Hey, is anyone listening?

At 12:19 two lives in my community changed forever.  One 17-year-old dead and another 17-year-old under house arrest, charged with intoxicated homicide while driving.

Intoxicated.  Tested an hour after the crash and still three times the legal limit.  Allegedly, her step-father gave her the alcohol.  Allegedly, the young man’s grandmother, with whom he lived, was at a club, and his parents lost in their own addictions.

Men in many countries not considered good businessmen if they don’t go out and drink in the evening.

The apartment across from me installed their wine refrigerator weeks before they moved their furniture in when I lived in Denmark.

The examples of how alcohol has become a pillar of many cultures are boundless.

How can this happen?  What are we doing to ourselves?

All around the “civilized” world, it is considered not just acceptable, but encouraged; and if one does not drink, you are suspect.

CWG says that nothing is wrong, only not working, and it is up to us to decide if it is working for us.  God says that one day we will simply choose to not abuse our bodies with drink, drugs and food that doesn’t belong in our bodies.  God also says that if we destroy the world as we know it, the world will still go on…just in a different way.

The 17-year-olds’ worlds have been destroyed and will now have to go on in a very different way.  Life after life is being destroyed because of alcohol, but why?

How many beer/alcohol commercials are there during sporting events?  Do watchers not see that this is in direct conflict with the healthy bodies they expect the athletes to maintain?  Why are they surprised and outraged when an athlete gets into a fight in a bar and shoots someone?  Why are they surprised when they take performance-enhancing drugs?  Are they really worse than the legal drug of alcohol?  As CWG says, helping someone who is on their deathbed die with dignity and releasing them from pain is illegal…but killing yourself (and possibly taking others with you) slowly, because it is legal, is perfectly acceptable.  Huh?

I believe CWG is correct, once again, in saying it is because we do not know who we are, or are not taught it is okay to be who we really are.  I believe it is because we are afraid of our greatness.  If we didn’t medicate and actually faced the world as it is, what might change?  Do you think that we would like what we see?  Do you think that we might choose not to destroy our bodies, and our minds, and possibly our world?

If we took back our greatness…if we saw ourselves as individuations of the Divine…do you think we might see that we have become part of a collective Stockholm Syndrome?  Will we see we have fallen in love with the very thing that enslaves us?

What do you think, beyond words, might be done to change this, to influence the collective, by us as individuals?  I will throw out the first ideas…

Change the channel.

Or don’t drink…it is a choice, not an addiction, for the biggest majority of us.

Or write your television station requesting such ads be removed…it worked to remove tobacco ads from TV in the United States.

There are so many things I can think of that could begin to change this way of being in this world…tell me what ideas you can think of…

Tell me what you are already doing and how you are already demonstrating your greatness!  Maybe others will follow if they know they are not alone.

(Therese Wilson is a published poet, and is the administrator of, and Spiritual Helper at, the global website at www.cwghelpingoutreach.com  She may be contacted at:  Therese@TheGlobalConversation.com.)

Do you think you are being protected by the Patriot Act?  Are you okay with what the tradeoffs are for “security” and “peace of mind”?  How about banking reform? Are you okay with ordinary people having every nickel and dime in their possession questioned, and not the uber weathly?

The reason I ask this is because I am buying a house, and I am being treated like a terrorist.  The bank will simply not accept that I am transferring our money, from our retirement account, into our checking account…and then transferring our money from one checking account to another because we had homes in two different states.  These are not huge amounts of money, people, and it is money that we have been drawing from the account since 2003 when my husband retired, and from the sale of a house we have been in for 10 years…and sold for less than we paid for it, thanks to the current economic state of this world.

Oh, and how can it possibly be their business just why we decided to move from Texas to Wisconsin?   Do we need permission and passports to move between the states now?  Isn’t this a free country?

The answer to the last query is…apparently not, even though I am a 61 year old woman who has never once been late on a house payment.  My husband made a very good living, no doubt about that, but we certainly do not belong in the multi-millionaire plus club.  Yet we are being treated like terrorists, and deadbeats.  It’s hard to tell which is the most offensive.

