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Face Painting for World Peace

 

 

 

 

 

 

Face Painting

for World Peace

 

 

A Science Fiction Writer’s Thoughts

on Intra-species Harmony

 

 

by

Sherrie Cronin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2016 by Sherrie Cronin

All rights reserved. First Edition. Published 2016

by Cinnabar Press, Black Mountain, North Carolina 28711

 

ISBN-13: 978-1-941283-19-6 Amazon.com edition

 

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except for review.

 

Several images are used under license from Shutterstock.com. All other images are photographs taken by the author.

 

This book is a compilation of blog posts made by the author between 2012 and 2016. With the exception of news items and public figures who are identified in the text, no person, organization, or group of people described for narrative purposes is intended to represent any real person or group. The author is not responsible for the content of third party websites.

 

 

 

Dedication

 

 

This book is dedicated my sister June, with thanks for all of the encouragement and creative suggestions she has given me throughout my journey as a writer. I’m blessed to have a sister who is also my friend, as well as one who is so filled with wonderful ideas.

 

 

 

Author’s Note

 

 

Most of the content in this book comes from my blog “Face Painting for World Peace.” There are difficulties in using blog posts in a book, and I have tried to navigate them as best I could. I have a great deal of respect for intellectual property and so the only images used in this book are either my own, or used under license from Shutterstock as noted. When I refer to other images not included here, I provide links to those images online where they can be sought out by the reader. I have avoided quotes, and tried to attribute them adequately when I did use them. When I speak of music I have avoided quoting lyrics, except in the one case where I have permission. I have included a few links to YouTube videos, attempting at the same time to provide adequate credit to the musicians. In all cases, my references are complimentary and meant as a tribute to those mentioned.

If any person has an objection to a my mention of them or their work, I hope that they will contact me at Lola (dot) Zeitman at gmail (dot) com. I will modify or remove the reference, and offer my sincere apologies.

I have tried to keep the excerpts from my work of fiction short and to a bare minimum, including them only in those few times when it was unavoidable to make my point. I do sometimes include links to similar posts on my other blogs that might be of interest to the reader, but have tried to put these unobtrusively at the end of each article. I do not want this book to be an infomercial.

I have lightly edited some of the blog posts in the interest of clarity, and always include links to the original post at the very end of each article.

Anyone who is interested in commenting on my work or contacting me for any other reason may reach my on my blog Face Painting for World Peace, on my Facebook Page Number 46. Ascending, or on twitter @cinnabar01.

This book is something I believe in, and it is my intention to give copies away or sell them for the minimum amount of ninety-nine cents. The reader should know that half of all proceeds from this book will be given to the wonderful humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders, a group that courageously fights for peace everyday in its own way.

 

 

 

Table of Contents

 

 

Part 1: What is This Thing?

What this is

Not Writing Books about Shallow People Leading Exciting Lives

Home for the Holidays

 

Part 2: Empathy

Face Painting for World Peace (the blog)

Face Painting for World Peace (the book)

Do Less Harm

Veggie Burgers and How Things Change

And the Object of the Game is ….

Through the Eyes of Another (A short review of The Space Merchants)

One Person’s Tourist Destination is Another Person’s Home (thoughts from Bucharest)

Understanding Compassion

Becoming More Empathic

What Did I Day Wrong?

Frustration

 

Part 3: Peace and History

Remember and Move On

What the Hell Happened in 1968? (World Peace Edition)

That Which Does Not Kill Us (thoughts from Budapest)

Finding Forgiveness in Costa Rica

Empathy Lessons from Nigeria

 

Part 4: Peace and Current Events

Christmas is Not About “Love, But …”

More in Common

I Live Here

World Peace Update 2014

Serve and Protect Does Include People You Do Not Like

Peace on Earth

Peace Out

Happy 53rd Birthday Nigeria!

World Peace Update 2013

 

Part 5: Intra-species Harmony (Peace to a Science Fiction Writer)

Taking care of your own kind (a science fiction quiz)

Everybody is shouting

Back to Building a World of Telepaths

And the Energy Inside You Goes Round and Round ….

 

Part 6: Celebrating Peace

Happy International Day of Peace, Alberto and Maria!

Happy International Day of Peace, Lahcen and Najet

Happy Peace Day 2015

My iPod Works as a Fortune Cookie

A Belated Happy International Day of Peace to You

Cease firing for a day

 

Part 7: Applause for the Good Guys

Playing a Kids’ Game for World Peace

Ads for World Peace

One for One for One

Planning for Peace in 2016

Watching the Clock for World Peace?

Peace Signs

A Peaceful Place Amidst the Shouting

 

Part 8: Links to Art and Music for Peace

Music to Read By

Everything is Going to Be Alright

“We are the World”

“For What It’s Worth

Singing for World Peace

The Look of Peace

Art for Empathy and World Peace

Painting for Peace

 

Part 9. Hmmmmm

A gesture of peace?

Searching for world peace …..

And the winner is …..

 

Part 10. Fighting for Peace?

It’s a VUCA world out there, people ….

Dynamite and World Peace

Weapons for peace

Guns for World Peace?

 

Part 11. Avoiding War

All the empathy in the world won’t help? (A review of Drift by Rachel Maddow)

Telepaths for World Peace

Women Warriors for Peace

and then you bleed …

 

Part 12. Embracing Peace Within

Defining Peace (a guest comment by Jagruti Gandani )

Peace in Your Heart, Peace in Your World

Not thinking in Costa Rica

My Imaginary Prison Time

A Part of the Whole

World Peace Pieced (a guest post by Susan Bridgers)

The opposite of anger

 

About the Author

 

Part 1: What is this thing?

 

 

 

What This Is

 

From early 2012 on I have maintained a blog in which I often write about empathy and world peace. Others have told me that they would enjoy having these short essays available together in book form. A blog post does not always lend it itself well to becoming part of a published book, but I have tried to bridge the two forms of communication with some grace.

I have arranged the pertinent posts into twelve loose categories. Within each of these I’ve sorted the posts for continuity, in some cases, or just in order of preference in others (I’ve put my favorites first.)

Two posts help explain with I put this book together to begin with, and they are next.

 

 

 

 

This book is being published right before Christmas 2016. A lot has changed in the world, and in my own life, over the past four years. This post below reminded me of what has not changed. I continue to cherish time with those I love, and to recognize how others do the same throughout the world.

I guess that this book is my holiday card; my way of wishing hope, joy and peace to every human on earth, with no exceptions.

 

 

Home for the Holidays

Published on Dec 25, 2012

 

 

In the climax of x0, as my newly telepathic hero Lola speeds around the world trying to outrun an evil man, there is a part of her that is still also trying to get home in time for Christmas dinner with her family. For all that she has transitioned into becoming a sort of super hero, she is still very much human.

Today, I am lucky to celebrate my own Christmas holiday with those I love the most, and as we start in with the chaos of making a feast, I recognize this time as well worth cherishing. Whatever your traditions or your situation, I wish you your own celebrations in the year ahead, and may they be filled with the warmth of time spent with those that bring the most joy into your life.

Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays. May your days be filled with hope, with joy and with peace.

 

 

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2012/12/25/home-for-the-holidays/+]

 

 

 

Not Writing Books about Shallow People Leading Exciting Lives

Published on Sept. 13, 2015

 

 

I am passionate about the cause of the world peace. I believe in our ability as a species to get along without killing each other and it is hard to keep that conviction out my fiction. Yes, I do understand that my stories would be more action packed if I just let my characters continually fire weapons, or incessantly take each other to bed for that matter, and if I didn’t worry so much about what is in their hearts and minds and souls. But honestly, it is my character’s struggles to be better humans that interests me most. How they triumph over the bad guys is secondary.

So, there you have it. I don’t want to write books about shallow people leading exciting lives. I want to write books about amazing people struggling to lead compassionate lives. I suspect that this limits my potential audience. I accept that. The wall of the spare bedroom that I write in features Kurt Cobain’s famous quote I’d rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not. You wouldn’t think that Kurt Cobain and I had a lot in common, but we do, at least in that I aspire to authentically create that to which I am driven. He, of course, did so.

So please enjoy this short book which combines my blog posts from the last four years that center on my passion for intra-species harmony.

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2015/09/13/not-writing-book…g-exciting-lives/+]

 

Part 2: Empathy

 

 

 

 

Face Painting for World Peace

From the Blog “Face Painting for World Peace”

Published on: Jan. 1, 2015

 

 

 

 

Some of the events in my novels were inspired by real life occurrences, some came from dreams or daydreams and others are a mélange of stories told to me by others. I suspect this is the case for most writers. A few of my tales, however, happened almost the way I tell them. One such narrative is Lola’s realizing how running the face painting booth at her children’s grade school changed her life.

This is autobiographical. I was raised in a small town filled with only northern Europeans, loved by adults who were at best distrustful of others. Education taught me that tolerance was the way to go. But the mind can conclude what it will; it is harder for the heart, for anyone’s heart, to feel comfortable reaching beyond how one was raised.

It was the south. It was barely two decades after the civil rights movement and it was a world in which most adults of all ethnic groups felt distrust. When confronted with any human who didn’t share my ancestry, I was awkward and nervous. I wanted to do the right thing, but had no clue how to relate to anyone who didn’t look like they could have grown up with me. Then I had children of my own, and off they went to school in a very different world than mine had been.

It brings me pride that my own kids were far more oblivious to variety in human appearance than I ever was. Watching them helped me. But in the end it was their classmates who helped me the most. The other children at their school -- the children whose ancestors hailed from South Asia, Africa, the Mediterranean and Southeast Asia -- they managed to teach me to recognize our common humanity as they spoke to me through their love of flowers and ninja turtles. It sounds silly, but sometimes the truth is. As I painted scary snakes and colorful rainbows on their skin, I earned their respect and their smiles and I became a different person.  A better one.

Decades have passed and I am in the process of cleaning out the home I have lived in for years. It's been a little painful, forcing myself to part with keepsakes as I make my way through attics and closets. Last week I found these -- signs for my booth from over the years.

I need to keep these, I thought. This is an important part of me. “You’ve got to be kidding,” my husband said, looking at my pile of big, dilapidated poster boards. He was right. These did not need to be hauled across the country with us.

“Take a picture of them,” my daughter suggested. Brilliant. Today, a picture is never lost,  particularly if you post it to your blog and tell the world.

Hey. Look at this. It might seem silly but these aren’t as trivial as they look. They taught me a lesson that has made my life so much richer.  And then I chose to retell my own story of this awakening of the heart through my character Lola. And Lola, well, Lola is going to take what I learned and she’s going to write an article about how face painting could help us find our way to a more peaceful society and with that kernel Lola is going to go out there and try to change the world. No, she is going to change to world.

Luckily for our over-stuffed, rented storage area, I don’t need the real posters anymore. I carry their message in my heart, where it belonged all along.

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2015/01/01/face-painting-for-world-peace/+]

 

 

Face Painting for World Peace

A Short Excerpt From the Novel x0

 

 

In 2002, Lola made her one and only attempt to write an article for publication. It was called “Face Painting for World Peace.” After dozens of revisions, it still sounded embarrassingly naive, and therefore it still lived in the bottom of a desk drawer awaiting additional inspiration or perhaps just more sophistication. The odd thing about the article, though, was that Lola knew its basic premise to be utterly true. She just lacked the skills to express the concept.

Over the years Lola had made a significant effort to be involved in her children’s lives because she thought it was important. To them, to her, to their future. But a full-time career meant she had to pick her spots wisely. Half-a-day off to drive the van on a field trip. Yes. That one was a real kid pleaser. Joining PTA committees which would hold endless meetings, usually during the day attended by moms in no particular hurry and about which the kids could care less? No.

