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08 Sep

In 2006, the first members of the baby boom generation, the wealthiest and best educated age cohort the world has ever known, began turning 60. National Grandparent’s Day is a time to celebrate the ways in which grandparents can share their love, support, and wisdom across the generations. This is very much needed in our society when there is very little written on the subject of grandparenting. Many of these individuals, who have sought to maintain their independence and autonomy, now find themselves during hard economic times forced to re-evaluate their plans for the future or take in their financially strapped adult children and their kids. Other seniors are only intermittently involved in the intrafamily net. In this case, the losers are the young and the very old.

In Grandparents/Grandchildren: The Vital Connection, Arthur Kornhaber and Kenneth Woodward outline some important roles grandparents can play in the lives of their grandchildren such as:
1. Historian — Accenting family traditions and heritages
2. Mentor — Sharing wisdom accumulated through years of experience
3. Role Model — Preparing children for what it is like to be old and a grandparent
4. Wizard — Passing on a sense of wonder and the value of imagination
5. Nurturer — Helping to expand the grandchild’s life support system

This vital connection between children and their grandparents is immediate and gratifying to both parties. Elders all need to be needed and kids deserve more unconditional love: it is a wonderful trade-off.


Here are a few of our favorite films about the close bond that can exist between kids and their grandparents:

  • Avalon — This movie presents the changes and challenges one immigrant family undergoes over a 50-year period. The patriarch of the clan is a great storyteller who deeply enriches the life of one of his grandsons.
  • Rocket Gibraltar — The head of this large family is a 72-year-old poet and philosopher whose relatives have all showed up to celebrate his birthday. While his children ignore his impending death, his grandchildren provide him with the best gift possible — the means to fulfill his wish to be buried at sea in the Viking tradition.
  • Roommates — In this family drama, a 72-year-old baker takes in his grandson when the boy’s widowed mother dies. It conveys a treasure trove of information about grandparenting and how important this vital connection can be over the years.
  • The Secret of Roan Inish — Ten-year old Roan Inish is sent to live with her grandparents who reside on the Irish coast. It is from them that she learns about the island they had to abandon years ago. This delicate and parabolic story speaks volumes about the spiritual longing for home and the deep meanings that can be conveyed by family stories.
  • The Wizard of Loneliness — Here is a beautifully realized screen interpretation of John Nichols’s novel about a 12-year-old boy’s experience on the home front during World War II. His grandfather, a doctor, is especially helpful in making him feel special.
  • Vitus — This enchanting Swiss movie is about a musical prodigy and his loving grandfather who nurtures his dream and gives him the space to be himself.
  • Whale Rider — An enchanting and ultimately enthralling New Zealand movie about the struggle of one ardent and determined young Maori girl to fulfill her destiny. She is supported and encouraged by her grandmother and has a difficult time with her grandfather who espouses the tribe’s patriarchal value system. This struggle makes her quest even more impressive.

Rituals & Ceremonies

Thomas Simons presents blessings that can be used in both formal and informal situations. Here is a gratitude ritual for Grandparent’s Day.

Credit: Source link

02 Sep

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is dedicated to a celebration of the social and economic contributions of American workers. The form of its observance was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday more than 100 years ago: “a street parade to exhibit to the public ‘the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations’ of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families.” (U.S. Department of Labor)

To Name This Day:


Watch some movies about other workers. Share their challenges and triumphs, then talk about them with your colleagues. Values & Visions Guides are available online for these DVDs:

Personal Explorations

Reflect on the meaning of your work life. Matthew Fox in The Reinvention of Work writes: “Good living and good working go together. Life and livelihood ought not to be separated but to flow from the same source.… Spirit means life, and both life and livelihood are about living in depth, living with meaning, purpose, joy, and a sense of contributing to the greater community. A spirituality of work is about bringing life and livelihood back together again. And Spirit with them.”


Sign up for our e-course Practicing Spirituality at Work. It is available “on demand” so you can choose your own start date and frequency. Choose daily for a 40-day intensive with an email arriving every morning. Choose twice weekly for a slower pace and more time with the individual practice suggestions. Choose weekly, and the course will take you almost to the next Labor Day.

