Independence Day is fast approaching. On that day we celebrate our declaration of independence from Great Britain in 1776 and our independence as a country today.
As independent as we are in relation to many countries in the world, are we really independent? We could seek answers to this question through many lenses. Today we will choose one.
In my mind and heart, we are not independent as long as we suffer needlessly and as long as we cause needless suffering to others. Now there is some suffering that is simply part of life. And others where it’s a delicate balance.
If lightning strikes someone’s home, simply as a result of natural causes and no negligence on anyone’s part, causing damage to the home and maybe someone in the home . . . that suffering might be so very painful, while at the same time it was from a completely random act of nature. On the other hand, if there is a flood, which causes untold suffering to thousands and thousands of people, and the flood isn’t simply an act of nature, but rather the result of negligence on the part of people and groups whose job it was to keep dams and levees in good, safe, working order . . . then that is needless suffering. I know even with my explanation this is still very delicate. I invite you to stay with the essence, though, and not get lost in the details.
How do we know if we suffer needlessly? If you were wounded as a child – let’s say through abuse or neglect, or even lack of awareness by the one who wounded you – and repair was never made, and you haven’t consciously, purposefully, safely worked through the wounding and its impact on you . . . you are suffering needlessly. And in addition, you are likely wounding others by not working through your own experiences, thus causing them needless suffering.
If we don’t feel our suffering and work with and through it, we will definitely cause suffering . . . needless suffering. Here’s an example that has reflections in many ages . . . how many people and groups have tried to prove that certain others don’t feel, don’t suffer? Too many!
There are many who would use or have used – or misused – science to try to prove this. Meaning to try to prove their own prejudices. Meaning trying to defend their own disconnection from feeling and reality. But how many times and ways has that been done before? What about the argument that Black skinned people have no ability to feel, which was put forth in the days of slavery and beyond . . . and proven wrong? What about the assertion that Jewish people have no ability to feel, used by the Nazis during the holocaust . . . and proven wrong? What about the argument I’ve heard from people whose parents justified their abuse of their children as babies, saying they’re just babies and don’t feel or remember anything? This argument, also, is inaccurate! And what about those who experiment on animals, saying the animals have no ability to feel or would not be able to remember the pain they feel . . . an assertion that evidence is refuting more and more.
What about the Milgram experiment at Yale, in which people (all adults) were urged by “an authority” to inflict pain and suffering on someone (even though the person on the other side was an actor and wasn’t really receiving the shock)? As the result of their own unhealed wounding, the unwitting subjects of this experiment were capable of following orders that caused what they believed wholeheartedly was blatantly needless suffering on total strangers. Perhaps they were afraid of suffering needlessly at the hands of the “authority.” Or perhaps they were afraid of feeling the suffering (from long ago) that not obeying that authority would trigger inside them.
Claiming that some don’t feel pain and suffering has gone on before and continues to go on in our world today, sometimes in blatant ways and sometimes in subtle ways. Anyone who believes others can’t feel pain and suffering is not in reality. Anyone who believes others can’t feel pain and suffering is not in truth. Anyone who tries to teach adults or children that live beings don’t feel suffering is dangerous.
In addition, and this may not need to be said, but I feel called to make sure it is said . . . People who respond to the needless suffering they experience by making sure others experience needless suffering, too . . . destroy the independence they may long for, and the independence we long for, too.
On July 4th, our country will celebrate its independence . . . but we must ask ourselves, “Are we truly Independent?”
Independent? I don’t think so. We cannot truly be independent as long as we don’t heal our own needless suffering, stop inflicting needless suffering on others, and lastly … help those who are suffering needlessly find their way to healing that needless suffering, too. We cannot be truly independent until we are as sure as we can be that none of us experiences needless suffering.
What will you do to heal the needless suffering within yourself, the needless suffering you may cause to others, and by so doing, the needless suffering all over the world?
© Judith Barr 2011
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP MAKE YOUR WORLD SAFE . . . FROM THE INSIDE OUT
This Independence Day – before, during, and after whatever festivities you have – take time to deeply explore the meaning of Independence . . . and how to heal the wounding inside you to help bring about independence for yourself and our world . . . independence from needless suffering.
How have you suffered needlessly throughout your life, and from what wounds did this suffering inside you emerge? Explore the painful parts of your life – going back as far as you can – and allow yourself to feel, as much as possible, the suffering you carry with you from long ago.
How have you caused others to needlessly suffer? Again . . . explore those times in your life where you have caused pain to others, and feel the feelings that go along with those memories.
If you feel called to share what you find inside yourself, I would welcome and honor an email from you.
Together, we can bring about a deep independence, one that not enough of us aspire to, in our own lives and in our world . . . if we are willing and open to explore and heal the roots of needless suffering in our lives and in our world!