The annual PTA carnival, a huge event at her children’s grade school, had lots of opportunities for attending such lengthy meetings. But by sheer luck, back when Zane was in first grade she had signed up for the face-painting booth. Turned out she had a bit of an artistic streak and a talent for inventing kid-beloved designs. By year three she was running the booth, featuring Ninja turtles and unicorns, and she had become one of the coolest moms at the school, which was interesting because she’d never been cool at her own grade school. Apparently, it was never too late …

As a completely unintended side effect, face painting changed Lola. With a husband teaching in the public school system, Lola and Alex made the principled decision to fight the “white flight” into private schools, to put their children and their energy into the public school system and their resources into a college savings account. So all three little Zeitmans had been sent to a magnet elementary school attached to a local intercity grade school and had grown up with groups of friends who looked like a junior United Nations delegation, which Lola and Alex were fine with, of course. Theoretically. But Lola at least had grown up in a time and place in which everyone around her was very white. It is one thing to believe something about how the world should be. It is another to actually be comfortable with it.

Then Lola found herself holding little black girls on her lap, dressed in the stereotypical frills that she used to scoff at. She painted rainbows on their arms while they giggled in delight and pretty soon she was giggling too. The little boy whose parents were newly arrived from India wanted the Batman logo on his chin. The little boy from Vietnam wanted a flower. The little Latina wanted a heart on her face and a lightning bolt down her arm. As Lola held the children, touched the children, enjoyed the joy of the children, year after year, somewhere along the way a funny thing happened. They went from being those people, to being people.

Once you make that transition, you don’t go back.

A few years later when Lola’s employer sent her to interview grad students as prospective new hires, she listened to the hopes and dreams of aspiring geoscientists from Jamaica, Croatia, Pakistan, and China. The HR department asked her to please stop recommending so many foreign students. It was then that Lola had penned her article. We need massive amounts of card tables and millions of gallons of tempera paint. A billion little paint brushes and a ton of old newspapers. Let’s send every adult on the planet somewhere else, and have them paint children’s faces for a day. Then have them interview the young adults for a day. Then have them paint faces for a day more. Let’s do it once a year. Everybody goes somewhere different each year. We can do this. Given the time and resources, we can do world peace.

It was meant in jest of course, but only kind of.

She looked across the hall at her new friend, the young Nigerian geologist Okocha. A kindred spirit of Lola’s had certainly designed that National Youth Service Corps with the wild idea of achieving peace in Nigeria. For all of its flaws and troubles, who knew what chaos that country might be in today without that oddly idealistic plan.

So how about just getting people working together in an office for world peace? Exchange students? Pen pals? She thought of her group of word-game playing internet friends. A Mormon grandmother with a delightfully earthy sense of humor. A Muslim physician who had been kind enough to explain to her what all the racket was about when she found herself in Jakarta on Eid al-Adha, which turned out to be a holy day for giving to the less fortunate and feeding the poor. Given that, how could one possibly complain about the music coming from the mosques?

So, internet games for world peace. Everybody grab a mouse and play something. Come on people. We can DO this!

 

 

 

 

Do Less Harm

Published on: Aug. 31, 2016

 

 

Is a course of action better if it results in less harm? Most people would say yes, at least until they are confronted with the reality of the choices made by those who struggle to improve the world without making it perfectly right.

What am I talking about here? Well, drug addiction and educating women in Afghanistan and preventing pedophiles from molesting children and female genital mutilation and pretty much everything else I’d rather not discuss or think about. It turns out that there is a lot of icky stuff in the world, and it’s hard to make it any of it go away.

Enter the British news magazine “The Economist.” It shows up every week, and recently I read about the plight of Aziz Amir, an Afghan cardiologist trying to raise funds for an all-female university in Kabul. Dr. Amir particularly wants to offer medical training to women in a world where many females will risk death rather than visit a male practitioner. He knows that some families who would never allow their daughters to attend a coeducational college might relent and allow them to attend his university. But foreigners are reluctant to support gender-segregated education.

I agree with the foreigners. I believe that by studying and working together, young males and females learn to respect each other as human beings. But I also agree with Dr. Amir. He is trying hard to make the world better, in a way that will work. My high-minded ideals matter little in a situation in which many girls will be denied any schooling and many women will not have access to any medical care. The issue seems to me to be about whether I am going to look at this through my own eyes, or through the eyes of the girls of Afghanistan.

A few pages later I was drawn into an article about Stop it Now, a group dedicated to reducing the sexual molestation of children. This practical group runs a hotline for pedophiles, and has been criticized for being “offender friendly”. In fact, the group is trying to understand what can be done to prevent pedophiles from acting on their desires, and getting such information requires talking to potential offenders with compassion, and trying to offer them realistic ways of coping. Other similar groups face related challenges by offering confidentiality to those seeking help.

Of course I agree with those who never, ever want the identity of a child molester to be kept hidden. And yet I understand those who point out that if you take that approach, you have effectively decided not to offer assistance to those seeking ways to behave better. Do you really want to do that?

The issue here seems to me to be about whether I am even capable of looking at the world through the eyes of a potential child molester. Am I?

How about seeing the world through the eyes of parents who would insist on mutilating their own baby daughter’s genitals? I can think of few actions I personally consider more despicable, and yet I have come to learn that these parents accept this religious procedure as necessary to their daughter’s upright moral behavior in later life. Luckily, even a tiny symbolic prick with a knife often will suffice for the parents, but a modern doctor willing to perform such a ceremony is understandably condemned. Unable to find a doctor, the parents then turn to non-medical religious personnel who insist on performing a far more horrific procedure.

It seems like what I am talking about here in every case is harm reduction. So I was surprised when a quick little search showed me that the term harm reduction, according to the Harm Reduction Coalition, is actually “a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use. Harm Reduction is also a movement for social justice built on a belief in, and respect for, the rights of people who use drugs.” Those working in this field accept that “licit and illicit drug use is part of our world” and they choose to work to minimize its harmful effects.

So the term harm reduction is about practical ways to improve the lives of drug users? That sounds like, you know, once again looking at the problem through the eyes of the ones you are trying to help.

I’m starting to see a common theme. I can look into my own heart and try to make the world a better place. Or I can dare to experience the world through the heart of another human, one as imperfect as me, and allow myself and others to try improve their bad situation using compassion instead of my personal sense of how the world should be.

It’s that old empathy thing again. It just keeps on showing up everywhere, even in “The Economist.”

 

 

 

 

http://tothepowerofzero.org/2016/08/31/do-less-harm/

 

 

 

Veggie Burgers and How Things Change

Published on June 19, 2013

 

 

When I stopped eating meat the summer after my freshman year of college, I pretty much lived on cheese omelets and french toast.  In my defense I was working at a 24-hour breakfast place and those were the options. I now occasionally eat meat, but my husband does not, and I am happy for the far greater variety offered to him these days and for the healthier eating choices that we are both able to make in restaurants.

So, I was puzzled when I read about the Red Robin ad that touted their garden burger as something for when “your teenage daughter is going through a phase.” Yikes. Talk about insulting your customers. About ten per cent of all Americans are vegetarian, and many more choose to eat less meat. Why would you make fun of them? Of us?

Then I came across another blogger’s take on the whole idea of exclusionary humor. In a wonderful post called Just a Joke: Confessions of a “Humorless Vegan” she provides one of the best analyses I have ever read on how little jokes marginalize anyone who is different and how the threat of appearing humorless keeps them (whoever they may be) from objecting.

Her solution? Try to put yourself in the shoes of the person telling the unfortunate joke, and remember that they are likely not nearly as hateful as they seem to you at this moment. She even quotes Gandhi. I love this lady.

Empathy is certainly the central part of this blog, and my heart does go pitter patter when it shows up once again. Empathy is the solution. When I stopped eating meat after my freshman year in college, I hardly ever heard the word empathy used. Now, it is the answer to rude drivers, rude relatives, and rude advertisers.

Some things never change. As society evolves, we keep finding new folks to make fun of.

Some things do change. We work together better to find ways to take the sting out of the joke. Yay us.

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2013/06/19/how-things-change-veggie-burgers/+]

 

 

 

And the Object of the Game Is ….

Published on May 11, 2013

 

 

I’m giving some thought today to negative stereotypes associated with India, particularly those held by my fellow citizens of the USA. There are plenty, let’s face it. We paint a comic insult cartoon of every other nation on earth, although some caricatures, like the stuffy Brit, do imply a bit of fondness. I wonder if every other culture does the same. I think I am going to go with yes on this one, and guess that all caricatures of us are not that fond either.

Several years ago a good friend of mine was told his job was being outsourced to India.  The friend is an electrical engineer who spent years writing in machine code to tell your car’s more intelligent parts exactly how to behave. It was a high level skill and he was very good at it, but he was told that his company had a found a kid in India who would do the job at a fraction of the cost and, as his last assignment, my friend was to train his replacement. Yeah right. Guess I’m just not going to remember a whole lot to teach him, my friend laughed. I sympathized.

And then, he started to talk to the young man, who turned out to be smart, eager and happy beyond belief to have gotten this job.  It was going to make him one of the richest people in his village.  One of the most successful members of his family ever. He and everyone he knew were rejoicing at this incredible good fortune. So of course my friend started to remember more and more to teach him, and before he was done he had passed along every trick and shortcut he knew. The young man was so grateful and once he took over my friends job I’m told that he was very good at it.

So was my friend successful, or not? That depends on how you define success. Remember board games?  The directions always started out with “The object of the game is……” Surely I’m not the only person who has wished that real life came with such clear information. If the object of your game is to make as much money as you can, as easily as you can, then my friend failed.  And, let me add that if such is your object, you should consider something other than writing self-published novels. They are exhausting to write, they take forever, and you can probably count on a few dollars a month in return.

But what if success is having a more interesting life? Learning things you never knew you never knew? I firmly believe that the internet has brought the world together in ways we are just beginning to understand, and it has done this for anyone who gets online. But writing and self-publishing three novels has taken this to a whole new level for me. I now share ideas and information with readers and fellow writers in a global community that would have astounded my seventh grade self, a girl who could barely contain her excitement at being allowed to study world geography. Today, copies of my three books exist in over twenty countries. I’m pleased beyond belief.

And later this week, I’m going to be interviewed on a blog written by two young women in India. I’ve done a fair amount of such interviews already, but this one is different because I didn’t go to them. They found my book, read my book, liked my book, and sought me out. All the way from India. Is that cool or what?

The young woman I’ve been corresponding with works as an instrumentation engineer and she also has aspirations to write. She wondered how I manage to raise a family, have a technical career and find time to be an author. I told her that I didn’t manage all at once, rather the writing started once the kids were older and job demands lessened. I offered advice on any of the above if I could ever be of help. I suspect that she has plenty she could teach me as well.

Did I mention that my friend the electrical engineer learned quite a bit from the young Indian man he instructed? Well he did, of course, for in the best of circumstances knowledge flows two ways. Not every outsourcing story ends so well, but in my friend’s case his employer was so impressed with the job that he did training this kid, and with the new skills he picked up while doing so, that they decided to keep him on also. He trained a few others for them and then he went back to happily writing machine code, using all he had learned to his advantage. Your car may run better because of his story.

So what’s the object of the game? Some days I think I know, other days I’m not so sure. But I am pretty certain that my friend’s story is a success story, in more ways than one. And I do know that I gained far more than I hoped for when I picked up my laptop and started to write my first novel. If gaining more than you hope for isn’t success, what is?

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2013/05/11/and-the-object-of-the-game-is/+]

 

 

 

Through the Eyes of Another … (A short review of The Space Merchants)

Published on: Aug 25, 2015

 

 

Last night I finished reading the 1952 classic The Space Merchants. I was so happy to have found this older story in my dad’s science fiction collection, and I’ve been talking about it on my other blogs. Today I realized that the discussion of one of my favorite elements of this book belongs here.

I’ll post a full review this novel by Frederick Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth on Goodreads and will only say now that it is not a total thumbs up. I know that styles have changed over the decades, and science fiction has never been know for its complex character development, but I found the ending and many of the emotional transitions abrupt. I had high hopes for the story and it didn’t quite live up to my expectations, even though I’m glad I read it.

