Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How Can We Change Before It's Too Late?

Who are we humans? What are we? Who am I? What am I?

Today these questions appeared once again. Always pregnant. Always empty. What is life about? What is my life about? The questions never stop and are only answered by living. My answer. Your answer. Our answer.

We are mammals. We are star stuff. We are consciousness. We are awake. We are love.

Why then are we so violent. No other life form is as violent or with as much premeditation and justification of violence. No other life form is as greedy or with such justification for greed.

Maybe we are a failed experiment. Maybe it is good that we are killing ourselves off by destroying the life support systems of our planet. Maybe something will come after us that is more loving, more understanding, more tolerant, kinder or wiser.

Or can we wake up in time, our time, now, here, and change our minds, our hearts, our actions our cultures or our institutions? Can I? Can you?

It’s worth a try. No, it is worth everything to accomplish this, here, now. Then we might have another century or millennium or even 100,000 years, or even 1 million years or even another billion years. It is worth changing myself and everything for that isn’t it?

And how do I do that, here and now?

Practice meditation. Practice kindness. Practice forgiveness. Practice generosity. Practice compassion. Practice tolerance. Practice understanding. Practice openness. Practice patience. Practice peace. Practice equanimity. Practice justice. Practice equality. Practice sustainability. Practice trust. Practice transformation. Practice selflessness.

Practice, practice, practice as though your life, our life, all life depends on it, because it does. And when you falter, which you will, then return to the practice and practice some more.   

Thursday, September 11, 2014

9/11: Violence or Compassion?

That morning I took the train as usual to Manhattan. In Grand Central Station I noticed people gathered around a TV monitor in a book store. I stopped and saw pictures of smoke coming from one of the World Trade Center towers. The announcer said that it might have been a plane off course.

I walked to the UN and took an elevator to my office floor. A group of colleagues was gathered around a computer screen. They said that two planes had crashed into the Twin Towers and that the UN was being evacuated in case we were another target. I went into my office and cried thinking of the people dying in the buildings and planes.

A colleague and I walked to a friend’s apartment. From there I could see smoke billowing from the Twin Towers far in the south. Because the apartment was across the street from the UN, we left and walked back to Grand Central Station. The streets were streaming with people walking north. There were crowds around the doors of Grand Central with police monitoring the flow of people. Inside I found a train going to Fleetwood just north of the city where my youngest son lived.

He picked me up and took me to his apartment. His girlfriend was there along with my wife and older son. They had just arrived after trying to get to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital for my wife’s chemotherapy session and then learning of the crashes. Everyone was sober and quiet. I cried again and said that life would never be the same. I thought of who might have forced the planes to crash and wept for their confusion, anger and hatred.

A few days later I wrote several essays on the tragedy recommending that the US not respond in violence and hatred but with dialogue, compassion and understanding. I proposed that a multi-billion dollar poverty eradication global fund be established to help those in need whose despair might drive them to acts of violence. I was so deeply sad when my country attacked Afghanistan.

After 13 years of my country’s violent actions in Iraq and elsewhere, the world is in more confusion and chaos with more fear, anger and hatred. When will we learn? Responding to violence with violence only creates more violence. Responding to hatred with hatred only creates more hatred. We must cut the flow of cause and effect. We must be still and silent. We must listen. We must understand. We must forgive. We must offer acts of kindness and compassion to relieve others' suffering. We must stop people from harming other people.

Now with climate chaos in full swing, civilization itself may be in danger of collapse over the next few decades. How do we reinvent a world that works for everyone and honors the life support systems of planet Earth? We must practice cultural and religious tolerance and understanding. We must foster social and economic justice. We must create a compassionate civilization or suffer the consequences.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Climate Chaos, People Power


The UN Climate Summit happens here in New York 23 September. Right before on 21 September the Climate March arrives in New York and swells to massive numbers demanding that world leaders take decisive action now to avert civilizational catastrophe. I will be one of those numbers.

