In autumn 2019, I came down with what seemed to be an unshakable cold. The symptoms lingered for weeks, and then strange new symptoms began: saliva in my throat so thick I was clearing my throat 20 or 30 times each minute; hoarseness each time I spoke for more than a few minutes. A visit to my doctor offered no clarity. Two months in, I awoke one morning and suddenly couldn’t speak—the laryngitis lasted five days. It was Buffy’s “Hush” episode come to life, and just as distressing. However, given my journey since 2016, I knew something larger was at play here—that this “illness” didn’t happen randomly or in a vacuum.
To quote from the forthcoming book Resurrection (St. Martin’s Essentials), “The trajectory of a life has a patterning to it, and the soul in all ways is the keeper of this pattern, which simply means that what you have come to learn will be presented to you because you are in alignment to it. And these events of a life, which are there to support learning, will contribute to the full evolution of the soul.” [My emphases.] I understood from my journey that everything that happens to us—especially the events that our ego, or personality self, judges as “bad”—are really opportunities for learning, and despite the ego’s fear of change, this evolution is vital and necessary. As I have learned to do, I asked Spirit re: my illness, “Why am I having this experience?” and was guided to go back and look at my journal, where my inner being often speaks to me. In August 2019 I had written, “I feel the need to eat more whole foods.” Now, I have been a vegetarian my entire adult life, but one with a love of salt and a rabid sweet tooth. Though my meals seemed healthy, I also regularly consumed lots of chips and salsa and fried snacks, and no day was complete without a sugary latte, ice cream, cake or candy. Later in August, I noted in my journal that I strangely—for the first time in decades—did not want to eat anything sweet that day. I wrote later that this abstention from sugar lasted a week, during which time I felt great, but I soon went back to eating the way I always did.
Cue the “cold” that would not heal, the illness that flummoxed my doctor. I prayed and through guided research read about Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPR), also known as respiratory reflux, a condition to this day unfamiliar to many doctors. Bingo! I knew this was what I was experiencing and, in my head, Spirit spoke and told me that this was “a short-term challenge for your long-term gain.” This message and knowledge came with a “download” of information: I understood instantly that my healing would come by drastically changing my diet—specifically I stopped eating virtually all processed foods and cane sugar—and within weeks I was completely well.
(I won’t write at length about this here, but it’s important to note that much of our food supply on this planet, especially in the U.S., is tainted. Take for example a “healthy” food like almond milk. Here are the ingredients in my former favorite brand of almond milk, Califia: Water, Almonds, Calcium Carbonate, Sunflower Lecithin, Sea Salt, Natural Flavors, Locust Bean Gum, Gellan Gum, Potassium Citrate. Now I make my own nut milks, and here are the ingredients I use: raw unsalted nuts and water. And it tastes delicious.)
Note that I had been gently guided by Spirit to make these dietary changes back in August, and when I didn’t, Spirit gave me more of a nudge, via my illness, to make sure I ultimately did what was in my highest good. Though losing my voice, especially, was distressing, I AM SO GRATEFUL, SO THANKFUL, for this experience, because I feel lighter in my body now—and I understand why Spirit needed me to make these changes.
I do not share this to persuade anyone to make different dietary choices, though being mindful of how we fuel our precious body temples is a good thing. Rather, I wanted to share how one small thing that “happened” to me, that most people would see as a negative experience, was actually a blessing from Spirit. When we are incarnated in a body, we tend to see things only from that level. Meanwhile, our True Self, our spirit, has the higher view, the long view. So when we go through that illness, that divorce, that job loss, we fear change and we judge these occurrences as negative. But the True Self, with the long view, knows that the illness may teach you to stop taking the present moment for granted, may introduce you to wonderful, kind new people who enrich your life; the divorce may gift you with self-reliance, may lead you to a new partner; the job loss may lead you to more purposeful and soul-fulfilling work. As Kierkegaard said, “Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.” In other words, those “negative” experiences are always short-term challenges for our soul’s long-term gain—we choose whether we will meet them with fear, or love and compassion.