Prayers & Mantras

Pray at Work. Here are two prayers you might use, or create your own special work prayer:

“O God let me be careful with my speech and my deeds conveying caring rather than hurt to all the lives I touch this day. Let me not get angry unnecessarily, nor judge others harshly. Let me not imagine slights. Let me not be anxious in dealing with those for whom I work. And if necessary to respond critically, let me do so in a clear and calm manner. Let me always try to remember that all of us are flawed and wounded creatures even as we are all created equally in Your image. I hope for success in my striving to earn a living even as I hope that success is not unnecessarily at the expense of others. May the words of my mouth and my inner thoughts this day be acceptable unto You as reflecting that which is holy and best within me, your servant and partner in creation.”
— Rabbi Michael Strassfield in A Book of Life

To you, O Divine One, from whose hands
comes the work of creation, so artfully designed,
I pray that this work I am about to do
may be done in companionship with you.

May the work that I will soon begin
sing praise to you
as songbirds do.

May the work that I will soon begin
add to the light of your presence
because it is done with great love.

May the work that I will soon begin
speak like a prophet of old
of your dream of beauty and unity.

May the work that I will soon begin
be a shimmering mirror of your handiwork
in the excellence of its execution,
in the joy of doing it for its own sake,
in my poverty of ownership over it,
in my openness to failure or success,
in my inviation to others to share in it,
and in its bearing fruit for the world.

May I be aware that through this work
I draw near you.

I come to you, Beloved,
with ready hands.
— Father Edward Hays in Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim

Credit: Source link

09 Aug

Every December we announce our choices of the Most Spiritually Literate Films of the Year. In the excitement of the end-of-year releases, many critics overlook the films released in the first half of the year. Yet the “off-season” yields some surprising and inspiring movies. So we are giving you a preview of our best films lists at mid-year.

And Breathe Normally
Directed by Isold Uggadottir
A moving story that showcases the need for openness and hospitality in our increasingly constricted world.

American Heretics: The Politics of the Gospel
Directed by Jeanine Butler, Catherine Butler
An educational and intriguing exploration of progressive Christians attempting to reclaim the radical potential of their faith.

Angels Are Made of Light
Directed by James Longley
An engaging documentary about Afghanistan’s youth that activates our empathy.

The Best of Enemies
Directed by Robin Bissell
A remarkable film of hope, daring, and vision.

The Biggest Little Farm
Directed by John Chester
The hopeful story of a natural farm built on biodiversity and a recognition of interconnections, impermanence, and transformation.

For Sama
Directed by Waad al-Kateab, Edward Watts
A heart-wrenching and unflinching documentary filmed by a young mother and citizen journalist living through the siege of Aleppo, Syria.

Directed by Ljubomir Stefanov, Tamara Kotevska
A heart-stirring eco-documentary about a nurturing female beekeeper in Macedonia.

Directed by Patrick Creadon
Fascinating documentary about a religious leader who was a master of human relations.

Directed by Benjamin Gilmore
A powerful story of a soldier seeking to make amends who turns his enemies into friends.

Knock Down the House
Directed by Rachel Lears
A brisk and meaningful look at four women running to change American politics.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Directed by Joe Talbot
A uniquely affecting meditation on race, gentrification, and belonging.

The Lavender Scare
Directed by Josh Howard
Another shocking and horrific expose of American hatred and ignorance.

Light of My Life
Directed by Casey Affleck
An extraordinary and deeply spiritual drama about the power of stories and the parent-child bond.

Little Woods
Directed by Nia DaCosta
A bleak but edifying slice of small town drama in the midst of an opioid crisis.

Mary Magdalene
Directed by Garth Davis
A creative, relevant, and reverent film about Mary Magdalene, a deeply spiritual woman for all ages.

Directed by Olivier Assayas
A dramedy about all the ways digital technology is shaking the book publishing world to its core.

The River & the Wall
Directed by Ben Masters
A remarkable documentary that gives us hope that young people documenting the consequences of a border wall will make a difference.

Directed by Paddy Breathnach
Moving drama about a suddenly homeless family dealing with the challenges of this increasingly common situation.

Sea of Shadows
Directed by Richard Ladkani, Sean Bogle, Matthew Podolsky
A documentary that unreels like an action thriller to tell the story of attempts to save the vaquita porpoise from extinction.

Sorry Angel (Plaire, amer et courir vite)
Directed by Christophe Honore
An exquisite exploration of unexpected love in a time of illness and loss.

Directed by Christian Petzold
An elusive but effective exploration of migration and liminal space.

Woman at War
Directed by Benedikt Erlingsson
A watershed Icelandic film which will speak to the hearts and minds of all committed women who are working toward the creation of an ecological world.

