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Another Kind of Spiritual Practice

Jan30

by: on January 30th, 2015 | No Comments »

It’s easy to think of spiritual practice as something separate from ordinary life: the time one spends on a meditation cushion or chanting prayers or sending praise songs into the world. But for me these days, the most powerful spiritual practices are things I seldom put in that category. Is facilitating a discussion a spiritual practice?

Last weekend I was the lead presenter in a series for public artists working in community offered by the city of Calgary in the Canadian province of Alberta. I gave a talk and led a couple of workshops for an engaged group of artists, students, administrators, and educators. I like the way Dawn Ford, the Public Art Program Coordinator, has gone about helping local artists become more engaged in public practice.

At day’s end, a number of participants came forward to thank me, which always feels good. Several of them paid me a compliment I am often privileged to hear: “I learned something,” one woman told me, “from the way you called on people and responded to their comments during the discussions. Your face stayed the same no matter what they said.”

I discovered I had a knack for this a few centuries ago as a young arts activist in San Francisco. Things would get contentious, people would take polar positions, and somehow it fell to me to try to create the container that could hold opposing sides and find some resolution that respected them all. It was an epiphany festival. I could see that I liked some people and disliked others, agreed with some assertions and rejected others. I had just as many personal preferences as everyone else in the room. Inside my head and body, the jostle of winners and losers kept right on making a commotion, but a different inner voice rang louder and truer.

Now I think of that voice as godlike.You know what I mean: not omnipotent and patriarchal, but regarding every person as beloved, the way a good parent loves her children. I could hear what each person was saying – the specific content of each message, including the edges that invited conflict. But I could also sense something of the joy or pain, the yearning or striving that colored each attempt to communicate, regardless of message. That voice told me to hold each person’s words in the same light, as part of a brave and beautiful persistence to care and connect despite all the rejections we may have experienced, all that may have been done to us. At first I thought of it as a game I played with myself: could I root myself in a position of fairness and enabling, of respect and mutuality?

But then something magical happened. I fell in love with that voice. I started genuinely wanting each person to speak his or her truth and the love infused my gaze and my capacity to listen. Now, so many years later, I’m not consciously doing anything when I facilitate a meeting. It reminds me of many years ago, when painting rather than writing was my medium as an artist. I painted a great many portraits, and when someone sat for me, my former feelings about that person fell away. Spending hour after hour sitting close, gazing at another’s face, breathing the same air, letting the stories flow: the word for the feeling generated by that experience was the same: love.

No matter what the context, this unbidden love – this grace – is a form of spiritual practice. I only have one endorsement, but I think it’s pretty compelling: if it works for someone as full of opinions and preferences as I am, it can work for anyone.

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Fighting to Abolish Unjust Debts: Check Out Tikkun’s Winter 2015 Issue

Jan29

by: Tikkun on January 29th, 2015 | No Comments »

Jubilee and Debt Abolition

It’s the Jubilee Year according to the Jewish Calendar – the year when all debts are to be forgiven and all land redistributed in equal parcels. In a time when debts have reached unprecedented levels and people are suffering under this burden, how can people of all faiths – as well as our contemporary secular societies – be inspired by this radical biblical vision? The Winter 2015 issue of Tikkun features people putting the concept of Jubilee into action in the fight for debt abolition.

Don’t miss out on this important discussion. You can get a taste of it by clicking on each article and reading the first few paragraphs. Then, if you are not yet a subscriber or member of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, you’ll be asked to subscribe or join (after which you will get the print and/or online version of the magazine). If you are already a paid-up subscriber or member, you should be able to read the full article online and be getting the print version in the mail. Many of us forget how to log in to read subscriber-only content online; please don’t hesitate to seek guidance on how to register to read the online version of the print magazine. Just email leila@tikkun.org or call 510-644-1200 for help. If you are a subscriber or member of the NSP and haven’t received the print magazine in the mail yet, please email leila@tikkun.org. We want to fix the problem as soon as we know about it!

Now, for your taste of the magazine…

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Intern with Rabbi Michael Lerner and the NSP

Jan29

by: Tikkun on January 29th, 2015 | No Comments »

Heal and Transform the World Internship with Tikkun Magazine and the NSP interfaith and secular-humanist and atheist-welcoming Network of Spiritual Progressives a few blocks from the UC Berkeley Campus.

Are you worried about climate change and upset about how the destruction of our environment is threatening our collective future? Are you outraged by the amount of power that corporations and the top 1% of wealthy people have over U.S. politics and our lives? Do you want to build a future in which “homeland security” is achieved through ending global poverty rather than through the military invasion of other countries?

