Challenging The Impossibility of Coexistence

As the 2016 New Year rolled in, I found myself in the home of the lead singer of a pop-alternative band from NYC, along with around twenty other musicians from various backgrounds and creeds, many of whom had not known each other before that night. After sharing a meal together, we dove into some challenging dialogue, trading stories of authentic connection and the struggle. Just one hour before, we were strangers, but amidst the storytelling and spontaneous jam sessions, the sounds of jazz-piano and 90s R&B a-cappella became a catalyst for new camaraderie. I knew I had caught a glimpse of something really special, and it was the sort of magic that can happen when curiosity, creativity, and compassion come together. On the surface, it looked like a pretty dope party, but really, something bigger was going on. These were the artists of the Noon Project, a musical collaboration of global artists working together to raise support for victims of ethnic and religious oppression in the Middle East. But our story starts a year ago, on a beach in Libya, whose coastline tragically became stained with innocent blood.

On February 15th 2015, ISIS broadcasted a video depicting the beheading of 21 Coptic men on the Libyan shores of the Mediterranean Sea because they were Christian and would not convert to radical Islam. Being a Coptic man, I saw 21 of “my own” lined-up along the shore, wearing orange jumpsuits, kneeling, heads down, silent but strong. I saw not only 21 men, but also a piece of our very nature as humans on the execution block. Seeing my own family in the faces of the 21, people who also left Egypt for their livelihood. After the initial emotions subsided and the dust settled, a few of us, armed not with weapons, but with our voices and our minds, came together with an idea to use art to draw attention to the plight of oppressed peoples, and find a way to support them in a practical way. This was the moment that sparked the birth of The Noon Project later that year. Many told me this was a bad idea—not because they disagreed with the mission, but rather due to the challenges such a project could involve. Despite the pushback, we believe our approach is the only way to save humanity from self-destruction.

The project didn’t start out with such a challenging mission. In fact, it was quite safe. The initial approach was to find Middle-Eastern artists to make music that will help Middle-Eastern victims of oppression. Makes sense, right? However it wasn’t long before I began to feel that this approach was short-sighted. While it is perfectly natural to have Assyrians, Chaldeans, Copts, Shia, Kurds and Yazidi helping out their own kind, there is something problematic about this strategy. This problem wasn’t apparent to me until I began talking about The Noon Project with some close and trusted friends who didn’t share the same cultural ties to the suffering as I do.

One friend in particular challenged me with the idea of creating a project where the team and the end product represent the kind of world we want to live in, one in which all voices are invited to the table; not just the ones representative of those we wanted to help. My initial reaction: Yes! Wait, no! My friend was calling out to a part of me that he himself knows well, because we share these ideals. But despite the growing fire in my heart, I resisted. I knew he was challenging me to do things that would make people uncomfortable, and while my 20-something year old self would relish the enjoyment of being provocative, my decade older self is no longer satisfied with actions for the sake of pushing other people’s’ buttons. I could hear the questions arise: Why would a Muslim want to sing on a record where the proceeds are helping victims of radical Islam? Is it possible for songs with Christian, Muslim, and Non-religious themes to share the same musical space? Why would a non-religious person get involved with helping the victims of religious persecution? In my own heart these questions were irrelevant. A record that brought everyone and every voice together made absolute sense to me, but, I just didn’t think it would be acceptable, or even palpable to others. So I politely set aside the challenge that I had almost taken up.

Soon, I was having conflicting thoughts would not rest. I began to see the world through a different lens, saturated and bleak; there seemed to be division in every aspect of life. Our country was more divided than I ever remember it being. Wars and riots erupted and continued to simmer, hatred persisted. I looked at the Noon Project and suddenly realized: if we don’t make this album inclusive, we might be creating yet another space where people will care about and fight for their own, but lack the space to exercise their empathetic muscles towards those different than them—a “silo of compassion.” And I didn’t have to go far, or wait too long to witness the effects of this silo.

