Antidote to 2020 Chaos: Fierce Love
If we are honest enough with ourselves to step back from the confusion and shifting narrative of this chaotic year, many of us will acknowledge that the CoVid Quarantine, and its ensuing unintended consequences, have shaken us out of the self-absorbed complacency, the blind busy-ness of our lives pre-2020. Those of us who have been thoughtful enough to disengage from the swill of constant media fear-hype have to admit that our lives were, indeed, probably out of balance and needed a reset. But now, after months of struggling with the grief of losing our normalcy and freedom of movement, of watching the fabric of our culture burning, being destroyed, and unraveling in a hostile cancel-and-virtue-signaling culture (reminiscent of out-of- control adolescents), we long for an antidote. Passivity, self-absorption, merely criticizing others, or being swept or shamed into a cause without realizing the forces behind it-- all of these options have failed. Fortunate are those who have discovered that the best antidote is fierce love. Some watched out for family, friends and neighbors. Others served tirelessly in their jobs or volunteer efforts. Still others looked for silver linings, elevating the discourse by focusing on the good around them. This is fierce love; it does not sit idly by when rights and freedoms are violated, it does not look for ways to condemn how others are coping with masks or social distancing, it does not put up walls and merely close off from the world. Fierce love honors the dignity of human life and property by speaking out fearlessly but graciously. Fierce love fights injustice by finding the truth and then actually building bridges and helping others. Fierce love unites us around shared values, rather than tearing us apart in divisive rhetoric that leads to destruction. Fierce love gets up and finds answers, gathers teams, shows kindness, meets needs. Fierce love is the most powerful force in the universe; it gets us up out of our fear, grief, and deception and gives us a reset, a way steamroll over the negative voices of hate and oppression until they are rendered impotent. Sounds like an antidote to me.
Blood and Bone, We Are the Same
Written over a year ago, this poem is so fitting for where we are right now in our nation. "Blood and Bone, We are the Same," featured in my upcoming book, Forever, Like the Moon: Songs of Awakening, emerged out of very real and raw personal participation in racial and civil rights issues since college. It came from living with and listening to people of all backgrounds and races. Blood and Bone, We are the Same My skin is shredded by lashes on my back Blood oozes under shackles at my feet Sweat sears my eyes, cutting words still wrack Stabbing pain of loss makes Death seem sweet Blood and bone, we are the same Yet all you know of me is shame Burning torches surround the lynch mob’s rope Dignity stripped bare, naked and demeaned Slavery is gone, yet Jim Crow steals our hope From the sour milk of prejudice never weaned Blood and bone, we are the same Yet you think of me without my name Harlem Renaissance, black people on the rise Now the inner city replaces our plantation field We work twice as strong to prove that we are wise To pierce the daunting power that white men wield Blood and bone, we are the same You do not want to know my name We walked with Dr. King for civil rights Showed we could rally and speak our mind We fought a just and peaceful fight What we gained was not justice-in-kind We walk the streets, we’re raisins in the sun Grasping at sports or street gangs to win Yet as enlightened and educated as you become In soul and mind, racism lurks beneath your skin Blood and bone, we are the same You hold me into poverty and shame Yes, progress has come in a measure Individuals rose to honor, might and fame Secretly assigned lesser value and treasure Allowed to blacks, still not quite the same Blood and bone, we are the same Yet you think me weaker, somehow lame It is time to own the travesty of our hate As whites we break! Let the Truth invade Inner sanctums where we have refused to relate See the real hell of hate we have made Blood and bone, we are the same Can you break the cycle of oppression and pain? Racism is learned, culture institutionalized Spread in the heart-soil of hatred and greed Only One authority guarantees complete demise Shatters our hate, shows us our need Blood and bone, we are the same Under the surface, we shatter the shame! We all deserve those lashes on our backs The ropes and chains digging into our skin We have let hate grow, and failed to act Become perpetrators of this heinous sin Can we break our hearts and lay down pride? Allow each person equal dignity and breath, Throw off the chains of hatred deep inside, Conquer the real source of living death? Blood and bone, we are the same Give me a chance, now speak my name! The spirit of racism kills our souls It is a spirit, driven to ravage and divide To keep our nation from becoming whole Or healing our hearts from deep inside Turn to the Father, His infinite power Authority that sees each one as pure gold Let him wreck hatred’s ivory towers Overflow His Love that makes us bold Broken hearts lead to liberated minds Truth by His spirit will slay Nothing less than the power of God Cuts to blood and bone and makes a way! Blood and bone, we are the same In acts of true compassion, we find our names! Chere Berman, 2019 “Hate cannot drive out hate: only Love can do that” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Site photo by Jason Hild
Do Not Be Silent