Directed by Danny Boyle
An imaginative movie about the magic of the Beatles’ music.

Credit: Source link

09 Aug

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02 Aug

The seemingly unstoppable price hikes for Napa’s top wines would appear to be running out of steam.

Well, here it is folks, the one you’ve all been waiting for – the annual (re)iteration of what is effectively a list of Napa’s greatest hits.

For the purposes of this list, Napa is California. Indeed, Napa is the US; when it comes to price, no one else comes remotely close. Washington may have its moments, but its most expensive wine wouldn’t even dent a list of the top 25 most expensive Napa wines. Sonoma offers absolute bargains by comparison, and the only region that offers some remote competition is Kentucky, but that’s for whiskey, not wine.

There is a whiskey that appears on the list – just like last year, the St George 35th Anniversary Single Malt should sit in third place with an average price of $1371 (down from $1415 last year), but we’re really looking at wine for this year’s list. And what does the list tell us? Well, believe it or not, it might be suggesting that there actually is an upper price limit for Napa wine.

Prices worldwide on Wine-Searcher (US$, ex-tax, per 750-ml bottle): 

The list above is virtually identical to last year’s, demonstrating once again that not much changes in the Napa hierarchy. The only differences are Promontory and Screaming Eagle’s Flight swapping places and Bryant Cabernet coming in for Schrader Cellars Old Sparky. However, it’s the price differences that make for interesting reading this year.

Last year there were price rises of as much as 46 percent among the wines on the list and only one of them had fallen. In fact, many wines missed out on making the list last year because their price rises weren’t quite big enough to overtake the wines that did make the list. This year it’s a much different story.

While last year’s wines showed an average price increase of 13.16 percent each, this year that figure is a paltry 1.24 percent, roughly one-third of the global inflation rate for the past 12 months and even lower than the US rate of 1.6 percent. That rate of increase is driven by the performance of just two wines; Screaming Eagle’s Flight tripled its previous year’s 4.6 percent price increase with a 13.15 increase this year, while Promontory notched up a 12.9 percent rise. Harlan and Bryant managed rises of 3.8 and 3.3 percent, respectively.

At the other end of the scale, Tusk Estate’s Cabernet saw the biggest fall, with a 10.4 percent drop in price, from $969 to $868, while the grossly overvalued Screaming Eagle Sauvignon Blanc fell by 7.75 percent, to dip below the $6000 mark. Last year’s hero, the Levy & McCellan Cabernet, backed up last year’s 46 percent jump with a drop of 3.4 percent, although that’s a drop in the ocean when you consider it is still twice the price of any other non-Napa US wine.

But the rate of increase is slowing as the race to push through the $1000 mark continues. Five years ago, our US editor W. Blake Gray wrote a story asking when Napa release prices would hit $1000. The consensus was “no time soon”, and that exact sentiment was expressed by Screaming Eagle’s direct-to-consumer manager Patrick Chapman. The 2016 vintage was released in March this year at $3000, by the way, but Screaming Eagle’s prices have mostly been defined by the prices they achieve on the secondary market.

Only Harlan has broken the magical four-figure barrier otherwise, some 35 years after the 1978 Diamond Creek Lake Vineyard Cabernet became the first Napa wine to hit $100 (it currently sits at $619). So have we hit a ceiling? It would be foolish to predict anything but increase for Napa’s top wines, although the rate of appreciation might be slowing down after years of astronomical price hikes.

Generally, Napa’s prices have been rising at a healthy pace – well, healthy for the producers, at any rate. The average price of a Napa Cabernet has risen 29 percent in the past five years and by 6 percent in the past 12 months. Likewise Bordeaux blends from Napa rose in average price by 39 percent since 2014 and by 10.4 percent in the past year.

So the wines generally are doing well when it comes to price, but the wines at the top – the ones that used to drive Napa’s relentlessly upward price curve – appear to be running out of gas. That $1000 ceiling is proving curiously hard to break.

Credit: Source link

13 Jul

ALBANY — One by one, people are starting to eliminate the stigma placed on mental illness. However, officials in the field admit there is still progress to be made.

In the southwest Georgia region alone, NOVA Counseling and Consulting Services owner Tracy Knighton said that the increase in mental illnesses has led to an increase in the need of licensed professional counselors.

“The good thing is, the increase (in mental illnesses) shows that there is a need for LPCs,” Knighton said.

