Friday, September 28, 2012

Fixing Democracy, Part 8

This is the next in a series of posts on how to make our democracy work better based on an article in The Intelligent Optimist magazine (formerly Ode) by Tom Atlee.


“Of course, such an implicitly powerful institution, even if randomly selected and temporary, requires thoughtful design and procedure to help it be wise and sustainable.  It shouldn’t be too large or too small—or deliberate for too long or too short a time. [Like Goldilocks’ porridge, it needs to be ‘just right’ and that will take some time and experimentation.]Like a trial jury, it needs legal and procedural safeguards to protect if from manipulation.  It needs dependable information—and help understanding that information. It needs good facilitation, and we need to ensure that the facilitation can’t be abused.


“We need to design these councils well. Then, as they are institutionalized and become more powerful, they join the list of democratic institutions—like elections and freedoms—that we need to protect. Public wisdom, like liberty, requires both good systemic design and constant vigilance. This is probably a different vision of democracy. To most people democracy involves thousands or millions of citizens discussing, advocating and voting on public issues. Truly, it does. But it also involves the society as a whole, acting together.


“Nowadays when individual citizens act together, they almost always act in partisan groups and so on—to elect candidates or push for public policies they favor. The latest trends in revitalizing democracy focus on mass participation—getting as many people as possible to do these things—to talk, to vote, to volunteer, to protest—the more the merrier. Mass public conversations, voter registration drives, online citizen input websites, voter information websites and other approaches seek to involve more and more individual citizens in informed civic activity.” That is all very important, but…..

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fixing Democracy, Part 7

This is the next in a series of posts on how to make our democracy work better based on an article in The Intelligent Optimist magazine (formerly Ode) by Tom Atlee.


“Speaking personally, I am one of the millions of citizens who just can’t keep track of the hundreds of issues and proposals. I am tired of the political spin and partisan battles that confuse me about what’s really going on and what’s at stake. I often yearn for groups like these citizen mini-publics to advise me on all the issues I read about and vote on. I long for them to have a powerful role in our society’s official decision making.


“I imagine what it would be like to have this informed, thoughtful voice of the people present in all our public discourse, speaking not just to citizens like me but powerfully to politicians, pundits, corporations and public officials.


“How different it would be to have members of such a panel, when they have completed their work, appear on talk shows to discuss what they came up with and what it was like to learn about the issue, talk with each other and act!


“How risky it would be for a talk show host to act like a jerk with them.  They wouldn’t be like other guests. The talk show host would be in conversation with We the People—and in a democracy, you don’t mess with an authentic, powerful We the People!”

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fixing Democracy, Part 6

This is the next in a series of posts on how to make our democracy work better based on an article in The Intelligent Optimist magazine (formerly Ode) by Tom Atlee.


“Therefore, a major activity of a democratic community is developing the attitudes, skills, supporting processes and institutions needed for people to engage creatively with their diversity, and discover creative consensus without compromise. In this process, communities leave domination and fragmentation (alienated individualism) behind.  Those dysfunctional approaches arise from a false dichotomy between the individual and the group. In fact, individuality and community are two facets of the same thing—our alive humanity.  Individuals and communities can only be whole and healthy when they nurture one another.


“The crucial fact is that our shared world has become so complex and speedy that keeping up with it is quite impossible for any individual citizen. Thus, each of us cannot effectively exercise our individual citizenship in any but the narrowest sense.  More and more, it looks like the only way we are going to be able to understand and effectively, creatively engage with our rapidly evolving world is through interactive, holistic forms of citizenship like citizen deliberative councils. These forms of citizenship are designed to generate collective intelligence—capacity to come up with effective responses, as a group, to the challenges that affect our [individual and] collective well-being.”

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fixing Democracy, Part 5

This is the next in a series of posts on how to make our democracy work better based on an article in The Intelligent Optimist magazine (formerly Ode) by Tom Atlee.

“As with trial juries, they speak with the voice of the whole—both symbolically and, if the are convened properly, actually. They become not only lay experts on the issue but an informed, deliberative microcosm of the whole public.  They speak with a certain legitimate authority about what the citizenry would want if everyone could and would engage in comparably sophisticated act of collective citizenship.


“Interestingly, a community of people (whether a group, a company, a town or a nation) is better equipped to be wise than an individual.  As individuals, we are inherently more limited than a community. Although we can consult books, friends and critics, in the end we are limited to our own single perspective.  We are, alas, only one person, looking at the world from one place, one history and one pattern of knowing. A community, on the other hand, can see things through many eyes, many histories and many ways of knowing.  The question is whether it dismisses or creatively utilizes and integrates that diversity.


