For Immediate Release to the Q Continuum
CALL FOR LEADERSHIP IN QUAKER WEBCASTING PROJECT
Friends World Media/SpeakingTruth.org --
A web-based portal for Quaker media ministry.
After 18 months of inspiration and perspiration, the webcasting portal www.speakingtruth.org will with Divine assistance have a "soft launch" on January 1, 2008.
(editor's note, the soft launch is Up - Speakingtruth.org)
The organizing committee is actively seeking Friends from all points on the Quaker continuum and all parts of the world to join us. We particularly need folks who can put some focused time into outreach, webmastering (Ruby on Rails), and developing a business plan. The organizing committee conducts its business by email and conference call.If you are called to discern what being "Publishers of Truth" will really mean for 21st century Friends, please contact us.
Pamela Calvert, Clerk: email@example.com
Friends World Media/www.SpeakingTruth.org is a sponsored project of the Quaker Institute for the Future. www.quakerinstitute.org
(editor's note - re-posts and links of this material are welcomed)
Clueless Wise Guys leave by Back door
today's UPI column #89 of 100
I will bring you by a way you do not know, I will make the darkness light before you, I will make the crooked things straight, I will not forsake you
So There I was
Good and lost, I did not have a clue. And it did not matter because I was with my dad and when I was with my dad, lost was not possible. He was the true north that my compass always pointed towards. He knew everything, the names of all the plants and stars. He could defend against anything, yet he never said a violent word or committed a violent deed in my presence, not once in 47 years.
On that day we were on a hike around Devil’s Lake in Wisconsin. I have not been back there as an adult. It suspect it is a fairly small lake and our hike that day was probably one of a few miles, but when I was 9, it was uncharted wilderness. The Lake is ringed by what are probably hills, but then were mountains. Lots of cool rock formations. My brothers were doing something else with my mother that day. Dad and I were on a trek that was designed to meet them at the other end of the lake in time for lunch.
I was all about playing Pocahontas. Dad taught me how to walk on the balls of my feet and try not to break twigs, to move silently through the woods. There was probably a bit of ulterior motive in this. I was not very good at being quiet as a child, I still am not good at it, but he tried to teach me. We practiced sneaking up on chipmunks and rabbits. He taught me that if you walk around a rabbit in a slowly decreasing spiral that the rabbit will think you are on a tangential path and freeze, and that you can get quite close.
I don’t know when he realized that we had gotten off our chosen trail. I remember him climbing a rock at one point to see if he could still see the lake and being perplexed when he could not. I remember a lot of talk about reading directions by the sun and the moss on trees. Finally we came out to a road, and we were not anywhere near the expected picnic area. He put me up on his shoulders and we walked the road for a bit and then re-entered the State Park. I only became aware of our lost estate when I saw my mother, picnic lunch laid out, scanning the horizon and then seeing us coming from the wrong way, and using her ‘put out’ voice to say “Orville, where have you been!? You are two hours late!” My dad used his special smile and a hug and a kiss to placate her wrath – it worked every time for him.
One of my favorite parts of the Christmas story is the circuitous path of the Magi. Pretty clueless for wise men. Any sense of the politics of the day and region would have made them cautious about Herod the Great. But they were specialists. All about the Astology. And so they consulted a king about a king. Fortunately, they also took seriously a dream, and so were led home by another route.
The Christ child escapes in the nick of time. Not so lucky the innocent boy babes of Bethlehem. If I had been scripting the story the Magi would have gone back to Herod and told a few clever falsehoods. “King? Well, as it turns out, we miscalculated! There is no infant king. Not a sign. Sorry to bother. We’ll be heading back to Persia now. As you were.” But no one consulted me for the script. The Magi slip away. Joseph packs up the family and runs, and Herod is left to his royal paranoia with its natural evil consequences.
The road to Persia, like the road to Nazareth turns out to be unexpectedly long and circuitous.
I have written scripts for my life. My cosmic circular file is full of them. When I was thirteen I had button printed for my presidential run. I was planning to run at the first available moment, when I turned thirty-five. I would be the first female president. That would have been 1992. We got Mr. Bill instead. Turns out Mrs. Bill, who grew up near me in the suburbs of Chicago is looking like the dark horse of womankind. Odd that.
