Blunting the Boy Bully: The Gandalf Nuremberg Strategy

When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it always.” — Gandhi

gandalf-2Looking back, it’s clear that we did figure out, quite early—even before the inauguration—what we needed to do to blunt the Boy Bully in his tracks. And, by grace, it turned out to be quite easy, natural, and oh so human, though it wasn’t quick. It was called, of course, the Gandalf Nuremberg Strategy.
Even before the inauguration, as the Boy Bully began naming his cabinet, the fear rose—fear for the dismantling of decades of progress in education , in environmental protections, in gender rights, minority rights, worker’s rights. It felt as if a pack of pit bulls had been turned loose on the school grounds. In those first months after the election, it seemed a very frightening picture to us all, or at least to a majority of us.
Only now, here in relative peace and quiet after the Boy Bully’s impeachment, with dozens of state and federal indictments filed against him and against his millionaire cohorts for their fox-in-the-hen-house approach to governing, with his personal passport confiscated, and being confined to his tower, only now can we recognize that the Gandalf Nuremberg Strategy —employed by The Boy Bully Vanquishers Secret Society—was successful beyond our wildest imagination. Order and sanity, beauty and truth, simple dignity and a hearty hey-ho have been restored to the land. Not to mention the rule of law which insists no man or woman is above the law. Once again, Lady Justice, standing proud with the flame of liberty still held high, we bow to your deep-rooted feet.
The Gandalf Nuremberg strategy— so obvious, so simple, so natural, and yet so radical that the Boy Bully could do nothing about it but huff and puff out his cheeks and tweet and threaten to deport us all—began to be employed even before the inauguration. The as-of-yet nameless strategy was so obvious and natural that it spontaneously and simultaneously sprouted up in literally thousands of places employed by 10’s of thousands of people all across the country. Once recognized, the strategy was quickly, and mostly quietly adopted with ever more practical artistry.
Although the strategy itself was natural, the name for the strategy, a name which quickly went viral, came about one evening shortly after the election when a number of us monk and nun artists at Heart Mountain Monastery were complaining to each other and bemoaning our fate and wondering what in the hell we could do.
As artist monks and nuns you might assume that we could hold ourselves above the political fray– that the election did not have the same effect on us as it did on the majority of the voters. Nothing could be further from the truth. As monks and nuns, and more especially as artists working to create beauty and wider consciousness in ourselves and our surroundings—a challenge we find more interesting and engaging than simply trying to create more money and fame and social personal power— we were, dare I say, perhaps even more devastated by the outcome of that bizarre race than many ordinary citizens. Yes, the race itself and its outcome did reaffirm our basic insight that here in the 21st century lasting leadership and inspiration and practical direction for fulfilling our purpose in life does not, generally, or even often, come from the political arena. Thus our quiet half-withdrawal from the political fray and our dedication to a different path. And yet, even though our faith is not in the political process, simply being here on the planet our attention is drawn time and time again into that old-millennium, rotting strew. So what to do?
On that late evening of complaint in the main lodge at the Monastery, when we were wondering what we could do about the political catastrophe, the Abbot reminded us of the words of Gandalf, the White Wizard in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. For some reason, the Abbot had Gandalf’s words memorized. Lifting his beer, the Abbot quoted: “Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I have found that it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folks that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.”
“Yea right, good luck with that,” Bruce Billingsly said. He voiced what a lot of us were thinking. Sometimes the Abbot gets a little starry–eyed.
“The folks I’m particularly thinking of,” the Abbot went on, “ are the 22 million people who work for the local, state and federal governments.”
“Government workers are not known for their small acts of kindness,” Lucille DeSantos chimed in. Everybody laughed.