“Communities are wise to the extent that they use diversity well, in a cooperative, creative interplay of viewpoints that allows the wisest, most comprehensive and powerful truths to emerge. The more we know how to nurture and use the rich diversity of individual views and capabilities within our society, the more wise and democratic our society will be. We will resist small-minded leadership and even the dictatorship of the majority. We will cherish dissent as a wise individual cherishes doubt, as a door to deeper understanding.”

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fixing Democracy, Part 4

This is the next in a series of posts on how to make our democracy work better based on an article in The Intelligent Optimist magazine (formerly Ode) by Tom Atlee.


“Most significant for our purposes here, Athens innovated a form of randomly selected mini-public responsible for recommending public policy.  Their boule contained 400-500 members chosen by lot from the whole body of citizens over 30.  These members served one-year terms [like a grand jury].  Among other important duties—including qualifying and reviewing officeholders—they reviewed and prepared measures for the vote of the citizenry in the assembly.


“In the past 40 years, people around the world have been experimenting with new forms of mini-publics containing from only 12 up to 200 randomly selected citizens for facilitated deliberations lasting from several days to several weeks spread over several months.  Their very existence creates a new deeper form of citizenship than we’re used to, and a new, more inclusive public voice in the political discourse.


“With time and support, the ordinary folks chosen for min-publics perform a near-ideal act of citizenship. They learn about an issue in depth from all sides.  They discuss it with folks who think differently than they do. And in those conversations with their fellow citizens and with experts and stakeholders, they come to informed, thoughtful conclusions about what should be done.”

Friday, September 21, 2012

Fixing Democracy, Part 3

This is the next in a series of posts on how to make our democracy work better based on an article in The Intelligent Optimist magazine (formerly Ode) by Tom Atlee.


“In addition to being more resistant to corruption, such panels constitute microcosms of the citizenry.  Individually, panel members are more like their fellow citizens than politicians are. In fact, they are ordinary citizens. Together—because of the way they are chosen—they embody the diversity, values and life experience of the whole community from which they were selected.  Note how different this is both from elected politicians and from participatory approaches that are based on whoever shows up.


“Used in this way—to create a microcosm of a community—random selection helps keep democratic processes fair and vibrant. Every citizen has an equal chance of being selected, and being selected is a great honor and responsibility shared by all.


“Random selection is not a wild new idea. It has a long and interesting history. Roughly 2,500 years ago, Athens’ democracy was run with a mix of direct democracy (all the citizens voting on everything in a big assembly) and random selection (they drew lots to fill 90% of the official positions in government).  They used elections only to choose their top generals and to fill Athens’ top financial positions.  They considered random selection fundamental to democracy—a sacred embodiment of fairness and citizen responsibility for the welfare of the whole community [not 47% or 99%].”

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fixing Democracy, Part 2

Today is the next in a series of posts on how to make our democracy work better based on an article in The Intelligent Optimist magazine (formerly Ode) by Tom Atlee.


“All of this does not add up to an environment that supports integrity, authenticity, openness and unfortunately, wisdom. Two strategies can help disrupt these dynamics: random selection and limited time in office.


“If decision makers are randomly selected and therefore unpredictable, neither they nor special interests can prepare to manipulate their power for personal of partisan gain. The lobbyists don’t know ahead of time whom to lobby.  And then, when decision makers are in power, their brevity in office gives less time for them to be lobbied and for the competitive pressures of politics and the dynamics of elite culture to erode their personalities and principles.


“Putting these two strategies together creates a new possibility for all citizens in a democracy: to delegate some of their decision-making power to temporary panels of randomly selected ordinary citizens. They are like juries, but they deal with public issues and policies instead of crimes and personal injuries.  They can be plugged into the existing political system in various ways.”

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fixing Democracy

Today begins a series of posts on how to make our democracy work better based on an article in The Intelligent Optimist magazine (formerly Ode) by Tom Atlee.  Atlee begins by discussing some of the difficulties we currently face.


“Ordinary people don’t have time to get informed on all the issues. So they delegate their decision-making power to politicians. Most politicians, by the nature of their jobs, tend to have big egos, big ambitions and big bank accounts (or at least the ability to please rich and powerful supporters). These qualities lend themselves to conflicts of interest and corruption as our politicians travel their path to power, and especially when they have finally achieved that power and want to use it and hold on to it.


“Rare is the politician who doesn’t want to be reelected—and reelection usually requires a significant amount of money and some compromise of integrity. From early on, politicians are surrounded by powerful special interests that gravitate to centers of concentrated power, bringing a lot of money, persuasion and demands with them. It is hard to ignore them when your political career is at stake.


