Archive for the ‘On Compassion’ Category

I’m not posting this to turn my blog into a poetry critique class. There are plenty of issues to complain about here. I’m posting it because I wrote it 20 years ago this week, while sitting in a hotel room in Amsterdam. Take it for what it’s worth and remember all those who died 20 years ago today.

September 11, 2001:
	Three planes
               destroy three buildings
that once stood
         taller than the
		cedars of Lebanon.

Tijuana, 1963:
	There’s a picture of mom,
               and dad, and me
with sombreros.
	I don’t remember.
		To early.

Nearly three-thousand people die:
	Business or pleasure?
No. Life or death!
        In the same week we Jews
pray for renewal.

San Diego, 1979:
	A wedding in powder blue.
Yes, it’s true,
	powder blue
tuxedos.

Just a few crazed bastards,
	some barely 30 years of age,
		chose death
to harvest and discard
	the entire infrastructure
		of humanity.

And where are
	the Pope and Dalai Lama now?
And where are
	the Moslems who defend life?
And why retain
	compassion now?

Redondo Beach, 1984:
	There’s a picture of my
		tai chi group on the beach.
This
	I remember
		all too well!

Paris 1987:
	A café on the “boul miche”,
		with coffee and scientific dictionaries
and the writings of
	Pierre Boulez,
		by the IRCAM sign.

Nearly three thousand people die:
	For a cause no one understands.
With hand written instructions for piety and
	the roots of liberty are torn from the earth,
in the same week I read about John Adams.

Paris, again, 1989:
	A café on the “boul miche”.
		with a wedding,
thankfully,
	in black
		and white.

Just a few crazed bastards
	choose prayer then death.
Clear-cutting over three thousand
	people.

Valencia, 1982:
	A music degree.
A military industrial complex grows.
	An actor for president.

And the law changes now:
	They can now tap your phone
		by name, not simply number.
The National Guard
	checks
		baggage.

And pity the man who
	visits a pornographic website,
now that they can track the history
	of all his visits.

Big Sur, 1967:
	A seven year old at Esalon?
No. A family trip
to see “General Sherman Tree”.
        Foreshadowing three grown children
		whose liberty now stands shaken.

Considering
	the threats,
Those few crazed bastards
	rightly die.

And where are
	the Pope and Dalai Lama now?
And where are
	the Moslems who defend life?
And why retain
	compassion now?

Los Angeles, 1960
	Would I have come into a world
		so devoid of human values,
for a lost liberty, in a land of sadness,
        had I known and had a soul
               to chose?

As my gift of liberty wanes, I fear.
the pope and Dalai Lama
		and Moslems who defend life
are overshadowed by the evil.
	Tearing the roots of joy from
               the tree of life.

Yet, succumb to fear
	and lose compassion
and WE discard
	the entire infrastructure of humanity!

Los Angeles, 1960:
	I think
I have
	my answer.

And where are
	the Pope and Dalai Lama now?
And where are
	the Moslems who defend life?
And why retain
	compassion now?

September 11, 2001:
	Today compassion was torn from the earth
		like the root-ball of a redwood;
taking with it
	a rich mass of soil
		forty-one years in diameter.


  (c)2013 Dandylines Books [From "The New Poetics of Isolation" ISBN 9781490907659]

Bless you all and may this stand as a memory of both those who died in America today and those who died in 20 years of war that, for a variety or reasons, should not have taken thousands more lives and billions of dollars from our children.

Classical Reform Jewish theology has no mandate to see the Temple rebuilt because we have no need for the sacrificial cult. For this reason, when I was growing up, our movement rejected mourning the Temple’s destruction.  Frankly, I don’t want to return to animal sacrifice, either.  After all, I do call myself “Almost Rational” not “Wildly Irrational” (although there are plenty of others who could write that blog just fine).

My movement did not gather to pray or to chant the book of Lamentation on Tisha B’Av; we did not even fast. But, I have always approached this powerful day with awe. It is the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, for good reason aside from the temple cult. Sitting on the ground and chanting the book of Lamentations is a transformative experience.

