GNL number 38

the GOOD NEWS lately

a report of doings at meeting #38, Sunday, August 8, 2010
including liturgical notes, major themes,and other odds and ends


What is called chance is the instrument of Providence
and the secret agent that counteracts what men call wisdom,
and preserves order and regularity, and continuation of the whole.
—Horace Walpole


Sue, who had recently agreed to lead the community’s anti-bias committee,  said she came with a headful of thoughts born of the recent racial slur issue in the local government;  she was more than ready to speak first on her POTLUCK theme: the turmoil she had been in over this and especially, the resignation push, as she remembered Torah and Buddhist teachings on keeping a non-judging outlook, ready to understand, and possibly to dialogue with the other.  This sparked a dialogue among us for much of the meeting, e.g., about her thought that like all of us, the officials in question were doing the best they could at the time. For her notes and some quotes, see AFTERWORDS.

Chris also spoke of what was strong in her mind today, and this was her imminent retirement from her position as director of the Community Library, which she leaves at the end of September.  She asked for wisdom, or at least input in the coming weeks from the rest of us who’ve already been ‘working’ on this experience. (Yes, do things you’ve always wanted to do, go places, learn new things, and of course read all those books—what else?) She also admired Sue’s earnest thoughts and cited her own difficulties with the racial slur issue, feeling we can’t be too accepting either.

Ann responded to Sue’s comments as well, and as a trained and experienced mediator, she spoke of the attitude of openness and non-judgment that mediation training emphasizes, and was especially sensitive to the difficult, subtle balance needed between standing up for justice and staying open to the other.  See AFTERWORDS for her notes and quotes.

Jack, looking around the room, observed with a note of sadness, that all of us sitting there were white, no people of color among us. And he said his most recent letter to the Times Journal was written in solidarity with the three African-American women, Vena, Effie, and Bernadette, who’d spoken of the racial slur question with such strength and dignity in the previous TJ.

Anna said what was most on her mind today was gratitude for this safe place to bring our feelings, values, opinions without getting shot down or even judged.  From which followed a little discussion from several of us who’d told friends about COS and heard the response: ‘Wish we had this where I live.’ (And to which some of us said, ‘You can.’)

Cynthia said a big part of her concern about the racism issue was building a continuing anti-bias response in the community, that this crisis can and should prompt us to show our will to be a community open and respectful to all.  She spoke of her Gathering Stones Project details in this light. (And Sue added the suggestion the site include a message board where quotes, drawings, etc. could appear.)

Adair said the thought, and feeling, strongest in her mind today was the deep concern that we Americans, we humans, won’t and maybe can’t wake up in time to save the planet.  She listed several stunning figures, information that is available to us, but we still can’t get hold of the crisis, can’t even pass climate legislation.  This also brought discussion, with some of us feeling collapse not only of societies like ours and modern civilization, but the human species, may well be inevitable.  Some felt more hopeful about the Earth itself.

Adair also referred to the books Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics, by Levitt and Dubner.  (And Sue added a reference to the work of deep ecologist Joanna Macy, and the Council of All Beings.)

Ron, who’d come toward the end, weighed in on Adair’s theme too, with the conviction that even if we and life on Earth are doomed, we’ve got to do everything we can to help sustain it.

Re: the racial slur issue, Nancy noted how key an idea staying open is to her, while standing for justice and at all times.  Then she said originally, while visiting her daughter in MD, she planned to speak of the visit, favorite movies and music, but since her arrival home yesterday, she most wanted to speak of gratitude.  Not only for all the visit fun (like making music/ instruments with the gkids, and again seeing what fine parents they have)—but for kind friends, and her rescue from the late train back by Anna (who faithfully waited 2 hours), and Ann and Ell who said they’d come if she couldn’t.  N did play some music during lunch (Mark Johnson’s Playing For Change, with street musicians, others from all over the world. Copies still available.)

We decided our offering today should go to further the work of The Southern Poverty Law Center/Teaching Tolerance.


Unless the unexpected was sprung upon us continually to enliven us,
we should pass life as it were in sleep.
—Samuel Butler


Sunday, September 12, 2010 (1030), at Jack’s. The topic is LAUGHTER—What makes us laugh.  (Is this because our meetings thus far have been so grim? Uh—probably not.)

