Swords into Plowshares

Monica Araya may not look like the prophet Isaish, but she truly speaks like him in her June 2016 TED Talk: A small country with big ideas to get rid of fossil fuels. According to Monica in 2015, Costa Rica produced 90% of their electricity from green renewable sources. She further tells how in 1949, Coast Rica abolished their army and because of that today, they are able to provide free education and health services to every citizen. WOW! Sounds like heaven on earth to me.

United States’ President, Dwight D. Eisenhower warned about the build up of the military industrial complex in his 1961 farewell address and Ronald Reagan in his 1987 address to the United Nations said:

“Cannot swords be turned to plowshares? Can we and all nations not live in peace? In our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites all the members of humanity.”

I think Presidents Eisenhower and Reagan’s words are as relevant as ever, if not more so, today than when first spoken. Many will laugh at me, when I say, it’s time for us, the US to stop investing in arms and start investing in people through universal education and healthcare for all, just like Costa Rica. They will call me naive. So they did Isaiah and I suspect Monica in her TED Talk about the small little country of Costa Rica who in 1949 abolished their army. I think I’m in good company.

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

Dan O’Donnell, a layman has covenanted with the Chicago Community. In addition to the standard covenant, Dan promises to work at connecting all partners known and unknown, to a conscious following the the way of Jesus, the way of the cross which Dan believes transforms all failure, democratizing the human journey

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Love and Service

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

Mahatma Gandhi

A friend recently introduced me to The Merton Prayer. I can’t believe that I’m just learning about this now—it really resonates with my experience. The first line: “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.” Yep, that’s me. A few lines later: “But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.” Again, that’s me.

I don’t believe in a God who is remote, hanging around heaven wherever that is. I believe in a loving creator who reveals herself/himself to me in you my fellow travelers; in nature: the sea, the sky, the trees and yes, all the many and varied beautiful animals I encounter.

I say I love this God, but those are just words. Love takes on the cloak of reality for me when I serve those I encounter. I think the Sikh’s perspective in the above YouTube video, Nishkam – Life, Love and Service: A Sikh perspective, expresses very well, what my Catholic Faith in general and my Passionist experience in particular, have given me. It’s so great to learn that others have come to the same understanding of life from different and varied paths.

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

Dan O’Donnell, a layman has covenanted with the Chicago Community. In addition to the standard covenant, Dan promises to work at connecting all partners known and unknown, to a conscious following the the way of Jesus, the way of the cross which Dan believes transforms all failure, democratizing the human journey

Finding A Learning Community

In the early 1990’s with much trepidation, I moved into the city at the urging of a very good friend, Fr. Rian Clancy, C.P. A word about Clancy as he was known by his friends: Clancy was a truly inveterate learner, constantly going to movies, reading books and meeting new people. Then, I accepted him as just another Passionists—all my Passionist friends are great learners.

When I left the Passionists’ Novitiate in 1963, I went on to DePaul University in Chicago and joined another community of learners. I’ll never forget sitting in philosophy class discussing whether there was such a thing as a bladeless knife without a handle, or if a tree fell in the forest and no one was around to hear it, would it make a noise. Again, I took this learning community for granted.

I won’t bore you with all the other great learning communities I’ve found myself involved with over the years, but nine years ago I retired and all of a sudden, I find myself without a primary learning community, which when I retired was the Chicago Board of Education and the faculty and support group at Montefiore as well as the doctoral cohort I was part of at Northern Illinois University. On top of that, my good friend Clancy died and other Passionists like Fr. Joe and Fr. Alan, and now my great Friend Fr. Sebastian have all moved on. What am I to do?

John Green in his November 2012 TED talk: “The nerd’s guide to learning everything online” has given me new hope of finding a new learning community. Interestingly enough he touts it as where young people today are finding their learning community. Well, I wonder why I can’t do that as well, and maybe talk some of my good friends and family into joining me there, discovering all the great information online as well as contributing our share to the mix.

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

Dan O’Donnell, a layman has covenanted with the Chicago Community. In addition to the standard covenant, Dan promises to work at connecting all partners known and unknown, to a conscious following the the way of Jesus, the way of the cross which Dan believes transforms all failure, democratizing the human journey

Why Suffering?

“I don’t think anything liberates you except suffering.” (Harold Talbott)

I had a good friend, Bob Shea who is dead now. He used to like to say: “…pain is inevitable; suffering is optional”. While he never explained what he meant by that, I took him to mean, that I could avoid suffering if I only had the right attitude. I’ve changed my mind after listening to Harold Talbott.

Harold Talbott in the YouTube video, The Almost Final Days of Thomas Merton: The Role of Suffering tells a mythical story of Buddha walking along meeting a tigress who was unable to feed her cubs. What the Buddha does next is superhuman. He offers himself to the tigress as food for her and her cubs.

I’m beginning to understand that suffering freely chosen is not painful or at least it’s worth the ordeal. Suffering not accepted is merely pain. Following the above story further, we don’t get to choose our pain; we merely encounter it along our life’s journey. What we do with it turns it into gift or pain.

As I look at my own life’s journey, that’s truly been the case. Just to share one example. For forty-five years I did not accept my sexuality. I denied my feelings and I ran from any truly intimate encounter. That was mere pain even though I thought it was just life. When I began to accept my sexuality, eventually embracing it, it was no longer a source of pain, but truly a source of life. Accepting my “suffering” truly liberated me. I think Talbott ‘s above quote is accurate.

Finally, Talbott equates Jesus’ acceptance of his cross to the Buddha’s offering of his body for food for the tigress and her cubs. Interesting, don’t you think?

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

Dan O’Donnell, a layman has covenanted with the Chicago Community. In addition to the standard covenant, Dan promises to work at connecting all partners known and unknown, to a conscious following the the way of Jesus, the way of the cross which Dan believes transforms all failure, democratizing the human journey