Topics of Conversation

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CENTER FOR CONTEMPLATION AND CREATIVE THINKING

Start a conversation about conscience, freedomhonor, courage.

What is the origin of conscience?

What factors work to form the content of conscience?

Is conscience a trustworthy guide for choosing personal behaviors?

How will honoring the conscience work to reduce danger and fear for people?

Conversations in process:

To visit a specific discussion listed below select the year it was published under the topic ‘CONVERSATIONS’ in the menu bar.

2019

On life that was in the universe

On the relation of conservative values and white privilege

On the choice to continue to continue

2018

On the desperation of white male nationalists

On the Jesus of the evangelical Christian community

On choosing personal behaviors

A call for the global isolation of Donald Trump

On the dynamic composed by contentment

On the character of unregulated aspiration

On the childish impulse to put me first

On the shameful practice of accumulating wealth

On gun regulation and the second amendment

On the public perception of military service

Does military power protect people or is that the function of government?

On the sanctity of life

On being wise rather than being smart

To the poor and people of color

Jesus was no christian

On the cause of racial resentment

The strongest force in the world

2017

In tribute to Colin Kaepernick

The unreasonable choice for nonviolence

Donald Trump hates colored people

Applause to the whistle blowers and leakers

Take your place on the Great Mandala

Why the Nakba

On the killing of good people

On choosing to be an anarchist

The person I meant to be

Being human or just another animal

An executive glimpse

Will we abandon our Standing Rock neighbors?

On the consequence of feeling inadequate and insecure

On mandates for violent conquest in Judaism and Islam

2016

Almost anyone in the United States can be elected president

The reason I am awake

On choosing a world to live in

On forfeiting the chance to be human

The knowledge of sexual fulfillment

On placing blame

Pleasure or just entertainment

On learning about trust

A case for choosing change

On conceding peace and reducing human suffering as much as possible

On understanding what it means to be human

2015

Living or dying with fear

Why am I depressed?

The height of egotism

Everyone needs a safe place

The Hebrew fault of Prophet Muhammed

2014

On the evil power of wealth

On making decisions

When religion fails

On the management of oil and gas, what a waste

On doubt raised by accusation

On the dynamics of teamwork

The deceptive nature of competition

The relationship of secrets and violence

On finding the power to forgive

On the discovery of truth

2013

On the characters of love

On the meaning of anger

On the nature of reforming human relationships

Spirit as a force

2012

On the question of evil and suffering

Who is a Conscientious Objector?

 

about the founder…

My spiritual journey began in a Christian religious community that endorsed prevailing social structures and national engagements in foreign lands. I was in college in Mississippi during the Black community’s civil rights struggle, and I voluntarily prepared to serve in the escalating conflict in Southeast Asia.

I earned a commission in the Air Force, graduated from pilot training, and selected an assignment as a Forward Air Controller in Vietnam. I lived with and flew combat missions in support of the Army’s 5th Special Forces stationed in I Corps, just south of the DMZ. After more than 800 flight hours in this context, I returned to serve the Air Force as an instructor pilot then as a missile crew commander. I separated early from active duty in order to attend seminary.

While in seminary I entered the military chaplain training program. After earning a MDiv and PhD and serving two years as a pastor and a reserve chaplain, I reentered the Air Force as an active duty chaplain. Initially my contribution was highly commendable, ensuring I would move up through the ranks with ease. While serving an overseas assignment I worked to complete the highest level professional military education course.

I read materials that informed me of the manner in which politicians and business interests of the United States dictate the use of military forces to their advantage. I read articles describing how the armed forces are deployed to maintain access to regions in the international community containing resources our nation has identified as being in our vital interests. These pursuits are carried out without serious regard for how the consequences of this engagement affect the lives of people native to these regions.

At this moment for the first time I realized the dynamic of international conflict. I understood that the United States’ presence in areas where they were unwelcome created resentment in the local people. Resentment eventually leads resistance, and resistance would often erupt into violence. The routine practice of the United States has been to engage the military forces to repress the conflict and to impose a predetermined solution that insures that our vital interests and national security will be preserved.