The ninth day of the month of Av commemorates the destruction of both the first and second temples. I don’t care whether both temples were destroyed on the same day. What matters is that the most sacred space in early Judaism was twice destroyed and is now crowned with the Muslim’s Dome of the Rock. The Temple is not my big concern. I care more about the history of Jewish Tragedy. Reform Judaism now cares about Tisha B’Av: because, to us, it represents every tear, in the vast ocean of tears, ever shed by our people. We remember every disaster, calamity, show of hatred, murder, antisemitic act, genocide. and horror . Many horrific events and lamented on the 9th of Av because our people has suffered to a greater extent than nearly any other Western culture.

So, momentarily, let’s set aside 586 BCE and 70 CE and think about the bigger picture..

We find the first event that is supposed to have occurred on the 9th of Av in Numbers 13 – 14. Twelve spies are sent by Moses to reconnoiter the promise land and all but two come back scared as hell.  Only Joshua and Caleb  have faith in Adonai and, lacking faith, an entire generation missed out on the promise land. I’m going to be heretical and say that I won’t believe that story until I see grapes as described therein that are organic and non-GMO (but that’s another story).  I also have no reason to believe that it happened on the 9th of Av. Still, we Jews have no shortage of lamentation worthy historical events!

Here is a partial list of subsequent 9th of Av tragedies:

  • 586 BCE: The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians.
  • 70 CE: The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans.
  • 132 CE: The Bar Kokhba’s rebellion was overturned.
  • 133 CE: Turnus Rufus plowed the site of the Temple and everything surrounding it.
  • 1066 CE: The Granada massacre took place on 30 December 1066 when a Muslim mob stormed the royal palace in Granada. They assassinated the Jewish vizier Joseph ibn Naghrela and massacred most of the Jewish population.
  • 1095 CE: The First Crusade was declared by Pope Urban II in 1095, killing 10,000 Jews in its first month and destroying Jewish communities through Western Europe.
  • 1190 CE: The day that the Jews of York, England were slaughtered
  • 1290 CE: The Jews were expelled from England.
  • 1305 CE: A mass imprisonment of the Jews in France
  • 1492 CE: The Jews were expelled from Spain.
  • 1493 CE: The Jews expelled from Sicily. About 137,000 Jews were exiled.
  • 1496 CE: The Jews expelled from Portugal and from many German cities.
  • 1571 CE: Italy ghettoized the Jews of Florence
  • 1648 CE: The Chmielnicki massacres occurred from in 1648-58. Tens of thousands of Jews were murdered throughout Poland and the Ukraine
  • 1660 CE: The destruction of Safed by the Druze occurred during the rein of sultan Mehmed IV. Both Safed and Tiberias had large Jewish communities that were destroyed entirely,
  • 1670 CE: Austria forced all Jews out of Vienna.
  • 1775 CE: Mob violence against the Jews of Hebron.
  • 881–1884, 1903–1906, and 1918–1920 CE: Three huge series of pogroms resulted in the murder of tens of thousands of Jews in Russia and Ukraine.
  • 1914: World War I began.
  • 1942: On Erev Tisha B’Av the mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka began.
  • 1994: The Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina was bombed on July 18th, killing 85.
  • 2006: The Seattle Jewish Federation shooting occurred on July 28, wounding 6, killing 1
  • 2012: In Toulouse in the month of March 4 Jews were murdered and in Bulgaria, an Israeli tour bus was bombed killing 7 and wounding many more.

So, here’s the deal: Even if you don’t believe that destruction of the Temples, the overthrow of Bar Kokhbah , the Spanish expulsion, and the start of WWI all happened on the same day; even if (like me) you have no desire to pray for a return of the sacrificial cult; there are thousands of years of Jewish tragedies to mourn. Perhaps most important to me is my contention that it is insufficient to mourn the Holocaust only on Yom ha Shoah. That is the most despicable thing to ever happen to Jewish culture and life, the survivors are nearly gone, and time and again people say we put too much emphasis on it. Nonsense. It was not the only, nor the first, nor, sadly, the last of our tragedies. So, if you care about nothing else, use Tisha b’Av to commemorate that.

