A longer version of this ad ran in yesterday's Tennessean:
A longer version of this ad ran in yesterday's Tennessean:
Two months ago I shared on "The Journey with Grace" that my artist friend Pam Jolly Haile was collecting 3,000 thumbprints to create a mandala for a project called "One." This, below, my friends, is the result of her work:
Here's what the artist writes about the piece:
"One [...] incorporates approximately 3000 individual thumbprints collected by [more than] 30 collaborators [me, Leisa, included]. The [thumb]prints represent the beautiful diversity that makes up our world: children, 90-somethings, men, women, LGBT, various ethnicities, spirtualities and religions, people with autism and other disAbilities. The intention is to make a statement that although individusals, we are all ONE."
Before I decided to post this today, I had talked earlier to my shaman friend who is writing a book about radical spirituality. I called him and asked him to read to me again one of the summary points of his book in progress. Here is how he summed the point and related it to artist Haile's work:
"Each individual thumbprint is each individual's universe of experience. However, when we put them all together, which the artist did, they become a picture of the Unity of One."
Thank you, Pam, for your artist labor of creativity, which reminds us in a world hell-bent on creating separateness, that though we may each be unique in our experiences, we are all one in our humanity. We need that message right now more than ever. Bless the artist messengers.
My friend, artist Pam Jolly Haile, whom I know from Art & Soul Studio, Nashville Nonviolent Communication and the Vanderbilt Meditation Group, is pictured far left at my home during a recent open house. What is pictured here to the right of her is a moving project described by Pam below:
"I have been attending Watkins College of Art, Design & Film for over 10 years, slowly working towards my BFA degree. I am executing a large art project that I will be exhibiting for my graduation show in April. I have set the goal of collecting 3000 thumbprints to be displayed as a single circular piece. My intention is to make a statement that we are all One, though individuals. It will require approximately that quantity (3000 thumbprints) to construct a piece of a diameter that measures the same as the average height of all humans--that's 5' 5 1/2".
"We are collecting prints on at least 8 types of paper to bring texture and richness to the piece, also representative of our human community. Our project is shaping up to represent the beautiful diversity that makes up our world. We have children of all ages, ninetysomethings, men, women, various cultures, people with autism and other disAbilities, meditating groups and varying geographical regions represented--and that's just what I know of so far."
3/27 ADDENDUM: NOTE CHANGES IN DATES & LOCATIONS: You can see the finished piece in Nashville's Watkins School Gallery beginning Fri., April 26th through Wed., May 8 except for May 3 and 4, when it will exhibit at the TAL (Tennessee Art League)'s new location, 219 5th Avenue North, (next to The Arts Company). Cool, huh?!
Fun to see this famous sculpture at the 21C Museum Hotel during New Years in Louisville. Enjoy the day. May chocolate, roses and love be abundant in your life today. And, always.
Plus: here's to my many passionate woman-artist friends who are participating in a Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge dance in Nashville at noon today, as a part of One Billion Rising Nashville to "WALK OUT, DANCE, RISE UP, and DEMAND an end to violence against women." Other Nashville observations of this international event today are here.
I invite you to join me in signing this petition and calling Nashville Mayor Karl Dean's office (615-862-6000) and share the petition and/or this "Journey with Grace" blog post with others you know who are concerned about the NRA's aggressive promotion of assault weapons designed only to murder. Join me and others is asking Mayor Dean to retract Nashville's invitation to The NRA to bring its 50,000-person annual meeting to Nashville in May 2015.
This effort was organized by my daughter's former special education kindergarten teacher and friend and long-time democratic party activist and consultant Linda McFadyen-Ketchum.
I hope our mayor will join New York and L.A. in taking a stand on this issue as well as pro-gun senators who have boldly come forward with their voices of reason. Nashville took a stand against bigotry when we voted down English-only and the mayor has continued to advocate for progress despite the record of our state on a majority of issues. As someone remarked on Linda's Facebook page: "A new voice is rising."
Click here to sign the petition.Thank you.