Upon the news of the beheading of the 21 in Libya, my own social networks were flooded with a resounding cry for justice. The Coptic community was shouting to the world that this massacre was part of a greater story where Christian minorities in the Middle East live under constant threat of discrimination or worse fates. We shouted so that everyone would listen to us, that they would not only know what was happening, but that they would also care. United we stood, with our candle memes burning strong on our retina displays. But as we turn our eyes to the United States, where the country is facing a crisis, where young black men are the targets of racial injustice, the Coptic community as a whole becomes incredibly silent on the issue. Being victims of injustice ourselves, we should be the first to recognize when injustice exists, or at the very least have the empathy to relate, and possibly share our voices on the matter.

This behavior is not unique to the Coptic community by any means. We, as humans, do not naturally relate to the struggles of others whom we consider different than ourselves. It’s how we all operate. We focus on the struggles of those similar to us, and minimize, or sometimes ignore the struggles of another, and much of that has to do with our own limitations of airtime, resources, and perceived emotional capacity. You see, many of us share a collective vision for the world, one that involves people of all colors holding hands and singing songs of peace, but we cringe when it comes to what it might take to get there. But it feels like a form of hypocrisy for those who have experienced injustice to knowingly or unknowingly withhold compassion from others who are experiencing it themselves. This behavior contends that my struggle, and therefore my existence, is more important than yours, rather than acknowledging our shared human identity.

It is not my intention to minimize the difficulty of such a task. There are reasons for the separation between people. There has always been enough evil, violence, and greed in the world, that separation in some cases had become necessary for the survival of some. But is this a sustainable model? These were the concerns that I wrestled with for a long time, and which eventually led to a change we had to make in the Noon Project.

While we would maintain our goal of helping persecuted minorities in the Middle East, we decided to open up our doors and invite artists and collaborators from all backgrounds, faiths, and ethnicities to participate in the making of this record. While the Noon Project first and foremost exists as an attempt to grant justice to those who have been stripped of their own, we took on a very important secondary goal: to be a model of coexistence in a divided world.

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The idea was that if we could bring people together from different backgrounds, and invite them to share their own experiences through music and art, then there would be dialogue, inquiry, and new understanding. I am happy to report that this vision is becoming a reality! On January 2nd, 2016, we had our 2nd Noon Artists gathering for NYC, where local bands and solo artists who have made submissions for the record came together to share a night of community and dialogue. At this gathering we began having these very conversations, and many were exposed to stories, and perspective they had not encountered before. Even if this experiment in empathy reaches only as far as within the community of artists working on this project, it could be a small but powerful shift and one that we hope can radiate outwards. We aren’t setting out to change the world, but we are determined to be an example for what is possible when a group of people create something together while recognizing the common thread of humanity connecting them.



What is our response to #‎BlackLivesMatter, the Syrian refugee crisis, the multiple attacks on Paris over the last year, the growing anti-Muslim sentiment in America, the attack against Christians, Muslims, Yazidi, and Kurds in Iraq, the growing suicide and homeless rate of LGBT American teens, and the barriers of education to young women in many parts of Africa? If empathy is a resource, how rich are we? Will we continue to only acknowledge the struggles of our “own kind,” or can we begin to open hearts to our neighbor and begin to see ourselves in them? Maybe then we can begin to shed this illusion of an “us vs. them world” and can start to experience something far better. And this is why our project is built on this foundation.

Unless we model coexistence in a radical way, there is no war, no revolution, nor any amount of political correctness that can actually move the needle of humanity towards peace.


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Follow the Noon Project on Facebook and Instagram

Are you a musician and share in our vision? Apply for a spot on our record!

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10 Ways To Change TheWorld





1. Invest in Education


Education is a human right that is often treated as a privilege. When my friends and I started Seeds For Hope, we had a dream to provide access to those if given just a small chance, could change their world, and the world around them.



Angela’s story, above is just an example of how education can turn a life around. It’s not just about earning a degree, but the confidence that is instilled in a person through their achievements will last them the rest of their lives.

2. Connect Young People to the Arts



Music, poetry, dance, theater: are all mediums for self and collective expression. Joy, pain, sorrow, fear, and celebration are all expressed through the arts. Young people are often not shielded from the tragedies of this world, and art can be an outlet, and a tool for youth, to work through their experiences. SFH’s Arts for Life program, connects arts professionals with Kenyan schools, in order to use music, art, poetry and theater to teach skills, and help deal with the challenges of the world around. The video above is the result of one of these workshops. “You Might Think” is a powerful piece were students expressed in their own words their true identity vs. the way others may look at them.