So what did I like? The satire of a society driven by ever increasing sales was spot on, in spite of the author’s failure to predict so much of modern society. What made the dichotomy between the ruling class of advertisers and lower class consumers work was the way in which the sales people so thoroughly misunderstood the lives of the average person. It’s barely a spoiler to reveal that protagonist and ad agency executive Mitchell Courtenay finds himself stripped of his identity and turned into a low life laborer. Once he is on the receiving end of his own work, his perspective changes.

The idea of obtaining personal growth and better perspective by walking the in shoes of another is a common plot tactic and rightfully so. From the literary classic The Prince and the Pauper to Trading Places, the hilarious movie it inspired, story tellers have shown how the heart is softened once a human walks in another’s shoes. Sexism took blows from both Tootsie and Mrs. Doubtfire. Black Like Me opened minds in entirely white Hays Kansas in 1968. I know, because I was in the English class that was required to read the controversial book.

The authors of the “The Space Merchants” use this powerful tool well as the privileged Mitch discovers that workers do not hold menial jobs merely because they are lazy. In fact, he is surprised to learn just how much hard work a menial job requires.

If the idea of experiencing the life of someone you don’t understand is powerful in a novel, it is even more powerful in the world. Reality TV shows, such as Wife Swap, have used this theme about swapping lives, and student exchange programs are based on it. At their best, travel and intercultural communication of all kinds can foster enough exchange to encourage empathy and respect.

My initial interest in telepathy grew out of curiosity about how difficult fighting a war would be if you could read the mind of your enemy and feel his or her emotions. Most of us can’t read minds and never will, but living a life similar to that of your “enemy” is the next closest thing.

Mitch Courtney is willing to sell anybody anything, until he experiences a life in which his small amount of discretionary income is the continual target of clever ads trying to pry his limited money away for things that bring him little joy and even harm him. The emotional transition that rang most true in this novel was the story a man who learns to see the world through the eyes of another, and changes his own life as a result.

 

 

(For more about the Space Merchants, see my posts I Know Sexism When I See It?, _] [_The Kinky of the Future and Predicting the Future or Shaping It.)

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2015/08/25/through-the-eyes-of-another/+]

 

 

 

One Person’s Tourist Destination is Another Person’s home

(thoughts from Bucharest)

A Post from my y1 Blog “Fire Dancing for Fun and Profit”

Published on April 30, 2013

 

 

The tour bus has been winding through the street of Bucharest Romania for a while now and it is apparent that they are mostly stalling until our hotel accommodations are ready.  We have driven by and photographed the huge parliament building formerly known as the “people’s palace” twice, and passed numerous pretty squares, many statues, and a lovely opera house and huge museum.  We don’t care.  We are tired.  We’ve seen remarkably similar things for the past nine days and we just want to get to our rooms, kick off our shoes and take warm showers.  Such is the life of a group traveler.

I don’t like exploring new places by way of preplanned itineraries and I don’t like having to go everywhere with a group.  I like doing my own thing. But I was offered the opportunity to go with my sister, a small business owner in the travel industry, as she researched a particular tour operator.  See eastern Europe at a wonderful discount. So here I am on a bus in Bucharest, watching twenty or so of my fellow tourists who are from China laugh when they discover that the big exhibit at the museum here features the famous Terracotta warriors from back home.

My sister and I have gotten along well over this trying week of schlepping around on a schedule, but once we get to our room we have a rare argument, and it has to do with looking pretty.  Not us. Romania.

On the endless bus ride around town, we both studied the massive grey condo buildings that house the occupants of Bucharest, many of them erected when the country went rapidly from a mostly agrarian economy in the 1940’s to a largely industrial one under the particularly oppressive communist dictatorship that took root here after WWII. Other older buildings were recycled into condos as these were built. Now all their owners have used their ingenuity and limited resources to improve their lives. Air conditioning units of all shapes and sizes are randomly distributed over the exterior, and the ubiquitous balconies have undergone ad hoc conversions into sun rooms of every imaginable style and color.

To me, it was a riotous explosion  of resourcefulness. Maybe not pretty, but commendable. To my sister, it was a riotous explosion of ugliness, particularly on the many formerly beautiful older converted buildings.  Maybe understandable, but still such a shame.

“What they really need is some sort of home owners association,” she asserts. She clearly has not had the less than pleasant run-ins with a home owners association that I have had.

“Are you kidding? First communism, then home owner’s associations? What have you got against these people?” I ask.

She is thinking of a small historical town she lives near in in western Illinois.  Strict restrictions keep its historical buildings authentic and pretty.  The owners are glad to comply, or they can live elsewhere.  Hordes of visitors from Chicago come every summer weekend to marvel at the quaintness and  bring in tourist dollars. Everyone is happy.

I am thinking of an article I read in a Lonely Planet book bemoaning the disappearance of the cute thatched roofs in Ireland.  The visiting author thought that the transition to more modern but ugly roofs was a shame until he talked to someone who lived there.  Thatched roofs leak.  They are drafty, hard to maintain and harbor mice. If you like them so much, go build your own house with one, a helpful Irishman said. We don’t have any obligation to be uncomfortable just to look cute for you. This is our home.

I side with the local Irishman, although I admit that it is more of a dilemma for a tourist destination like Ireland, a place that makes a good deal of its income from those who come see its cuteness. Bucharest, however, is not a place trying particularly hard to attract tourists. It is simply a city that people call home, filled with folks like me just trying to get by who don’t want to be told how to manage their own living space so that they will look pretty to tourists like me who are merely passing through.

“Fair enough,” my sister concedes.  “They can build their homes any way they want. But I don’t have to drive around the city and look at them.” I agree that she does not. And with that we decide that we are done sightseeing for this trip. Forget the museum, massive parliament building or anything else. We are not going anywhere except to go get lunch. We wander down a side street and settle on a very pretty little café and everybody is happy, including our waitress.

 

 

 

 

[(If you would like to read other posts from this trip check out _] [“That which does not kill us …. thoughts from Budapest“] _on my blog for the novel x0. Also check out “A lot of pissed-off people ….. thoughts from Belgrade” _] [_on my website for the novel z2.)

 

 

[+ http://ytothepowerof1.org/2013/04/30/one-persons-tour…s-from-bucharest/+]

 

 

 

Understanding Compassion

Published on Jan. 21, 2013

 

 

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” –– His Holiness the Dalai Lama

 

My empathic hero of xo finds that the more she understands how others feel, the more compassionate she becomes. As a young woman, she hopes that someday her empathic gifts will be studied and understood every bit as well the physical sciences that she also loves.

I was surprised to discover today that Stanford University has a Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education and they are trying to understanding empathy. According to their webpage they are “ striving to create a community of scholars and researchers, including neuroscientists, psychologists, educators and philosophical and contemplative thinkers around the study of compassion.” They also have a facebook page filled with fascinating links, photos and art.

As Lola makes the transition from empath to telepath, she is concerned about whether she will be able to maintain her concern and compassion for others with the barrage of suffering now coming at her.  She worries that maybe a true telepath can only survive by becoming cold and isolated.

Imagine my surprise at finding a link on the CCARE website to an interesting article by C. Daryl Cameron called How to Increase your Compassion Bandwidth.  It comes from the University of California at Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and it deals with the exact issue of compassion overload, and the ways to cope with it in an age of electronic communication that sort of makes us all pseudo telepaths.

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2013/01/21/understanding-compassion/+]

 

 

 

Becoming More Empathic

Published on March 11, 2013

 

 

My hero Lola is a highly emphatic person who finds that, in her fictional world, her empathy is a pathway to telepathy. In the reality in which you and I live (we do live in the same reality, right?) empathy may only be a pathway to becoming a happier and kinder human. That’s enough incentive for me.

 

But how does one become more empathic? Consider checking out this article on Six Habits of Highly Empathic People by Roman Krznaric. There are real things one can do. My personal favorite? Experiential empathy.  Walk a mile, or ten, in another person’s shoes and discover just how hard it is to criticize, much less hate. Of course, if the shoes look like these, it may also be hard for some of us even to walk…..

 

 

photo from shutterstock.com

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2013/03/11/becoming-more-emphathic/+]

 

 

 

What Did I Say Wrong?

Published on Nov. 16, 2013

 

 

The process of writing a book about telepathy gave me plenty of opportunity to think about how we as humans provide comfort and support to each other. Or not. In my book I treat empathy as a sort of “baby telepathy” in which the truly empathic can feel the pain of another, as they live one step away from reading another’s thoughts.

In real life, we all know people who are kind of like this. Yet even these concerned, caring types don’t always say the right thing. In fact, sometimes they come out with awful responses, in spite of their obvious empathy, and they often expect to be excused because their heart was in the right place. It seems like it’s not always enough to have a caring open heart. Why? I think that even the most empathic people feel the need to express their own fear, anger, and sorrow or just to make observations or share what they know. Being empathetic doesn’t make you any less human.

I was delighted to come across an article in the Los Angeles Times called “How Not to Say the Wrong Thing” by Susan Silk and Barry Goldman. It describes an approach for how to share your own observations and feelings in a crisis. It’s called “comfort in, dump out”. Basically you getting out a piece of paper and literally drawing rings around the name of a person having any kind of a crisis. Closer rings then get filled in with the names of those closest to the person: immediate family and best friends. Then, coworkers, friends and acquaintances, and distant family members all go in increasingly distant rings by name or in groups. Finally you put your self in the appropriate ring, whatever it may be. Now, the way to avoid unintended ghastly behavior is to say nothing but comforting things to those inward from you. Period. Nothing more. Just comfort. On the other hand, you can rant and rave, or share your fear or knowledge on the subject involved all you want with those in rings further away than you.

This is brilliant. I really like these people.

I came across this article by way of one of my favorite blogs, called Otrazhenie. Please check out the blog article here. There is a lot of interesting embellishment, and the site is well worth a visit!

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2013/11/16/what-did-i-say-wrong/+]

 

 

 

Frustration

Published on March 8, 2014

 

 

Momma said that their would be days like this, or so the song goes. We all have them. Not just days, but weeks when both the big and the little annoying things of the world overtake everything.

I’m struggling with writing momentum right now. The plot for my latest book, d4, has spiraled out of control and I’ve spent a whole painful month reigning it back in. That’s way too long and I am so frustrated. Meanwhile my to-do pile is overflowing with real world problems like bills and taxes that I cannot keep ignoring. Breathe. It will all get done. My own job has been unusually demanding these past couple of weeks, so I can add a new chronic right shoulder and neck ache that is clearly computer related to my list of frustrations. Keep breathing.

As is so often the case when I am floundering, my immediate loved ones all have issues in their own lives right now that I cannot fix. There is a downside to having a very empathic nature, and as I turn on the news to relax, I know deep inside that isn’t going to help. I can’t explain why, but war anywhere frightens and depresses me. So does tyranny and repression. My heart goes out to the people of the Ukraine and Venezuela, both of which are now exploding. Breathe. You don’t help anyone by being agitated.

We just finished a primary here in Texas in which candidates in my area battled each other to prove how each was more conservative than the other. The message was non-stop, delivered via unwanted phone calls and unavoidable fliers in the mail. The spiteful nature of much of the rhetoric was so depressing to a middle-of-the road independent like me. What to do, what to do.

Write? Work? Pay bills? Help my daughter move? Run for office? Go fight oppression in another country?

I think I’ll start by just putting some heat on my shoulder and breathing deeply. Calming down sounds like the best way to begin.