Many years ago, a friend described to me a job interview that had left him perplexed. In it, the hiring manager had asked him, “Who are you?”
My friend immediately began to list his “accomplishments”—his degrees, work experience, etc.
“That’s all well and good, but who are you?” the interviewer persisted.
My friend next rattled off pertinent info about his family and community—he was a son, a father, a brother, a husband, a Presbyterian.
“Yes, but who are you?” was the response.
Flummoxed, my friend gave up. (He didn’t get the job.)
Perhaps you can infer what this interviewer was getting at. Each of us, while incarnated here, takes on many templates, and the collective sum of them is who most of us think we are. For example, “I”—Tina— am a white woman, an American, a college graduate, a brunette, etc. In reality, though, I am none of those things. Rather, I am experiencing them. While here on earth, we have a built-in operating system, to borrow a term from technology, and this operating system—known as the ego, or personality structure—is who most of us think we are. The ego is not only what we think of as our personality, but also all of the subconscious programming we hold, such as childhood wounds, past-life experiences, karma, etc. The ego experiences everything through the lens of its programming, its five senses, its physical body, and takes actions accordingly. It also experiences everything in a linear fashion (the time/space continuum) and focuses on the past or future; its stock in trade is fear-based thinking: regrets, anger, desires, worries, what ifs, etc. A favorite thought pattern of the ego is judgment; judge yourself or judge others—the ego doesn’t care which! If and when you catch yourself thinking about how you are unworthy, undeserving, unlucky or not good enough (not rich enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough, etc.), or making similar judgments about someone else, you can be sure it’s the ego in action. And all of those thoughts and feelings stem from the same place: fear. Fear is really a synonym for the way we perceive everyone and everything in the world as separate from us.
This 3D, or separation consciousness, causes us to see lack, rather than abundance, in our own lives and on the planet. Let’s use immigration as an example. Some of the arguments against immigration include the following: What if these immigrants are criminals? What if my tax dollars have to support them? What if they take too many jobs from current citizens? What is each one of these arguments really saying? “I am afraid that someone may harm me or my loved ones. I am afraid there are not enough financial resources and jobs in this world to go around. I am afraid.”
Up until now on this planet, most of us have lived most of our lives thinking we are our egos, our small selves, so to speak. However, our True Self (call it soul/spirit, divine spark or whatever resonates with you) is who we truly are; it is the infinite being that is here having this experience. Our True Self exists in the present moment (scientists have proven that linear time is an illusion, and we exist only in an eternal present) and speaks to us not from the ever-chattering monkey mind but from our heart. We’ve all experienced intuition or gut feelings and deep within recognized them as the whisperings of our soul.
In theologian and Episcopal priest Cynthia Bourgeault’s wonderful book, The Wisdom Jesus, she explains that the teachings of Jesus are essentially a wisdom path, and that “The Kingdom of Heaven lies within” is a reference to our True Self, which sees things from a higher perspective—5D, or unity consciousness. Much of Christianity teaches that man is separate from God, sinful and in need of salvation, but this is a misunderstanding, and it results from those living in ego/duality consciousness trying to understand and teach non-duality. When we incarnate, the veil of ego allows us—Divine beings—to experience the illusion of separation so that we can ultimately experience again and again that rediscovery of Oneness, of unconditional love, of inclusivity. Unfortunately, for thousands of years, we’ve been walking around this planet thinking/believing we are the illusion, never quite awakening, pulling the veil from our eyes and discovering our Oneness.
