Stephen's Stirrings

Writings, songs, poems, thoughts, opinions, visions

Hope, Faith and Activism


Screen+Shot+2015-11-19+at+8.05.48+AMprotest1

As we continue into 2016, we find ourselves poised on the cusp of the most momentous shift of consciousness in the history of humanity.  We are now global; a global economy, global communication grid, global warming, global survival.  We now must finally awaken to the reality that we are stewards and caretakers of the Earth, of our life support system, and our continued existence on this planet depends on revolutionizing the way in which we live together within our common ecosystem.   The old order of embattled, warring nation states, of an economic system based on fossil fuel addiction and exploitation and decimation of resources and species, of patriarchal dominance, of the greed and entitlement of colonial/capitalistic empire building, of economic disparity and inequity, of hatred, mistrust and inhumanity, is unsustainable and must inevitably give way to a new order.  As in any cusp, the transition from the old to the new is fraught with extreme tensions and tug of wars, as the old clings and fights for its survival, and the new forges forth and fights for its arrival.

The hope must be in the arrival of the sustainable new, built on a holistic consciousness that embraces the rich diversity of creation and reaches for the unity that underlies and moves through all creation.

As we look back at 2015 , we see a year beset by heartbreaking tragedies that has left the world reeling. It seems, especially since 911, each year has seen the collective consciousness of our planet becoming more and more fearful and traumatized.

We are living through a time of terrorist attacks,  ongoing war,  mass  shootings, genocides, massive refugee crises, environmental disaster,  nuclear madness, overpopulation, growing economic disparity, racial and religious radicalism, human rights atrocities – on and on with no end to the needs to meet and the changes to make,  to survive and better our world.  No wonder we can feel overwhelmed with a sense of helplessness in this tsunami of concerns, and to be at a loss where some semblance of hope can be found. The US has been at war for fourteen years, at a growing cost of multiple trillions and continuous catastrophic calamity.  We are all impacted by the way the world is spiraling, and we are all the ones who must turn the situation around.

It has always been a grass roots movement of the people, enrolled in a significant consciousness shift, that has created a new paradigm.  The movement towards American democracy began as a grass roots revolution against the oppression of colonial monarchy.  The suffrage movement, the civil rights movement, and even the movement into the computer age, all began with the advent of a  new idea,  a social need to have that idea be  fulfilled,  and the timing and historic circumstance to propel it into a transformative reality.

Here and now, in the face of a world spiraling out of control based on the old dying order, at a time when we are propelled into an evolutionary awakening based on our very need for survival,  is where we must catalyze and grasp a new vision and a new hope for our future.

Hope is about fulfilling a desire you wish to manifest.

The first place we must look for hope is within ourselves. If we are engaged in a spiritual practice of integrating health of body, mind and spirit, so that we cultivate a positive attitude towards living, and develop a purpose and mission that engages our creativity in life affirming endeavors, then hope and positive outlook comes naturally.   A strong foundation of spirituality and faith can see us through even the roughest of times.

Personally, I don’t adhere to an anthropomorphic God or a particular denominational perspective. I am rather, a spiritual eclectic, drawing sustenance from multiple religious and cultural sources.  As an Interfaith Minister, I believe there is a common spirit, a creative life force that flows through every heart beat and every breath of every soul on this planet, and enlivens consciousness to awaken.  And within that awakening there is a calling.  And that calling, I believe, must be in the practical reality of our common human survival, and on the side of what is good and just for the long term best interests of all.  Just as every seed is encoded with the potential to fulfill its blossoming, each human being is gifted with talents, skills, and intelligence, encoded to fulfill his or her blossoming.  Within that blossoming is the spirit that brings us to life, to dance in the miracle of existence, to hope, to dream and to create new and better ways to build a peaceful and sustainable future.

Through that spirit, hope can strengthen into faith. Faith is the absolute surety that spirit will ultimately guide us to our own best outcome, where the “better angels” of our conscience will win out and where that blossoming will occur. Faith is often connected to a belief in God, but if one doesn’t believe in a specific God, we can take faith in the surety that every day brings a new opportunity to grow, to learn, to recharge our health and wellbeing, to engage in meaningful interactions, to overcome our challenges, to heal our wounds, and to serve and help the world flourish.

That service entails activism. Activism calls us to use our voice.  If we just stand by without speaking out, without participating actively in a cause we believe in, we can become complicit in the perpetration of the unconscionable.  In activism, we bear witness to what is going on, observe and expose where a blindness, a denial, an injustice, inequity or crime has occurred, and organize, mobilize and engage in recognizing the dilemma, bringing accountability, offering alternatives, and in creating solution.   The activism must get in the way to disrupt the corruption, and strategize how to raise public awareness in identifying the change that’s needed, and present viable ways to impact policy.  No one individual can tackle all the issues of the world, but if we choose one or two that we feel most directly connected to, then we can join others in those causes, and feel a sense of positive engagement that we are making a difference.  In this presidential election year, the voices of progressive, spiritual activism has never been more needed, as our activism calls us to use our voice, our vote, and to serve the calling of our conscience.

In this world which seems so divided and tormented, I see areas of development and movement that are ground for hope, strengthening faith, and engagement of activism.

