Saturday, February 16, 2019

Backs To The Wall

Starting off with a short story:
A Buddhist monk was visiting New York City at a conference on The Common Good. On an afternoon walk between sessions, he stepped up to a hot dog stand.

The vendor asked, “What can I make you buddy?”

The monk just stood there and stared at the cart.

After a few moments, the vendor asked again, “Hey buddy, do you understand me? What can I make you here?” The monk looked up at the vendor and nodded his head in the affirmative, but said nothing.

Frustrated, the vendor raised his voice a bit and said, “Hey buddy, there's a lot of people here. Are you getting something? What can I make you, already?”

The monk turned his gaze to the other people who were gathered around waiting their turn, looked up at the sky, looked back at the cart, and finally back up at the vendor again. He smiled and said, “Make me one...with everything.” 

This month, we celebrate and/or commemorate Love, Black History, Non-Violence and Seeking the Common Good through Social Justice concentrating on the idea of Oneness.
Oneness is the basis of our entire philosophy, our entire worldview, our entire BEINGNESS. When we allow Oneness to be what we live FROM, our thoughts, words, and actions contribute to an ethical world – a world that works for all life. There is no “they” - only “us”. ~Rev. CC Coltrain, CSL Greater Dayton
Oneness is where we ALL exist ... every human being, every animal, every plant and tree, every rock, every grain of sand. There's a famous Rumi quote that says:
You are not a drop in the ocean, you are the entire ocean in a drop.
He also wrote this beautiful piece:
There is a path from me to you that I am constantly looking for, so I try to keep clear and still as water does with the moon.
This moment this love comes to rest in me, many beings in one being.
In one wheat grain a thousand sheaf stacks.
Inside the needles eye, a turning night of stars.
In the smallest thing is the sight and the insight of the largest thing. In and through the microcosm, we see and experience the macrocosm....and vice versa. We are all One because we all are a personalized expression of the Divine, of the Big Bang, as it were.

In the great essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson called THE OVER SOUL, he says:
All goes to show that the soul in man is not an organ, but animates and exercises all the organs; is not a function, like the power of memory, of calculation, of comparison, but uses these as hands and feet; is not a faculty, but a light; is not the intellect or the will, but the master of the intellect and the will; is the background of our being, in which they lie,--an immensity not possessed and that cannot be possessed. …. A man is the facade of a temple wherein all wisdom and all good abide. What we commonly call man, the eating, drinking, planting, counting man, does not, as we know him, represent himself, but misrepresents himself. Him we do not respect, but the soul, whose organ he is, would he let it appear through his action, would make our knees bend. When it breathes through his intellect, it is genius; when it breathes through his will, it is virtue; when it flows through his affection, it is love.
The best of us is not what we call our human selves, but what we all share – the oneness through our Divine nature - our spiritual selves. 

We are in the first couple of weeks of the Season of Non-Violence, a yearly event of 64 days celebrating the philosophies and lives of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Also, The Association for Global New Thought is embarking on a program of spiritually motivated social engagement with its Social Uplift Ministries, which shows how to engage in conscious, compassionate, and effective ways to bring peace and resolution to many of the problems we face in society. The Mahatma Gandhi Canadian Foundation for World Peace states: 
...we can each be a force for peace and nonviolence. Our words and our actions can create ripples of peace around us and beyond. Peaceful living includes acting with compassion, kindness and consideration, and standing up against injustice. 
One of great teachers of both Oneness and non-violent social engagement and justice is Dr. Howard Washington Thurman, a theologian, Baptist preacher and mystic. He wrote 21 books, dedicating his life to spiritual renewal and social change, the unity of all creation, the building of community and the search for common ground. Speaking at the 1979 Howard Univ Convocation, he said:
The sense of community, then, seems to me to be a part of the creative intent of the creator.
Thurman was born Nov. 18, 1899 in Dayton Florida, raised by his grandmother, a former slave, and died in 1981. In 1923, Thurman graduated from Morehouse College as valedictorian with an economics degree, later becoming a professor there. In 1925, he was ordained as a Baptist minister at First Baptist Church of Roanoke, Virginia, while still a student at Rochester Theological Seminary. He graduated from Rochester Theological Seminary in May 1926 as valedictorian in a class of twenty-nine students. From June 1926 until the fall of 1928, Thurman served as pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Oberlin, Ohio; afterwards moving to Atlanta, Georgia, where he had a joint appointment to Morehouse College and Spelman College in philosophy and religion. During the spring semester of 1929, Thurman pursued further study as a special student at Haverford College with Rufus Jones, a noted Quaker philosopher and mystic. In 1932 he became dean of Rankin Chapel at the prestigious Howard University. 

Thurman left his tenured position in 1944 to co-found The Church for Fellowship of All Peoples in San Francisco, the first intentional inter-racial, inter-denominational church. Rev. Dr. Dorsey Blake, the current pastor said "The idea was that if people can come together in worship, over time would emerge a unity that would be stronger than socially imposed barriers." 