I realize again and again that this is my movement. It is about climate chaos mitigation and adaptation, yes, which is enough given its severity, but it is also about much, much more. It is about creating gender equality, socio-economic justice, participatory governance and cultural tolerance. It is about the future of life on Earth. It is about the future of humanity. It is about the future of my grandchildren and their grandchildren. It is about whether we will create a sustainable planetary civilization based on compassion and understanding or a civilization of environmental destruction and human misery.

Here is a free copy of "Disruption" a movie about this movement that I hope you will watch, share with others and then take personal action.

We must manifest our commitment to a viable, ethical future through our voting, our shopping, our values, our speaking, our writing, our activism, our spending, our investments, our reading, our homemaking, our house insulation, our donations, our relationships, our child rearing, our driving, our recycling, our energy sources, our grand-parenting, our volunteering, our serving and our marching.

Here is a link to possibilities of engagement.

Yes, we can, Yes, we must.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Getting Old Is Awesome!


31 July 1944 – World War II was ending. Another baby arrived under the sign of Leo in the year of the Monkey – a boy child with white skin, brown eyes, brown hair - born into a Protestant, middleclass, mid-western American family - the beginning of the first decade.

Hey, I don’t want to be 70! It is far too old. I am not that old. I feel much younger. I am engaged, working, traveling. I am healthy, happy, connected. How can I be so old? Or is 70 old? Or is it 80 that is old? Or 90? Or 100? Or 110? Or 50? Or 60? What is old? And what difference does it make any how? To me? To anyone?

In my 70th year I conducted an organizational development consultancy with a UN Habitat global program on access to land for the poor involving two trips to Nairobi, Kenya; taught two New York University graduate courses, i.e., Innovative Leadership and International Capstone; made a keynote presentation at a symposium on creative peacemaking held at Oklahoma City University; taught a University of Aruba seminar for educational administrators on collaborative leadership; facilitated a workshop and made a presentation in the UN Public Service Global Forum on Sustainable Development held in Seoul, Korea; published 87 blog posts on "A Compassionate Civilization"; and participated in Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Is that a lot? Is that a little? Is that enough?

But why don’t I want to be 70? I made it! I lived seven decades on planet Earth! I did it! I am alive and kicking! I still have work to do, being to be, knowing to know. I am not finished. I am still here. They can’t shut me up, or put me on the shelf, yet. I can sound off. I can tell the truth. I can be my being. I can be all that I can be, here and now. I can love. I can say I love you. Hip, hip hooray!

I am proud of being 70. Wow, 70 years of living on planet Earth! What a glory, what a gift, what an adventure, what a journey, what a learning. I am impressed with myself – to be turning 70. Both my grandfathers died in their mid-fifties. My two lovely grandchildren have a 70 year old grandfather. Okay! They call me Grandpa Rob. I love it when they say that and look at me and ask me to play with them and ask me to put them to bed. I love being a grandpa. What a treat. I feel like I get to be a kid again, to grow up again with my grandkids; and I get to be a parent again (sort of).

Someday this body will cease to function altogether. I am learning to accept that. For now it is quite miraculous that I am alive, conscious, thinking, moving, feeling, relating. For this I am grateful. I am happy. I am amazed. I am fascinated. In fact, I have only always experienced being alive. Yet I know that the universe was going on for 13.7 billion years before I was born and will go on for another several billion years after I die. What a mystery to wake up for this flickering moment and be conscious of all of it!

I am proud of my white hair and my wrinkles. Hey, this is what a human being looks like who has lived 70 years, okay? Pretty cool, huh? I watch what I eat. I need to exercise regularly. Get enough rest. Keep moving. Use it or lose it.  Stay active. Stay involved. Stay connected.  Keep learning, every day. Keep growing. Keep asking why. Keep being surprised. Keep smiling, laughing, especially at yourself, especially at myself. Keep being grateful. Keep risking and loving and feeling.

I love yellow, orange and red. I love the sound of French horns. I love the shape of spiral galaxies. I love the photo of planet Earth from space. I love all kinds of flowers, and buildings, and peoples’ faces – all colors and shapes, and people’s bodies – all sizes and shapes, and the sun, oh yes, the sun, and clouds, and on and on and on.