According to Knighton, people’s reaction to mental illnesses is one of the reasons a stigma remains. She said it a traumatic history surrounds mental health.

“(Counselors and doctors) got started in pretty dark places,” Knighton said. “When you would send people to an asylum, they would get shock treatment. If somebody was walking down the street with no clothes on, then you would send them away. When you went to visit them, it was scary in those places.”

When studying mental health and its history at a master’s and doctorate level, Knighton said in the past people would view mental illnesses as satanic or someone being possessed. Society, she notes, has come a long way from those days.

“As society has evolved, we have a better understanding of (mental health), but you still have that mental thought of how we got started,” she said.

A mental illness does not always come dressed in black and white, Knighton noted. There can be grey areas that sometimes are disguised or even hidden when experienced from the outside. Knighton confirms this disguise by saying sometimes it is harder to bring recognition to an illness when all you have around you are the triggers.

“Sometimes you need someone who is outside of your family and not attached to you to be able to step in and go ‘There’s a different way of looking at what you’ve experienced’,” she said.

Even though medicine helps with treatment of many mental illnesses, Knighton said that placing a pill in someone’s hands is not at all going to help if he or she is not aware or properly educated on his or her state of mind. Plus, natural remedies can be equally as effective as medication.

“One thing I like to give all my clients are journals; every night I make my clients just brain dump,” she said. “During the day, my clients like to brain dump, too. (The journal) helps me to see what they’re thinking, when they are not with me.”

Knighton said she likes to tell people to look at mental health the same way you would look at diabetes or high blood pressure, because mental health is no different and is just as serious.

“These are diseases that do not go away, and the key thing here is that you learn how to manage it,” she said.

For more information about NOVA Counseling and Consulting Services, visit www.novacc.net or call at (229) 589-8873.

Credit: Source link

04 Jul

On any day of the year, we do well to contemplate what liberty means and how our government serves — or does not serve — to protect this and other rights. But Independence Day gives us a more focused opportunity. On July 4, 1776, delegates from the Continental Congress accepted the Declaration of Independence, after a vote on July 2 that the 13 British colonies in America should be “free and independent states.” The declaration stated that governments, formed by the “consent of the governed,” are meant to protect the rights which Thomas Jefferson called self-evident: “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The declaration also addressed what the members of the Continental Congress considered to be abuses of power by King George the III, and it concluded by announcing that the colonies had become “the United States of America.”

Our Fourth of July experiences generally are not that dramatic! But even so — in addition to having a picnic, raising a flag, watching fireworks, or whatever else means “Independence Day” to you — we invite you to make this day conscious and relevant. Here are some suggestions of ways you can explore the day’s significance.

To Name This Day . . .

Spiritual Practices

Take a Freedom Pledge: During the years 1947-1949, people around the United States got to see the Declaration of Independence and other documents pertaining to freedom when a special train carrying valuable articles from the National Archives traveled more than 37,000 miles to meet them in and near their own towns. The more than 3.5 million people who walked through the train were invited to sign a Freedom Pledge. Learn more about this pledge and adjust the wording to make it your own.

Sing a Democracy Song: Many of us grew up singing patriotic songs; we know the tunes and maybe even the words by heart. So what better way to explore the meaning of liberty than to try some alternative lyrics? Micah Bucey, a regular contributor to Spirituality & Practice, turned four traditional songs into queries about the nature of democracy in our times. Sing along with him (audio provided) and try your hand at your own lyrics if you wish!

Suggest an Alternative National Anthem: As soaring as its tune and some of its sentiments may be, “The Star-Spangled Banner” presents a troubling spin on our national values, especially when it suggests in the final verse that when we have a just cause, we must conquer. We invite you to submit your recommendations for a national anthem that from your point of view most accurately reflects America’s values and virtues, such as equality, freedom, justice for all, the common good, and popular sovereignty — the idea that the power of government comes from us, the people.

Take a Vow of Citizenship: Naturalization ceremonies often happen on the Fourth of July, so it’s a good time to contemplate what democracy means to us and requires of us. If you would like to host a Citizenship Vow Ceremony in your community — or simply to make a citizenship vow of your own — please feel free to use the ritual on this page.

Visit the Practicing Democracy Project: If you find the above suggestions intriguing and want more, we welcome you to go deeper. Since 2017, Spirituality & Practice has been working with the Fetzer Institute to design resources for practicing democracy. Check out this overview of the project and follow the icons and other links you’ll find there to uncover a wealth of spiritual practices, books, films, music, prayers, quotes, videos, related topics, and much more.