Dr. Thurman was named one of the country's most influential theologians by Time magazine in 1953. And in 1955, became the dean of Boston University’s Marsh Chapel, which was a very important time that I will comment on a bit later. But first, let's jump back to 1935, the year he led a trip to meet Mahatma Gandhi. In their multi-hour conversation, they spoke about oppression and freedom and Ghandi's philosophy of ahimsa and satyagraha, which will be explained in a moment. 

“Is non-violence from your point of view a form of direct action?” Thurman asked. “It is not one form,” Gandhi replied, “it is the only form. Nonviolence does not exist without an active expression of it, and indeed, one cannot be passively nonviolent.” 

Ahimsa was a Sanskrit word with deep resonance in all of South Asia’s ancient karmic religions: Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, in which ahimsa stood for a commitment to refrain from harming living things. Gandhi felt there was no good English language equivalent for ahimsa, so he created the term nonviolence. He insisted nonviolence was “a force which is more positive than electricity” and subtler and more pervasive than the ether. Towards the end of the meeting, Gandhi proclaimed, “It may be through the Negroes that the unadulterated message of nonviolence will be delivered to the world.”  This was the beginning of how Thurman became the spiritual architect of the nonviolent movement in America. 

It many ways, there would be no Martin Luther King, Jr. without Thurman. I don't mean the man or the preacher or even the activist. I mean the commitment King had to social justice and change through the ideas and temperament of non-violence. Dr. King was a family friend and studied, was mentored, under Thurman at Boston University. It is said that MLK carried a Thurman ascribed book during many civil rights protests to remind him of the idea and commitment to non-violence overcoming the evils of hate and injustice. 

Though an inspiration, Thurman did not participate in the civil rights movement actively, the marches and protests, and that was controversial throughout the movement. He believed that change comes from within through personal transformation and spiritual discipline. And that was what he taught, what was his contribution to social justice. He told those active in the movement to remember to maintain a spiritual life with spiritual practices while participating in the civil rights protests and other activities. That the inner commitments were as, if not more, important as the outer activities. Dr. Walter Fluker, the director and editor of the Howard Thurman Papers Project at Morehouse College, stated:
He believed the major obstacle to overcoming the violence in our culture, in our world, is that one must overcome fear. Fear, he felt, was one of the great hounds of hell. The other dimension was self-deception: How might I live a life of integrity so that I might act out of my own center, so that I might not always be stimulated by the larger outer environment? … If I might act out of my own modicum of freedom so that I’m not reacting to my environment but am proactive out of my own center, I might bring something creative to the world. In fact, the history of civilization for Thurman is the history not of the masses but of the creative individual.
In Jesus and the Disinherited, Thurman's most famous book, written in 1949, he says:
The masses of men live with their backs constantly against the wall. They are the poor, the disinherited, the dispossessed. What does our religion say to them?
In the Science of Mind and other metaphysical philosophies, we learn that when it feels like our backs are against the wall, it is time, maybe past time (but not too late!) to remember who we are, where we Truly come from, and what we are made of and from. And that is the Divine, from the Intelligence, the Force, the Creative idea, Spirit....dare I say, God.

And that is our common ground, where our Oneness meets. In MEDITATIONS OF THE HEART, Thurman reminds us:
Life goes on. Over and over we must know that the real target of evil is not destruction of the body, the reduction to rubble of cities; the real target of evil is to corrupt the spirit of man and to give to his soul the contagion of inner disintegration. To drink in the beauty that is within reach, to clothe one’s life with simple deeds of kindness, to keep alive a sensitiveness to the movement of the spirit of God in the quietness of the human heart and in the workings of the human mind — this is, as always, the ultimate answer to the great deception.
The answer starts here, spreads from here and returns here...the here I am speaking of is the heart. Begin with remembering who your are and the Oneness we all share. It is the heart brain where this discussion must begin and end. It is the heart brain that is the Alpha and Omega. It is the intelligence of the heart-mind connection that informs our actions. And it is in this Oneness that we use our intelligence and compassion, within, as well as without, to transform ourselves and others -our society and culture- into ones of peace, love, tranquility, equality, compassion and the individualized magnificence and prosperity that is our birthright.

Whether I sit, stand or recline, I do so with the full knowledge, declaration and assurance that I walk the talk, Be - as well as do, and, with Mother, Father, God, Mother Earth, Gaia and Nature empowering me to soak in my Divinity, I lead my life with my Divine Intelligence, blooming and ripening with the Self-Givingness of Spirit firmly guiding me. It is with Love that I think. It is with Love that I speak. It is with Love that I act. And it is with Love that I share my time, talent and treasure with my community and planet. I choose love. I choose love in everything I think, feel, believe and do. I Am Love!

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