I love to eat and sleep and wake up and have my Bengal Spice tea and yogurt and granola and say good morning to my wife and check my email and take a hot shower and sit at my desk and think and write. I love to dream about an emerging civilization of compassion. I love the happiness that is not a goal to be sought but a path to be walked moment by moment.

In my 70th year I am profoundly grateful for my life, my wife, my two sons, my two grandchildren, my daughter-in-law, my brother, my two sisters-in-law, my brother-in-law, my nephews and nieces, my cousins, my aunt and all my wonderful, loving family. I am forever grateful for my colleagues at UNDP, UNDESA and UN Habitat, my colleagues and grad students at NYU, my ICA colleagues, my social artistry colleagues and my friends. I am grateful for health, home, happiness and my spiritual practice. I am grateful for loved ones who have passed on including my late wife, my parents, grandparents and all my ancestors. I am grateful for my teachers, exemplars and archetypes who have taught me, inspired me, encouraged me and challenged me. I am grateful for planet Earth, the Sun, the Milky Way and this vast mysterious universe.

I rededicate my life to relieve the suffering of all beings everywhere through concrete words and deeds. I will promote innovative leadership for sustainable human development especially through teaching, training, facilitating, writing and speaking. I vow to help catalyze the emergence of a civilization of compassion embodying environmental protection, gender equality, participatory governance, socio-economic justice and cultural tolerance and understanding. I commit the rest of my life to creating a world that works for everyone in which each person can realize her/his full potential.

So, to paraphrase Margaret Mead, I say, “Thank God I’m me and I’m 70!” And as my grandchildren love to say (from The Lego Movie), “Everything is awesome!”
(Photo above taken at a UN global conference in Seoul, June 2014)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

What Is Worth Dying For?

Ten days ago an old colleague of mine committed self-immolation. He wasn’t an Asian monk but a Texas minister. He left messages explaining that he did this act as a protest against racism, capital punishment and social injustice. He explained that he loved his life, was not depressed and was not committing suicide but was making a final statement with his death as part of a long life lived for others. He was 79. I remember him as a wonderful combination of gentleness and passion. May his sacrifice wake each of us up to what is worth dying for.

Another old colleague of mine is in the midst of a march across America to call attention to climate chaos and the urgent necessity to stop burning fossil fuels and shift to renewal energy. He is 77. He is a strong willed person who has lived a life of caring for others. May each of his steps from West to East wake each of us up to what is worth living and dying for.

Another elder colleague of mine goes to the streets of Albuquerque every day bringing food, clothing and concern to the homeless. She is 74. She is a brilliant, passionate person who has spent her life caring for others all over this world. May her loving expenditure wake each of us up to what is worth dying for, what is worth living for.

Each of these elders chose and chooses every day to do and to be what is worth living for and what is worth dying for. There is no one right answer. It is a deeply personal discernment and decision that we each must make in solitude and in community.

As for me I have decided to engage in teaching, training, speaking, facilitating and writing to promote innovative leadership for sustainable human development, to catalyze what I call a “compassionate civilization” of environmental protection, gender equality, participatory governance, socio-economic justice and cultural tolerance. This is not the right thing to do. It is what I am compelled to do with no assurance that it will make a difference.

Dying is a very lively part of life. What for you is worth living for and dying for? How might our living and our dying make a difference in another person’s life, in society’s perceptions and priorities?
(Photo above of our dear colleague the late Rev. Charles Moore)


Monday, June 30, 2014

Collaborative Leadership: A Necessity

My presentation at the 2014 UN Public Service Global Forum on Sustainable Development held in Seoul, Korea, last week.
It is wonderful to be back in Seoul where I first worked with an NGO in the 1970s on community development related to Sae Maul Undong (the Korean government's New Community Movement). I am happy to be here among government and civil society officials committed to public service for sustainable development. We each know the challenges we face, but let me say it this way:

You and I are living in the most critical moment in all of human history, a time of whole system transformation. Every natural and social system is in grave danger and requires urgent and innovative solutions and actions. Our planetary eco-systems of air, water, land, plants and animals are in rapid degradation due to the release of carbon into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels and the impacts of an ever expanding human population. This is resulting in global warming, rapid melting of ice, sea level rise, submerging of islands and coastlines, a dramatic increase of devastating mega storms, desertification, food production collapse and critical water shortages and could result in social chaos and much more.

