Swords into Plowshares

“I believe in a future where the value of your work is not determined by the size of your paycheck, but by the amount of happiness you spread and the amount of meaning you give.”

This quote comes from Rutger Bregman’s April 2017 TED Talk, Poverty isn’t a lack of character; it’s a lack of cash. Poor people, he tells notoriously make poor choices especially in the areas of health and money. He continues by citing a study by Eldar Shafir of Princeton University and his colleagues who observed sugarcane farmers in India and showed: “…that people behave differently when they perceive a thing to be scarce. And what that thing is doesn’t much matter — whether it’s not enough time, money or food.”

He then presents what I believe is a plausible solution to poverty in the United States today by proposing a guaranteed monthly income for everyone. That would change the context in which the poor live and as the above study suggests open the door for the poor to make better decisions. He actually shows this was done in Dauphin Canada and it worked. He also points out that it would only cost “175 billion, a quarter of the US military spending or one percent of GDP”.

Finally, such a move Bregman suggests would also open the door to the 87 percent of workers today who don’t like their present jobs, giving them a choice and helping them realize the quote beginning this post.

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

A Tried and True Way

At the risk of sounding too much like an infamous contemporary tweeter who offered to send in the militia, I’d like to suggest a tried and true way to solve many if not all of our 21st Century Chicago problems. I didn’t invent this way and neither did Jane Addams whose story Amanda Forsythe tells so well in her 2012 YouTube video Jane Addams Founds Hull House in Chicago.

Jane Addams (1860 -1935) a wealthy heiress, not unlike the afore mentioned tweeter, from Northwestern Illinois with her friend Ellen Gates Starr, garnering financial and moral support from many of the wealthy women of Chicago, chose to purchase an old run down mansion in one of the worst parts of the city, that much like parts of today’s Chicago was facing unprecedented social upheaval, live there and open their home to the poor all around them. She truly got involved.

Ms. Addams was the first American Woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize. She is credited with starting modern day social work, influencing people like Ethel Percy Andrus, foundress of AARP, establishing the first juvenile courts in the world which separated juvenile offenders from the adult population. This only begins to tell the story of a woman who had the courage to live a tried and true way, one not too different from St. Francis or St. Paul of the Cross.

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

A Tomorrow Called Hope

As a teacher, I always thought my first job was to create a safe space for all. If I was successful at that, then some learning on my students’ as well as my part could take place. I can’t tell you how amazed I was to see that the great Jesuit teacher of our day, Pope Francis agrees. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised though, we had the same teacher.

Pope Francis in his April, 2017 TED Talk, Why the only future worth building includes everyone, tells us how to create this safe space, this safe world. We do this, Pope Francis tells us by understanding that none of exist except with each other, “none of us is an island”. Secondly, Pope Francis shares his dream of a world that recognizes that life is really about, loving one another. A life of love gives us a tomorrow called hope. Finally, he talks about a revolution that needs to take place, “the revolution of tenderness”.

This distilled version does no justice to the loving, hopeful version Pope Francis shares in his TED Talk.

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

Some Thoughts on “The News”

I’m not sure when television “News”  (North, East, West, South) started becoming important to me. Actually, throughout most of my life I never had the time to watch it regularly, but since I’ve retired, it’s become a regular event in my daily life. I’m beginning to think this is not healthy. After sitting in front of the TV for a half hour, trying to digest all those eight second cuts presented, I walk away more confused and I believe less informed.

I began wondering if there wasn’t a better way for me to get connected with what is happening in my immediate world and the larger universe surrounding that. I started looking for alternatives and I think I’ve found a good one, Damon Brown’s How to choose your news, a TED Ed talk and lesson. TED Ed is TED’s youth initiative that presents animated lessons like the above one, as well as all sorts of discussion questions and materials for someone who wants to go deeper. (I wish these existed when I was teaching-I think they are great)

While the animation is only 4:48 minutes, and I believe well worth watching, I will try to summarize it in a few sentences. Brown starts with recognizing the confusion surrounding today’s plethora of media including, but not limited to social media, blogs (this of course is a blog) and online videos. He suggests the following seven points if you want to get the truth:

  1. Get original news
  2. For current events, follow reporters on social media
  3. Don’t try to follow chaotic stories in real time. Check at several points during the day rather than every few minutes
  4. When you can’t get the original story, read coverage in multiple outlets and not the differences
  5. Separate fact from opinions noting words
  6. Watch out for stories that rely on anonymous sources
  7. Verify news before spreading it

As a community we are as apt to post material that is controversial and present it as facts. Worse, we stand on the sidelines of the important issues of our day unwilling to share our truth or view. This I believe (note the use of the word believe) is not good. As a community with a shared strong belief in the power of the Cross we need to speak up, not condemning those who think differently, or suggesting that our view is any better than another’s, but simply stating our truth. Finally, if we wish to be heard, we must also respectfully listen to others who don’t share our thoughts.

