If We Really Want to Change the World …

Earth from the Moon

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” ~ Albert Einstein.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Here we go again! Another controversy. Only it’s not about some dirty dealings by a politician or scandal about a celebrity. Nope! Ellen DeGeneres was NICE to George W. Bush at the Dallas Cowboy’s game! And she got a lot of online flack for that. Really!? One online news commentator said her behavior was disgusting. It was disgusting because George W. Bush, in her opinion, was a war criminal. I’ve never heard anyone say that being kind to someone was disgusting behavior.

Here’s what Ellen had to say about it, “When I say be kind to one another, I don’t mean only the people that think the same way you do. I mean be kind to everyone. It doesn’t matter.”

That’s an idea and practice I can get behind. Now that doesn’t mean I’m perfect at it. I catch myself saying unkind things, even if it’s only to the TV, or the driver who cut me off. But I am getting better at recognizing when it happens, that when I send out nasty energy, it’s going to come back and stick to me at some point. So, I ask for those nasty thoughts and words to be taken back or transformed. One way I do that is to imagine what it’s like to be that other person. That makes it easier for me to be kind.

I want to only send out love and kindness because that’s how we change the world.

After hearing about the attacks on Ellen, I continued to think about why some people want to tear others down instead of build them up. My dad used to say, “Wounded people, need to wound other people. They think it will make them feel better.” I agree with dad, but I think there is something else going on. We come into this world with what Caroline Myss calls our “Sacred Contract”. And I think there are three basic categories of contracts or points of view when it comes to human interactions. There are the adherents to the Old Testament, eye for an eye, vengeful God, we carry out God’s judgment, kind of people. There are the New Testament, God is love, love thy neighbor as thyself, those who are without sin cast the first stone, kind of people. And there are those that mash up some Old Testament teachings with the new teachings of Jesus.

To be fair to people who are not of the Christian persuasion, maybe I should categorize these groups as those who think they have the mandate of the Divine Being to carry out His judgment, those who follow the path of pure love, and those who mix love with judgment.

I first became aware of these three points of view while I was getting my Religious Studies degree, though I couldn’t articulate the differences then. As I’ve done my own personal work, I’ve had time to think more deeply about what attitudes and beliefs make us who we are.

For millennia we’ve lived in a world that is clearly not in the love thy neighbor category. But that might be changing. To help good triumph over evil, maybe we should follow Ellen DeGeneres example and try to love one another, because I think we can all agree the world is a pretty messed up place right now. And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not go on as we have been.

The thing that impresses me about Ellen is that she must have done a great deal of personal work to be able to show love to people who criticize her. I say this because she gives love so freely, and seems to let all the flack that comes her way roll off her back. She doesn’t let it shake her resolve to continue to show kindness to everyone she meets. That takes a strong person. It’s so easy to slide into condemnation. It’s harder, or maybe it takes more discipline, to show compassion, kindness, and love no matter what.

Here’s what I’ve learned doing my own personal work. When I get upset with someone, I’m not really angry at them. I’m angry at the ugly part of myself I see in their actions or attitudes. What others do, holds up a mirror in front of my face and shows me something I don’t want to acknowledge about my own foibles.

So, if we really want to change the world, we have to take a good long look at ourselves and accept that we’ve made some pretty big mistakes. We have to realize that no one who has ever lived, except maybe one or two, have lived a spotless life. We have to acknowledge our mistakes and love ourselves anyway, because only then can we love everybody else. And this may be difficult to wrap your head around, but God doesn’t judge us. She/He loves us no matter what. We all go to heaven.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. Have a fun weekend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2019

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a little bit like Outlander in that it’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, novel. Except that Jenna’s life is shattered and she must find a way to put it back together. When she finds old journals, she joins consciousness with her three-times great-grandmother, Morgan, rather than traveling physically. She is able to come back at intervals and apply what she’s learned to her own life situations.

The Space Between Time is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords and for Kindle at Amazon, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. Stay tuned for news when the audiobook version is published. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

What is Love?

Ruby Throated Hummingbird

“Real love is a permanently self-enlarging experience.” ~ M. Scott Peck

Lately I’ve been faced with the fact that I don’t understand all the aspects of love. About thirty years ago I read The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. A certain passage in the book confused me. He said that love is not a feeling. Wait. What? Then, as I recall he went on to write that love is commitment to accept people as they are, faults and all. It took me a long time to even partially understand what he meant. I don’t remember what started me thinking about this recently, probably some news story.

