16 January 2017

Importance of Building Peace

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a day when we remember one of the key figures in the Civil Rights Movement here in the United States. This year the week we’re starting today also marks the presidential transition from Barack Obama to Donald Trump, with the Inauguration this Friday. On this holiday of remembrance and as we look ahead with inevitability to the upcoming administration, I feel it is important to take a moment to rekindle everyone’s understanding of just how important the task of building peace, not just being peaceful, is in our society, and to give some resources worth keeping track of in what I’m not alone in feeling will be a possibly darker time for our country and world than we have had over the past eight years.

This week will be interesting in that we move from remembering a figure of the Civil Rights era to having a presidential administration whose proposed policies (from the prospective of Democrats anyway, but notably also many international communities) run largely counter to the values of a modern democracy that is a post-Civil Rights Movement society, which are ostensibly where we’ve been for the past more than a decade. Dare I say we’ll have the opposite feelings of a standard workweek. Joyous remembrances today and sorrow this Friday. At least, I suspect that those I surround myself with will be feeling that way…

I know that I have emphasized this here before, but the difference between simply the absence of violence, or Negative Peace, and the building of a society that has equal and just policies, or Positive Peace, (to vastly water down the differences between those) is important to note in this context. While Negative Peace is the simpler goal to achieve, it is not the kind of society we really need and is not what is necessary to sustainably move forward. While establishing a system void of conflict is important, there need to be those of us around thinking of the further goal of a Positive Peace in our society. I would hope that we can seriously start to define how that may be worked on, as we begin to see what 2017 and beyond bring us.

Here are some assorted resources to help think about the kind of peace we need in our society that are worth keeping track of:

  • The resources published by the Albert Einstein Institution, where Gene Sharp’s work is
  • Local organizations working for peace and in many ways even just ones working on the general betterment of society are worth knowing about and, if possible, helping out with. I won’t give any specific suggestions of such organizations here, since I do not want to favor any over others nor favor any specific geographic regions.
  • The work and philosophy of Tich Nhat Hahn
  • Erica Chenoweth’s research
  • I don’t mean to toot my own horn so to speak, but the posts in the Peace Studies category here on my blog provide some inspiration and resources. Particularly the research I undertook on Peer Mediation is one way we could use to introduce some concepts of peaceful resolution to conflicts to children, and as such the next generation.

Finally, I want to encourage you all to share this post with anyone who’d appreciate it, and to add resources and ideas yourselves in the comments here (as well as alongside sharing this post) for each other to find as no single person can create an exhaustive list. I mainly mean to provide a starting point here for us all to add to. Throughout Donald Trump’s impending presidency we must be a light keeping the ideals of a peaceful society alive, even if we find our country and society plunged into something less than peaceful in the coming weeks and months.

4 September 2016

Mother Teresa’s Canonization

Earlier today (as in, at 3 am where I am) Pope Francis canonized Mother Teresa. Despite not a peep about this occasion at the liturgy I was at earlier this morning this nevertheless is a moment worth noting. It is worth noting not just as any old canonization would be, but since Mother Teresa is unquestionably one of the “modern day” saints for whom there are still people alive today who were around her. Since that group includes one of my grandmothers and one of my aunts it is even more appropriate that members of my family take special note of this canonization. I actually do have a closer link to Mother Teresa than many because of them.

Among the myriad of Mother Teresa related things worth revisiting today I’ve read over a biography paper I wrote on her back in 2011 for one of my Peace Studies classes at CSB/SJU. I haven’t touched that project since then, despite apparent aspirations at the time that I may eventually add to it, but it is definitely appropriate to read what is there today of all days. Who knows, maybe it’d be worth reworking the last part of that paper to reflect today’s canonization and/or actually put up some of my other original research notes. But still that seems somewhat unlikely to happen, we’ll see if I ever do that. Still, what is there is worth a read. For those interested, you can also read the blog post where I first linked to this paper, back on the 10th of October in 2011.

Regardless how much or little you know about Mother Teresa as you read this, I encourage you all to at the very least take a moment to recognize this new saint. If you have more time on your hands this Labor Day weekend then perhaps reading over the links above and whatever else you can find on Mother Teresa would be something worthwhile to spend some time on.

25 November 2015

Thoughts Following the #4thPrecinctShutdown March

As anyone who’s friends with me on Facebook, or ran into me there, already knows I spent yesterday afternoon into the evening at the #4thPrecinctShutdown protest and march that went from the 4th precinct into downtown to Minneapolis City Hall. In many ways it was energizing to be a part of that crowd. Since we all know the media coverage of such things is severely tilted in one direction I thought it well worth writing some of my thoughts here, as someone who was actually there experiencing it firsthand. Invariably more will be posted on Facebook over the coming days.

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16 October 2014

Inequality is

Today is Blog Action Day 2014, where the topic of the collective blogosphere’s conversation this time around is on inequality: What it means to us, how it is perceived, and really any such discussion surrounding the topic. My thoughts after the break will hopefully be cause for you to both work to recognize inequality yourself, add to the conversation in the comments here as well as elsewhere on the internet today, and perhaps identify ways you and your community can work to alleviate some of these deeply-rooted inequalities we are living with as normal realities of society.

