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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Declaration of Human Responsibilities

We are all familiar with the "Declaration of Human Rights" - well with that title anyway. It may be a while since any of us have read it! But I recently came across the article below which comments on the attempt to generate an officially recognized Declaration of Human Responsibilities. Very challenging food for thought. (Bold type added by me) :
GordonBy Gordon Dveirin
Our Moment to Act:
Conscious Evolution and the Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities
“Conscious evolution means that humans commit our life energy to making this planet a better place to live for all sentient beings.” Allen M. Schoen, Kindred Spirits
Implicit in the concept of conscious evolution is an ethical orientation, a guide to wise and compassionate action that naturally flows from our felt kinship with, and reverence for, the richly diverse and interdependent life that springs from the one great source with its infinitely creative potential. When we have widened the circle of our concern to this degree, embracing all that lives and the sacred life force itself, we awaken from what Einstein called “the optical delusion of separateness” and the selfishness it begets. In its place, the higher, creative intelligence from which life’s fullness springs begins to inform us and we are empowered to act not only freely and spontaneously, but also responsibly, sensitively, in synergy with others for the good of the whole. Imagine what our world can be like if we all, individually and collectively, rise to this level, with global conscience serving as our guide. Imagine what our future can be when we’ve agreed to act according to the Golden Rule that underlies all the world’s religions, doing toward all others, human and non-human alike, only as we ourselves would be done to.
This is not being fanciful. Beginning this autumn of 2011, as conscious evolutionaries, we will all have an opportunity to take an active step toward such a future by supporting a revived initiative to have the Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities officially adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. This effort began 14 years ago in an attempt to balance the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was adopted in 1948 in time for its 50th anniversary. The initial effort failed because mostly Western countries felt that responsibilities interfered with unrestricted freedom.
Individualism and laissez faire competition at any cost have been our Western way of defining freedom since the Industrial Age began. But the cost is becoming unbearable, leading to a “tragedy of the commons” on a global scale. For example, twenty per cent of our beloved fellow species will be extinct in less than thirty years if we don’t change our destructive patterns of behavior. As former president Bill Clinton said at a recent meeting in Quebec City, the days of win/lose in our deeply interdependent world are over. Win/win or lose/lose are now the only remaining options. Without shared responsibility to respect and protect one another’s rights and dignity, those rights and that dignity will not be protected and preserved.
The Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities is important, and we can all lobby our government representatives and each other to support its passage by the UN General Assembly. As fellow evolutionary leaders who recognize the flourishing future that wants to be born through us as our deepest impulse, we invite you to join us in this effort.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The World is a Wall St

I have become much more political in recent years! I used to think politics was an area completely out of my league. But it's hard to leave it all in the "too hard basket" when seeing the courage of protestors in Libya, Syria, Egypt, Palestine... as they are prepared to give their lives to bring about justice and some level of true democracy. And closer to home are the recent Wall St protests against corporate greed and its crippling effects on "the 99%". These protests have spread to many countries around the world - including New Zealand. I wouldn't be surprised if you haven't heard about those gatherings in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Invercargill and New Plymouth on October 15th. I hadn't either until the day before. The media didn't seem too keen to let us know! Even catching up in retrospect can generate some careful thought as we (in NZ) approach a general election. Check out these articles: The World is a Wall St  and Corporate Greed Protests Spread Around the World

And as for the coming general election I want to give my party vote to a party whose underlying values I can say yes to with integrity. Election hype makes it hard to know what are the baseline motivators for the "promises" and "policies" that all sound so good on the surface. For several years now I have been impressed by the Green Party charter - and just as importantly - how it is actually lived out by Green Party MPs. So this election my Party Vote will once again go to the Green Party. In case you haven't made up your mind yet here's their charter:

The charter is the founding document of
The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand.
The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand accepts Te Tiriti o Waitangi as the founding document of Aotearoa New Zealand; recognises Maori as Tangata Whenua in Aotearoa New Zealand; and commits to the following four Principles:
Ecological Wisdom:
The basis of ecological wisdom is that human beings are part of the natural world. This world is finite, therefore unlimited material growth is impossible. Ecological sustainability is paramount.
Social Responsibility:
Unlimited material growth is impossible. Therefore the key to social responsibility is the just distribution of social and natural resources, both locally and globally.
Appropriate Decision-making:
For the implementation of ecological wisdom and social responsibility, decisions will be made directly at the appropriate level by those affected.
Non-violent conflict resolution is the process by which ecological wisdom, social responsibility and appropriate decision making will be implemented. This principle applies at all levels.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Disability and Ducks!