 

 

http://tothepowerofzero.org/2014/03/08/frustration/

 

Part 3: Peace and History

 

 

 

Remember and Move On

A Post from my z2 Blog “Treasure Hunting for a Good Time”

Published on Jan. 3, 2015

 

 

I’ve written about places I know and about many I’ve researched but never seen. It is always odd to finally visit the real location that I’ve held in my imagination for a story. Today is a windy, overcast day in late autumn, and I stand for the first time on the grounds of the civil war battle of Cedar Creek in Northwest Virginia. Battle grounds bring a hush over us all. People died there, often in the most difficult and painful of ways, and we know that they did. Lots of people lost their lives at this site, and thanks to my determination to write a battle scene as accurately as I could, I know more about these people than I do about those in any other battle ever.

I’m not a big fan of military history.  I have very mixed feelings about enshrining war and about the civil war in particular. I’ve lived in the south for most of my adult life and I still cringe at attempts to glorify the reasons behind the conflict. But my quasi-time travel novel z2 needed a complicated battle that could have changed the outcome of the war, and my history loving husband was delighted when his research acquainted us both with Cedar Creek.

There is much about this battle to intrigue even the barely interested. A surprise attack at the crack of dawn began with soldiers sneaking single file along a pig path in the dark. It was a near victory for the south, close enough to the nation’s capital to have alarmed a war-weary nation already pressuring Lincoln to stop this nonsense and let the bastards secede. Cold, half starved confederate boys took advantage of a halt at a union camp to scarf down food and find themselves shoes and jackets. There was a commander who couldn’t or wouldn’t move those boys along, giving the union reinforcements the time they needed. There was a quiet engineer who received little credit for his contribution and a showy General Sheridan who rode in on horseback amidst trumpet blasts to save the day. In the end all the stories melded into a Union victory, a little more time for Lincoln and, well, the rest is history.

I don’t particularly like monuments, and I don’t think we should glamorize war. But as I stand in the wind I hear ten thousand stories calling to me and I stop and listen to a snippet here and there.

 

 

 

 

Let go, let go of this painful past and move on, part of my brain cries. Enough with the deaths and the sad things they died for.

No! Remember us. Remember how it happened. Remember why.

Remember and move on. Such a tricky balance -- to let go of the anger and hatred and yet to keep the lessons and even to keep the stories. Because they were real people. Real suffering. Real hopes.

I pause, and place my hand on the ornate plaque that tells a historian’s short version of the events, and I let the other stories I have read of those involved wash over my brain and heart. The wind picks up, my husband heads for the car. “You coming?” I nod. It’s time to move on.

 

 

[+ http://zsquaredblog.org/2015/01/03/remember-and-move-on/+]

 

 

What the Hell Happened in 1968? (World Peace Edition)

Published on July 27, 2015

 

 

Funny how forty-seven years can melt away in an instant.

Sixty-year old Sherrie Cronin is going through the last bits of china and art from her mother’s house. She is used to the memories that the old things bring, and the pang of how her mother once loved this vase or her father once showed her that book. What she isn’t prepared for is the newspaper. Still stark in its faded shades of charcoal and cream, it is a relic of communication that she almost never sees these days. The Wichita Eagle. It whispers to her from a place she once lived, and from a Friday August 23 of long ago.

“I wonder what was going on in 1968?” she asks, as she picks up what turns out to be the editorial page.

“President Johnson appealed once more to the American people this week to support his policy in Vietnam ….” she reads, and forty-seven years melt away in an instant as thirteen-year-old Sherri Roth stands holding the newspaper. The girl is curious, she yearns to be a Lois Lane-style journalist, and she skims the news, searching for answers to the burning questions about life that keep her awake at night as she tries to understand the universe.

 

 

 

 

“One day….” Johnson is quoted as saying “the men who bear the brunt of this battle are going to come home and .. they are going to ask an accounting of us …. and the soldiers and the American people will look back on what we’ve done … with the same pride that we feel in our other efforts in the cause of freedom when we have defended it with out blood.” Johnson was speaking to the VWF, so it doesn’t surprise the astute young Sherri that his assertion is met with enthusiastic applause.

But this is the editorial page. The writer of the article has his own perspective to add. The editorialists says “The trouble is that millions of [Johnson’s] fellow countrymen simply do not believe that. In fact they oppose his policy precisely because they do not feel ‘pride’ in this war and do not honestly know what ‘accounting’ they can give to the soldiers for all the human sacrifices…. There is no evidence that the American sacrifices have convinced the Chinese or any other communist peoples that ‘wars of national liberation’ have failed. On the contrary we might have convinced them of the opposite and even Lyndon Johnson would probably hesitate to send another half million men to Asia if another such war broke out again.”

Yes. Of course. The older Sherrie knows that history will eventually say “What a mistake. What were we thinking?” She knows that it will be decades before any leader sends another half million men to Asia to meddle into the internal affairs of another nation. But she also knows that it will happen again.

Young Sherri is a budding peacenik, holding secret views about pacifism that would disturb her parents if only they knew of them. Over next few years she will silently support Eugene McCarthy, and learn to despise Nixon. She will hold her breath during the Iran hostage crisis, and watch the invasion of Kuwait while she nurses her youngest child, crying in relief when the brief war ends without further escalation. She will shudder at the bombing of Serbia, thankful no troops are on the ground. She will applaud George Bush when he shows restraint after the attacks of nine eleven and she will utter outraged opposition when he inexplicably invades Iraq. She will even become a fan of the Dixie Chicks when they oppose the war, and buy her first Country Western album.

Forty-seven years is a long time, the older woman thinks. The pain and loss of Vietnam is all but forgotten now, save for the families that were the hardest hit. How would you expect people to remember the discord here, and the devastation there, in far-away beautiful places filled with young girls every bit as eager for life as she was? Who now thinks of the cost of that war, the waste, the shattered bodies and brains, the hatred and fear generated and, in the end, the shame of nothing to show for sacrifices so horrible? It is a thing of history now. Done and gone. She carefully folds the newspaper back up, putting the memories of wars past away along with the small piece of china that the newspaper once held.

[From page 4A of the Friday August 23, 1968 Wichita Eagle “James Reston’s view” from the New York Times News Service]

 

 

(For more notes from 47 years ago, where 13 year old Sherri Roth reports the news from the Friday August 23, 1968 Wichita Eagle, see my other blogs posts for the How to Get a Standing Ovation Edition, the Women’s Edition, the Won’t You Please Come to Chicago Edition and the Race Relations Edition.)

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2015/07/27/what-the-hell-ha…ld-peace-edition/+]

 

 

 

That Which Does Not Kill Us (thoughts from Budapest)

Published on April 19, 2013

 

 

I’m riding a tour bus across the Danube and I’m thinking of Nietzsche.  He had the reputation of being a depressing godless existentialist where I was raised, and only as an adult have I learned of the many uplifting things that he had  to say.

One of my favorites: That which does not kill us makes us stronger.

I am thinking about this because I can’t see out of the bus all that well, because I am in an aisle seat and my sister has the window.  She loves the window but she would take turns with me if I wanted, but I don’t. Like Lola, my hero of x0, I too was trapped under a canoe a few years ago and was lucky to live through the incident. Lola used the experience to help her grow into a strong telepath  Me, I still find myself uncomfortable being anywhere for very long where I cannot easily get out. After berating myself for being silly and forcing myself to endure mildly uncomfortable situations, I’ve finally just accepted the new me and now I keep plenty of open space between me and the exit. So, no window seats.

I have decided that I love the Hungarians.  I love the wild violin music and the rich food and this hilly city called Buda pushed right up against the Danube and the flatness of Pesht. This happens to me a lot when I travel.  I tend to fall in love with whole cultures and pieces of the earth.

 

 

Chain Bridge over Danube River

 

 

I am fascinated  with how these warriors on horseback arrived in Europe the 800’s (that’s right, 800 not 1800). After hundreds of good years, disaster struck. The Mongols passed through, killing most Hungarians and burning their villages to the ground.  Tough times.

It took a couple of hundred years to recover from that, but the Hungarians did. Then the Turks came through, killed and burnt as before, and stayed for a couple of hundred years. The Austrians showed up and kicked out the Turks, but then they milked the Hungarians dry before they pulled them into the losing side of World War I.  After the war, Hungary lost two thirds of its land and half its people as punishment.

A guy named Hitler came along and promised the Hungarians their land back, and they made an unfortunate alliance. Once they learned to know their ally better and tried to end the relationship, Hitler simply invaded and occupied Hungary.  But not to worry, the Soviets showed up and pushed Hitler out. The Hungarians were so happy that they made then statues of thanksgiving. Then, the Soviets imposed their own stern totalitarian regime on the Hungarians for decades, behind a political artifact known as the “iron curtain”.

Today, Hungary is a sliver of its former self, fighting to regain its economic footing and cultural cohesiveness.  Our tour guide quips that  “really we’re just hanging around to see who is going to invade us next.” My science fiction brains is already thinking about an alien invasion story that begins in Hungary. It has promise.

I think that what Nietzshe said is technically true regarding germs. I wish it was true more generally. I think we should all be resilient and not leading lives of fear. Survive and grow stronger. It sounds good and when it happens, it’s great. But the truth is that what doesn’t kill us, sometimes damages us. To deny that fact doesn’t help.

If there is there a message in there for those times when what doesn’t kill leaves marks instead, I think it must be about the need for us all to be far more gentle with each other.  We’re strong  But as people and as societies, we are fragile too. We’d all be far better off if we did less damage to each other to begin with.

 

 

(If you would like to read other posts from this trip check out “One person’s tourist destination is another person’s home ….. thoughts from Bucahrest “ [on my blog for the novel y1.  Also check out _] [“A lot of pissed-off people ….. thoughts from Belgrade” ] [_on my website for the novel z2.)]

 

 

Hungarian war memorial with bullet holes preserved

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2013/04/19/that-which-does-…ts-from-budapest/+]

 

 

 

Finding Forgiveness in Costa Rica

Published on July 26, 2014

 

 

I’m once again in Costa Rica, experiencing a week of mountain views, fresh food, water and air, and a recharge of the qigong practice that I began a year ago. The week has gone well, and I feel isolated from the troubles of the everyday world. On this last day, our sifu, or teacher, has chosen to focus on spiritual qualities such as gratitude and forgiveness.

Gratitude goes well, but forgiveness hits a glitch. Not everyone defines the word the same. To some it includes an element of reconciliation, forgetting or moving on and several of us agree that defined that way, some acts are unforgivable. We get into a discussion about the meaning of the word, and several well meaning people pull in child molesters, sexual predators, genocide in Africa and, of course, Hitler. I find the images disturbing and enter the next exercise with a churning mind.

Others have been harder hit than me. Two women in the group who identify strongly with their fellow Jews are angry and disappointed at having been pulled into the forgive Hitler discussion. Their reaction is not to be taken lightly. One fled Europe as a child at the start of World War Two, and still bears scars the rest of us do not comprehend. The other has been following the news and is dismayed by an out pouring of hatred in Europe that most of us did not even know was happening.

There are tears and harsh words. Our teacher was using examples he has used dozens of times, meaning no ill will, only trying to make his point. An angry student jumps in to defend him. Stances turn from gentle to hostile. His wife tries to offer an olive branch of no harm intended. A student from Mexico offers understanding. There are examples from the drug wars that would have been just as difficult for him he says. The positions soften just a little.

“Can I have a hug?” Sifu asks the woman who has expressed most of the anger. She hesitates, then stands a little stiffly and lets him hug her. “Hugs all around’ someone says and pretty soon everyone in the circle is hugging every one else, one by one. Eyes meet. Skin touches. Words of understanding are muttered quietly, person to person, until all is soft again.

Nothing we can do will dent the pain that these two women carry, and no one in the group is naive enough to think so. But we have diffused our own little crisis of understanding, and will at least all part with mutual appreciation for each other.

It works for twenty or so people at a mountain retreat. It would never work in the harshness of real life, of course, filled with all of its deep wounds and long-standing fears. Or would it?