When I read these lines I felt betrayed. Maybe I should have noticed this sooner, yet I was passionately performing my duty, serving the soldiers and their families while they passionately served their country. I too had faithfully and without criticism followed the course the nation had charted for its presence in the international community. I had done so primarily because of the conditioning I formerly had received from my religious community.

Now I was at a critical intersection and would need to decide which direction I would take into the future. I informed the Armed Services Committees of my distressed condition. I declared that I would continue to serve as an active duty chaplain and would promote national behaviors that considered the well being of others in the earth with the same attention given to the security and business interests of the United States.

I rotated back to Dyess AFB in west Texas. During the preliminary stages that lead to the first Gulf War, I interceded on behalf of soldiers who were concerned about their spiritual health. Their religious communities had publicly announced that aggressive engagement with military force could not be justified even under the measure of the elaborately developed provisions of the Just War Theory. What would they do if the nation declared war on Iraq? As a result of my involvement I was eventually dismissed from active duty, cited as unsatisfactorily performing my duties as a military officer.

After unsuccessfully challenging in federal court the role of uniformed military chaplains, I reevaluated my theological perceptions and joined the Mennonite Church. Eventually I served seven years as pastor of the Austin Mennonite Church in Austin, Texas, and until 2013, I worked seven years in Palestine and Iraq with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). CPT is an initiative of the historic peace churches to deploy persons into areas of active violence in order to witness to and demonstrate alternative ways of managing conflict that do not use violence and produce equitable solutions to resolve rather than repress conflict.

This has been my experience. At this place in my journey in the earth I have previously encountered situations and circumstances like those of any human creature with more than 70 years of adventure and discovery. Along the way I have been observed by others having various opinions about how life should be lived, those with expectations of how the behaviors of persons might be fashioned in order for them to be approved.

I am thinking now of some of the more divergent characterizations from those presumed to be normal that have been allotted to me, things that distinguish my actions from those presumed by others to be more respectable and appropriate.

In the past I have been accused of being insubordinate. Insubordinate—in opposition to and usually in defiance of established authority, failure or refusal to recognize or submit to the authority of a superior.

I have been accused of being incompetent. Incompetent—inadequate for or unsuited to a particular purpose or application, devoid of those qualities requisite for effective conduct or action.

I have been accused of being mentally ill, suffering from a personality disorder. Personality disorder—having experiences and behaviors that differ from societal norms and expectations, abnormalities of behavior that impair social or occupational functioning.

I have been accused of civil disobedience. Civil disobedience—refusal to obey governmental demands or commands as a nonviolent means of forcing concessions from the government.

I have been accused of being a dangerous criminal with hands and feet shackled. Criminal—guilty of an illegal act for which someone can be punished by the government, behaving in a way that is against the law or viewed as foolish.

I have been accused of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment—unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that tends to create a hostile or offensive work environment.

These accusations have been promoted as descriptive of my behaviors that were viewed as inappropriate by those making the judgements. And along the way I also have been commended, praised for behaviors that worked to advance objectives that were considered to be important and even essential to sustain a preferred pattern of life;

…and I never have yet felt a tinge of regret for being so bold and so kind.

I have learned what others also learn as they progress through the earth—that persons look at life differently because of different perceptions. Everyone of us wants the same thing, to have a human experience in the earth that brings the most abundant measure of satisfaction possible. Each one of us responds to situations and circumstances according to the measure of our knowledge and vision.

Sometimes our actions are commended because they advance practices that others want to maintain, things that make them comfortable and cause them to feel secure. And sometimes our actions are condemned because they challenge conditions and cause life to deviate toward the reality of what can be possible, things that can be changed in order to improve the human experience.

Persons familiar with my numerous confrontations tell me, “Conform to what is expected; do what they want you to do.  Following your own sense of mission and purpose is not working for you.”  I tell them, “No, it is working for me.  It’s not working for them.”