“Even when a politician’s integrity remains mostly intact, he or she may soon become habituated to the privileges, obeisance, assumptions and fellowship that go along with power and the elite culture in which he or she has become embedded.  Furthermore, the intensely competitive atmosphere of business-as-usual politics—with its ongoing strategic pressures and often ruthless attack by opponents, the press and adversarial interests—cannot help but have an impact.”

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Seeing Shared Interests Where None Seem to Be

An excellent way to do what I wrote about last time, to, as Emerson said, “get your bloated nothingness out of the way of the divine circuits,” is to begin to see our interests as the same as other people’s and not see our interests as separate and apart from another’s.


This is obviously impossible in the ego framework where everything is different. But in the spiritual framework we do share the same interests—those of releasing the ego, awakening from its nightmare and realizing we are spiritual beings having earthly experiences.


I do not have to change the relationship I have with others and the world, I simply change the purpose my separate, ego specialness has given the relationship. Changing the form is irrelevant, it’s like going up to the movie screen to change the focus, it’s the mind’s shift of purpose from form and appearances to our shared content of awakening that matters.


It is this shift that makes the at-one-ment, God and our reality as spiritual beings real in our experience. Thus I do not have to decide for or against God, but simply to decide for or against you.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Darth Veder is an Opportunity

Last time I wrote: “The good news is: the force is with us, we have the power! Things need not be as they are. See Darth Veder as an opportunity. Do what it takes to accept the guidance of your god-given talents, desires and gifts, to share and express them and you will transform Darth Veder and make a contribution to a world that works for everyone and everything.”


That’s good, as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough. Here’s how I’d amend it:  “The good news is: the force is with us, we have the power! Things need not be perceived as they are. Look from your spiritual reality and see what your ego labels ‘Darth Veder’ as an opportunity. Joyously do what it takes to free yourself from the ego’s interpretation. Understand that the talents, desires and gifts you yearn to share and express are manifestation of spirit. Accept them joyously, as guidance, as your life purpose and goal; allow them to flow through you; express them and you will transform Darth Veder and make a contribution to a world that works for everyone and everything.”

Friday, September 14, 2012

Be the Change You Want to See

“Be the change you want to see.”

“We see the world, not as it is, but as we are.”

“To have a friend, be a friend.”

“Change your thinking, change your life.”

“I am, that I am.”


There’s a common thread in all these sayings. Which would you say it is?



The at-one-ment?

We are all one?

Life is an interconnected whole?

Projection makes perception?

Take responsibility?


The good news is: the force is with us, we have the power! Things need not be as they are. See Darth Veder as an opportunity. Do what it takes to accept the guidance of your god-given talents, desires and gifts, to share and express them and you will transform Darth Veder and make a contribution to a world that works for everyone and everything.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

In the Silence, Part III

But you can only claim the silence and the at-one-ment for yourself. You can’t do it for anyone else, nor can others learn only from your words or judgments. They learn most and best from your example, from the reality of your choice. When in a difficult situation with another, don’t ask spirit, “what shall I say to her?” Rather ask, “help me see this person from within the silence, through the eyes of truth (the at-one-ment), as a spiritual being having an earthly experience, not as a being trapped in a body.”


We pray and keep asking spirit to make us feel good here; to solve our problems here; to bring and end to pain and suffering here; give us things here. But things here do not last. Better to ask to change our thinking here, to shift figure/ground here—to let our special, ego needs recede into the background; and our spiritual reality move to the foreground.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

In the Silence, Part II

In the silence you get that all you really want is the silence itself—the peace, quiet, calm and blessed stillness. You understand if you could only live from this place, everything else would take care of itself, that you need nothing, but have an endless store of loving gifts to give. In the silence, you get that it’s about you, not everybody and everything else. You get that if you could just claim the silence and share your gifts, heaven would emerge and you would be in the world, but not of the world.

Monday, September 10, 2012

In the Silence, Part I

In the silence we find what’s necessary to continue living. The silence doesn’t ask us to deny our experience, but to choose a teacher who will help us realize we are never upset for the reason we think. Outside the silence, we believe there are choices in the world that have to be made. In the silence we get that there is only one true choice, the choice between teachers, between ego or spirit. In the silence we get that what we take to be unforgivable sin—choosing the ego over spirit, was only a mistake. In the silence we see that this mistake requires a simple correction—forgiveness instead of attack, spirit instead of ego, heaven instead of hell.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Be Still and Know

Be still and know that I am God*.


The great, famous and mysterious ‘I am;’ what God is said to have replied to Moses when Moses asked the burning bush how he, Moses, could know that it was truly God speaking to him from the flames.  “I am that I am,” the story has God saying.


