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World Without Borders

by Berry Friesen (July 24, 2017)

The lyric of John Lennon’s and Yoko Ono’s Imagine has been floating through my head again:  “Imagine there's no countries, it isn't hard to do.” Like most any Westerner with decent liberal credentials, I’ve lived my adult years with skepticism about nation-states and national borders.  Lennon and Ono brilliantly gave us the song to sing this sentiment.

I don’t think we can exaggerate the impact of this on us liberals. We may have a dozen Wendell Berry books on our bookshelves, but it’s not Berry’s localism we admire. We revere the world citizen—the man or woman who moves easily across cultures and languages, is at ease in most any environment, unimpressed by the bluster and rigidity of narrow perspectives, confident of his/her ability to connect with humans everywhere, able to see abundance and common humanity in what more parochial minds see as irreconcilable and hostile difference.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early ‘90s and President George Herbert Walker Bush’s “new world order,” this heroic image of the stateless world citizen has slowly been deconstructing.  With the threat of nuclear war off the table, long-overlooked realities came into view. Like how effortlessly predatory corporate agents embodied the ideal of a world citizen. How eagerly major US employers adopted the language and imagery of multi-culturalism and diversity to mask cruel practices of asset-stripping, job destruction and exploitation. How perfectly the rhetoric of globalism fits the agenda of the hyper-aggressive US-led empire.  

In short, bit-by-bit, the liberal ideal of a world citizen has been co-opted and corrupted by the imperialist impulse. Gradually, suspicion has replaced admiration: "You, world citizen, tell me, exactly who are you loyal to beyond yourself and your own wealth?"  

President Barack Obama sealed my disillusionment. In many ways, one could not imagine a finer example of a post-nationalist leader.  But he turned our national economic crisis into a great victory for Wall Street and he ruled as an imperialist through-and-through. The peoples of the United States, Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen are among his victims.

Which brings us to this moment.  Now we have a prominent political movement—the alt-right—built around the disillusionment I've just described. And we have a President whose victory was fueled by the desire of the disillusioned for a leader who identifies with us, our country, our needs, our future.  And yes, by “us” the restless electorate means people who are resident in and citizens of the USA.

Of course, we liberals—those still enchanted and those already disillusioned—despise the alt-right.  We see them as a hateful aberration with nothing significant to say.

If we’re the kind of liberal who gets a lump in the throat upon hearing Imagine on the sound track, then we probably spend part of our days yearning for co-opted and corrupted Hillary and blaming the Russians for stealing our election.  No, none of that makes sense when you stop to think about it, but we need something to distract us from the painful truth: American liberalism has hit a dead end.  Its beautiful ideals and inspiring rhetoric have been used to prettify corporate cynicism amid a great hollowing out of our moral, social and economic infrastructure. Opioids, pornography and weaponry:  those are America’s preoccupations these days.

On the other hand, if we are the disillusioned kind of liberal, then we may be dusting off those Wendell Berry books, hoping our second read-through will reveal something heroic we missed the first time.

Or better yet, we may be doing the hard work of adjusting our worldview to this painful new reality.  We can start by reading media sources that are NOT alt-right, but nevertheless include at least an occasionally honest critique of liberalism in their discussion of world events. To endure the rough ride we face in the years ahead, we need to generate new options. So long as we curry nostalgia for the co-opted tenets of liberalism, new options won’t emerge.  

Alistair Crooke’s essay “How Trump Defines the Future,” can serve as today’s example; it discusses President Donald Trump’s recent visit to Europe, his speech to the Polish people and his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Both presidents, writes Crooke, are “pursuing parallel paths of political and cultural re-sovereigntization.”  That’s what “America First” is all about.

We liberals oppose this, of course. We still imagine a world without borders, even if such rhetoric has become a propaganda ruse for imperial control.

But we cannot let our knee-jerk opposition blind us to the broad attractiveness of Trump’s message, which demotes “globalism,” “diversity” and “identity politics” and elevates instead particular national historical and cultural legacies. That reversal, says Crooke, provides the framework for the emerging debate that will define America and Europe in the coming era.

Speaking earlier this month in Warsaw to the Polish people, but with broader Europe and the US clearly in mind, Trump gave us a sample:

“The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive.  Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost?  Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders?  Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?  We can have the largest economies and the most lethal weapons anywhere on Earth, but if we do not have strong families and strong values, then we will be weak and we will not survive.  If anyone forgets the critical importance of these things, let them come to one country that never has.  Let them come to Poland.”