And if this were not enough, at the same time we face long-standing gender inequality, massive socio-economic injustice, elitist governance institutions and widespread cultural and religious intolerance. It is my heartfelt belief that these crises present us with an unparalleled opportunity to turn civilization itself in the direction of compassion and sustainability. And if we fail to do so, we will pay a price – a degraded planet and social misery.

But we can commit ourselves to collaborative action to create a healthy planetary ecosystem, gender equality, socio-economic justice, participatory governance and cultural tolerance. Innovative solutions and actions are urgently needed at every level of government, industry and civil society to respond to these multiple, interlocking crises. To achieve innovative solutions and effective actions new kinds of collaboration among these three governance actors are needed as well as collaboration among government agencies themselves, among NGOs and among corporations and among the individuals within each of these.

Earlier this year I was teaching a seminar on collaborative leadership at the University of Aruba with Dr. Juliet Chieuw, who you will hear from tomorrow. Suddenly I became aware that the major challenge of collaboration is that it involves other people! Working with other people is never easy but is essential to the success of the human enterprise. Let’s briefly explore the concepts and practice of collaboration, leadership, methods of collaborative leadership and how it is essential to our survival as a species.  

What is collaboration? Collaboration involves team work, the promotion of synergy and creating collective intelligence, mutual respect, trust and learning. It involves honoring diverse perspectives and gifts, moving beyond one's own ego, achieving common vision and values and self-organization. One of my favorite examples of this is within the private sector. To invent the Visa card, Dee Hock had a group of diverse individuals work together with only two things in common – a shared vision and shared values. Out of their collaboration emerged the design of the Visa card based on the collaboration of competing businesses who were committed to using the Visa card for business transactions.

And as for us, I believe our common vision is sustainable human development or what I have identified as an emerging civilization of compassion. And I believe that our common values include not only sustainability but equality, justice, participation and tolerance. But we must invite everyone to participate in this brainstorming on vision and values.

What is leadership? Leadership has developmental phases including the authoritative, the bureaucratic and the pragmatic. It can also evolve into participatory, facilitative, creative, system-wide, interactive, adaptive and transformative leadership.  Group facilitation is a great example of this new style of leadership. In this form of leadership the facilitator asks question after question to help a group of people identify their shared vision, obstacles, strategies and action plans. By honoring individual brainstorming, collective grouping of data and naming of clusters of data, a group of people can collaborate in creating a strategic plan that they own because they created it. And they are motivated to carry out the plan because it is their own, as individuals and as a group. In this workshop we are using participatory methods that allow everyone in the room to create recommended actions for member states and the UN.

What then is collaborative leadership? Collaborative leadership is a dynamic, creative, self-organizing team of orchestrated, diverse perspectives and gifts driven by common vision and values. To launch a rocket into space many technicians much collaborate intimately. The entire enterprise of science requires careful collaboration among many scientists around the globe. A choreographer must collaborate with individual dancers to produce a great work of art. Architects of communal spaces must collaborate with the public to design workable solutions. Within whole-of-government, collaborative leadership is the commitment to honoring every individual and every agency’s insights and knowledge in the creation of open, transparent and accountable governance systems responsive to the voices and priorities of every citizen, especially the most vulnerable.

Why then is collaborative leadership essential in whole-of-government?

This critical moment of history requires everyone’s participation and collaboration. How otherwise can nations and communities respond to the multiple crises we face without effective collaboration? Everyone’s perspective and energy in every government agency is needed in a concerted effort. Every NGO and business must be involved. And all of these must be working harmoniously together in a common cause. Finally the intelligence and energy of 7.3 billion people must be mobilized and orchestrated with common vision and values in seamless action.