One of the metaphysical interpretations and lessons of this is that God is what he says he is, and that being made in the image and likeness of God, the same is true for us. So, if I think, feel and say I’m sad, I am sad, and if I think, feel and say I’m happy, I’am happy. Lincoln is reputed to have said something similar -- most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. Thus, I am that I am.


If I identify with mySelf—with compassion, love, radiant good health, inclusion, fearlessness and creativity, then that is my experience of life. But if I identify with myself—with littleness, fear, hate, blame, sickness, disease, weakness and lack then that is my experience of life.  Who are you identifying with right now?


So be still and know that I am God means that when we are still, we know our true Self, our true Identity as spirit. In the inner stillness, all the ego clutter is gone and only spirit remains. Be still, let everything—thoughts, feelings and actions, go, hold on to nothing simply be still. Know that most of what we take to be reality is the raucous shrieks of the ego. When we are still, empty of ego, we are automatically one with spirit, and from that place, we may re-enter the world and with every need we perceive, turn within and have no fear for Its grace will suffices us.


*Dear readers, please know that in most instances, except when quoting the bible, when I refer to ‘God’ I’m not referring to an old, bearded white man sitting on a throne in the clouds surrounded by cherubs and angels. I’m referring to a malleable neutral power, a life energy, the substance and source of all that is and beyond all that is, the great Mystery of Life.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Winning and the Orchestra

In the current issue of the Intelligent Optimist magazine, which I highly recommend, Ben Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and co-author of The Art of Possibility, also talks about winners and losers in the same way I did in my last post.

Talking about the importance of intelligent optimism to creating winners, Zander asks if anyone knows a five year old pessimist? Most of us don’t. But, “around 6, children enter what I call the world of the downward spiral.  At school you start getting compared to other children, and suddenly it matters to parents that one child does better than another.  Before school, your family gets excited about everything you do. But then you get grades and with grades come fear and insecurity.


“There’s nothing objective about a grade. It’s an invented measurement to decide that one child is better than another. Of course that’s nobody’s intention. Everyone will say that education is about opening children’s hearts and minds to new experiences. But grades stand in the way. It is a devastating experience for a child. Unfortunately, from that time onward the deck is stacked against [winning as an] intelligent optimist.


“Most motivational material, images and metaphors are from war or competitive sports, from competitive situations where the aim is to kill or beat the other person. It’s extraordinary how many metaphors for war we have in our language.”


Zander offers the symphony orchestra as the metaphor for the future. “The aim of the orchestra is not to win; the aim is to make sure that every voice is heard. If both the trumpet and viola are to be heard, the trumpet has to listen to viola because the trumpet is much louder. This requires great discipline. An orchestra is a conversation about ‘we’.”


We need more stories about ‘we’, community, inclusion and cooperation; about both the individual and the community, not either the individual or the community. We need more metaphors from endeavors like the orchestra and less from war and competitive sports. We need a bit more both/and thinking, and less either/or thinking.  Of course, both kinds of thinking have a place. But clearly we’ve spent too much time and energy on the either/ or and it’s time for the pendulum to swing back towards the ‘we’ and both/and.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Winners and Losers, or Just Winners?

Last time I posted, I wrote about it’s not how the world is, but how we think about the world. Instead of coming from a mental/emotional place of stewardship, compassion, inclusion and at-one-ment, we come from a mental/emotional place of win/lose, either/or and duality. If we could know, and we can, that spirit has given us-- all of us-- dems and reps, black and white, male and female, free-loaders and hard workers, everything—that we all ready have everything, what would we do? Would we still struggle, strive and compete, or would we just share our talents, skills and gifts? Would the game of life be about winners and losers or simply about winning?


“In your own mind, though denied by the ego, is the declaration of your release,” the realization that we are one with spirit right now and not only have everything spirit has, but are everything spirit is.  “This one fact means the ego does not exist, and this makes it profoundly afraid.” To ease its fear and preserve itself, the ego will do everything it can to keep us identifying with it and its nightmare illusion of the world. It will give us cancer, start a war, and create the idea that some people are better than others and that there are winners and losers.


But each of these is an opportunity to awaken, to return to the decision maker in our minds and choose again, this time choosing spirit instead of ego. “In the ego’s language, ‘to have’ and ‘to be’ are different, but they are identical to spirit.” In our identity as spirit, we both have everything and are everything. We are one with our Source right now, always have been, always will be. The ego is a mistake, a mistaken choice. Part of us knows that right now. That’s the part we want to recognize, identify with and encourage. There’s nothing to prove, no hoops to jump thru and no waiting required. Just chose again, now.