Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Dear Lord,

Here I am again, thanking you. I don't do it nearly enough. But I am sincere when I do.

First, thank you for your love for me. You know that the past few years have been -- well, replete with challenge. But I have felt your hand at my back -- and sometimes my back-side, all the way through.

Thank you for friends. Thank you for their love for me, and for their willingness to let me love them, too.

I'm thankful for so much-

Thanks for my one living blood relative, Ida. It is so good to not be totally without blood family yet. Thanks for inspiring me to move to New England. Home Sweet Home.

Thanks for my improving health, a roof over my head, a car in the garage and a turkey in the oven. I'm thankful that I live in a diverse democracy, that we may actually have the start of universal health care, that gay people can marry in my state. I figure you are not personally responsible for those things, or everyone would have them. It's our job to do that earthly taking-care-of. I'm thankful that we did.

Thanks for inventing dogs, especially my little Zoe. We rescued each other.

Thanks for trees, wildflowers, farms, sunlight and mushrooms. Thanks for jazz and good lyrics, great art and the taste of a Popsicle on a hot day. I'm thankful for the best memories of my childhood, parents who loved me, and for not being raised in poverty instead of the narcolepsy of too much privilege. Thanks for my ethnic roots, and for my ability to hope and feel.

Thanks for the best years of my marriage, and for the men I have loved since. Thanks for the experience of loving while making love.

I'm thankful for my godson and for his parents who gave me that title and the amazing gift of participation in his extraordinary life.

I'm thankful for joy, prayer, the smell of spring, the way velvet feels, and for a hug that arrives just in the nick of time.

I am thankful for being listened to, and for being allowed to listen. I am thankful for my ability to think, wonder, postulate, and reason. I'm thankful for flights of fancy, a great cup of coffee and the way the sky looks on a bright summer's day. I am thankful for autumn leaves, corn on the cob and a tomato eaten just off the vine.

Thanks so much for quiet moments, rides in the country, the way laughter feels, and a gypsy spirit.

For these things, and so very many others, I give thanks.

--- Mata

PS And I thank you for reading this. May your days and weeks and years give you much reason to be thankful!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Charter for Compassion

In February of 2008, Karen Armstrong made a very big wish. It came true this month.

Her wish was to assemble the thoughts from people around the world and to have global religious leaders develop a "Charter For Compassion" that would inspire action and change.

Karen Armstrong, a widely published author, an ex-nun, a feminist, and an activist for interfaith respect and dialogue received the TED Award. The TED Award is given to someone with a great world-changing idea. It provides $100,000 to make that wish come true.

150,000 people from over 180 countries participated over six weeks in collecting opinions.

The Council of Conscience, then met to frame the charter. They were those religious leaders assembled to create the charter from the input they had received, and to strategize about how the Charter and what it stands for could be spread and implemented around the world.

And here it is. The video speaks the text of The Charter for Compassion (which is found beneath it.)

A call to bring the world together…

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and emphatically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.

We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.

We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.


The words that really sung for me are "any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate". I want to sing Halleluia until the stars dance.

Backers of the Charter (and there were 21205 as of the moment I write this, with the Charter just having been launched a few days ago), include some names you know -- Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Paul Simon, Sister Jon Chichester, The Dalai Lama, Isabel Allende, Peter Gabriel, Forest Whitaker, Queen Noor of Jordan, Quincy Jones and many more from all traditions.

They emphasize that the point of the Charter is to ACT as well as think, and they provide a place to post compassionate acts and to read about the acts of others.

The Charter for Compassion site states:

As we close a decade marked by war, help us usher in a decade focused on compassion.

The names of all affirmers on December 31 will be sent along with the Charter for Compassion to 5 world leaders whose countries are engaged in conflict.

Add your name today. Share the Charter with your networks. Each additional name makes the compassionate voice a more potent force in the world. Let us make the silent majority a challenge to extremism and hatred.

We all know that times have been difficult lately. All of us feel the lack of compassion in the world. Many of us have been heartsick at the mis-use of religion to justify acts lacking in compassion. And here, at this effort, we can see something hopeful -- something we can do -- something real that we can join to help change things. It will take more than filling in a form and thinking -- it will take action.

