After reading George Packer’s The Four Americas, it occurred to me that this alternative analysis of mine might be something for The Atlantic:
WHERE TO FROM HERE?
We need something new. God bless all the eloquent analyzing of what got us to where we are and the compelling pleas about how we should be, but it’s all rehash. It’s different ways to say the same thing. However, something that’s not being talked about needs to rise to the ascendency. In a burning house you wouldn’t sit around writing a treatise. How to escape the fire? That’s all that would matter. Well, not all, but the first thing to do. And humanity is threatened with going up in flames. Get our escape to the next level of consciousness right and we’ll have moved into a new house where everything will be fresh material to work with to create a new home base.
One thing to talk about that I don’t see us being honest about and would be vital to have in our awareness is how evil we have been. Really evil. No USA as the great shining beacon but as slaughterers of Indians, as owners of human beings who we didn’t recognize as human, as minimizers of women compared to men, as passive people who let Jews be exterminated, as jailers of Japanese Americans we interred, and what most personally affected me in the Christian country I live in was that in my childhood if the ad for a hotel said “churches nearby,” that was code for Jews not being allowed to come. We have been barbaric. We don’t admit that. It’s not even “admit” that we should do, as if it’s a secret we’ve been caught out on, but it’s that we should acknowledge prior states of consciousness that gripped us that we have been working our way out of. That is the truth. We could cite parallel tracks outside of the US, but this graphic map of where the USA has come from is what is firsthand to me. We can be ashamed and sorry, but that’s not the point. The point is to let it be that we were savages because we were. One quintessential glimpse is Jefferson, a great statesman with great wisdom who didn’t know that Africans were human. Unbelievable when you reflect on it, but true true true. He wasn’t a monster. He was a southerner. We as humanity were only as far along as we were. This gives us an understanding about what’s up-to-the-minute today. How could there have been a presidency like the one we just experienced, that was beyond unspeakable and yet was well-supported? It’s because a lot of humanity hasn’t caught up with the frontrunners. They will. It’s happening. In my lifetime, I went from being Mrs. Him to being Ms. Me. I am different now. Massive change can happen virtually overnight.
Here’s one of my favorite songs (the one that automatically comes next is worth sticking around for).
OK, so here’s my up-to-date story. I do heed the alarm that we don’t have time to wait for evolution to work things out because humanity has taken over and humans could blow up the game. That’s true and a spur to me to think radical thoughts. But in addition to thinking things would work out in the natural evolutionary process, and happy as I am, for the sake of eternity, at that prospect, there’s something else driving me. This little heart wants to beat to a different rhythm now, with humanity coming through in my lifetime as a winning team. THAT is what needs something very very new. What have we not thought of that would capture the fancy of so many people that it would get us to where we care about each other as much as we care about ourselves? Then, we’d be a beautiful species on a blessed planet working together to make life wonderful for all. What could that new thing, that changes everything, be?
Fifteen years ago. I was hiking solo in the high desert at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Taos, New Mexico, when I was overwhelmed by a sudden realization that the universe is utterly indifferent to me, and at the same time, profoundly forgiving and compassionate toward me. I remember stopping and just standing in that knowledge for a long time. I had a simple and quiet sense of, Oh, I get it. I see who I am, where I am, and how I fit into things. I felt joy and lightness, as if my burdens had been taken from me. Talking about it almost distorts it. There are experiences that go far beyond words, and this was one of them.
I can’t say that this experience changed my life, but it gave me an important lens through which I’ve looked at my journey ever since. A few years ago I was reading a journal by Thomas Merton in which he reports his great revelation that “everything is emptiness and everything is compassion.” And I thought, That’s it! That’s the same experience I had!
Of course, this experience is paradoxical—how can indifference and compassion coexist? I’m reminded of a Hasidic tale where the rabbi says to his disciple, “Everyone needs a coat with two pockets. In one pocket, carry dust to indicate that you are nothing. In the other pocket, carry gold to indicate that you are precious.” We shrug off the burden of the self-obsessed ego by realizing that we are nothing, and we transcend self-denigration by realizing that there is something of ultimate value about each of us.
When I feel connected to spirit, there’s a great sense of aliveness and energy. Though it’s peaceful, there’s nothing passive about it—it’s a call to deeper engagement with life. Genuine spiritual experience inevitably leads us back into the world, I think—back into works of love and mercy and justice—with new freedom, new clarity, and new power.
“War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothin’!” So went the famed Vietnam War-era protest lyrics first sung by the Temptations.
Looked at a certain way, however, like so many Americans, war has been the backdrop of my life. After Pearl Harbor, my father, 35, promptly volunteered for what was then the Army Air Corps; my mother, a cartoonist, would, in her own way, mobilize herself, too; and I would be born in war-time 1944 (on the day, as it happens, of the failed officers’ plot against Adolf Hitler). My father had, by then, returned from duty as operations officer for the 1st Air Commando Group in Burma. (His own commander, Phil Cochran, would be made famous as Flip Corkin in Milton Caniff’s popular comic strip Terry and the Pirates.)
America was sick before COVID-19 struck. The pandemic has made our national sickness more acute and illustrated the critical importance of “wellness” in preventing disease and optimizing health. We know this because COVID disproportionately affected people with chronic illness and unhealthful lifestyles.
As a scientist who has worked at the leading edge of medicine, engineering and genetics for decades, I’m on a quest to give mind and body wellness the scientific rigor and urgency it deserves. No doctor, policy or breakthrough drug is as effective as “wellness” at minimizing disease and enhancing the length and quality of life.
Tim is an evolved soul who works on projects that UNITE, which is the name of the enterprise he co-founded. I urge you to visit his very fine website to take his invitation to join the movement on his homepage. A HUGE YES from me. Go look!Projects that UNITE has a significant hand in:
- COVID COLLABORATIVE is a National Assembly to tackle the COVID-19.
- ACT NOW is an initiative to reimagine policing and public safety.
- UNITED is a movement in schools to teach social and emotional learning (SEL) skills.
- PEACE TALKS has everyday people crossing divides to work together in times of crisis.
- THE UNITER WAY is a set of skills to transform us into a nation of Uniters.
- THE AWAKENING AMERICAN REPORT tracks feeling lost and asks how to recover.
For icing on the consciousness cake re UNITE:
- UNITE is a growing collaborative dedicated to addressing universal challenges that only can be solved together.
- Unless we unite in shared purpose we’ll lose everything that’s best about our shared project: America.
- UNITE is an initiative to promote national unity and solidarity across differences.
- UNITE is on a mission to fulfill the promise of America through stories, solutions, and studies that bring us closer together.
I unabashedly request that you listen to the podcast for tuning into the keenest intelligence as well as the loveliest soul trying to bring about the sense of community that we so vitally need.