What are some of the most effective methods and applications of collaborative leadership? The most effective methods of collaborative leadership that I am aware of include group facilitation (such as the Technology of Participation, Appreciative Inquiry and Open Space), use of integral frameworks addressing individual mindsets and behaviors and collective cultures and institutions, social artistry processes that enhance sensory, psychological, symbolic and unitive experience, systems thinking, strategic planning, effective team building and peer learning-by-doing.

Tomorrow you will hear an excellent example of some of these approaches incorporated in a University of Aruba training program. This innovative, powerful program equips educational administrators to foster collaboration among teachers, students, parents, administrators, local community, government, private sector and NGOs led by a compelling vision of Aruba as an Enlightened Society.
Collaboration is not only worth the effort; it has become a necessity if we humans are to enjoy sustainable human development on a healthy planet. 

Photo above is of one of the table teams in the global forum in Seoul.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Korean Vignettes

I am writing from Seoul, Korea, where I have been for one week. I am filled with many emotions and am making many connections of present-past -future. I am here to facilitate and speak in the UN Public Service Global Forum on Sustainable Development with over 1,000 delegates from around the world. One of them is a new colleague from the University of Aruba whom I met in March when I was teaching in her innovative program on collaborative leadership.
On this visit I have been able to see dear friends and colleagues from the time my family lived here from 1972 to 1978. At that time I was with an NGO, the Institute of Cultural Affairs, doing comprehensive community development in poor villages on Jeju Island and near the DMZ. Our purpose was to help create models for other communities to emulate and was related to the Korean government’s Sae Maul Undong (New Community Movement.) This week I visited the village near the DMZ, Kuh Du I Ri ("Sleeping Dragon Village 2.") Well, the sleeping dragon awoke and the village has transformed into a highly prosperous community. My family of four lived in one room in the back of a store in the village's community center. Those were great days!
I returned to Korea as a UNDP policy advisor in 1994 and again in 2005 and each time I was shocked by the rapid developments of Korean society economically, politically and culturally.
Yesterday was the 64th anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War. After that devastating war, Korea was one of the world's poorest countries. Today South Korea is a major world economic power; the Secretary-General of the UN is Korean; and people around the world are dancing Gangnam-style!  
In 1917, my great uncle after whom both my father and I are named was a medical missionary in Korea, one of my many mysterious connections with Korea. And of special importance, both my sons were born here and one is Korean. What a gift to be related to this beautiful people and land!
Just had dinner with another wise Korean colleague who said that the emerging global civilization is about one thing: love. How to realize and embody that in the midst of so much confusion and suffering?

Korea is now providing financial and technical assistance to poor countries around the world through its international development agency, KOICA. The Korean heart is wide and deep. Koreans have a lot of empathy and concern for those in need. This is my heartfelt experience, not a theory.    


Photo above is of a sculpture of a Korean dragon in Seoul.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Global Citizen: A Love Story

I grew up in a small Oklahoma town.  I was raised in a happy, religious home, had perfect attendance in Sunday School and was an “A” student. But I often felt that I didn’t fully belong where I was. I was taught to “love my neighbor,” but noticed that the African-Americans who worked in our town actually lived outside it in other small towns, to which they returned every day after work.

This subtle awareness of social issues was furthered by a small current events newspaper we got in elementary school. Even at that young age, I was touched to read about the United Nations. I sensed something beautiful and expansive about an organization concerned with the whole earth and the understanding that everyone should have an adequate life.

By the time I reached college, I strongly disliked social injustice of any kind. I became active in the civil rights and women’s rights movements—and even led a protest over a policy prohibiting female students from wearing pants in the library and having a curfew! But my first great awakening occurred when, in my junior year, a group of fellow students and I drove to Chicago for a weekend seminar on the Theological Revolution of the 20th Century, conducted by the Ecumenical Institute.

