by: Donna Swarthout on October 17th, 2013 | 5 Comments »
(Credit: Creative Commons)
Lately it’s become a little easier to answer questions about why my family decided to move from the United States to Germany. While Obama battles the Tea Party and struggles to keep the government functioning, Angela Merkel enjoys soaring popularity after Germany’s recent national elections. The mood in Berlin feels calm and optimistic while the rhetoric of brinksmanship continues in Washington.
I like the blend of capitalism and democracy found in Germany and other parts of Europe, not to mention the cafes and bakeries and amazing public transit systems.
Two years ago the members of my family became German citizens under a law that allows families who were persecuted by the Nazis to have their citizenship restored. Hundreds of German Jews from the diaspora apply to the German government each year to regain their citizenship. Once they become citizens, they can live in Germany without having to give up their original citizenship. As my husband and I thought about our future, we asked ourselves which country offers better prospects for a good standard of living now and in the future.
by: Jeff Garson on October 14th, 2013 | Comments Off
My recent blog, The Case for Radical Decency, brought the following provocative reaction – the subject of this week’s reflection:
“If ‘picking and choosing’ where to practice Radical Decency is ‘doomed to failure’ does that mean only saints can succeed? How does one incrementally improve?”
“If Radical Decency is doomed to failure unless applied at all times to everything, must I be a Buddhist monk or the equivalent?”
(Credit: Creative Commons)
How this Mindset Traps and Defeats Us
Radical Decency seeks to diverge from the culture’s wildly out of balance emphasis on competitive, win/lose values, advocating a decisive shift in priority toward a more humane set of values. That is its central purpose.
With this in mind, notice the extent to which this self-judgmental approach replicates the very values the philosophy seeks to replace. Tally up the evidence and make a judgment: Have I succeeded in being radically decent – or not? Am I a saint – or a failure?
by: Viji Sundaram on October 10th, 2013 | Comments Off
(Cross-posted from New America Media)
(Credit: New America Media)
Like most severely mentally ill patients, 23-year-old Daniel Padilla doesn’t see himself as that.
The insurance companies that cover him – Medi-Cal (California’s name for Medicaid, the federal-state-funded insurance for low-income and disabled people) and United Health Insurance — don’t see the schizophrenia he was diagnosed with at age 19, as deserving the same benefits as someone with a medical condition.
His father, Benito, must go after the insurers month after month to get them to pay Padilla’s psychiatrist to keep his schizophrenia under control.
“The insurers approve three visits and then they put you through hell,” asserted San Diego-based psychiatrist Dr. Rodrigo A. Muñoz, who has been treating Padilla all along.
by: Larry Rasmussen on October 8th, 2013 | 1 Comment »
We would all be well advised to listen to the counsel of Wendell Berry, who has been for the past fifty years America’s foremost teacher on the subject of the wholeness of creation. “To cherish the remains of the Earth and to foster its renewal,” he warns, “is our only legitimate hope for survival.” There is no more effective way to cherish the remains of the Earth than first, to recognize the primal elements of earth, air, water and fire as sacred and therefore worthy of reverence. Then, as we perceive more deeply the wholeness of creation, we understand as well that we have been born to belonging to the sacred primal elements, of which we are composed and without which we could not live.
(CC-BY-NC-SA by www.martin-liebermann.de)
From the moment we are born until our death, we need air. Likewise water. Our body mass is, like the planet’s, 70 percent water. As the descendents of Adam, whose name derives from the Hebrew word adama (soil), we are groundlings, earthlings, the good clods who became the cultivators. We are creatures of dust, a little water, and the breath of God. Our identity is in our belonging to the sacred elements, a heritage that unites us with a past stretching back millions of years; yet, this identity has current implications as well. We live in a period of transition from an industrial-technological civilization to an ecological civilization, a transition that some have called the greatest that humans have ever faced. This transition marks the emergence from the Holocene Age to the Anthropocene Age.
by: Craig Wiesner on October 3rd, 2013 | Comments Off
Last week, while listening to the doom and gloom about what would happen if the Affordable Care Act wasn’t stopped dead in its tracks, and the other gloom and doom about what would happen if Congress failed to pass a “Continuing Resolution” to keep the government open, I had a few minutes to spare and decided to see what ObamaCare might do for me. Spoiler alert, there’s neither gloom nor doom in what I discovered when I visited Covered California at coveredca.com
I spent some time looking at the small business pages, because Derrick Kikuchi and I are both married AND we own a small business. We’ve been covered by a small business plan through Kaiser and can continue that coverage if we’d like. If we hire one more person we can get that same coverage, with tax credits thrown in to help us pay for it, through Covered California. Despite rhetoric from those who oppose the Affordable Care Act, there’s actually an incentive for us to hire someone as a Pa and Pa business! But, for now, with just the two of us, I needed to look at the possibilities of individual/family coverage.
by: Margaret Morganroth Gullette on September 27th, 2013 | Comments Off
As soon as the Battered Women’s Shelter opened in my Sister City in Nicaragua, I got to know the abused girls (all thirteen to fifteen years old), who came to live there. I have a favorite, Adelina, the silent, skinny, thirteen-year-old who came first. Adelina had been prostituted by her mother to a neighbor who paid in groceries. Social services found out, arrested Adelina’s mother and neighbor, and sent Adelina to us.
(Credit: Amnesty International/ Creative Commons)
Adelina thought she was in love with the perpetrator. I met her the next morning, after her night of wakeful tears. I knelt down, watching her draw and speaking to her through a finger puppet. “Me gusta tu dibujo,” the puppet said in a squeaky voice: “I like your drawing.” Eventually, by saying “I wish I could draw, but I don’t have any fingers,” in puppet-voice, I succeeded in making her laugh. That laugh founded an affectionate relationship.