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2014/07/26/finding-forgiveness-in-costa-rica/+]

 

 

 

Empathy Lessons from Nigeria

Published on: Aug 7, 2012

 

 

When I started writing a book about a telepathic link developing between two strangers, I wanted the second woman to lead a life that was very different from my protagonist. There were a lot of good reasons to make her Nigerian. For one, I’ve gotten to work with and know a variety of Nigerians in my day job, and I had both information on and appreciation for Nigeria’s cultures. Secondly, I recognized that few nations have as poor a reputation here in the US, largely due, I think, to the ongoing rash of Nigerian internet scams.

But I also knew that Nigeria has lessons to teach the rest of the world about learning to get along. As a nation born out of a forced union of tribes which sometimes held a deep hatred for each other, modern Nigeria has endured internal fighting and atrocities beyond belief. Years ago when I was involved in recruiting geoscientists, I learned about Nigeria’s National Youth Service Core.  Set up in response to Nigeria’s civil war in the early 1970’s, it requires that all Nigerian college graduates spend a year of public service while placed within other ethnic groups. In other words, they are sent off to live with the very people whom their own families may have hated.  The goal is to foster communication, compassion and empathy by exposing young Nigerians to the day to day lives of these “others’ .

As one might guess, such a scheme is plagued by problems.  It targets only the educated youth, and arguably they are already the more open-minded and least likely to perpetuate old hatreds. University graduates are not evenly distributed throughout the regions, and so some areas contribute considerably more to the workforce while other regions benefit more. Sadly, several brutal attacks on young corp members in recent years have tarnished its reputation and left families fearful. And finally, all the problems found in a large bureaucracy can be found here as well. For all it’s failings, however, Nigerians themselves ask the question “What would our nation be like if we hadn’t set up such a program?”

Which brings me to going to college here in the United States. Thanks to the bargain of in-state tuition and the relative ease of moving a teenager a few hundred miles instead of a few thousand, most parents I know strongly encourage their children to go to college nearby. When my three children left Texas to attend schools in far-flung New England, Chicago and the West Coast, we got asked what it was we had against Texas. The answer was that we had something for seeing our nation from different points of view. The U.S. of 2012 is not plagued by civil war, thankfully, but regional animosity and cultural dislike seem to be only growing, and in the end I think that fact can only serve to hurt us all, no matter where our home is or what our beliefs are.

So I personally think that there is lesson to be learned from Nigeria.  If we want our next generation to act and live as one coherent nation working together in spite of differences of opinion, then we need to encourage our youth to get out and see our country through the eyes of people we too often belittle. Nigeria may not be executing this plan perfectly, but they have an idea worth emulating. How would our nation change if a year of college far out of state was encouraged whenever practical? The result could well be that our children end up befriending the very people that we think that do not like, and we find ourselves in the awkward position of having to like more people.

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2012/08/07/empathy-lessons-from-nigeria/+]

 

Part 4: Peace and Current Events

 

 

 

Christmas is Not About “Love, But …”

Published on Dec. 11, 2015

 

 

It is probably because I’m doing gentle yoga to Christmas music in a candlelit room. These are the kinds of holiday activities you find in my new home town in the mountains of North Carolina. It is true, I’m a long way from Texas. However, I’m having trouble clearing my mind because they’ve decide to use songs with vocalists, which I think is a bad choice.

“Describe in one word how God feels about the world right now.”

The observer in my head has decided to take my mind off of the lyrics about Frosty by springing a pop quiz. This is what happens when you live inside of my brain.

I don’t even hesitate. “Sad.” And then because I don’t like following rules, even my own, I add “very sad.”

There is silence while my memory replays current events. Perhaps I’ve been watching the news too much lately. It has started to disturb even my dreams. At the instructors prompting I move into a modified pigeon pose while a softer song croons “Peace on the earth, good will to men, from heaven’s all-gracious King. The world in solemn stillness lay to hear the angels sing.”

Yes, angels singing. My spiritual notions are vague, and I wonder why I’m asking myself questions about the emotional state of a deity in whom I have at best a non-traditional belief. Then I realize that it’s not God I’m thinking about. He, She or It may in fact be sad. The point is that I think God should be. Because I’m more sad everyday as I listen to the intolerance and fear around me whip itself into ever larger volumes.

 

 

 

Look people. Two thousand years ago, a child was born. He went on to say things that translated roughly as “love one another” and “whatever you do for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you do for me.” He even went so far as to suggest that “if anyone wants to take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.” Yes, your whole coat. Whether you believe he was the Son of God, a great prophet, or just a wise man who was well quoted, his message of generosity, concern and love is quite clear. In my heart of hearts, that message is what I celebrate every Christmas. This is a holiday about love.

The voices answer. “Of course it’s about love, but ……… we’ve got to protect ourselves. But ……. they’re doing horrible things to us. But they started it. But they took it to a whole worse level. But they’re more animals than people. But I can’t have all the things God thinks I deserve if I share with others. But we need to take care of our own first. But God wants us to keep this nation great. But God wants everyone to believe what I believe. But if we pay attention to everyone’s suffering then, then, I don’t know what will happen.”

We’ve moved on to the restful savasana pose that signifies that class is almost over. “Silent Night” is playing softly and it brings back childhood memories of midnight mass out in the country in Western Kansas. “Sleep in heavenly peace,” it says. I have a lavender scented warm cloth draped over my eyes now, which is good because tears are rolling down my cheeks. Not that anyone in this class would be bothered by my emotions.

I remember being a child staring at a sky full of stars as we drove out to the small church my father grew up attending. I remember a feeling of magic as I realized that the whole world was seeing the very same stars that I was, and I remember believing that peace on earth was possible because surely tonight as everyone looked at this sky they understood deep in their hearts what this day was really about.

I wish I had been right. How did we ever get the idea that Christmas celebrates the hundreds of reasons to hold back from caring for each other. This holiday is not about “love, but.”

It is about love.

 

(For other slightly offbeat thoughts about Christmas, see my posts “The Future of Christmas,” Duct Tape and Christmas Cards”and “The Women of Christmas.”)

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2015/12/11/not-about-love-but/+]

 

 

 

 

 

More in Common

Published on June 30, 2016

 

 

This post is barely about recently murdered British Member of Parliament Jo Cox.

That’s because it’s kind of about how the book x0 was supposed to take place in Saudi Arabia, where my book’s hero, the oil hunting geophysicist Lola, was going to run up against all manner of things she did not understand or agree with, but as a budding telepath she was also going to learn that she had far more in common with those around her than she knew.

Only the book ended up being about Nigeria instead. You see, in 2010, when I started to write it, Americans on the whole considered Nigerians scarier than Arabs. I had just taken a job with a Nigerian oil company where I often worked late in a common room and couldn’t help but overhear the phone calls of my young, male Nigerian co-workers as they called home. These “nefarious” young men spent their free time helping their younger siblings study for exams, assuring their mothers that they were eating well, and telling their girlfriends how much they missed them. I watched them struggle to overcome physical disabilities, inadequate training, and prejudice while noticing that all of that was usually overshadowed to them by their worries for those back home.

And I thought, we could not be more different demographically, and yet how is it that the same things occupy our hearts and minds? It was an eye opening revelation. So, thanks to a handful of Nigerian geologists, Lola went on to have telepathic experiences in Africa, and part way through writing her story I added this to my dedication:

to my Nigerian coworkers and friends, with thanks for reminding me every day how the ways we are all alike are so much bigger than the ways we are different

But this post is only kind of about x0.

That’s because according to The New Yorker’s beautifully done coverage of Jo Cox's funeral, Brendan Cox spoke about how his late wife had --

come to symbolize something much bigger in our country and in our world, something that is under threat—her belief in tolerance and respect, her support for diversity and her stand against hatred and extremism, no matter where it comes from. Across the world we’re seeing forces of division playing on people’s worst fears, rather than their best instincts, trying to divide our communities, to exploit insecurities, and emphasize not what unites us but what divides us.”

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2016/06/30/more-in-common/+]

 

 

 

I Live Here

Published on Nov. 17, 2015

 

 

I’ve watched the news in sorrow. News of deaths, of outpourings of sympathy, of despair that other deaths go relatively unmourned as people of all faiths and backgrounds flee in terror. Mostly they are running from those would kill them if they cannot control them. Sometimes, though, they are fleeing the bombs of those trying to stop the terror. Everyone runs from bombs, no matter what their source. And the hate and the fear and mistrust grows all around.

I write a blog about world peace. It’s an odd topic for a blog, but it grew out of the premise that if we all understood each other better, if we listened, if we could feel another’s pain and joy as our own, world peace would be achievable. I know how idealistic this is. But I believe it.

We have to harden our hearts, steel our minds against empathy in order to commit the sorts of atrocities that have filled the news. We have to lie to ourselves deep within to justify behavior that we know is wrong. It is easy to argue and point fingers and incite others to be afraid and angry with us. It takes so much more strength to soften and allow understanding. It is far more difficult to admit that, at our core, we are sisters and brothers.

Yet here we are, throwing rocks at each other on this little playground that we call earth. The teachers and other adults appear to have left, and we seem like a bunch of rambunctious children, often dedicating ourselves to finding ways to make each other miserable. It’s time for us to grow up. The playground gets smaller every day. The calls to hate and hurt grow stronger, made more powerful by the technologies we have invented. Our “rocks” and other ways of harming each other have grown exponentially with our cleverness.

Most of us want better. Yes, the few who prefer chaos, or think they have a right to control others lives or end them if they cannot, must be won over to compassion, and they must be isolated and rendered harmless until they are. But as we do that, we must avoid becoming insensitized to the humanity of others, lest we become the very thing that we are trying to stop.

We need to fix this, not make it worse. It’s important. We are talking about our home here.

 

 

(For more on this subject see my post “And the Hate Goes On…“)

 

 

http://tothepowerofzero.org/2015/11/17/i-live-here/

 

 

 

World Peace Update 2014

Published on August 15, 2014

 

 

I’ve been hearing the words to the protest song Eve of Destruction in my head a lot lately, and I don't suppose that is a good thing. My mind likes to take the opening phrase "The Eastern World  -- it is exploding" and substitute other places. You know, like Syria, Ferguson Missouri and the Gaza strip. Every day brings a sad new verse.

One theory is that I’m losing it. Another is that is world really does feel like it is exploding. Unfortunately, I’ve just found some evidence to support this second theory. According to the Institute for Economics and Peace’s (IEP’s) latest study, out of 165 countries right now only 11 are not involved in some sort of conflict. Eleven . That would be 93% of the world that is at war, one way or another.

Granted the study considers having a fighting presence in foreign conflicts as “being at war” (really ought to count, don’t you think), and it also acknowledges internal conflicts with clear sides and loss of life (i.e. civil war). The most disturbing fact, according to The Independent, is that from World War Two up to 2007, there was an overall growing tendency for less conflict in the world. The trend has now reversed sharply and it continues to go the wrong way. As I said, the whole freaking world, it is exploding.

There is a third reason I can’t get this song out of my head and I know what it is. As I move d4, my fun novel about the future, on to beta readers and my editor, I am letting go emotionally of beautiful Ariel and her wild adventures and turning my heart and mind to the next book, the last one in the collection. It will be about the whole Zeitman family but will feature Lola and her cadre of telepaths as they take on a type of menace that they thought could not exist.

It will all start when Lola finally writes her article Face Painting for World Peace and encounters those who want anything but a world in which people get along well with each other. I’m writing Lola’s article now and it’s got me thinking. The tools for understanding others and developing empathy have never been more available to all. How can we be fighting more wars in more places? Who stands to gain?

And where are these eleven peaceful places? Some may not be high on your list to visit, some may. Those of us who remember The Eve of Destruction being sung by Barry McGuire as a protest song against the Vietnam War will appreciate the irony that the eleven countries currently not at war are Switzerland, Japan, Qatar, Mauritius, Uruguay, Chile, Botswana, Costa Rica, Panama, Brazil and  ….. drum roll please ….. Vietnam.

“Eve of Destruction” was written in 1965 by P. F. Sloan. Enjoy Barry McGuire’s recording on YouTube.