  • The environmental movement; The basic message of the environmental movement is to wake up to the reality that everything within the ecological system of our planet is interconnected, that the earth is a living organism that supports and sustains all life, there is no away to throw anything, and that the rapid conversion from fossil fuels to renewables is absolutely critical in this era of global warming.  This interconnectedness of all life is an ecological and scientific fact, as well as a spiritual understanding basic to our co-existence and to building a sustainable future.
  • The global communication grid; With the advent of the internet and social media platforms, we have more access to more information, more  instantaneous connectivity to each other worldwide than ever before. It has opened the lines of communication  from  people of all walks of life that normally wouldn’t have connected before.  This brings a dynamic sense of inclusiveness and pluralism to each individual, community, and nation on the world stage.
  • The rise of the feminine movement; Breaking down the dominant father syndrome. breaking down the idea that God is only a masculine entity. breaking down the patriarchal system and the culture of the alpha male masculine predator, conquerer and empire builder. We must have balance of the masculine and feminine in order to achieve a peaceful, sustainable future.
  • The equality of rights movement. Woman’s rights, gay rights, Interracial marriage, same-sex marriage, Black Lives Matter, not stigmatizing, marginalizing, and targeting the “other”, justice in the law, respecting the dignity and rights of the “other.” This also includes species rights and environmental rights.
  • Anti-Citizens United Movement to restore First Amendment Constitutional rights to people, not corporations, and prevent the continued corporate takeover of democracy.
  • The organic, vegetarian and health food movement. Liberating ourselves from the dietary catastrophe of fast food, processed foods, GMO-plagued foods, factory farmed, corporate foods rich in fats, sugar and additives, and breaking away from the murderous genocidal animal slaughtering industry.
  • The respect for indigenous peoples and their wisdom movement; Understanding that so many of the  indigenous people that the colonial and imperialist powers have conquered and decimated, and who have had their rights and dignity violently violated , and are  continuing to be oppressed, possess knowledge and wisdoms pertaining to closeness to the land, natural remedies and medicines and a deep commitment to living as one with the earth.
  • The Yoga movement. Teaches the holistic framework for living in peace within ourselves and each other. It connects us to meditative, reflective and deeper understandings of who we are and why we are here on Earth and provides body/mind/spirit practices to help discover and live within this understanding.
  • The Peace movement. Although it may seem that the Peace movement is futile in a world dominated by war and violence, the Peacemakers have always held fast and true in the righteous vigilance for justice , bearing witness, seeking understandings across differences, seeking non-violent alternatives to problem solving. and keeping the faith and actions going that peace will one day prevail.
  • The Interfaith movement. The Interfaith movement is about building bridges across difference and learning how to share the universal spirit that is called the various names and forms of God. It sees all people, religious and non-religious,  as the human family, sharing the gift and blessing of life on this planet, building a sustainable future of peace. The Interfaith Movement has been growing in the last few decades and is gaining momentum as the big tent inclusive of all these movements mentioned heretofore.

To read more of Stephen’s writing and hear his music, please visit his site by clicking here.

Advertisements

An Interfaith Look at Prayer

As a result of formulating my latest project, The Jerusalem Prayer Project, a music, film and multimedia venture creating an ongoing interactive global peacebuilding platform, “The Peace Portal”, I have written this essay on prayer.  The Jerusalem Prayer Project is in development and is centered in Jerusalem focusing on Jerusalem as analogous for the peacebuilding challenges worldwide.  The Jerusalem Prayer Project is a special affiliate of the Unity-and-Diversity World Council (UDC) a California 501c3 non-profit organization based in Los Angeles. More will be coming shortly on The Jerusalem Prayer Project.  Stay posted.

Prayer is active communion with the Divine presence. It is a conversation and interaction with God; however one may perceive God to be, called by any name or no name. Our prayers are vehicles of connecting with that spiritual presence and mystery beyond name and form, yet is here in every breath and heartbeat, throughout all creation, and which calls us to deeper understandings, inspiration, faith and the upliftment of our lives. Our prayers begin as a feeling or longing in the heart, and become articulated and expressed through our verbal ability outwardly or inwardly. Although we may mostly think of prayer as a spoken communication, we can also hold prayer in the silence and stillness of the sacredness in our heart and soul.

Our prayers are a reaching out beyond ourselves to a source much greater than ourselves. That source has been called the various names and forms of God. If you don’t see or believe in a specific God by name or form, but believe there is goodness and kindness in the world, then pray to the goodness and kindness, or hold that goodness and kindness in your heart.  If you believe there is a grand design in the natural order of things, then pray to that grand design, to nature.  If you believe in justice, pray for justice. If you believe in love, then pray for more love in the world.  To pray you don’t need to be religious, you don’t need to be eloquent, it doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor.  Prayer is a practice which offers an equal opportunity for anyone to partake and receive its blessings and benefits.

Many religions offer specific guidelines, rituals, cleansings, and texts to follow in preparation for prayer, and recitation of prayer.  Muslims have an obligation to their faith to pray five times daily, at specific times and through specific formats. Buddhists may offer prayers 24/7on spinning prayer wheels. Some pray through use of a rosary or mala beads. Some prayers may follow liturgical formulations for sacred occasions or specific holy times or seasonal changes. Some prayers may be read and recited collectively, while others may be deeply private, personal and intimate. Some may choose to pray through fasting or other austerities. Some may choose to pray only in a house of worship. Some may choose to pray in private seclusion. Others may choose to pray in any place and at any time that the need or call for prayer may arise.  Prayer may follow a formal ritual or be a spontaneous, personal outpouring to the universe, or to a God or saintly figure of choice.