Also this important note: The Skippy Bookmobile will be outside Jack’s next time. And at last look, there were approximately 1000 fascinating books on all our topics, hardly any room left for Earth Day stuff, so please plan to borrow, steal, keep, etc.


a list of places our offerings from the last ten meetings have gone:

  • 12/09—Cobleskill Earth Day program/International Rescue Committee/House of Flowers Orphanage in Kabul
  • 1/10—Haiti Relief, via Unicef
  • 2/10—Doctors Without Borders/House of Flowers Orphanage in Kabul
  • 3/10—Afghan Well Project, via Afghan Women’s Fund/ This I Believe Project of NPRradio
  • 4/10—Heifer International Program
  • 5/10—Gathering Stones project in Cobleskill
  • 6/10—Jack and Louise Daniels Peace Award Fund (via ACCORD)
  • 7/10—ACCORD (A Community Committee on Respect and Diversity)
  • 8/10—Southern Poverty Law Center/Teaching Tolerance

and another ed. note, on 2 more topics to think about—more difficult ones,

  • from Chris:  the idea of COVETing
  • from Judy Scott:  ANGER

from Sue:

  • “First, do not harm” The Hippocratic Oath
  • “Two wrongs don’t make a right”
  • Thich Nhat Hanh teachings:
    • A. “We need people who understand, who are capable of being in touch with people….To reconcile the conflicting parties, we must have the ability to understand the suffering of both sides. If we take sides, it is impossible for us to do the work of reconciliation. And humans want to take sides. That is why the situation gets worse and worse. Are there people who are still available to both sides? They need not do much. They need do only one thing: go to one side and tell all about the suffering endured by the other side, and go to the other side and tell all about the suffering endured by this side. That is our chance of peace. That alone can change the situation.” Thich Nhat Hanh Fellowship Vol. 66 #7-8 July-August 2000 p.19
    • B. Invocation of the Bodhisatva Avalokiteshvara, the personification of Compassion and Deep Listening (upon which compassion is based). Those who wish to practice attaining the above invoke her name with these words: “We invoke your name, Avalokitesvara. We aspire to learn your way of listening in order to help relieve the suffering in the world. You know how to listen in order to understand. We invoke your name in order to practice listening with all our attention and openheartedness. We will sit and listen without any prejudice. We will sit and listen without judging or reacting. We will sit and listen in order to understand. We will sit and listen so attentively that we will be able to hear what the other person is saying and also what is being left unsaid. We know that just by listening deeply we already alleviate a great deal of pain and suffering in the other person.”
    • C. #4 of five Buddhist principles of right action which I recite several times each week—lately daily: “Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen, I vow to cultivate loving speech and deep listening in order to bring happiness and joy to others and to relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I vow to learn to speak truthfully with words that inspire self-confidence, joy and hope. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that cause division or discord or that can cause the family or community to break. I will make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts however small.”—Jewish Prayer—Silent meditation after Amidah
  • My God,
    Guard my tongue from all evil,
    And my lips from spouting lies.
    And my lips from spouting lies
    May I think before I begin to speak,
    May my words be gentle and wise.
    Help me ignore the taunts of my foes
    and forgive those who wrong me.
    Help my to be humble before all.
    Open my heart to the wisdom of your Torah,
    so that my soul will follow the path of righteousness.
    May all who study destruction have their designs frustrated.
    May this happen for the sake of the holiness of the world.
    May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart,
    remain true and loving and be acceptable in Your sight.
    Oseh shalom bim’romav. Hu ya’aseh shalom aleynu,
    v’al kol Yisrael, v’al kol yosh’vey teyveyl. V’imru: Amen!
    My Your light show us the to bring peace to all.
    from A Siddur for Shabbat Morning, compiled & edited by Rabbi Marcia Prager
  • Hebrew word for “sin” chattah is archery term = “missing the mark”
  • Here is another pure soul. And another pure soul. And another pure soul.–Advice of Rabbi David Cooper-recite this to yourself as you pass every single human being you meet.

from Ann:

  • A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.”
    ~Mahatma Gandhi
  • “We must encourage ourselves not to be angry at, or to judge others for the places where they are broken.”
    ~Sarah Shendelman & Dr. Avram Davis, Traditions–The Complete Book of Prayers, Rituals, and Blessings for Every Jewish Home, Hyperion, 1998, p. 163.

  • Part of what I was trying to say in the group was: How much truth is the right amount in a given situation? This seems to contradict the quotation from Gandhi above, but I think we must try to be sensitive and attuned to the situation and people involved so that small unimportant (maybe not to some) details can be overlooked in order to improve or not mess up a situation. This puts us back, always, to paying real attention to others – as we struggle to pay real attention to ourselves – but we almost always learn something of value – if we pay attention. This is making sense to me at this moment, but I may not think so when I read it later! Certainly some of what Sue will be struggling with in the diversity committee issues will be to allow others in the community to see some measure of the truth of the damage caused by bias, or unawareness of prejudice, and how it hurts others.

    Looking forward to laughing all the way to the next CoS gathering.


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