Even many, if not most, of the “deadbeats” that the banking system says it is working to weed out, didn’t likely set out to cheat.  Many are like a young couple I know who bought a lovely home, with the mortgage company that made so much news not so long ago.  They were told about the escalating interest rate, to be sure, but also had it hinted that the rate wouldn’t ever go up more than a percentage point at a time.  The failing economy hit, his pay took a hit, and the first thing the young couple did was call that mortgage company and ask to be refinanced, on the same principal amount, at a little bit lower, set, rate.  Then they begged for relief every month for another year.  The answer was always no…so they ended up having to short sell, and ruin their credit.  They then had the “deadbeat” label.  How many others were given that label unfairly?

To whose advantage is all of this?  Are we really more secure, or are we more secured?

Are we really less fearful because of our “security”?  Do we look at someone with brown skin and dark hair and think, you must be safe because Homeland Security wouldn’t let you walk our streets if you weren’t, or are many of us more suspicious?

Are we creating what we don’t really desire, because we are sending so much energy to it??  Are our wars on drugs and on terrorists, and so many other things just creating more things to “war” against?

Maybe we just need to crawl into our little holes and forget the rest of the world?  Well, yes, kind of!  We really do, I believe, need to find our own quiet place.  We really do need to turn off the outside world and listen to ourselves think…and if what we are thinking is chaotic and angry and sad, we need to realize that the person we have become is not who we really are.

“Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.”

If we have not taken the time, as individuals, to find what Peace really is, then how can we, as a species, ever know it?

We are now treating each other as terrorists and deadbeats.  We are, more often than not, seeing the bad in each other, not the Divine.  Why?  Does it feel good to you?

Okay then, once we crawl into our holes, and come out whole (awful pun, I know!), what next?  Well, the Be-Do-Have paradigm says that once we decide to Be something, the opportunity to Do that something will appear, so that we might Have that something…we sure are being given a lot of opportunities to Be Peace, aren’t we?  But we are not Doing Peace, as a collective, so…we don’t Have Peace.

Perhaps you are the person who runs for your local Water Board, and eventually becomes the…the what?  congressman?  senator? President?  the mother who shows her children how to Be the leaders of tomorrow? the person who is known for always listening to children?   …or are we all going to be content to complain and observe and treat one another as terrorists and deadbeats, and allow the people WE elected to perpetuate this separateness in our name?

Is Peace beginning with you?  I promise you, if it is, I won’t look at you and see a naive dreamer…I will see me, and I will see what I believe the world can Be.

(Therese Wilson is a published poet, and is the administrator of, and Spiritual Helper at, the global website at www.cwghelpingoutreach.com  She may be contacted at:                                                              Therese@TheGlobalConversation.com.)


February 7 is the opening day of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Traditionally, nations have put aside their differences, toned down their mutual antagonistic rhetoric and come together to celebrate the accomplishment of some of the world’s best athletes. For their part, the athletes have trained, some for years and years, to win a spot on the coveted Olympic team and take their shot at getting a gold medal.

 The Olympics, however, are no stranger to controversy and political agendas.

– Athletes have been stripped of their medals when it is discovered, even if years later, that they violated Olympic rules. American runner Marion Jones was stripped of all of the medals she won in the 2000 Summer Olympics after she admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs.

– Athletes have found ingenious ways to cheat. In 1972, a member of the Soviet modern pentathlete competition used an epee with a modified handle that would register a hit, even a false one, when a button in the pommel was pushed.

– Nations have boycotted the Olympics in protest of the host country’s policies or actions (In 1976, 22 African nations boycotted the games after New Zealand’s soccer tour of South Africa. In 1980, the US led a boycott of the Moscow games to protest the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and in 1984, Russia “retaliated” by leading a boycott of the Los Angeles games, although the official reason given was lack of security for their athletes.)

– A nation’s athletes have been banned for policies of their government. In 1964, South Africa was suspended from competing due to their nation’s policy of apartheid. The suspension wasn’t lifted until 1992.