Many of us may feel more comfortable to perceive God through a specific name and form.  So we may pray through Jesus, or Allah, or Krishna or the Divine Mother, or Guru, or a mountain, or whatever divine name and form we feel the most called to.  In our prayer, we may invoke that name or form and ask that presence to guide and protect us. We may pray through the constant repeating of holy names or readings. Or we may pray to the light, or through a teaching, or a more abstract symbol or sacred motif or design.  We may conduct our prayer through speaking it out, writing it out, or singing it out through a song, chant or hymn, or through silent inward communion.  It can be expressed through music, poetry, art, dance, acts of healing, kindness and compassion, being of service to others, through our chosen work, and through ordinary, every-day activities. However the prayer is expressed, it is best when it comes from the heart, with sincerity, honesty, and openness, not for material gain, but to be held in the blessed hands of the intangible touch of grace.

We live in a world where much emphasis is placed on scientific methodology and empirical proof.  But prayer is not measured in material ways.  Prayer is not quantifiable by scientific methodology. Prayer is an invisible force. Prayer reaches beyond the boundaries of our measurements, technologies, mind and senses.  Prayer is a longing for a transcendent connectivity.  It brings us to reach out beyond the physical plane and the turmoil of existence. In the realm of prayer we move beyond physical limits and the edges of thought, into the realm of the open heart, the open mind, the open soul, and we offer ourselves as a receptive vessel – open to receive spiritual guidance and blessings beyond our own perceptions.

However we pray, it is our intention that matters most. Our prayer must come from the heart and seek to be aligned with the good. The experience of God is love, and love is in the heart.  Good and God are one and the same. All the various narratives of creation in multiple languages, cultures and religions, extoll this love and goodness in one form or another.  In Genesis it says: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth.. and brought forth the light.. and it was good.  Good meaning that the job of creation was complete, and within that completion was the wholeness of everything, light and dark, man and woman, all living things, all the great and small, from the tiniest particle of matter through the immenseness of the infinite universe, that everything is interconnected and created to interplay in the process of life and the sustainability of existence.  Every cell in our body, every organ, every breath and heartbeat, every element in nature, every season and tidal turn, is designed to be an essential thread in the grand tapestry of creation.  Nothing is separate, nothing is outside.  All is one, a unity encompassing a rich diversity.  Within this oneness is God’s presence, God’s love, a goodness, a peace, a transcendent wholeness, a mystical union, that awaits our communion and responds to the longing of our prayers.

To truly experience prayer, it cannot be superficial, callous, motivated by selfishness, greed, lust, hate, anger or jealousy.  A prayer is not a devise to advance a self interest agenda. To use prayer as a weapon of vengeance, retaliation, violence or war, is to impugn the very sanctity we seek to connect with, and is a grotesque travesty of the purpose of prayer – not prayer at all, but a visualization and perpetration of the lowest depths we can sink to.  The tragedy of the human condition is our failure to know who we are. The intention and motivation of prayer must come from a place within us that seeks release from the ignorance, fear, failings, misunderstandings, misguidance and misdirection of our frailty, of the weaknesses and blindness of our human condition. Our truthfulness and humility can carry us deep into the healing heart of prayer, deep into the understanding of our true divine nature.

“Hatred and bitterness can never cure the disease of fear; only love can do that. Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illumines it.”  Martin Luther King Jr.

Prayer is not about what we think we want, but really about what God wants for us. Our job is to pray and get out of the way. We can allow God then, as St. Francis so beautifully prayed, to “make me an instrument of thy peace.” Prayer will not provide the spiritual sustenance we seek in the arrogance or self-entitlement of the human ego.

Prayer is placing the individual soul in open receptivity of Divine guidance. In prayer, we admit and understand that our own efforts in handling life’s challenges are not enough; that we need the support and wisdom that comes from a source much greater than ourselves. In prayer, we allow ourselves to be humble, vulnerable and open to God’s presence, solace, guidance, strength and wisdom.  In prayer, “we let go, and let God.”

Prayer involves a longing; a longing to be whole, to be healed, to make complete what is incomplete, to have justice where there is injustice, to see a clear path through confusion, fear and doubt, to make things right, and to be receptive of the greatest gift and blessing that life can offer – to be loved and to give love. Prayer is a longing to know who we are, a longing for connectivity to God, to be one with the source and wellspring of existence.

“If we pray, we will believe; If we believe, we will love; If we love, we will serve.”

Mother Teresa.

Through prayer, we call forth that source and open our human heart, mind and soul in allowing that spiritual force to flow through us. When our prayer is heartfelt and sincere, accompanied by awe and respect before the magnitude and magnificence of creation, it is an appeal that the universe responds to, even if that response does not appear in an immediate and outwardly observable or tangible way. When we pray, we feel better for our expression, better that that expression has been released and received in the universe.

Human beings are expressive creatures and this need to speak our truth, admit our failings and weaknesses, stand in the righteous authenticity of our reality and ask for help, guidance and forgiveness, is an essential ingredient in the spiritual journey. Without asking, we may not receive the help we seek. Prayer brings us to that help.  Prayer provides a moment of sincerity and purity of expression which connects the human condition to the divine presence.  In prayer, through this sense of connectedness, we can feel purified, fortified, empowered and renewed, finding support in knowing that we are not alone.

Every prayer is a missive to the heart of the Divine.

