Try not to be typical.

 

Not wanting to miss anything
Is it a bad thing?

It's the moments we desire
So much something innate

Deep inside they're known
But O, such a matter of happenstance

Close to the surface
Held the fear of never having

Missed so many!
Dwell on the ghosts

The universe, bitch it is
Revealed over test and time

Ah, those worries of yesterday
How petty the faded memory 

It's a good mystery, life
The solution seemingly close

Every new clue presented
a contextual readjustment

Looking ever forward
Using updated bearings

Trying so hard to see the future
only to make out phantoms

But remember, don't forget
It's the moments

It's the moments had
One by one, time and again

That makes us who we are
​and defines our path

 

 

 

I recently started doing research about the fascinating philosophy of Buddhism. In Buddhism, there are three poisons. The three poisons, without getting too far off the road of thought I'm on and without delving into a discussion of translations, arise from Tanha, or thirst and is central to Buddhism teaching as it is the cause of dukkha (suffering, dissatisfaction). Out of the thirst come three specific types of Tanha, or poison: Desire (greed), Aversion (hatred), and ignorance (delusion). I tell you about that so that I can tell you this: As I sat last night in the glow of my television watching the Tanha fueled spectacle that is the NFL and again this morning listening to the morning news talk about certain political candidates and their latest escapades, it occurred to me that our society has become filled through and through with the three poisons and it is causing massive amounts of dukkha. Every ill in modern society can be traced to one or more of the three poisons. Greed is obvious in our financial system and the inequality it creates, obvious in the way corporations mortgage the future of Earth by destroying the environment for a profit,  keeping the shareholders happy. Hatred runs rampant in our society, evidenced by widespread racism, sexism, homophobia, and islamaphobia. The most destructive of these, the delusion that there is a moral wrong and a right in the universe. There isn't. There are only opinions about morality and no real proof on the subject. 

 

 

 

 

My Mom loves to read. Growing up, books were always around the house, usually romances and crime novels, sometimes the occasional sci-fi fantasy. She would always offer books to me that she had read and thought I might like. After a few times where I initially turned my nose up at a book and my mom would persist... and I would enjoy it and I would have to tell her that, she started using the old saying "Don't judge a book by its cover". And like all mothers are a bit like a good lawyer, citing past cases to prove their particular point, my mom kept that in her motherly arsenal to gently nudge me along as she helped me navigate this confusing world as only a mother can. The book thing happened often and she used that particular phrase many times when I would express uncertainty or disdain to her about a new food, new people, or a new experience. She said it about everything and almost always used it as a challenge. I recently realized that she used it so much it must have became part of my subconsciousness in adulthood. It's evident to me in how I experience and interact with the world, both then and now, and especially my interactions with people where my personal, deeply buried, unspoken first impressions and my true prejudices come to the surface.  You know what I mean, we all do it: we look at people and we silently go through our personal prejudices and size up everyone we come in contact with, creating a quick dossier in our mind. It's innate and linked to our animal brains, I think. The fight or flight instinct turned way down and socially centered. And as with the books my mom would offer me as a kid, those times when the universe has given me the opportunity to get to know someone I initially "turned my nose up at", there's her voice in my head and it's always becomes another challenge: "Give it a chance, you might like it".
As it was then, and it is now, I'm usually pleasantly surprised I was wrong and grateful for the good story or new friend.

 

 

 

 

"Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little."

Edmund Burke

 

 

 

 

 Just as it hurtles through its ellipse in space, the Earth and its inhabitants are also hurtling toward an exciting and uncertain future that will be here before we know it. The imperative during this tumultuous time is to be brave. Bravely challenge your beliefs. Bravely think for yourself. Bravely imagine a new world where there is no violence, plenty for everybody, and freedom for every human. Bravely believe a better future is possible.  - Dave Miller

 

 

 

 

I make my case for peace
by David A. Miller

Violence can be justifiable, but it never will be legitimate ... Its justification loses in plausibility the farther its intended end recedes into the future. No one questions the use of violence in self-defence, because the danger is not only clear but also present, and the end justifying the means is immediate - Hannah Arendt

There is a pervasive and flawed paradigm many Americans hold that violence is intrinsic to human nature and is a part of life. While I can concede that we (humanity) will always have the potential for violence against one another, I can't accept that we (individual humans) can't control it. 

The violence I'm talking about: Systemic Violence. The violence our government sanctions and directs its agents (military, police) to carry out in the name of freedom or law and order. 

What I'm not talking about is a fistfight between two people, the UFC, or any other violence where the participants are consenting adults. I'm not really talking about domestic violence, battery or rape either, as tragic and unnecessary as each of those are . However, the latter examples help to make a point: In America, the collective "we" have generally come to abhor these types of violence and punish it accordingly. Our collective consciousness has shifted and we have evolved to a point where violent behavior is not only unacceptable in our society, its almost a taboo.

Americans are also repulsed by violent acts upon us as a people and we get really miffed when we're attacked on our own soil. We absolutely do not stand for violence against us in the form of terrorist attacks. But it seems we can stomach violence in the form of military action when it serves patriotism and is happening in another country to another people.