The seminar was held in an African-American ghetto, where the Institute was trying to create a model of renewed community. The contrasts were great: I was used to neat Oklahoma towns and a well-kept college campus; here I was surrounded by broken glass, burned out cars, and garbage everywhere.

But something even more astonishing was happening inside, at the seminar. We were dialoguing with some of the greatest theologians of our time, discussing age-old questions about divinity, the reality of life and the search for meaning. By the end of the weekend, I was experiencing the truth of Paul Tillich’s teaching, that each of us is fully “accepted” just as we are. We don’t have to seek another life, another situation, or another condition; our life is perfect just as it is. Before the weekend, I had always felt shy and alienated; I now felt an interior explosion of healing and goodness and perfection.

And I wanted to share that! After a month-long course at the Institute in the ghetto right after graduating, I realized I had a mission—I was a mission. I could give my life to helping create a different kind of world, where everyone could realize their potential. I attended theological seminary and decided to intern with the Institute. I fell in love with a wonderful woman and we soon married. But I would also soon fall in love with and marry a beautiful planet. It was to be my second great awakening.

By this time the Ecumenical Institute had evolved into its secular form, the Institute of Cultural Affairs. This Institute was all about helping people realize what was possible, and creating a new world of justice, peace and hope. A group of Institute colleagues decided to take a trip around the world, not as tourists, but as people who wanted to know, How can we open ourselves to the raw experience of the world—to its beauty, its suffering, its reality, its diversity? We wanted passionately to be in intimate dialogue with it all.

Our plan was ambitious: around the world in 32 days. By changing cultures every two or three days—customs, climate, terrain, food, language—we knew we would create a sensory, psychological, mythic and spiritual overload. And that’s what we wanted:  not just to observe the world, but to be the world—the world we wanted to serve.

As we touched down around the globe, I was filled with awe by our planet’s vast oceans, jagged peaks, sprawling cities, wildly diverse cultures and masses of beautiful people. I experienced the powerful mystery of the Aztecs; the sublime beauty of a Shinto shrine; the vitality of Hong Kong; the sultry weather of Manila; the serenity of the Emerald Buddha; a live-goat sacrifice in a Hindu temple; a visit with the China-Lama in Kathmandu; the site where Buddha had his enlightenment and gave his first sermon; the devastating poverty of Calcutta; the birthday celebration of Emperor Haile Salassi in Addis Ababa; the decaying grandeur of Greek and Roman civilization; the awesome beauty of the Vatican; the wonders of a medieval walled city in Dubrovnik; a coming-home experience in the British Isles; and the eternal day of Iceland.

Our accommodations were simple: a church basement, a small hotel. Conditions were uncomfortable, even unbearable at times. My little hotel room in New Delhi felt like a blast furnace from the hot wind blowing through. Sometimes we were sick. I became dizzy and almost fainted when I saw that goat killed in Nepal. But we wanted to experience what other people experience.

At the end of the adventure, we stopped in Iceland, where all 25 of us shared our thoughts about everything we had encountered, trying to “squeeze the meaning” out of our experience. We had become global citizens. We had discovered that while cultures may be different, people are the same. Everyone wants enough food and shelter. They want to be happy and they want their children to be happy. They have different symbols;  they might eat with chopsticks or a fork; they might have a statue or an image or no image. But the human striving is first to survive, then go beyond survival to beauty and truth and union with the divine.

After that trip, I was never, ever the same. I was in love with Mother Earth and with humanity at large. I had been touched by tragic suffering, sublime beauty, spiritual genius, by the ecstasy of being human on this magnificent planet. I had come home. I had been hugged by Mother Earth—and I had to respond. I had to give my life, my love, my action—to make a difference, to relieve suffering, to advance the human condition. Nothing else would be enough. As a child of the Earth, a child of Humanity, I knew it was my duty to serve my people and my planet.

Before this time I had never left my own nation. After this time I would spend 35 years living, working and visiting in 55 countries around the world.

