Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Judgment and Forgiveness

 


It is easy to arrive at a summary judgment in regard to an individual, familiar, or not, family member or stranger. It is facile, indeed, for any of us to believe that we have the categorical right to judge another human being on whatever evidence seems to be at hand whether directly experienced or purely anecdotal. It is far too tempting to reach a harsh and immobile conclusion in regard to another individual’s perceived character based upon the assumption that one has a complete understanding of what is right and what is wrong.

In truth, is anyone ever truly able to make a judgment without fully comprehending how reality is perceived through the eyes and mind of the individual being examined through such a myopic lens? Good and evil are terms used far too often with a false and misleading sense of certainty. Far too often, the pronouncement of evil is applied from the standpoint that the one(s) making this determination is decidedly good.

There are no absolutes in the context of human behavior. It is not possible to comprehend another human without seeing through the same eyes, co-existing within the same mind and understanding the cumulative impact of life experiences upon his or her view of the world. Those who are abused in childhood are more than likely to become abusers as adults. Mental Illness has many and myriad manifestations, and those who suffer from severe chemical imbalances within their brains, often exhibit erratic, irrational, and sometimes dangerous behavior. An historic example of this reality was that of Adolph Hitler who was ultimately determined to be a schizophrenic psychopath.

The best we can do and still remain true to the vagaries and vicissitudes of human nature is to judge the behavior and not the person. This is not to suggest that dangerous behavior that does harm to others can be ignored by the society at large; this is not to propose that the person guilty of crimes against his fellow humans is not to be held accountable for his or her actions. We cannot however, with any confidence, determine the inner-workings of another mind and come to any unambiguous assessment of that individual.

Paradoxically, we do have the capacity to condemn a behavior yet forgive the individual responsible for that behavior. Forgiveness is a recognition of the innate frailties of being human. Forgiveness can open the mind and heart, shattering the constraints that judgment imposes. Forgiveness can provide a gateway to the liberation of the spirit, for it lightens the burdens imposed by judgment and loss. Under certain circumstances, forgiveness seems impossible, yet it often becomes a necessary feature of acceptance and growth. Without forgiveness, reality becomes distorted and superimposed by a bleak world of black and white, devoid of color. Without forgiveness, the human world is destined to follow the trajectory that is an unavoidable consequence of violence and retribution. The path of forgiveness and reconciliation that South Africa took following the fall of apartheid under the guiding influence of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu is an excellent example of the power of these actions in forging a more peaceful future.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Holiday Message for the Coming Year - 2021

 The year 2020 has been in many ways disturbing and unsettling.  What, of course, comes to mind almost immediately is the COVID 19 pandemic that has claimed so many lives and has been so economically devastating to many facets of the national economy, and especially for those who have lost their livelihoods and businesses.  Added to this national burden are the deep fractures that have been exposed in regard to a national sense of unity, shared-mission and purpose.

Along with this overwhelming sense of loss, however, is the untold bravery, courage and unwavering energy displayed by so many who have risked their own lives and safety to come to the aid of all of us for the unselfish commitment to the greater good.  These individuals have come from many diverse positions - as doctors, nurses, emergency response teams, members of the police and fire departments and first responders of all kinds.  To this list, we should include all those responsible for providing food; for delivering the mail; for the taxi and bus drivers, train operators and pilots; for the teachers; for all those who care for the elderly and for all those who provide the essential services that we all too often take for granted.

My wish for the New Year (2021) is that we grow wiser from the events that have befallen us and see the future as a time for healing and learning from our collective missteps.  My hope is that the new year will be a time of new beginnings.  My dream is that we will finally come to recognize that regardless of our national origin, religious affiliation, skin color or sexual orientation we are all members of the same species with the same physical bodies, the same architecture of the brain, the same genetic makeup, the same constellation of feelings, of hopes and of dreams.  Each of us is worthy of the same opportunities to grow and develop as sentient beings on this most remarkable planet that also needs our kindness, care, and attention.  Earth is, after all, our only home.

Best Wishes to All

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The Critical Need for a New Paradigm

 The human species is in a state of perpetual crises. This has been made evident by the turmoil present within so many human societies throughout the globe. It has been this way since the very beginnings of human civilization. The protracted history of humanity in the last 10,000 years has been filled with many wars of aggression, widespread bigotry, hatred, and enmity between peoples who view themselves as being different. This propensity for tribalism and xenophobia is more than likely a result of human evolution on planet earth – it was a time when these kinds of responses provided a significant advantage for small local groups competing for survival in an essentially hostile environment. 


During this early stage in human evolution, the species (Homo sapiens) was sparsely populated on the planet and the tribal disputes between local peoples of different origins did not have much of an impact on the longevity of the species or on the health and state of the natural environment primarily due to the primitive nature of weaponry.

Currently, however, with close to 8 billion individuals populating this fragile ecosystem called earth and where advances in technological warfare has brought us horrendous weapons of mass destruction, this is no longer the case. We have reached a time in human development on planet earth where it has become imperative that humans learn to cooperate with each other regardless of their place of origin, the color of their skin, their particular belief systems, and their sexual orientation.

The level of competition between peoples for natural resources such as land and water and sources of energy, for example, has become so acute that the usual practice of acting with violence and aggression towards real or perceived adversaries has become counterproductive and detrimental to the very future of the species. Empire building and the penchant for colonization has thankfully diminished over the recent past, but the urge to dominate others and accrue wealth and power at the expense of the weak remains as a dominant and corrosive force within the body politic.

The modern quest for energy to propel the hunger and thirst for material progress has now created a situation where the very stability of the earthly climate is in jeopardy. In order to ensure a secure future for the coming generations, the only remedy is to reach all-encompassing solutions to the daunting issues of climate change, wars of aggression, hatred, and bigotry and to build cooperative and compassionate relationships between all peoples around the globe.

