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Esteemed Reader 

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field, I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.
—Rumi


Esteemed Reader of Our Magazine:
In the spirit of staying positive I want to express some gratitude to Mr. Bush for preparing the way for the appreciation of simple things—a complete sentence, an open smile, the appearance of concern. Every day I hear a report about the new president that is heartwarming. Yesterday it was a pre-inauguration speech to a conference on climate change, in which he unequivocally committed to renewing real work to reduce our collective carbon footprint (simply acknowledging that climate change is human-caused would have been reason for happiness); the day before he issued new rules opening up presidential records, increasing transparency, and renewing the sense that he is working for us. There is finally the sense that the global emergency is being faced. So, thanks, W, for creating an atmosphere in which the ordinary and sensible can feel special.

Isn’t it uncanny how, when we feel most raw and vulnerable, most insecure, a new ray of passibility finds its way into the darkness of that fear. We can’t not acknowledge that these moments are most rife with the potential for change that leads to happiness, wholeness, and harmony, and yet it is difficult to want them. Ironically, the very resistance to that suffering seems to break up the loam in preparation for the moment that new seeds will sprout and break through the crust of psychic inertia.

Watching the unfolding of the Israeli “Defense” Force’s recent hideous assault against the Palestinians was heartbreaking. Certainly being a parent makes the reports of mutilated and murdered children more potent. It is as though the biblical struggle of Jacob and Esau relentlessly continues—with the descendants of Esau resenting the stealing of the birthright, and the descendants of Jacob using violence to prevent themselves from facing the fact of their crime. Indeed, the absconding with Palestinian lands, and refusal to give them back, was a repeat of the original theft. It is a macro-example of the unwillingness we all face, to feel the results of our misdeeds and open ourselves to humility and forgiveness.

Somehow collective perception of the absurdity of the notion that violence can lead to peace remains elusive. This ignorance reinforces the fact that we live in the darkest of ages. Our delusional Cult of Progress, which has made us unquestioning believers that we live at the time of greatest enlightenment, has led us to worship the false gods of technology. As a result we have handed over our strength to our tools and become so inwardly flaccid that we can’t discern useful from useless, truth from lies. For the means of achievement must be congruent with the desired ends. Only peaceful action leads to peace; only being loving leads to love; only working to manifest positively leads to happiness; and only abundant generosity leads to prosperity.
There is a metaphor from a great teacher—Adi Da Samraj, who died last year—that describes a disposition of openness. It is the image of the closed fist and the open hand. The closed fist is the state of the self, contracted, self-involved, suffering uselessly, and avoiding relationship with the world. This disposition requires effort to maintain. We are constantly animating this tightness, however unconsciously. When we aren’t hiding in the defensive confines of the fist, we use it to strike out and smash away apparent threats. The beginning of attaining an open-hand disposition is in noticing that this tension is being held, and in the noticing, allowing it to relax. Being the open hand is to be strongly and resiliently available, in relationship with whatever and whomever arises. It is a position of strength in vulnerability.

This humility is one of the qualities that makes the Obama phenomenon inspiring. He even used the open hand image in his inaugural address—“we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.” The essence of true leadership lies in the strength of vulnerability and humility, and again, how satisfying it is to see these qualities replace the pathetic arrogance of the Decider.

We are alive at a pivotal moment. It is an interstice between the old world and the new. A great collision of values and memes is underway. For those of us fortunate not to be caught in the physical violence of this impact, it is the opportunity to begin to model the mode of the new age. It is a mode of resilient vulnerability, in which we value the hurt of a wounded pride over avoidance and counterattack; in which we are willing to work for a common good, instead of self-interest and protection of egoistic territory; in which we know that we may die at any time, and that all we can do is be as mindful and available as we can in this moment.

  • Chronogram publisher Jason Stern considers a more peaceful and positive disposition.

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