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25 Jun

The Battle of Little Bighorn, known to the Lakota and other Plains Indians as the Battle of the Greasy Grass, and also known as Custer’s Last Stand, was fought on this day in 1876. In a Montana valley, General George Custer and some 200 men in his Army battalion were attacked by as many as 3,000 Native Americans, mostly Sioux and Cheyenne. Within an hour, Custer and all his soldiers were dead.

One of the Native American leaders of the attack was Crazy Horse, an Oglala Sioux. He had a vision which convinced him that he was destined to protect his people from the encroaching white men who had slaughtered the buffalo and now were trying to take over tribal lands in their quest for gold. The other leader was Sitting Bull, a sagacious Teton Dakota chief who had seen too many treaties broken and objected to new government orders that the tribes give up their nomadic way of life and move to reservations.

Custer, on the other hand, was a great believer in Manifest Destiny, the the doctrine that the white man was destined to expand his influence and land ownership throughout the American continent. He and his superiors took the position that the Native Americans would have to be relocated from key areas or exterminated.

The Battle of Little Bighorn, although at first seen as an Indian victory, had a longer-term consequence. The white public was outraged at the death of Custer, a popular figure, and the government increased its efforts to move the tribes. In The Fatal Environment: The Myth of the Frontier in the Age of Industrialization, 1800 – 1890, Richard Slotkin concludes that for many Americans Custer was triumphant even in defeat: “The optimistic reading emphasized the sacrificial aspect of the battle, showing that Custer’s death struggle wounded the Indians and aroused the slumbering spirit of the American nation, leading in the end to revenge on the Indian and the triumph of a chastened and purified people.”

Within two years both Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull would be dead, killed by white men. Within five years, almost of the Sioux and Cheyenne would be confined to reservations.


Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto is a 1969 nonfiction book by Native American author, theologian, historian, and activist Vine Deloria, Jr. The book questions how U.S. government agencies, churches, anthropologists, and others have approached issues affecting Native Americans. As you remember what happened at Little Bighorn, reflect upon these quotes from Deloria’s book:

“Until America begins to build a moral record in her dealings with the Indian people she should not try to fool the rest of the world about her intentions on other continents. America has always been a militarily imperialistic world power eagerly grasping for economic control over weaker nations.”

“When asked by an anthropologist what the Indians called America before the white men came, an Indian said simply ‘Ours.’ ”


Artists have given Little Bighorn more attention than the Civil War’s Battle of Gettysburg. Evan Connell, author of Son of the Morning Star, ranks Custer’s Last Stand alongside Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow, Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps, and the Charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War. You can find a sampling of paintings of Custer, Crazy Horse, and the battle here. In what different ways is the event depicted? What feelings are evoked in you by the paintings? You might make your own painting or drawing to reflect your view of this historical event.


The movie Little Big Man, directed by Arthur Penn based on Thomas Berger’s rough-and-tumble 1964 novel, is both a tall tale and a meditation on the white man’s western expansion. Dustin Hoffman plays Jack Crabb, the sole white survivor of the Battle of Little Bighorn. The humorous treatment of Indian society and the serious treatment of the military tend to balance out in the tragicomedy of history. As a result, the movie can be seen as an attempt to assimilate the contradictions of history — one of the chief aims of comic art. Watch the film, keeping in mind Penn’s comment on his approach:

“The film is oddly comic and maybe that’s not the appropriate way to deal with something as important and as meaningful as this, but on the other hand maybe it is the way. Maybe one approach is to go by a more opaque way than saying this is a direct representation of what went on.”

Son of a Morning Star, a four-hour television miniseries, was originally presented on ABC in 1991; it was based on the acclaimed bestseller of the same name by Evan S. Connell. It traces the events of the Plains Indian Wars leading up to the Battle of Little Bighorn and recreates that pivotal battle. To tell the story, the filmmakers used an unusual device. Voice-over narration provides two perspectives on the unfolding drama: that of Libbie Custer, the General’s devoted wife, and that of Kate Bighead, a Cheyenne woman, who presents the American Indian account of the events.

Get together with some friends and brainstorm how you would tell the story of Little Bighorn. Which players would you emphasize? Would it be a story of triumph or defeat?

