Facing the Enemy

Once in awhile someone’s story really connects me to my life like no other. I am a fighter by nature and that is good as long as I recognize the enemy, me. I must admit that most of the time, I make the mistake and think you, whether you are a religious or political leader or just my next-door neighbor are the enemy. Less often, I recognize the enemy, me and go about making the necessary changes to subdue the foe. I could tell you of a few experiences in my life that illustrate that, but none would begin to compare to Suzanne Barakat’s story as she tells it in her TEDWomen October 2016 talk: Islamophobia killed my brother. Let’s end the hate.

This sentiment, that I am the enemy, is in direct conflict with what I’ve seen in this past presidential campaign season where the candidates spent all their time telling us about the enemy, their opponent. I don’t think we came up with any winner, but actually a bunch of losers. I put myself in that bunch. It’s time to face the enemy, ourselves and thank you Ms. Barakat for showing us how.

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

 

Making Peace

Zack Beauchamp in hisYouTube video, Three big reasons war is going away, admits that there are many reasons but then gives us just three as to why we are living in the most peaceful time in history*:

  1. The Democratic Peace
  2. Nuclear Deterrence
  3. Sovereignty

I suspect Mr. Beauchamp is onto something here, but I think there is another, and I would add, much more significant reason. I think we are living in the most peaceful time in history of the world because of people like Mahatma Gandhi, (1869 – 1948), Nelson Mandela (1918 – 2013) and Martin Luther King Jr. (1929 – 1968) who taught us how to respond to violence, marginalization and oppression with love and service. Also, people like Ethel Percy Andrus, Jane Addams, Dorothy Day and a whole host of others who may not have had the experience of marginalization or oppression, chose a life of love and service as well. Thanks to people like these and oh yes, Jesus (c 0 – 33). They taught us not only by their words, but more especially by their actions, how to make peace.

P.S. Happy Feast Day to all my Passionists friends around the world and all those celebrating the joyful memorial of the Passion of Jesus tomorrow, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

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

*Mr. Beauchamp is not the only one who thinks this. The Human Security Report “…an independent research centre affiliated with Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Vancouver, Canada.” gives a similar assessment.

Statement on Racial Violence in the U.S.

Just sharing some well thought out ideas about the role each of us plays in today’s violence and things we can do to stop it. I especially liked: “We need to reflect on the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. – “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

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

Can We Feed 7-plus Billion and Be Green?

This past week I spent three days with an old high school chum–actually a lot of old high school chums–but this post is about one in particular. We were both attending a Passionist Assembly focusing on Laudato Si coordinated by Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim. the directors for the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale. Mary Evelyn and John were students of one of my favorite Passionists, Fr. Thomas Berry. They actually met in one of his classes at Fordham University, got married and now spend their lives sharing the New Story, The Dream of the Earth. It’s a fascinating story filled with lots of hope and an actual plan of action for the earth into the future.

In the discussion that followed one of Mary Evelyn and John’s presentations, my high school chum challenged: “This earth stuff is all well and good, but how does that answer the question of how we feed the 7 plus billion people who get up hungry every morning?” (talk about being practical!) I don’t think Bill, the questioner ever got a satisfactory answer.

Andrew Youn does claim to have a part of the answer in his amazingly understandable and enlightening February 2016 Ted Talk “3 Reasons why we can win the fight against poverty. He answers a question I’ve been mulling over for quite sometime now, what will be the jobs in the future. He says they will be four:

  • Health worker
  • Teacher
  • Farmer-trainer
  • Sales agent

He also talks about using levers, a trick taught to us by Archimedes of ancient Greece. He mentions three levers:

  • Making farmers more productive
  • Pulling farmers out of poverty
  • One-acre farms

That last one really fascinates me, almost to the point I think I’d like to try it. Anyone interested?

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 believe transforms all failure, democratizing the human journey

Sparring with Truth?

Sebastian McDonald, C.P.
Sebastian McDonald, C.P.

Truth-telling is an activity highly regarded in human interchange. It bonds people together when they can trust that everyone in possession of the truth is conscientious in conveying it to others. Parents try to inculcate a respect for it in their children. It is not always easy to tell the truth even though the truth is a highly-regarded value, for sometimes such value, while working to the advantage of some, also causes some disadvantage to others. So hiding or covering the truth is a temptation for one who may fear him or herself being harmed by the truth.