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

Telling Our Stories

Before modern media, the community would gather around the fire in the evening to recount the days events as well as to tell the story of their tribe, it’s encounter with the earth and the world they knew. Today, especially at this time of the year, we do this in our homes, churches synagogues temples and mosques.

Nothing can ruin that sense of fellowship that sharing ones’ stories creates more than to have someone else tell our story, especially if they do that with a slant that suggests they are better than us. Chimamando Ngozi Adichie in her TEDGlobal 2009 talk The danger of a single story tells her story that sadly for the early part of her life, was defined by someone who knew nothing of her truth.

This past Monday, Jews around the world gathered for their sacred Seder meal where they retell their story. Starting today, the Christian world will gather to retell their story.

Sadly, many of the tribe will be missing at these gatherings. I’m not sure why, but if my experience as a gay man is not unlike theirs, I suspect they feel that their story isn’t as valid as the others who are gathering. Chimamando Ngozi Adichie uses the Igbo word nkali which translates to “greater than another” to explain her experience. I suspect many of us can relate to Chimamando and that word, nkali.

I pray that I always have the courage to tell my story and just as important, the humility to listen attentively to others as they tell theirs.

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

 

The Need for More

Buddhist monk, Matthieu Ricard claims to be a Marxist, a Groucho Marxist that is. In his TED Global 2014 talk, How to let altruism be your guide, he quotes Groucho as saying: “Why should I care about future generations? What have they ever done for me?” Of course you’d expect that from Groucho the comedian, but from billionaire, Steve Forbes? Yes, Ricard also heard Mr. Forbes say the same thing on Fox News.

Thankfully, not everyone is like Mr. Forbes and Ricard gives us the science that demonstrates many people truly behave altruistically as well as that many more can be trained to act selflessly. He says his scientific demonstration and 2,000 years of contemplative experience validate that 20 minutes of quiet meditation a day for four weeks will bring about significant positive change in an individual’s brain activity making them more concerned for the well-being of others.

We can do something culturally as well. We can work for sustainable harmony. Ricard explains:

“Sustainable harmony means now we will reduce inequality. In the future, we do more with less, and we continue to grow qualitatively, not quantitatively. We need caring economics.”

Now why would anyone prefer altruism over selfishness? Besides making a better world for everyone on this planet, paradoxically it, more than all the material accumulation one can imagine, fills that need for more that we all experience. Thanks Matthieu.

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

Connecting Through Ritual

Mushka, my indoor/outdoor cat loves ritual. She wakes me up each morning long before I’m ready to face the day insisting that it’s time for her to go out. Each weekday afternoon she greets me on my return home from dining with friends for lunch at Golden Diners. Of course, she’s been napping while I’ve been away and now, for Mushka, it’s time to play. Despite the fact that I’m feeling the need for my nap she relentlessly pushes her agenda, play. She wins, we play, and then I nap with her on my lap.

Baya Voce in her October 2016 TEDx Talk, The Simple Cure for Loneliness quotes Jim Carrey who said:  “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”

Then she tells us the answer to the question: “What do we really need?” What we really need says Baya is an anchor of connection and that anchor is ritual. She shares her anchors of connection and for me at least, convincingly demonstrates her case.

There’s a problem that Baya does not directly address. Some rituals are not life giving. In fact some, like addiction rob our lives from us. She does not tell us how to distinguish one from the other although she gives us a hint to healthy ones with the rituals she shares—meetings and meals with friends and family on a regular basis.

Of course there are other rituals we can adopt to build connections. We can attend regular meetings with our local communities to address issues and to take concerted effort to make our world a better place by doing our little part. We can help out by caring for grandchildren while their parents are at work. Of course there’s our work lives, church meeting and rituals. Putting all these together and I believe we’re on the way to a connected and life-giving world for ourselves as well as for all those around us.

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