Credit: Source link

25 Jun

George Orwell — a pseudonym for Eric Blair — was born on this day in India in 1903 to a family he describes in The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) as “lower-upper middle class.” In 1904, his mother brought him to England, where he was raised and educated. He took a job with the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, then lived in Paris and London, taking menial jobs and writing. His first book, Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), is a travelogue and a memoir of his near destitution.

By the 1930s, Orwell had begun to think of himself as a socialist. In 1936, he wrote The Road to Wigan Pier: The first part describes the lives of unemployed miners during the Depression in northern England, and the second part is about his upbringing and growing political awareness. He traveled to Spain later later that year to fight against Franco’s nationalists in the Spanish Civil War, the subject of Homage to Catalonia (1938). Wounded in the throat by a sniper, he barely escaped death. He evaded arrest by Soviet-backed communists during a purge of revolutionary socialist dissenters in Barcelona, which made him a lifelong anti-Stalinist.

He became a prolific journalist and continued working on books. In 1945, he published Animal Farm, an anti-totalitarian satire told as a fable about farm animals. 1984, published in 1949, imagined a dystopian, repressive future characterized by governmental overreach and filled with now famous — and ever-more relevant — words and phrases like “Big Brother is watching you” and “newspeak.”

By the time Orwell died of tuberculosis the following January, he was a world-famous journalist and author. In an essay called “Why I Write,” Orwell explained, “My starting point is always a feeling of partisanship, a sense of injustice. When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing. But I could not do the work of writing a book, or even a long magazine article, if it were not also an aesthetic experience.”

To Name This Day . . .


Which of the following quotes by George Orwell most startles or moves you? Why? You may want to reflect on its meaning throughout the day.

“It is not possible for any thinking person to live in such a society as our own without wanting to change it.”
— in “Why I Joined the Independent Labour Party,” New Leader (June 24, 1939)

“War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it.”
— in a review of The Men I Killed by Brigadier-General F. P. Crozier in New Statesman and Nation (August 28, 1937)

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
— Original preface to Animal Farm; as published in George Orwell: Some Materials for a Bibliography (1953) by Ian R. Willison

“Threats to freedom of speech, writing and action, though often trivial in isolation, are cumulative in their effect and, unless checked, lead to a general disrespect for the rights of the citizen.”
— in “The Freedom Defence Committee” in The Socialist Leader (September 18, 1948)

“I always disagree, however, when people end up saying that we can only combat Communism, Fascism or what not if we develop an equal fanaticism. It appears to me that one defeats the fanatic precisely by not being a fanatic oneself, but on the contrary by using one’s intelligence.”
— Letter to Richard Rees (3 March 1949), The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, Vol. 4: In front of your nose, 1945-1950 (1968), ed. Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus

“On each landing, opposite the lift-shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. ‘BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU’ the caption beneath it ran.”
— in 1984

It was always at night — the arrests invariably happened at night. The sudden jerk out of sleep, the rough hand shaking your shoulder, the lights glaring in your eyes, the ring of hard faces round the bed. In the vast majority of cases there was no trial, no report of the arrest. People simply disappeared, always during the night. Your name was removed from the registers, every record of everything you had ever done was wiped out, your one-time existence was denied and then forgotten. You were abolished, annihilated: vaporized was the usual word.”
— in 1984

“By 2050 — earlier, probably — all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have disappeared. The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron — they’ll exist only in Newspeak versions, not merely changed into something different, but actually changed into something contradictory of what they used to be.”
— in 1984

“As Clover looked down the hillside her eyes filled with tears. If she could have spoken her thoughts, it would have been to say that this was not what they had aimed at when they had set themselves years ago to work for the overthrow of the human race. These scenes of terror and slaughter were not what they had looked forward to on that night when old Major first stirred them to rebellion. If she herself had had any picture of the future, it had been of a society of animals set free from hunger and the whip, all equal, each working according to his capacity, the strong protecting the weak, as she had protected the lost brood of ducklings with her foreleg on the night of Major’s speech. Instead — she did not know why — they had come to a time when no one dared speak his mind, when fierce, growling dogs roamed everywhere, and when you had to watch your comrades torn to pieces after confessing to shocking crimes.”
— in Animal Farm

Spiritual Practice

In The Opposing Self, American literary critic and essayist Lionel Trilling wrote, “If we ask what it is [Orwell] stands for, … the answer is: the virtue of not being a genius, of fronting the world with nothing more than one’s simple, direct, undeceived intelligence, and a respect for the powers one does have. … He implies that our job is not to be intellectual, certainly not to be intellectual in this fashion or that, but merely to be intelligent according to our own lights — he restores the old sense of the democracy of the mind, releasing us from the belief that the mind can work only in a technical, professional way and that it must work competitively.”