There are always people in our lives who are easy for us to love. But the true test of loving is caring for individuals we don’t understand, or even like. I want to love everyone unconditionally, but I find myself calling people names and then I remember, oh, yeah, they deserve my love too.

M. Scott Peck and other teachers have pointed out that we don’t have to like everyone we meet. But we do need to treat everyone with respect. We need to see past their behaviors. I’m not very good at that part of love. I call drivers who cut me off, or politicians, or people at work, idiots. I judge them for not acting or behaving the way I think they should. That’s not love.

The other day we got a message from my cousin in Vermont that his mom had died. She was my father’s sister and though I didn’t see her much throughout the years, when I did the encounters stuck with me. She was a quiet, contemplative person with a light that emanated from her being. She was kind and loving.

Twenty-three years ago, Barry and I took a side trip to Vermont to visit my aunt, uncle and cousin, as part of our trip around the world. People in town greeted my aunt and uncle with such warmth. That kind of response is only given to those who are highly esteemed. I want to be like that, leaving people feeling good.

Of course, I’ve encountered people who leave me feeling yucky. And though it is counterintuitive, those are the people who need love the most. My dad used to say that. I think that’s what M. Scott Peck was getting at. When I encounter those hard to love people, I feel an inner resistance. And it’s that resistance that I have begun to question. Why do I feel it, and how can I let it go so I can just love those hard to love individuals?

Maybe the resistance is a learned thing. We think we have to build walls around ourselves for protection. What would the world be like if we all tore down our walls and allowed ourselves to be vulnerable. Whoa. That’s a bit of a scary, yet intriguing thought.

Recently I’ve been doing a lot of internal shifting in my thinking and emotions. It’s a signal to me that perhaps I’m not the only one whose world view is being challenged. It’s exciting and unnerving at the same time. Lots of my long held beliefs are crumbling and falling away. The future is not as set as I thought it was. It’s time for some cosmic closet cleaning and personal recalibration.

I’m not sure where I’m going with these thoughts and emotions. I just wanted to note that I’m beginning to feel different about my fellow humans in recent weeks. It’s an exciting new state of being.

If you’re in the U.S. I hope you get to spend time with your loved ones this Labor Day weekend.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. Love and blessings to you all.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2019

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a little bit like Outlander in that it’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, novel. Except that Jenna’s life is shattered. When she finds old journals, she joins consciousness with her three-times great-grandmother, Morgan, rather than traveling physically. She is able to come back at intervals and apply what she’s learned to her own life situations.

The Space Between Time is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords and for Kindle at Amazon, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. Stay tuned for news when the audiobook version is published. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

What I Know So Far

Anne Lamott Quote

“Our true person is outside of time and space, but looking at the paperwork, I can, in fact, see that I was born in 1954. My inside self is outside of time and space. It doesn’t have an age. I’m every age I’ve ever been, and so are you …” ~ Anne Lamott

The other day I saw a TED talk by Anne Lamott about twelve things she knows for sure. I have to say I haven’t read much of her work, but I’ve heard her speak many times and I love her humor and outlook on life. So taking a cue from her, since I’ve recently turned sixty-four, I’m going to write some things here that I know for sure. At least, so far. These are not in any particular order.

I don’t have children, and though most people don’t say it, I know many of them are thinking that I have no legacy to leave behind me, as if that’s a big deal. I don’t believe that. I think we’re made up of energy and we can’t help but leave our energy signature behind us. Even if a person seems to be leading a negative life, their energy might have positive consequences for those left behind. For example, many people saw the kind of life Hitler led and said, “Oh, heck no, I’m not living that kind of life.” What’s more, anyone who is creative leaves their work behind, and that’s a lovely legacy for all who come after.

Second, there is no reason to worry about the younger generations coming behind you. Each generation progresses, and the generations that come after build on what the ones before have done. I’ve been a teacher of both high school and community college students and I can say from experience that my students were for the most part, responsible, thoughtful, hardworking people. I’m not worried at all about the wonderful things they will accomplish. In fact, I’m excited to see what the future holds.

