, I would go to Times Square to fulfill my part of the promise. I went out and started to walk there but I got half way there and realized the foolishness of the situation and turned around and went home to bed. In 48 years of living in NY, I never once went to Times Square on New Year's Eve and I have never had the urge to do so. I hate crowds. The possibility for violence once you are immeshed in a such large crowd seems very tangible to me. There are certain things that it is better to stay away from.

I feel an increased awareness of that tonight as I write this:  There are certain things that it is better to stay away from. If I knew then what I know now... I am, however, convinced that the experience of going through school (and coming out on the other side vaguely intact) was necessary for me to be where I am and who I am now. I certainly feel that I found my voice in my public opposition to school.  Sharon was right about "if it doesn't kill you, it will make you stronger." I am stronger now than before. I have had enough experiences that I thought might kill me and know better what to stay away from now. Life is too short. Carpe diem.

And a Happy New Year to all.