I signed the form. You may or may not wish to -- your choice. But if anyone would like to, I would enjoy the company. When this document is put before world leaders at the end of the year, in addition to the over 100 organizations supporting it, I'd like my name on it.

What say you?

May you all have a compassionate week.


Karen Armstrong herself, in an article in the Huffington Post about the Charter, said, "At this moment of history, we have a choice: we can either emphasize those aspects of our traditions, be they religious or secular, which breed hatred, chauvinism and exclusion, or we can bring to the fore those that stress the importance of compassion and the Golden Rule."

simulposted at

Friday, November 20, 2009

Step away from the stress -- and share some inspiration

You know the feeling. There you are, waist deep in the troubles of the world, the stress of your life, and you just need to change the channel! Even for a minute!

It has been a long week. The news has not all been good. I was haunted by images of tragedy and violence and hatred this week. The news and the press seemed so full of hard things. I needed to "lift my eyes unto the hills" and find some higher ground, some inspiration, some sights and sounds and blogs that made me feel uplifted, encouraged.

I found myself going back to this video, a recording of "Stand By Me". You Tube says: "From the award-winning documentary, "Playing For Change: Peace Through Music", comes the first of many "songs around the world" being released independently. Featured is a cover of the Ben E. King classic by musicians around the world adding their part to the song as it travelled the globe."

So off I went in search of more inspiring things to share with you. It's a polyglot blend, to be sure -- but I am operating on the "some spiritual snack for everybody" rule. (I just made that rule up.) Here is how it goes.

"Assemble enough tasty morsels, and everyone gets to have at least one happy little nibble."

I had a few concerns. I didn't want to post anything that was a lie. I mean, between you and me, I don't think there is some magic happy-thought that will make all our troubles vanish. So I didn't want to post anything that was too Pollyanna-esque. I wanted things that inspired, uplifted.

But I know I missed a lot of them. That is where YOU come in. (Actually you never left.) Please post your inspirations, too.

We are all in this old world together, making sense out of it as we are able, lending a hand when we can. Let's share the goodness. Soul to Soul.

Free Hugs - An Australian man in Sydney gave away free hugs. Watch the video that made him famous, and then see the video that explains his story.

Maya Angelou - "And Still I Rise"

Michael Franti and Sey Hey -- This is here because I love it. It makes me happy. I always feel better after I watch it. "But I know one thing --I love you." That's enough for me!

Have a good weekend and week. Be thankful. Find joy. Share inspiration. Hug.
Especially hug.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hatred in Religious Terms ?

I recently blogged this topic on BlogHer where you can see the many comments that came in.

Over the past few days, a Biblical verse has topped the google trends charts. It is also turning up in bumper stickers across the country. It reads:

“Pray for Obama: Psalm 109:8”

But what do you see when you look up that Psalm?

“May his days be few; may another take his office.”

But take a look at the whole psalm, especially the lines immediately after this one -- lines the original framer of this sticker -- and many others after him/her could not have failed to miss:

9 May his children be fatherless
and his wife a widow.

10 May his children be wandering beggars;
may they be driven from their ruined homes.

Diana Butler Bass in her blog on Sojourner's Magazine says "Thus, the “Prayer for Obama” does more than anticipate that he leaves office; it entreats God to destroy the president."

Grandma'Retta says wisely:

Exactly how long is it going to take us to figure out the danger of linking faith claims and violent fantasies?

Frank Shaeffer was interviewed on the Rachel Maddow Show. Ms Madow describes Mr Shaeffer thusly "...Frank Schaeffer, whose father Francis Schaeffer helped shape the evangelical movement in the United States. Mr. Schaeffer grew up in the religious far-right. He’s the author of ‘Patience With God: Faith For People Who Don’t Like Religion Or Atheism.” Here is a long but very important quote from that interview, the full text of which can be found here

SCHAEFFER: "...This is the American version of the Taliban. The Taliban quotes the Qu'ran, and al Qaeda quotes certain verses in the Qu'ran, in or out of context, calling for jihad, and bloody war, and the curse of Allah on infidels. This is the Old Testament, Biblical equivalent of calling for holy war. Now, most Americans'll just see the bumper sticker and smile and think that it's facetious. Unfortunately, there are 22 million Americans or so who call themselves super-conservative evangelicals. Of this, a small minority might be violent. But, the general atmosphere here is really getting heated.