“No,” Connie Estes said, “but they haven’t been tested this way either. My mother worked for the Department of Motor Vehicles. But she’s a good lady. Remember, a majority of people were denied their choice for president.”
“And it goes deeper than small acts of kindness,” the Abbot said, “though such acts, as Gandalf pointed out, are in fact the backbone of what we can do. But the principles for what we can do—we should do, we must do—were also laid out at Nuremberg.”
We all went quiet and looked at him.
“At Nuremberg,” he said, “It was determined—as an international principle, based on human dignity– that unjust and inhumane orders from above need not be followed. Should not be followed. At Nuremberg it was established as international law, that it is not only an individual’s right, but also a duty to refuse unjust and inhumane orders. Even if the top ranks have been temporarily taken over by the madness of crowds, the ordinary people who actually do the work can be trusted. They can resist, they can delay, they can refuse to follow orders.”
“Oh, wouldn’t that be nice.” Connie said again.
And as it turns out, that’s exactly what happened. Over the course of months, and then years, government workers, and people contracted with the government, on their own and in small groups, simply refused to be quick about fulfilling the Boy Bully’s agenda. Instead, they followed Gandalf, and the principles laid out at Nuremberg.
By refusing to obey unjust, inhumane orders, and simply being kind to the people who needed kindness, official letters were lost, communications were garbled, programming for new projects was delayed time and time again. File names were switched. People in need actually received the aid that the Boy Bully’s people were trying to withhold. More and more computer errors allowed for more and more services to continue. In a reversal of tides, mistakes happened in favor of the people, not of the system.
Illegals somehow became legals, as they did with Schindler’s list. Paradoxically, the borders became more open than ever before. And eventually, local, state and federal judges came on board, such that the Boy Bully’s policies and wishes were simply made mute.
Some workers were very brave and openly defied the new administration. They were quickly fired, of course, and others put in their place. But by their acts they inspired courage and direction for many who were not yet so brave.
Other workers were resistant to the Boy Bully’s policies, but were not so open. Still, their actions counted. It was a guerrilla campaign waged by secretaries and office managers, by area division heads.
The “secret password” by which we all recognized each other as members of the Boy Bully Vanquisher Society was the common phrase, “the majority rules.” Simply slipping that phrase into our ordinary daily communications alerted others of our true intents and feelings. The majority, after all, even within the government work force, were not supporters of the Boy Bully.
“These 22 million people who work for the local, state and federal governments are our brothers and sisters,” the Abbot had said. “They can recognize what is right and what is wrong. They are not blind. They are not robots. We can have faith in them.” And he was right.
In the end, the American people came together as they never had before. The people recognized that it had been the small, 1% who had somehow taken over the government, and had fooled the people into believing they were working for the good of all. It became apparent quite quickly after the Boy Bully took over that his loyalties were with the militaristic billionaire class.
But the American people were—are—good people, and showed that they did care passionately about our common land, about our shared water and our air, and most importantly about the welfare of our fellow citizens, fellow human beings.
In the end, the Boy Bully himself was the cause of his own destruction—as always happens. But the Gandalf-Nuremburg response of the people —engaging small, every day acts of kindness, of bravely extending deadlines, of forgiving penalties, of letting people follow their dreams and take care of their families and express their highest good— this could not be stopped. It was not stopped.
As Gandhi wrote, “ When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it always.” Gandhi, too, proved prescient.
So 2020 will be a much quieter election season, thank God. We have learned our lesson. We are once again ready to think for ourselves, act for ourselves. The principles were laid out at Nuremberg, and by Gandalf: So simple, so powerful. At the time, at the start of the Big Bully’s reign, we didn’t realize how powerful such simplicity could be. We needed to remind each other.