So attempts have always been made to shade or diminish the truth, but in a way that, should they be discovered, they don’t necessarily fall into the category of a bald or outright lie. These are defense mechanisms against the severely damaging charge that one is a liar. There are few accusations that are more damaging to our reputation than the charge that one is a liar. It besmirches nearly every transaction in which one engages.   But truthfulness is a universal value that plays out in every activity in which one commits oneself. Haven’t we heard that “…the truth will set you free?” (Jer. 8.32) And to be less than free in living one’s life makes life miserable because one must take precautions to remember one’s deviations from the truth.

th-7The issue of such approximations to the truth may describe many of our transactions in which “the whole truth and nothing but the truth” is expected from us by those dealing with us.   In courts of law, where the truth of the matter is central to the case, the truthfulness of remarks is of such significance that an extra step is taken to guarantee that the truth is being told. So litigants are asked to take an oath by placing their hand on the bible and stating they are telling the truth, “so help me God.” This increases the seriousness of an obligation to tell the truth.

Amid this concern lies the temptation, if not to lie, but to reshape the truth for our own benefit. It can be traced to our fear of suffering injury if the full disclosure of truth is required in my testimony. Or it may owe to our disagreement with the wording used in the legal formulas placed before me, which I regard as wrong and misinformed. Or it may elicit an answer from me that is cleverly concocted. So, to protect my interests I may shade or modify the full intent of the statement placed before me.

Sometimes an exaggeration on my part may be used to shave the full impact of the statement to which I am being asked to accept as true and accurate. An exaggeration is often not a complete reversal of the truth of something, but it may be a modification of the truth to the point where others may be led to wonder whether it’s the full truth. Or it is possible at times to shade the truth without completely denying it, as in admitting you threw peanuts in the river, without clarifying that Peanuts is the name of someone (whom, one knows, can’t swim), or in the case of a hearing- impaired parent questioning a young person told to return home by 10:00 pm, what time of the night it is, upon hearing his or her return, who responds that it is plenty after 10:00, hoping it would be understood as twenty after 10:00. Or the case of the NBC newscaster, Brian Williams, who guilded his account of participating in a military operation in Iraq without clarifying that this was not an immediate involvement, but somewhat remote. All of these examples, while true, to an extent, need various degrees of clarification to satisfy the requirement of telling the truth. There was an element of exaggeration in each of them likely leading listeners to think they were hearing the truth while, as a matter of fact, they were hearing distorted versions of the truth.

So the question becomes: were each of these a substantial violation of the truth? If truth-telling is an important way of bonding with and trusting others, do these examples undercut and injure ways of relating to others? Is it a violation of the truth to boast about one’s background or education or experiences or connections? If others know I tend to magnify my accomplishments, and make provision for that in dealing with me, so that deception is usually not the outcome of an arrangement we make with one another, is that nonetheless the equivalent of a lie? If I am placed under oath to tell the truth in a court of law, and am cleverly maneuvered by manipulating officials, am I lying to evade their misleading techniques by telling part of the truth but not all of the truth?

Telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth: is this a hard and fast rule of life and conduct in all life’s situations, or is it appropriate to shape responses to situations that are appropriate to that situation, leaving to the experience and skill of others the task of appropriating the truth they seek from the remarks I provide? During His trial and interrogation before Pilate, Jesus is asked: “Are you the king of the Jews?” To this Jesus responded: “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?” (Jn. 18.33-34) And a bit later Pilate repeats: “Then you are a king?”, to which Jesus responded: “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” (Jn 37-38). Is Jesus here sparring with Pilate about the truth? Are there occasions for us to do so?

Give Me the Internet or Give Me Death!

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

An open letter to my Church family

In my sophomore year at the Passionist Prep in Warrenton Missouri, I won a speech contest delivering Patrick Henry’s “Call to Arms” in front of the assembled student body and faculty. The urgency Henry presented to the fledgling colonists in 1775, just six months before the death of St. Paul of the Cross by the way, is brought home with his famous last line: “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

Today, I believe the Church is in much the same situation the colonists found themselves, with a few fundamental differences. The colonists were at the mercy of a government that didn’t serve them. Today the church is at the mercy of outmoded ways of delivering their much needed message of hope, joy and the power of the Cross to a suffering world. Paraphrasing Patrick Henry I’d say: “Give me the Internet or give me death.”