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2014/08/15/world-peace-update-2/+]

 

 

 

Serve and Protect Does Include People You Do Not Like

Published on Feb. 21, 2016

 

 

I live in North Carolina and was sad to read today that even the Raleigh police department felt the need to make a statement about Beyonce. Seriously? When required, police in the United States have protected some of the worst of humanity. To their credit, they have done their duty even when it meant keeping from harm those suspected of being mob bosses, murderers and traitors. Certainly our police have seen to it over the years that citizens requiring care are not harmed for expressing an opinion, even opinions not liked by most police. Why? Because these are largely men and women of honor, who understand that that their oath to serve and protect includes people they don’t agree with and don’t like.

And yet, the Raleigh police department is actually voting on whether they should protect a singer who dared to indirectly criticize the police during a half-time performance? And this was a performance which most observers didn’t even find all that controversial. Let’s be honest, an oblique reference to the Black Panthers of old is hardly a call to violence against law enforcement, and Black Lives Matter is an organization trying to lesson violence not increase it. Yet …

In a statement to WNCN, Rick Armstrong, VP of Teamsters local 391, said: “The Raleigh Police Protective Association, Teamsters local 391 has called for a special meeting to discuss the concerns many officers have of Beyoncé’s upcoming tour in Raleigh. Our members have expressed specific concerns over the Black Panther images at half time of the Super Bowl. Many officers believe it was disrespectful to the police profession and hope Beyoncé will look to less controversial images to convey her point.”

Maybe this copy cat show of bravado was inevitable. It comes after the New York Police Department asked Beyonce to apologize for her Super Bowl performance, intimating that they would be happy to provide her and her singing tour with the protection she needs only after an apology. I’m curious whether the police of any city have ever threatened to withhold protection from any other performer for any reason? Let’s face it, there have been some controversial ones out there over the years. How many times have police demanded an apology from anyone, criminal or otherwise, before being willing to do their jobs, or to allow their fellow officers to provide protection as a side job? I suspect that this is a first, and I find Beyonce and her barely controversial performance an odd choice for such drastic behavior.

Why am I so certain the performance didn’t enrage the rest of us generally police-supporting people? Well, it didn’t anger anyone I know, and I’m a 61-year-old white woman. But, more statistically significant is that exactly two people showed up at the well-publicized protest of Beyonce’s performance. Two people and reporters, and that is hardly a groundswell of indignation. It is certainly not worthy of the cops in several cities behaving this way. Actually, no concert is.

I honestly think that most of our law enforcement is better than this. It is time that they all went back to acting that way.

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2016/02/21/serve-and-protec…-you-do-not-like/+]

 

 

 

Peace on Earth

Published on: Dec 23, 2013

 

 

Talk of love and brotherhood is about to begin in earnest as Christians the world over commemorate a gentle soul born in a manger and famous for uttering such lines as “just as you did for the least of these, you did for me” and “if someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also.” These are powerful words with pretty clear meanings.

Yet, many a battle has been started and fought by those who profess to follow these teachings. Plenty of other wars are fought by followers of other gentle faiths, whose prophets and leaders and books of wisdom offer similar, clear admonishments to love one another.

We almost all seem to agree that peace is best, that love is good. Yet …

 

A July 2011 article in History Today posted by Kathryn Hadley notes that research shows that “between 1870 and 2001, the frequency of [* wars between states increased steadily by 2% a year *] on average.”

According to Professors Mark Harrison from the University of Warwick and Nikolaus Wolf from Humboldt University Harrison this increase can be explained in part by the proliferation of borders. In other words, the number of countries has almost quadrupled since 1870, giving us more countries to fight each other and more borders to fight about.

The article also points out that there is no tendency for richer or poorer countries to fight more, but rather that the readiness to engage in war is spread uniformly across the global income distribution even though “increased prosperity and democracy should have lessened the incentives for rulers to go to war.”

Mark Harrison concluded that ‘the very things that should make politicians less likely to want war – productivity growth, democracy, and trading opportunities – have also made war cheaper. We have more wars, not because we want them, but because we can.”

Because we can. How can an entire species profess to love the concept of peace, and yet continue to fight more as time goes on? It looks like we do merely because we have more things to fight over and more things to fight with.

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2013/12/23/peace-on-earth/+]

 

 

 

Peace Out

Published on July 20, 2014

 

 

I’ve taken a bit of break from blogging for a lot of good reasons. Finishing my fifth novel, d4, turned out to be more of an overwhelming experience than I expected, and the timing overlapped with producing a new version of my first novel x0. This mild rewrite was designed to better use the books interactive links in the electronic version, and to be smoother without them in the paperback version. I’m proud of all my efforts but, as I keep learning the hard way, you can only do so much, and if you try to do more, then your head is likely to be lost in the clouds while you are doing it.

In the real world, life moved on. I started a new job and went on a vacation and looked up only to discover that one of my own Texan congressmen was busy likening refuge children from Central America to the Normandy invasion. Fellow Americans were screaming and waving signs at busloads of youngsters, in at least one case too angry to notice that it was a bus full American children on a field trip. Another Malaysian aircraft was missing. This one turned out to have been shot down by mistake, by people too angry to know or care that they had blasted a group of uninvolved innocents out of the sky. Meanwhile teenagers of all faiths seem to have become the latest casualties the ongoing dance of fear and revenge in the Gaza Strip.

In fact, every news channel I turned to was using the word “crisis” although they were applying it left and right to all manner of things. A world in crisis. Great. Do we love our screaming and our shooting and our anger that much?

I’m picking up my pen again and I’ll be starting the last book in my series soon. While I write it, I hope to finish editing d4 and get it published, and also to give y1 the bit of a rewrite that x0 just got. It’s too much to do at once and I know it. I’ll be distracted and lost in my own world. I suspect that is a lot of the reason that I will be doing it.

 

 

http://tothepowerofzero.org/2014/07/20/peace-out/

 

 

 

Happy 53rd Birthday Nigeria!

Published on Oct. 1, 2013

 

 

My novel x0 was supposed to take place in Saudi Arabia because I wanted my oil industry protagonist to develop a telepathic link with a Saudi woman. It was going to be a story of two outwardly different people who bonded over similar concerns for their younger sisters. Except that every time I started to write, it just didn’t feel right.

Meanwhile, I began a new job as a consultant for a company exploring for oil in the Niger Delta. There are many cool things about my current employer, but one of the best is that they are a very African centric company. I found myself sharing an office with three Nigerians, and learning about a country and a blend of cultures that was far more intriguing than I had ever imagined. I am endlessly curious about places far away from Texas anyway, and my patient office mates never stopped answering my questions.

This went on for months. Working late one evening, I had to shut out a conversation between a Nigerian geologist at a desk three feet away from me and his younger brother back home.  Apparently little brother had a big test in chemistry the next day and my co-worker was trying to both tutor and encourage him. I used to do that for my sister. “We are so much alike the world over,” I thought. And it clicked into place.

About eight months later I finished my first novel. It tells the story of an American woman who befriends a Nigerian telepath who is trying to help her younger sister. While writing the book I got to learn even more about Nigeria and how it was created by the British and “given independence”  October 1, 1960. These outsiders lumped together millions of people with strong tribal affinities of their own, but with no common language and a great deal of mistrust  of the customs and cultures of the other tribes with which they were forced to share a country. Not surprisingly, Nigeria has had its share of troubles and bloodshed as the individuals within its borders struggled with the structure that had been imposed on them.

The Nigerians I know are without exception resourceful and hopeful, and I see this in the country’s history as well. They are now fifty-three years into trying to make Nigeria as well-functioning and peaceful as most Nigerians would like it to be. I applaud them for how far they have come under difficult circumstances and I wish the country and its people the very best. Happy Birthday Nigeria.  As your national motto says, may “Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress” fill your future.

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2013/10/01/happy-53rd-birthday-nigeria/+]

 

 

 

World Peace Update 2013

Published on April 6, 2013

 

 

North Korea continues to try to position itself as a serious threat to world peace.  Does it take size and might to seriously disrupt this world?  Or will a minimum amount of destructive power combined with sufficient meanness suffice? Sadly, 911 supplied that answer to us all, and now we collectively hold our breaths while North Korea asks foreign embassies in Pyongyang to consider evacuation.

Meanwhile this past week Egyptian security officials say five people were killed in clashes between Muslims and Christians just outside Cairo, and a Taliban assassination attempt on the governor of Afghanistan’s southern province failed but caused several American and Afghan casualties.

There is some good news. Connecticut passed a new gun law that specifically bans the sale of ammunition clips that hold 10 bullets or more, and the state now requires background checks for private gun sales. Sadly, that momentum failed to carry over to the U.S. congress where, in spite of a majority support for both limiting the sale of automatic weapons and for strengthening background checks, our elected representatives won’t even let the issue come to vote.

Rich Lowry of the National Review took a bit of a victory lap yesterday saying “The president’s push for new gun laws looks, at this juncture, like a complete fizzle.  … The most concrete effect of his advocacy has been … to stoke increased gun purchases on fear that the government wants to ban guns. He set out to lead a great crusade for gun control and ended up the best friend the gun industry ever had.”

Talk about sad.

However, this past week the U.N. General Assembly voted 154-3 to approve a treaty that regulates the international arms trade and will establish the first international standards for cross border sales of small arms and ammunition, tanks, attack helicopters, armored vehicles, missiles and missile launchers. Yes, missile launchers. The resolution aims to nudge nations towards barring weapons sales to terrorists, criminals and human rights violators.

Let’s hope the predators of the world don’t respond like so many of our own paranoid gun extremists in the United States have. Wouldn’t you just hate to read that the sales of armored vehicles and attack helicopters have spiked worldwide because we are trying to make the world a more peaceful place?

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2013/04/06/world-peace-update/+]

 

Part 5: Intra-species Harmony (Peace to a Science Fiction Writer)

 

 

 

Taking Care of Your Own Kind (a science fiction quiz)

A Guest Post from my d4 Blog “Touching the Sky to Save the World”

Published on Nov. 22, 2015

 

 

It has been decided that one of the finer features of the human race is that humans do not only think of themselves. When it comes to survival and even happiness, this species usually takes quite good care of those they love, often makes sacrifices for others, and sometimes even risks their own lives for those they identify as being “one of their own kind.”

Recent world events have caused certain entities to ask the question “What exactly constitutes ‘your own kind’?”

You have been selected to take the following very short quiz. Please tend to this matter soon. Quite a bit may depend on your answers.

 

 

 

 

There is no need to send the completed form anywhere. Merely answer, even in your own head, and the information will be received where it is needed. Thank you for your participation.

 

 

[+ http://dtothepowerof4.org/2015/11/22/taking-care-of-y…nce-fiction-quiz/+]

 

 

 

Everybody is Shouting

Published on Sept. 13, 2014

 

 

The truly skilled telepath is admired for her or his uncanny ability to listen to the feelings and thoughts of others. At least that is how it works in my imaginary world of x0, in which any old fool can transmit emotions but only the adept can receive them. Clearly I am making an observation about ordinary conversation as well. Listening is an art, and actually understanding what one is hearing is a high level accomplishment. Yes, most of us do spend our non-speaking time figuring out what we are going to say next. But at least in conversation, we pretend to pay attention to others.

Enter the world of social media. There is no question that I love writing my blogs and I love reading the blogs of others, but in my humble opinion the exchanges that take place in the comments sections can hardly be called conversation. They appear to me to mostly consist of (1) you are sooooo right or (2) you are soooo stupid or (3) the ever popular thanks for stopping by and liking my blog. (I’m not going to count the various spam comments that show up every day saying things like “I simply stumbled upon your site and in accession capital to say that I get actually loved account your weblog posts.” Who writes this crap and why?)