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Duck! Cringe! Watch Out! (The Season of Peace Is Upon Us) 

 

worried-guyWoke up this morning thinking, “yikes, it’s December 1st.” I confess, “the season of peace” has not always been my best season, though this year my trepidations have not been as keen as  in seasons past. Still under the covers, I remembered an article I wrote a number of years ago for our local Health District. (Thus its somewhat stilted and proper tone.)  I dug it out, found it somewhat helpful, so thought I’d share it here. To wit:

Many people look forward to the holidays.  Kids do, of course, for all the obvious reasons, as do those folks with pure hearts and untroubled minds, and those who have their shopping done by Halloween and presents sent before Thanksgiving, cookies baked and frosted by the Ides of December. Retailers look forward to the holidays, of course. Church deacons mostly do. Nuns, probably.

For many of us, alas, the season of peace is anything but peaceahappy-black-santable. The “seasonal expectations” of family, co-workers, neighbors, retailers and church and synagogue administrators come at us like a fleet of cement trucks. Nowhere to duck. Nowhere to run.  That’s why, according to psychologist Jennifer Taylor of McLean Hospital and the Harvard Medical School, as well as police reports across the country, we see an increase in depression, alcohol and substance abuse, suicide, domestic violence and smoking relapses.  So what to do? Here are tips from the National Mental Health Association:

  • Keep expectations for the holiday season manageable. Try to set realistic goals for yourself. Pace yourself. Organize your time. Make a list and prioritize the important activities. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. Do not put entire focus on just one day. Remember it is a season of holiday sentiment. Activities can be spread out (time-wise) to lessen stress and increase enjoyment.
  • Remember the holiday season does not banish reasons for feeling sad or lonely; there is room for these feelings to be present, even if the person chooses not to express them.
  • Leave “yesteryear” in the past and look toward the future. Life brings changes. Each season is different and can be enjoyed in its own way. Don’t set yourself up in comparing today with the “good ol’ days.”
  • Do something for someone else. Try volunteering some time to help others.
  • Enjoy activities that are free, such as driving around to look at holiday decorations; going window-shopping without buying; making a snowperson with children.
  • Be aware that excessive drinking will only increase your feelings of depression.
  • Try something new. Celebrate the holidays in a new way.
  • Spend time with supportive and caring people. Reach out and make new friends or contact someone you have not heard from for awhile.
  • Save time for yourself! Recharge your batteries! Let others share responsibility of activities.

The Peace Practice: And here’s an even more direct root:

  1. Recognize that not only during the holidays, but the whole year through, the healthiest and most practical thing we can do for ourselves and for all those around us is to live in peace. So how do we do that? How do we actually live in peace?
  2. We live in peace when we are at peace with the thoughts we are thinking.
  3. So, whenever necessary or appropriate we ask ourselves, “Am I at peace with my thoughts, yes or no?” If the answer is not an immediate and spontaneous yes, it’s a no. 4.) If the answer is yes,(we enjoy the thoughts we are thinking)  perfect. We’re at peace!  If the answer is no, (I’m not at peace with my thoughts) then in order to return to peace, to return to health, we have two options:  A. Drop or change the thoughts with which we are not at peace and find or create thoughts with which we are more at peace; or B. Choose to be at peace with the thoughts with which a moment before we were not at peace.

It’s a simple practice, yet very powerful. And curiously enough, once we recognize that living in peace is both the healthiest and most practical thing we can do for ourselves and all those around us, and as we actually begin to live in peace, practice peace, if only a little, moment by moment, then we easily, even spontaneously drop the habits and actions (and people and places) with which we are not at peace. It’s the season of peace. Let’s actually practice peace every day, every hour, every moment, the best we know how.

If you have other tips and tricks for how to practice peace, please share them with us. It’s the most peaceable, and kindest, thing we can do.

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Sir Saint Leonard Cohen

Posted a rather lengthy tribute, in fictionalized form, to Leonard  Cohen. Thank you, sir, for what you did, what you do…

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Voting Is Not the Most Important Thing

unclesamsmokesandvotesWhen political volunteers call my home hoping to “get out the vote”- and they do, they call, and they call, and they call—the junior high kid in me sometimes likes to say, “Nah. Voting’s not that important to me. Besides, I’ve been really busy sorting my rock collection.”

The volunteers, of course, go ballistic. To say I’m not going to vote—especially here in this “nasty man, nasty woman” presidential election—is social blasphemy. Worse. It’s as if I’d said I enjoy to kick kittens. To not vote is unthinkable, despicable, even unnatural. I must be anti-God, and a terrorist sympathizer.

(For the record, I have never in my long life kicked a kitten, though I confess I have, while wielding a broom, shooed grown cats away from our bird feeder, without, alas, lasting success.)

I will also confess, here privately, secretly, that I do actually vote. But I don’t wear that public cheerleader, “I voted” sticker. Here’s why: I’m (again, privately, secretly) in agreement with that otherwise blowhard candidate who claimed, “The election is rigged.”

Here’s how it’s rigged: First, they divide this beautifully diverse rainbow of 300 million multi-dimensional people into two basic colors: red and blue. (“They” being our political bosses, those who have reserved for themselves the mantel of authority to speak for, and accept the fruits of our long political traditions.) They then set up the voting machines—the voting systems—such that either a red or a blue will win the game.