For the next 20 years, with my wife and two young sons, I lived and worked in urban slums and poor rural villages in Malaysia, the Republic of Korea, the USA, Jamaica and Venezuela. We were not well paid consultants driving in to give advice to the poor. In a Korean village we lived in a rock and mud thatched-roof house. In Jamaica our sons attended a one-room school house with 300 students in a mountain village. I was passionately committed to changing human history, to helping reinvent societies that worked for everyone.

But my childhood reveries came true when I was asked to work for the United Nations. My UN passport was a tangible, magical symbol of my global citizenship. I was being called to transpose my experience from the grassroots project level to the global policy level.

I have helped local peoples around the world improve sanitation, waste management, recycling, water supplies, air quality, environmental health, education and income. I have helped them prevent depletion of shellfish stocks in Brazil, plant trees in Egypt, and dig drainage ditches in Tanzania. I have been overwhelmed with the vitality, hope and hard work of local people regardless of nation, culture or religion, whether rural or urban, women or men. The heroes were always the local people. I was only a catalyst, a choreographer of change, a social artist.

This small town Oklahoma boy has lived his life in love with the world; and what a beautiful world it is—full of suffering and happiness, squalor and grandeur. I have received infinitely more gifts from my beloved than I have given Her. She is much more gracious and generous, lavishing joy and sorrow, understanding and mystery with immense and exquisite compassion.

And how does my love story with the Earth continue? My wife of 35 years has passed on and my sons are grown men. I am ready for the next global-local adventure! In fact, having recently retired from the UN, I am on a one-year sabbatical that includes becoming engaged to a most amazing woman, consulting for the UN, teaching graduate school to international students, caring for my elderly mother and developing my dancing skills. What will life offer and require of me, and you, next?  Whatever it is, “we are the people and now is the time!”

Moorman Robertson Work, Jr.

Published in LIfe Lessons for Loving the Way You Live, October 2007, Health Communications, Inc., by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Jennifer Read Hawthorne. © 2007 Moorman Robertson Work.


Saturday, May 24, 2014

War Is Terrorism

I wrote the following reflection and poem in 2003 and 2004. Sharing them today, Memorial Day Weekend 2014.

The Delegitimization of War
The images coming out of Iraq make me sick in my stomach and in my heart.

My reflection:

War is hell. Why then are we shocked when we see images of cruelty and violence? This is the very nature of war. We confuse our young sons and daughters by sending them out with national approbation to kill and maim other peoples’ young sons and daughters then we are horrified when they treat their prisoners cruelly. Is it better to kill someone or to abuse them? Neither is better. Both are horrible. War traumatizes us all, violates us all. Yet there is also something perversely scintillating about seeing a naked human body being abused. Harming others brings out the very worst in us all.

The entire enterprise of war is illegitimate. As long as there are parents who send their young sons and daughters into this hell and as long as these young men and women obey their parents and their government, the illegitimacy and horror will continue to retain the illusion of legitimacy and rationality.

There must be a better way of resolving human disagreements.

There is a grander vision of human development that can displace the warrior’s thrill of conquest and sacrifice.  We now have global and regional institutions to help resolve conflicts. People universally desire happiness and peace for themselves and their families. The time is fast approaching when it will be agreed that war, like slavery, is an abomination of humankind and will not be tolerated anymore.

War is Terrorism

Terrorism mistranslated as "war"
Although war has always brought terror
Barbarism, the most primitive instinct
Of the human animal
Or more precisely, of the
Male ego – warrior and killer, driven by
Hormones and emotion and the
Comradeship of other males
Dying for that which is greater
Uniting with the Great Cause
Becoming one with Life and Death
A tragically flawed mysticism

And for what?
Oil? Democracy? Disarmament? Freedom?
Righteousness? Empire? Corporate contracts?

Such heartbreak
To see our precious, soft
Baby boys and girls grow up to
Maim and kill other babies, women, men
Who were once soft and precious
Held in their mother’s arms
Now cold and hard
And to be maimed or die themselves

May our hearts grow ever larger to give space to
May a mother’s love rise within
Each of us
May we tame and transcend our egos
May we give up war for
And carnage for