– Individual athletes have used the Olympics as a platform to bring awareness to social issues such as the racial discrimination. Two American runners, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, gave the “Black power” salute during the 1968 medal award ceremony.

– Terrorists have struck at the Olympics, most recently in 1972 when 11 athletes, coaches and judges from Israel were murdered by Palestinian terrorists.

– Judges have been known to play favorites. In the 1988 games held in Seoul, South Korean boxer Park Si-Hun was declared the winner despite being pummeled by his American opponent, who landed 86 punches to Park’s 32.

– Judges have also been known to “trade votes.” The French judge in the 2002 figure skating competition supposedly admitted to voting for the Russian pair to win so that the Russian judge would vote for the French pair in ice dancing.

– Athlete’s personal views, opinions and comments, when expressed on social media, have been known to get them into trouble. In 2012, Greek suspended their female triple jumper after she made what many consider a racial post on Twitter and Switzerland expelled one of their soccer players for a racist and threatening post on Twitter.

Now a new controversy has arisen. Earlier this year, the Russian government enacted a very strict, discriminatory and dangerous law against any sort of “propaganda” that condones or encourages minors to view nontraditional sexual relations as equal to traditional sexual relations. The law is vaguely worded and does not define either “propaganda” or “nontraditional sexual relations,” so there is very real potential that both athletes, their family members, support staff and coaches, commentators and camera crews as well as foreign attendees to the Sochi Olympics may find themselves locked up in a Russian prison for violation of the law and face fines, imprisonment and/or deportation.

It is clear that the law is having a very negative and dangerous, even deadly, effect on gay Russian citizens. Transgendered and gay Russians have been severely beaten, tortured and raped and many of the attacks have been filmed, some even finding their way onto YouTube. (Why anyone would want to watch such a video is beyond me. I do not need to witness the terrorizing of another human being to know that it occurs.) At least one gay man has died from the injuries he sustained during one of these attacks.

Human rights groups the world over are outraged at this development so near to the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Many are calling for a boycott of the Sochi games. Others are calling for the banning of Russian athletes from the games, much as South Africa was banned from participation for endorsing apartheid.

The problem is that if Russian athletes are banned because of the Russian government’s attitude towards gays, American and Ugandan athletes (among others) would also have to be banned since both those governments also have discriminatory laws against gays on their books. (Given the recent changes in laws in the US, it may come down to banning athletes from specific states that still have DOMA laws on the books.)

For its part, the IOC said it has received assurances from Russia that foreign athletes, coaches, commentators, crews and tourists will not be targeted and will be safe. The IOC has no plans to change the games’ location or ban Russian athletes.

How should we as individuals concerned with the spiritual evolution of humanity respond to this situation? When I mentioned the call to boycott to a co-worker, s/he replied that the Olympics should not be politicized. That the focus should be on the athletic competition. I countered that to do nothing would be tacitly endorsing the discrimination. In response, I was asked, “If someone punches you in the face and you turn the other cheek, are you tacitly endorsing violence?” Isn’t turning the other cheek what you do if you profess to support nonviolence?

Initially, I didn’t know how to respond because I do believe in non-violence. I also agree that the Olympics should not be used as a political platform and that athletes shouldn’t have to pay for the actions of their governments. I also believe in turning the other cheek, which I take to mean not retaliating in kind. If someone acts out of fear or loathing or even hatred towards me, I do not respond with anger or return the hatred or fear. (That doesn’t mean I allow myself to be “used” as a doormat either!) So I pondered the “pros” and “cons” of the major proposed responses: boycott the games, ban Russian athletes or allow the games to go on as scheduled.

The Russian government stands to make millions of dollars from hosting the Olympics. A boycott of the Olympics would most certainly be felt in all sectors of Russian society. The money has already been spent to build the venues and the accommodations for the athletes and coaches. This is money that, one way or another, came straight from Russian citizens. But can the Russian citizens be held accountable for the policies of their government when there is no way to accurately gauge if the citizens support the policy? (The actions of a violent-prone minority most certainly do not represent the opinions of the entire citizenry any more than the actions of a few Islamic terrorists on 9/11 represent all Muslims.) On the other hand, doing nothing could be viewed as tacitly supporting the oppressive laws.