Facebook and the various Pinterest/Instagram type spin-offs are largely ways of shouting out what you are doing and what you like and don’t like. Yes, it is entertaining, but no isn’t conversation either. Maybe if we had a few more choices on the “like” button …… you know, emoticon responses of dismay, embarrassment, maybe a wink….. nah, probably a bad idea.

Then there is Twitter. I’ve had an account for years and I every so often I would read tweets on a topic of interest. I hardly ever tweeted anything, however, because I didn’t see the point. Seldom does anyone have a unique take on a subject and usually dozens of people had already said what I thought. I could hashtag all I wanted, but it seemed to me that I was just one more person shouting “Listen to me! I think this!” Shouting isn’t satisfying and it isn’t the way to make friends.

Then I became an author. To my own surprise, I discovered that I was as desperate to be read as all the other authors you know. “You’ve got to use Twitter” they told me. Okay, I tried. And I found that all of us are out there, shouting about our wares and running little giveaways trying to snag another 100 followers when we can. That’s nuts. All the people out there shouting advice to authors (and there are a lot of those, too) think it is nuts as well. They say you shouldn’t peddle your books, you should engage socially. That sounds like reasonable advice, but I’ve got a problem with it. I am basically posting tweets to sell my books. It’s the truth and I don’t like pretending otherwise.

I found a solution that works for me, and it was in my first book all along. Act like a telepath. Act like a good one. Every time someone new follows me on Twitter, I now try to read their mind. Not really of course, but I pretend. Who are they and why are they there? If the answer is to sell me something, win a contest, or give me no information, I ignore them. But if they write, or read, or support a cause, or create or otherwise have a voice, I try to listen. I spend a few seconds looking into them online and I try to really hear them. Then, I thank them personally for following me and wish them good fortune with their passion. It gives them a tweet to like and retweet, and it makes me smile when they do.

No, I’m not making friends. Two or three 140 character exchanges does not a friendship make. And no, I’m not selling books from this, because my sales haven’t increased either. However, I am having some interesting exchanges and some fun. This “listening” is good stuff, no matter how it works out. Looks like there are ways to do it everywhere.

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2014/09/13/everybody-is-shouting/+]

 

 

 

Back to Building a World of Telepaths

Published on April 4, 2016

 

 

I’m finally picking up momentum on book six of the 46. Ascending collection. I can always tell because that is when I start to have fun writing the story. I work with a very loose outline, and discovering what it going to really happen in my book is, well, my idea of a good time.

This final book was always suppose to be about all five of the main characters introduced in the previous novels. I joked about writing five prequels and then the real story. I still think that is the way it is going to go, but so far I’m pretty immersed in the telepathy part.

x0 was about empathy and compassion and how sensing others thoughts and feelings would ultimately make for world peace. e5 introduces my first evil telepaths, and I am having too much fun devising what set of circumstances would lead a person to become less empathetic as they learn more of how others feel and think.

I'm lucky to be close to someone who is in the process of getting her Master's Degree in Social Work right now, and given my journalism schooling and penchant for writing, I've been called upon to proofread a few papers. I enjoy doing it, but can't help gaining perspective as I read. I am learning more about the concept of privilege  -- white, male, western, hetero, cis, wealthy, healthy, pretty, young -- there are a lot of variations here -- but the concept that I am ordained by God or nature to be better than you seems to hold the key to failing to care about you at all. Why wouldn't a human who is certain of his (or her) greater importance be deaf to the pain of those lesser? Might they just find it annoying? I think it depends on exactly how superior these people think they are. Maybe if they had a superpower, like telepathy .....

This line of thought has also given me a new lens with which to view current events and with which to better understand history. My husband is reading a biography of Charles Darwin right now, in part because Darwin will also play a role in the book I am writing. He recently read about Darwin’s dismay at economists using his theory of natural selection  to support Thomas Robert Malthus’ economic theory. In a nutshell, Malthus postulated that human population would always grow to exceed the food supply and that the poor and the weak needed to be allowed to starve so that the stronger humans could thrive. It would be an understatement to describe the theory as controversial, but can’t you see vestiges of it in some current policies? 

I like books that make me think.  I like to write books that make me think. I’m glad that just because I make up worlds with superheroes in them doesn’t mean there isn’t room for a good look at humanity and a chance to wonder about what makes it tick.

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2016/04/04/back-to-building…rld-of-telepaths/+]

 

 

 

And the Energy Inside You Goes Round and Round ….

Published on: Aug. 19, 2013

 

 

According to the kids’ song, it’s the wheels on the bus ….  but some days it’s the thoughts in your head, the feelings in your heart, and excitement in your soul that you can hardly contain as it all twirls and spins around, powered by the very force that drives the universe itself.

Research for my latest novel has me looking into particle physics, as an informed and curious lay person, and let me tell you that’s some very scary stuff. The universe? A whole, whole lot of nothing. And the little bits of something that are there? They are more waves than they are anything else. And they’re not even so much waves as they are the possibilities of waves …

It’s amazing, and it truly does make the petty arguments of this world appear even more inane. A lot of emptiness very wound up about how it is RIGHT and all that wave motion and nothingness over there is wrong.

I wrote x0 to examine the idea of how hating and hurting each other would be affected by being able to feel each others emotions. I still believe that empathy is the key to overcoming so much of what ails us as a species. But if empathy is hard to come by, maybe we need to require more quantum mechanics in our schools. Just one more alternative to face painting for world peace.

 

 

(For more thoughts on the forces of life twirling and spinning, check out my z^2^ blog here as I speculate on seeing the future and check out my y^1^ blog here as I share some joy.)

 

Part 6: Celebrating Peace

 

 

 

Happy International Day of Peace, Alberto and Maria!

Published on: Sept. 21, 2016

 

 

Thanks to a crude bomb that just exploded in a dumpster in New York, much of the world learned that the United Nations General Assembly is preparing to convene in New York, as it does it does every year at this time. What much of the world does not know is that at the same time the U.N. sponsors an annual International Day of Peace “devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.”

Given that I write a blog about world peace, I’m a big fan of this day. This year, I will celebrate it in another country. I’m also a big fan of travel. I believe that war is often (though not always) the result of old grievances and common fears being nurtured and ignited by politicians eager to preserve power and prestige for themselves and wealth for their friends. I recognize that any interaction that results in armed conflict is complicated, and that many people try to do what is best. However, my own reading of history tells me that “bloody few” armed conflicts were ever noble or unavoidable; the only thing they all have in common is that they were bloody.

Those of us not in politics have few ways to steer the human race away from the machinery of war. One of those is travel. As we spend time with others who are currently demonized, or who once were, we learn to question the assumptions about other nations, religions, races, continents, and what ever else you have when you describe “those people” in terms vile enough to make the average citizen believe that they must die. Of course, you can’t just get on a bus or plane and go somewhere. You need to interact.

You need to try to drive up a road that your GPS should never have thought was a road in the first place. You need to try to turn around on a steep, narrow hairpin curve and manage to get your rental car stuck with its nose in the dirt and its ass two feet off the ground while your tires spin. You need to hike down the hill, stand out on a highway, and hope that some decent people will stop and give you a hand.

Odds are they will. If you are lucky, someone like Alberto and Maria will pull over cautiously, looking nervously at their daughter in the back seat. They will see how sweaty and frustrated you are, and ask what is wrong in a language of which you speak only a hundred words quite poorly. You will figure out that they speak no English, but you might manage to convey carro for car and espouso for husband and point up the hill. If you are very lucky Alberto will say “cima?” very clearly, like he cannot believe both the car and husband are up there, and you will recognize his word for “on top of” from your hours with Rosetta Stone and you will nod.

On a good day, Alberto and Maria will take it from there. They will drive their old car up the road that brought you to a standstill, chuckle with sympathy when they see your predicament, and gesture to the two of you to help them lift your car and literally set its rear end down in a better place. While you marvel that it is even possible, it is done. You will try to press some money into their hands, helpless to thank them any other way, and they will not want it, at least not until you insist. Maria will give you a hug and, as she does, you and she will both have tears in your eyes, brought on by the intensity of the exchange you have managed without a single word. They will drive off and you will never see them again.

But later that night, as you read about the ideals of learning to coexist with your fellow humans, you will think of them, and understand how one can travel for world peace.

So, Happy International Day of Peace, Alberto and Maria. May others always treat you with the same kindness that you showed to us. And happy Peace Day, as well, to your seven billion brothers and sisters, most of whom have needed help at least once or twice and, in turn, have helped a stranger or two along their way.

 

 

 

 

(For more vacation-inspired epiphanies see The Moon Rises on my c^3^ blog, Our Brand is Crisis on my z^2^ blog, and That’s Why They Play the Game on my d^4^ blog.)

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2016/09/21/happy-internatio…lberto-and-maria/+]

 

 

Happy International Day of Peace, Lahcen and Najet

Published on Nov. 22, 2016

 

 

The Airbnb site says my hosts at the Riad speak English, French and Spanish along with the local Arabic, but it only takes a few minutes for me to realize that the claim regarding English has been exaggerated. Lahcen, the helpful house manager who greets me, probably does know several hundred words of English, compared to my several dozen words of French and two of Arabic, but his ability to answer my questions is limited. Najet, the cook and custodian who assists him, speaks some French and no English at all. Soon the three of us are communicating with gestures, key phrases and facial expressions, and it’s not going as poorly as you might think.

 

 

 

 

Still jet lagged, I get a slow start the next morning and Najet is anxious to begin cleaning my room. I am sitting in the public area getting organized for my day when she gestures to her cleaning equipment and my quarters and gives me a questioning look. I nod my consent. She pauses.

“No douche?” she asks clearly and politely. I’m sure that my eyes widen before I remember that douche is the French word for shower. “No douche aujourd’hui,” I declare, thinking that sometimes even a few words in a common language can make all the difference in the world.

When I return that evening, there are lots of things that I want to ask Lahcen. Is Najet his wife? A relative? Is he from Marrakesh? Is this his full-time job? What does he think of tourists, of Americans? But every time I start talking he nods and smiles and looks confused, which is exactly what I do when I can’t understand someone.

The next day he volunteers some information. “I love Hollywood,” he tells me. “I love your movies, but I watch them in French.” He shrugs, a little embarrassed. “In English I can’t tell what they say.” And I get that I’m like one of those movies to him. He thinks that he ought to understand me but I talk fast and use idioms and shortcuts and make no sense to him at all.

“I wish my French was half as good as your English,” I reply and I mean it.  I think he understands me for once because he gives me a genuine smile back.

“I think that all of your country should learn Arabic. In school,” he adds. I’m sure my eyes widen at the idea. “And we should all learn English here. In school.” He looks at me hard for signs of comprehension. “If we could understand each other, then we would get along.”

I get where he is going with this and I have to admit that I like it a lot. I appears that my gracious host is a kindred spirit of mine, someone hoping to bridge the gap between cultures, filling it with empathy and a compassion born of recognizing our common humanity. I lack the vocabulary and the inclination to argue with him about the practicality of his plan, so I just say “I hope it happens.”

When I settle my bill, ready to move on to my next destination, I leave him and Najet a generous tip. He takes my luggage to the cab and speaks to the man in rapid Arabic. I realize that he is using part of my tip to pay my cab fare, which I also notice is a only small fraction of what the cab drivers have been charging me. I appreciate his gesture.

I remember my last encounter with people with whom I could not speak. A few months ago a couple in Portugal named Alberto and Maria helped my husband and I rescue our rental car when it became stuck on a dirt road. A few days later, when I discovered it was “International Day of Peace,” I wrote a post about them, and about how the wordless experience was so intense that Maria and I hugged each other afterwards with tears in our eyes.

I have enough cultural sensitivity to realize that a hug would be inappropriate with Lahcen, especially in such a public place. But I am equally grateful to him and Najet and I wish them both joy and peace, even if I do not know how to tell him so. I can only nod my thanks to him as we part, two souls seeking the same harmony in a fragmented world.