I have had a very inspiring morning attending a "Journey for Change" presentation at the Auckland cbm office. CBM used to be called Christian Blind Mission. It has a 100 year history and is now involved with many other types of disability in 13 countries, so the name/logo is now simply cbm. Check out their website here. I was inspired to be reminded yet again how easily we - who in world terms are rich - can contribute to changing the life of a child or adult who is living with a disability and in poverty. Disability + poverty = almost no chance for a full life. Disability + poverty + being a child = loneliness, rejection and limited opportuntities for education or being seen as a valued person with abilities. cbm changes lives every day - every 47 seconds in fact! Somewhere in the world a person is given back their sight by a cataract operation every 47 seconds. For an adult this costs $35 dollars. For a child the amount is $230. I had cataract surgery myself a few years ago and it was many times that amount!

Thursday 13th October is World Sight Day - which I didn't know until this morning!

So where do ducks come in? Well driving home from cbm there was a mother duck with about ten tiny ducklings crossing the busy road with traffic coming both ways. All the traffic stopped until the mother had shepherded her flock safely across the road. I couldn't help thinking how compassionately we cared about a mother duck and her "children" and wondered if we do the same for mothers in poverty who desperately want fullness of life for their children - children like Justine and Ben.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Narnia with Archbishop Rowan Williams

If you are a Narnia fan you will appreciate three excellent lectures by Archbishop Rowan Williams which can be downloaded here. The lectures are entitled: 
1. Not a tame lion 
2. I only tell you  your own story
3. Bigger inside than outside
The Archbishop masterfully covers most of the Narnia chronicles and draws out themes that cover Christian theology in a way that is as engaging for adults as the original stories were (and still are) for children.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Listen! (a free download)

Spiritual Directors' International publish a free broadsheet called Listen every six months. The current issue can be downloaded here. For many other helpful resources go to the SDI home page.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Strong at the Broken Places

(First published in Reality. Re-reading this today in the face of many people close to me suffering, as well as millions of others world-wide, I stand by what I wrote 15+ years ago and find these perspectives personally helpful - having long since forgotten what I wrote back then!)

I've been thinking about pain and suffering quite a bit lately. 
CS Lewis's famous book on the subject is called The Problem of Pain. Why are pain and suffering a problem? Silly question? I don't think so. The answers we give to it are revealing. (If you can resist reading on, stop and give your own answer first).

Generally I think there are three main reasons why suffering is a problem:
         *Suffering is a problem because we can't understand how a God who is loving and powerful could let it happen. (The WHY question).
         *Suffering is a problem because it hurts; it disrupts life and we don't know how to cope. (The HOW question).
         *Suffering is a problem because it seems so pointless. If we could see a constructive purpose it wouldn't be so bad. (The WHAT FOR question).

Now the last thing I want to do with a subject as complex as this is to sound simplistic. There are no pat answers for anyone in the midst of the dark valley of physical, emotional or relational pain. One of things I find hardest myself is the sheer helplessness I feel as I sit with someone who is suffering and know that I can't make it better.

Yet as I consider the three problems above I can't help wondering whether suffering brings us face to face with the very essence of Christian faith. The Apostle Paul said that ultimately there are only three things that abide: faith, hope and love.[i] We need them all to come through suffering constructively.

The WHY Question and Faith.

Why does a loving God allow such awful suffering to happen? Theologians for centuries have grappled with this one! Some of their reasoning is helpful. Some of it makes a person in pain want to scream! In the end I don't think the question can be answered by logic, only by faith.

We can't possibly understand all the interrelated dynamics of God's sovereignty, human choices, a fallen world and the suffering of innocent people. Most of the questions we ask about all of this are the wrong ones I suspect! But what we do know is that God is loving. That non-negotiable fact is what we are called upon to trust no matter what we may be feeling.