Put another way, by Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, “Enlightenment is when a wave realizes that it is the ocean.” The True Self knows that we are each an expression of the Divine; each of us is a unique focal point of God, but we are all cells on the One body, so to speak. In that sense, there is no me. There is no you. There is only the One, experiencing Itself in infinite ways. And, so it follows, what is in the highest good of one of us is in the highest good of all of us. This notion of the highest good is one where the ego will often object; ego loves to see winners and losers, so I’ll share an example from my own life that illustrates this principle:
Early in my career, I had an entry-level, low-paying job. When there was a job opening in a different department that offered a lot more money and better benefits, I applied for it. I wasn’t particularly interested in the (marketing) work, but it certainly seemed sensible to try to “move up the ladder.” I had a wonderful 90-minute interview/conversation with the department head, at the conclusion of which he told me, “I know you could do this job. But I just don’t think it’s your passion. It’s not where you belong.” Someone else got the position. A few weeks later (and through Divine synchronicity, because our soul always has a bigger plan for our lives—though that’s another blog post), I was offered a job at another company—and this job was a dream job! Not only was the work fulfilling, but I made two of the best friends I’ve ever had there. The highest good of one (the person who got the marketing job) was also my highest good, even if it didn’t seem so when I wasn’t hired. And this is always the case, though often we (the small self) don’t understand this until much further down the road. Again, the True Self sees things from a higher perspective; our soul has the view from the mountain/long-term, while our small self only sees things from ground level/short-term. What is meant for us will never pass us by.
Unchecked, the ego keeps us in a prison of our own making. Deepak Chopra has a wonderful quote about most of us preferring the familiar—even if we are miserable in our lives—because we are so frightened of change. And when we fear change, we know who is calling the shots—good old ego. The True Self, the soul, on the other hand, fears nothing; it knows its eternal nature. One of my favorite quotes from A Course in Miracles speaks to this: “Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Therein lies the peace of God.” What the ego thinks of as “real” is merely an experience we are having to evolve our soul and learn lessons of love. When Einstein said, “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one,” he was speaking of this 3D world—a world that those of us incarnated here are in, but most definitely not of.
I’ve written previously of the opportunity the Universe has given us, via COVID-19 (it is the Universe telling us to go inside, not only literally but figuratively), and I want to return to that now, looking at it in terms of 3D/separation consciousness vs. 5D/unity consciousness. In this moment, the coronavirus is once again surging in many countries around the world, including the U.S. The world has been rife with discord between those who support(ed) a complete shutdown, and those who consider themselves rugged individualists who should have the right to choose. I have two thoughts about this I want to share:
1) If, when the virus first began spreading, every single one of us had isolated and always worn a mask during essential outings, it would likely have been eradicated in a few months. If every person who exercised his/her individual freedoms and socialized, etc., had instead chosen the collective good and stayed home, we would probably be through this by now. The highest good of one is the highest good of all, in this case because had those who didn’t want to isolate done it anyway, they would have more quickly found themselves back in a world with concerts, travel, etc. All of us would have reaped the benefits of quarantining as One body. Instead, choices made in separation/ego desire have led to the COVID experience continuing for us all, with no end in sight in this moment. I want to emphasize that I say this without judgment of those who have chosen not to quarantine, with only love and compassion for every being here on the planet, which brings me to
2) Our world is changing: It is moving from separation consciousness to unity consciousness. COVID is but one of many harbingers of this ascension. We have been experiencing a collective dark night of the soul on this planet. Chaos precedes evolution, and the ego/fear behavior run amok—whether it be maskless gatherings, racism, you name it—is literally all of this planet’s inhabitants’ collective wounds coming up to be seen and—more importantly—to be healed. And the healing has begun. It is happening individually, as many of us awaken. And we are seeing the seeds of it collectively every day in the way people around the world are becoming galvanized as forces of love in support of various causes. As the old question goes: How do you get world peace? You have a world full of people with inner peace. Inner transformation is key.
Let me be clear: I am not making a political statement. I (early) voted for Joe Biden, as his party’s policies most closely align with my intentions for a world where all are respected, cared for, loved—not only people, but all beings and the planet itself. But intention is what matters. One can just as easily vote Democratic from a place of fear and loathing as one can Republican. As Wayne Dyer said, “What you are for empowers you. What you are against weakens you.” This may seem like mere semantics, but it is not. One of the principles of spirituality that I live by is, “What you damn, damns you back. The action of fear is to claim more fear.” This does not mean condoning or excusing fearful behavior that causes harm to others, but it does mean understanding that “hurt people hurt people” and having compassion for those whose journeys are different from our own. There are no “sides.” Rather, there are two states of being: love and fear.