I am not saying we should pick one of the “sides” as Trump defines them.

I am saying we’d better wake up to the fact that the debate has shifted in a major way, and that world-without-borders idealism is now commonly perceived to be a façade for rule by a predatory, US-led oligarchy that cares not a whit about any of us.

The people of the world want new options, and we had better use the disruptive space Trump is creating to forge a few good ones.  Because if we keep pretending liberal rhetoric is the ticket, we’re only fooling ourselves.    

Some Time Off

posted by John Stoner   (July 20, 2017)

For health and vacation reasons neither Berry nor I will post regularly for the next several weeks. In early August I plan to resume.

A Public Discussion

by John K. Stoner  (July 14, 2017)

It has not been difficult to decide that I should not go further with the idea proposed Monday that we call on churches to go into the streets Sunday August 6, Hiroshima Day, to stop traffic to stop war.  The one thoughtful comment I received on that (from a source behind this blog) advised that churches would not do that.  It is true, they would not.

So I revisit just one part of that proposal, the discussion of what is the greater duty of the law.  I invite you to give it further consideration.  Do we have people who care enough about war and nuclear war, and law and what it does not do, to initiate conversation on this call for discernment?

If the law and law enforcement in this country have a greater duty to arrest protesting citizens than to stop war and nuclear war, we are going to make that duty of the law very public and very visible. 

Greater Duty

by John K. Stoner  (July 10, 2017)

We interrupt this program to sound an alarm. 

Have you been hearing Trump’s scare language about North Korea, and Iran?  He and the war hawks are trying to condition us for another regime-change war or two, in the name of saving some country—like we destroyed Iraq to save it.

In my own experience I’ve seen too many international crises and wars initiated in the month of August.  I don’t know why, maybe because people are on vacation and away from the normal relationships and structures which would give them most ready access to acts of protest.  I’ve seen some evidence for the August theory online, e.g.  https://www.armstrongeconomics.com/world-news/civil-unrest/why-is-august-the-most-active-month-for-war/  In any case, I’m urging readers to pay more than usual attention to the warmongers and their talk in the next month.  

The public action which I recommend to challenge the heartless and mindless imposters who claim to run this country is UNIVERSAL WORK STOPPAGE.  Just stay home from work, tell everybody why you’re doing it, and urge them to do it.  To the extent we can plan ahead for this, plan for August 9.  And as a serious engagement of the church in this, let’s call August 6 “Peace Churches Stop War Sunday.”  

For this, a simple slogan and plan: “STOP TRAFFIC TO STOP WAR.”

On Sunday August 6, Hiroshima Day, every peace-loving church in America walks out of its sanctuary into the nearest public thoroughfare and stops traffic with the message STOP TRAFFIC TO STOP WAR!  We’ve had enough, we’ve had too much.  No more wars started by USA!  
As a public action, “Stop Traffic to Stop War” would risk arrest, but not necessarily evoke arrest.  As such, it invites discussion of civil disobedience and the law.  Thus, let us plan to give our churches and the press this proposition for consideration:

If the law and law enforcement in this country have a greater duty to arrest protesting citizens than to stop war and nuclear war, we are going to make that duty of the law very public and very visible. 

We need a public discussion of “greater duty” in this country.  I put these ideas forward this morning to test them.  I consider the readership of this blog a small audience, appropriate for testing an idea.  Please write a comment, or call me at 717 803-6020.

Behavior That Reduces Conflict

by John K. Stoner  (July 7, 2017)

Responding to yesterday’s blog, some readers will say, “But this blog is supposed to be about an alternative to empire.  Miller’s story is about nothing but an encounter of a few people on an average day, it’s not about how to run the world.”

Wrong.

The macro is contained in the micro. 

This is totally about how to manage the relationships of large groups of people—from social clubs to nations.  The principle is to do what will reduce conflict, not what will enlarge it.

This kind of behavior is within the human capacity and actual reach of people in every kind of situation. 

And further, for those who give the Judaeo-Christian history any kind of privileged place as especially instructive for how to manage human affairs—Jesus was a specialist in the practice of behaviors shaped by love.  And his teaching was never intended to be restricted to the interactions of individuals—he always presented it as a different way for social, cultural and national entities to relate to each other.  That is why the language of corporate entities, starting with “kingdom” was so central in his teaching and actions.  