3. Get out and see the world!



You can only learn so much about the world around you from books, magazines, and reality TV. There are many misunderstandings between people in the developing world and people in the west. Despite our access to social media, you can only go so far with a tweet. SFH connects students with others abroad, through volunteer programs and workshops. The collaborations and dialogue that result from these programs encourage understanding, compassion, and a greater sense of our connectedness on this planet. The video above is a short film about one such collaboration between a NYC rock musician, and a girls school in Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya. Watch the trailer above, or the entire mini-documentary, to see how this collaboration impacted everyone involved.

4. Invest locally



Investing in students through a scholars program is just one part of the equation. It’s important to invest in local organizations, in order to see a sustainable changes in a landscape. Local organizations have the most effective means to impact a community. They have the history, network, and most importantly, the relationships, in order to make change happen! Seeds For Hope also invests in local organizations who possess a model for sustainable growth and positive impact in their communities. Kibera Girls Soccer Academy is just one of these organizations, where our initial seed funding helped launch the school to great heights. Learn more about our partners here.

5. Be loyal. Foster relationships.



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While we have over 200 alumni of our SFH Scholars Fund, for us, education and scholarship is not a numbers game. We are a small organization, having large impact in the lives of individuals. One of the things our students have told us that have made the most difference, is that we have committed to each one through the duration of their academic program. Not just on an organizational level, but even as volunteers, donors, we give a little then depart, which sometimes is the only thing we are able to do, with the demands of life. But making a conscious choice to invest in an organization or individual for the long run, we leave the realm of “charity” and enter into the realm of interdependence and mutual respect, which is so much more transformative than any hand out can ever be. When we invest in a student, we don’t just commit to them for a single term or year, but rather, once a student is granted a scholarship, we are committed to them for the duration until they complete that particular level of schooling. With each of our students, we offer guidance and mentorship and other support, so that all barriers to the learning process can be removed in an effort to increase their chances at success. Learn more about how we work with our scholars.

6. Invest In Career Oriented Programs


Survival based employment is a common way of life for many young people. In places like Kenya, young people will drop out of school as young as 12 years old, to begin working as a day laborer, to earn pennies for hours of work. With education being costly past primary school, families would rather have their children work than continue their education. Many charities out there, will help teach young people skills that are not marketable outside of large factory environments. Having hard skills is important for income, but career oriented programs are all about the big picture.


Our scholars are encouraged to not only do well and complete their education, but in addition, know themselves and discover their dreams, so that when they finish, they can begin following them.


80% of our grads have moved away from this mindset of employment as a survival technique but rather, have put themselves on career paths towards making their dreams come true.

7. Invest in girls FIRST.



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There is a saying that when you educate a girl, an educated girl becomes an educated woman, and an educated woman, can become an educated mother, and an educated mother will have educated children, which leads to the transformation of a family, a community, and even a whole society. Seeds for Hope gives priority to young women. In the developing world, women are very much at risk, and at the same time, crucial to the eradication of dependence and poverty.


Education is a gift that continues to give. Many of our scholars will have the ability to put their own siblings and children into school because of their ability to increase their income. What happens is, a family becomes no longer reliant on charity but is now self sustaining. Educating one person can lead to freedom for a whole number of people. Because Our program leads to graduates being proactive in the lives of others breaking the cycle of poverty and dependence.

8. Invest in small businesses


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Investing in community groups and local businesses can achieve longterm economic empowerment through income generating activities that are locally owned and lead. Syana Nzeo (which means Good Children in Kikamba) is a group of elderly caregivers caring for 150 AIDS orphans in the Ukambani province in Kenya. In 2012, They approached us to set up a poultry business that could sustain the educational costs of their children. It proved to be very successful and this business supports education and other household expenses until today! Read more about it on our blog.



9. Invest in programs that promote education on relational and sexual health.





Despite our modern access to information, young people all over the world are still at a crossroads in the decisions they have to make, regarding their relationships and themselves. HIV is still an epidemic in many parts of the world, where young people don’t have all the information they need, that can protect them. When a young person is educated in the realm of sexuality and relationships, they get a better understanding of how to take care of themselves and their partners.