Photo credit: Scribophile.com
"We believe that local control along with engagement from parents, community members and businesses to be the foundation of success for each county in Tennessee." ~ StrongCommunitySchools.com
As a proponent of public education and a parent of a student in public education for 15 years (special education beginning with preschool,) I support "Standing Together for Strong Community Schools (ST4SCS,) a grass-roots, nonpartisan coalition of parents, community members, businesses and their owners who value public education and are committed to strengthening and protecting Tennessee’s public schools."
I am relieved that after my daughter exits the local school system in three years--when she has completed her community based (job and life-skills training) education program for students with disAbilities--we will be finished with Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS). I believe the root of our poor, local system stems from our city's historic massive white flight to Williamson County and the creation of 60 private schools, many parochial. I wish that MNPS had a tenth of what Harpeth Hall, Montgomery Bell and Ensworth has invested in their gorgeous state-of-the-art infrastructures alone. I believe that families need options and if private is their choice, that is fine, but this extreme segregation of resources of all kinds has cost our city and its schools dearly. And, just because my daughter will exit the system does not mean we will not continue to be impacted by it. Like all citizens, our future is in the quality of education of its students-- those who will become service workers, professionals and healthcare workers, etc.
Frankly, the shit is about to hit the fan in our extreme conservative-dominated state legislature. Here's more from ST4SCS, but please note the two boldfaced items listed near the bottom of this "Journey with Grace" post. We, the citizens of Tennessee, are about to lose local control if our legislators and their special interests succeed:
"For too long, discussion of public education in Tennessee has been dominated by negativity and manipulated by well-funded special interests intent on dismantling our school systems, diverting public money from public schools, and limiting the voice of Tennessee citizens in shaping education policy through our local elected school boards. It is time for those who value and appreciate public education in Tennessee to celebrate our successes, become more informed on the various challenges our public schools face today, share ideas on supporting and improving our schools, and join forces to speak up on laws that impact our schools.
"We want improvement in Tennessee schools driven by the voices of Tennessee parents and citizens, not by the out of state special interests that poured over $250,000 into our last election cycle to advance their agenda. Two legislative ideas already being discussed for 2013 will negatively affect the stability and strength of our schools:
"1) A statewide charter school authorizer
"2) Diverting tax dollars to private schools through vouchers"
Straight up interstate 65 about three hours north in Kentucky, my companion and I rang in the New Year in the land of Mitch McConnell. Ha. It may also become the congressional homeland of Ashley Judd. Ahem. The highlight of our trip to the quaint, southern-charmed city of Louisville was our day in the Museum District. (I'm a bit jealous of this urban jewel!) Our favorite was 21c Museum Hotel. We fell in love with the zany and fun contemporary art and the hotel's superior restaurant: Proof, where we had our best meal of the trip. Far better than The Brown or Seelbach, though we found staying at the former and dining for New Years Eve at the later loaded with historical ambiance.
So, been missing three posts a week? I have. (Kinda.) So, I'm introducing a blogger staple: "Wordless Wednesday," and I'll be focusing on more of those travelogues I've promised. And you know me, I'll never be wordless. Maybe just a bit less wordy. On Wednesdays. At least. I'll be shuffling around Monday and Friday topics a bit for autism/disAbility posts and those about "All The Rest of Life." Let me know what you think, please!
Our feasts ended, our families dispersed. The Thanksgiving holiday was over. Late November winds blew in a change of energy. More frenetic. I, and others, braced for the madness. December delivered her, each week ramping up the frenticism to a new level. I gave up talking on my cell phone--even though always with my bluetooth--while driving. Three wrecks occurred within a mile of me that week after I decided to kiss convenience and multi-tasking goodbye in lieu of safety--mine and others'. The season seemed crazier this year. Rude, scary drivers; grimacing shoppers. I had errands but I stopped them all but the necessaries two weeks before Christmas. And then. Newtown. The tragic event seemed to blanket festivities. A hush fell. Hearts wept. Solemnity was needed and happened. The mood seemed to dampen. All of the sudden, it seemed a bit pointless, this shopping madness. What really mattered? As a culture, maybe we took stock of that. Somewhat.
As we march into the New Year, I wonder and ask: What have we learned?