And what surprises me is that responsible, if you can put it that way, Republican leadership and the editors of some of these Christian magazines, etc. etc., do not stand up in holy horror and denounce this. You know, they're always asking 'Where is the Islamic leadership denouncing terrorism? Why aren't the moderates speaking out?' Well, I challenge the folks who I used to work with... I would just say to them: 'Where the hell are you? This is not funny anymore. And be it on your head if something happens to our President..."

The unholy linkage between any hate sentiments and the trappings of religion are disgusting to me. I love my faith. I am tired of having the word "Christian" link up to hate mongers.

Last week I blogged on BlogHer about the 71st anniversary of Kristallnacht, the beginning of the Holocaust. That night was a trial balloon sent up by Hitler. If no one objected strongly in Germany, Austria or the rest of the world, then he would gear up full efforts to exterminate the Jews.

The signs of hatred we see now -- Psalm 109 bumper stickers being only one, only the latest, are like that trial balloon. Conservative bloggers are having a heyday with Psalm 109 posts.

Do they all know that the Psalm also seeks death? No, I am absolutely 100% sure they do not. I am sure they just followed along the snark trail, thinking it was OK. Others knew exactly what they were saying -- some of the conservative blogs I saw were quite clear in their unbridled hatred.

We need to be careful. Certainly the bumper sticker is part of the free speech guaranteed to us all. Where I draw the line is when people attempt to link religion and any justification for hatred.

On the one hand -- it's just a bumper sticker -- just a joke.

But it makes me uneasy. Very uneasy.

It is time that those of us who identify as people of faith stand up to this. It is being done in our name. And that is just plain wrong. Speak up. Blog up. Stand up.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I didn't want to write about the Holocaust again. It hurts too much. Surely with so many other things happening in the world, I could just let mention of the 71st anniversary of Kristallnacht pass by unspoken, couldn't I? Just once?

Then I read this, reported in the Sacramento Bee about events this week:

Officials at Congregation Beth Shalom on El Camino Avenue contacted the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department about 10:40 a.m. to report that racist symbols and messages, including a swastika, had been spray painted on the sanctuary, said sheriff's Sgt. Tim Curran.
The vandalism included the "SS" lightning bolts - the symbol of the Nazi security forces; a swastika and the message "Kristallnacht still lives," Curran said.

But it did not just happen there. In Dresden, Germany, this week, this happened :

Swastikas have been daubed on the wall of the New Synagogue in the eastern German city of Dresden on the eve of the 71st anniversary of the Nazi's ‘Kristallnacht’ pogrom in 1938. The interior minister of the state of Saxony, Markus Ulbig, condemned the desecration. “We will not allow such things to happen. In Saxony, there is no place for anti-Semitism,” he said. Uhlig paid a visit to Dresden’s Jewish community on Monday.

And as if that were not enough, then I saw the UPI report about an event in Florida:

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla., Nov. 10 (UPI) -- Swastikas and the words "Jews shall die" were found painted on the walls of the Soref Jewish community center in Coral Springs, Fla., police said.

So, yes, I do have to write about this anniversary -- an anniversary which is called "Kristallnacht", an anniversary of the terrible night that the Holocaust officially began. Hitler and his Nazi thugs hatched a plan to send up a sort of test balloon for larger acts of horror. If the populace of Germany and Austria did not attempt to stop the events of Kristallnacht, and if the world leaders did not take action, they saw it as a sign that they could proceed on unimpeded in geometrically larger acts of systematic evil and hatred.

And so it began. Kristallnacht. The Night of Broken Glass.