10. Remind a young person that they CAN make a difference



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Through 11 years of working with SFH, one thing that we noticed most, is that our scholars are now part of a generation of people who want to influence the coming generation of dreamers; many of our scholars will volunteer and mentor current students in the program. Read about some of our scholars, as they describe these transformations in their own words. We see clearly that investing in education not only changes the course of an individual’s life, but creates a ripple effect from the student to the world around them.








Seeds For Hope is a 501©3 Non-Profit organization, registered in the United States and Kenya, whose mission is to promote holistic development among underserved children and youth in Kenya through integrated health and social programs that expand access to education, health services and economic opportunity transforming them, their households and their communities at large.


Our vision is for a world where access is a right, not a privilege!

Help us make a difference!


We are competing for a grant with Microsoft, the Upgrade Your World campaign. Cast your votes on Twitter mentioning @seedsforhope with #UpgradeYourWorldKE and #Vote.. We’ve created some great tweets for you here: http://seedsforhope.org/2015/09/13/11-reasons-to-vote-sfh-for-upgradeyourworldke/


You can also make a tax-deductible donation here: http://seedsforhope.org/donate



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Hacking Ebola

Not your typical Friday. Back from a sushi dinner, long overdue, with a close friend. And I’m remembering the first thing I saw on my computer this morning when I opened Chrome:Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 10.22.50 PM

 

My trusty Momentum Chrome Extension was quite adept  in forecasting the course of my day, first of all, with a photo of the Bay Area, the only photo from US soil I’ve seen in weeks, and then the quote by Margaret Mead which reads:

“Never underestimate the ability of a small group of dedicated people to change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Nothing could have been more appropriate or prophetic for what was to lay in store for me that evening.   At 5pm, in a conference room in downtown Oakland, I sat in a room with a lawyer, a technical leader, a healthcare professional, a design thinker, a freelance engineer, a biotech hardware engineer, a techno-cultural community organizer, a marketer, an investor, all brought together by what I would describe as a renaissance man, musician and technolgist, CEO and Founder of Feykena, Dwalu Khasu.  Who has a razor sharp determination to accomplish one goal with this small group of individuals: Eradicate Ebola from the planet.    I’ve never in my life participated in the discussion around something so grand, however I was not overwhelmed, but completely and utterly inspired.    In a few weeks, the plan is to hold a Hackathon in San Francisco, to create practical, and innovative solutions to the various concerns of people on the ground: healthcare workers, those infected, and those who are not.    While Silicon Valley remains silent,  and CEO’s wives pour money into the CDC, there is a small meeting of the minds, but these are not just any regular people, but I felt I was sharing a room with giants.  The brain power, passion, compassion, resources, and influence in this room, just humbled me.

I hear the voice of Boromir: One does not simply walk into Mordor.

One of the very first things that needs to happen, is to change the narrative, stop the fear mongering, and become a voice of calm and reason, and where we can: help and educate.   Keep your eyes peeled, I’m not sure where this is going, but the call has been answered.

This kind of irreverent boldness is necessary in times of crisis.

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MIDI, Time-Travel, and the Simpsons

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I just had an esoteric experience.

Let’s rewind to 1994.  It was a cool autumn night, or maybe it was summer, who really knows?   As a 16 year old, I was obsessed with orchestration, arrangements, and composition…  you know…  like most other 16 year olds.    I would often sit with a piece of music, and try to hear each instrument and learn each part.  Sure, I could have just gotten the sheet music, but this was more fun. It was a way to train my ear, and see how close I can get to the composer’s original vision.  It taught me a lot about composing, orchestration, as well as song-writing.

Obsessed with The Simpsons, it was only a matter of time, I did the same thing with the hit TV-show’s INFECTIOUS theme music by Danny Elfman.

Well, mission accomplished!  I listened to that song till my ears bled, and figured out as many of those whole-step runs as I possibly could, and saved the results to a MIDI file, to be played with pride on my then brand new Korg X3, which had decent enough orchestra sounds, for 1994.  And MIDI being the resilient format that it is, is still very much relevant 20 years later in 2014, when I found this file and decided to give it some new life.

