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Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

MEMORIAL DAY

           Memorial Day is the federal holiday established to honor those who died fighting for the United States. It is not clear how the holiday originated (hard to believe in the modern age) with many cities claiming to have had the first celebration for the fallen. Tradition states that it began in Charleston, SC in 1865 with a celebration by newly freed slaves to honor those who died in the Civil War to free the slaves. Whether the national holiday grew from that or other memorials for the fallen soldiers, Memorial Day has grown to be one of the major holidays of the US, at least in part because it unofficially marks the beginning of the summer.

            The irony is that it would seem that we only pay this holiday lip service as we continue to lose soldiers in conflict all around the world. One would think that any intelligent life would recognize the effects of violence on itself and cease perpetuating death and violence. How many orphans does it take to stop war? How many PTSD cases does it take to stop violence? When will we stop the idea that violence is a solution for any problem?

            My father graduated from the United States Military Academy (West Point) in 1945 and joined the occupational forces in Europe for three years following surrender by Germany. To this day he is apologetic about not being a part of the actual war against Germany. When he is asked if he served during World War II, he goes into a long story about not actually fighting Germans but he did have a violent incident with Russian troops. A more telling story is how kind and gentle he was before he went to West Point; and how angry and driven he was after that experience. Until the US Military Academy accepted women, graduates of West Point were quick to point out that the experience of going to West Point makes men out of boys. I am not sure what the tag line is now, but I shudder to think how many sweet, kind and gentle teenagers were transformed into killing machines and then unleashed upon an unsuspecting public without any deprogramming. This process continues unto this day.

            The affects of military service is overwhelming our VA hospitals and becoming more and more of a problem with PTSD and chemical warfare poisoning, not to mention the physical damage many wounded warriors have to live with. How much suffering do we have to experience before we stand up and cry “ENOUGH”! It is clear that we are losing the war against terrorism. A case in point is the Boston Marathon bombing. The lone surviving terrorist was sentenced to death several times over. One death will never repay the damage done to the victims of that day. Ironically enough, death is what the surviving terrorist wanted; now he gets to go to heaven and have 72 virgins. Somehow something is not computing.

            The truth is the wars that we are waging in other countries will likely bankrupt our country. We spend trillions of dollars in research every year on how to kill our enemies better. We could simply buy our enemies lock stock and barrel more cheaply. I am not suggesting that we do that, but I am questioning why we spend so much money on death and violence. Having the biggest and most deadly weapons in the world has not kept us safe.

            This Memorial Day we have to wake up and become more conscious about what we are doing as individuals and as a nation to perpetuate the fallen. We are the victims of our own device. There is too much money flowing into the hands of those that profit at war. There is too much disinformation being fed to us by politicians that want us to continue funding war and violence.

            I believe that we should honor our fallen and demand an end to war by whatever means are available. We have the resources, technology and intelligence to do so. We are funding both sides of every conflict currently waging in the world. We are so afraid that nations will turn on us if we don’t fund their violence that we have sold our grandchildren’s destiny to continue the fighting. We need to stop making weapons of mass destruction. We need to clean up our mess. We need to stop sending soldiers into harm’s way. We need to learn the lessons of our past so that we do not repeat them. The world will not support the status quo much longer. We either have to chose freedom or totalitarianism. We have to choose peace. 

Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

PRACTICING NON-VIOLENCE

             I had an experience with another driver several years ago. The driver had tailgated me for miles, and then passed me on the right of a four lane local road and cut me off at an intersection. I blared my horn at him to let him know how much I did not appreciate his aggressive driving. He got out of his car and started screaming at me and I actually thought I might have to defend myself. The traffic light turned green and he got back in his car and drove off at a dangerously high speed.

            Why did I create this event for my own enlightenment?  Ah, now there is the interesting question. I have to take responsibility for the fact that I create conflict with others in order to create attention. I did not have to blare my horn. The karma of that driver’s aggressive driving would catch up to him sooner than later. My superficial purpose was to help him see where he might need to look at his behavior. That is the superficial rationalization of a lot of my behavior. In fact, I was failing to realize that people I claim to want to help are only mirroring back to me what I need to change about my behavior.

            When we were children, we quickly found out that if we didn’t get attention by getting good grades and behaving politely, we could get attention by acting out, throwing temper tantrums, and eventually behaving in an anti-social manner. I am guilty of all of the above. I am an over-achiever with a guilt complex. Being a very clever fellow I have reduced my anti-social behavior and only occasionally throw temper tantrums in the privacy of my head. Instead, I subtly create conflict so that people have to pay attention to me. I could pass it off as being a type-A Leo, but hanging around spiritual teachers has forced me to look at my behavior and motivations more closely.