Haley Van Dyck in the above TED Talk presents a roadmap to such a change. She tells how she along with a few others, after having successfully used the Internet to elect President Obama, were charged by President Obama to apply these same techniques to providing government services to students, the poor, veterans, immigrants, the elderly. She tells about the four-step process that is bridging that divide and beginning to deliver services in record time. The four steps are:

  1. Recruit the very best talent you can find for a short term of duty.
  2. Strategically identify the most important services the government offers
  3. Pair these incredibly talented people with the people already providing the services
  4. Give them connection to everybody in the government from the President down to the front line people delivering the services

I think St. Paul of the Cross if he were around today would be using the Internet much the way Van Dyck is doing at the Federal Government. We are not in 1775, the year St. Paul of the Cross died. We must enter the 21st Century.

 

To Tweet or Not to Tweet…

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

Pope Francis is an amazing leader. Besides his staunch support of the oppressed and marginalized of the world, at the age of 79 he has a Twitter account. I have an account and follow 119 people and 50 people follow me. Pope Francis has almost 10 million followers and follows no one. I opened my account in October 2011. Pope Francis joined January 2012. Evidently getting there earlier doesn’t guarantee more followers.

Siyanda Mohutsiwa, a 21-year-old student at the University of Botswana, a writer and a social media maven also has a Twitter account. She joined in February of 2011, has tweeted 49.2 thousand tweets, and follows 1,643 other tweeters. Like many young people she questions the world she is inheriting. She, as Pope Francis evidently does, thinks Twitter is an important media in which to express those concerns. You get a sense on how successful she is when you see that she has garnered 17.7 thousand followers and delivered the above 2015 above TED Talk. I believe she is a remarkable young lady.

So what is this social media business and do you think maybe if you are involved in sharing “Good News” it might deserve your consideration? Brian Cradle, Communications Professor at Villanova University in a September 2015 article in the Washington Post explains why the Vatican is moving into social media:

“I think they are moving from an approach that sees contemporary media as a source of contamination to an understanding that there are ways in which contemporary communications technology allow for a different way of engaging with people of faith, both within and outside the Catholic Church,” he said. “To approach it not simply as: ‘What are things that are harmful?’ but what opportunities might be there for the church to engage people, like, what is the pope doing about issues of social justice?” (Brian Cradle, Communications Professor at Villanova University September 2015 Washington Post)

If you think you might want to try Twitter, it’s easy. I suggest:

  • Open an account by going to twitter.com. It takes seconds.

  • Find some people you want to follow by typing their name in the Search field and then click “Follow”.

  • Spend 10 minutes a day opening Twitter and see what’s trending and what the people you are following are saying.

I’ll bet you’ll find it an amazing source of news, news from the people you think are real sources of news like in my case, Pope Francis.

Here’s to a Happy 2016

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

I have a friend who likes to say when referring to a particular political party: “The only trouble with spending other peoples’ money is that you eventually run out of it.” (Anonymous) I have another friend who fondly reminisces about when he and his single mother would get together at the end of the month and decide which charities they would give to that month. Both, I suppose are right in some way, but one suggests to me a much happier, and I believe much more realistic understanding of just what money is and what it can do for us.

In today’s TED selection, Michael Norton tells how to buy happiness. He starts out by saying we often read in religion books “money can’t buy happiness”. He categorically says that’s wrong and if you think that way, you’re probably spending it wrongly. He goes on to give the results of some simple unscientific studies he’s made that demonstrate the right way to spend money so that you will be happy.

The book, Your Money or Your Life originally written by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin in the early 90’s and updated by Vicki Robin in 2008 presents a good analysis of the stages most of us go through in dealing with money. The authors eventually give the reader some down to earth financial goals along with the means to achieving them. The secret according to Dominguez and Robin is the simple recognition of what is enough.

If money sometimes gets in the way to your happiness, try one or more of these simple suggestions for a happy 2016: 

  • Define “enough”—Know what is enough; enough house, enough food, enough entertainment… 
  • Try sharing—Giving to others as Michael Norton above tells us works to make us happy. 
  • Keep it simple—Establish simple goals and immediately begin to work for them.

The Four “C’s” for Great Blogging

 

In the responses to the Provincial Report Survey a number of people wrote that they would like to get involved in the CPP Blog or thought the Blog was a good way to keep in contact and share our mission with each other and the greater community. With that in mind I offer today’s YouTube video where Mike Wolpert of SocialJumpstart.com gives us the Basics of Blogging. Please take the time to watch if you are interested in contributing to the blog. It clarifies well, I believe, how blogging is different than writing for a magazine or reporting for a newspaper.

 

Happy blogging…