I think that most of us sense intuitively that the world is changing. Pain precedes growth and we are experiencing this individually and collectively. I don’t know how long this raising of our collective consciousness from 3D to 5D will take—years? Perhaps lifetimes. When it happens, what it will mean is that each of us has become integrated, i.e. all of the elements of our personality will be used in service of the Divine self. This True Self knows who we are; it knows our highest good, our heart’s truest desires. We think of surrender as a giving up, but surrendering to our True Self is actually the gateway to walking our highest path and living to our fullest potential. When we have a world where each of us is doing this, we will quite literally be experiencing heaven on earth.
I’ll close with part of a poem by Rumi that speaks eloquently on the topic of ego and soul:
Who Says Words With My Mouth?
All day I think about it, then at night I say it. Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing? I have no idea. My soul is from elsewhere, I’m sure of that, and I intend to end up there.
This drunkenness began in some other tavern. When I get back around to that place, I’ll be completely sober. Meanwhile, I’m like a bird from another continent, sitting in this aviary. The day is coming when I fly off, but who is it now in my ear who hears my voice? Who says words with my mouth?
Who looks out with my eyes? What is the soul? I cannot stop asking. If I could taste one sip of an answer, I could break out of this prison for drunks. I didn’t come here of my own accord, and I can’t leave that way. Whoever brought me here will have to take me home…
In my early 20s, when I first began exploring the big questions (Why am I here? What is the meaning of life?), there was one concept that I always found particularly horrifying: reincarnation. The notion that my lifetime as Tina was but one of hundreds or thousands of incarnations of my soul, that the pain and suffering that I had experienced in my lifetime (indeed, that each of us experiences while here) had been and would be repeated many times, was dire. I refused to accept it. “And if reincarnation is real,” I assured myself, “I have free will and I am not coming back! Who would choose this?”
As it turns out, I would. You probably did, too.
To explain how I reached a place of understanding that I am a divine spark, a thread of God consciousness that is incarnated here in this (illusion of) time and space having the experience of Tina to evolve my soul and be of service to others, and my knowledge that this is onlyone of many such experiences for my spirit, would take thousands of pages. But here in a nutshell is the understanding I have come to about reincarnation along the way:
The Universe is governed by laws. Most of us understand and accept this without thought, when it comes to the natural world. We know that gravity keeps our planets in orbit around the sun. We know that sun rises every morning and sets every evening. Plants and animals follow the cycles of the seasons. We can see that we exist in a marvelous, magnificently designed Universe. Yet many of us believe that this divine order does not extend to humans. Instead, if we believe in God, we often believe that horrible things happen in life and there is no understanding why. “Why do bad things happen to good people? Why are some people so lucky and others seem to get nothing but tough breaks? Why do some people live long lives and others die young? Why are some born into poverty and others wealth? Why are some so healthy and others beset with many illnesses? Why do we suffer?” These questions are often difficult to reconcile with our notion of a loving God. And that’s if we believe in God. Others of us feel that this must be all there is. We live and when the body dies, we cease to exist. “Life is very unfair at times, and that’s all there is to it,” many of us think.