Never before in our history has there been a more urgent need to refuse to be silenced. Freedom of thought is under constant attack, freedom of worship, speech, press, assembly and the right to bear arms are all fodder for tiny minds attempting to plunder them for political gain in a current narrative that has become so insidious and fluid we may miss its threat. We need not fewer voices, but more voices, since robust discourse that forces us all to think and challenge our values is the only way a free society can be maintained. As a university instructor, my passion for decades was to inspire students (or bait them, as the case may be), into searching out a matter, understand how to parse fact from opinion, respect the vast range of perspectives, develop personal principles that can be vetted through experience in the real world, make logical analyses, and suspend judgement when more information was needed. Sadly, though many courses are still dubbed "Critical Thinking," I watched as texts and even a vast array of online sources became narrowed and stilted, true journalism or objective scientific research became the ploy of political and global interests. Screaming epithets and cancelling people who have different opinions, in the stilted "thought" process of spoiled pre-adolescence, increasingly passed for rhetoric, even at the national level. Social media, images and words without truthful context, and identity labeling of everyone and everything around us has become the private minefield of bully tech giants. Fake news is so prevalent on every side of an issue that it is difficult to trust any source. A global pandemic ginned up by fear for political and economic gain has created a false narrative for safety that has lulled us into accepting incursions on our privacy and freedoms unparalleled in American history. Enter people who have been awakening to the false narratives around them and the lack of integrity in both government, commerce, and every aspect of society. Enter people who are awakening to their role in speaking out and standing up for the rights of individuals, families, and communities. We simply want to thrive in a free society and restrain dictatorial attacks on our freedoms and livelihoods. Enter you, and thousands of others who realize that WE are the majority, not those whose agendas foster hate, division, and fear. Do not be silenced, find your voice, and begin to see how many others might agree with you and stand together with you to refuse the tyranny of The Tiny Minds. They will not be able to survive the light of truth as we speak up and stand up.
Exit "Time Out" to Enter Into Something Greater
We owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to all of our essential workers (and those who really are also, but were not deemed so during the quarantine), and all of our neighbors, family and friends who have reached out to bring food, comfort, a little bit of laughter, someone to talk to, or hope! What a tremendous opportunity all of us have had during this quarantine to shift focus. Some have faced death and suffering, tremendous hardship in separation from loved ones. All of us sheltering in place, if we are honest, have had to see the consequences of our less-than-stunning parenting, our work and life choices that left us feeling either gratitude or disappointment when we looked in the mirror that had no easy escape. The world has been in a forced "time out," and the question is, what have we gained from it? Hopefully, we have determined to take some steps to readjust both our priorities and energies. As a teacher, I always tried to impart to students that the definition of being a grown up is being "other-focused" rather than self-consumed, being willing to take responsibility for our own thoughts and actions. Hopefully, as we have been face to face with our own weakness and vulnerability, we have awakened to the One who can light our exit path out of this time and into something much greater. Let's exit out of the frustration, the pettiness, the blaming, selfish whine of yesterday, and into a day of greater appreciation, respect, and love for those around us. Let's exit fear and look for the "on ramp" of healing and the true humility that opens our eyes to see where true hope comes from. 2 Timothy 1:7 For God will never give you the spirit of fear, but the Holy Spirit who gives you mighty power, love, and self-control.
Gratitude or Tyranny
"Tyranny comes when citizens are seduced into trading freedom for the promise of safety and security" (Rabbi Daniel Lapin). Freedom of thought is paramount to our way of life. If you cannot or give up the right to think for yourself, you are completely vulnerable to the emotional, mental and physical torture of tyranny. In the name of keeping ourselves safe, we need to make sure we are allowing and protecting freedom of thought and expression. Fought for by millions of our military and citizen journalists for decades, freedom of thought (via freedom of religion, speech, and press) has become an empty, dispensable slogan for others. Today, on Veterans Day, we need to stop and be more than thankful for those who have defended our freedoms, before we become numb to the magnitude of misery and grief we can suffer without those freedoms. If you do not wake up with military tanks outside of your door, or fear of tortured or imprisoned for your ideas, you can become complacent about your daily ability to make even the most basic life choices. What if you woke up tomorrow with the threat of death over a thought crossing your mind? Sadly, such a scenario is closer than we realize if we forfeit our freedoms. When the passionate drive to know and understand is overcome by thousands of shallow diversions that surround us, when we gulp down media soundbites like Cheetos, when we refuse to research and discover facts on our own, when we are so politically correct that we refuse to tell the truth, we default to ignorance (ignoring the truth). Ignorance leads insidiously to censorship and ultimately to tyranny. Right now, you are choosing to have thoughts or ideas about what you are reading. Thank those who have paid a high price for your freedom to make that choice! The best way to show gratitude is to use and treasure the freedoms we have. Thank you to the veterans and military personnel, the fearless thinkers, journalists and creators who have fought for and refuse to give up on our freedoms!
