Feb. 25, 2017: Take Sides, But Don't Harden

There were contentious town hall meetings across the country this week, for those legislators brave enough to offer them. 

This week I attended Chuck Grassley's town hall meeting in Garner, Iowa. Some of his responses to the questions disappointed me, and it's true that his voting record has greatly disappointed me in the last few years. Still, he deserved respect for showing up in Garner. I'm sorry that the crowd didn't always give him that.  

How do we retain our equanimity even as we work for change? Maybe these two quotes can help us find our sweet spot:   

"We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."  --Ellie Weisel

"To cultivate equanimity we practice catching ourselves when we feel attraction or aversion, before it hardens into grasping or negativity." --Pema Chodron

Taking sides and working for change, but without hardening -- that's the challenge.  

Feb. 20, 2017: The Place of Art in Placemaking

The place of art in making public spaces more inviting cannot be overrated. I am so grateful to the program, River City Sculptures on Parade, for the year-long exhibit of sculptures enjoyed by the Mason City community. This year there are 49 sculptures within a 1.7 walking loop in and around the downtown. Some of the sculptures are permanent, owned by the city, while others are owned by the artists and loaned to the exhibit for one year. Each year, one of the new sculptures is chosen by the public for the city’s permanent collection.

This one – “Elation” – has been one of my favorites this year and has taken on special meaning during this politically turbulent time.

Thank you, artist Adam Schultz from Laporte, CO, for reminding us to keep in touch with those lighter, brighter moments.  

February 9, 2017: Happy Anniversary to the Pope!

This March 14 will mark the anniversary of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, formerly Buenos Aires archbishop, who became Pope Francis four years ago. I’m not a Catholic, but I have such admiration for the Pope, who has said, “You cannot insult the faith of others.” And: “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This not in the Gospel.” May we all have ears to hear.  

February 6, 2017: Mother Nature for President!?

Mother Nature has some great ideas—for free!—for a political platform, if only we would listen, according to Thomas Friedman’s latest book, Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations.

In a world encountering a faster speed of change than ever before, Friedman writes that our ability to keep up is understandably lagging—for reasons he explains in the book. Toward the end, in a chapter called “Mother Nature as Political Mentor,” he offers an optimistic agenda for thriving that is inspired by the 3.8-billion year-old woman herself.

Mother Nature’s “killer aps,” he writes, include adaptability, lifelong learning, relentless entrepreneurship, diversity, rootedness, sustainability, and patience.

Friedman goes on to lay out an amazing political platform inspired by Mother Nature’s example. What we need, he says, is “an entrepreneurial mind-set, a willingness to approach politics and problem-solving with an utterly hybrid, heterodox, and nondogmatic mixing and matching of ideas, without regard to traditional left-right catechism—letting all kinds of ideas coevolve, just as plants and animals coevolve in nature.”

An example of something on Mother Nature’s platform from the left, according to Friedman: “She would favor a single-payer universal health care system funded by a progressive value-added consumption tax (except on groceries and other necessities).”

For the right: “She would appoint an independent commission to review the Dodd-Frank financial reforms and the Sarbanes-Oxley accounting regulations to determine which—if any—of their provisions are needlessly making it harder for entrepreneurs to raise capital or start businesses. We need to make sure we’re preventing recklessness—not risk-taking.”

I wish this book, or at least this chapter, or at least the platform ideas on pages 328-336, could be required reading for everyone! Maybe it could help us bridge our wide gaps between left and right.

Why not let our Mother be our guide??