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.

The Secret to a Happy Life

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

Some people need no introduction. Mother Teresa is one of them. Her message to the world, though thousands of years old, strikes me as new and earth shattering and more refreshing today than a hot loaf of bread just out of the oven. Thank you Mother, now Saint Mother Teresa for pointing the way. I will try to follow.

 

What is Real?

If I watch television today (I do this less and less) I get bewildered. Viewing programming like the news, I see and hear about a world full of murder and mayhem. Then I watch the advertising which seems to take up more and more of the televised time, and I get the impression that life is good—good that is if you drive a particular car, live in the right neighborhood, take the right vacations, have that “certain” look, none of which do I have or do nor frankly want.

With apologies to all the great teachers in my life, I believe that television is not only the best educator around today, but I’m afraid for many the only one in their lives. Schools and churches continue to pretend to teach, but they can’t compete with these screens we’ve allowed to take over our time and lives.

What’s missing in television, especially in what is hyped as “reality TV” is just that, the real. Margery Williams in her Velveteen Rabbit asks: “What is real…” I love her answer (you can read the book or watch the Youtube video) just as much as I like Justin Graves’ in his TEDxYouth talk above, Living with Purpose nails for me what it means to live an authentic life. He does it with no apology or cover up. In short he is everything I want to be. Thanks Justin.

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

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

From Rags to Riches to Rags…

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

Most of us like stories, especially when we are young. And we like stories that begin at ground O and ascend on up toward 100. An upward climb from low to high is preferable to a downward slide from high to low. “High” usually represents success, while “low” represents failure. So when a boy or girl brings home a report card, he or she wants to report to inquiring parents: I got a high grade, rather than admitting: they gave me a low grade.

That mindset is behind a lot of good films that record the hero or heroine of the story proving to be a success because they moved from low to high in their life passageway. Few films achieve success if they depict the central character of a film in a downward spin, ending in disaster or failure.

True though this be, many of us carry the burden of failures in our lives. They may not be obvious to others. In our youth we had dreams of successes in what we set out to achieve: happy marriages, lucrative business ventures, children of whom we could be proud, fine reputations, the house of our dreams, early retirement followed by the pursuit of enriching past-times about which we had always dreamed, associations with the rich and famous, reputations gaining us access to the pinnacles of power and prestige. But, instead we may wake up each morning facing a day in which we have to drag ourselves from morning to night: faltering marriages, troubled children, collapsing business ventures, failing health, distrust from among colleagues, constantly being overlooked in the arena of promotions, being the butt of jokes, disdain among collaborators, reputation for being a loser, etc.

Early dreams of being climbers, that is, those who have effortlessly moved from the lower echelons of life upward on a constant climb toward goals that I have pursued all my life, thrill and excite us. EXCELSIOR! has been a dream to be achieved. Who would not want that to be emblazoned on our life story! The counterpart of that, of course, is LOSER. To be regarded in this way is a dampener difficult to bear outwardly, and inwardly depressing and deflating. Undoubtedly many suicides terminate the lives of those enshrouded with a constant sense of their inability to escape the sense of being enclosed in a hole in the ground from which no escape is possible.

It makes an interesting comparison to present a counter situation in which the dynamic of upward and downward is changed from downward to upward, and presented as movement from upward to downward. As depressing as some of the above description appears, at least the theme of upward and onward pervades the description of the scene presented. But there’s another way of describing movement between down and up, in which the predominant mindset is from upward to downward. Using the terms found in the title above, there is also the experience, less frequently experienced, thankfully, that might be suggested in these terms: From riches to rags. It would be the contrary of the situation just described, where the motion from rags to riches is the dominant driving force, and instead plays out as a downward, sinking sensation of moving from riches to rags.

In this setting, one comes into this world with a silver spoon in his/her mouth, where all of the elements making for success, are at hand, so that a high-energy effort at reaching out to achieve and acquire the building blocks of success are already at hand, but, through unforeseen events, such as the Great Depression in 1929 and the succeeding decade, calamitous losses befell the makers and shakers of society, leaving them and their families deprived of all their assets. They became “losers” of all the benefits they owned—property, financial instruments, lives of leisure—and found themselves at the bottom of the upward ladder toward success, and inexperienced in the struggles needed to move upward.

So the question is presented to us: what is the more devastating experience to undergo: to move from rags to riches, or from riches to rags? And though the more common sequence is the former alternative, instances of the latter are not lacking. And should we ask ourselves: which is the more difficult situation to sustain (even though each scenario contains the same elements, but in a differing sequence), the answer seems obvious.

This leads us to the figure of Jesus Christ, and to the unique experience He underwent: from that of heaven itself, downward (so to speak) to a penurious life in this world of ours, followed by a brief but highly successful three year period of untold success, followed by a calamitous ending in shame and ignominy, but concluding with an unprecedented upward movement into His heavenly home. How do we understand His “life”: from rags to riches, or from riches to rags, or might it be both? Do our lives bear any resemblance to this?

Danny & Annie

Every once in a while, albeit, not very often, I hear or see something that leaves me speechless. “Danny & Annie” is that something. I thank Troy from the Chicago Center on Halsted for introducing me to this five-minute video, which I will never forget and wish to share with you.

This video comes from Story Corps founded by Dave Isay, (the recipient of the 2015 TED Prize) in October of 2003. It’s mission is to:

…preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell 2015 survey of 600 National Public Radio (NPR) listeners, reported that they were better able to understand people with different backgrounds,  people with disabilities or serious illness. Thank you Dave Isay and all of your membership as well as your donors and storytellers for bringing the world a much-needed tool for creating understanding.

 

In a 2015 survey of 600 National Public Radio (NPR) listeners, 88% reported that they were better able to understand people with different backgrounds, and 96% reported they were better able to understand people with disabilities or serious illness.

To find out how you can get involved telling your story or interviewing a friend or family member click here. Thank you Dave Isay and all of your membership as well as your donors and storytellers for bringing the world a much-needed tool for creating understanding.

 

 

Never Say Die!

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

Everyday I hear about someone or something being abandoned, dogs, cats, churches, refugees, yes, and even children. Is there any worse feeling than that of being abandoned? I don’t think so, at least not for me.

In Theaster Gates, March 2015 TED Talk above, you’ll hear a plan for making something out of close to nothing, of taking what others have abandoned and bringing it back to life. Many people are doing this today, but Gates adds one very important element, that of involving the people already living in that neighborhood, awakening in them hope.

James Martin, S.J. editor at large of America Magazine in his February 15 article titled My God, My God, tells of Jesus who took the raw materials of his time and place forming them into a literally history changing moment. Then on the cross, he cries, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani” My God, My God, why have you abandoned me (MK 15:33-34) Fr. Martin explains that while many think this was actually a prayer of hope and trust in the Father, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that Jesus truly did feel abandoned, just as we do at times. It’s this understanding of Jesus that draws me to him.

So what to do when we feel abandoned? We could:

  • Follow Theaster Gates method of working were we find ourselves with the people and resources we find at our disposal. 
  • Learn to see with the eyes of Faith, albeit not an easy choice. 
  • Look for the beauty in simple gifts.