Innovation may be the buzziest of buzz words, but saying it and doing it are as different as watching the Olympics from the comfort of your couch and becoming an Olympian.
The greatness of America is rooted in her ability to remind the human spirit that the pursuit of liberty and happiness is always possible.
Moments of greatness are usually preceded by hours of preparation and work and failure and getting up again; that last part isn't a given.
America is at her best when she stands up for others who share her roots because America the beautiful idea is in every person. Shelves in libraries, domiciles and outposts around the globe are stacked with stories about the human spirit's desire to taste freedom, and endure it. Bear it. Honor it. Clutch it and palpably realize it every day.
Countless have sacrificed everything because they believed they were kindling resistance to whatever opposes the inherent right to live freely.
The roots of freedom do not grow out of weaponry or eloquence but from the grainy soil of resilience.
"What is truth?" asked Pontius Pilate.
Ask this question today and you might feel the weight of relevance like never before.
In the labyrinth of bytes that people with electronic devices wade through from sunrise to sundown and into the wee hours, is the truth getting harder to define or are we closing our eyes and settling for the truth as we'd like it to appear?
There are a lot of contests going on. He said, she said. Donkeys and Elephants. Rifts. Divisions. I'm right, no I am.
Is all of this hubbub wired into our genetic makeup? Are we humans happiest when we've got a bone to pick with something or someone, or is anger in many cases an addiction? A time suck and siren song to avoid looking a little longer at the person in the mirror.
Anger has its place, but so does the best of what's inside each one of us.
By John O’Donohue
In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938 contains more than 2,300 first-person accounts of slavery and 500 black-and-white photographs of former slaves.
The Thirteenth Amendment, passed in January of 1865, abolished slavery in the United States technically freeing four million slaves. Two generations later—from 1936 to 1938—more than 2,000 interviews with one-time slaves were conducted for the Federal Writers' Project, with the transcripts (written in the vernacular of the time) forming a unique firsthand record of slave life.
These first-person anecdotes were the basis for the 2003 documentary with narration by Oprah Winfrey, Ossie Davis, Samuel L. Jackson, Whoopi Goldberg, Robert Guillaume, Ruby Dee, Angela Bassett, and Don Cheadle among other well-known black Americans.
With the end of the Civil War, men and women—black and white and in the North and South—now began the work of rebuilding the shattered union and of creating a new social order. This period would be called Reconstruction. It would hold many promises and many tragic disappointments. It was the beginning of a long, painful struggle, far longer and more difficult than anyone could realize. It was the beginning of a struggle that is not yet finished.
As part of Reconstruction, two new amendments were added to the Constitution. The Fourteenth Amendment, passed in June 1865, granted citizenship to all people born or naturalized in the United States. The Fifteenth Amendment, passed in February of 1869, guaranteed that no American would be denied the right to vote on the basis of race. For many African Americans, however, this right would be short lived. Following Reconstruction, African Americans would be denied their legal right to vote in many states until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (PBS).
The scars and wounds of slavery are not healed. Not yet. And yet, in parallel, other forms of social bondage have strengthened: poverty, food insecurity, inequality, ignorance. Our nation of abundance has arms strong enough to properly care for each one of its citizens, ensuring that everyone is educated and no one is hungry; that everyone is housed and no one is overexposed to the elements; that everyone knows dignity and no one is forgotten.
As a nation, we will not be great until everyone feels the foundation of equity beneath their feet.
Human beings are dreamers. But what happens when people give up on their dreams? When the chisels of frustration, rationalization, emotional bankruptcy, financial struggles, nay-saying, depression and doubt garnish their wares and corrosive mettle?
Dreams are hardly defenseless, but they do require defending.
Sloppines, inc. Being human is a messy endeavor, justified only by persistence, by the courage to face yourself as you really are; getting up again is a mundane act most days, on a few it's valorous.
Words help. Words offer comfort -- a friend more than a vocabulary — and the promise that they will create an intimate space to share, in public or private, the stillness and restlessness dancing within most of us.
It's not always all Greek. Etymology clarifies and connects: words, meaning, dots, people and place.
In the Biblical Hebrew, Adamah (אדמה) means ground, so the origin of the name Adam finds its genesis in the earth. Similarly, the Latin humanus, meaning "of man" or "people," is a derivative of humus, the organic component of soil.
This blue planet is our home—our oikos, a Greek term meaning "family," "property," and "house" and also the root of both ecology and economy—in more ways than one.
Your fear. You've heard the old adage about it and so thinking about your fear—thinking about facing it—is common. Talking about facing your fear to friends, loved ones, yourself: also a road well traveled.
Actually facing your fear is something you can really only do on your own initiative. I suspect that taking up that gauntlet with as much courage as you can muster is inversely proportional to the reward.
Like learning to swim, no one can do it for you. You have to kick and paddle and see what happens next.
The right to bear arms was written by a group of freedom fighters. Even with the whole powdered wig thing, their aim was true: they wanted to defend a fledgling nation from established military powers, and a return to tyranny.
The subtle (or not so subtle) tyranny facing us today is the chest-pounding entitlement—and corporate irresponsibility—exercised in the face of tragedy, blindly and comfortably pledging allegiance to a paragraph written in a different time and for a different purpose. All while all hell breaks loose.