As someone with the deep intention of helping us to heal the misuse and abuse of power in our world and the wounding from which that abuse comes . . . I know only too well that we all have the potential to misuse and abuse our power. We all have wounds, some from our experience in our families and some from our experience in our communities, our culture, our world. One of our responses to the deep, intense, raw, painful feelings from our wounds, is to misuse and abuse the power we have . . . or to misuse and abuse in order to feel like we can grab some power from the places we have felt and perhaps still feel powerless. And who amongst us hasn’t felt powerless? Who amongst us hasn’t felt powerless as we were born? Who amongst us didn’t feel powerless as an infant? A baby? A child?
I know only too well that we all have the potential to misuse and abuse our power – men and women alike. Men and women of all ages, races, classes, sexual preferences, spiritual traditions.
At different times in my speaking, teaching, and writing about the issues of power and wounding, I focus on different aspects and different people who misuse and abuse their power. I have published an audio cassette about women abusing their power. I have led workshops about how people misuse their power with money. I have done individual sessions with both men and women related to how power was abused with them when they were children, and how they have misused or abused their power in response. And more.
Recently I wrote a post about the horrible treatment of women in our world, pinpointing some bills in Congress (bills supported by both men and women) that would be harmful to women in our country. Although it encompasses much more, the following post also has as part of its theme the abuse of power often directed at the women in our world..
I simply want you to know before you read today’s post that my scope is large. My work is with everyone, men and women. Although I have written much about the abuse of women by men, I know that women abuse their power, too, sometimes in blatant ways, often in subtle ways, and I do not want to give the impression that I have any bias against men. And I also want you to know that I will also be covering the feminine abuse of power in future posts in their own right timing and connection with events in our world.
If you have a penis and cannot use the power of your penis with respect for both you and everyone else . . . then how can you be trusted to use other power well?
Saturday, May 14, 2011: Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, allegedly physically and sexually attacked a maid at a midtown Manhattan hotel. He was mayor of Sarcelles. He was planning on running for President of France in 2012. He held positions of great power.
But we could ask the same question of many others who have held positions of great power – including Senator John Ensign, former President Bill Clinton, Senator John Edwards, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (who all had affairs, hid them, and lied about them), and Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi (accused of paying for sex with an underage prostitute and then trying to cover it up through abuse of power).
Women misuse their power, too! Our focus right now, though, is on abuses we see directed at women, in a world where women are often treated so horribly and often still denied power . . . In a world where attempts to escalate the denial of power – the powerlessness – of women abound . . . In a world where the patriarchy is not only firmly entrenched (in the minds and hearts of men and women alike) . . . but also in a world where efforts to reinstate and re-strengthen the patriarchy are underway in this very moment . . .
In a world where all of this is sadly, tragically normalized . . .
Today we will concentrate on this. . .
If you have a penis and cannot use the power of your penis with respect for both yourself and also everyone else . . . then how can you be trusted to use other power well?
The power of your physical strength. The power of your mind. The power of your position – in your family, in your place of work, in your leadership in and out of government. The power of money – in your individual life and in any group in which you have the power to utilize money and make decisions about money. The power of the law – on the street, at the police station, in court, in lawmaking bodies, in executive bodies. The power of the truth. And yes, even the power of love.
We all need to ask ourselves these questions.
Those of us who have a penis and do not use our power well.
Those of us who have a penis and, although we use the power of our penis well, we have thoughts and feelings in which we don’t – thoughts and feelings that are signs to us of something needing to be healed.
Those of us who don’t have penises and misuse our power, too – perhaps in relation to adult men who have penises; perhaps in relation to male babies and children; perhaps in relation to other females.
And those of us who don’t have penises and need to discern who to trust and who not to trust.
We have a lot of work to do . . . Will you do your part?
© Judith Barr, 2011
There are many lenses through which we need to look at Egypt in this era . . . and we do need to look. Many of them are very deep and complex. Although it’s impossible to do them all at once, today I offer this wondrous and more simple view:
There’s a beautiful children’s book by Leo Lionni.* In French the book is called Nageot, in English, Swimmy. In the story, there is a school of tiny red fish, with one black brother, Nageot. One day everyone in the school except Nageot is eaten by a big fish. Nageot, sad and scared, goes on his way through the sea, having new adventures. One day, he sees a school of tiny red fish, similar to those with whom he originally swam. He invites them to go on adventures with him, but they are too frightened . . . the big fish will eat them.
Nageot won’t give up. Unwilling to pretend there’s nothing to be afraid of, and yet unwilling to be paralyzed by fear, he is determined to find a solution . . . and finally he does: They can all swim together, each in his or her own specific place, so that together they look like a gigantic fish and they will be safe from the big fish.
And in Egypt . . .
The people of Egypt stayed together in Tahrir Square in Cairo. They didn’t attack. They didn’t become violent. They didn’t hide. They didn’t withdraw. They simply stayed together. What a testament to the power of working together!
© Judith Barr, 2011
*Swimmy by Leo Lionni, copyright 1963, Pantheon Books, Random House, Inc. Copyright renewed 1991, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York and Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Although I’ve told you the story, the pictures and the visual involvement in the story are still well worth experiencing first hand.