Third, nothing matters. Before you tie yourself into knots about that, just think about it. Everything that exists just is. We are the ones who assign a meaning to things and situations. The house is not good or bad, it just is. The situation at work is not good or bad, except what we think about it. Whether or not our lawn is mown is not good or bad, it’s just the way people pressure you to think about it. So, take a breath, and see how you feel about what happens to you. Ask yourself whether or not it will matter in a hundred years. If not, then it might be good to let it go.

Four, If you want people to be trustworthy, you have to trust them. My dad used to say that all the time, and it’s true. I practice this principle when I’m teaching. If I expect a lot from my students and trust that they will put their all into doing the work, for the most part they do. If not, I follow what Maya Angelou said, “When people show you who they are, believe them.” And as Iyanla Van Zant says, “If you see crazy, cross the street.”

Five is related to four, if someone is entrenched in their beliefs, don’t try to change their mind. That’s a situation in which we find ourselves on a huge scale right now, and it’s distressing because the people who believe in hatred and separation are making life miserable for the rest of us. But, as my dad also used to say, it’s best to lead by example. So be persistent in sharing love, compassion, and understanding. Eventually, when the tide turns and love is the way we conduct our places of business, and our government agencies, the haters will either change or die off.

Six, there is so much good in the world. Make a practice of looking for, and being grateful for it. When you do, your life will be so much happier. Tell people you appreciate them, be thankful for even the smallest things that go right during the day.

Seven, loving yourself is the best gift you can give the world. When you love yourself, the mistakes, the dark places, the triumphs and all, then you have added to the expansion of the human race, because we’re all connected, you know. So, take the time to forgive and love yourself. You will contribute to changing the world.

Eight, there is only now. As so many teachers have said, we can’t change what happened in the past and the future isn’t here yet, so pay attention to the moment you’re in, cherish it and/or learn from it.

Nine, love is stronger than hate, the sensitive, empathetic, compassionate people are the ones who are changing the world.

Ten, I wanted to mention chocolate, since Anne Lamott did in her list. I’m not funny like she is, so I’ll just say that drinking my supercharged hot chocolate every morning is one of the great pleasures of my life. I’m grateful that its rich goodness was discovered and developed for all of us to enjoy.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment sharing something you know for sure.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time which is available in ebook format at Smashwords and on the iBooks store. It will soon be available at Amazon.

Radical Love

Caring Hands

“I believe in love. Not just getting it, but giving it. I think that if you’re able to love someone, even if they don’t know it, even if they can’t love you back, then it’s worth it.” ~ Dorothy in Gosford Park

“… Now I know she’ll never leave me, even as she fades from view. She will still inspire me, be a part of everything I do. Wasting in my lonely tower, waiting by an open door. I’ll fool myself she’ll walk right in, and as the long, long nights begin, I’ll think of all that might have been, waiting here forevermore.” ~ Beast singing “Evermore” from Beauty and the Beast

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” ~ Maya Angelou

Many years ago I read an amazing book, The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. That book helped me change my perspective about life and love. Until I read that book I thought that something was terribly wrong with me because I was miserable while everyone else around me seemed to be so happy. I thought their lives were easy. That bothered me because mine was not. Oh, how wrong I was. We all struggle, we all want to live a meaningful life and most especially we all want to be loved.

Peck’s book opened my eyes to a new concept about love. He wrote, “Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth … Love is as love does. Love is an act of will – namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.”

Reading that was like a slap in the face. I was so used to trying to get people to love me that I never considered that choosing to love was my responsibility. If I loved myself, loving other people would be easy, and my life would be enriched whether they loved me back or not. But more than that, I understood that I had access to a well of love that I could rely upon whenever I needed it. All the love that has been shared throughout the history of the human race still exists. We can add to it and access it to help us through any challenges we might face.

Many people read The Road Less Traveled. It was on The New York Times Best Seller list for a very long time. I think perhaps Peck’s assertions about love have affected not just spiritual seekers, but artists as well. The kind of love M. Scott Peck talks about in his book permeate movies, books and television shows. Look at some of the latest crop of Disney movies, to name just a few. Maleficent, Tangled, Frozen, Cinderella, and the new Beauty and the Beast. They all have sweet, seemingly innocent, weak characters who are unwavering in their love for someone who needs it, or they are sustained by the love when they need it most. Because of love characters are transformed. But the endings aren’t the artificial, “And they lived happily ever after kind.” In each case, the characters learned important lessons from their trials that will help them the next time challenges come.

