Monday, January 18, 2010

A day to make strides - January 18

Today we celebrate the confluence of spiritual and legal rhetoric in the service of human rights. Martin Luther King Jr. (picking up where Mohandas Gandhi left off) is honored for striding for one's beliefs -- using passive resistance not taking up arms against our enemies and oppressors. Mandela too deployed this powerful tool in the service of his people against the South African government. Understanding the underbelly of humanity, they lead the way against colonial and racial oppression by their example of non-violence.

As great orators and politicians in their own right, these leaders mobilized large groups of people at a time when twitter, facebook, email, blackberry and smart phones did not exist. Pioneers of the grass roots movements, they had to convince through cogency, urgency, and the sustenance of defeat that they would not surrender. Initially only those closest to them would hear them out, and then slowly others began to realize the powerful meaning behind their actions of resistance. It was this example not of glorious battle and purple hearts, but their adherence to the principles cradling humanity in compassion, equality of opportunity and consideration, that they were worth following. Much like 'cool hand Luke' they took one punch after another, till they earned their stripes and the respect of the people they sought to lead, almost inadvertantly realizing the stature being bestowed upon them.

It is interesting too to understand that our current forte in marketing to the masses misses that grass roots appeal that can only come from doing not saying. What was this doing they did? These leaders realized that they had to take the punches and make themselves vulnerable in a way that frightened the people they sought to free from bondage. People could actually look at these leaders as the experimental but lived fantasy of a life first resisting the idea of oppression and then living a life free of it. Not unlike the experimental fantasy of flying finally lived by the Wright brothers, success involved a lot of hard knocks, literally. For as they lead others, they encountered the hand and club of the oppressor. Many of their followers died in that march for freedom, whether it was against the oppression of foreign colonization, or of racial segregation. Mandela actually fought both at the same time in its most ingrained form -- apartheid, and gave up twenty-five years of his life to imprisonment at the hands of his oppressors.

Where law and politics meet humanity, we must leave the classroom. We can bring the books with us to guide us, but we must count on our hearts to tell us the truth. It is a dark road through the brush that no one has dared to hack. To make way for a different consideration of the situation and to bring people along, the fight must be real and it must affect many. There are real fights in this world. There are situations that are being taken as normal but they are not normal. There are situations that many people know are not right, but because they provide comfort to some people with power, influence and money, others will not speak. Today these struggles are being taken up in many fora - personally in the home, politically in various agendas for change and reform, and legally as some of us fight for truth and justice. Today is a day to celebrate all such struggle and to support it if you have a chance!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Google gets it right today - Happy New Year! Dream A little.

It is another January 4th, a day to celebrate the birth of Sir Isaac Newton, and to dream as we begin another year. Typically we are also back to work after the celebrations. As you Google, an apple falls down to remind you where you are -- on this earth where gravity can be perceived. You are not on the moon or the outer heavens, where your dreams may reside, but here among the trees, mountains, lakes, and cities of this planet. Newton brings you back down to earth just as that apple served the same purpose for him as he was dreaming away under an apple tree. More of us more often should find ourselves under a tree (maybe not a coconut tree), we are liable to hit upon a good idea.

As we embark on a new year, we can take note of the fact that we must both dream and keep our feet on the ground in order to correctly implement the ideas we originate. Dreaming is important because it connects us to our hearts. Unless our hearts have been terminally or fatally wounded, we can connect with ourselves deeply and create both the food and the thought that can light at least a generation to do good and serve humanity. But this is not enough, we must also locate ourselves on the ground and find ways to implement our ideas. There is no better way to put our ideas into practice than to practice them ourselves if at all we can. There is also little getting away from the fact that we will each of us make mistakes in doing so. But with some diligence and time, we will be able to break new ground with each new year as it renews our hope in life's changes and in our capacity for growth.

Just as an apple, fruit of a tree nourished by the love of the earth, and the dreams of the sun and clouds poured upon it, falls from the branches to be enjoyed by others below, our ideas can be enjoyed only when they have a practical use and nourish or serve others or the earth itself, now that this planet appears to need our help. This metaphor can ripple on infinitely of course, for we too are both like the apple -- as our ideas are made real through application, and its seeds bearing trees of their own -- sometimes sprouting an entire industry with one idea.

Shiny red and juicy, we ourselves are bound up with all the possibilities of a gift wrapped tight and surrounded by a hundred bows and ribbons beckoning each other's anticipation at what lies beneath. But consider for a moment that each of us is a very special package that itself changes depending on how it is touched, considered, taken in, respected, abused, maligned, or depended upon, relied upon and simply, made to feel. This brings in a highly important aspect of our ability to do anything, to dream, to create, to perform, to be good to one another, to be responsible etc. As much as we would love to take for granted that we could create apples like the apple tree, we are forced to deal with human dynamics and acknowledge we do not live in social vacuums of our own making.

This great complex of human relationships can exact a heavy toll on the creative possibility of each of us. How shiny is our package after all, how vulnerable is it to the acid rain others may pour on us? How much respect do we each and all of us need to be our best selves? There are about seven billion of us on this planet; every genius who has ever existed in human history is on the planet now, my older brother tells me. We know this because the total number of earth's human inhabitants totals as many humans as have lived throughout human history. How do we allow the genius in each of us to shine through? Without hurting other geniuses? Yes we have rules, regulations, and legal systems to protect and enable. But at the basic level, we must count on each other. So much happens in the private realm that is not regulated and cannot be regulated and requires each of us to grow and mature so that we can "see" each other a la 'Avatar' (yes I saw it over the holidays).

With this new year, as each of us tries to do our best to dream and fashion the change we want to develop in our lives, perhaps we need to be mindful of the change we can enable in those of others. Perhaps our dreams are not diminished as others are allowed to explore and implement theirs.