They know they are all one family

crows-in-trees

What a super intense month it has been! An image came to me today of the whole earth shaking, as if an inconceivably large force from the cosmos is literally shaking our planet free from the forces of darkness that have gripped it for millennia. We are in the midst of unprecedented shifts on a collective level, and no one is immune from their effects. Are you feeling the intensity, dear Readers?

Here in the United States the most obvious example of shakeup is the presidential impeachment hearings. This week was extremely tense, as the House Judiciary Committee held long, bitter and contentious hearings to present the two articles of impeachment against President Trump. After two days of rancor, they finally voted early on Friday morning along perfect party lines. The vote on both articles was 23 ayes / yes (by all the Democratic members), and 17 no (by all the Republican members). The vote will move to the full House of Representatives next week.

Reflecting on the impeachment process over the course of the past month, a couple of points stand out. One is the degree of seriousness with which lawmakers and aides have treated the procedure, and the sheer amount of hard work that has gone into all the moving parts. It’s been fascinating to watch the spectacle unfold, produced by many people both behind and in front of the cameras and devices. I am struck again and again by the fact that, at its core, our government is made up of ordinary human beings who have chosen the work of governing one of the largest and most unwieldy governments on Earth. Aside from jibes and attacks from certain Republicans who complained repeatedly about the supposed farce of what they called a “waste of time and taxpayer money,” many people, from the House Intelligence Committee, to the Judiciary Committee, to those who read and commented on the news reports, care deeply about American values, its constitution, its democratic ideals, and the Rule of Law. The fight is about the interpretation of those ideals and rules. It’s a good time to be a government lawyer in Washington D.C. these days, as there is no shortage of work!

The other striking thing about this moment in time is, of course, the fact that the United States feels anything but united. In fact, I’d argue that it is as divided as it was before and during the Civil War of the mid-19th century. We seem to have entered into a new era of civil war, only now it is being fought on social media sites rather than physical battlefields in the southern states. The terminology is similar—battlefields, war chests, attacks, scorched earth, weaponization, casualties and so on. Families are divided about where they stand on the issues, and the future of our country and world. It has become so surreal that it appears we are no longer all living in the same reality. And yet, we all ARE living upon the same and only planet we all call Home.

We are in the midst of an impasse. People are moving ever further to the extremes of polarity and dualism. Unity, oneness, harmony, peace, justice and love are being violently overturned at every opportunity as the forces of separation and power-over-others jostle for the front spot on the world stage. This is occurring against a backdrop of the continuing destruction of our environment and unprecedented weather changes which are portending serious loss of life in the very near future. We are hurtling towards the cliff edge. And once we go over that cliff, the question is before us:  What will happen next?

Today I walked in the peaceful park near my home. In one area were gathered about a hundred crows, having a large council meeting. Crows are such interesting birds. They are unintimidated by humans or most dogs, and their society appears very orderly and cooperative. Crows understand they are one family, all connected, and they cooperate with each other. Certain ones have particular roles, whether to be the guardian, the messenger, the speakers, perhaps the leaders. They never harm one another, rather they work together for their common good and safety. I have read of crows attacking humans or animals if they feel threatened. We have old stories passed down through history that paints crows in a similar light to wolves and other predators. Yet crows are generally peaceful birds, who have their own kind of society. For a fascinating look at crows, watch this video on Vimeo.

Human beings would do well to take some lessons from crow society. We are the only species on Earth that seeks to destroy itself and does not understand that we are one family, part of one another by virtue of the fact that we are all human. We have mastered amazing feats, learned how to do incredible things with our bodies, minds, and will. Yet, we still do not understand that our hearts are connected to all and each on this beloved planet. This is the underlying malady that is harming our species and our entire ecosystem, while seriously endangering our collective future. What will it take for us to finally awaken to the truth of who and what we are? To end the bitter polarity which divides and destroys us?

It is the end of this last year of this decade. In a couple of weeks, 2020 arrives. The start of a new decade, and an energetic reset button for Earth. It is a new opportunity to change for the better, to embrace our unity as humans on our planet and to bring compassion and empathy into our daily lives. My personal affirmation for the new year and new decade is that we all realize the truth of ourselves—we are One, there is no separation, we are a human family and it is time to end the enmity which has divided us for so long. We must cut the cords of deceit that have determined our destiny for far too long. Justice and truth must prevail now.

The battle between the head, heart and hands   

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 We live in an age where dominant value is placed on the intellect (or head) aspect of human beings. Most would agree that society values most those who are cleverest, have studied longest (such as doctors and attorneys) and those who have used their intellectual prowess to gain the most monetary reward (think Gates, Zuckerberg and Bezos). Conversely, society places the least value on those who do “necessary” jobs involving physicality: farmers, construction workers, domestic workers, sanitation workers, and those who primarily rely on their hands to make their living. In between are the ones who focus on the heart: teachers, health care workers, caregivers, social workers, social and environmental activists, artists and creative people. Clearly, there are millions of combinations, and the luckiest of all people are those who find ways to live in the world with all three aspects balanced. The optimum condition for health and happiness, it seems, is to strike the perfect combination of intellect, feeling and physicality in one’s daily life.