And radical love is not a major theme only in Disney movies. It shows up in lots of places in popular culture. One of my favorite places it shows up is in, Gosford Park, written by Julian Follows. He’s one of my favorite screen writers because he conveys important concepts with so few words. The quote above by Dorothy, one of the maids in the country house, Gosford Park, rang so true for me, and reminded me of what Peck had written in his book. Love isn’t a prize. It’s something you cultivate within yourself and give freely to others without expecting anything in return.

The song “Evermore” that I quote above, from the live action Beauty and the Beast has the same sentiment. The Beast is changed because he allows another person into his life. Something about Belle helps him venture to love enough to let her go to do what she needs to do. And as the quote above tells, he will never be the same even if she never returns to him. He has made a decision to uncover the loving person who got buried by an uncaring father. If you haven’t seen this latest version, I highly recommend it. It’s an extremely beautiful movie.

I didn’t realize that love was such an important theme in my own life until I wrote my book, The Space Between Time, I didn’t intend to have a deeply wounded character be transformed by love, at least not consciously. It just kind of happened that way. But when I was writing a pivotal scene, all the things I’ve learned about love since reading The Road Less Traveled, kind of coalesced. Here is a bit of what came out of the computer key board:

“Aris waited a moment or two to see if he would continue. When Seth was quiet, he asked, ‘Do you think you’ll ever tell her what you’ve told me?’

Seth took a deep breath. ‘I have to don’t I? Even if she can’t love me, I must tell her how much loving her has changed my life.’”

It feels like we human beings are waking up to the fact that to have a loving world, we must not SEEK love, but BE love. To me that means to be there for the people who need us, or to leave people who are toxic. We can’t share love if we hate ourselves. Love has to begin within us. I believe it’s the lack of self-love that has caused all the conflicts throughout history.

I’m not sure this post has an end. We are sustained by the love left behind, and If we tend our love, it will only grow larger and stronger. We’ll continue to be transformed by it.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Rejoice for the Truth

Earth from the Moon
Earth from the Moon

“We can forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” –Plato

“When negative feelings move upon you, reflect, and recognize the danger of feeding those feelings and keeping them alive.” –Bryant McGill

“Owning your own feelings, rather than blaming them on someone else, is the mark of a person who has moved from contracted to expanded awareness.” –Deepak Chopra

“Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learn here.” –Marianne Williamson

In recent days I’ve been sick to my stomach about current events like, the decisions of the two Grand Juries made regarding the deaths of two black men, and the reports of torture that our government carried out in the years after 9/11. In fact, almost everyday there is some news story that makes my skin crawl. Maybe you feel the same way. It’s so easy to get discouraged about all the bad news. Yet, I have to rejoice. The truth is coming out!

In a way it’s like we’re doing an intervention for ourselves. A large number of people in this country are waking up to the fact that we had slid down that slippery slope toward evil with justifications that this police officer, or that official was only trying to protect the public, or the national interest. A growing number of everyday citizens aren’t buying that old excuse. They’re saying, “This isn’t right!” Other governments, regimes and groups down the ages have tried to cover up their misdeeds, all in the name of protecting the populace, or their business. We’re in a new era now, and those old shenanigans won’t work anymore.

A few days ago I finished reading I am Malala, our latest book club group selection. In my opinion it is a must read for everyone in the Western world. Most of us, and I mean mostly white people, have no idea what it’s like to live in fear for our lives every single moment, to have our freedoms restricted, and to witness terrible atrocities day after day. In the book Malala describes in compelling detail how the Taliban used insidious tactics to gain a foothold and then spread terror. While I was reading, it was almost as if I were living in her village, feeling the fear that my school would be bombed, or my friends and family killed. I dreaded reading the parts when she described walking to school and seeing the bodies of those the Taliban killed during the night piled among the rubble of bombed out buildings. We in this country haven’t had to face that amount of devastation, unless we’ve fought in a war.