I turn fifty this month. Halfway home. (Optimistic, aren’t I?) I have never completely given up making plans and scripts. But these days I understand, that by my own lights, I am still blissfully lost. I do not know where I am, I know where I want to end up, but I do not know how I am going to get there. It does not matter. I walk the path with a guide. And He is a better woodsman than even my dad. And we laugh and we play and He teaches me things. I will get home. I will slip through the fingers of all the Herods who dog my steps. I will arrive by a way I do not know.
That’s fine by me.
Today's UPI column
So There I was...
We once had a dog who kept Christmas better than many people. He appeared to understand the theological concept of Advent, the expected surprise.
By his third Christmas he saw the tree and knew what was coming. He knew where I kept the decorations. He liked the food and he appeared to enjoy walking around the neighborhood looking at the lights. Because we had children with a sense of justice, the dog got presents. His were very simple and wrapped in the funny papers, but he understood the concept of a present and anticipated it. He waited as others opened theirs with vicarious joy, but when the child passing the presents spoke his name he would bounce up with delight. He was a package ripper. By his fifth or sixth Christmas he could count well enough to be aware that others were getting many presents to his one, and we had to start making several for him. We could fake him out by going around the circle twice before he would notice, but then he would sense that it was time for him again, and whimper with anticipation. I have no doubt that if he could have given presents, he would have. He understood that they were not all for him, and never bothered a package left under the tree until Christmas morning.
There are many Western Christian humans who could take a few lessons from that dog. There are many people who due to their upbringings or personal history and choices need to spend the season in Christmas rehab.
I have walked several friends and many counseling clients through Christmas rehab. It works. The major intervention can be done in one year, but must be followed up especially well in the next few years. Christmas serenity can be achieved in five years for most people.
Here are the ten principles of Christmas Rehab.
ONE: The operative verb of Christmas is “keep.” Christmas is not a storm that blows through. Christmas is not a misery forced upon you. It is not a black hole that you get sucked into. Once you are an adult, the Christmas you keep is the Christmas you get, and the Christmas you deserve. It is a matter of faith, effort and personal responsibility. You should keep the Christmas that you believe in. No one can force you to do anything else.
TWO: Do not stretch the season. This waters the thing down and makes it insipid. Avoid the stores as much as possible between Halloween and Thanksgiving. If you find the season to be tiring, shorten it.
THREE: Do beauty, appreciate beauty. Start with cleanliness. Spend the days between Thanksgiving and December 1 making your home clean and orderly. Repair or paint if necessary. Then decorate. Focus on quality not quantity. Have a few things to wear that you do not wear at any other time of year. Go out and look at the lights, the public displays. But not until you are ready to do beauty of your own.
FOUR: Simplify. If part of your tradition is giving and receiving gifts, then before you shop, you should get rid of all excess things in your possession. This is a marvelous tradition to do with children. Have them go through their toys and possessions and give a few away. Tell them that this is an essential part of getting ready for Santa.
FIVE: Have a budget and stick to it. Debt should have no place in Christmas. If this is hard for you, start saving in January. If you need to, take your Christmas budget out in cash and put it in envelopes marked for different purposes and when it is gone, STOP spending. If your budget does not feel generous enough, up your savings for the next year.
SIX: Participate in Charity. Sort food at your local food bank. Volunteer to serve a meal at the mission. Never, ever, walk past a Salvation Army bell ringer. Keep change in your pocket for this purpose. If a store you normally patronize does not allow the bell ringers, stop shopping there for a few weeks and tell the manager why. Adopt a kid or a family. Quantity of giving does not matter. Giving, especially if you can do it as a surprise, does.
SEVEN: Make faith the core of your holiday. It is a Christian holiday after all. Easter should actually be a little bigger, but Christmas is Number Two. Keep the core of your denomination’s and your ethnicity’s traditions. Go to midnight mass. Walk the Posada. Find out what your ancestors did and do some of that. Read religious stories to your children. Attend church – for the whole month.
EIGHT: Balance solitude and community. You may have to fight for this one; you may have to disappoint a few people. If you are a social person, do not go to every party you are invited to. If you tend to isolate, find a few public events and attend them. Do not overbook yourself or your family. Take a Christmas, or post-Christmas retreat at a local Monastic retreat house.
NINE: Have and make Flexible traditions. Do some things the same every year. Have a few traditional foods. If you had good Christmases in your childhood bring something of that forward to another generation. But stay flexible. Your children and grandchildren will need time and space to make their own traditions, and that by necessity means letting go of some of yours.