And then there’s the athletes. For some, this may be their only chance at competing in the Olympics. Is it fair to ask them to give up a life-long dream when it’s not yet clear how this law is going to impact gays in the long run? (Remember, sometimes all it takes is a spark to ignite a raging inferno and this may be the spark that ignites the Russian citizenry to stand up for human rights!) Furthermore, similar national laws have, in the past, been voided because of the very vagueness that makes them so dangerous and threatening. By banning certain athletes, are we not also politicizing the Olympics? Retaliating in kind? NOT turning the other cheek?

I was getting nowhere. Thinking myself in circles (as I often do!) So I took a couple deep breaths, looked inside and decided to take a look at this through the lens of Love.

Right and wrong/good and bad are all relative to the contextual field in which they’re found and according to the beliefs and perceptions of each individual. No one acts inappropriately given their view of the world. No one is a victim. There are no villains. Everyone is a co-creator of their reality: distorted, observed or actual.

It cannot be denied that the Russian anti-gay laws have brought the issue of equality for gays to the forefront in a way that has allowed people all over the world to witness the injurious effects of discrimination and the damage caused by the belief in superiority and separateness. The horrific videos have made the abstract idea of “torture” something very real and, to many, unacceptable. The faces of the young teens being harassed by Russian skin heads personalize this hatred and fear and many adults looking at this are thinking “That could be my child!” They begin to see themselves in others.

This provides an opening for a new conversation on what it means to be a human being and why we believe what we believe about being separate from each other and from Life/Love/God. The Olympic platform provides a stage in front of a world-wide audience in which that new conversation can be carried on. A way in which the message of Love/Life/Freedom/Goddess can be seen and heard by billions! Let us honor the sacrifice of our Russian brothers and sisters by having that conversation, even if it’s just with the guy sitting next to us at the bar while we watch the giant slalom or the woman next to us on the bus whose reading about the figure skating results or just with our own children. Let us help them remember the 25th core message given to us by God/dess: We are all One! Ours is not a better way. Ours is merely a different way.

(Shelly Strauss is a civil rights activist and speaker.  In addition to becoming an ordained minister, she has written 20-plus novels and is the “resident visionary” at One Spirit Project.  Shelly is also a spiritual helper on the ChangingChange website, offering support and guidance to people faced with unexpected and unwelcome change .)

Holy humor

I’m going to date myself here, but I grew up watching Laugh In and the Carol Burnett Show. I still laugh hysterically if I see a clip of Arte Johnson in his yellow raincoat riding a tricycle and simply tipping over or Ruth Buzzi as Gladys Ormphby. I can’t help but smile if I hear “Sock it to me!” or “Here comes the judge!” or “My name is Edith Ann and I’m six years old.” I get a bit teary eyed hearing “I’m so glad we had this time together” and I can’t think of Tim Conway without thinking of Harvey Korman. I remember sitting around the big colored TV in the living room with my entire family and not a minute went by without us at least chuckling.

The humor in those shows seemed innocent to me. Yes, some of it was stereotyped (like Goldie Hawn as the “dumb blond”) but as I remember it, it poked fun at humanity in general: at our foibles and quirks, at our idiosyncrasies and eccentricities. Individuals were not targeted for ridicule due to race, religion, orientation, nationality, political views or situations in which they may have found themselves embroiled. The shows (at least the comedy sketches on the Carol Burnett Show) were, for the most part, entirely staged just to make you laugh.

Several years after Laugh In and the Carol Burnett Show had been on the air, All in the Family first aired. This was, I believe, one of the first shows that intentionally used humor to illustrate the dangers and illuminate the hypocrisy of bigotry and intolerance. It was one of the first shows to use humor to increase the consciousness of the nation. M*A*S*H followed a year later and also used humor not only to raise our consciousness but also to make us aware of the horrors of war and show us how to use humor to cope with life’s daily ups and downs.