Every prayer is a bridge to God.

Every prayer is an emptying of what we think we know, allowing in, Divine knowingness.

Every prayer is an intimate bonding with the force of faith.

Prayer brings solace and understanding. Prayer helps to invoke grace, mercy and forgiveness. Prayer builds a relationship with the Divine that establishes and fortifies the spiritual strength needed to move through the snares and toils of life. We cannot always explain or find a rationale for why disturbing things happen, why such suffering occurs in the world, but in prayer we can find a sense of consolation, reconciliation, rejuvenation and healing for much of life’s ills. Prayer brings us to be receptive of Divine blessings whereby we gain in compassion, forgiveness and gratitude. Prayer helps move us past our pain, to faith. Through faith we can find our way through any challenge that life brings us. Prayer provides a prescription and remedy from the Divine doctor.

Prayer by its nature is a request for change. In a way, it is subversive because it reflects a desire to uproot and correct what is not working, what needs help, is not healthy or right, and make it whole. This may involve a questioning of an existing status quo. It may be about a personal struggle one is having where an answer is not clear, where the confusion seeks to be straightened out. Prayer can lead us to a new vision, a fresh vitality, a more elevated and broad based outcome. We may pray for the soothing or healing of another, or pray for the relief of troubling events or danger.  And we may seek clarity and understanding for our own blindness, confusion, or mishandling of a situation. We may pray for guidance in preparation for a difficult decision. Prayer may involve a confessing of where we have done wrong, or have been hurtful, thoughtless or cruel to someone, or have gone astray, in order to set ourselves in the right direction.

Prayer can be a call for mercy and forgiveness of the victims or the perpetrator(s) of an injustice.  It can be a plea for a healthy recovery and rehabilitation from illness, injury, or recovery from addiction and traumatic stress. It can be a request for forgiveness of ourselves. This call for forgiveness may release a psychological and emotional hold that may encumber and inhibit a healthy progression of one’s life. It may help heal and dissolve blame, hate, enmity, jealousy, shame and fear. Through prayer we acknowledge and admit our own transgressions, confusion, and mistakes, seek clarity and forgiveness and ask for divine solace and empowerment. In this way, prayer can be a vehicle of turning over the soil, starting a new way, and finding reconciliation and renewal. We can make our lives an every-day prayerful journey.

We can make our prayers a call for peace and understanding in the world. We may pray for the end of violence and destruction, the end of war, and a new time of harmony and prosperity for all people and all of creation.  We may pray for the end of all suffering, that no one goes without, that no one is hungry, homeless, degraded, oppressed or enslaved. We may pray for the awakening and enlightenment of the human species; that we may put aside our hatred and fears, our blindness and inhumanity.  Through our prayers we may find that deep in the core of every prayer of every prophet of every religion, of every soul throughout the lineage of humankind – there is a common heart – the heart of hearts – that place of absolute knowingness of our oneness and togetherness as a human family, as Divine Children, of brothers and sisters sharing the resources and abundance of the Earth through God’s grace. Our prayers can lead us in becoming caretakers and stewards of that which we have been blessed, serving each other in the building of a sustainable culture of peace.

“You carry Mother Earth within you. She is not outside of you. Mother Earth is not just your environment. In that insight of inter-being, it is possible to have real communication with the Earth, which is the highest form of prayer.”   Thich Nhat Hahn.

These prayers for peace are most needed now in this time of fast moving global change, as we face numerous existential challenges and threats to our future. Our prayers can help build a collective consciousness that embraces a new paradigm, where the old form no longer serves our evolving needs. Our collective prayers can overcome walls of hate and the boundaries of entrenched divisiveness, and become a powerful force for creating the paradigm shift for peace – more powerful than bombs, militarism, global warming, and disastrous policies built around the old addictive patterns of enmity, exploitation, conquest and fear that have permeated our history and dominate the current paradigm.

“Prayer is the key of the morning, and the bolt of the evening…properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action”.   Mahatma Gandhi

In prayer we do not fight, retaliate, seek revenge, hate, kill or destroy.

In prayer we cannot dominate, demand, abuse, oppress, rape, plunder or exploit.

Through prayer we can reconnect with our Divine Self, the I Am.

Through prayer, we learn humbleness, to accept what we cannot control and allow spirit to handle what troubles us. In this way, prayer brings us to surrender.

Through prayer we can let go of our burden, release it to God and let God show us the way.

Through prayer, we can feel a solace and understanding that the rational mind alone cannot grasp.

Through prayer, we surrender our grip on reactivity, misunderstandings, fear, mistakes, shame, inadequacy and ignorance, and place it in God’s hands.  God then empowers us to do ourselves what is the most wise, loving, and beneficial way to handle the challenges life brings us.

Through prayer comes healing.

Through prayer we can open the doors of possibility that we thought closed in impossibility.

Through prayer we can reach beyond our perceived limitations to the Divine expanse of the unlimited.

Through prayer we find Divine Love.

Through prayer comes cleansing and purification.

Through prayer comes miracles.

Through prayer we find an immeasurably powerful and positive force for healing, for good, and for peace in the world.

3.8.15: Performing @ Seeds of Peace: Honoring Water, Source of Life

Looking forward to performing this weekend at Seeds of Peace: Honoring Water, Source of Life:

Science and spirituality join forces to address the climate crisis and water shortage at a one-day conference, Sunday, March 8th at Loyola Marymount.