While I was reading the book, it occurred to me that people who fear will go to the greatest of lengths to make themselves feel safe. And when they are steeped in the largest amount of fear, like the Taliban, or the ultra-conservatives in this country, there is no reasoning with them. Their minds and hearts are closed. They think that obstructing anything they see as threatening is going to make them feel better. Mistakenly, they think their fear comes at them from the outside so they try to make the fear go away by controlling events and people within their influence. So anyone who’s stuck in fear will do all they can to make themselves feel better. This is not a conscious decision you understand. It’s part of the fight-or-flight response.

We say that it’s human nature to react this way. But studies are showing that we can change that nature. We can change our feelings, and our ingrained patterns of thinking. People like Bruce Lipton, Nick Ortner, and organizations like the Heart Math Institute, have written about how we can turn away from fear toward love. It takes commitment and willingness to look into the dark places we’ve been avoiding. That’s why I’m grateful that the truth is coming out about the actions of corporation and our government. More and more people are willing to examine the situations that devalue human beings, and to speak up and call for accountability.

When we act out of fear, we’re not acting out of strength. Violence, external power, and the misuse of money show weakness. So how do we change the minds of those who are so gripped by fear? Their minds and ears are closed and their hearts are hardened. How do change that? We pray for them and send them love. The Dalai Lama says it better than I can. “Being concerned about other people is especially relevant in today’s world. If we consider the complex inter-connectedness of our modern lives, how we depend on others and others depend on us, our outlook will change. We’ll begin to see ‘others’ not as somehow distant from us, but as people we are in touch with, people close to us; we will no longer feel indifferent to them.” In other words, we are them, and they are us.

Today, as I write this, The Master Shift World Peace Meditation, narrated by Julian Lennon, is being launched. I hope they keep it on YouTube long enough for you to go experience this beautiful meditation. It can be the beginning of letting go of fear and realizing that we’re all connected. We can be instruments of a powerful shift from greed, hatred and terror, to peace. That’s part of my mission. To spread peace and love. Working to accept myself and find inner peace has been one of the most profound and exciting journeys of my life. Will you join me?

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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We Need Compassion

 

Grace Cathedral Window
Grace Cathedral Window

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” –Dalai Lama

“Here are the values that I stand for: honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values.” –Ellen DeGeneres

Recent events in my family have made me wonder why some people are filled with caring and compassion for their fellow human beings and why others aren’t. I guess it’s not only that. The political climate is so volatile right now, not just in our country but almost everywhere in the world that there are times when I wonder if we’re going to make it as a species.

Then I remember that there are lots of individuals and organizations that are working to make this world a better place to live. Some do it the way I do, on a one-to-one basis, and others are working on a global scale. That gives me hope, because just lately, I’ve been feeling down about the whole situation in the world. Sometimes it’s difficult being a very sensitive empath.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve picked up the feelings of others. For many years I didn’t understand why my mood would suddenly change from happy to sad, or anxious and fearful. Then I realized, it was because I was like a magnet, picking up the feelings of others. Even after learning how to shield myself from the feelings of others, I struggle with being extremely sensitive.

Some mornings I wake up feeling anxious and I don’t know why. For the most part my life is running smoothly. I’ve learned to accept that challenges happen, and though I may temporarily be thrown off balance, I’m able to right myself and move forward knowing all is well.

However, that’s not the case for everyone. Some people are so full of fear they do and say hurtful things to those around them.

So what can we do to change the situation in which we find ourselves besides work on finding our own inner peace? I think practicing compassion is something we can do to help move the evolutionary process along.

Right after I graduated from high school, I took a job at a Montessori school as a teacher’s aide. I’d decided that I wanted to work for a few years before attending college. One day something happened in the classroom, and I was dealing with an angry little boy. The specifics of the incident have faded over the years, but I remember saying to him, “It’s okay, you can be mad at me. I can take it.” I’ll never forget the look of relief on that boys face. So many conflicting emotions had been fighting for supremacy. I could see them reflected in his body language. That’s when I told him it was okay to feel anger. I don’t know what made me tell him it was okay, but I remember feeling compassion for him. He was a powerless child confronted by an adult who had power over him. Then I’d given him permission to feel his feelings.