A nine year old friend of mine provides a human analogy. He recently had his tonsils out. When he discovered after the operation how painful it was and how sick he felt, he was very very angry with his parents for "making me have this operation". He could not logically understand why it had to be this way. He was free to be angry. But he did not reject his parents and their love! In fact he relied on the constancy of their care in the midst of his pain and anger. His trust in them at the very time he could not understand why, was crucial.

Our faith in the nature of God is revealed when we face the agonising 'why' questions. If we can say (even through gritted teeth) "I don't understand it but I trust you" we are on solid ground.

The HOW Question and Love.

A person in the midst of suffering doesn't usually want theological arguments so much as the loving companionship of friends. Sheila Cassidy's excellent book Sharing the Darkness depicts this beautifully in a series of illustrations showing first a professional in the uniform of a "helper", next the same person in ordinary garb just like the sufferer and finally both sufferer and "helper" naked and vulnerable to the pain.

Dealing with the pain and disruption that suffering brings is made more manageable by the knowledge that we are loved and companioned in the midst of it. Usually we want and need the tangible love of other people who will, as Cassidy suggests, be vulnerable with us. But with or without this human support we desperately need to know the love of God. And tragically, so often this is the time when God is seen as the enemy, the heartless bystander. Yet all the time God weeps with us. Stripped and broken, hanging alongside us on the cross, Jesus is, as Peter Kreeft puts it, "the tears of God".[ii]

I know of nothing more important to communicate to a person in pain than this: Jesus suffers with you because he loves you. Everyone who has loved someone will know that when a loved one suffers your own heart is torn. God's heart is no less tender.

Antionette Bosco relates how she realised that the HOW question was more significant than the WHY question when a wise person said to her: "The question you must ask is, 'How do I come to find peace out of my pain?' ... You can only do this by walking into your grief and accepting the mystery knowing that He is with you."[iii]

The WHAT FOR Question and Hope.

That last quote ushers in the third question. Is there any purpose in all this? What is it for? If we are to walk right into the depths of our pain and accept it, we need to have some hope that it makes sense to do so. Human beings can survive a great deal if they have hope, as numerous stories from the holocaust remind us.

What hope can we cling to when suffering seems impossible to understand and our limits of coping seem to have been reached? I suggest that it is the ultimate hope of the great gospel principle that after death comes resurrection.

I am not primarily talking about physical death, though the principle certainly holds true there.  No, rather I mean the constant discovery of the life-death-resurrection principle in all the numerous "little deaths" (and sometimes big ones) that suffering brings.

A wonderful, and very down to earth, friend of mine has suffered a lot in recent years. Recently she said to me: "You know I realise that something in me has died - that old part of me that was always saying 'What about me?''I've had enough' 'I'm not putting up with this any more'. Somehow that's gone and I'm bigger inside. I can't explain it - and I certainly didn't make it happen, but yes, it's as if I am bigger inside. God has carved out a place in me that wasn't there before."

Ernest Hemingway wrote: "Life breaks us all and afterwards many are strong at the broken places."[iv]  A realistic, yet hopeful statement. Suffering sometimes does break us. The breaking is real and agonising. Yet the gospel hope is that by God's grace it is at the very points of brokenness that new life and strength can emerge. Jesus demonstrated it, Paul proved it in his experience[v] and so have countless others through the centuries. The same hope is ours to grasp.

Suffering is a problem for most of us. We don't yet "consider it nothing but joy" along with James.[vi] We find it hard to join Paul in saying we are "content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamaties for the sake of Christ".[vii] But we can inch closer to what they hold out to us as we take a firmer grasp of the three things which abide:
         * faith in a God we can trust even when we can't understand;
         * love surrounding us from Jesus who is vulnerable with us;
         * hope that even the most painful "death" carries within it the seeds of resurrection life.

The God who is Love has made such careful provision for even the hardest aspects of our human journey. Supported by such a God we can look forward to becoming strong at the broken places.

[i] 1 Cor 13:13

[ii] Peter Kreeft Making Sense Out of Suffering (Servant, 1986)
[iii] Antionette Bosco The Pummeled Heart (23rd Publications, 1994) p 38
[iv] Ernest Hemingway A Farewell to Arms (Scribners, 1987)
[v] 2 Cor 12:10
[vi] James 1:2

[vii] 2 Cor 12:10