“Hey wait,” about a third of we people holler. “I’m an independent thinker. I’m not just red or blue.”

“That’s perfectly okay,” the bosses say. “You just wait over there on the sidelines until the reds and blues decide who will be on the team, who will be on the ballot, and then after they decide, you can choose whichever red or blue you like best.”

The way the election is currently rigged a red or blue will win 99 times out of a 100. So if I vote red and my brother votes blue (or visa versa as the case happens to be) such voting has a very good chance of creating at least a little feeling of bad blood between my brother and me. By voting red or blue, I am forced to put distance between myself and my brother (or sister)—a distance which the current political system itself exacerbates, and in fact, feeds upon. It feels yucky.

And yet, obviously, at least on one level, voting red or blue is important. Everybody reminds us it’s one of our freedoms. And it’s how we do things. To not vote is to divorce ourselves from the current social commons. But voting, be it red or blue (or, just to make a statement, green or violet,) is in fact not the most important thing we can do with our lives, nor is it our most important freedom.

A more important freedom, at least in my view, even more important than voting, is the freedom to question our own mental and emotional “sacred cows,” and thus question long established (red and blue) authority. We are free to question whether the way we do things, the way we have things set up, truly does bring about the most good—the most justice, the most opportunity, the most voice– for the most number of people. When I question, I spontaneously balk at being herded into red and blue corrals. I question this way of doing things that has led to such divisiveness, that has led to feelings of bad blood between me and my brothers, my sisters. To question what has brought about this divisiveness seems to me a most necessary, and compassionate gesture.

So when I get the call asking if I voted, it seems to me (at least on occasion) an act of compassion to question this sacred cow. Of course, at one level it’s important to vote. But I occasionally need to remind myself, even remind my friends and strangers on the phone, that voting is not the most important thing—not the most practical thing—if I want to bring about more peace on earth, more justice, more equity, more compassion. The most practical thing seems to be the courage to question, myself and my society. Not just the easy questions. But the hard ones. Like how did my brothers and I, my sisters and I, become so nasty to each other? What changes do we need to make so that it won’t happen again, the way it happened this time?

I wish I had the answers. I don’t. But I do have some of the questions.

Time, I guess, here a day before election day, to go turn in my ballot. And then what should I do?

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How to Pray for Donald Trump

Posted a new little ditty today, on How to Pray for Donald Trump. I pray it doesn’t cause too much trouble.

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Battle of the Bards: First Place!

Although poetry is not a competitive sport, and I am at heart a pacifist, I was nevertheless quite tickled recently when in our local “Battle of the Bards,” annual poetry contest, sponsored by our local library, both of my entries were selected as “finalists.” Even more gratifying, one of them– “Undocumented, Left in the Desert“– was awarded First Place (with a $75.00 prize!) It’s nice to have one’s secret sentiments publicly appreciated. Here are the two poems. Hope you enjoy:

In the Nursing Home

My old momma, this learned woman,

is in this moment a child again—

her dust bowl eight year old farm girl self–

innocent, open, wide eyed, calm,

trusting me, her silver haired son

to bring her lessons from the wider world,

most especially where she’ll sleep tonight.

“Right here, mom. This is your bed. Your name’s

on the door, and on the list of who gets meals.”

She nods her head while learning, the way she once nodded

when her brother showed her how a horse needs brushed,

her mother how the eggs need whipping,

and, last year, the doctor decoding MRI anomalies.

My heart breaks, or at least goes soft.

“Here mom, drink your milk. I’ll hold the straw

it’s good for your bones.”

She smiles, nods, sips.

****************************************

Undocumented, Left in the Desert

I’ve come looking for my bones
I dropped them south of Nogales.
I could not carry them further, my thirst…

and then your truck came, men piled
my bones in on others where they — my bones–
were numbered, chipped, tested.
My brothers, my sisters, gave up on my ghost.

I’ve came now for my bones
This graveyard of John Does,
Jane Does, Hernandez, Gonzales, Hermillo,
I’ve come for my ankle, your elbow
My thigh, your skull, my jawbone
we are one skeleton, one family structure:
some in the desert, some in the truck,
some with guns in a tower guarding that fence,
some home weeping with hearts broke.