It was like entering a collaboration with my 16 year old self, negotiating, learning from, and adding to.  And the result is what we have here, same MIDI file, a couple of additions, piped through MachFive+VSL to give it some new life, uploaded to SoundCloud ever immortalized by the inter-webs.

Special thanks to my good buddy Peter Maher, for taking time this Saturday and laying down Lisa’s breaking-out-of-the-school-walls with her heart wrenching solos, (but this time on the alto sax)

This goes out to all the Simpsons fans, musicians, and time travelers.

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Smoker’s Cough and the F Train

It’s one of the warmest months in the Bay Area, and somehow I’ve developed a pretty nasty lung infection. Doctor says it’s “light pneumonia”.  I didn’t know pneumonia came in the “light” variety.   It’s kinda like:

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Kind of fitting, that it falls on the 2-year anniversary of my quit smoking date. Possibly as a stern warning from the universe, of the things that may befall me, if I were ever to go back. I don’t really talk very openly about quitting smoking.  The people in my day to day, knew I was doing it, they saw me go through it, but I never really told most people about the experience both, the inner experience of being a smoker, as well as walking out of it, but I figured, if this might help someone follow the same path, why not get it out there?

In 2006, I had all my closest friends write me a letter, telling me why they wanted me to stop smoking. I used this as motivation, to keep me off cigarettes, when I moved to Kenya, leaving my pack at home. I figured I would to carry the weight of the words, and cumulative time it took to write those words down as a large enough dosage of guilt, I mean… accountability, to keep me from getting that Philip-Morris fix. However within a few months of my return to the USA, a couple of shots of tequila, and a bad day at work, and behold, we’re pack-a-day buddies once again.

I might as well have used their letters as rolling paper… Yeah, I’m really good at this guilt thing. I’m Egyptian!

September 5th 2012, I decided I would smoke my last cigarette. A year before on that same day, I arrived in Oakland, CA, stepping foot into my new home, in the Bay Area, and I certainly did not see that coming. I don’t really talk about why I quit, and how it happened, but maybe it’s the rediscovery of this blog, and the curiosity of whether or not I’m still able to gather my thoughts and put them up on the digital screen, that I find myself here, drinking a medium cup of hibiscus tea, and typing these words out. But I am hungry.

In summary: I quit smoking and gained 30 lbs.  In that exact order.

To truly understand this, and I think smokers and ex-smokers will totally relate when I say, you have to understand the relationship I had with cigarettes. It was the reward, I got, basically for living. Just finished a meal?....Good job, Paul!  Just sat through one of those EXTRA long 2 hour 30 minute movies? Dang, that was some serious movie watchin’, brother!  The way you just sat there and followed that plot, and all those twists and turns!    And don’t get me started on flights.   Yeah, we know BOS to JFK was only 1 hour, but you held your own.  Stored that tray table like a champ!  Oh, shit, TSA took my lighter… 

My favorites were the ones after long jogs, oh even after the 2009 BAA Half Marathon.  Yeah, it was that serious.

The tough part, though, was the guilt.  I went to bed every night knowing that, if I got sick, and by sick I mean…  life and lung damaging illness… that it was my fault.  I would to have to look people in the eye, and take responsibility for the fact that I not only did this to myself, but I gave my tithe to the all-holy tobacco industry to do it.    A book given to me, that took me about 4 years to read, The Easy Way to Stop Smoking by Alan Carr, was what finally did it.   I’ve tried all things.   Patches, gums, inhalers, hell, I moved to NorCal where a smoker is pretty much a social outcast (except for some reason once I quit smoking, it felt like everyone around me picked up the habit).   This book, may have saved my life.   Why? . All things start in the mind.  Every sandwich you ate, every person you kissed, every shot you drank, every encouragement you gave, started with a thought. How we see the world, will affect how we live in the world.  And this book gave me a new perspective on this habit of mine.

