Ideas Worth Sharing

We all have ideas worth sharing with others, and this is the place to do it. I am particularly interested in those ideas which, if enacted, might make a significant difference in the world in which we live. I'll start with a few of my own ideas which I've mulled over and nurtured for years. I welcome your constructive feedback and will post ideas from others that I think fit my criteria. Enjoy!

Friday, March 21, 2003

IDEA #22 Freedom Squares

After watching the coverage of the Portland, Oregon, anti-war protests last night, I've come up with another idea worth sharing. Every city that considers itself to be part of a democracy needs to have designated places where a substantial proportion of that city's population can gather to exercise their rights to free assembly and free speech without fear of being in a confrontation with armored and armed law enforcement officers. These places might be existing parks or plazas that would be declared off limits to police incursion during the course of spontaneous or planned demonstrations, rallies or vigils. They would be designated Freedom Squares.

Law enforcement agencies would be welcome to encircle such a Freedom Square in order to contain the citizens gathered there and could politely search backpacks, packages and so on to ensure that no weapons would be taken into the Freedom Square. They could also detain any individuals or groups who leave the square to vandalize or loot nearby properties. However, they could not require citizens gathered in the Freedom Square to be silent or to disperse, and they could not enter the Freedom Square for any reason other than to assist in a medical emergency.

I realize that some protesters are committed to civil disobedience and would not feel they had been effective unless they had blocked traffic or public access and been arrested. However, most people who gather in demonstrations merely want to be seen and heard as standing for or against some action taken by their elected and supposedly representative government. They need a place where they can do that without getting pepper-sprayed, hit with batons, arrested or injured in a stampede away from police action.

Our police officers need to remember that they are guardians of the peace and that peace in a democracy is not always quiet. Peace in a democracy must provide space for diversity and for dissent, however noisy or unruly that may get in highly emotional times.

Protesters need to realize that being louder or more aggressive does not necessarily mean being heard better or having more influence. It is very frustrating to feel unheard and powerless over events carried out with our tax money and in our name. At the same time, we must govern our actions by their likelihood of achieving our ends, rather than their ability to express our feelings publicly or relieve our guilt.

I would like to commend for their creative and peaceful approach to educating Americans about the Iraq War and organizing protesters to insist on peaceful and effective means being used to resolve our differences with Iraq, our allies, and the international community. I hope they will continue to exercise wise and effective leadership now that the U.S. government has commenced its attack on Iraq.

Now, more than ever, we need to have Freedom Squares in every city across this land and in every democracy in the Free World.

To let me know what you think
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Thursday, March 13, 2003

IDEA #21 Mystery Initiation

In reading the readers' comments on Douglas Rushkoff's site, I came across this interesting thought: "...There is no mystery you're not already part of." --John Brodix Merryman

I believe this is wonderfully true. However, I think I see around me many people who have never become effectively aware of the mysteries we are all a part of. I, myself, have taken a very long time to become aware of the most basic and profound mysteries of life. And I believe my life is enriched and my coping skills expanded and deepened with each new awareness of a mystery.

Perhaps this is inevitably so for most of us. But I cannot help but wish that I had become effectively initiated into life's essential mysteries much earlier so that I could have lived out of that place of deeper awareness throughout my adult life and passed my knowledge and resulting coping skills on to my son and others who have been in close relationships with me.

It seems to me that one of the essential, ancient tasks of religion is to bring about an effective initiation into life's mysteries and to support and guide the initiate in developing the coping skills that are necessary to live with awareness of these mysteries. However, I was thoroughly schooled in a Christian denomination as a child and I didn't get it (which, I'm aware, is not the same as saying it wasn't offered).

In this secular/scientific age, perhaps there are some of my readers who are baffled. "What mysteries are you talking about? Hasn't science explained all that was unexplainable in previous generations?" I would respond that the mysteries of which I speak have not been, and perhaps cannot be, explained by science. They are the old mysteries of "Where did we come from? What is our purpose for being here? Where are we going now or after death?" These are also the four basic existential mysteries of death/mortality, freedom/responsibility, isolation/loneliness, and meaning(lessness).

Each of these mysteries can be understood on many levels, and coping with an awareness of a mystery on a deeper level requires the development of new skills and beliefs. It is a spiritual stress that requires and promotes new growth. As I've sometimes heard it expressed: "It's like peeling an onion, one layer at a time, shedding tears all the way." Why would one want to stress oneself spiritually? For the same reason we stress our muscles by lifting weights or our lungs by pushing ourselves to a faster pace--we increase our vital life capacity and strengthen ourselves so we can meet life's challenges.

On a surface level, we can answer the old mystery questions with either religion or science. "Where did we come from?" God created us or there was a Big Bang followed by the birth of suns and planets and then a long process of the evolution of life. "What is our purpose for being here?" To suffer or learn are the most common attempts at answers. "Where are we going?" We are going to heaven or to make "progress" here on earth. If we work hard at it or have a great talent or genius, we may leave some kind of legacy or achieve some relative immortality (of our products or ideas, if not our bodies).

Few people seem to live lives informed by even this level of spiritual awareness and directedness. I think it was Henry David Thoreau who said, "Most men live lives of quiet desperation." And yet it is only when one gets to a deeper layer of exploring life's mysteries that one gets to such spiritual experiences as awe, wonder, gratitude, even occasional rapture. I sense a hunger for these deeper experiences that seems to be disembodied from the necessity to expose oneself to the stress of deep exploration of life's mysteries. I think this is the driving force behind our many addictions, obsessions and compulsions.

Perhaps we need a new mystery religion informed by science but not explained away by it. A religion that takes into account what we now know and what we cannot and may never know. A religion that uses the arts and ceremonies and nature and service experiences to effectively initiate people to the deeper and deeper layers of life's mysteries, starting at the optimal ages for such experiences in youth. A religion that offers guidance, support and coping skills and tools on an individual and group basis to assure the spiritually stressful exposures to mystery result in personal and social growth, in integrity and moral maturity.

I think Albert Einstein had it right when he said, "There are only two ways to live your life. One as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." I know which way I want to live my life. Do you?

To let me know what you think
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