I know that the people I’m angry with have more money and external power than I do. But, their world is crumbling and they have no idea how to stop it. They are resisting the tidal wave of change that they didn’t see coming. That makes me feel sad for them. Some instinct tells me that the one way we can speed up the awakening process is to practice compassion in every interaction in which we participate. Calling the bully names, and treating them the way they treat us doesn’t make them back down. It makes them dig in their heels and put up more resistance. So, I propose trying a different tack. Show them compassion.

Here’s a site where you can get some tips about how to do that, or even begin to participate in building a compassionate world. Karen Armstrong, author of many books including,  A History of God, and Twelve Steps for a Compassionate Life, has begun the organization Charter for Compassion which is a world wide project to educate people and inspire a change in the way we live our lives on all levels. This is just one of many organizations with whom I’m connected.

When I read the emails of groups like this that are trying to help us turn from fear, close-mindedness and hatred, to love and compassion, I’m encouraged. Maybe we can evolve. Maybe I can let go of my anger and help make the world a better place to live.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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She Writes

A Season of Compassion

“Compassion will cure more sins than condemnation.” –Henry Ward Beecher

“Mama was my greatest teacher, a teacher of compassion, love and fearlessness. If love is sweet as a flower, then my mother is that sweet flower of love.” –Stevie Wonder

IMG_0013

Merry Christmas, Seasons Greetings, Happy Holy Days.

Last night I watched a wonderful Frank Capra movie which embodies the idea of compassion. It’s Meet John Doe (1941). Hah! Fooled you. You thought I was going to write about his most famous of movies, It’s a Wonderful Life. Actually most of his movies that I’ve seen have similar themes. The little guy perseveres and changes the world, or at least his or her little part of it, through sharing compassion and love.

In Meet John Doe, times are bad. It’s during the Great Depression. At the beginning of the movie Barbara Stanwyck’s character Ann Mitchell, loses her job as a newspaper columnist. She’s supported her mother and two younger sisters, since her father’s death and needs the job desperately. So, she writes her last column including a fake letter from a man fed up with the politics of the day and with the incivility of regular people toward each other. Her fake John Doe vows to jump off the City Hall building on Christmas Eve in protest. This of course, she hopes will increase circulation of the paper and save her job. You might think from that description that Barbara Stanwyck’s character is mercenary. Well, yes she is, but for a very good reason which you find out as the movie goes along. Of course, eventually the paper has to hire a “John Doe”, played by Gary Cooper, because of accusations from another paper that the John Doe letter is fake, and it’s all been a publicity stunt.

At the heart of the movie is the groundswell of ordinary everyday people forming John Doe Clubs promoting compassion for their neighbors and making sure everyone in the community is taken care of.

What actually started me thinking about compassion, was Karen Armstrong’s interview with Oprah on Super Soul Sunday a few weeks ago. Karen, who was at one time a nun, has studied the religions of the world and her new book, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, points out that every single religion has compassion as a core tenet. Then a few days after watching the show, I saw Meet John Doe, and the two fit together perfectly.

Compassion is slightly different than love. To me, compassion is an ability to feel another’s pain and suffering; to understand that we all fall down and we all have a dark side. Just having a compassionate person’s presence, is a balm to both the sufferer and the one giving compassion. Therefore, compassion is one component of love. In her interview, Karen Armstrong pointed out that we all have a dark side and once we acknowledge our own ability to harm others, we can show compassion to others even though they may be showing only their dark side in the present moment.

That brings me back to the movie. John Doe is exposed as a fake, by someone who wants to use the clubs as a way to gain the White House. The crowds of people at the John Doe convention turn on him and revert back to their angry, wounded, pessimistic view of the world. That is, until John decides to fulfill the deed set out in the fake letter. One of the groups that we see earlier in the picture, come to the City Hall to stop him. Ann, played by Stanwyck is also there trying to keep him from jumping. It’s the climactic scene and we see that compassion lives on because of John’s message even though the powerful politicians try to crush it.

I know from experience, that compassion is a powerful force. Kind words at a crucial time in my life helped me find new purpose. Showing compassion for others is a way for the recipient to feel seen, heard and understood. I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions, but for 2014, I’m going to work on being more compassionate.

Attacking Others is Attacking Ourselves

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Martin Luther King Jr.