For more info. click here: http://on.fb.me/1EUBGm6
To purchase tickets click here: http://www.seeds2015.eventbrite.com

Outstanding environmental experts, spiritual teachers, scientists, professors, and theologians speaking and presenting on ecology, theology, spirituality, water, and sustainability.
Participants include: Marianne Williamson, Andy Lipkis (Tree People), Rev. Sally G. Bingham, Rabbi Sharon Brous, Yuval Ron and many more.

Music, food, workshops, panel discussion, marketplace, sacred ritual.
SEEDS-Performances-EmailSize

Greed, Denial and Hope

selma

Greed, Denial and Hope

A reflection after seeing Selma, shared at ICUJP, Jan. 30

Stephen Longfellow Fiske

The capitalist corporatocracy
combined with rampant addictive militarism,
leading to suicidal empire building
under the leadership of polarized partisanship
reeks of the demise of democracy…

An infection plagues the land
a pandemic permeating the pores
of the human condition
a poison seeping into the heart
hardening the arteries of vision –
A blindness
unable to see outside itself
festering
in a famine of foresight
a blight of beneficence
a calamity of clarity
a cancer of consciousness
metastasizing through repeated histories
encoded in generational identities
ignoring the pleas for generosity
destroying the vestiges of dignity
corrupting the tenets of equality
it feeds the already satiated
gratifies the already ingratiated
bleeds the already bleeding
steals from the desperately needing
serves the already self-serving
denies the despaired and deserving
hardens the crust of the callous
prostitutes the principles of the pious
padding the pockets of power
seizing the profit of the hour
climbing on the backs of the oppressed
enslaved to this disease of the obsessed
a barbiturate of false identity
it seeds the saddest of travesties
leads to the greatest of poverties
The poverty of the soul…

Greed.

Capitalism breeds greed and greed breeds denial, the refusal to admit, recognize or face that something has occurred, something deleterious, something devastating, something that is an obvious truth to any real objective observer. Denial breeds aggressive protection of a dysfunctional status quo.

The dysfunctional status quo gets worse because trying to sustain dysfunction only exacerbates and perpetuates dysfunction.  The dysfunction festers and becomes a sickness, where mistrust, hate, bigotry, abuse and violence can thrive.  In order to heal, there needs to be a functional stability where a healing remedy and supportive environment can be provided.  But in our denial we are caught in a cycle of continual dysfunction that blinds us from facing the painful truth.  We suppress what we don’t want to see, and spiral off into an addicted acceptance of a “norm” where any part of healing is forgotten.

Isn’t it obvious that the path of war-making in the name of ‘the War on Terror” that this country has followed since 9/11 has destabilized the world while catalyzing and growing terrorism into a global horror reality?

Isn’t it obvious that corporate CEOs earning 300-400 times as much as the average employee, and that the 1% owning 50% of the world wealth, comprise a gaping inequity that wrenches the guts out of the true democracy articulated in the founding documents of this nation?  Hasn’t it been obvious throughout history that such inequity brings extreme societal suffering, turbulence and upheaval?

Isn’t it obvious that in the world’s richest country, where one out of three children live in poverty, where the homeless occupy the corners begging for handouts, where the middle class dwindles, where college students graduate in overwhelming debt, where infrastructure crumbles and racism shows its ugly face as young blacks are murdered by white cops in our streets and people of difference are stigmatized and marginalized, while global warming and fossil fuel addiction continue to devastate our life support system – our earth – isn’t it obvious that the way of greed, denial, and the reckless addiction to military spending  and war making is the wrong road for building a healthy, thriving nation and a global economy that works for everyone?  Not to mention a peaceful world?

But we Americans walk through our days in a kind of hypnotic haze, still holding on to the fantasy that the American Dream is alive and well while we slip deeper into the maze of denial.  We become cynical and lose interest in the most sacred element of democracy, the vote, as the bickering ineptitude of congress undermines the faith and trust of the electorate.  The recklessness and costliness of U.S. foreign policy and militarism continues to bleed the needs of the people and has brought American prestige in the international community to plummet.  More importantly, we seem to have lost interest in the one area that has always made a difference in history; the mass rising-up of the people in populist movements to resist injustice, oppression, and political misdirection.

With the stunning Academy disregard for Selma, one is again reminded, that much as Martin Luther King was an upstart underdog against a goliath entrenched system, Selma is a rarity amongst the onslaught of sensationalist and violent entertainment we see in movies, television and video games. The movie stands tall in reminding us of the transcendental impact of art on society, that bigotry can be uprooted, that people of vision and courage can act together to create positive change, that a minority voice speaking truth to power can instill a people’s movement and shift the power structure, and that America is still capable of self-examination and revolutionary transformation.  Selma may be only a reminder, not a slayer of a system of greed, denial and bigotry, but a breath of hope in a seemingly dismal forecast.  And the movie has given non-violence a dignified presence in the midst of the gratuitous violence that pervades the movie landscape.

Selma touches us again with the impact of history, the lessons still to be learned, and invokes us to take a good look at where we still fester in racism, bigotry, greed, denial and dysfunction.

The movie re-affirms that the vision Dr. King articulated so eloquently for America,  uprooting bigotry, injustice and oppression through the strategy of non-violence,  reaches deep into the heart of democracy,   to the foundation  of all humanity’s quest for a just and peaceful world.