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3 September 2014

Tracing my Inclination into Peace Studies

In these months following my commencement it has been necessary for me to figure out where my life could lead me going forward. There are many ways to go about such a thing, but perhaps the deepest is to trace the very turns that have led me to where I am now, who I am now. Turns that, in many ways, were almost spur of the moment decisions at the time, but that now define my very life, both “professionally” and personally (because, in this day and age and for my generation, how separate can those really be?). Read on if you want to explore the path I have taken, much of which will define where I really could take my life moving forward.
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8 May 2014

Peace Studies Futures Project

Today was the bittersweet end to the Peace Studies Capstone course and, at least for me, the entire Peace Studies major. In this final class we submitted our final Futures Project reports and heard the final student presentations, among other important business. With that project turned in to the course’s professor, Kelly Kraemer, I’m now turning it loose to the world on my website via the link earlier in this post. The same page will link to the term paper for the Rhetoric of Human Rights course I’ve been in this semester I’ll have finished by Wednesday as that paper follows along an interrelated topic in a way. As always, feel free to comment on the papers as comments to this blog post or by getting in touch with me directly.

18 January 2014

Mindfulness Amidst Chaos

A section of resources for the Peace Studies Capstone (the course is named Is Peace Possible?, the central question we’ll be exploring) are regarding mindfulness. These include both a brief description of mindfulness and links to mobile apps to help in being mindful (Mindfulness Bell is the iOS one linked). Mindfulness is the practice of being aware to the present moment. It is a practice that touches every moment of daily life. The sounds of a soft bell, or the like, at certain intervals can assist in staying aware of what is around you and staying true to the task you’re currently needing to do. It is in harmony with the world and helps to keep you calm and at peace.

With just the smallest idea of mindfulness, having briefly explored it when glancing at the capstone resources and the first capstone class session (we’ll be doing mindfulness meditations at the start of each class session, truly the capstone is more of an “experience” than a “class” in some ways) I realized how much of a central role it can play in helping to deal with the chaos of daily life, as chaos indeed is what our modern world has become. But that is not all I realized. It also came to me that, in more than just a sense, I’ve already been practicing such a thing my entire time at CSB/SJU. In choosing where to live on campus these four years I haven’t avoided staying close enough to the Abbey Bell Banner that I can hear the bells when lying in bed, indeed I’ve actively welcomed staying that close. Beyond a way of telling time the bells act as a call to mindfulness, as that soft bell that connects us to be aware of the present moment. It begins to feel weird when there are those few buggy times that the bells don’t ring as they should (something that only those of us with the entire schedule memorized and who are in earshot of them from our dorm rooms would even recognize), and that seems now to me to be tied to having subconsciously used the bells as a way of centering myself. Maybe I don’t do this all the time, but certainly the bells are a consistent external sound that helps to focus us on the present needs especially when we’re most off track with an impending deadline.

Where daily life is chaotic we must all find a way to be aware of the present moment, so that we can go through our tasks of each day without the burdens of the future impeding us nor the faults of our past making us depressed with ourselves. Such a practice is a basic way to stay healthy in that we can act clearly in the present moment, aware of and in harmony with our world, and not get stuck in the fog. We cannot be productive if we are just trying to find our way in foggy weather, so even just trying to be mindful as we work will make the final products we produce of all that much better quality.

Having something that is a standard daily rhythm is a method of centering yourself with the world in this way. That is why there are apps to ring a tibetan bell at set intervals, and why the bells ringing from the Abbey Bell Banner are equally such a method of rhythm. Sound is the easiest such thing, but really it just need be something that you don’t initiate each time (say, red streetlights when driving, etc.). For me the Abbey Bell Banner bells will do whilst I’m here “at home” at SJU, but at other times the apps that exist may achieve the same end should there not be a regular enough other physical or metaphorical bell to be a call to mindfulness.

Chaos is the most unproductive and relentless of states of being in this world. Mindfulness is a way for us to each individually counter chaos with a clear way of centered existence in harmony with the world. It is a practice, that now that I recognize I’ve been doing some form of it already to an extent, I urge everyone to do. It will make your life clearer and easier to glide through, and hey, it likely is prerequisite to peace truly being possible. As a simple practice there is nothing in it that will hurt, and it may even help center others who are around you if you are yourself being mindful of our world and the task at hand.

I would also venture to assume that this mindfulness is inherently at the heart of the lifestyle of the members of all monastic communities, and is a central tenet of the original forms of the religions we see today, not just of the monastic Rules. Therefore, is peace possible? Yes, but looking to the monks that live among us (quite literally as neighbors for me) it feels as if a component that must change to enable peace is a shift from chaos to mindfulness. Thus I will end this post with repeating my urge for everyone to practice mindfulness in their own personal forms of it because it stands to make those around you feel better as well, not just yourself.