Again and again, Jesus framed his message in terms of a new, a different kind of “kingdom,” but a kingdom nevertheless, and for all the reductionist interpretations given to it, still a kingdom.  He presented it as a way of thinking about, processing, and organizing human relations on the largest of all corporate scales.  He called it “kingdom of God.”  He brought the transcendent into the most totally, and abjectly depraved by greed and violence,  structure which deeply affected the lives of everyone around him.  People in Jesus’ world called the supreme structures of human organization kingdoms.  Today we call them nations, or corporations, or empires. 

So in his teaching and public actions he spoke often of, and interacted with, Gentiles and Jews, women in a patriarchal society, Pharisees, Scribes, Herodians, centurions, priests and levites—all of them representing corporate powers.  He challenged their oppressive behavior by liberating people who suffered their abuses of power, and encouraged people to assert their personal freedom and power.  

Here's How It Happens

by John K. Stoner  (July 6, 2017)

Lisa Miller tells this story, which illustrates the encouragement, and learning, of better behavior—practices informed by love.

She writes:
The long line at the post office was filled with people doing the usual post-office thing—exchanging glances and rolling their eyes, simmering with hostility at the delay.  I could see that the clerk behind the counter—all alone at a rush time—was incredibly angry, glaring, and steaming at each customer who approached her window.  Then it was my turn.

Suddenly she blurted out ‘I’ve had the worst day ever.’  I said, ‘The worst day ever?  I’m so sorry you had the worst day ever.’  In a flash, the shift of energy and intention in the crowd was palpable—where there had been a shimmering hostility by exasperated customers and the clerk’s defensive hostility back, suddenly those in line changed from a position of anger to understanding.  People stopped glaring, smiled in sympathy, and quietly tidied the line instead of leaning impatiently forward.  I witnessed a sudden manifestation of the culture of love by a line of people.   (p, 345).

This change of energy and atmosphere in  a whole group of people was the result of a choice by one person to invite the higher nature and innate goodness of others to express itself. 

It’s the kind of thing all of us can choose to do if we choose to. 

Both Greed and Generosity are Learned Behaviors

by John K. Stoner   (July 5, 2017)

I ended the previous blog with the question, “What are human’s capable of (specifically in “the giving and receiving of love, that is, a simple caring for the well-being of others?”) 

Those who say that humanity is capable of acting more on the basis of love (than we currently see it doing) are often, even routinely, dismissed as deluded idealists.  I am one who does claim that humanity is capable of acting more on the basis of love than it is currently doing.

This does not mean to me that it will be easy or automatic for this to happen.  What it means in my mind is that we need to give attention to doing the things that need to be done to nurture and encourage people to choose love instead of fear, greed or bullying.  

People tend very strongly to act on the basis of their conditioning, education (formal and informal) and experience.  Perhaps you have noticed that people who are real successful in greed and acquisition of money or goods have gone through a lot of training and experience in those practices.  That is to say, that the practice of negative behaviors are as surely learned as are the practices of good behavior.  

So it is not a big jump to say that good behaviors, practices informed by love or generosity, can be encouraged and learned. 

Our World Is Changed by Love

by John K. Stoner    (July 4, 2017)

Love lives in that space which is beyond the physical, which we have an inborn capacity to perceive.

In the words of Lisa Miller (THE SPIRITUAL CHILD), we have “a transcendent faculty—the ability to feel and interact with a world beyond the physical world” (p. 241).  The point of these blogs is to say that the widespread failure of humans to use that faculty for transcendence is driving us to destruction.

The point of yesterday’s blog “We Are Changed by Love” was to say that the giving and receiving of love shapes our personal experience.  We looked at that, ever so briefly, in the experience of every infant and child.   The point of today’s blog is to say that love also shapes our world.

And everything in this blog series is based on an observation and an assumption.  The observation is that our world is in very big trouble, and the assumption is that something needs to change—something in how most of us us are thinking and acting needs to change.  

Which brings us back to a question—or two— raised a couple days ago:  what is necessary, and what is possible?

What is necessary?—  some change in human behavior, in general.  And that would be a change toward caring for life instead of destroying it—starting with the inherent life-giving nature of the planet itself.  It is necessary for humans to learn and cooperate with the live-giving function of the so-called ecosystem, or in the wisdom on ancient peoples, Mother Earth.  Mother Earth, who loves us enough to give us life to begin with, and to nurture us to some kind of adult maturity.  

And it is necessary for humanity to learn to change its attitude toward all other human beings—the human occupants of and participants in the Empire and empires of economic greed and military obsession in particular must change their attitude.  The Empire that claims to be Number One, the exceptional and indispensable empire of the red, white and blue, on July 4, no less, has got to return to some kind of sanity—that is, it’s occupants and beneficiaries will either respond to their necessity of recognizing their kinship with all of humanity,  or else experience the necessity of the dire (and I warn, indescribably so) consequences of continuing on in fear and ignorance.  

This much is necessary.

What is possible?

Can we get beyond the fear of our brothers and sisters in other lands, of “other” religions, with whom we share a common destiny as if linked at the hip as Siamese twins?  And can we get beyond our ignorance of human capacities for greater goodness, both our own and that of others? 

It appears now that humanity, and the supposed leaders and people of wisdom who claim to run the worlds of economics and government, will have to entertain the possibility that the giving and receiving of human love is necessary to the running of the world.

We will have to see that not only individuals are changed and shaped by love, but the world itself is also changed and shaped by love.  And so, as strange and distant  an idea as it may seem, we’ll need to discover (again) the innate human capacity for transcendence, which includes the giving and receiving of love—that is, a simple caring for the well-being of others, not only of ourselves.

This is what is necessary.  Is it possible?  That will be the subject of ongoing discussion in these blogs.  What are human’s capable of, and what can I contribute to that?

We Are Changed by Love

by John K. Stoner    (July 1, 2017)

Every loving act which a parent does for a child nurtures that child’s natural spirituality.

When a mother nurses her baby, she does a loving act, and the child is nurtured biologically by that act.  But it is also nurtured spiritually.  When it is nursed the child grows in confidence that this world into which it has come, out of the womb, is a supportive and nurturing world.  And when the child is held and snuggled by its mother or father, we would not say that it is nourished biologically,  but we recognize that it grows spiritually.  Its sense of wellbeing, security and peace is nurtured.  Human touch will make it a healthier and happier little person.  

Around the world, in all cultures and climates, human beings begin life and experience their first significant development by responding to loving actions.  This is true of the Innuit of Alaska, the aborigines of Australia, of Muslims, Chinese, Japanese and Europeans.  

Given that all humans begin life by being nurtured by love, it seems fair, and I would suggest necessary, to ask a question:  Is there a time when, or a reason why, people would cease being responsive to love through this spiritual capacity with which they were born?

Or again, a time or a reason, when parents, or any adult, should forget that their fellow human beings are creatures who respond to love?  

How, why, do cultures seemingly come to believe that their fellow humans respond only to force, coercion, or homicidal threat?

What does it matter that children respond to love?  Send  your thoughts by using the comments function below or in the right margin.  

It makes as much sense to argue that human behavior is shaped only by  nature or nurture as to argue that a coin held between your fingers is either heads or tails.  It is always both.

Think about times when your own behavior was shaped, changed, by a loving act extended to you. 

A Coin Always Has Both Heads and Tails

by John K. Stoner   (June 30, 2017)

Science which has studied human behavior in the last two decades has not answered the bad old question “Is nature or nurture the decisive shaper of human behavior?”

What it has demonstrated in new ways is that both nature and nurture are profoundly and inseparably important.  

I will venture, however, than there is an important sense in which one deserves more emphasis than the other.  That is, we should give nurture more emphasis because it is the one which we can do something about.  And science has confirmed that in significant ways.

Lisa Miller writes in THE SPIRITUAL CHILD:  

Our children [read: human beings] have an inborn spirituality that is the greatest source of resilience they have as human beings, and we, as parents, can support our children’s spiritual development.  Our parenting choices in the first two decades affect our children’s spiritual development in ways that last their entire lives.  Natural spirituality, in fact, appears to be the single most significant factor in children’s health and their ability to thrive. 
(p. 6).  

Miller says that recent science has shown decisively that this natural spirituality is a universal human faculty.  “We know now that an ‘inner spiritual compass’  is an innate, concrete faculty and  like EQ [emotional intelligence], a part of our biological endowment.  It has a biological basis, which can also be cultivated.  The evidence is hard, indisputable, and rigorously scientific.” (p. 6).

The argument I am pursuing in these blogs is that the Empire way of running the world, by hierarchy, domination and overwhelming homicidal violence, ignores and denies the human capacity for compassion, forgiveness and cooperation, which Miller calls natural spirituality or an inner spiritual compass.  

Hence, we have a task:  to discover or rediscover our innate spirituality and to nurture that.  In this, we will shortchange ourselves if we think that it is all about nature or all about nurture.  Every coin held between the fingers has both a heads and a tails side, and trying to prove it is all one or the other is a useless project. 


Next blog we begin looking at the nurture of this innate capacity. This will help us think about what is possible and what is desirable in human behavior (yesterday's blog)  

What is Possible? What is Desirable?

by John K. Stoner   (June 29, 2017)

My recent blogs have been addressing the question of “what is possible?” in terms of human behavior.  It is an old and important question, and I will keep returning to it. But there is a related question, which is “what is desirable?”  In other terms, that question is, “What do we want to see in human behavior?”

It would be interesting, and I think actually necessary, to speculate on which of these two questions is more decisive in the mind of most people.  And so, let’s speculate on that today.

Let’s face it: whatever is going wrong, or going right, in the world is doing so basically because of human behavior—human choices.  We could spend a long time reviewing ways in which people— societies— try to deny and avoid their responsibility for their choices.  The elaborate justifications of greed, oppression and violence which we see in our world are basically all ways of denying responsibility for the suffering humans visit on other humans.  

Domination systems seek to justify their methods by arguing that the only possible way to restrain human proclivities toward greed and violence are by organizing “superior” greed and violence.  Thus, we have a capitalist economic system which claims that greed is a self-governing human capacity, and violence is an essential and redemptive corporate duty rooted in realities of human nature.  These mantra’s—truth claims—of our society seem to be based on assumptions about what is possible in terms of human behavior.  

So the domination system which is deemed desirable is desirable because it is the only thing that is possible.

Or is it?  

Which takes us back to what is possible in human behavior.   In the coming days I’m asking for a fair look at that question.  We will even drag in a little science.  And a little imagination.  What if, for example, human behavior is actually capable of being 10% more compassionate and forgiving? 

From Rock Sitting to Neuroscientist

by John K. Stoner   (June 28, 2017)  

Today I add to the June 20 blog, which was a high school student’s “experience of a vital world.”  What that young woman saw in a Rocky Mountaiin lake influenced her for life.  Here is one man’s story, never shared until he was in his forties.

Lisa Miller tells the story of Stefan: 
Stefan, a neuroscientist in his forties, divulged over lunch with colleagues that just such an experience [a childhood mystical experience] at age eight was responsible for the great sense of purpose and passion that has distinguished his career and his life.  As a child, Stefan had always enjoyed taking walks in the forest near his parent’s home.  He loved the woods because they felt “so vibrant and full of life and mystery.”  One beautiful summer day, much like other days, he wandered into the forest, and growing tired, sat down to rest on a big gray rock.

“While sitting on that rock, I watched the pretty trees 
surrounding me.  After a few minutes, I started feeling
connected to the rock and the trees.  It then appeared
to me that the rock, the trees, and myself were part of
a whole much greater than ‘little Stefan.’  Following this
experience, my purpose in life became clear; I would
later become a scientist to demonstrate that the essence 
of human beings cannot be found in the brain.”

Stefan never mentioned this experience, or others that followed, to his parents, Grandparents, or the children at school.  It was an experience beyond words for him as a young boy, something he intuitively sensed that no one would understand or even believe.  But the experiences belonged to an intimate and profound realm as concrete and real as the rock on which he’d sat that day.  Even as a child he recognized his experience as transcendent, a higher order of knowing.  (P. 165)


The high school student (June 20 blog) and Stefan both experienced sure knowledge of a transcendent order of beauty and goodness which shaped their lives thereafter.  My point in these blogs is that without our awareness of and appropriation of our innate capacity for this kind of knowing, we will not know enough to develop an alternative to empire—another way of running the world.  

Who Has Shaped Us?

by John K. Stoner  (June 27, 2017)

Yesterday we read  whatever ideas we hold, we almost always hold in the context of a circle of conversation partners. ''

Think about that.  Have you chosen your conversation partners deliberately, or has it been a haphazard thing, by guess and by golly?

Dennis Rivers offers us the challenge of choosing one conversation partner very intentionally, so that we share a common search for wisdom and direction.

And I am suggesting that, in the context of seeking a deeper awareness of our spiritual capacity, a capacity for more creative responses to the challenges of our world, a partner may help to discover a hidden or unused element of ourselves.

Who has shaped our understanding of our selves and our capacities?

Finding Help For Thinking New Thoughts

by John K. Stoner   (June 26, 2017)

Today I am sharing the introductory thoughts of Dennis Rivers in  his essay "Friendships for The Greater Good: Building Transformational Teams of Two."  Such partnering, I am suggesting, will help us to discover the spiritual capacity of ourselves and others to know the larger universe of love and helpful guidance in which we live.

How new thinking partners can help us think much-needed new thoughts.
https://www.earthcitizens.net/library/teams-of-two.pdf

I'm sure most of you are familiar with two of Einstein's famous sayings, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." and, "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." In spite of the fact that runaway free market industrial capitalism appears to be killing the planet, there are still loud calls for even lower taxes, even less regulation, and less planning, so that the system which has been happy to provide us with child pornography, leaking nuclear power plants, heroin, private prisons, and the rusted out wasteland cities of the Northeast and Midwest, can finally somehow provide us with a happy and sustainable life.

In my experience, once having invested their hopes and dreams in a particular path of action, people become extremely reluctant to admit that the path chosen might have been a mistake. And the larger the mistake, the larger the reluctance. (I know that tendency well in myself.) Just think of the Iraq war: fifteen years of fighting, thousands of lives lost, perhaps millions injured, several trillion dollars spent, with the situation now much worse than when the war began. And people are still arguing that this war was a good idea! As an American citizen horrified by the Iraq war, it makes me wonder... Will the death of the Earth follow the same blind path as the destruction of Iraq? We have already shown how reluctant we humans can be to facing the consequences of our actions.

To think new thoughts we will often need new thinking partners. Although every now and then people can think wonderful new ideas all by themselves, thinking has a deeply social element in it. Those wonderful ideas will probably not get developed unless there is someone to talk with. We learn to think, early in life, in the company of those from whom we learn to speak. Then we spend ten to twenty years in classrooms and teams where our thinking power unfolds even more in the company of others. In this social view of language and thinking (for which there is a large body of evidence), whatever ideas we hold, we almost always hold in the context of a circle of conversation partners.

Now Mother Earth is falling apart, and we need to think big new thoughts about what sort of social arrangements will allow life to flourish rather than perish. We already know the kinds of social arrangements that have brought us to our current impasse. Inventing something new and actually better (evolution!) will be the cooperative challenge of a lifetime.

As one possible way of meeting that challenge, I am proposing in this article that each of us begin by cooperating with at least one other person, each partner giving the other permission to "think outside the box," and also to care about life in widening circles, outside the box of the individual selfishness that is, un- fortunately, the glowing ideal of capitalism everywhere. When you start thinking new thoughts about the society in which you live, or start to care with a wider caring that your society allows, you risk evoking intense hostility from people around you who may have given up all hope of a better world. Having a small circle of supportive friends, or even one, can make all the difference. You could think of that new conversation partner as a swim-buddy for the ocean of life, or perhaps a Mother Earth accountability partner. 

Two Might Be Better Than One

by John K. Stoner (June 23, 2017)

Today I would just like to intrigue you with the idea of finding a partner to walk with you in this journey of awareness and active living.

The awareness I speak of is awareness of being part of something greater and good, some sense of awe before the grandness of the  created world and human relationships. 

The active living is creative engagement to address the ominous signs of decay and failure which mark our world today.

I suggest that another person who shares your caring, thinking, listening and acting could be a greater resource than you’d first suppose.

My friend and mentor in California, Dennis Rivers, is writing and experimenting with “teams of two” as a more democratic and inexpensive way of  mobilizing human resources for social change than most forms of “education” and “political action” which our society offers.  He asks, What if mortgaging your future to get an education, or joining a political party, are not actually the best ways to understand what is happening or to get involved in making something better happen?  

For today, let me just ask you to probe your memory for an experience or relationship with one other person that you found noticeably rewarding.  Have you ever discovered an insight or accomplished a task with the help of a partner?  Is there anything there which you are willing to share with other readers through the comment function below?

How Can We Become Aware?

by John K. Stoner  (June 22, 2017)

To summarize my blogs since June 6 on finding an alternative to the empire’s way of running (trying to run) the world with violent, dominating power, several points:
1.  Prior to my blogs, Berry’b blogs have been diagnosing and disclosing the futility and fraudulence of the Empire’s narrative of world events.

2.  I’ve said that there is another voice to be heard and another way to be taken—starting with some learning from Lisa Miller’s book THE SPIRITUAL CHILD:  The New Science on Parenting for Health and Lifelong Thriving.  The wars and environmental destruction and mindless capitalism/greedy wealth we are looking at in todays world is not “lifelong thriving,” am I right?

3.  As people, from childhood right up until where we each are today, we have an innate capacity to receive experiences of the beauty, goodness, and life-giving possibilities of the planet and universe. 

4.  Recognized, remembered, and appropriated for motivation and guidance, these experiences can be the foundation of human actions and responses to life which create alternatives to war, greed and environmental destruction. 

What I have started to probe, and invite your comments and input as I continue this exploration, is “How can we become aware of this neglected innate capacity for contact with the universe’s mystery of life and love?”

Lisa Miller’s book recounts the findings of science in the past 15+ years on our capacity for hearing this other voice; religion is another human project which has paid attention to this listening for millennia.  Spirituality is Miller’s word for naming this inborn capacity and proclivity.  Science, religion, spirituality—I invite you to walk with me in this creative exploration.  Use the comment function at the end of the blog to send your thoughts and experiences.  Talk to a friend about IF NOT EMPIRE, WHAT?, on the Bible’s exploration of an alternative to empire, and about our continuation of that journey on these blogs.  

Tomorrow, thoughts on the value of finding a partner, one serious, fun, interested fellow-traveler to make a team of two in this creative process.

All Is Well

by John K. Stoner (June 21, 2017)

Over thirty years ago I made an eight day silent retreat at the Jesuit Center at Wernersville, Pa.  This was the first time I had done an extended retreat like this.

It was October, and I spoke to no one for those days except my spiritual director, Father Frank Miles, in a once-a-day hour long conversation.  It was October, the weather was beautiful, and I spent most of my time outdoors on the 300 acre grounds.  

One day I found a quiet small field a long walk from the retreat center.  I sat in the grass, by trees in a mixture of sunshine and shade.  The air was clear, calm and quiet.  I felt at peace.  My spirit was relaxed and my thoughts were calm. 

I was quietly sensing my surroundings—the touch of the grass, the feel of the earth under me, the slow drift of white clouds in the sky, and the green of the trees around me.  Then I notices a small whitish yellow butterly flitting through the air.

It’s freedom, delicacy and beauty impressed me.  It flew here and there.  My arms were clasped around my knees as I sat.  And then the butterfly flew to me and landed on my arm.  There I looked at it closely, amazed that it had chosen to make a friend of me. 


It was a moment of ecstasy.  I felt at one with the little butterly and all that was around me.  I felt safe in the womb of the universe.  I felt the pulse of Life that evolved over billions of years to produce all that I saw, and myself.  I sensed that I existed in a good world that moved more by the energy of love than any other energy.  


I was aware of mystery, and goodness, and possibility.  I knew that I could choose love as my way of living.  Today I still find it possible to choose to return to those sensibilities and to act on those possibilities.  

Experience of a Vital World

by John K. Stoner  (June 20, 2017)

Still hoping to hear of reader’s experiences of transcendence, today I will share one reported by a young person.  In THE SPIRITUAL CHILD, Lisa Miller gives the account of a high school senior girl, Morgan, on a grueling hike with others up a glacial mountain.  Morgan writes:

I saw the water of the light on the glacier and the brightness and the beauty—it was like I could feel the beauty and I was part of it—and its really hard to describe, but it was like a real feeling.  It felt sacred.  And ever since then, when I’m stressed out or feeling really down in my mind I go bak to the mountain  I can take myself back to the mountain and that feeling is always there for me (p. 40). 

Miller says Morgan’s experience was “a transcendent experience to which she returns and which informs her view of a vital world.”


The reader will recognize that an “empire” view of the world does not see the world as living,or vital, but a commodity and resource for exploitation. 

Who Has Been Touched by Goodness and Love?

by John K. Stoner (June 19, 2017)

The comment which was published in the last blog (Friday) ended this way:

“And so, to your question, ‘Do humans have a capacity for experience of transcendence, a spiritual capacity to touch goodness and love and to act on it?’—Yes, we have the capacity for the experience.  The capacity to act on it—probably—but I‘m still groping in the dark to find my way to that point.”

The human race as a whole is groping to find its way to that point of acting on its better nature and capacities.

That groping is our corporate search for an alternative to empire—an alternative to this disastrous effort to run the world by endless war, using homicidal violence to make things better.  All of these nuclear bombs, two of them dropped on civilian cities by the USA killing tens of thousands of people , and all of this individual terrorism, killing people by two and tens—is suppressing our human capacity for doing better.

And is it making things better?  Who could think so?  Only the deluded rich, who profit from war.

What I would like to hear from readers is more testimony to personal experience of goodness and love—the awareness that better is possible, and could be chosen as the way.

Please use the comment space below to tell a bit of your story, short or long.

To Feel the Power of the Universe

by John K. Stoner (June 16, 2017)

Here is a response to my invitation on Tuesday for your comments on your experiences of transcendence and spiritual energy.  My thanks to this woman who looked beyond my cajoling (and whining?) to send a comment! 

There are two key things that have led me to the ability to feel the power of the universe at will:

Key number One:  A Choice
As mother says,   I finally "got it" the moment I realized that I get to choose my emotions.

  The vast majority of people never realize this. (My arrival at that realization is a story in and of itself.)   Choosing every morning to say "Good morning!" in a bright and chipper voice —to myself, to my other half, to everyone I contact all day long makes my life so much more enjoyable and full of energy than the life "before the choice".  People who knew me 15 years ago would never believe my nickname now is "Sunshine". 

Key number Two:  An Awareness
From my husband:  "When you feel blue, find something to be thankful for."   

Just a second of stopping to think about all I have to be thankful for makes my heart swell with the knowledge and wonder that there is a power who wants us to do well and live differently.

       The epitome of the awe I often feel was when Mom and Dad were here for a visit.  I started to say grace before dinner: "Papa God"  (I'm 1/2 Jewish you know 😉 ) and could go no further. My heart and soul were filled with love, promise, energy, a solidness that cannot be explained.    There was nothing special about it except appreciating my family and that I still have active, independent parents as they approach 80.

     The problem, that I face — and the trouble with being human — is that while some of us may arrive at this point of awareness, there are two challenges:

First:   being in the habit of drawing on it when things are tough. 
      I recently had a few really bad days with work and my husband’s reaction to the chemo.  I got sidetracked and forgot to choose my emotions.  I told several people "superbitch" had entered the building and I couldn't figure out why.  The answer, when I paused long enough to let it come to me?  I had stopped making my choice to start every day with "Good Morning!"  I had gotten sidetracked.

Second:   having the will to do all that the feelings call us to is a different matter.  

       Do I have the will to convince my partner we should give away our wealth to help the homeless?  Not yet.  Do I know that there are troubled teens who need a home and parent figure to help them succeed in life? Yes.  Am I ready to trade my comfortable world - and probably lose my partner in the process - to take on that challenge.  No.

And so, To your question do "humans have a capacity for experience of transcendence, a spiritual capacity to touch goodness and love and to act on it". Yes we have the capacity for the experience.  The capacity to act on it - probably - but I'm still groping in the dark to find my way to that point.


I thank this reader for her candor, and courage in sharing.  She gives us much to ponder.  She is in touch with a resource within herself which she knows she could ignore and suppress, because she does that sometimes.  But sometimes she does not!

Seeking Your Comments, Any Signs of Life...

by John K. Stoner (June 13, 2017)

In the June 6 blog I introduced the new series I’m starting on our human capacity for a better-than-empire way of running the world. 

In the June 9 blog I asked to you consult your memory and your heart for your own experience, anytime in your life, of that capacity for spiritual awareness and energy.  I asked you to bring that experience to my next blog entry—so here we are!  Let’s think about it. 

Did you find anything in your experience like what I tried to describe last Friday?  Anything like Lisa Miller develops in THE SPIRITUAL CHILD, from which I drew on June 6?  (Take a moment to review those two blogs.)

Last Tuesday I asked, What if there is a major human capacity which is being denied, ignored, and disastrously underused to address the problems we face?  I said I believe that there is, and now I am wondering if you are helping me to prove my point!  Ha!  Indeed, have you located anything in your own life like what I asked you to look for?  Have you even looked for it?  Are you denying this capacity?  Ignoring it?  Most certainly underusing it?

Tell me you don’t know what I’m talking about.  Indeed, that is possible.  Would you take a moment to write your frustration…or just to tell me you don’t know and don’t care—I’m used to ignorance and apathy.  Am I trying to insult you, you ask, or just doing it without trying?  To be honest, I am trying to get a dialogue going.  We’ve made a change on this blog, now we have the capacity as well as the desire to post your comments.  So try it out—use the new comment function at the end of this post.  

Let’s talk about whether we think that humans have a capacity for experience of transcendence, a spiritual capacity to touch goodness and love and to act on it.  Let’s talk about whether you think that you have that capacity yourself— whether you have ever touched or been touched by mystery or love. 

Maybe it’s the voice of half the population I’m looking for here—the female half which is more in touch with heart and less fixated on head….