In this we can find hope, take strength in each other,  to be with those that Martin Luther King called ”the veterans of Creative suffering,”  acting in “the fierce urgency of now.”

The Grip of the Pervasive Predator

In the wild, there is a balance of relationships between the predator and the prey. Recently, in Yellowstone National Park for example, after the wolves had been eradicated, there was much ecological fallout resulting in the size of herds of deer and other grazing species greatly increasing. Because there were greatly reduced predators,  the deer and elk were able to graze without fear,  destroying foliage vital to keeping soil along stream and river beds intact, thus creating damaging erosion. But when the wolves were reintroduced, the various grazing creatures could no longer feed with impunity, and the plants were able to grow and ecological balance was restored as the herds also thinned out. Thus, the balance of the predator and the prey in nature is an essential part of the ecological health which impacts the health of all life on the planet.

Human beings, however, are not born with fangs and claws and gnashing teeth designed to grab and crush raw flesh, bones, sinew and muscle, as well as digestive systems designed to handle such intake. The predator in the wild has no choice but to be a predator and is irreversibly created as such. We human beings have free will and the power of choice; we can rise above the law of the jungle. Having spent, however, a dominant part of our developmental existence as a species derived from the jungle, we have been encoded and have modeled ourselves along the laws of the jungle, and remain in the behavioral grip of the pervasive predator. In order to survive we had to protect ourselves against the ravages of nature and become protectors of territory.  To support the expansion of territory in the quest for additional resources, we retained this predator grip which reflects itself in every aspect of our planetary life to this day .

We continue to fall prey to the primal assumption that our basic survival is based on the predator model.

In the capitalist system, the corporate marketeers prey upon the consumer and push products to serve the bottom line of profit and expansion, often running rampant over the real needs of human beings for health, security, and long term well-being. The exploitation of the market place is projected through the media and establishes the consumer as prey.  And we, as conspicuous consumers, become hypnotized by the marketing hype and continue to support the feeding frenzy year round, reaching peaks at Christmas and other holidays.

The rich get richer, control the economic resources, lobbying with seemingly limitless PAC dollars to exert power and influence over policy, while the struggling middle class falls prey and diminishes, and the homeless haunt our streets.

In terms of the environment, we have exploited and ravaged the earth to serve our appetite for resources and dominion over nature. We are the most dangerous predators on the planet. The fossil fuel based economy is unsustainable and the resulting damages to the environment leading to global warming, climate change, species extinction and other toxic and pollutant consequences,  has created a questionable future for the very continuance of life on this planet.

We create genocide against multiple animal species, dragging them through the factory farm system with horrible cruelty, perpetuating violence in the world, while dining on the neatly packaged body parts with impunity, at the same time causing disastrous ecological and health damage to ourselves and the planet.

 

In terms of militarization, we have been addicted to war-making as a means of conquering, controlling, exploiting, oppressing, and building empire by dominating, interfering and destroying other existing cultures and peoples to satisfy our self interests. The imperialist empire-builders are the predators, waging continuous war, squandering valuable resources of human ingenuity and unthinkable amounts of money, shattering the peaceful development of the human species and all life on our planet.

The patriarchal dominance throughout history and the subjugation of women by the testosterone-driven male species has men as predators and women as prey. Rape is the predator’s conquest. The system of patriarchal hierarchy breeds the objectification of women and is exemplified in the economic, educational and opportunity inequities between men and woman on a global scale.

The predatory plantation mindset of the slave owner still exists in widespread human trafficking and the mistreatment of workers and the exploitation of slave labor to serve capitalistic goals, while white police officers murder unarmed blacks on the streets of our cities.

The pious self-rightiousness of religious ferver and radicalism brings the religious predators in direct competitive combat for the soul of humanity.

In personal and inter-personal relations, a predator relationship is always disastrous.  Where one is trying to insist, demand, control, dominate, abuse, use, make-over,  bully or boss another, it never works and always leads to major problems,  raw edges, emotional reactivity, deep wounds,  traumatic experiences.  A successful relationship is always based on honesty, transparency, really listening to each other, respect, trust, sensitivity to needs, mutual support, accountability, and sincerely sharing and caring about each other.  The predator is the antithesis of  loving compatibility.

This predator consciousness permeates our history and plagues us today.  We have reached a point in our evolution where we must choose a different way to be. We don’t need to have a world of predators and prey. We must rise above the jungle mentality. Human beings are not born as predators; we are not born as war-makers and haters prone to inevitable violence – this is learned behavior.  We can re-think, reevaluate, reconstruct the way we live. We are born into the wonder of existence with an innate aversion for violence and an inborn moral repulsion for killing. We are born to grow into the fullness of life and to blossom in our creative endeavors to build a world that works for everyone.  We have been given the gift of love, compassion and forgiveness. With that comes an inherent moral code that respects and cherishes life. When that moral code is shattered, we as human beings become shattered.

We are, as the Hopi word, Koyaanisqatsi, means “out of balance,” and it seems as if finding our way to balance is the most difficult task that human beings have to face.  We must delete the predator.  We must not fall prey to the Predator’s predilection. We must allow the jungle that is left on this planet to be what it is, and know that within the broader range of this fragile life system on our planet, we must rise above the jungle to a new level of development whereby we co-exist cooperatively with each other, with the remaining fellow species, and with the Earth.