However, if we view the “fairness” of life through the lens of reincarnation, we get a very different perspective. Here is what I have come to understand: Earth is, in effect, a school for our souls, in which we come to learn lessons about love. We exist eternally in the spirit world (call it what you will—heaven, 5D, the higher realms), and in that world we understand what we truly are: threads of consciousness, each created by God and literally made of God. What we are is energetic light beings of pure love. In 5D, there is no contrast—no fear, no duality. So we incarnate on earth (and part of incarnating is putting on a veil of forgetfulness so that don’t recall who we truly are) to experience the illusion of separation, i.e. the feeling that we are individuals, disconnected from others. It is this illusion of separation that allows us, when we do love, when we do help, when we do connect with others, to rediscover the joy of who and what we really are: Love. And sometimes our soul makes these discoveries through contrast, e.g. a soul might experience a real hardship so that, in overcoming it, it discovers its resilience and eternal nature. This is really key to understanding why “bad things” happen to us. We must understand that, no matter how painful something is as we experience it (and trust me, I know despair), the soul sees an opportunity for growth. As the proverb says, “All sunshine makes a desert,” and often it is only through hindsight that we can see that those “rainy times” are what helped us grow, developed our strength and character and compassion. And sometimes, what we experience was chosen, on a soul level, to help others grow. When we see someone else hurting, in need, they are offering us a chance to give love, understanding, compassion, help. And we all know that those times when we know we have truly made a difference are the times when we have tapped into the deepest, truest parts of ourselves.
To evolve, each soul wants a depth and breadth of life experiences, so it incarnates many times. It chooses long lives, short lives. It incarnates into bodies of different races, nationalities, sexes, sexual orientations, income levels, etc. I know that in my life, for example, all of the characteristics of Tina—my physical features, my talents, my personality, etc.—were all chosen by my soul to best help me achieve what my soul wanted to accomplish in this life. And what’s even more beautiful and amazing is that, on a soul level, we coordinate with one another. The plan wouldn’t work if we all came here as doctors or actors or farmers. Every single one of us is here contributing to the divine tapestry that we are collectively weaving; as each of us learns, gives love, and evolves our soul, we are also contributing to the highest good of all because, ultimately, there is only One of us here—God experiencing Itself in billions of different ways.
I am sharing my thoughts now because I know that for many of us, this is a time of great fear, and fear often brings feelings of powerlessness or hopelessness. I’ve written before of the opportunities the pandemic has been presenting, and the same is true for our larger world experience. The natural disasters in the U.S. and around the world, the fires, COVID, the polarized politics of us vs. them, all of these things and more are essentially a collective dark night of the soul for our planet. But. It’s important to remember that spiritual crisis precedes higher consciousness, and chaos precedes evolution. I believe that is what our planet is moving toward. It may not happen in our (present) lifetime, but it will happen. Every choice made in fear is a remnant of the old paradigm of separation, which sees lack and finite resources. Every choice made in love, from an open heart, lifts us up toward abundance and cooperation.
Finally, I’d just like to say that, whether we remember or not, each of us chose to incarnate here on Earth at this time. In some ways, I feel like we are each on a service mission—we knew the going would be tough, but we wanted to be part of making this world a better place. I think each of us is pretty brave for being here at this time. Namaste.
P.S. For anyone looking to read uplifting spiritual material at this time, I highly recommend The Light Between Us by Laura Lynne Jackson and Alchemy by Paul Selig.
Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.
Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.
If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.
Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.
We are, collectively and individually, experiencing one of the great challenges of our lifetimes. In a world where most of us strive for “control,” this uncertainty has made many of us feel fearful…and powerless. But are we? I believe that what we are experiencing is the opportunity of our lifetimes: an invitation to–both literally and metaphorically–go inside and examine the kind of life we want to live, and the kind of world we want to live in, once we have whethered this challenge. I believe it is a choice between love and fear, and we make this choice over and over again every day, using our free will. Necessarily, then, that first requires an understanding of free will.
Philosophers have parsed the meaning of free will for centuries. My perspective on free will and the notion that God has a plan for each of us in this lifetime is this: First off, I think of “God’s plan” as being synonymous with our soul’s plan—it’s an acknowledgement that Spirit has a plan for our journey in this lifetime. I believe that our soul creates this plan for us before each lifetime (and yes, I believe we live many lives, if we so choose), in conjunction with our spirit guide(s)/angels/the God Force, etc. The plan includes many particulars: where and when we are born, our parents, other key relationships and much more. Our soul plan also includes numerous “points of fate,” as Laura Lynne Jackson calls them, events in our lives that are meant to happen (meetings—whether they be a single interaction or a longer relationship, careers, many other things). I believe that there are NO coincidences. I believe that Earth is a school for our souls and we have each come here with a plan to discover our unique gifts and use them in service to love. “We’re here having a collective lesson in love,” as Jackson says.