Take an inventory of the powers you have. How can you use them — simply, respectfully, directly — to leave a beneficial mark on the world?

Credit: Source link

21 Jun

Countless people know Reinhold Niebuhr, even if indirectly, through the Serenity Prayer which he authored and which 12-Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous adopted. This is the version that he preferred:

“God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed, courage
to change the things which should be changed,
and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.”

In the full version of the original (ca. 1942), Niebuhr went on to say:

“Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

This prayer picks up several of the main themes in the teachings of this Reformed theologian, Union Theological Seminary professor, and influential commentator on public affairs, who was born in Missouri on this day in 1892. Unlike those who adhered to liberal theologies popular in his time, Niebuhr counted sin into his world view, Christian Realism. He knew by observation that groups of people seek their own advantage over the needs of others and that history shows individuals as well to be tainted by insecurities and defensiveness. But he also had a trust that God could make things right and that by accepting hardship and overcoming pretensions, people could work toward peace.

Niebuhr’s theology and politics morphed with changing times and his own changing circumstances. His first pastorate — after receiving a Bachelor of Divinity degree (1914) and a Master of Arts (1915) from Yale University — was in Detroit, where he became a socialist in support of laborers in the auto industry. In 1928, he left to teach at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. He remained there for more than 30 years, and in the 1930s, he broke with the Socialist party. Repulsed by World War I, he had been a pacifist, but he came to believe that nonviolent solutions do not work in all situations.

In the 1940s he became an anti-Communist Democrat, and he did much to persuade Christians of the importance of fighting Hitler. His 1952 classic, The Irony of American History, looked at America’s role in the Cold War and the ease with which assumed virtue can turn into vice. He was one of the first theologians to oppose the U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam, considering intervention to be an erroneous way of imposing solutions.

Author of more than a dozen books on theology, politics, and ethics, Niebuhr influenced people not only in his day but even up to the present, ranging from Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama on the left to John McCain and David Brooks on the right. Barack Obama wrote, “[Niebuhr] is one of my favorite philosophers. I take away [from his works] the compelling idea that there’s serious evil in the world, and hardship and pain. And we should be humble and modest in our belief we can eliminate those things. But we shouldn’t use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction. I take away . . . the sense we have to make these efforts knowing they are hard.”

Niebuhr was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964. He died on June 1, 1971 in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

To Name This Day . . .


Which of the following quotes by Reinhold Niebuhr inspires you to see the world in a little different way than you had been? Carry that quote with you today for reflection.

“Humor is the prelude to faith, and laughter the beginning of prayer.”
— quoted in Praying with Body and Soul by Jane Vennard

“Our dreams of bringing the whole of human history under the control of the human will are ironically refuted by the fact that no group of idealists can easily move the pattern of history toward the desired goal of peace and justice. The recalcitrant forces in the historical drama have a power and persistence beyond our reckoning.”
— in The Irony of American History

“Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore, we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as from our own; therefore, we are saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.”
— in The Irony of American History

“My personal attitude toward atheists is the same attitude that I have toward Christians, and would be governed by a very orthodox text: ‘By their fruits shall ye know them.’ I wouldn’t judge a man by the presuppositions of his life, but only by the fruits of his life. And the fruits — the relevant fruits — are, I’d say, a sense of charity, a sense of proportion, a sense of justice. And whether the man is an atheist or a Christian, I would judge him by his fruits, and I have therefore many agnostic friends.”
— in an interview with Mike Wallace, ABC TV (April 27, 1958)

“One of the fundamental points about religious humility is you say you don’t know about the ultimate judgment. It’s beyond your judgment. And if you equate God’s judgment with your judgment, you have a wrong religion.”
— in an interview with Mike Wallace, ABC TV (April 27, 1958)

Spiritual Practices

In When True Simplicity Is Gained, Martin and Micah Marty quote Niebuhr as praying, “O God, who hast bound us together in this bundle of life, give us grace to understand how our lives depend upon the courage, the industry, the honesty, and the integrity of our fellow humans; that we may be faithful in our responsibilities to them.”

Write down three ways that your life depends on the courage, industry, honesty, and integrity of others. If the names of any people you know personally come to mind, you may want to share your list with them and thank them.

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