If so, come intern with Tikkun magazine’s Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP), an interfaith organization that is also welcoming to “spiritual but not religious” atheists and agnostics. The Network of Spiritual Progressives is a project of Tikkun Magazine. Internships are at 2375 Shattuck Ave between Durant Ave and Channing Ave in Berkeley. Tikkun is a Hebrew word which means “healing, repair and transformation.” The NSP is co-chaired by Rabbi Michael Lerner and environmental activist Vandana Shiva. Please read our website at www.spiritualprogressives.org.

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Running in High Heels? Not!

Jan28

by: on January 28th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

high heels

Credit: Creative Commons / SPERA.de Designerschuhe, Taschen und Accessoires

There is an American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) television commercial that shows a woman in a short skirt and high heels while the voice over talks of finding a career you love at any age and about life reimagined. Whenever I see this spot called “I’ve Still Got It”, I think that when anyone is old enough for an AARP card, there are some things you should know, one of which is running in high heels is a dumb idea.

If you are old enough for an AARP card, you ought to be able to recognize a non sequitur, a logical fallacy where the premises do not lead to the stated conclusion. A miniskirt and high heels have nothing whatever to do with continued vitality as we age, nothing whatever to do with working on exciting projects either as a career or not after age 50, nothing whatever to do with re-imagining life’s possibilities.

If you are old enough for an AARP card, you should know, especially if you are a woman, the history of high heels. They were first used in ancient Persia by men who used the heels to keep them in stirrups when riding horses. Over time, high heels have been used by short kings and queens to make them appear taller. The aristocracy used them to distinguish themselves from the lower classes. The heels showed that unlike the lower classes, they did not have to walk. With the Enlightenment, men were thought to be rational and useful, in charge. They stopped wearing high heels. Women were seen as sentimental and as decoration. The more successful the man, the more beautiful the woman or women with which he was associated. Once upon a time, the only women who wore high heels were prostitutes. Today, many women wear high heels because they are supposed to make a woman’s legs look longer and shapelier. They cause her to walk with more sway to her hips. Many women wear high heels so that they feel confident and sexy.

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American Sniper: Chris Hedges’ “Killing Ragheads for Jesus”

Jan28

by: on January 28th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

A screenshot from the movie american sniper

A still from the movie 'American Sniper.' Credit: remolacha.net/ Creative Commons

Editor’s note: While we at Tikkun do not feel it’s fair to blame Christianity or imply that all Christians somehow implicitly support the kind of Christianity that leads some American Christians to feel that their murdering of Arabs or Muslims is doing Jesus’ work, and want to remind our readers of the many progressive Christians who join the Network of Spiritual Progressives and other organization that oppose the US “Strategy of Domination” and instead identify with Tikkun’s Strategy of Generosity (as manifested in our proposed Domestic and Global Marshall Plan (please re-read it by downloading the full version at www.tikkun.org/gmp), we do think that Hedges’ powerful critique of the movie “American Sniper” should be read by those who are too willing to forgive the American media for its implicit and sometimes explicit glorification of the U.S. military. And shame on President Obama and liberal Democrats for not having stopped the (what was at first just Bush’s) war in Iraq when they had control of both houses of Congress and the presidency 2009 and 2010, instead backing a “surge” and providing the background and equipment that eventually led to ISIS and all its cruel perversions and murderous ruthlessness.

Below we have excerpts from Chris Hedges’ piece, “Killing Ragheads for Jesus”, which can be found here, at Truthdig.com.

Blasting Away Black Faces and Lives

Jan28

by: on January 28th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Mugshots with bulletholes

Florida National Guard Seargent Valerie Deant saw her brother's mugshot being used for target practice by North Miami Beach Police. Credit: @truthseekerstv

With the increased visibility of police officers killing unarmed black men and boys surfacing in the media, the wide scale demonstrations of outrage and protest traveling throughout the United States and in countries around the world, and investigations by the Justice Department into allegations of racial bias in policing, one would anticipate that police force officials might begin to assess procedures, at the very least, to give the impression they are willing to correct any appearance of racial profiling of black and brown people. I suppose, however, the Chief of the North Miami Beach Police Department in Florida never got that memo.

What members of the Florida National Guard found when they showed up at a shooting range for their annual weapons qualifying training shocked and angered them. Before they arrived, the North Miami Beach Police Department conducted sniper training at the site using mug shots of African American men for target practice, and for some reason, they failed to removed the pictures. For one of the members of the Guard, Seargent Valerie Deant, this was extremely traumatic. One of the hanging mug shots was of her brother, Woody Deant, with a clear bullet hole in one of his eyes and another in the center of his forehead.