Now, here is how I define free will: THE ABILITY TO CHOOSE OUR THOUGHTS, OUR WORDS AND OUR ACTIONS IN EVERY MOMENT OF OUR LIVES. To paraphrase A Course in Miracles, we do not get to choose the curriculum, or even the form in which the lesson comes; we DO get to choose when we learn it. We’ve all experienced times when we haven’t followed our intuition, or when we’ve made fearful choices, and in those times the lessons/our lives get harder. My understanding is that our soul plan for each lifetime is like an “almost infinite flow-chart” of sorts: in every moment, our thoughts/words/actions determine how we move forward on our soul path. Our soul, of course, sees no choices as right or wrong; every choice will bring learning and evolve our soul, moving us toward our ultimate enlightenment. BUT, there definitely are higher and lower paths. If we consistently choose loving thoughts/words/actions, then we walk our highest path. We will still face challenges, but we will know they are happening FOR us and embrace them as opportunities for growth. If we consistently choose from the lower vibration of fear (and we’ve all made those choices—we are human and we will all make fearful choices, and must forgive ourselves—if we could have done better in a given moment, we would have, and we take that lesson learned and are now free to choose again in a more loving way), the lessons will be more painful. But, whether we learn “the hard way, or the easy way,” our soul’s flow chart will still get us to all of the points of fate that we are meant to experience. It’s my experience that we WILL follow our soul plan, and I think that is where the notion of a lack of free will or limited free will comes into play for some people. Again, A Course in Miracles explains it beautifully: We do not get to choose the curriculum; merely when we learn it.
I believe that the coronavirus is an invitation to each of us to rise up in love, to be gentle and kind and compassionate to others, and to ourselves. If we collectively choose loving thoughts, words, and actions, we will not only survive this challenge, we will thrive like never before. We will do it together.
If, in these unprecedented times, anyone is looking for uplifting reading materials related to these topics, I highly recommend Marianne Williamson’s classic book A Return to Love (she’s actually reading it aloud daily on her YouTube channel), Laura Lynne Jackson’s The Light Between Us, and Robert Schwartz’s Your Soul’s Plan. Again, lots of love to all.
Most of us recall E. B. White (1899-1985) as the author of the classic children’s novels Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web. However, White was also an accomplished nonfiction writer, and recently serendipity led me to his essay “Freedom.” Published in July 1940, “Freedom” was White’s warning about the totalitarian threat to democracy. While reading it, I was struck by how completely his words on Hitler and Nazism also describe Trump and the fascist danger we are facing in the U.S. right now. White’s message is beautiful and important, so I felt compelled to include some extensive excerpts here. His closing thoughts on freedom of the press ring with truth–and are especially poignant in light of the recent brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Please read…and then, vote, volunteer, be a beacon for love and kindness and help wherever you can.