Laws are written to serve the people. The stiff-necked obstinantia unwilling to consider an amelioration of this nation's doctrine in the face of human suffering—the suffering of our neighbors—is, at best, myopic and, at worst, morally bankrupt.
Doing the right thing often has a cost associated with it and, more often than not, that cost tends to skew high. Maybe what we need is more competition to do the right thing.
We all have it in us: the courage to express our convictions, even in the face of the majority.
This nation, these 50 states united by a document poetically expressing perhaps the most basic unalienable right -- the right to live in freedom -- is not, as some would believe, a geographical location. The United States is, at its best, an ideal. A torch that lights the way for every citizen of our planet who is in danger of losing hope. A voice that cries out into the desert scorching the oppressed and downtrodden.
Your struggle is not the end. The end of your struggle is the realization of your freedom.
America is an experiment, a microcosm of the world's diversity compressed into 3.797 million square miles. A foundation for humanity's better angels putting down roots in one place.
If our nation's flag represents anything, it's that it should never wave in vain but always for those yearning to realize their basic rights as a person. Our flag flies in the face of inequality, of prejudice, of judgement, of oppression. It flies in the face of the comfortable, the entitled and, ironically, the bureaucratic.
Those who fail to recognize courage of any kind, can they ever be truly free?
Sublime or unwitting, is the 45th President of the United States performing geninus-like works? Is he single-handedly rallying most of the country to not just demand action from their elected officials but to take it?
Are we in the midst of a civic-duty renaissance where The People are taking back the wheel of their government?
Maybe this showman-President will make good on his biggest campaign promise in an unintended way: maybe he will indeed make America great by rallying people from the sidelines to take charge of their country, their government, their futures.
Walking to C33 (code for my gate at the airport), I was met by one of those Pass It On billboards; this one had a photo of Nelson Mandela with the quotation: "What can one person do?"
The Feedback team are wonder workers, more like modern-day Johnny Appleseeds only what they're planting is knowledge: 40 percent of all food produced annually in the U.S. is never eaten. Four zero. The Feedback team smartly wraps its message by rescuing food destined for landfills (and gleaned from farm fields) and, partnering with local chefs who whip the rescued food into a magically delicious vegetarian or vegan meal, serve amazingly nutritious free lunches with a side of awareness to the masses in a public square. It's a brilliant idea that takes months to organize but it's proof of what one person--in this case, Tristram Stuart, the founder of Feedback and Feeding the 5000 events--can do.
This paragraph is about a part of L.A. that I've never heard of, until I walked it: Skid Row. A several-blocks-long testament to callousness. A hard patch of concrete with no apparent press outside of the city but a place where several people lay agonizing in the street on their backs in the late-morning. Others sitting under stained and fraying quilts doubling as tents, looking numbly at another moment passing by. I half expected nuns in white and blue habits to walk into view and begin administering aid; I wondered how a developed nation could look the other way.
In fairness, the same day I walked through Skid Row, I picked up a free local newspaper which featured an editorial about the neighborhood. The gist of the piece was that everyone involved--those on city council and those in relief agencies--knew that something must happen to relieve the suffering. Between the lines of the thoughtfully written editorial were good intentions. From a distance--say, from the roadside--those lines looked a lot like printed words on a page.
Words resembling these. Which, for people living and dying on a stretch of sidewalk in a land of abundance, amount to just another moment passing by.
April 5th is a day of firsts. It's the day I first saw sunlight. And people. And trees. It's the day I felt air pass through my nostrils and into my lungs. It's when I first felt a human's touch and heard myself cry.
Like clockwork, April 5th comes around again to check-in on me. And remind me of my firsts, my lasts, myself, my nexts. It invites me to reflect and reboot and reignite my purpose and my unfinished business.
What's in originality's DNA?
My guess is its nucleotide is courage.
Joan Osborne once wondered in song and verse, "What if God was one of us?"
I can't help but follow up in wonder: if he was, would he ever second guess himself (or herself) about this whole free will thing? God, being omniscient, sees the good happening in the nooks and crannies of the world, the news that never makes it across the electrically tuned airwaves, and my guess is there's plenty of it. And maybe that's the key: to see beyond what's in front of our noses and our eyes and ears and listen to our hearts, believing that humanity will continue onward, forward, through the collisions of opinions informed and uniformed and through the messiness of free will both disciplined with compassion and littered with possessiveness.
It's sloppy out there, but this sloppiness too shall pass.
I participated in a guided meditation over the weekend, one unlike any I've ever experienced. What started out as a little quirky and earth-huggy proposal turned into something quirky, meaningful, and insightful.
Here's the transcript of the message I "brought back" after our group of about 35 people walked backwards in time to spend a few moments with our ancestors:
I have been a follower. I never took time to give room -- time and space -- to my own conscience. My ideas were dangerous: to myself, to my family, to our safety. So I followed orders and I worked to not stand out. I did the will of others -- causing harm, pain, suffering to others -- but their orders never overpowered, never muted the whisperings of my own conscience; my heart may have hardened but the beams of sunlight, of starry blackness, of expressionless expressions on those I oppressed, sang on.
Do not turn away in fear from fear. Do not stand frozen becoming calloused and sinking slowly into the quicksand of everything but what you are, and who you are destined to become. Fall not into the trap that is set for every human. You have the (treasure) map written on your hearts.
Balance my errs before God. Relieve my transgressions. Heed these words. And take action to step onto the right side of history.