Seventy-one years ago, Kristallnacht began all over Germany and Austria and also in other Nazi controlled areas. It was an organized and methodical attack on Jewish neighborhoods. It was, in every sense, a pogrom. Shops and department stores all had their windows smashed and their contents destroyed. Synagogues were directly targeted for destruction and burning, including the deliberate desecration of Torah scrolls. Hundreds of synagogues burned while local officials stood by, or while local fire departments prevented the fire from spreading to non-Jewish buildings. Every single synagogue in Austria was attacked that night.

Estimates are that about 25-30,000 Jewish men and boys were taken to concentration camps that night. Over 700 synagogues were destroyed.

Jodie calls Kristallnacht a "timeless lesson" and adds:

Thus Kristallnacht should have removed the blinders from the eyes of the Western world as to what awaited them a few short months later from Germany — a world war that would destroy tens of millions and destroy Europe for generations. Part of the tragedy of Kristallnacht is that it did not send the necessary wake-up call to those who could have yet stood up to Germany. And so the deluge arrived.

The deluge arrived. And if we listen closely, it is not over. It re-appears in the obvious ways, when a synagogue is targeted with blazing swastikas and anti-Semitic graffiti -- but it echoes as well in any act of intolerance, any act of hatred because of race or religion or national origin or gender or sexual preference.

And it is hard to look at. It hurts. It feels awful. Hatred can make us frantic with hope that it will just go away. Or perhaps someone else will handle it. Isn't that why we elect people? Or, worse yet, because it is not happening to me, or in my neighborhood, or town or school, or job -- than it is OK to stand back.

But when we do that, when we remain silent, we are like the citizens in Vienna, or Berlin that day who woke up, had breakfast, walked outside and saw streets full of broken glass, terrified Jewish neighbors, still-smoking synagogues and just simply reported to work at their offices.

Songbird speaks about Mitzvot - acts of human kindness -- and Kristallnact:

today was Mitzvah Day at our synagogue. It's a special day focused on doing mitzvahs....
we wrote greeting cards to be mailed to Israeli and American soldiers. we packed toiletry kits to be given to the homeless. we made sandwiches for a soup kitchen. we collected food for a food pantry and clothes for an outreach program. we collected cell phones for recycling, the proceeds of which will be turned into phone cards for soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
why do we do this?
tikkun olam. repair of the world...
May the goodness represented by Mitzvah Day overcome the darkness we see in Kristallnacht.

"The repair of the World"...tikkun olam. This is what we must be about. Nothing less will do. No matter what religious tradition you claim, healing the world is an obligation. There is no spiritual position that could legitimately deny this.

Tamar reminds us:

Whether we are survivors of Kristallnacht or descendants of survivors, or we are survivors of any persecution or witnesses to it, we must understand and remember what happened. And act responsibly, ethically, and justly every day, everywhere.

There are people who lived through Kristallnacht who are still alive, and who tell their stories.

Ruth brings forward the memories of a number of Kristallnacht survivors, Lotte's story being only one:

Lotte Kramer attended a school in the Liberal Synagogue in Mainz. Before leaving for school, her cousin called and told her to stay home because the synagogue was on fire. She also warned Lotte to tell her father to hide because all the men were being taken to concentration camps. Lotte’s father hid in the woods until nightfall and then returned home and began calling other members of the family to check on them. Lotte’s father found that his brother had been beaten and led through the street on a leash like a dog. Altogether six synagogues were destroyed in Mainz.

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum has recorded memories of a woman, Susan Warsinger, who was 9 years old the night of Kristallnacht. She and her brother realized something was wrong when members of their town threw rocks through their bedroom window. They looked out the window and saw the police standing and watching. She tells what happened when the crowd broke down the door of their apartment building.

Or, you can watch this eye-witness account of Susan Strauss Taube:

Look around you. Could something like it happen now? Are there no jagged rips in the fabric of world community? Heard any racist jokes lately? Any cruel slang words about Muslims or gay people? These are all building blocks for a wall of hatred.