Lamentations 5:1-3 states:

  • “Remember, O Adonai, what has befallen us; behold and see our disgrace! Our heritage has passed to aliens, our homes to strangers. We have become orphans, fatherless; our mothers are like widows”.

So long as those words ring true to our ears, we must never forget the murder of a single Jewish soul. We owe it to ourselves, our communities, and out heritage to share in the sadness of Tisha B’Av!

Well, friends, as we can see from the all uppercase cry-baby tweets this morning, Dear Leader is a bit out of control and the Democrats have won the “adult For President” part of the election. But you can also see that Dear Leader has lots of lawyering yet to do. So, the presidential battle is not yet won.

We all know that Biden has won the election battle so we who do not think Mr. Trump is the right executive for our country rightly rejoice. But I feel compelled to remind you that the battle for human dignity is still just beginning.

Close to 1/2 of the entire country finds Donald Trump an acceptable representative of the moral compass of our country. The majority of those people actively embrace him. Personally, I know some very smart people and some very loving people who are in that camp. I don’t understand but I know that I have work to do.

What this says is that we have won the political battle but we have lost the moral battle. And, I do mean lost.

People who have never studied world history and who can not spell the name Mussolini have said terrible things to me about my contention that President Trump has been playing from Mussolini’s playbook. They will quickly insult me but just as quickly back away from giving me examples that prove me wrong.

This is not their fault; it is mine.

Why? Because I care about a world without fascism and without dictatorial regimes and if I can’t make that clear to people who I know are intelligent, loving people then I have not done my job.

Now, there will always be neo-Nazi, white-supremacist, evil people in the world. I don’t expect us to change them. What I do expect is that we will not get complacent once Trump is out of the White House. So, today, as I enjoyed a celebratory adult beverage at 10AM and feel good about that. I’m also mindful of the fact that, until I can convince those who are not on the fringe that Trump has been our fastest path to dictatorship, my work is not over.

Alternatively, I can simply choose to believe that 1/2 the country is not particularly smart. That’s the easy way out. But I know from experience that it’s not true. So let’s not be complacent. Let’s keep fighting from a position that I believe to be the moral high ground for a world of freedom and liberty that moves away from, not toward, authoritarianism.

Every day, we seem to be making America greater, and greater, and greater again.

In just one week we have seen 14 bombs sent to past presidents and other major critics of Donald Trump AND the worst massacre of Jews in the history of the United States, with 11 people dead.

The country in which I live is no longer some shining light on some hill. We keep hearing people say “Make America Great Again” but that is clearly nonsense.

Perhaps one of the good things about Donald Trump being president of the United States is that China and Japan are now talking about healing their long-lasting wounds and working together. That is a good thing for the world. But, that is a bad thing for our country because it means that we will not remain the world’s great economic superpower.

So, we continue down the path of making America worse. I am among those who deeply loves the country in which I live. It absolutely kills me to see the wanton destruction of what was once the greatest democracy on Earth. That is all I have to say except to urge all of us to pray for the murdered Jewish worshipers and to pray that what little remain of our executive branch will have the balls to call the bombs what they are: assassination attempts. Such evil is NEVER even acceptable to ponder.

Enough!!!!

I’d like to start by apologizing to those of you who are actually engaged followers of my writing. My last post was over 3 months ago and even that was just a reblog. I have found myself in a situation of looking for a new “real job” and everyone I know tells me to be careful of what I write. All of them are correct. After all it’s difficult to undo a first impression and everyone who sees my resume will see my social media. I do need to be cognizant of that. So to my followers, I’m sorry I’ve given you so little.

In theory, since I’m sending around lots of resumes, I also need to begin by welcoming those of you who are here because you want to know if you should interview me. Trust me, you should 🙂 When you look at these posts please don’t focus on the one or two you disagree with or find strange. Rather, consider how refreshing it might be to work with someone who thinks and who has such absolute integrity as to be 110% transparent. You won’t like all you read but you will hopefully find it thought-provoking. That’s what my next employer will get: unconditional integrity, transparency, and intellect. That is who I am. Ok… And I try like heck to be funny too since that is my stress coping mechanism.