But M*A*S*H, along with two other shows that began that same year, Sanford and Son and Maude, also began to use humor to make fun of, embarrass, denigrate or mock individual characters in the show’s cast. Hawkeye’s relentless persecution of Frank Burns, Fred Sanford’s obvious dislike of his sister-in-law, Esther, and Maude’s disdain for anyone who was not a democratic women’s libber helped make laughing at someone one didn’t like or agree with acceptable. (I realize these shows were not the first: Don Rickles began his career in the 1950s and almost his entire act is centered around making fun of people. Not people in general but very specific people.)

Many years later, shows like Roseanne, while addressing social issues in much the same way as All in the Family, brought biting sarcasm and wilting diatribes against individuals, both real and fictional, into homes all around the world by the new technologies of cable and satellite TV broadcasts. Now, jokes or graphics making fun of celebrities, political parties, certain faiths, ethnicities, orientations, genders, weights— the list is literally endless— make their way around the world overnight via viral videos or graphics posted on the internet.

I don’t remember when I first began to question humanity’s use of humor. I do remember writing an article in the early 90s entitled “Prescription for Poison” in which I addressed the issue of humor and children. To a child who hears an “off-color” joke and sees Mom or Dad laugh at that joke, a seed is planted. After all, Mom and Dad don’t like lies, which make them angry, so if what they’re hearing is making them laugh, it must be the truth. And so stereotypes and prejudices and ignorance and hatred and intolerance are all planted in the minds of children without much thought by the adults around them.

I eventually decided that the only jokes I would tell would be those that involved any group to which I could claim membership. My reasoning was that I knew the pains and struggles of being a member of that group (overweight, gay, female, single mom, black sheep of the family, brainy, etc.) and I had no qualms poking fun of myself in good humor. I no longer find jokes about other groups funny if told by someone who does not belong to that group. (The only exception I make to this rule is that I will tell one very specific “dumb blonde” joke, but then the “dumb blonde” is not really a real group, although it is a stereotype.)

I hear people making fun of others while I’m standing in line at the grocery story or in the lounge at work or sitting in a waiting room at the doctor’s office or any place where strangers gather momentarily. And I hear people laugh not for the joy of laughing but at the expense of others. I have come to believe that many (most?) people nowadays use humor as a way in which to demonstrate to themselves that they are indeed not only different from but better than those they make fun of or laugh at.

Laughter really is one of the best medicines out there, but when laughing at others as opposed to laughing at oneself, I believe that laughter becomes more like a medication overdose, toxic to the human psyche. The level of toxicity in our humor is steadily increasing and has even reached lethal doses in some instances. Remember the international incident, involving violent protests in cities all around the world, after a Danish newspaper published cartoons of the prophet Muhammad?

Being able to laugh at ourselves, at the situations we humans create for ourselves, at how things that seem so “right” at the time can go so “wrong”— that kind of laughter can be a very healing experience. In “When Everything Changes, Change Everything”, Neale Donald Walsch writes, “The opportunity that we have every day is to look straight at what’s going on right now and smile and have a good laugh on ourselves and say, ‘It’s all good.’” (p. 226)

But note something. He says to “have a good laugh on ourselves.” Not on others. Laughing at our own “mistakes” and our own “failings” can be very healing. It demonstrates that we recognize that, A, we survived our “mistake,” B, that our “failing” taught us something valuable and increased our understanding of Who We Really Are and, C, that we can still be happy even when things appear to be “going wrong.” In other words, being able to laugh at ourselves demonstrates that we have reached a state of acceptance and that we’re still okay with ourselves despite making a “mistake” or “failing” at our latest endeavor. This is when humor becomes holy. When it is healing and healthy and brings happiness to everyone who hears it.

And now I have a confession to make. I laughed when I wrote the title of this article because I can’t help but hear it in Burt Ward’s voice, although he adds the word “Batman” at the end.

(Shelly Strauss is a civil rights activist and speaker.  In addition to becoming an ordained minister, she has written 20-plus novels and is the “resident visionary” at One Spirit Project.  Shelly is also a spiritual helper on the ChangingChange website, offering support and guidance to people faced with unexpected and unwelcome change .)