Here's the thing, though: Whether you accept it as fact or not, you, as a citizen of this great and complicated nation are complicit in the violence when the U.S. employs drones to bomb "targets" or forcefully invades a country for dubious reasons. When America undertook its "War on Terror" it killed very few "terrorists", but it caused widespread oppression, suffering and death to thousands of innocent humans. Not only humans, but people. People with families, stories, and problems just like us. And just like it would us if we were invaded by another country, it made them hurt and angry and it fanned the embers of hate and extremism against the United States. What's even more tragic? The war killed over two times the number of Americans than we were supposedly avenging. We turn our heads away because we're not directly involved; we've compartmentalized "the government" and have deluded ourselves into thinking that it's this entity that operates independent of human input. But if we can remember our government is an entirely human entity, powered entirely by human thought and action, recognize we ARE complicit in any violence because we support it (patriotism), fund it (taxes) and condone it (voting), then we can start to demand the same conscientiousness of the people directly responsible for making the decisions our government. 

Consider these numbers for a moment:

World Trade Center, September 11, 2001 
2,977 Americans dead
19 hijackers dead

Iraq
4486 Americans dead
318 coalition dead
461,000 Iraqis dead

Afghanistan
2356 Americans dead
1129 coalition dead
2,515 American contractors dead 
16,000 dead Afghan civilians (estimate)

So, if our society does not accept violent behavior on an individual basis, and abhors acts of violence against its own people, shouldn't it follow that we hold the people in our government and it seems now our police forces to the same high standard of only accepting justifiable, defensive violence when imminently threatened, as the only true legitimate violence. That we should implore our leaders to always carry out a non-violent course of action in world affairs is not only an imperative, it's hypocrisy if we don't. 

Veterans For Peace is a global organization of Military Veterans and allies whose collective efforts are to build a culture of peace by using our experiences and lifting our voices. We inform the public of the true causes of war and the enormous costs of wars, with an obligation to heal the wounds of wars. Our network is comprised of over 140 chapters worldwide whose work includes: educating the public, advocating for a dismantling of the war economy, providing services that assist veterans and victims of war, and most significantly, working to end all wars. (http://www.veteransforpeace.org/who-we-are/our-mission/)

Find out a better way for the U.S. to deal with ISIS/ISIL here:
http://www.veteransforpeace.org/files/5514/1055/5574/6_ways_to_confront_ISIL_short_of-war_handout.pdf

 

 

 

 

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, 1927

 

 

 

 

 

We “honour”, “remember” and “recognise the heroism” of those who died – making us think somehow that war is actually about honour and heroism. No, it’s not, no more than rape, domestic violence or murder are. War is simply that: institutionalised murder. It does not solve the conflicts from which it in part arises. It does not contribute to meeting the needs of all the parties and stakeholders involved.

...by our complicity, acceptance and unquestioning, we perpetuate and allow dangerous “leaders” and decision-makers to continue war-making and dropping missiles from drones rather than the difficult and challenging task of finding actual solutions to real issues and needs. 

Would it not be so much greater of us, if instead of accepting false certainties such as ‘war is necessity’, ‘war is normal’, ‘it’s human nature to go to war’, ‘people have always fought and they always will’, we actually apply the extraordinary capability, creativity and intelligence of our species to find clear, concrete, practical and effective ways of addressing, transforming and dealing with conflicts without the use of violence? The fact that that concept seems so outrageous or in some cases ‘naive’ or ‘idealistic’ to people shows how little most people even know about, understand or have been exposed to peacebuilding and conflict transformation.

We do not need to train soldiers. We do not need to simply commemorate and ‘honour’ soldiers as we so often do – forgetting also the many, many millions more who died as well. We need, today, to truly honour those men and women around the world….by abolishing war, by abolishing the incompetence, arrogance and bad decision-making which leads to and fuels war, and by training human beings – men, women, girls, boys, grandparents – in how to deal with conflicts effectively, constructively and by peaceful means. We need peace education in schools. We need peaceworkers professionally trained, equipped, and supported, not soldiers and trillion+ dollar investment in weapons most people cannot conceive of or comprehend. We need governments and non-state actors developing effective conflict and peace intelligence, early warning systems, joined-up approaches to addressing societal conflicts and addressing root causes, and transcending, overcoming demonisation, stereotypes, enemy images and hate-mongering, war-fueling propaganda..that leads ordinary men and women to extremism and violence, whether in or out of uniform.

It is not naive or idealistic to see that there are challenges in the world and to honestly engage to see how to address them, nor is it ‘realistic’ to unquestioningly accept the inevitability of what is obviously wrong. It is, however, realistic and responsible, to recognise that we must, as societies and as a species, find better, more effective ways of dealing with and addressing conflicts. 

Kai Brand-Jacobsen, Director, Department of Peace Operations (DPO)

 

 

 

 

I recently watched a documentary called 'I am' made by Tom Shadyac, the genius behind such movies as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Bruce Almighty. Tom had a brush with the Grim Reaper, and this documentary is the product of that ominous meeting. In the documentary, Tom tells the story of how his existence was jarred, then chronicles his journey as he refines his views of the world. I highly recommend it; If you're like me it will affect you in a visceral, heartfelt way.