Start calling people out. You not only do not have to listen to ignorant hatred, you should not stay silent in its presence. If you hear it on TV, write a letter, send an email, write to a sponsor. If you hear it from a colleague, tell them it is not OK to speak that way around you. Get others to speak out with you, act proactively compassionate with you.

To paraphrase Edmund Burke:

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing."

And do good -- tikkun olam -- it will help repair the world.

Thou shalt not be a victim.
Thou shalt not be a perpetrator.
Above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.

- Holocaust Museum, Washington, DC

(this post was also posted at

TODAY - 40th anniversary of Sesame Street

This is the very first version of "Being Green" sung by Kermit in Season 1 -- 1969.

And here is Patti La Belle doing the alphabet as only Patti can.

I loved Sesame Street, and its more adult version later, The Muppet Show. In fact I am a charter member of the Muppet Show Fan Club, which I joined in my 20's. And although that show isn't celebrating its anniversary today, I just had to addthis video of a young Rudolf Nureyev dancing SWINE Lake with Miss Piggy.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

One woman. One man. 3 legs. 3 arms. Astonishing beauty.

Ma Li has only one arm. Zhai Xiaowei has one leg. And below is a video of them dancing. They dance into the holes in people's lives. In the wordlessness of their dance, libraries of the soul open and volumes of unutterable wisdom fly off the shelves. A knowing comes forward.

We all know this. We recognize the feeling of brokenness. We know what we do not have, will never have. We know that all the pieces in the world are not whole, not complete. We know that we have needed, and that we still need.

In the dance, we see aching need and see that it can be as beautiful as it is heartbreaking. We are dumbstruck by the transformative power of the human heart. I have been haunted by this video since my friend, Marge, sent it to me this week. I play it and cry for its beauty, for the longing, for the dream of it. The video has been circulating since 2007.

Ma Li and Zhai Xiaowei. Who are they?

Ma Li was a promising 19 year old professional ballerina when she lost her right arm in a car accident in 1996. Her handsome boy friend walked away from her. She tried to kill herself, but was saved by her parents.

Zhai Xiaowei lost his leg in a tractor accident when he was 4, and had never danced until less than two years before this video was made.

The story of how they met can be found here and here. By the time they met, Ma Li had won a competition for disabled dancers, and Zhai Xiaowei had entered the Paralympics in cycling. He moved in with Ma Li and her boyfriend/agent and began intense training in dance.

As I read what small information there is on the web about them in English, what stood out for me (in addition to the triumphant nature of the story) is that Ma Li was afraid when she first started dancing again that her stump would be seen by the audience. She was embarrassed.

But them I thought, is that not what accompanies all our brokenness? Shame, embarrassment, shyness. We don't want people to know, to see, to realize how imperfect we are, how flawed. So we hide those parts as best we can. Ma Li has had a special soft fabric limb made so that when she goes out it looks as though she has one hand in her pocket.

But her passion drew her back into dance. She not only felt the tugs of who she was meant to be, she followed them, and through agonizing training to re-learn such basic things as balance in dance, her spirit began to push out of the shadows into the light.

But if their bodies apart show us something about being broken, not whole, incomplete -- what does the dance show us?





It is almost cliche to say it, but combining our brokenness with others allows us to produce a whole thing, unique and beautiful - not whole in the usual sense, but fully functional, and complete in our own new way. The combination is more than the sum of its parts. Once combined, no one is adding them up any more. What is, is.

Think back to obstacles in your own life, Maybe they weren't as obvious as these dancers' obstacles are, but they are just as real. Think about what you did to get to the other side of them. Now let yourself feel the beauty in that, just as real as the beauty in this dance. To not just survive, but to live -- that is our calling, all of us.

It doesn't matter that we are not whole, imperfect, incomplete. We are not meant to be stand-alones. We are part of a tribe -- the human community. We are obligated to each other.

When you are bent and falling it is my job to help you up. When I fall, you must provide a hand. That is the only way any of us makes it in this world. And, like the dancers, we'll practice until we get it right -- one fall, one bruise, one celebration, one lift at a time.

It took us so long to realize that a purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.
Kurt Vonnegut

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