Which brings me to the point of this post…

Every firm has resources. Every resource has a cost. Every cost goes on the expense side of a balance sheet. Every balance sheet needs to ultimately represent a profitable, fiscally viable, business. My iPad is a resource. My Mont Blanc pen is a resource. My glass kiln is resource. My house is a resource. My wife and I are resources. But only the last resources I mentioned can have unconditional integrity, humor, love, emotion, empathy, fear, creativity, strategic agility, and compassion. So, in the next few weeks I want to address my contention that humans can’t simply be treated as financial resources. My personal moral-compass points to human value and dignity at exactly true north.

I have been involved with several firms that are in transition. All of them seem to have expense issues at one time or another. Reducing travel expenses so that we “don’t need to make ‘other’ resource reductions”, for example, is a very poorly disguised code for pending layoffs. That was not my particular situation but I’ve been on both sides of the equation and I get it. That said, I propose (and this is where I always thought my PhD dissertation in business ethics – maybe in my next life – should end up) that $1m in travel and $1m in human capital are not equivalent. You can’t ruin a non-human life but you can destroy a family in an instant when you treat human and non-human resources identically. Over the course of this series of posts I will explain why both business ethics and virtue ethics in a business context should be founded on treating humans as inherently higher value than their comparably costed non-human resources.

So… Stay tuned.

Over 300 people are now dead. Twenty-seven are children. Why?

A group of truly evil people seem to think that Sufism is heretical. This must be because a branch of a great religion that focuses on peace and joy is anathema to fundamentalist ideology. After all, when did you ever see a dervish with an assault rifle? A dervish with a suicide belt? A dervish with anything but ecstasy? Clearly, no matter how “Godly” these perverse fools think there precious brand of nutcase Islam is, joy isn’t part of their God’s plan.

I find this especially appalling because, in my personal theology, and my broader religious community, JOY is exactly the purpose of living! Any religion whose theology mandates the killing of another person is not a religion of MY God. Not only that, killing a Sufi of all things could not be anything but an act of evil.

Paramahansa Yogananda once said “If you only knew how much God loved you, you would die of joy“. OK… he wasn’t Jewish but there are a lot in our community for whom that must resonate. I know that Jesus would say the same and I’ll bet the Prophet Muhammad would too, if only the crazy people would stop murdering others and would LISTEN. In fact, I’d propose that every major religion would agree. I’d also propose that every major religion has some segment of believers who let dogma trump that message.

What we have seen this week is yet another senseless MURDER of 300 precious members of our species. That is yet another bastardization of irrational dogma in the name of religion. Worse, it even twists the word religion to make that just another cover for hate.

So, to you who would kill 300 praying Sufis, I want you to know that I hate you too. The difference between you and me is that I’d never kill you for that. You see, I recognize that even you are precious members of the human family. Even you have been given the blessing of life no matter how you distort the image of God within you. You are stupid but you are sentient; and killing sentient beings because they aren’t like you is never acceptable. Not even with evil people like you.

So, this Thanksgiving I am grateful for joy. I am grateful to live. I am grateful for the love and friendship I share. I am grateful that the violent fanatics are a tiny subset of Muslims. And… yes… in memory of those men, women, and children you brutally murdered…

I am grateful that there is a branch of Islam devoted to joy.

Help me reach my goal of $500 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention walk. Just click here.

Thanks for helping AFSP!

Love you all!

 

 

I read this morning that nearly half of the American people believe it is acceptable to use torture if it yields actionable information. I find this utterly abhorrent.

For you 50% I pray that you don't know the definition of torture.

Many or you who fall into this category call yourselves "Christian" and I ask you this: Would Jesus – "Mr. turn the other cheek" – ever condone imposing excruciating, unspeakably horrible, unending pain on another human being? Would Jesus ever say there is a proper time to connect a woman's labia to electric current or to deny sleep to a prisoner between sessions of waterboarding? If you answer "yes" then I suggest you find a way to unbaptize yourself because your view of Jesus is clearly different from Jesus' view of Jesus.

