“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? / The world would split open.”
Poet Muriel Rukeyser

Friday, May 07, 2010

How Can I Help

In 1972, as a Junior in High School, I read a guide to "The Bhagavad Gita" by Ram Dass. My group of friends were all reading it and finding it filled with profound insight and "enlightenment." Me, not so much. I thought it was all marijuana and/or acid induced mumbo-jumbo. Perhaps I was wrong? Or at least partially wrong. I think it was a book intended to introduce Americans to Buddhist thought of mindfulness and enlightenment. Later in life, as I delved deeply into meditation, I came to appreciate much of what Buddhism offers from the practice of meditation and mindfulness....

Now flash forward some 20 years after that high school time. It's 1992/93, I am now 36, married, mother of one child with a second on the way. I am training to be a certified massage therapist, a 14 month intensive course. In the library of the school where I am training I see a book, recommended by one of my teachers. It's called, How Can I Help? and the author is Ram Dass. This book, filled with true stories of people helping others and being changed in the process, deeply impacted my life. It impacted me by causing me to think about why I was doing what I was doing any time I helped someone else. Was I doing to really be a part of their life and journey with them? Or was I doing for some other self serving, better than thou, idea? In other words was I "other-motivated" or "self-motivated?" Was I hoping to find my meaning in life, my purpose, through this helping? Was I thinking that my helping of the other was because I was somehow better than they? Was I going to become overly involved, enmeshed in the lives of others so that I did too much and "needed" to do too much in order to feel validated? Yes, those were the kinds of questions this book raised, it was a help the helper manual that actually really helped me. It set the precedent for my work as a priest and social worker.

That's why when asked the question in the RevGals Friday Five about who I think stands for political integrity, Christian or Other, I mentioned Ram Dass. The book, "How Can I Help" is truly a spiritual book, a transformational book for me when I read it 18 years ago, and showed me the way to help others with integrity for both of us.

How Can I Help...

The first time I read a book by Ram Das was in 1972. I think the book was titled, "The Bagvadgita." I didn't understand it. Or rather I basically rejected it all as marijuana brain addled mumbo jumbo. Uhm. I was also only 16. I've not read the Bagvadgita since then, but I suppose my criticism was a bit harsh. Or not.
Sally, over at RevGals, offers this Friday Five Meme: Well it may or may not have escaped the notice of many that over in the UK we have been awaiting the results of the General Election.... it has been the most closely fought election for many years, and the result... a hung or balanced Parliament, with no outright winner... and it has got everybody talking...

So what do you think about the mix of faith and politics:

1. Jesus a political figure: discuss... Absolutely a political figure. We would do well to remember that and embrace his radical politics of love, compassion, and generosity.

2. Politics in the pulpit, yes or no and why? Oh, I think so....BUT rarely have I encountered a congregation that wants this. Most just want to be comfortable and have a little something to reflect on but no politics from the pulpit. That said I am not a fan of promoting MY politics from the pulpit. I do think we ought to speak about political issues of justice in our area/world. To that end I have offered a bit of food for thought on issues relating to refugees, immigration, fair trade products, the global economy, and our role, known or unknown, in contributing to both the problems and the solutions. Basically I suggest that we (Americans) constribute to the problem through the things and food we buy, thus supporting corporations that pay folk a substandard wage. We also support a changing global economy when we buy Fair Trade merchandise and organic products which pay a living wage and support the well being of the planet. That's about as political as I have ever gotten.

3.What are your thoughts on the place of prayer in public life... Wellllll...I think prayer is important. I also think it is important to honor different understands of God/faith - especially in the language we use. Prayer needs to be sensitive to issues of race, faith, gender, disabilities, and other "isms" in this world. I have done a lot of public praying, particularly at the opening of city council meetings. For these meetings I use only the word "God" or "Holy One" and pray for the wisdom of our leaders as they make decisions on behalf of the town.

4.Is there a political figure, Christian or otherwise that you admire for their integrity? Ram Das, Mother Theresa, Cardinal Bernadine (Chicago, he died some 12 years ago), current Presiding Bishop for the Episcopal Church, Katherine Jefforts Schori.

5.What are your thoughts on tactical voting, e.g. would you vote for one individual/party just to keep another individual/ party form gaining power? While I haven't done this, I might.

Bonus- is there a song which might sum this all up- if so post a video or a link... Can't think of anything at the moment....