Time for a little allegory for all of us stay-at-home soldiers. There was once a land filled with eyeless creatures called Ignopaths wandering around in a dark thicket, victims of their own emotions. All around them was sunlight and truth in plain sight, voices sounding alarms, the earth itself speaking for those who could hear her moaning. The eyeless ones thrashed and screamed at one another, sinking into a mire of confusion. These Ignopaths had ignored the truth while all of the answers they needed were in plain sight. Abandoning their freedoms one by one, they forgot those rights had been bought at a great price. How did the eyeless ones lose their sight and lose their way? At first, Ignopaths had merely stopped seeking or questioning, believing every slick lie of those lurking under rocks and in caves with dark agendas, the GlobaLords. GlobaLords were pretty and shiny, shallow and greedy. By leeching the blood and creativity of others, by sending false Messiegers, they gained power. Using their wealth and influence, they pandered to the Ignopaths needs and promised to provide for them, telling them what they wanted to hear. What was the cost? The Ignopaths never asked, because the Messiegers were beautiful, strong and sounded so reasonable. Distracted by entertaining themselves and blaming others for their problems, Ignopaths resorted to living in denial. The cost they failed to see: giving up their right to think, to speak, to ponder. To move about freely, to worship at will. Schools had stopped teaching how to think and how to learn. Instead all were to unquestioningly believe the GlobaLord Messiegers, already fully enslaved by the GlobaLords. All eyes were becoming dim, hearts clouded over. Over time, since Ignopaths refused to see and hear uncomfortable truths, they became the slaves of the GlobaLords. They eventually became eyeless and numb, living in their little bubbles of parsed out entertainment, until their souls were ready to die. But wait. The GlobaLords in their blind ambition failed to understand the strength and potential of a third group of voices: the Inextinguishable Flame. Fierce warriors of truth (often made to look like fools, mocked and attacked by the GlobaLords), they had not forgotten how to think, had spirits burning with the Inextinguishable Flame of One full of light. These warriors were gaining wisdom and power, learning weapons the GlobaLords knew nothing about. Those of the Inextinguishable Flame began to rise. The GlobaLords and their eyeless slaves were about to learn that there is no power that can withstand the Inextinguishable Flame of truth. How does the allegory end? It is up to us, stay-at-home soldiers. The Inextinguishable Flame is burning bright enough to see, for those who still have eyes.
Ponder or Pander: Which Do You Choose?
Required viewing for every adult: the TED talk by Margaret Heffernan-- “Willful Blindness.” I always included a TED talk by this amazingly honest woman on the mandatory viewing list for university level Critical Thinking classes because creative thought really begins with the ability to take stock of a situation—to ponder--with real honesty. Pondering is the kind of gutsy thinking that it takes to dig for solutions that seem to threaten “the way things are done.” This TED talk is worth watching several times, and then pondering over. Many of us have found pandering to those perpetuating the status quo the easiest way to get by. Just play along, maintain your own position, and do not question. Putting time and effort into actually pondering how to find or institute a daring solution seems too risky. Honesty that threatens to expose violations of human rights, consumer safety, or public trust is not popular or welcome, especially when revenue is in jeopardy. But is it worth it to be complicit with looking the other way when something is clearly dangerous, harmful, or violates human rights? The question in every case of willful blindness is, “What is the cost in human dignity, in integrity, in human lives, if we refuse to see the truth and act upon it responsibly?” Breaking out of looking the other way instead of bluntly facing problems in our organizations, our businesses, our lives takes courage. But sometimes breaking the silence and opening the conversation is the first step to bringing creative and life-saving answers. It is so easy to keep quiet and decline to ask questions or challenge paradigms. We would all like to think ourselves as resourceful people who can think outside the box, but sometimes those boxes have become the prisons of our own willful blindness. Outside the boxes is the honesty and guts it takes to really bring change. The question in every case of willful blindness is, "What is the cost in human dignity, in integrity, in human lives, if we refuse to see the truth and act upon it responsibly?