For a bit, I took heart that once pro-gun proponents were speaking up on the necessary ban on assault weapons and other artillery of mass destruction. If it were left up to me, well, I believe in the strictest of strict gun control. But, we seemed to get it that guns were just part of the issue. Our mental healthcare system once again failed and innocent victims lay in the wake of destruction of access and failure.
I read opinions, blogs. I talked to friends. And, now, I share here a compilation of thoughts:
Twenty-six people didn't die. No, twenty-eight people died. Twenty-six as a result of the shootings at the elementary school. Plus the mother of the shooter. Plus the shooter.
It is so easy for us to label "good," "bad," "evil." It makes us feel better somehow. It separates us. I believe in a world where we are all one. Some of us, many of us forget to seek the light that we are. Some choose paths that are not for the greater good. We all do in someways when we fail to remember who we are.
If we pray for the 26, let us pray for the family of the mother. The family of the son. They, too, suffer from this tragedy.
We are talking about the wrong issues, said a long-time-no-see friend I was blessed to have seen out running those necessary errands. I paraphrase: We are asking the wrong questions, she said. What about love? What about compassion? What did we do as a culture that someone goes out and does this?
Tragedies do not happen in a bubble. We are a culture. We are a web. How are we failing each other? How are we supporting each other?
I and others wonder if this is what 2012 was about. Many believed the year it was an opportunity to shift into a greater consciousness of love and inclusitivity. Look at what attitudes of exclusitivity have done to us as a human race world over.
"A huge part of our task in such situations [as Newtown] is to work to change the outer by changing the inner, transmuting our pain and focusing on such qualities as grace, mercy, compassion, and love."
Here's to the inner journey, holding with hope that in the New Year, this coming 2013, that we continue to heal the inner and transmute to the outer.
Angst. Just heart-wrenching angst. That is how I would describe this past weekend. There were moments of joy that I deliberately infused into my days and evenings. It was especially important to me to separate from the media mania surrounding the Newtown shootings. I am an old pro at unplugging from traditional media after I get the gist of the news. I find it traumatic and unfruitful to watch news of tragedy unfold. Yet, I found another challenge to my credo via social media. It was a weekend for hating Facebook. For me. I wanted to flee the medium. Forever. But, as any writer worth their salt knows, we cannot afford to do so. It is the new reality.
I found myself, as I wrote on "The Journey with Grace" here, doing damage control as premature reports linked the shooter to autism spectrum disorder--which does not include in its behavior planned violence. When I checked with Facebook two or three times during the days, I was happy to see the discussions turn to the issue of mental illness. Yet, how I joined bloggers in addressing that segment of the issue, didn't sit well with everyone. I found myself trying to understand why some were in such disagreement with this widely shared post. Many discussions on many Facebook walls ended with apologies: "I'm sorry if I offended you." We tend to write those words an awful lot in our online discussions. Sigh.
There were so many layers to this terrible event. The loss of sweet, human lives. The grief of the parents. Anger at the perpetrator. Accusations that he was "evil." No. While I try to refrain from "good and bad," "right and wrong," "black and white," "good and evil,"--if only life were that simple--no, the act was "evil." Not the person.* And, oh, dear Huckabee, there you go again. What next? First Chick-Fil-A and now the loss of God in schools. Really? If God is omnipresent and omnipotent, as we both believe God is, can we really keep God out of our schools with our human legislation? Sigh. And then guns and access. Sigh.
By Monday morning, my spirit was weary, worn and beat up. Yeah, nothing compared to the real deal in Connecticut. But still the aftershock of how we as a country are warring with one another over our differences. I examined my own perceptions about other's views. And then I got it: I was the problem....
It's not about other people. It's not about, like I've written "right and wrong." "Us and them." It's about grace and freedom. If I can just. Back. Off. And remember: We are all on our own spiritual journeys, learning the lessons we've come to this life incarnation to learn. Just sweat it out. Instead of judgment and separation, if I can just remember to give space and come from that of which I am, a creation of the divine, from the field of love and compassion--the same essence of who others were also created to be. And, then, to breathe. Deeply.
*From "The Journey with Grace," January 11, 2011, "A Disgrace to the Human Race--?" on mental illness and John McCain's comments about Gabby Gifford's shooter.