Tips for Fishing or Living # 59

Tip #59:

“Even a fish wouldn’t get into trouble if he kept his mouth shut.”

 Author Unknown

This reminds me of a story… Well, maybe I better not, after all, talk is cheap and sometimes it gets us into trouble. If you want preaching go to church or synagogue or mosque. If you want a great sermon go visit a soup kitchen or a habitat for humanity work site. But it isn’t just a matter of never speaking up. It’s knowing when to speak up and when not to do so. It’s also about getting our message across effectively. Sometimes this has more to do with the way we act than what we might be saying.

There’s a great story of about a Native American mother who brings her eight-year old daughter to her tribal Chief for some help. The mother tells him her daughter is eating so much candy it is ruining her teeth and making her unhealthy.

“Please,” she begs the Chief, “make her stop eating candy. She will not listen to me, but I know she will listen to you.”

The Chief then sits down across from the eight-year old and looks at her in silence for 30 minutes. Then he turns to the mother and tells her to bring her daughter back to him at the start of the next full moon.

A month goes by and the mother and daughter return to the Chief. The Chief once again sits down across from the little girl and says to her,

“You must stop eating all this candy. It’s very bad for you. Do you understand?”

The little girls is shaking, but nods her head, and says, “Yes, I will stop. I promise.”

The Chief turns to the mother and says,

“OK, you can take her now and go. I think she will do as I have told her.”

The perplexed mother says to the Chief,

“That’s it?  That’s all you are going to do? Why then didn’t you say this to her a month ago?”  

The Chief smiles at the mother and says,

“Well, a month ago I hadn’t stopped eating candy.”

We prefer folks who “walk the talk.” We admire those who aren’t so busy telling everyone else what they should or shouldn’t do, and are simply going about doing and living their own life with integrity. But there are times we must speak up. It is a moral imperative and to not do so at these moments is wrong; it is immoral.

We are in one of those moments where all of us must join in and stand up. We are at a tipping point – at least I hope so – regarding systemic racism and injustice within our nation and the gruesome results that too often come from it.  A racist policeman kills a black man.  This latest horrific incident is indicative of systemic racism that has been going on for far too long.

It is too easy to be against something and/or someone. The question becomes: What are you for? What are you in favor of? What must you see operating within our nation before you are satisfied?

It is difficult to change someone who does not see racism in their actions. You can change how you react to them; how you respond. But we must realize people first have to be ready to hear whatever your important message may be. Speaking up to get something off your chest may be momentarily therapeutic for you, however, it isn’t necessarily all that effective in bringing about actual change. In fact it sometimes proves to be the wrong thing to do at that particular moment.  

Social media has brought along some good and some not-so-good stuff. It’s a mixed bag at best. I love how many have been utilizing it to stay connected with family and friends, as well as carry on work through the use of modern social media during this pandemic. Also, I am glad that many more people are becoming committed to rout out systemic racism due to the videotaping and broadcasting of things otherwise often hidden or done in private. Social media has made it less possible to ignore what too many have ignored.

Having said all of this we cannot throw away respect and decency when either using these modern technologies or in taking public stands. There is no room for social bullying and the many ways that social media gets misused. We need to use it maturely. Social media is relatively new in our society. Bullying and trash talking or people concerned about how many “hits” or “friends” they have rather than what destruction they cause is not maturity. It is reckless and dangerous.

These are difficult times we are facing. There was a cartoon about the two Space-X astronauts that rocketed off from planet Earth this past week and who are now at the Space Station. Given the horrific events of this last week alone made the comment, “Smart move.”  

Who hasn’t wished of late they could escape the craziness and scariness of this time?

Justified anger and outrage should motivate us all to take courageous and transforming actions. We need to begin with ourselves. And there are inherent risks in doing so. The greater risk is to not act but not with reactivity. Reactivity will produce nothing or only more polarization. Each of us must first own our part in the systemic racism and other injustices we’ve either allowed by silence or by tolerance or by meanness.

There are people – leaders – who do need to be called out and held accountable for sure. All of us must engage or engage more full in our democracy because democracy only works when its citizens take an active part. Yes Protest. And yes then Vote! Our imperfect democracy can and has tolerated bad leaders – even this bad leader – because together – can vote him out. Voting out a bad president is only one of many steps needed.     

Living during this pandemic has allowed many people to slow down enough to be reflective and discerning. This has given us a possibility for creating a contemplative life. It not get a life that allows us to separate from the world or from things that are distasteful, or from people we do not happen to like. Living contemplatively does the opposite. The whole illusion of a separate holy existence is a dream. We are one people. We are all in this life together.

Today’s racist actions are getting filmed in real time. We are now seeing it out in the open more readily. It must outrage us. It is unacceptable; it never has been, and we are mandated to rout it out.

We cannot go back to the old so-called normal of the pre-pandemic where injustices abound. Here are but a few of them: The immigrant children separated from their parents at our boarder and placed into cages; The steady murdering of Black men by police with internal investigations that readily dismiss any wrong doing; The corporate looting with corporations collecting 500 billion dollars of stimulus money while everyone else was given a $1,200 check to decide to either pay for food or rent; A president that is intent on fueling discord and violence, and keeping Americans separated rather than united; and so many others.

So what is our recourse? Give up? Give in? Keep our mouth shut? Hop on the next Space-X launch? Or this: we can dedicate ourselves to bring about a new world based upon love – real, powerful, healing, and life changing love? Contemplative Living compels us to do so. Many already are unwilling to go back to some dysfunctional normal again.

In the midst of the protests there have been brilliant moments of actual hope – a touching scene of protesters and police dancing the shuffle, Black and White people connecting as fellow human beings, as well as other acts of genuine kindness, love, and connection. It is a small but hopeful start.

Let us speak up and stand up – together – while also remaining calm and persistent. It is appropriate to be outraged. Let us use our outrage intelligently and courageously to become part of the solution.