When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future.
Bernard Meltzer

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.
Mahatma Gandhi

George Zimmerman is found not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin and the country goes into attack mode. He’s characterized as evil incarnate. It’s a tragedy that Trayvon Martin was killed in a senseless way. We all feel angry and helpless about what happened to him. But aren’t we killing ourselves to hate George Zimmerman?

Every single religion teaches us that we must forgive our enemies. They don’t teach that so that the person we hate benefits, they teach that so that we benefit. I know from personal experience that when I hold a grudge and refuse to forgive, it hurts me a lot more than it does the other person. In fact, the other person might not even know they hurt me, or that I’m holding a grudge. They may feel perfectly justified in what they did. My hatred and the desire for revenge holds me back, makes me ill and cuts me off from the divine goodness that could come to me. To forgive is the ultimate act of self-love. We can’t love others if we don’t love ourselves.

We need to forgive George Zimmerman not for him, but for ourselves. If you think about it, can we really know what happened on that terrible day? I mean, were you there when Trayvon got shot? Did you see it happen? Were you there in the courtroom? Did you hear every piece of evidence? We can never know what goes on inside another person’s mind. We can’t possibly know what was going on in George Zimmerman’s mind when he shot Trayvon Martin. And we can’t know what was going on in Trayvon’s mind in his last moments. We don’t know the larger purpose of that event.

I wrote last week that we need to give up fear and trust God, or whatever you call God. I need to say here that I call God, Divine Oneness. I chose that name because we’re all connected. Everything in the universe, everything that exists is connected. That’s not just my opinion. Science has proven that we are all made of the same elements as what’s out in the cosmos. So, if we’re going to trust Divine Oneness to manage things for us, we have to let Her/Him take care of George Zimmerman’s fate too. We’re not God. Our teeny little brains can’t manage our own lives, much less all that exists. Nor can we understand the bigger picture of the plan Divine Oneness has in store for us. So we’ve got to stop buying into the idea that revenge is sexy, cool, protects us and balances the books. It doesn’t. It eats away our humanity.

I had two experiences that I think relate to George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin. When my husband and I took our trip around the world in 1996, I broke down in almost uncontrollable tears at two different sites. The first was in Notre Dame in Paris. It was a lovely spring day and the Cathedral was full of tourists. The choir was practicing in the choir loft. We entered the Cathedral and began walking the tourist path. To the right just inside the entrance was a life size statue of Joan of Arc. I saw the statue and began to weep. Barry was very concerned. He didn’t know why I was reacting in such a way. I stood there blocking the path while other tourists tried to get around me. Finally, Barry said, “Do you want to pray?” There was an area cordoned off with chairs for those who wanted to pray. We sat there for about twenty minutes while I wept. To this day I’m not sure what made me weep at the sight of Joan’s statue, but I think it had to do with the fact that she was sacrificed in a senseless grab for power. She had a pure understanding of her purpose and she was willing to follow her guidance no matter where it led her. We remember her, not so much the men who burned her at the stake.

The other time I broke into tears, was when we were in Delhi, India at the Raj Ghat where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated. In the midst of the city, which is crammed with buildings, is a lovely large parklike area. The moment we entered the gates, I felt we were walking on sacred ground. Our Sikh guide was telling us about the grounds and about Gandhi’s life. One of the other tourists asked, “Gandhi was a Hindu wasn’t he? Then why was he killed by a Hindu man?” The guide, who was very tall and elegant said, “It is often the case that men of great vision are misunderstood.” At that moment I was filled with the importance of Gandhi’s message and the meaning his life held for the world. I began to weep. We haven’t learned yet to let go of violence, and Trayvon Martin is just the latest example of the accepted viewpoint that guns protect us. I wept for the loss of Trayvon Martin just like I did for Joan of Arc and Gandhi and all the other victims of senseless violence.

I have a friend who says, “There are no victims, only volunteers.” Both Joan of Arc and Gandhi volunteered to be examples of love, purpose and peace. They left us a great legacy. We need to contemplate the legacy Trayvon Martin leaves, not nurse the hatred we feel for George Zimmerman. As my father used to say, “People who hurt others are in pain themselves.” George Zimmerman most certainly acted out of fear when he shot Trayvon Martin. He’s living in his own kind of hell. I refuse to join him there by hating him, because as A Course in Miracles says, “Attacking others is attacking yourself.”