Some of you may not call yourself Christian – or even religious – and I want to speak to you also.

Can you not at least consider a moral code that respects the right to exist of every member of our species? Can you not acknowledge each human as worthy of being left without unspeakable pain? Can you not imagine yourself drowning, being slammed against walls repeatedly, having your genitals mutilated, being kept awake for days on end, being stoned to death, having your fingernails pulled out, and realize that such unspeakable acts inflict pain of which you cannot even conceive – and that a worldview that condones such acts in not even human?!?!

I hate terrorists as much as any American. I love America at least as much as most of you. I even waver in my support – and lack thereof – of the death penalty when I hear of the horrors that we humans can inflict in others. I want those who harm others to be punished. But there is a line beyond which nothing can pass – no moral system, no twisted ethics, no religion, no belief system – and that line is the purposeful infliction of excruciating pain – physical, mental, or emotional.

When half of our country is willing to cross that line then we are perhaps a state no better than the Islamic one called ISIL This can't possibly be the case. The greatest experiment in a society of liberty can't possibly have degraded to the level of one that accepts torture and denies the sacredness of the Geneva Conventions.

If you really believe that torture is acceptable then I beg you to reconsider. We have taken steps backward but surely not so far back as barbarism!!!

I am the grandson of Russian immigrants. My father’s parents came to America in the very early 20th century. They were Jewish and the main reason they came was to escape and Antisemitism. 

Grandma and grandpa came from a place where, as a minority, they were hated – to a place whose founding principles were equality and liberty – well, at least for white folk. All that they, and others like them,  wanted was a chance to make a life not mired in hatred. Grandpa’s first way of earning a living was to own gumball machines.

So, I give a danm about others partly because I am just rwo generations removed from immigrants; immigrants who embraced America’s dream –  and I am proud of that. 

The American dream is eroding now; eroding at an unprecidented rate; leaving in it’s wake both sadness and disdain for anyone who’s not a gun-toting rich white Christian. Most horrific is that this is happening in a part of the world where every gun-toting rich white Christian is an immigrant! 

What has this to do with Passover? Easy. 

On Passover one of the greatest mitzvot is to welcome strangers into your home. This is because, just like the gun-toting rich white Christians were in America, we were once strangers in the land of Egypt. We embrace “strangers” because we WERE strangers. Not only that, if we let liberty continue to erode, we could become them once again. 

It happened in Russia. It happened in Germany. If you think it won’t happen in America the I beg you to open your eyes and polish up your critical thinking skills. Because… it is.

On Passover especially, we don’t build wall; we open doors. We don’t exclude strangers; we embrace them. We don’t detest diversity; we embrace it. 

This must happen for everyone, every day. Only then will we open the door and will Elijah stay for longer than just a swig of bad wine. Only then will Eliahu ha navi hearld the messianic age. Or, for we who do not believe in all the theology, only then will people stop treating each other like shit and embrace dignity and love.
This Passover I urge you to RESIST hate and embrace all humanity. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan “Mr. Trump, tear down (the plans for) this wall”.

Hag Pesach Someach!

Because of the insanity going on in the United States right now it seems an opportune time to step back and consider what really matters. Our country does not now seem well disposed to people who need our help. We are turning away from immigrants, away from the homeless, and away from compassion. It seems like a good time to share the next chapter of my Faces of Need Photo Essay. I’d like to do that now.

Recall that “Faces of Need – Portland” is an ongoing project that I started at the end 2015. It’s purpose it two-fold. First, it brings attention to the humanity and dignity of every Oregonian. Second, it reminds us that even in a land as blessed as Oregon the problem of hunger continues unabated.

I hope you find power in these images and that they remind you – as I’ve said before – that every human being is a unique and wonderful creation, worthy of love, respect, dignity, shelter, sustenance, and compassion.

Peace, love, and light y’all,

Steve

 

Faces of Need: A Photo Essay (Part 2)

By: Steven Craig Bilow

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