I have often noticed on my trips up to the city that people have recut their clothes to follow the fashion. On my last trip, however, it seemed to me that people had remodeled their ideas, too–taken in their convictions a little at the waist, shortened the sleeves of their resolve…I confess to a disturbed stomach. I feel sick when I find anyone adjusting his mind to the new tyranny which is succeeding abroad. Because of its fundamental strictures, fascism does not seem to me to admit of any compromise or any rationalization, and I resent the patronizing air of persons who find in my plain belief in freedom a sign of immaturity. If it is boyish to believe that a human being should live free, then I’ll gladly arrest my development…
Men are not merely annihilating themselves at a great rate these days, but they are telling one another enormous lies, grandiose fibs…They seemed to me to issue either from persons who could never have really come to grips with freedom so as to understand her, or from renegades. Where I expected to find indignation, I found paralysis, or a sort of dim acquiescence, as in a child who is duly swallowing a distasteful pill…
THE LEAST A MAN CAN DO AT SUCH A TIME IS DECLARE HIMSELF AND TELL WHERE HE STANDS. I believe in freedom with the same burning delight, the same faith, the same intense abandon which attended its birth on this continent more than a century and a half ago…I am in love with freedom and it is still an affair of long standing and it is a fine state to be in, and…I am deeply suspicious of people who are beginning to adjust to fascism and dictators…
To be free, in a planetary sense, is to feel that you belong to earth. To be free, in a social sense, is to feel at home in a democratic framework. In Adolph Hitler…we do not detect either type of sensibility. From reading his book I gather that his feeling for earth is not a sense of communion but a driving urge to prevail. His feeling for men is not that they coexist, but that they are capable of being arranged and standardized by a superior intellect–that their existence suggests not a fulfillment of their personalities but a submersion of their personalities in the common racial destiny. To him the ordinary man is a primitive, capable only of being used and led. He speaks continually of people as sheep, halfwits, and impudent fools–the same people from whom he asks the utmost in loyalty, and to whom he promises the ultimate in prizes.
Here in America, where our society is based on belief in the individual, not contempt for him, the free principle of life has a chance of surviving. I believe that it must and will survive…
I am inordinately proud these days of the quill, for it has shown itself historically, to be the hypodermic which inoculates men and keeps the germ of freedom always in circulation…These persons are feared by every tyrant–who shows his fear by burning the books and destroying the individuals. A writer goes about his task today with the extra satisfaction which comes from knowing that he will be the first to have his head lopped off–even before the political dandies. In my own case this is a double satisfaction, for if freedom were denied me by force of earthly circumstance, I am the same as dead and would infinitely prefer to go into fascism without my head than with it, having no use for it any more and not wishing to be saddled with so heavy an encumberance.
“Everything you are against weakens you. Everything you are for empowers you.” Wayne Dyer
Since the tragic events of last weekend in Charlottesville, and the president’s subsequent defense of the indefensible, citizens across the country–liberals and conservative alike–are filled with negative emotions: anger, fear, revulsion, horror, anxiety. On TV, on social media, anywhere that people gather to share ideas, we are being urged to speak out against racism, against the president…to take a stand against all of the divisive, hateful and violent acts occurring across the country. While I understand the sentiment, to me, it makes much more sense to do the opposite. Wait…………here’s what I mean:
It has been proven that what you think about expands. One negative thought usually begets another, creating a loop of negative thoughts in the mind. Conversely, if you reach for the thought that feels better, the positive thought, it, too, will beget more of the same. After the last presidential election, I felt devastated, disenfranchised and awash in feelings of sadness and grief. The solution, for me, was to change my thinking. Instead of being anti-Trump, and focusing on his thoughts and actions, I focused on my thoughts, and framed them as affirmations: I am pro-immigration; I am pro-equal rights for all; I am for decency, humanity, empathy, kindness, love. I took actions that supported my thoughts, making donations and/or offering other support to organizations that rescue women and children from traffickers, organizations that empower women economically, etc. I know that all of my thoughts and words and actions have power, and I want to use them to support what I believe in. Rather than feeling sad and helpless, I now feel powerful…I am powerful.
Perhaps what I am saying sounds like mere semantics. However, think about this: If you were a soldier going to fight in WWII, which would have motivated you more, and brought out your greatest good: Going to fight against the Nazis? Against authoritarianism and atrocities? Or going to fight for the country and the people you love? For democracy and freedom? For the protection and benefit of your fellow man? For all that you believe to be morally right and decent and necessary?
Positive change comes from positive actions. Positive actions come from positive thoughts. Negativity breeds more of the same. If we change our thinking, we will change the world.