The Earth Cries Out
Recently I read an update based upon the 2017 reports of the mass grave discovered connected to a Catholic orphanage in Ireland, where bodies of up to 400 babies and young children had been discovered (see reference below). Further investigation and survivor testimonies revealed grisly stories of rapes, tortures and murders of young women and babies. More exposures are coming in 2021, and we cannot shrink back in denial. Horrific stories of predation upon babies and young children, whether through sex trafficking or simply domination or abuse are beyond what any of us should be able to stomach. The earth itself is crying out, the blood of the innocents "cries from the soil." Solutions lie in all of us, but especially those who are part of the family of Jesus Christ, whether part of a traditional "church" or not. We are called and empowered to act in His love toward those who are suffering, and we need to do so, now more than ever before! "Religion that is pure before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world" (James 1:27). I had a vivid dream two weeks ago in which I stood over a raging stream down river from this orphanage, and the earth itself seemed to be screaming out in pain over the crimes against these little ones. Standing in a gray mist, hearing the roaring, tearing waters, this poem came to me, and I hope it will impact you. The Mists Call Misery’s mournful mists Churn and swirl in grief Flung awry from a river unstrung In naked agony without relief Foam and spray of the earth Dripping on skin, blinding eyes, Filling nostrils, blanketing hair A knowing of an earth more wise Artery from the planet’s heart Gushes against banks wrenched and torn When the cup of wrath is filled The full fury of justice is borne Roiling against the treachery Long-suffering banks now flood Wracked through in livid fury Against the torture and the blood Against the blindness and indifference Of the fetid masses who've agreed
To ignore the threats and conspiracy Of polluted pharaohs of greed The mournful mists are calling To His sons to rise up as one Become those who rule and reign with Him Until all of creation has become A housing for His glory As in the temple from above But in humble, broken hearts Abounding in steadfast love But now, blood-soaked soil cries out To heavens drenched in children’s tears Millstones, ice and fire are ready To rain upon cowards their worst fears Sun, moon and stars do His bidding Mountains and rivers are unleashed To spew forth every secret To expose till every lie is released To burn and purge every plot To uncover the true intentions of hate To expel from earth’s bowels every torment God’s righteous justice will never be late Misery’s mournful mists Spray sobbing flumes until joy arises As the earth will yield her burdens The oceans swell with surprises For all of creation is in birth pangs Anxious and groaning beyond measure To display the momentous wrath of God Released by His children, His treasures See the fury and fierceness of mountains Smell the smoke of burning plains Know that only in Christ can mercy triumph Release from His heart the healing rains! The mournful mists are calling To His sons: Now rise up as one! Speak the Word, care for those who hurt Until all of creation has become A housing for His glory As the shining temple from above Filling only humble, broken hearts Abounding in steadfast love Chere Berman, June 2021 Reference: https://www.the-sun.com/news/388229/irelands-evil-mother-baby-homes-raped-abused/
Where are the monsters?
Halloween: pumpkin carving, harvest festivals, trick-or-treating, and... scary monsters. For adults, costume cosplay and masquerade parties, goofy office pranks and pumpkin spice latte are now part of the scene. Whether in the workplace, our family, or community, we focus on making this holiday season fun, profitable for entrepreneurs or established businesses, creative, full of the smells, sounds and joys of fall, and safe. At our core, we really don't want the ghouls and devilish monsters to appear. When I thought about this season in 2019, I remembered a blog I wrote for educators in 2013. With a little revision, it soooo applies to where we are right now in our culture. Here is a teaser excerpt. I hope you will click on the link to see the whole post. While it is written for teachers, we no doubt will see how it applies to us all to some degree, and I hope it give you some food for thought. From "A Nation of Bullies, or a Nation of Heroes" (reposted/revised from Oct 2013) We get to choose. While rhetoric in our country spirals downward into swamp muck, we can stand on the high ground. For many, as violent or disastrous events have unfolded, their earlier choices (or choices by the default of passivity) are becoming evident. In such crises, the stance we have been taking in our personal and professional lives---our metal, if you will--gets to face the fire, and sometimes the exposure is more troubling than what prompted it. More than anywhere else, the classroom should be a place where we can question without hasty generalizations, name-calling, and looking for blame.... The classroom is and always has been both a place of training for real life and a microcosm of the larger world. Do we create an atmosphere of acceptance, wonder, joy and kindness within our classrooms, or a conduit for the venom that is already poisoning the atmosphere in the larger world? Teaching critical thinking doesn't mean transferring personal cynicisms and bias, complaints and carping about the injustices and impasses in society... Check out the rest at: www.chereberman.wordpress.com While the rhetoric spirals downward into swamp muck, we can stand on high ground.
Your voice should resonate
Who lives in a virtual marketplace of ideas and information? More than any other time in history, this generation swirls in images, sound bytes, and messages. Against the background media swill that devolves into constricted ideas, character branding, and ambiguity, clear messaging is like a cool drink of water. Fresh voices in music, theater, art, business, social/political thought and technology can shake paradigms and break ground. It is time for innovative voices to resonate with the right audiences to produce value and growth. My passion is to encourage people with ideas and dreams, projects and content to make their messages count. Clarifying what you want to say, to whom you want to say it, and giving your words and images the energy and style they deserve is POWERFUL. Within a few weeks, this blog will be inviting guest experts or fresh voices to provide technical tips, spark new ideas, or encourage you in your writing or content development. My hope is that some of these fresh voices will resonate with you!