TEN: Avoid people who have the inclination to sabotage holidays. Avoid situations that are a set-up. Some families should just have a moratorium on the season for a year and then start fresh. In some families the longest standing tradition is the Christmas crisis, which can involve a fight, a trip to the ER, a drunken rampage, whatever. Some people need to avoid their biological relations to keep Christmas. Some people need to have a completely alcohol free Christmas. Some people need to cut back on spending even if that means offending some relations. Some people need to adopt a whole new family. It is not a sin to scale back. It is not a sin to choose who you wish to see and not see this holiday. You can turn off and unplug the phones on the 23rd and not turn them back on until the 26th – this breaks no law.
I suggest you take these principles out for a test run. If you have limited success, try them again next year with better preparation.
If you find these guidelines to be intuitive and easy to implement, well, then grasshopper, you are ready for the big task.
Learn from Ebenezar Scrooge and keep Christmas everyday of the year.
this week's UPI
So There I was... Getting my cards trumped.
I was leaving the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Traveling by people’s bus, without handlers or translators. I had been teaching trauma healing for a couple of days for a student of mine who is trying to set up a trauma-healing center. I was on my way back to Burundi via Kigali, Rwanda. I thought I was being brave.
Then a good-looking young blonde woman got on the bus. Her name was Ellen Brown and she worked for the Wildlife Conservation Society studying and protecting mountain gorillas in the Virunga National Forest of the Congo. She was traveling to Kigali to pick up a visitor.
A little compare and contrast is needed for American readers. In Central Africa there are areas designated as national forests. In Countries like Burundi, which is 97% deforested they may be the only forests. But they are nothing like an American National Forest. There are no picnic or camping areas, no walking trails. The rangers carry AK-47’s and use them on a regular basis. This is because various rebel groups have discovered that national forests make great hiding places.
Presently hiding out in the Virumga National Forest North and West of Goma, DRC, is the remnants of the Interhamwe, the fellows who instigated and perpetrated the Rwandan Genocide of 1994. Also nearby is the private army of General Nkunda, who claims to be protecting the local Tutsis, who are hated by the Interhamwe. The Congolese government army is ineffectively attempting to rout out both groups. Caught in the middle of all of this are a few families of the last mountain gorillas left on the planet. The Interhamwe has taken to shooting them for target practice. They do not even eat them, which by Congolese standards is a huge waste and insult.
Ellen told me that there were about 400 gorillas left in the region; many of them live on the Rwandan side of the border. Rwandan Gorillas have a better deal. We traveled that day through the town of Ruhengeri, Rwanda. It is surreal. There you are bouncing along on bad, back roads, washouts, views of consistent intense poverty and active volcanoes, and then you round a bend and the road is suddenly silky pavement, and there are streetlights, and a planted boulevard, and coffee shops, and white people sitting in the coffee shops.
Ellen informs me that the town is entirely fueled by Gorilla tourism. The tourists, mostly Europeans, are flown in directly to the town and never see the rest of the region. They are taken out into the forest to see the Gorillas for one hour a day. Each Gorilla family has their own ranger who calls in by satellite telephone to the tour guide who brings the tourists out for the visit. I was told that the Gorillas know tourist hour, like the Queen knows teatime. They expect it, understand the rules of it, sometimes enjoy it, and get impatient if it goes on too long.
I asked Ellen if this was good for the Gorillas. She said that if keeping them alive was good, then it was good for them. The Rwandan Gorilla population has risen by 10% in the last ten years. The government is very interested in keeping them alive and thriving.
The Congolese Gorillas do not have such a good deal. There are the bullets flying by. Rough on teatime, that.
Ellen told me with great sadness and disgust of finding a Gorilla matriarch shot in the head and dumped in a latrine. The Congolese Gorillas have their rangers too. But they are also dodging bullets. They are also tasked with arresting people chopping trees to make charcoal. The twenty million people in the Great Lakes region of Africa cook every meal over charcoal fires. Burundi is mostly deforested, Rwanda has made cutting trees illegal. So sneaking across the border into the Congo to cut and burn trees is a going concern. Good enough business that people are willing to try and evade three gun happy armies to try and get the wood.
I asked Ellen if she was afraid to be driving around Virunga.
She claimed she was not.
I have been thinking about Ellen this week. It was ten months ago that I met her on that bus. The BBC is reporting very intense fighting in that region this week. You can read about it here. A blog by two of the rangers that Ellen works with can be found here What heroes these fellows are!
I pray that Ellen and those rangers and all those Gorillas stay out of harms way.