In this new year, let us each take a good look at where it is that we are the predator and where it is that we are the prey, and seek to find a balance that restores the natural order of the universe, which in the Sanskrit is known as Dharma. It is our individual Dharma to live to our fulfilment and enlightenment, and our collective Dharma to serve each other and be stewards of the planet.  May we liberate ourselves from the grip of the pervasive predator. May we see that we are all part of an integrated, interconnected whole, and that each of us is an integral participant, playing a vital role in the consequential unfolding of a positive and sustainable future for ourselves and our children’s children.  Everyone counts.

My prayer for this new year is that we realize that life is a sacred gift and we are divine children born into a spiritual journey traveling through this physical vessel of a body on this wondrous Earth.

May peace prevail on Earth.

The Light of Life

stock-footage-candles-on-the-table-for-decoration

As we enter the holiday season, which some call the “Holy Day Season,” Christians commemorate “advent” leading toward Christmas. Jews celebrate Hanukkah, and the world African community celebrates Kwanzaa. We also pass through the solstice which is December 21.

Advent comes from the Latin word “adventus” which means “coming” or “visit.” For Christians, it is a season in preparation for Christmas or the birth (coming of Christ).

In Judaism, Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is celebrated for eight days and nights and commemorates the re-dedication of the holy temple in Jerusalem (the second temple) during the Maccabean Revolt in the second century B.C. The menorah is lit each day, commemorating the miracle “of just enough oil to last the duration of the eight days.”

Kwanzaa was founded by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966 and relates to celebrating the first harvest as well as honoring community building and unity; celebrating family, historical heritage and culture; and reverence for the creator.

The winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year and the turn of winter into the new year and the coming of longer days. The longer light celebrates the resurgence of the Divine within and without.

In all these celebrations, the common denominator is a reaching for faith and our integral connectedness with light. Light represents transparency, purity, honesty, openness of character, fearlessness, healing, joy and uplifting spirit. Light brings growth and blossoming in nature as well as within the individual.

Light is a universal representation in all religions and faiths of the Divine presence and of life itself. Light illumines the interior teacher, the inherent wisdom within, and the light of the soul.

Whatever our beliefs, may we all come together in the light of life and joy in this holiday and solstice season. May the light of peace shine ever brightly in this coming new year.

Come Into My House, O Light

By Stephen Longfellow Fiske

Come into my house, O light
Capture, cleanse and call
Call me to thy clearing
Shed me of my shawl
Shed me of this moment’s ceiling
Come to me, O soaring felling
Steal me to you center
Center me in luminescence
Cast me to your stream
Show the way through deepest darkness
Seal me in your beam
Shine in me your revelation
Awaken one and all
Come light of illumination
Capture, cleanse and call

Peace Sunday Festival – International Day of Peace 9.21.14 @ IMAN Center

PeaceSundayFestival2014

Dear Friends,

While the world continues to be racked by violence, the call to peace has never been more needed and immediate. On Sunday, September 21, the International Day of Peace, we are answering the call with the annual Peace Sunday event – which this year, is also a festival at the IMAN Cultural Center. This year’s theme is “Every human being has a right to peace.”
We have outdoor booths and exhibits, a morning interfaith service, an exhibit of children and youth art and essays, and a stage show in the afternoon featuring keynote speakers Marianne Williamson and Aqeela Sherrills, and performances by the International Peace Choir, Yuval Ron and myself. Should be a great day!
Please see the attached flyer for more details. Refer to the PeaceSunday.org website to pre-register via PayPal. Space is limited so I encourage you to register online.

All Blessings,
Stephen

Sharing the Sandbox: a call for non-violence

Us humans have a hard time building bridges across our differences. This is the main impediment we face in building a world of peace and sustainability. We find ourselves intrenched emotionally, psychologically, religiously, politically and economically in such a deeply embedded polarized position that we can’t see outside it.
We demonize, stigmatize and marginalize others who don’t think like us, look like us, behave in ways we approve of; and we create walls and islands of separateness.
Historically, we derived from tribes and established territory, cultures and language differences. We have fought over territory, resources, racial, ethnic and cultural difference and ideologies; this has been the norm.
We have created certain primal assumptions that overrule our better and kinder human nature. One of these assumptions is that violence is the way to resolve our conflicts.
Violence only begets violence. Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, Nelson Mandela and many others have shown an alternate way to the way of violence. Non-violence is the road less taken. While the Israeli-Palestinian conflict tears at our heartstrings, there seems to be no end to the violence and no meaningful result and no real solution in sight. The road less taken is the one that has not been given a chance.
We must look to those and learn from those great teachers who have shown us the better way. We must give non-violence a chance. In this twenty-first century we must re-think and reinvent the way in which we live together and we must make violence obsolete. I don’t believe for a moment that human beings are born violent or that it is an inherent characteristic of human nature. I think we learn to hate, to fight, to be violent to each other.
Human beings have the capacity to adapt, adjust and to change. We have the capacity to grow in consciousness; we can learn a new way. Haven’t we seen enough violence in this world? Let us look to those strategies of non-violence that have historically been effective in creating change for the better. This better way is not an easier way, especially when it comes to reinventing who we are.
Non-violence is based in love, restraint of reactivity, recognizing the dignity of all human beings and honoring the sacredness of life.
Non-violence is beneficent, generous, kind, serviceful, forgiving, and caring for all sentient beings and doing no harm to any life form or life support system. Isn’t this what we want for our world?
In the end, we must learn to share the sandbox; we are like children fighting over toys and space in the same playground we share. We are one planet, one people, one love, one heart. Our survival on this planet depends on it.