            It has been pointed out to me that one of my subtle forms of negative behavior is telling inappropriate jokes and making inappropriate comments that on some level I know will offend others. Up until now I rationalized this behavior by thinking I was helping people see where their issues were, known as pushing their buttons. I even thought I was being funny. Actually I was engaged in a very subtle violence towards people I said I loved. At times it became an art form of emotional terrorism. Now that I am aware of it, I have stopped this. This doesn’t mean that I will stop telling jokes. What it means is that I have to raise my level of self-analysis regarding the appropriateness of my behavior and my motivation.

            Another means of unconscious violence is gossip. When we pass judgment upon others with another person, we are conducting a violent campaign against the energy of that person that is really just a mirror of ourselves. I make every effort not to gossip about others, but sometimes I fall into the trap of character assassination. I rationalize it by pretending concern about the other person or “gathering information.” I know instantly when I realize that I am gossiping because I get a sick feeling in my stomach. Maybe I am starting to understand that I am talking about a reflection of myself.

            The piece that was missing was the realization that I was actually committing the violence against myself. I did not realize that when people state that my articles, behavior or jokes offended them, I was actually talking to myself.  I did not understand that when I was talking about someone else I was really talking about myself. There is the subtlest form of self-destruction, committing violence against myself and not even realizing it.  I kept missing this aspect of my behavior.  Spiritual principles state that what we become aware of will change. What we are not aware of will not change. I am truly aware that this behavior must change. The only way to take advantage of spiritual teachings is to apply them. Applying them means ending violence against myself. Then I can go on to the next issue.

Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

A MESSAGE FOR VIOLENT TIMES

            A snippet of Charlie Chaplin’s iconic movie The Great Dictator has been circulating on the Internet. It is a fascinating movie, released in wartime 1940, where a poor Jewish barber (the protagonist Everyman) is mistaken for a violent dictator (a parody of Hitler) and is given the opportunity to impersonate the dictator. The snippet is a speech by “Everyman”(God/love) to the world crying out for good to overcome evil. I was so fascinated by the words that I transcribed the snippet and set it out below.

             There are many ancient teachings in the speech; I invite everyone to keep them in mind as they read this classic call to goodness. I was struck with the similarity of the themes to the Bhagavad Gita, an ancient Hindu work taught by Derek O’Neill (derekoneill.com ) and other advanced masters throughout the ages. Like the Gita, we should consider the metaphorical value of the speech, which is not just about the fight for democracy. It is, in fact, about the path to enlightenment. As we read this text, consider that “soldiers/people” are actually our thoughts. “Machines” are “technology” and “dictators” are the “ego”. When we do that, the true enlightened teaching of the speech becomes clear.

            I’m sorry. I don’t want to be an emperor. That is not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible, Jew, Gentile, Black man, White man. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness, not each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone and the good earth is rich and will Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world in hate, and goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives us abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life would be violent and all would be lost.

The aeroplane and radio has brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out to the goodness in men; cries out for universal brotherhood for unification of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions of people throughout the world; millions of despairing men, women and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. For those that can hear me, do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but a passing of greed and bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress.

The hate of men will pass and dictators die. The power that they took from the people will return to the people. As long as men die, liberty will never perish. Soldiers, don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you and enslave you, who regiment your lives, who tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel, who drill you, lie at you, treat you like cattle, use you like cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men, machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts. You are not machines, you are not cattle; you are men. You have the love of humanity in your hearts. You don’t hate. Only the unloved hate, the unnatural hate.

Soldiers, don’t fight for slavery, fight for liberty. In the 17th chapter of St. Luke, it is written that the kingdom of God is within man; not a man, a group of men, but in all men. You the people have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness. You, the people, have the power to make life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then, in the name of democracy, let us use the power, let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work and old age a security.

By the promise of these things brutes have risen to power, but they lie, they do not fulfill that promise, they never will. Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to fulfill that promise. Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, do away with greed, hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers, in the name of democracy, let us all unite.

                                                                                    -Charlie Chaplin 1940

When we read this passage metaphorically, we can see that the themes of goodness will always triumph over evil. The deeper truth is that goodness and evil are projections of the ego, each has its own karma. Goodness reaps happiness and security; greed reaps suffering and imprisonment. The question that we have to ask ourselves is which do we choose in every moment? A choice to do nothing has its own karma. We have the ability to choose kindness and gentleness for each word, thought and deed. The choices that we make determine how we experience life.

The irony of the teachings is that a free and happy life requires effort and discipline. Without effort and discipline we will experience suffering. With effort and discipline we have the opportunity to experience happiness and freedom. The joke is that many teachers will tell us that if we diligently and thoroughly practice the spiritual teachings, we will receive what our heart most desires. When we start at the beginning, what we desire may take the form of superficial pleasures and material wealth. When we reach the end of the journey, if we have properly practiced and incorporated the teachings into our lives, we don’t care about the superficial stuff anymore. We will be happy with what we have.