The instructions are:   don’t finish the book until you’re ready to stop…  and don’t stop smoking until you finish the book…  and that’s why it took 4 years.  There is one chapter, where you’re instructed to smoke your last cigarette.   Essentially I did this: I took two days, went into the woods, and read and smoked, and read and smoked, and chewed on each chapter as if it was manna on my tongue, nourishment, wisdom, I was determined to change my mind, and therefore change my habits.   And I would not read that last chapter until I was ready.  I sat in Tilden Park, up in Berkeley, I walked around Lake Temescal in Oakland, and sat at the riverbank, as I smoked that last cigarette, and I kid you not, it was pretty much the most disgusting thing I had every tasted, because if you really allow yourself to let the words of those pages sink in, you become very conscious of what you’re doing.   And that’s what it took for me.  It was a journey of, “no cigarette today” after “no cigarette today” after another…  Until those daily choices to not buy a pack or take a puff, strung into weeks, and then months, until I just stopped thinking about it.

They say that smoking affects the emotion centers of the body.  If you believe in energy centers, they say the heart chakra is most affected.  And it’s not like there’s this magic ball of green energy in the center of your chest, but whether it’s the chemicals, or the habit itself, the symbolism is perfect.  We draw in clouds of smoke into our chest, where our hearts sit.  Making everything in there a little less transparent to others, and even to ourselves.   It’s one of the reasons people are known for being moody, and irritable.  But it’s not just that, it’s also an extreme sensitivity to all emotion: joy, anger, sadness, laughter, etc.   The clouds have cleared away, it’s nothing but flesh: lungs and heart.    Let’s just say, a few weeks after that last cigarette, I was raw, to say the least.   I feel bad for anyone who got on my bad side during that time.   Oh man, that pedestrian who walked too slow in front of my car…    that poor grocery clerk didn’t separate my chicken in a plastic bag…    to you i apologize most of all.

So a few weeks after I quit, I found out the author of the book I had read, had passed away.  Would you believe I reacted as if I had lost my best friend???  I was sitting on my couch just objectively looking at myself and almost laughing at the ridiculousness of the intense disturbance I felt for losing this person I didn’t even know, and not only that, he’d been dead for about 10 years!   Luckily this phase passed, and I can, again, watch The Notebook without flinching.

So there ya have it.  I can’t run as far as I could when I was smoking, but that’s because my ankle has gone to hell over the years.  I probably could have run a marathon before.  But I write this, in case something here, can resonate with someone who’s in those shoes, who might wanna stop smoking, or just pretty much understands what that journey is like.  It was one of those difficult things, that reminded me that with enough focus, perspective, and determination, most things are possible.   So, I’m taking that with me.

And if for some reason you see me with a cigarette in my mouth again, don’t make a big deal of it, you don’t wanna get on my bad side when I stop smoking again.

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The paradox of human creativity in a twisted society: the musings of an insomniac in south boston.

I’ve been up since 4am.

While doing some reading last night, i realized I spend too much time in front of a computer, when I checked the top of the page, to see what time it was. (were I a PC user, I’d have checked the bottom)

But I digress…I had to put the book down because a question blared in my mind which was sparked by what I was reading…. and this question forced to make a quick 20 second analysis of everything i know about the world and found myself faced with a clear internal contradiction. Because I wouldn’t be able to continue unless I had come to some resolution…

I am totally aware of the lack of decency this world affords, in the mind-fuck of a society we live in, and that the world often operates in a way that is contrary to anything that is fair, righteous, or even healthy. And I don’t mean lack of decency in the Pat Robertson sense of the phrase…. However, the lack of decency I speak of, permits a small percentage of people to control the majority of the world’s resources, that honors slaughter for capital gain, and social manipulation via expensive campaigns “so we can buy shit we don’t need”, and elect people who don’t always have our best interests at heart …. Oh, and I can’t forget the fact that some of the highest paying jobs contribute very little back to society, while educators and civil servants struggle to get by…

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society” – Krishnamurti. 

This is inherently true to me. At the same time, I have this unshakable deep rooted belief that this world is inherently good. I feel I have held both “truths” together for a long time, without even looking to them at the same time, let alone ask them to begin speaking to each other. For a moment I put the book on pause as I racked my brain to find a way to settle this discrepancy, when I looked within, I searched for reasons, images, memories that brought me to this conclusion that this world was inherently “good”, which no doubt I have become reacquainted with time and time again in my life, that would remind me of why I had come to that conclusion of the world in the first place. 

For my prior argument, to understand why I believed in the inherent sickness of our society, I wouldn’t have to look past memories from this very day, the news, heck, even myself… however I had to look deeper into my past to remember an even deeper truth that I hold, and in no time, one by one, each memory came flooding back. 