Many authors and experts have already written tens of thousands of volumes on this topic. So why do I dare to explore it in my blog tonight? Mostly because I’ve been pondering my options for what to do with my life a lot lately, and this idea of balance between the head, heart and hands has reemerged for me. The phrase brings me all the way back to when I first heard about Waldorf education, 27 years ago. The Waldorf movement uses the expression “head, heart and hands” as its motto. It captured my imagination strongly at that time, which ultimately led to a several-year journey down the Waldorf teacher path. That path was full of discoveries and knowledge of the child, the human being, and our unshakeable connection with the spiritual side of our nature, via the teachings of Rudolf Steiner about a hundred years ago. Let me be clear that I love and respect Rudolf Steiner and the essential esoteric teachings he brought forward to humanity during his era of history (For a taste of Steiner’s wisdom and philosophy, click here). However, times change and so should theories of education. As I became further involved in Waldorf education and its proponents, I found a level of rigidity and dogmatism within its ranks that I simply couldn’t abide—eventually, I had to leave it and move on.

Like any polarizing philosophy, anthroposophy (the underlying philosophy beneath Waldorf pedagogy) has a core following of believers who carry its tenants with fundamentalist fervor. There are many wonderful aspects to Waldorf education, including a reverence and respect for Nature, an acknowledgment of the human’s role as bridge between earth and heaven, an emphasis on health, play, spending time outside in natural surroundings, building trust and love between all members of the class (who stay together with their class teacher from first through eighth grade). It’s known to be a holistic form of learning, an artistic education that fosters creativity, teamwork, cooperation, and honoring of each person’s humanity. In many respects, there is a lot to love about Waldorf schools. In fact, I fell in love the first time I experienced a Waldorf kindergarten, when my youngest child and I had an exploratory visit to see if there might be a spot for her chubby, adorable three-year-old self. I remember sitting in one of the toddler-sized wooden chairs, watching the kind, pretty, young women teachers who were gently guiding the children, readying them for the freshly prepared, whole grain, organic lunch they were about to sit down to eat together. The atmosphere was so calm, so relaxing, with a beeswax candle burning brightly in the middle of the polished wooden table, bowls of hot porridge set for each young child. When everyone was seated, the lead teacher asked everyone to hold hands around the table and she sang a lovely song of thanks for the food, the sun, and for each other. Then the hungry children happily ate the wholesome meal, in between smiles and laughter all around. I sat quietly, amazed at the scene I was witnessing, wishing I could simply stay in that pink-draped, rainbow infused world forever.

But, as all too often happens in the world, the idealism and harmony I experienced that day, and throughout my subsequent teacher training program which lasted three years, did not hold up. Eventually I saw another, shadow side to the pedagogy and met teachers who were unwilling (or perhaps unable) to change, adapt, and embrace new ideas and concepts, shedding what was no longer appropriate for 21st century children. This divide, between traditional, strictly dictated ways of teaching and learning with new methods, ideologies and educational theories, is a prime example of the battle currently raging between humanity’s collective head, heart and hands. Plenty of people espouse the extreme benefits of technology in our world, extoling artificial intelligence and robotics, predicting that technological advances will surely save us from an otherwise hellish future. On the other end of the spectrum are the people who eschew the evils of technology, screens and virtual realities. Those folks preach that only by returning to a kinder, gentler time, long before modern technology was invented, will humanity be able to restore its former compassionate, natural way of living close to Mama Gaia, and eventually get back to a state of paradise and equilibrium on Earth once more.

As for my own position, I am awkwardly standing in between the two polarities. Technology is advancing exponentially, and most of us living in industrialized societies have become hyper dependent upon it (how close is your hand to your cell phone at any moment in your 24/7?). On the other side, the natural world is now at the tipping point of being irretrievably damaged, as the climate has become extraordinarily unstable and extreme weather produces ongoing catastrophic situations at any moment on the planet. We are living through precarious times, attempting to balance on a raft as it’s moving through increasingly whitewater with no end in sight.

We can’t go back to a gentler age, and we don’t want to move forward into a futuristic dystopian nightmare world. It’s obvious to anyone who takes a critical look that humanity must find the fulcrum, the place of balance on which we can stand and continually readjust as we ride out the tsunami waves of this century. We need to protect our planet, period. We must stop valuing and monetizing intellect over all else while devaluing physical labor and emotionality. We are a species at war with ourselves; it is imperative that we learn to love and respect ALL the parts of us, from our heads to hearts to hands, feet and everything in between. If one aspect of the human above all else should lead, then it must be the heart. Only though living with love as the driver will we make wise, compassionate choices that will lead to a future world we want to live in.

For a worthwhile long read on this subject from another angle, see this article on Medium. It’s written by a woman who decided to leave the master’s degree program she had enrolled in at Schumacher College in England, and why she made that difficult choice. She writes, “A core tenet of Schumacher’s approach to education is ‘learning with the head, heart and hands’.”   https://medium.com/@rhithink/leaving-schumacher-college-bcda7ee800c1