Being true to our individual experience is perhaps the most significant action we can take while we travel through the earth. By doing this we discover the meaning of our lives, regardless of how others might interpret it. Let this be your experience. Consider how you will feel at the end of the way when you think back about what you might have done but did not choose to do because you feared the opinion of others.

let me finish…

I am caused to come face to face with my situation, the condition that has resulted from the decisions I made in the past. I reflect on the circumstances that have been created in varying measure because of the choices I made to pursue an internalized conception of how I wanted to experience my time in the earth.

From the beginning of time as I discovered it and from the impressions of the nature and character of life around me I managed to construct a detailed perception of the life I wanted. This image became an enduring component of my awareness and it dominated every other sensation I encountered. As such it became literally a commanding directive that dictated every choice I was required to make.

At every point in my formative development the content of this vision worked to define which direction I would choose, what action I would take, which option I would refuse. I established boundaries that helped me progress toward my intended destiny. This activity channelled me into a narrowing pattern of behavior that affirmed completely and continually that I was still capable of fulfilling my passion for composing the life I continued to revalidate.

I always felt confident in this endeavor and never doubted the surpassing value of it. I believed in it so much that I never knew any sense of loss or regret for not engaging in indiscriminate sensual behaviors prompted by human nature that others seemed to enjoy. I was assured by knowing I was being consistent in living according to the regulations I before had determined to be necessary for me to accomplish my objective.

That fate however was destroyed early on, long ago.

Now when I measure my present situation with the image of the life I composed in the beginning there is little similarity. Despite my unfailing action to make choices that would enable me to achieve my goal of the life I wanted to experience I recognize I have neither had that life nor will I be able to attain it.

Although this reality is indeed deeply disappointing, yet quite surprisingly at the foundational level of my awareness I realize I am not now as disappointed as I before expected I would be if I failed in my mission.

Some of my compensation comes from knowing that I exceeded in my imagination what I was physically and mentally and emotionally capable of achieving. My goal was too lofty, my capacity to limited. Although I thought initially that for wherever I set my course if I was diligent faithfully to pursue it I would arrive at that destination. I was wrong to believe this.

My consolation comes from knowing I did make the choices I believed would lead me to experience the life I wanted while living in the earth. All through my past I continued to make certain I would be positioned to participate in the condition I was pursuing, a condition that reflected the detail of the life I had earlier imagined. Yet I was not alone in composing the reality around me.

As the days wear away in the present so does my quest for the image of what I wanted. Moment by moment the composition moves further and further beyond me as the colors progressively fade away. While before I held this vision constantly and clearly in my spirit and my heart now its features are less and less before me. It no longer has the power to occupy me like before.

I believe my passive submission to my failure to experience the life I wanted comes from not having the regret that I did not fully and consistently try for it. Had I failed to do that then my situation now would be exceedingly disturbing. I would be increasingly haunted not only by the emptiness that comes from wondering what would have happened if I had been faithful in my quest but also by the sobering truth that I will never again have another chance to do it.

I will end my life here knowing that with all of my being I tried for this dream; …and believing even while grieving my substantial loss that this is the best I could have done. And despite my failed ambition inside me I will still enjoy the memory of it. Regardless of what goes on around me I can compose and preserve what I hold in my spirit and my heart.

Nevertheless, this internalized experience of my dream does not prevent me from feeling anger and jealousy. Without the physical dimensions of sight and touch and sound and taste and smell, the dream remains only a dim black and white presentation. There is only one element of presence that keeps it from fading away altogether.

I am not surprised that I did not have the life I wanted, not really. The person who most influenced the things I did was a man who was killed before he was 35 because he dared to talk about and live by the ideas he believed in. The fact that I am still alive proves I did not do it very well.

On other paths, through worlds unknown, from star to star there we may roam;
and find in concert on those ways dreams which here could not be played.

 

 

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