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From Ferguson to Palestine: Dispatch from the Troublemaking Frontlines

Jan23

by: on January 23rd, 2015 | Comments Off

“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

If you’ve been to any of the #blacklivesmatter protests, you may have seen the slogan “Justice from Ferguson to Palestine” on a protest sign. You may have wondered: Really? How are these struggles really connected? This December, I was in Palestine, and I found out first hand.

People at a conference raising their hands together

The audience at A Hole in a Brick Wall conference standing to show solidarity with #blacklivesmatter. Credit: Active Stills

I was asked to give a brief keynote about New York’s People’s Climate March at a conference on feminism and nonviolence in Jaffa, the port city that was once the thriving center of commerce in Palestine, now the neglected south end of Tel Aviv, Israel. Why fly halfway around the world to talk about the climate to people who live in a land riddled with its own share of environmental destruction? I guess, sometimes, you have to burn carbon to stop carbon. As I was preparing my talk, the #blacklivesmatter movement was erupting across America. I couldn’t ignore it. My task: illustrate the interconnectedness of climate justice, racial justice, and ending state violence? In, um, under 15 minutes.

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‘Selma’ is True to the Story it Needs to Tell

Jan19

by: on January 19th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

After weeks of controversy over “Selma” and especially the scenes of head butting between Martin Luther King and Lyndon Baines Johnson, I was a little surprised when I finally saw the movie during this MLK day weekend (I do not live in a city that was graced with the pre-release). As I quickly learned, “Selma” is not essentially about MLK or LBJ. It is, of all things, about Selma.

Its 42-year-old director, Ava DuVernay, says of “Selma”, “It honors the people of Selma, but it also represents the struggle of people everywhere to vote.” This it does faithfully and movingly. “Selma” illuminates a struggle – movement of church ladies, teenagers, and old men – that materialized in a small town long before King entered the picture.

Still, there are questions. These begin with the portrayal of Johnson but extend to other gaps in the film – including what I’ll describe for now as the case of the missing yarmulkes.

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Understanding the Gandhi-King Legacy in Contemporary Terms

Jan19

by: Murali Balaji on January 19th, 2015 | Comments Off

Martin Luther King, Jr. at Gandhi memorial

Originally published on The Huffington Post

Following his 1959 trip to India, in which he visited the memorial of Mahatma Gandhi, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., noted that he was “more convinced than ever that non-violent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.”

The inspiration King drew from Gandhi and the Hindu concept of ahimsa is well-chronicled (including a piece last year in HuffPost by Gadadhara Pandit Dasa), but as we observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, it’s important to examine a deeper connection between both men: the idea that seva is a force for uplift and bringing communities in from the margins. King, like Gandhi, drew inspiration from his faith to inspire others to serve selflessly.

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Are We Still Marching With King?

Jan19

by: Aryeh Cohen on January 19th, 2015 | 3 Comments »

Every year, on this state-sanctioned day of reflection, we memorialize the Martin Luther King who was a peacemaker, a conciliator, a lover and not a hater. In reality, however, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was the master of the thunderous cadences of righteous rage.

Martin Luther King Jr. speaking

"True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring." Credit: Creative Commons/Mike Licht/Library of Congress.

King preached nonviolence, he lived nonviolence. He had no illusions about the “valley filled with the misguided bloodthirsty mobs.” He agreed with Langston Hughes: “O, yes, I say it plain/America never was America to me,/And yet I swear this oath – /America will be!” Martin Luther King taught that nonviolence is the most powerful weapon we have to transform the world. Because the world is not only created by those with the guns and the truncheons.

As a Jew celebrating the birth of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a quote from the sixth-century Babylonian Talmud comes to mind: “Any Sage who is not vengeful or does not hold a grudge is not a Sage.” (Yoma 22b-23a)

“But wait!” you might object, “Doesn’t Torah say ‘You shall not take vengeance, and you shall not harbor a grudge?!’” This is true. However, the Talmud is teaching us that there is an obligation and a place for righteous rage. The mishnaic Hebrew word for righteous rage is tar’omet, which has the same root as thunder. The rabbi who witnesses an injustice and does not burn with righteous rage is not a rabbi. The rabbi who does not carry the memory of unjust treatment, and does not rage against it is not a rabbi.

In his speech “Beyond Vietnam,” King said:

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look easily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: “This is not just.”

The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

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