She lived in the shelter for over a year, studied, and proudly got admitted to the Free High School for Adults. Then she was remanded back to her mother, continuing to arrive for therapy every day. Now I learn she is pregnant, by a boy three years older. He is a drunk who has been seen passed out on the waterfront. I am distraught and helpless. She is vomiting and miserable.
Radical Decency is a comprehensive approach to living. It is not about feeling better – or about treating others more decently – or about saving the world. It is about all of these things. The reason? We are profoundly creatures of habit and, as a result, each area of living is deeply and irrevocably intertwined with the others.
Thus, seeking to act differently at home but not at work, or in politics but not in our self-care, we fatally underestimate the extent to which the culture’s indecent values – its predominant habits of living – insinuate themselves into the overall texture of our lives. When we focus our healing efforts on a single area of living, these mainstream values, continuing to operate elsewhere without meaningful challenge, inexorably infiltrate and subvert our more limited islands of decency.
For this reason, healing needs to be “holistic”; a concept that many healers embrace, at least in principle. The problem, however, is that in most cases they fail to follow through on its implications.
by: Mimi Peleg on September 26th, 2013 | 58 Comments »
Mimi Peleg uses cannabis and MDMA to treat PTSD in herself and others. Credit: Ori Sharon.
The issue of drugs, and psychedelic drugs in particular, generally opens up questions which cannot be ignored by anyone seeking a more just and caring society. Current global policies towards psychedelic drugs range from the cruel to the barbaric. Every country in the world, excluding Portugal, currently prosecutes or otherwise severely penalizes individuals who use psychedelic substances.
Since the 1960s, this prosecution has come under question. This is particularly true in the U.S. To many, the pro-psychedelic movement that emerged out of the anti-war movement seems frivolous and non-essential. To observers with these attitudes, psychedelics are viewed as recreational diversions. People who see psychedelics in this way may be bewildered to know that the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), an organization aimed at studying the medical benefits of MDMA (the pure compound in the illegal drug Ecstasy), cannabis, and other drugs, has chosen Israel as a key location for psychedelic research.
To those who follow the growing body of medical research on psychedelics, this choice is much less surprising. Increasingly, scientists have come to view psychedelics as the most powerful tool we possess in treating PTSD, radically changing the old picture of the drug. According to The Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma (ICTP), a group that has been active since 1989 to contend with the growing phenomenon of psychotrauma in Israel, an estimated 9% of Israelis suffer from PTSD. While this is in the mid-range of PTSD rates in areas near Israel, it is three times the rate of PTSD in the U.S. and other Western countries. Israel’s high rate could be due to the many wars, presence of first and second generation Holocaust Survivors, and numerous other factors.
Across the world, gay Catholics and allies have been rejoicing over the comments made by Pope Francis in his America magazine interview. Yet looking strictly at the pope’s comments on homosexuality, I see only a more clever iteration of the Catholic church’s “love the sinner, hate the sin” teaching. Frankly, as one who rejects sexual identity labels as nothing more than the social trauma-rooted intellectual residue of the twentieth century, and who embraces homosexuality as an extraordinary erotic gift from Almighty God that is available to all men and women of open mind and open heart, I think the pope’s ever-evolving cleverness on homosexuality is getting way too much attention.
Yet far more interesting and substantive are his remarks on abortion, given in his America magazine interview and subsequent sermon to a group of Catholic gynecologists.
Credit: Creative Commons
To the Catholic gynecologists, Francis said abortion was part of the “widespread mentality of profit, the ‘throwaway culture,’ which has today enslaved the hearts and minds of so many.” Just a day earlier, the pope caused a stir stemming from his America magazine interview when he said, “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible.”
Reviewing the pope’s zigzaggery on this issue, at least in terms of his communication style, a legitimate question could be raised: Could Pope Francis be trying to turn a new page on the Catholic approach to abortion, specifically an approach that would uphold the fundamental sanctity of every human life from the moment of conception, while simultaneously steering conservative Catholics away from their decades-long effort to use the heavy club of state power to control the lives of women who seek elective abortions?
by: Shari Motro on September 3rd, 2013 | 5 Comments »
Credit: Scott Ableman/Creative Commons.
Jewish law requires that all synagogues have windows. We’re not supposed to pray in separation from the world; we’re supposed to pray with the world, conscious of its cycles, in a space that invites connection with them. Unfortunately, most authorities interpret this rule as permitting synagogues to have windows that never open – windows that seal congregants in an air-conditioned bubble, even on days when outdoor temperatures are moderate.
Synagogues, like other houses of worship, are no different from the majority of our secular spaces. Our default building methods presume round-the-clock mechanical air circulation – windows do not open, and natural cooling designs like cross-ventilation, high ceilings, porches, and recessed doors and windows are quaint rarities. The official guided tour of Washington DC’s National Building Museum, built in 1887 and inspired by Michelangelo’s church architecture, features the building’s ventilation system literally as a museum piece. Visitors are informed that the building’s great hall was designed to “create a healthful building with plenty of fresh air” – but in step with the times, the days of natural airflow there too are gone.
Like many Jews, my only visits to synagogue are during the High Holy Days, which begin this week with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. This is also one of the periods when the ubiquity of air conditioning saddens me most. It saddens me because of the sheer waste. It saddens me because I like to wear white linen to usher in the holiday and walk to services carrying nothing, rather than packing layers fit for the tundra as I do when I go to the office, the megaplex, or the airport. And it saddens me because sealed windows separate me from the signs and wonders with which nature beckons me to contemplate the very same lessons that are at the heart of what Rosh Hashanah is all about.