New “Earth Anthem” Music Video

Dear Friends,

Hope this summer finds you doing well in all your endeavors. I am reintroducing a song that I released some years ago with an updated music video. The song is “Earth Anthem,” a new verse written by me, sung to the melody of “The Star Spangled Banner.” The original melody of our National Anthem comes from an old English drinking song that was sung in taverns throughout colonial America. In 1798, Thomas Paine had written patriotic words to that melody. Years later, Francis Scott Key wrote his poetic description of the Battle of Fort McHenry in the War of 1812, which included the Star Spangled Banner verse, penned to that same melody. So I am following in the footsteps of an American folk tradition. Please see below for “History of Earth Anthem Verse” and further historical information.
Now is the time – when the world continues to be engulfed in wars including the longest war in American history (Iraq/Afghanistan – 13 years) – to stop celebrating and affirming “bombs bursting in air,” but rather affirm a sustainable, peaceful future that works for everyone on our beautiful planet.
Enjoy the video and please pass it along to all you feel would like to see it. If you wish to order the Earth Anthem poster or CD, please see my website http://www.stephenfiskemusic.com.
Have a wonderful, peaceful, fulfilling and enjoyable summer.

Link to “Earth Anthem” on YouTube: http://bit.ly/1pSP1pd

Peacefully Yours,
Stephen

EARTH ANTHEM
The Earth Verse sung to the melody of The Star Spangled Banner, words by Stephen Longfellow Fiske

The Evolution of a Song-A Brief History
The Star Spangled Banner was written as a poem by Francis Scott Key on the deck of a small boat September 14, 1814, as he observed the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British during the War of 1812. After having already burned Washington, D.C. the British entered the harbor intent on sacking Baltimore. Inspired by the heroic American stand which turned back the powerful British Fleet, and by the sight of the American flag still flying after a day and night of heavy rocket exchange, Key jotted down some lines on an envelope and wrote out the verses when he later returned to shore. It was published the very next day on a handbill entitled, Defense of Ft. McHenry, and quickly met with wide public approval.

The melody to which the stanzas were written was that of an English drinking song, To Anacreon In Heaven. Anacreon was the convivial Greek poet whose verses celebrated love and wine, and who became the patron saint of The Anacreontic Society, a gentlemen’s club, whose enthusiastic and bawdy meetings had gained quite a reputation, and from whence the song became popular. To Anacreon In Heaven was sung in the taverns of Colonial America, and by 1814 was an American standby. To that tune, in 1798, Tom Paine had written a patriotic verse, Adams and Liberty, which became well known around the young nation.

But when Francis Scott Key’s verses were tacked on the doors of Baltimore’s taverns, his song was heartfully sung as a celebration of victory in war and national pride. As the popularity of Key’s song grew, the original Anacreontic song, Paine’s version, and other attempts to write verses (including one by Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes), were forgotten and Key’s most popular verse, The Star Spangled Banner, became the favorite national song. In 1931, Congress officially designated it as the United States National Anthem.

Now, in the ongoing folk tradition of adding new verses to old songs, visionary singer, songwriter Stephen Longfellow Fiske brings the evolution of the song to the global perspective of the 21st century, blending democratic ideals, peace, and environmental harmony with his Earth Anthem.

A descendant of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Stephen is a poet in his own right, and has produced nine albums of his music. His most recent CD, Earth Anthem, How Do You Want Your World? features Stephen’s acapella/string arrangement of Earth Anthem, as well as ten other songs of peace, environmental, spiritual and social concerns. The CD has been getting rave reviews and is being well recieved by the buying public. Stephen and his partners are currently building Earth Anthem Enterprises to help promote Earth Anthem and create a socially responsible business serving a sustainable future.

Marianne Williamson Event on Earth Day 4/22 at The Venice Love Shack

Dear Friends,

The world of politics has been such a frustration to watch and to participate in; the partisanship, money-ruled election process, corporate lobbyists and corporate takeover, militarism, fossil fuel addiction and fracking, drone madness, surveillance infestation, economic disparity and the insanity of a fractured system taking our country in a broken direction, among many other issues; is desperately in need of new blood, new vision, and new consciousness.

Every rare once in a while, someone steps into politics who has a new and brilliant perspective, and the political savvy combined with the holistic spiritualized consciousness that must be infused into politics to really make a difference. That person is Marianne Williamson.

I have known Marianne for many years. I have seen her blossom in her career as a spiritual teacher, author, peace builder and leader in the effort to create a better world. Her rise to celebrity is a direct result of the elevated consciousness and love that she has cultivated within herself. She has attracted a huge international following and could easily stay in the comfort zone of her success.

That she has the courage to step into the nasty but vital world of politics is a testament to her commitment to make the ideals of democracy real for a nation that has strayed from the vision of our founding. She’s putting her life on the line here. AND SHE IS A WOMAN!

Marianne is coming to speak in Venice at The Venice Love Shack (2121 Lincoln Blvd, Venice 90291) on Earth Day (April 22). After her talk, she will have a question and answer session. This is a good time to meet and interact with a new voice that we so vitally need.

Please see the attached flyer for details and go to Marianne’s website (http://www.marianneforcongress.com). Looking forward to seeing you there!

Most Sincerely,
Stephen