To accomplish these elusive goals on a worldwide scale requires a new paradigm – one in which all humans inhabiting this planet are accepted as an intrinsic part of the human family and worthy of an equal chance and opportunity to pursue their goals, aspirations and the promise of a full and rewarding life. One in which all humans are viewed as being of equivalent worth and held within the context of a universal and caring global human community.

It is within this light, that true peace and security is achievable. It is within this light, that humanity will finally be able to release itself from the seemingly endless cycle of violence and retribution. Whether humankind will ever be able to transcend the oppressive boundaries of its own limited conclusions is, of course, an open question. We must, however, dare to hope and dare to dream and dare to finally act in our own best interests.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

A Plea for Sanity and Intelligence

Within the seemingly endless maelstrom of the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, we are witnessing the full consequences of failed leadership on the part of the Federal government within a corrupt and dysfunctional system. To refer to the virus as our enemy is rather ludicrous at best. Viruses are a fundamental aspect of biological life on planet earth. As a type of life form, they have played an essential role in the evolution of living things over billions of years and are not about to disappear. 

The enemy in this debacle is ourselves. As a democratic society, we have apparently chosen an individual to head the Federal government who is patently incapable of real and authentic leadership; someone who is inherently unable to intellectually grasp such a complex issue with all its layered nuances and is, thereby thoroughly and completely out of his depth. He and his cohorts have failed in regard to nearly every level of dealing with a national crisis of such major proportions. 

Even though we are currently mired in a very difficult and perilous situation, we do have the unprecedented opportunity to emerge from this crisis with a renewed focus and determination to finally acknowledge and correct the critical inequities that have permeated our national life for far too long. The threat to our health and livelihoods that this pandemic has posed has essentially unveiled the deep-seated problems that have confounded American life. 

It has been over one-hundred and fifty years since the end of the devastating and debilitating Civil War and yet as a people we are still haunted and plagued by the prejudice, hatred and bigotry that propelled us into that devastating conflict in the first place. Fear and suspicion continue to dominate national life and have led to an armed and anxious people. We have not yet come to terms with our collective past. The process of rebuilding our social and economic life at the end of this pandemic may provide us with an opportunity to recognize our failings and construct an entirely different and more inclusive image of ourselves not simply for the present moment, but for future generations as well. 

Many of the societal ills that have characterized ordinary life in the United States prior to this pandemic include a failed national health system, a fractured and dysfunctional national immigration policy, a seemingly perpetual crisis around the issues of homelessness, poverty and hunger, a justice system that has produced the highest per capita prison population in the world and an educational system that effectively excludes many from legitimate access. As a result of this abject failure to educate our own people, there is currently a profound fear and apparent disregard of the essential role that science does play in modern life. 

Many of these failings have as their primary root cause a massive and inequitable distribution of wealth where there are but a few winners at the very top of the economic scale. Along with this tilted economic alignment comes an equivalent and devastating distribution of economic and political power and influence. As a result, important and far-reaching public policies and decisions have been and are being made not based upon the common good and sound scientifically and intellectually- derived principles but rather upon the immediate capacity to generate wealth and profit. 

As this public health crisis has clearly demonstrated, this system has failed us especially with leadership that is clearly and categorically aligned with the interests of wealth and power. A society not based upon the premise of providing for the common good, regardless of its avowed political system, is essentially unsustainable. 

As a people, we are thereby faced with the choice of either coming through this unprecedented situation and reverting back to failed principles or learning important lessons and fashioning a social order focused upon on creating a sane, intelligent, and sustainable future for ourselves and future generations.

Friday, March 27, 2020

A Time of Reassessment

At this moment, with the nation hunkered down under the ominous cloud of a persistent virus pursuing the rapacious programming of its inherent biology, it could be a time for personal and societal reflection. Viruses have, in fact, been an integral part of life on this planet for perhaps billions of years and have apparently played a significant role in the evolution of the remarkable diversity of living beings on this earth. They are a part of the universe of living things that populate the natural environment and are not likely to disappear. That is the reality that we are dealing with.

We can face this challenge by using the tools that science can and does provide and make judicious and wise decisions, or we get let fear dominate our thinking and abandon reason and rational behavior. The ladder choice would necessarily lead to disaster.

At a time when many of us are faced with an enforced isolation, it may provide an opportunity to reflect not only upon our own lives and those who we love and live with but on the very nature of the society that we live in.

In my opinion, it is the time to honor those who have the courage and a determined sense of loyalty and caring to place their own personal safety at risk every day to serve us – to minister to our health, to provide the food and nutrition we require, to deliver the mail, to staff the hospitals, to provide security, to drive ambulances, to rush to fires, to save lives, etc. For these individuals, we must provide all the tools they need to not only do their work but to stay safe; for they are our real saviors.

There are many individuals and families who have been living on the margins – making barely enough income to survive. In a dire situation where that income stream has been halted, they also require our immediate and sustained assistance. There are hundreds of thousands of homeless individuals and families who have no safe house to retreat to minimize their exposure to the virus. Collectively, we cannot in good conscience abandon them. We are a nation with the remarkable distinction of having the greatest number of prisoners per capita than any other sovereignty. Steps must be taken to change this sobering picture; otherwise, it places our view of justice in a remarkably hypocritical light.

My hope it that these stark realities that now haunt us will provide the incentive to reconsider, reevaluate and reassess the nature of our social contract. It may provide an impetus to resuscitate the Commons – to develop the much needed infrastructure to provide accessible healthcare for all, to have a public health system capable of responding quickly and decisively to health emergencies, to provide adequate housing for everyone, and to properly educate and care for all our children.