Finding Your Thanks

It’s so easy. It’s so easy to feel bad. It’s so easy to feel sorry for ourselves. I’ve certainly been in that place many days the past few months. And when I think globally there is much over which we can fret and literally millions of people to worry about. It seems that there always has been, and I fear always will be. Will we ever get closer to that more perfect union–that shining city on the hill?

So, let me share this song with you that I hope you can take a few minutes to listen to. It’s an update of a song originally written by Stephen Foster and published in New York by Firth, Pond & Co. in 1854 as Foster’s Melodies No. 28. I changed a few lines to bring in some modern characters that I think fit the plight of the less fortunate that Foster was writing about almost 170 years ago. Many in our world, by simple coincidence of where they are born, either have a distinct advantage and doorway to a comfortable life (such as me), but for the majority of the people this planet, that simply is not the case. A better life is just something to dream about. The older I get, the more my heart aches over that inequity that seems built into the world we have made for ourselves.

It’s so easy. It’s so easy to feel bad. It’s so easy to feel sorry for ourselves. But then again…

For many of us, including me, the impact of the pandemic has been inconvenience and isolation from loved ones. That, however, is not a significant hardship when compared to those that have lost loved ones, lost careers, businesses, homes, life savings. Previous generations survived a depression, dust bowl, and then fought the Nazis. The Dakota, Lakota, and Ojibwe peoples indigenous to my region of North America survived, are still surviving, isolation to reservations, forced starvation, children ripped away to boarding schools, and outright genocide. Many of us are running out of things to watch on Netflix. We will survive. Our kids will survive the limited participation in organized sports, activities, and sleepovers for a few months–even a year.

I don’t want to minimize what the fortunate among us are experiencing so I’m not going to sit here and tell you what to be thankful for on Thanksgiving. It’s a baggage-filled holiday. Do with it what you need to–if anything.

This brings me to another song that I hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen to. It might not surprise you that I’m a thinker and worrier. When I was a kid, I often had difficulty falling asleep. I can recall many times sitting up in my bed in the wee hours of the night and looking out at the street, lit up by a streetlight, and feeling as if I was the only person alive at that moment. Now as an adult I don’t have trouble falling asleep, but I have trouble staying asleep, and still find myself awake in the wee hours when troubled by something. I was thinking of those times when I built a song around the phrase “The dark before the dawn.” I have found that though I feel all alone at those times, I am blessed with family and friends which provides a much different reality than those feelings of loneliness. So, that’s what this song is about–recognizing where one’s strength comes from during the “dark before the dawn.”

Within These Woods: Sugar Maple

In which we learn about Axsinaminshi, Papa’xes, and the Anishinaabe ecological knowledge of the symbiotic relationship between maple trees, animals in the Northwoods, and the wisdom of the trees. Plus maybe a thing or two about family.

If you are enjoying this audio book series, consider subscribing to the blog or joining the mailing list (if you haven’t already) and also sharing this series with others. Thanks.

Principled Conservatism

“At its principled best, conservatism holds that liberal ends—the right of the individual to enjoy the maximum degree of freedom compatible with the right of his neighbor to do the same—are best secured by conservative means.”
– Bret Stephens, New York Times, 11/2/20

Let’s examine that statement and ideal through this lens MLK’s vision of society:

I’m not a political scientist nor historian, but it seems to me that conservatism is by definition about preserving (conserving) the status quo and resisting change (progress). If the arch of the moral universe bends toward justice, then relative to the evolution of the moral universe, conservatism is simply clinging to a past that was less just. It is resistance to progress leading to equity, individual freedom and opportunity as society makes a more perfect union.

Conservatism appears to be about preserving an antiquated system built on a foundation of racism, genocide, and a even a feudal society structure in which the ruling class held power and wealth accumulated and preserved via the labor and subjugation of the working/peasant class or even slave labor. How can that ideology ever be seen as enhancing the arch of the moral universe bending toward justice instead of bending toward fascism and subjugation of the majority?

The likes of Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham have revealed that principled conservatism is a lie. Honestly, if you examine resistance to any progress/policy that improved the daily lives of the majority, that resistance has always been about preserving the concentration of wealth for a few at the expense of many. There is no such thing as “principled conservatism” or “compassionate conservatism.” The only principle of conservatism appears to be profit and greed.

As we have seen, the maximum freedom of some often comes at the restriction of freedoms of others. One’s liberty (religious or otherwise) should not include condoning the limiting of another’s liberties. That is not freedom. It is tyranny. It is apparently foundational to conservatism as well.

Ultimately, a just society is more than just maximizing one’s own freedom and competent self-governance for the purpose of personal enrichment. It is also about responsibility to and for one another to bend this arch of justice via continued creation of a more perfect union so all may experience a life of liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As Paul Wellstone said, “We all do better when we all do better.”

Within These Woods: Cooper’s Hawk

This week’s essay is about the Cooper’s hawk. The female Cooper’s hawk is one tough chick. You’ll see when you hear what happens to males who approach her too hastily when searching for sex. Ouch.

I hope you enjoy, and as always consider sharing via medium of your choice–twitter, Facebook, or maybe hold a video camera up to your computer screen, record it, convert it to VHS and donate to a second-hand or antique store.

The World I Live In

I live in a country in which half of the people choose a president and party that promotes and then enacts policies that are overtly racists, cause harm to people, and enrich a few at the expense of many.

I know that half would argue they are trying to create conditions in which all could thrive and be successful (if they just work hard enough). But, that just isn’t what is happening. It’s not working.

Many peoples’ lives (not necessarily mine, I guess fortunately) are being made more difficult; more and more individuals are born in into life situations in which life will always be as struggle for survival. Consequently, more and more will grow up in frustration and foment increasing levels of anger. Then our leaders will stoke the fires of that anger and fear further enhancing the wealth of a few at the expense of many. I’m not talking about a redistribution of wealth as much as I’m talking about a redistribution of opportunity.

This is the world we choose to enact and create for ourselves. It makes me incredibly sad.

I don’t think I have anything else to say.

All Hallows’ Eve Morning

The full moon set this morning
Just before the sun began to rise
While a cold wind howled from the south
An oversized orange orb
Sinking below the hazy clouds
Into tangled trees in the west
The eastern sky brightened
Orange rising from an eastern cornfield
Fading into bright blue above
The sun has not risen just yet
But the light was awakening the day
The cold wind blew dried
Leaves across my path
“Give it one last blow,” I said to no one
“And blow them all away.”

%d bloggers like this: