Yes, We Need Feminism

After watching the latest Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, berate and aggressively question female Senators, I was appalled that no male Senator rebuked him about his reactions, his sneering demeanor or the condescending tone of his comments. That is why we still need feminism.

As powerful rich white men degraded the testimony of a woman who came forward to offer information about her accusation of that same nominee, my friends (male and female and trans) were griped by rage or grief or both. That is why we still need feminism.

When people in positions of authority continue to cover up sexual assault of girls and boys that is why we still need feminism.

When stories of rape and sexual harassment by the men in power come from areas as different as the Catholic priesthood and college football — abuse that went on for years and was ignored — that is why we need feminism.

Now we have two men who were accused of improper sexual acts, men who never saw a courtroom as a defendant, sit on the highest court in our country. That is why we need feminism. Not because they are guilty — only a court can decide that under our laws — but because rich white men decided those charges could be ignored. That is why we need feminism.

Girls and young women are trained that their fathers and husbands own their bodies, while church leaders accept and condone such attitudes. That is why we need feminism.

When a young person is raped, regardless of gender, they hide because they have seen how others who report the criminal acts have been treated. They have seen schoolmates laugh at and hassle the reporter, call both boys and girls ugly names — and then there is the way that police and courts treat those victims. That is why we need feminism.

When other young women and men hear these stories, they become scared, and rightly so, because they question if they are allowed to possess and control their own bodies. That is why we need feminism.

When “presumed innocent” means a different set of rules for the rich white man than it does for the man of color or the poor person, that is why we need feminism.

Time for a very tiny bit of history.

In the United States, all birth control methods were illegal even for married people until 1938. This included condoms. Thanks to a nurse named Margaret Sanger, the ban against contraception (at that time, condoms and diaphragms) was lifted. Yet, many current politicians want to close all Planned Parenthood locations, thus preventing them from giving away condoms and stopping their doctors from fitting diaphragms. This type of medical care is not about abortion. Right to choice is about more than abortion. That is why we need feminism.

Even after birth control pills were approved by USFDA, they were illegal to purchase in many parts of US. In 1965 in Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court ruled that birth control pills were legal for married women. You read that correctly: married women were not legally allowed to purchase and use birth control pills until 1965. It was not until 1972, when the ruling in Baird v. Eisenstadt legalized birth control for everyone, that finally, unmarried people were permitted to purchase and use birth control.

Not even fifty years later, politicians have succeeded in removing birth control pill coverage from insurance policies — and they have accomplished the removal of low cost and free clinics from many regions of the country. We are not talking abortion here; we are talking contraception methods legally prescribed by a doctor. That is why we still need feminism.

Sadly, it is still legal for a husband to rape his wife in certain states in the United States. Therefore, drugging and raping a wife (what Bill Cosby was found guilty of) or more violent actions might not be considered a crime between married partners. There are different laws for criminal behavior between married partners in Oklahoma, Ohio, Maryland, Mississippi, Nevada, Rhode Island, Virginia, Minnesota, Connecticut, and Michigan. That is why we still need feminism.

And now, a comparison.

In Sweden, new parents (both mothers and fathers) are given eight months paid leave, and they can (and often do) take the leave at different times. In USA, the majority of parents get no paid leave. That is why we need feminism.

In fact, mothers are harassed for taking too much time off work, and quite a few lose their jobs due to giving birth and raising their children. That is why we need feminism

Unless they work for Facebook, new fathers who want time off for a baby are told that women can take time off — with their supervisor’s comment, “why would you want to take time off?! So get back to work.” That is why we need feminism.

Men are still told to “man up” whatever the hell that means. That is why we still need feminism.

I could continue to list many more sad or horrible issues of daily life. I could, but I won’t. All of them are real on-going problems. And that is why we still need feminism.

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Puerto Rico One Year Later

I tried to read the Time Magazine article focused on the lessons learned from hurricane Maria; it was a beautifully-written and heart-wrenching piece about Puerto Rico one year later.[1] As I read the true horror stories, tears began to well up in my eyes: a man’s mother dying from a heart attack, another person keeping her insulin in a nearby stream to keep it cold because there was no electricity, the anguish of so many lives.

There is only so much human destruction a person can read — only so much devastation followed by the lies told by unconscionable powerful people — before the emotions pile up just like the wreckage caused by the storm.

Shock. Sympathy. Frustration. Empathy.

The pain of feeling what if: what if it were my mother, my son, my medicine.

The reality is that Puerto Rico is still fighting to return to normal.

Once again, I am confronting lies told by POTUS or his representatives. One week ago, Trump again stated that the claim of 2,975 deaths was a lie made up by Democrats.[2] However, that figure was the official number as reported by the same government he purportedly heads. And that number did not include individuals that the officials thought would have died anyway. Therefore, the number of deaths was even higher!

One Puerto Rican funeral home reported performing three funerals a day for three weeks. That adds up to 63 from one mortuary.  More people died due to this hurricane than any other in recent years.

“The final number, calculated by experts at George Washington University, was 1,000 beyond the upper estimates for Hurricane Katrina and almost exactly the toll from the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.” [3]

Please read that again: the same number of people died directly due to hurricane Maria as died in the 9/11 attack.

As I sat reading the personal stories of Maria, anger rose up and smashed into the grief.  How can an arrogant powerful man ignore the pain and suffering of US citizens? Puerto Rico is part of the United States and so it is part of the country that the president swore to serve.  How can he turn a disaster of these proportions into a personal vendetta against a political party?  Nearly 3,000 people died!

And those who lived had to survive not only the storm but its consequences. No hospitals. No roads. No water. No electricity. No outside assistance.

“Of 13,000 “cyclone events” since 1950, the Climate Impact Lab says, only five were more intense than Maria.” [4]

As previously mentioned, hurricane Maria directly killed more than hurricane Katrina (2005); with Maria’s direct toll at almost 3,000 Puerto Ricans as compared to Katrina’s official fatality rate of 1,833. By comparison, hurricane Sandy (2012) caused 233 deaths in nine different countries. And the recent hurricane Florence (2018) caused 48 direct and indirect deaths in four states.

When contact and electricity was re-established, they had to deal with the lies.  The same number of people died from hurricane Maria as 9/11, but Trump claimed 18 deaths. Yet, the people knew many more had died in their own communities. News reports claiming FEMA’s aid was delivered when it was not. Officials talked about damage in the mainland as if those areas had suffered as much as Puerto Rico.

They had enormous complications arising from lack of electricity, impassable roads, difficulties with sanitation, and no municipal water for months and months. What would have happened if Houston had been without electricity for seven months? If Washington DC had no water for months? Would Trump say that it wasn’t a “real catastrophe?” Would FEMA delay releasing funds to Kansas or Florida?

Puerto Rico is part of the United States. The people are US citizens.  After all of those  months of struggle, did they feel ignored by the United States?

I wouldn’t blame them if they did. They still have to live with the losses.

And the memories.

 

——–

[1]  “After Maria: Lessons from the 3,000 Deaths in Puerto Rico” by Karl Vick (Sept. 20, 2018) Time Magazine online at: http://time.com/longform/hurricane-maria-lessons/ (retrieved 9/29/2018).

[2] “Fact Check of the Day: Trump’s False Claims Rejecting Puerto Rico’s Death Toll From Hurricane Maria” Linda Qiu (Sept. 13, 2018) New York Times online at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/13/us/politics/trump-fact-check-hurricane.html (retrieved 9/29/2018).

[3]  “After Maria: Lessons from the 3,000 Deaths in Puerto Rico” by Karl Vick (Sept. 20, 2018) Time Magazine online at: http://time.com/longform/hurricane-maria-lessons/ (retrieved 9/29/2018).

[4]  “After Maria: Lessons from the 3,000 Deaths in Puerto Rico” by Karl Vick (Sept. 20, 2018) Time Magazine online at: http://time.com/longform/hurricane-maria-lessons/ (retrieved 9/29/2018).

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Musings on the News

Hello out there.  I haven’t written much lately, and I will admit it is because the news has been overwhelming.

You have probably noticed that countless people are upset. And rightly so. One reaction is that the public seems to be more interested in the news.

What you may not have noticed is that much of the news that is being reported is actually opinion. Sometimes a news anchor offers a news report that includes what happened and the story behind the news. That is excellent reporting. Sometimes, the reporter adds personal opinion at the end of the story. That is also acceptable reporting. However, much of the time, an opinion is offered with an assumption that the listener should accept it as valid (that is, truth) without any corroboration. As someone who regularly offers opinions in writing (and verbally), I have no problems with people giving an opinion as long as they can offer something to back up that viewpoint.

It has become immensely difficult to separate so-called fake news from real news. Why? Because newscasts rarely offer listeners evidence.

Again, opinion is fine if it is titled that way. But opinion is not news.

Let’s be clear on this: opinion is opinion. Opinion is a judgment. It can be based on the facts. In which case, it is important. It can be based on research; again that makes it more valid. However, it is not enough to say, for example, I am a [insert political party here] and that person is a member of the same party, and so that person is a good person.

Nope, that does not really work. That is like saying all men are mean. Or, every plant on earth can be eaten. Neither of those is a true statement.

I know it is difficult to do your own research on news reports. After all, that is why we watch or read the newscasts. Nowadays when very few media sources are without bias, realize that many newscasts use specific phrases in an attempt to trigger your emotions — which makes it difficult to think clearly.

There are a few things you can do.

  1. Learn about logical fallacies and use what you learn to analyze news reporting.
  2. Pay attention to whether or not the news show is listed as opinion, reporting, or entertainment. Yes, most news shows on TV are truly part of the entertainment division of the network.
  3. Most importantly, look for the facts in the article, video, or report. Do they offer evidence?
  4. Assumptions lead to errors. It is easy to accept the opinion given in the report, especially when it involves religion, patriotism or politics. Try to be objective long enough to find the truth in the situation.

Until next time, don’t believe a lie just because it is repeated.

 

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Announcing “The Heart of the Elder”

Hello dear readers,

I have been away from here fThe Heart of the Elder book coveror a few months, but there is an exciting reason. I am thrilled to announce The Heart of the Elder: Good Elders and Their Influences, written with the nationally-known and wonderful teacher, Joy Marie Wedmedyk.

Beginning with our personal experiences, we communicated with many people in the Pagan and Neopagan communities, and interviewed a number of Elders. The Heart of the Elder pinpoints:

  • How to identify, meet, and work with Elders
  • Distinguishing the characteristics of great Elders
  • Originating and maintaining meaningful relationships
  • Navigating unique teaching styles
  • Amazing stories of life-changing events
  • Honoring them and saying goodbye through Ceremonies

It is available in Europe at Immanion Press website as well as other online book sellers.

Buy through Immanion Press website

Buy through Amazon.com

Buy through Barnes and Noble

Thank you for your interest in my writing!
Lillith ThreeFeathers

 

 

 

 

 

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Don’t Say “I’m Okay”

Habits can hurt you: don’t just say “I’m okay.”

The other day, I walked out of my kitchen to find my next-door neighbor wandering around my house in her nightgown and bathrobe, carrying a towel. She had no idea where she was and did not know how to find her way back to where she belonged.  Throughout the entire episode, she said, “I’m okay.” I’d ask her what was wrong, and she would reply, “I’m okay I’m okay.” I asked if she knew where she was, and she would say, “I’m okay.”  Yet, it was obvious that she was not.  As she paced around my house, it was also clear that she was not going to sit down, and she was not going to calm down until she was back in her own familiar surroundings. After a bit, I managed to get her attention and asked if she wanted to go home.  Although she continued stating, “I’m okay I’m okay,” she looked at me and offered a hint of a nod. I said, “Let’s get you back home.” When she charged outside, I got her safely into her own house and contacted her husband.

I’ll skip over any discussion of her health and get to my point. Even though she was not well, she continued to repeat over and over that she was okay.  The words seemed to be a mantra.

What is the moral of this story? Don’t get in the habit of saying you are okay when you are sick.  If you have the flu and people ask how you are feeling, tell them that you have the flu or say you don’t feel at your best. If you are getting better, that is a good comment. It’s fine to say, “I’m not doing too well right now, but I should be better in a couple of days.” But do not make a habit of saying you are okay.  Someday EMT or ER personnel may ask you how you are, and they might just accept that you are okay. To you, it is obvious that are not fine since you are sitting in the emergency room. However, even in the emergency room, saying you are okay changes the way people will respond to you.

In our society, countless people ask daily, “How are you,” and just as mechanically others respond, “I’m okay.”   However, that persistent reply might get you in trouble someday. It certainly did not help my neighbor.

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The Current Immigration Policy: A Few Words

And now Jags will prosecute immigrants…

It was horrific that President Trump implemented a program to remove children from immigrant families and from families seeking asylum. Rightfully, US citizens have been appalled. The latest news from Trump’s government modifies this program to an even greater level of horror.

Recently, the Department of Justice requested active duty Judge Advocate Generals (JAGs) to serve for six months in order to prosecute migrants.[1] The request was approved and JAGs will be sent to six cities in New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas to prosecute anyone considered to be crossing illegally under the zero-tolerance policies set up by Trump and Attorney General Sessions. What does this mean? On the most basic level, it means that people who try to enter the country without prior documentation will be put on trial and prosecuted by lawyers serving in the military. Active-duty military lawyers do not have the option of refusing to prosecute people (they are active duty, after all).

We have already seen the inhumane separation of children (including babies and toddlers) from their parents even when those parents were seeking asylum. Just to be clear, asylum is not something a family can apply for in advance. However, under the zero-tolerance policy, they are being prosecuted for illegal entry.

Who is seeking asylum?  In thousands of cases, asylum-seekers are parents with children who cannot go back to the country they left. The majority of them flee from Central and South American countries, especially Guatemala, El Salvador, Venezuela, and Honduras, due to violence.  In El Salvador, death rates due to violence are higher than in every country except Syria.[2] Honduras and Venezuela rank right behind El Salvador.

Sessions’ recent decree, backed by Trump, limits the reasons people can use in requesting asylum. Now it doesn’t count if women run away from gangs or domestic violence. Note:  it is not illegal to be an asylum-seeker — or rather it was not until Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump.  But now what Sessions called “private violence” and gang violence are no longer reasons accepted for asylum. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, murder due to gangs and private violence put El Salvador as second, Honduras as third, and Venezuela as fourth place in global death statistics. Guatemala ranks eleventh.

Is this policy specifically directed at Latinos?  Is this another example of racism in US Federal Officials?

Think about running away from murdering, kidnapping, and assorted violence, making a long difficult journey to the US border, only to be arrested as an illegal immigrant. And then to have your children taken away!  Think about being deported back to the same violent place you fled without your children!

Now shift your thinking to Africa. Consider Boko Haram and the hundreds of  girls and young women they kidnapped. Consider Boko Haram stealing children to turn them into soldiers, “wives,” and slaves. Perhaps you remember the reports of hundreds of under-aged females stolen from their parents and missing were big on US news for a while. How is it wrong in Nigeria but okay in US?

And now POTUS has requested that military personnel try the people who come to the border without immigration papers. Because of this program, the military will function in a civilian court. That smears the boundaries between civilian and military and feels a bit too close to military justice and military control.

Rather than make the situation better with the latest executive order, Trump has made it worse.  People are going to be housed on military bases in tent cities. Think about living in a tent in Texas or Arizona where the temperatures easily range over 100 degrees.  This is already happening: in addition to cages in re-purposed stores, we already have children living by themselves in tent cities. Many children who were removed from their parents — causing long-term terrible and frightening consequences — are now “housed” in what the government calls “temporary juvenile facilities” in tents. What if they have to live there for a month? What if they are temporarily housed there for three years? What if they never get back with their parents?

If the humanitarian aspects don’t hit you in the heart, consider the monetary price.  “According to ICE’s FY 2018 budget, on average it costs $133.99 a day to maintain one adult detention bed.”[3]  The price rises to $139.40 for a child detained in a tent city. So, let’s do some math. If 2,000 children were heartlessly removed from their parents for 44 days (the reputed average), the cost for one day would be $278,800.00. For one day. Setting aside the indeterminable, indescribable, and unwarranted emotional and psychological consequences, the price tag to the budget would be $12,267,200.00.  More than twelve million dollars. However, “the DHS projects there will be an average of 51,379 people held in immigration detention centers each day in fiscal 2018.” [4]

Thus, not only has the current administration bankrupted our humanitarian bank accounts, but it will also bankrupt the literal ones.

 

—- Sources —

[1] Maddow, Rachel. “The Rachel Maddow Show” MSNBC aired June 20, 2018.

[2] Kight, Stef W. and Dave Lawler. “Why Central Americans flee to the U.S. despite “zero tolerance” Axios (posted 6/21/2018) https://www.axios.com/why-are-immigrants-coming-to-us-with-trump-zero-tolerance-ea01cb86-c4c0-4d8d-92d1-ae5cd6af6ec6.html (retrieved 6/22/2018)

[3] Urbi, Jaden. “This is how much it costs to detain an immigrant in the US” CNBC posted June 20, 2018 (2018) https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/20/cost-us-immigrant-detention-trump-zero-tolerance-tents-cages.html (retrieved 6/23/2018)

[4] Urbi, Jaden. “This is how much it costs to detain an immigrant in the US” CNBC posted June 20, 2018 (2018) https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/20/cost-us-immigrant-detention-trump-zero-tolerance-tents-cages.html (retrieved 6/23/2018)

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Is This Fake News? No.

As usual, President Trump has been tweeting and speaking about media sources and fake news, trying to make us believe that journalists want to publish false stories, and that they do it on purpose.  In particular he often calls out the Washington Post.

Another business Trump doesn’t like is Amazon. Interestingly, Jeff Bezos is  the founder and owner of Amazon. Bezos is part of the 1%; he’s fabulously wealthy. So why does Trump dislike him so much? Jeff Bezos also happens to own the Washington Post, and since its slogan is “democracy dies in the dark,” the goal of the newspaper does not always match the news that Trump wants publicized. In addition, the truth is that newspapers print retractions and corrections if they do print a story that is later found to be wrong.

Does it seem odd that Trump talks about supporting business but he actively works against two large companies owned by the same person?

The president claimed that costs to deliver Amazon packages were why US Postal Service has been losing a lot of money. In fact, using that claim, Trump tried to get USPS to double the rates for Amazon.[1]

However, packages are not the reason for USPS annual losses. In fact, package delivery is a mainstay of USPS income — and Amazon is a behemoth at supplying packages to be delivered. According to CBS News:

“The postal service has lost money for 11 straight years, mostly because of pension and health care costs. … Under a 2006 law, it must pre-fund 75 years’ worth of retiree health benefits. Neither the government nor private companies are required to do that.”[2]

A long time ago (about 50 years ago), another president tried to use the power of the presidential office against people he decided were his enemies. His name was Richard Nixon. Among other things, Nixon demanded that the IRS audit people from his enemies list — a totally illegal use of the IRS. That didn’t work well for him because honest individuals refused to act illegally on his demands and told the truth when they were called as witnesses. Nixon’s actions to intimidate and manipulate people he didn’t like through the federal government were listed as one of the Articles of Impeachment. You see, it is illegal for the president to do that.  Just to be clear, it’s also unconstitutional.

The Washington Post (at the time owned by Katharine Graham) and The New York Times were instrumental in disclosing the Pentagon Papers, the Watergate break-in, and several other scandalous illegal activities during the Nixon White House. (If you don’t know about the Pentagon Papers or Watergate, I suggest you learn more about history. Just Google it.) Because of the papers’ reputations, Nixon also did not like The Washington Post and forbid their reporters (and those from The New York Times) from entering the White House, an action that Trump has also followed.

By pushing the Postmaster General to double the rates for Amazon.com, Trump used presidential power in an attempt to influence Amazon. The Postmaster General refused,  stating that all businesses were given the same pricing structure.

Let’s return to that previous president. As previously mentioned, one of the articles of impeachment against Nixon was that he attempted to use the offices of the government to punish his enemies. Specifically it was Article 2 which stated that he committed unconstitutional acts by directing employees of IRS, FBI, and the Secret Service to act unlawfully and unconstitutionally. You can read the Articles of Impeachment here: http://watergate.info/impeachment/articles-of-impeachment.[3]

And now President Trump claims he can pardon himself.[4] So, is he saying he is above the law of the US Constitution? His oath of office states otherwise. Perhaps he is simply seeing how far he can push that line in the sand before his political party joins those who are already upset with his actions?

 

—– Sources ——

[1] Reuters Staff  “Trump urged U.S. Postal Service to double package rates for Amazon” Washington Post (May 18, 2018) https://www.reuters.com/article/us-amazon-com-trump/trump-urged-u-s-postal-service-to-double-package-rates-for-amazon-washington-post-idUSKCN1IJ2G4 (retrieved 6/5/2018).

[2] Irina Ivanova “MoneyWatch: Does the post office actually lose money on Amazon?” CBS Interactive Inc. (April 3, 2018)  https://www.cbsnews.com/news/post-office-lose-money-amazon-contract-usps-fact-check-trump-tweets-again-today-2018-04-03/ (retrieved 6/5/2018).

[3] “Articles of Impeachment” Watergate.info (1995-2017) http://watergate.info/impeachment/articles-of-impeachment (retrieved 6/5/2018).

[4] Caroline Kenny. “Trump: ‘I have the absolute right to pardon myself’” CNN (June 4, 2018)  https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/04/politics/donald-trump-pardon-tweet/index.html (retrieved 6/4/2018).

 

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Black Moon Lilith conjunct Pluto in Capricorn

Astrology: Black Moon Lilith conjunct Pluto in Capricorn

Black Moon Lilith is conjunct Pluto for the rest of the month of May. Since both of them move slowly, they are ensconced in Capricorn for a while; in fact, Lilith will be visiting there until August 2018. Astrologer Tom Jacobs states that the conjunction of Pluto and Lilith is about recovering from abusive relationships. However, I would say that Lilith and Pluto dancing in Capricorn is a placement that affects more than bad relationships. Black Moon Lilith in Capricorn is not always the happiest placement. Especially when Black Moon Lilith and Pluto travel together, the energy can be sensitive, reactive, irritable or impulsive. By itself, Pluto can bring about transformation, but with the two of them together, anything can happen. Let’s look at some examples.

When Capricorn represents the status quo in a person’s life, Lilith and Pluto may or may not fit inside society’s rules and standards. In that case, Lilith can fire up the rebellious streak, which could lead to confrontations, protests or demands for respect and transformation. When Capricorn embodies the desire to get to the top of the hierarchy, Lilith can bring anger that fuels a fight for equality.

Either of these can lead to internal or external conflicts. If a person’s status quo includes an abusive relationship, Lilith will insist on change and Pluto will apply pressure to that insistence. If an individual feels stuck, Lilith will bring frustration, and if a person experiences multiple occurrences of injustice, Lilith may push for flight or fight.

If Capricorn represents cause and effect (based on one of Jeffrey Wolf Green’s interpretations), then Lilith conjunct Pluto will bring awareness to those things that were previously festering in the unconsciousness. This new understanding can allow individuals to choose to recognize their emotions, the resulting reactions and underlying connections, and thus they can start to heal themselves.  The key is to be aware of the stuff that is bubbling up from the unknown depths — this means we need to recognize we are dealing with what some people call shadow work.

If an individual is not alert to the release of the shadow, the person could spend the months of this conjunction oblivious to their feelings and evolutionary needs. The conflict of this transformational conjunction would leave the person with reactions based on what was happening underneath the level of consciousness. Because of that, the unaware individual might feel they were being manipulated or repressed by those around them or by society itself.

Lilith in Capricorn can push people to deal with their ambitions. When aligned with Pluto, it can also bring up judgments, biases, and denunciations.  All of that pressure can lead to sudden actions taken without consideration of the consequences. Although Black Moon Lilith can bring an urge to escape a situation, the conjunction with Pluto can also create forceful, passionate or even aggressive reactions.

Lilith is associated with both the upper world, also called the heavenly realm, and the lower world while Pluto is linked to the Underworld, the abode of death. Under the influence of this conjunction, you will be forced to review your assumptions, your goals, your past, your future, and your truths.

 

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Touching the Divine or Living by Chance

Many religions have been founded on the teachings of individuals viewed as holy beings. Buddha and Jesus reached a state of enlightenment so pure that they changed everyone they met. Yet, most of us only find enlightenment in brief glimpses of the Divine. However, anyone who has experienced the feeling of being-at-one with the universe for even a short moment knows that it changes your life afterwards. It is a similar feeling when you realize that some power in the universe cares about you and is helping you.

Years ago when my son was young, we drove up through the hills into the woods. We hiked to a perfect spot for a picnic. Overlooking a green valley, in sight of a mountain etched in purple and white, we spent a wonderful afternoon. The sunlight danced through the shade of the trees as we ate, relaxed, talked, and played together.

A week later, that mountain blew up. The volcanic eruption destroyed our picnic site, miles of ancient forest, a crystal blue lake, several communities, and an entire ecosystem of living beings. Thankfully, we were safely at home when the mountain exploded. Decades later, signs of that violent transformation still show like scars on the geography.

Some people tell me that the date of our picnic was chance, but I don’t believe it was a twist of fate that we survived.  I believe Spirit protected us.  When we are protected from tragedy, either we can discount it as luck or we can recognize that Spirit acted to help us survive.  Now and then, when we are recipients of a miracle, it is easy for us to see how the Divine touches us.

But, let’s assume that we picked the day of the picnic just by chance. If so, we take chances every day of our lives. We chose to go a different direction, take a new road to get to work. Is it coincidence that by doing so, we missed a huge multi-car accident?  Could it be the intervention of the Divine in our lives that nudges us to go that way?  On the way, we stop at a coffee shop to pick up breakfast and we enjoy a chat with the person next to us in line. A year later the two people marry. Is it chance that you meet the individuals you love? What happens if you believe that your dearly loved grandparent watches over you and helps you?  What happens if you live life as if there were no coincidences?

If you accept such happenstances as proof that you are interacting with the universe, you cannot view life as blind luck. If you believe that the Divine wants to help you, wants to guide you and protect you, you must understand that you are an important part of the world, perhaps more important than you know.

Many people are haunted by what happened in the past. They compare the present to a similar situation in the past when events did not work out the way they wanted them too. They worry that if they try something new, the same outcome might happen again. They focus so much on what might happen, on what might go wrong, that they miss living their lives. Their fear of the past causes them to miss opportunities in the present.  They are so afraid of making a mistake, that they do not do anything. They don’t even make a choice. And that is the true basis of free will. We can choose to take a chance, make a mistake, play it safe or have an adventure.

Yet, the wonder of the universe exists all around us.  Parents watching their newborn baby open her eyes for the first time feel a touch of the divine. When we witness a gorgeous sunset, the ball of exotic colors apparently falling into the ocean, then we recognize there is more to life than our to-do lists, rush hour traffic, and catching a meal on the go.

Soren Kierkegaard wrote, “Life is a mystery to be lived, not a problem to be solved.” The advice is still faultless today. Henry Miller also said, “Until we accept the fact that life itself is founded in mystery, we shall learn nothing.”  You can choose to believe that the Divine is here interacting with you in this mystery — or you can decide it all happens by chance.

What would happen if you decided to be present in your life? What would change if you choose to believe that the Divine is present there too? What would happen if you embraced the mysteries in your life?

Whether or not you recognize your interactions with the Divine Ones, life is what you are doing right now; it is what you did yesterday, and the experiences you will have tomorrow.  Regardless of how you feel about the Divine, you are here to encounter life in this physical form. The Great Mystery — Big Bang, if you prefer — from which everything came is still here. That Infinite Spirit is a tiny part of every molecule, of every person, tree, and animal. It is there regardless of the emotions we feel — or maybe, it is there precisely because of the emotions we feel.

Life exists for you in all its glorious experiences. Go and live it.

 

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Ozone and Air Pollution: Good News and Bad

It took 30 years, but the prohibition of chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) is finally making a difference. CFC was used in packing materials, spray cans, air conditioners, refrigerators and insulation. Around 30 years ago, scientists realized that CFC was one of the causes of ozone depletion. The earth — and everybody on it — needs that ozone layer to keep the right balance of sunlight, oxygen, and maintain climate patterns.  Many people and companies voluntarily stopped using aerosol sprays. In 1987 a world-wide ban was agreed to, and numerous countries implemented government bans on CFC manufacture and restrictions on its use. After 30 years, we have a bit of good news: scientists believe the ozone layer is starting to heal.

The bad news is that the Trump administration has talked about repealing the Clean Air Act and has supported reducing the powers of the Environmental Protection Agency. Scott Pruitt, the head of the EPA, has spoken against the need for environmental protection regulations and clean air laws — the very things he is mandated to provide.

The current Trump administration has made it easier for businesses to obtain environmental permits by changing the government requirement for impartial analyses. Now they accept the analyses provided by the companies requesting the permits. In addition, the funds to prosecute polluters have been cut and many of the regulations supporting those actions have been removed.

The rest of the world seems to realize how important it is to reduce pollution. Even China  has done a lot of work on it! I would like to leave you with a positive statement, but I cannot find a way to minimize the stupidity of the current pro-pollution policies. The cavalier attitude of the Trump administration and its Republican supporters leaves me breathless — and soon we all may be literally breathless.

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