I’ve come for my bones.
I will not rest
until we are again one body,
whole, back together again.

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Aldous Huxley and the Big Mind

Invited a few friends over friday afternoon/evening to drink a few beers, play bocce and to not only discuss but also see if we might move through what Aldous Huxley called The Doors of Perception. You can read my posting about it here.
Would be interested to know what you think… Bear

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The Sheriff, Poor Guy . . .

As mentioned, I try to keep this blog updated with (most of) what I write and publish elsewhere, but am not always real quick. Here’s a link to an opinion piece I wrote for our local newspaper, came out a week ago, entitled Pot Laws Are Like Berlin Walls. Just say no.

 

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American Sniper in Iraq

Came across a beautifully crafted review of that sad new movie, American Sniper  by an actual American Sniper in Iraq. I posted it on my website, Dads Against Martyr and Military Madness, which you can read here.   Let’s war no more.

 

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A Couple More Poems Published

Had a couple of poems published recently In Constellations, a Journal of Poetry and Fiction

Here they are just in case you don’t want to buy the magazine to have your own personal copy,

 

Old Friends, Parting

 

Once before, as young men,

we two old friends parted  —him

stuck with truck stop coffee and donuts—

me saying, ”I’ll go on, you follow.”

we’d learned the hard way

two thumbin’s harder

than one.

 

We made plans exactly where we’d meet

on the Cape after the sun went down,

planned to maybe make a drift wood fire,

drink rum, celebrate, dance and sing.

 

“Meantime,” I said, “take care, friend .

see you soon, hopefully, down the road.”

I pointed my thumb, back then,

towards the far galaxies

shining bright and beautiful

under the distant overpass.

 

And now we’re old men together.

We did meet up at the shore. We did laugh,

sing, celebrate. Since then, lots of tides

have come and gone.

“You go on,” I tell him now.

I reach for his hand, his big thumb

caresses mine. He’s the one

going ahead, hooked to the monitors

in this god forsaken distant place.

“We’ll meet again, bro, we’ll celebrate,”

I tell him, “laugh, sing, drink rum,

if they have it there on the distant shore.”

 

“If they don’t,” he says. “I’m not going.”

 

I walk from his hospital room,

The weak light

of his heart monitor flashing

the distant galaxies.

 

After my tears,

in the basement cafeteria

I wait, speak softly with his sister

over coffee and donuts.

 

Faces of Fast Friends

 

As a kid I observed a space—two, three,

inches at most, between my outer face

and the inner me. I asked my buddy

Glenn, “you feel that space, too—outside to in,

two, three inches?” He said no, he didn’t,

didn’t know what inner gap I was pointing to.

 

The space narrowed, grew less as I became

more accustomed to my body. Friend Glenn,

a fast learner, was undoubtedly stuck

identity-wise, into his body

at the time I asked about the face gap.

 

Then I learned about girls, started feeling

my own magnificent juices rising,

so the gap between inner and outer

thinned and soon, me and my raging hormones

were one. I was my physical body,

like everybody else was their body

and it was body to body contact,

excitements that kept my attention locked

(in the body) decade after decade.

 

Now as a mature guy with silver hair,

having had lots of fun with this body

(and hers!) I find the childhood space again

appearing… a point, here inside my skull,

two, three inches behind my wrinkled face,

where I AM—where attention, awareness

reality is.  This body’s movement

is incidental, not necessary,

secondary to the real me who’s here.

 

Here in my maturity, however,

this “I am” that I am, two, three inches

inside the frail skull bone, is infinite—

more than infinite: it’s wordless, space-less,

timeless, formless—this face can come and go,

be first young, then grow old— it has nothing

whatsoever to do with the timeless

attention, awareness, being I am,

space-like, in which all things, the galaxies,

the universes, all forms rise and fall.

 

“You feel what’s just inside, behind your face?”

I’d ask Glenn again, if he were here.

He’s a fast learner. Probably by now

he’d reply, “Oh sure. The face I’m wearing

now is the face I was wearing before

my parents were born.” I’d nod my old head.

“I can dig it,” I’d agree. Being fast

friends since childhood, we’re able to talk

about almost anything in the world.

 

 

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