The sweat inducing acrobatics of De La Guarda, Byzantine Chant, The harvest celebration of the Luo people, The Vitruvian Man, “Grace” by Jeff Buckley, The performance art of a couple of young women from NYC called Shalom Sahbity…. Every memory that surfaced was one clearly around human creation. Art. Music Dance. Theater. The arts and are the only evidence I have, that I can truly believe in, that we as a race, and as a collective consciousness are inherently beautiful. There’s just something about it.

Every time I witness a piece of art… all the things i consider sick: war, corruption, inequality, religious monopoly and persecution.. if they didn’t make sense before, they just seemed completely irrelevant then. 

“I was the top male-model for an Egyptian line of jeans, and my face and figure were plastered on billboards all over the Middle East… and still the fighting continued… ” -Buddy Cole, Kids In The Hall

When a person, or when people come together to create something of beauty, passion, and truth, there is no room for the corruption of politics money and power, (however the industry of the arts certainly contain all these things)

There’s something to it, and I wanna find out more.

If I look across the globe to the dances, the songs, the paintings, and the performances, every person becomes elevated to a place of great humility as they are just vessels of beauty and were meek enough to accept themselves as such. And I think its in this position as a human vessel for creativity that we do find an inherent goodness among all people. 

I think it may be because the creative process probably brings us closer to the divine, or rather our divine selves.

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Don’t Diss The Pope! Feelings could get hurt.

Pope Innocent with St. John of Matha

Recently, there’s been a lot of talk about Harry Knox and his comments against Pope Benedict. He said “The pope is hurting people in the name of Jesus” (something along those lines), mainly because of the pope’s declaration against condom use in Africa. (and I agree with Knox whole heartedly)

I guess what is getting to me about all this, is that people feel that this is an opportunity to “Stand up for Christianity” because there’s this notion that christianity is a threatened religion on the global scene.

Now I do know first hand that in many nations, being a christian (or anything else besides the majority religion) will make a person an object of violence and discrimination, but christianity is hardly the only religion that has or is experiencing these attacks… but on the whole christianity has been, is, and will continue to be the most powerful religion on the planet. And when i say powerful, i mean in terms of political, social and economic power (when it comes to spiritual power, that’s a whole other topic). The evangelical church alone is the religious powerhouse of the USA, and we’re the most powerful country on the planet.

Now what boggles my mind is, that, while large Christian groups and churches contribute to economic and humanitarian aid all over the world in the form of hospitals, food programs, rehabilitation, etc… it does not discount the fact that the church has and continues to make mistakes. Sometimes huge mistakes… As soon as someone criticizes the behavior of the church, people go up in arms because it becomes this big offense to even question the decisions, statements and behavior of a human run organization.

Good works does not equate to immunity. And just because good has been done by someone, or people, or a church, it doesn’t mean they’re perfect and are above scrutiny. We have a tendency as humans, to either worship or vilify, and no human being or group is worthy of either. While we’ve seen people come close to being completely evil and vile, I don’t know or have ever heard of one who’s been close to perfect, and if you know of any, send me their official biography because I’d love to read it.

I believe the pope’s statements are dead wrong, and so does Harry Knox…. and so do the majority of educated people in the realm of public health and science.

Maybe the criticism against the church is an opportunity for the church to take a look at itself and say “Are we doing everything right? Are we really representing the Jesus we are holding on our banners?” But really, in 2,000 years, we’ve only seen progress when people are willing to exam themselves, and we’ve only seen tyranny rise out of human immunity. Read a history book.

I have seen some despicable things done to human beings in the name of Jesus and in the name of Christianity. It happens, and it continues to happen. Turning a blind eye doesn’t really do good for your cause, in fact it starts to discredit it. And when you’re as powerful as the pope, and you have the ears of 1 billion people, you better have your stuff together, because people WILL listen to you and react. The AIDS epidemic in Africa is a way different issue than AIDS in western countries. Blanket moral statements are not responsible.

At the end of the day, I believe this whole thing is a reaction to the power shift in government and a great opportunity for the conservatives in washington to make noise against the administration (which also is not perfect).

But hey, I could be wrong.

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