I was blessed to spend Valentine’s Day 1990 in Hawaii, and it was there that I discovered what was, to me, the most beautiful place on earth: Kalapana Black Sand Beach. Located on a remote part of the Big Island, it was not a tourist spot, and its isolation and sparse population allowed one to truly absorb the landscape. My words can never do justice to the beach’s vista of sky, sand, surf and coconut palms; indeed, these photos only hint at its treasures. One of its most unexpected delights was the flock of chickens and roosters that skittered through the grove of palms. I have been fortunate to see nature’s majesty in many locations, but no place has ever touched my soul, my spirit, quite like Kalapana did that day.
I feel doubly blessed to have visited when I did, as a few months later the volcano Kilauea erupted and its lava flow swallowed the beach. Now, some 25+ years later, the ocean is again turning Kalapana’s lava to sand. As Lao-Tzu said, “Water is fluid, soft and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield…this is another paradox: what is soft is strong.”
There is a lesson there for all of us… Happy Valentine’s Day.
Like so many women (and minorities, and the LGBT community, and immigrants, and anyone else who has ever felt the sting of discrimination or marginalization), I am still reeling from the outcome of Tuesday’s election. Millions of eloquent words have already been written in an effort to parse the unthinkable and help us come to terms with the fact that we have gifted the most important job on earth to a man devoid of character and intelligence, whose brand is hate and exclusion, and whose tools of the trade are bullying and bombast and abuse, so I won’t rehash that here, except to reiterate that sexism and misogyny (both latent and overt) were two of the election’s driving factors. Likewise, this is not an ode to Hillary Clinton, either, though anyone acquainted with me knows that I admire her fiercely and mourn that our country will not be able to avail itself of her leadership and compassion when both are so sorely needed. Rather, this debacle (and btw, 2016, you are an absolute bastard) has me thinking once again about what it means to be a woman, and particularly a feminist, in America, and that’s what I’m addressing here.
Reading the Slate article immediately reminded me of a quote from singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash: “When I…moved to Nashville,” she recalled, “the first record exec I met said, ‘Well now, we just have to make this girl fuckable.’” As anyone with a modicum of knowledge about country music is aware, Cash is one of the most gifted artists of her generation, and her talents were immediately evident. However, in this exec’s eyes–and sadly, in the eyes of many men, even today–she was a commodity, and her only true worth was her fuckability. Ergo, if men do not want to go to bed with us, then we women have no value.
To state the obvious, women are not merely collections of body parts designed for pleasure and service. We are human beings, each of us unique and complex…and one aspect of that uniqueness is our sexuality. Working in tandem with the view of women as objects is the stereotype that women who dare to breach traditional gender boundaries are man-haters, and/or physically undesirable. Well, I am a feminist, and I love men. Let me say that again: I love men. I LOVE THEM SO MUCH THAT I WRITE ROMANCE NOVELS. They are LITERALLY the heroes of my work. I just happen to believe that women are entitled to political, social and economic equality. And you know what? That belief doesn’t make me unfuckable. I’m a feminist, and I’m also feminine. The terms aren’t mutually exclusive. I like Italian heels and French lingerie and if you saw me on the street you’d never know that I am a feminist. If you took the time to look closely, you’d see more than body parts; you’d see a woman, multifaceted and flawed. You’d see someone you could learn from, as well as teach. You’d see an ally, not an enemy. You can’t fathom all of the wonderful things you would see. The same is true for EVERY SINGLE WOMAN ON THIS EARTH.
I can’t presume to speak for all feminists–we are as diverse as women are diverse. But I am compelled to state, in light of the devastating blow ALL women took this week (even those self-labeled “adorable deplorable”s oblivious to this gargantuan equal rights setback), that I am proud to be a feminist. I’m never going to stop believing in the value of women and girls. BUT. I also refuse to let anyone take away my sexuality. I refuse to be labeled as a man-hater, or forced to forfeit my desires. The “unfuckable feminist” is a propaganda tool, and an admittedly handy stereotype. It is NOT, however, reality.