 

 

(For more about my trip to Morocco see That’s Why you Make the Trip, I see ghosts, It’s an angry world in some places and My Way on my other blogs.)

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2016/11/22/happy-internatio…lahcen-and-najet/+]

 

 

 

Happy Peace Day 2015

Published on Sept. 20, 2015

 

 

Today is September 21, 2015. It is International Day of Peace.

Never heard of it? That seems to be part of the problem. This is a fabulous idea that needs far more publicity. Maybe catchy slogans would help, or decorations or a little music associated with it. Why? Why not. The idea behind this day should have a deep appeal to all of us. The desire to reduce or eliminate armed conflict spans all faiths, cultures, generations and social-economic groups.

So, what is International Day of Peace?

This holiday started in 1981. The Secretary-General of the UN traditionally calls for the laying down of arms and a 24-hour cease-fire of all conflicts worldwide. This year Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has done so, adding “Let’s make this International Day of Peace a day without violence, and a day of forgiveness. If, for one day, we can live in a world without aggression and hostility, we can imagine how much more is possible.”

A moment of silence is usually observed at noon (in whatever time zone you occupy.) Candles can be lit, intentions offered, prayers said. The idea is to take a moment and consider the concept of getting along with each other.

Physician and Writer Manoj Jain, in a Huffington Post article entitled “We Have More in Common Than in Conflict: Reflections for International Day of Peace”, passes along the suggestion from The US Institute of Peace that each of us “take one peace-building action in the course of our day on 9/21. For example, help tone down an argument at home; show kindness to someone in our community who needs help; or challenge ourselves to talk to someone with a different point of view on an issue that matters to us, and seek to understand their perspective.” What a concept.

International Day of Peace is on Facebook. You can commit to an act of forgiveness, and share it on your own Facebook page or by using #forgiveforpeace. Forgiveness, like so many other human actions, is contagious.

You will find celebrations of this day in some of the calmest and the most war-torn parts of the world. Two film screenings of movies that emphasize overcoming borders will take place in a UN Buffer Zone in Cyprus. New Zealand is honoring the day with a forum to discuss how peaceful communities are made, while children in Thunder Bay Ontario are singing songs around a peace pole. Are people actually laying down their weapons anywhere? I don’t know. I really hope so.

As to the catchy music, there are a lot of beautiful peace songs out there, but none more poignant than the simple “Let There be Peace on Earth.” YouTube is full of touching videos of this one, but my favorite is a version I link to on my blog which is sung by children. Visit this post online and enjoy. Maybe you can even forgive someone today as you take a moment to light a candle.

 

 

http://tothepowerofzero.org/2015/09/20/peace/

 

 

 

My iPod Works as a Fortune Cookie

Published on Oct. 4, 2014

 

 

My tiny Nano iPod works like a Chinese fortune cookie. It’s so small that I only use it with my alarm clock, and every morning it greets me with a random song that has an uncanny way of setting the stage for my day. You know, just like how you are thinking of maybe going to visit some old friend in another town and the little piece of paper in your dessert says “You are about to embark on a wonderful journey”. So you go. Well, from the Supremes singing to me to “Stop! In the Name of Love” on the day I almost had a car wreck to Arcade Fire’s “Sprawl II” on the day that I got hopelessly lost in a previously unexplored suburb of Houston, I’ve decided that it’s eerie how these little things know so much.

I woke up Sunday September 21 intending to write a heartfelt blog post about how it was the thirty-third International Day of Peace, a twenty-four hour period during which the United Nations invites everyone on earth to honor a cessation of both personal and political hostilities. I really like the idea of such a day, but time got away from me. I wrote part of what I intended but postponed finishing the post until the next day.

September 21 was not chosen randomly. It coincided with the opening of the U.N General assembly that year, and in fact the United Nations convenes every year in New York at about the same time. Monday September 22 was opening day this year, and of course it was the day President Obama picked to announce his offensive against ISIS in Syria. It was a wise choice of a day, in that leaders and representatives from almost every nation on earth were going to have to look him in the eye and explain why they would or would not stand with him in this endeavor.

I hate bullies, and I can understand drawing a line and acknowledging that a group is so horrible that they sit on the wrong side of this divide and must be stopped. Analogies abound. Fear of ISIS by those living in the region speaks volumes. There is a spectrum of bad behavior that eventually crosses into atrocities that no human should stand by and watch. Perhaps we have reached that point. It appears that ISIS is making every effort to convince us that we have.

I also hate war. You don’t have to study a lot of history to discover that the death and suffering we so often call “a brave sacrifice” is in fact the horrible toll taken by those trying to advance political, religious and/or economic agendas that have little to do with the noble words spoken as men and women go into battle. Our involvement in Persia and Arabia seems to be creating a worse monster with every new involvement, not to mention the immense tolls it takes on the lives of our soldiers and on our own resources. It is reasonable to ask whether we shouldn’t walk away from this mess and let those who live there sort it out.

I never finished my half-written stirring blog post about the virtues of peace. After listening to the president justifying his actions and all the talking heads demanding to know why he hadn’t done this sooner, I just didn’t know what to say. I still don’t. My iPod does not suffer from the same uncertainty, however. Monday September 22 it woke me up to Dionne Warwick singing “What the World Needs Now is Love.” I think it has a good point..

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2014/10/04/my-ipod-works-as-a-fortune-cookie/+]

 

 

A Belated Happy International Day of Peace to You

Published on Sept. 24, 2012

 

 

September 21 each year is the International Day of Peace. In case you missed it also, please join me now in a little bit of belated celebration.  This day is organized by the United Nations and has it’s own website here. Besides organizing activities such as a global moment of silence for peace, the organizers suggest that the we also consider this “a Day of Ceasefire – personal or political” and that we take this opportunity to make peace in our own relationships as well. What a marvelous idea. But how is a personal ceasefire going to make a difference?

The day’s organizers suggest that “There is evidence that our collective consciousness does affect the world around us. There are projects that run random event generators distributed around the world. They show that, as humans become more coherent, it appears that matter does too. What we do as a group of individuals affects the whole. Of course, one day of ceasefire is only the beginning. … By showing that 24 hours of non-violence is within our reach, we set an important example. Peace is possible.”

I'm not sure I follow the physics here about matter becoming more coherent, but I am more than willing to accept that individual behavior influences the world. Forgive others?  Show a little more compassion, more empathy?? Can't hurt. Might help someone else. Will certainly help you. Even if some of us are three or four days late doing it.

 

 

photo from shutterstock.com

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2012/09/24/a-belated-happy-…-of-peace-to-you/+]

 

 

 

Cease firing for a day

Published on Sept. 14, 2013

 

 

Every year about this time, the world celebrates “An International Day of Peace.”  It goes largely unnoticed, at least here in Texas where I live, and this year I’m putting some effort into changing that.

This 32 year old event is also called Peace Day, and you can read about it here. It’s goals extend beyond the ending of wars between nations and include improving relations among all peoples. The website says that observances range in scale from private gatherings to public concerts and forums where hundreds of thousands of people participate. Hmm, not seeing any of that here in Houston.

Suggested activities for the lone individual include lighting a candle at noon, or doing a good deed for someone you do not know. Both are fine ideas, on any day actually. However, my personal favorite is the suggestion to consider Sept. 21 as a day of ceasefire – personal as well as political. One could take the opportunity to make peace in ones own relationships while they wish for an end to the larger conflicts of our time. What a day it would be if a chunk of humanity decided to call a cease fire on their own anger and resentment for just twenty-four hours.

A simple idea. The really good ones usually are.

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2013/09/14/cease-firing-for…eptember-21-2013/+]

 

Part 7: Applause for the Good Guys

 

 

 

Playing a Kids’ Game for World Peace

Published on April 9, 2013

 

 

I am in awe of teacher John Hunter.  I just watched him give a talk on TED about his class room game that takes a new twist on  RISK, the famous board game of world conquest. In John Hunter’s classroom, fourth  graders play “The World Peace Game” in which four imaginary nations struggle with war, poverty, climate change, and nuclear proliferation. Students only win by working together to find solutions to issues that many adults think have no solution. The good news is that these kids don’t yet know that the problems “cannot be solved”.

John Hunter’s book at Amazon.com

Hunter has recently written a book about his experiences with his World Peace Game and you can click on the image on the right to read more about it at Amazon.com. Compassion, Hunter writes in the book, “is the ultimate point of education and everything else. The game emphasizes compassion.” he says.

He says that the solutions his students devise are always complex and include negotiations, treaties, compromising, and a willingness to not to have the perfect answer. He claims that several classes have found workable solutions to global warming.

“Children don’t bring a lot of baggage to things,” he said in an article on Yahoo News. “They come with a much more openheartedness and open-mindedness to solving problems, and they do it in unusual and amazing ways. It thrills me every time I see it.”

The best news I’ve heard in awhile on the world peace front is that he and his fourth grade class have been invited to come play the game at the Pentagon later this year.

You can check out Hunter’s enjoyable TED talk here.

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2013/04/09/playing-a-kids-g…-for-world-peace/+]

 

 

 

Ads for world peace

Published on March 18, 2013

 

Yes, the point of an ad is to sell you something. And yes, it is probably something you don’t need. Yet given that ads are part of our world, no question I do prefer those that at least appeal to the better in each of us. As for those that hawk their product by suggesting that we annoy others and make fun of each other even more cruelly? Eh, I didn’t need what they were selling anyway.

Ads in this latter category are everywhere. For a while the Miller Lite commercials that used attractive but slightly tough looking women to insult the masculinity of guys who dressed or acted a little different was at the top of my “you’ve got to be kidding” list. Fine, no Miller Lite at my house. I like foreign beers better anyway. For more on this particularly offensive ad campaign, check out a great post on a blog called BitchMedia here.

Last night I was puzzled as I watched an ad for Netflex in which people kept annoying others by throwing out spoilers for movies their companions had not yet seen. Oh what fun. Let me spoil another movie for you.

Last night I was puzzled as I watched an ad for Netflex in which people kept annoying others by throwing out spoilers for movies their companions had not yet seen. Oh what fun. Let me spoil another movie for you.

The other extreme, of course, are ads that appeal to the greatness in each of us. Yes it was syrupy, but if you are old enough to remember seeing a 1971 TV ad with a bunch of teenagers from the world over standing on a hill together singing “I’d like to Teach the World to Sing in Perfect Harmony” I bet you liked it the first time you saw it.  Come on, you know you did. Probably the first several times. And if you didn’t see the original, check it out here. It’s very 70’s, but you will probably still like it.

Yes, yes I know quite well that Coca Cola is bad for your teeth, your bones and your stomach.  It has caffeine, used to have cocaine, and is filled with high fructose corn syrup.  We should all drink water instead.

But guess what their latest ad campaign focuses on?  These people are really stuck on world peace. Looks like Coca Cola is now designing vending machines that will allow a purchaser to wave hello to buyers in other countries. Particularly in countries they don’t get along well with. Clearly this is going to require some real time filtering to keep the idiots from mooning each other, but the idea has hope. It might even give hope. See more about this at Advertising Age here.

Consumers need to be wary and informed. And they need to drink water, mostly. But every once in awhile we all get to indulge ourselves. I pick my treats using lots of different criteria but I confess that if I'm going to drink a beer, you know what product it won't be. And if it's going to be soda -- I'm buying from the world peace guys.

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2013/03/18/ads-for-world-peace/+]

 

 

 

One for One for One

Published on Aug. 13, 2012

 

 

x to the power of 0 equals one. That little mathematical quirk forms the basis for the title of my book and I figure that if you write a book that is basically called “one” you’ve got to love a movement called “one for one”. This past week I became acquainted with Tom’s Shoes and their policy of giving a new pair of shoes to a child in need every time a customer buys a pair of shoes. In other words, you aren’t just buying yourself a pair, you are buying one for yourself and one for a child. Thus, the “one for one” movement.

Tom’s has a similar program with eyeglasses, and they also hold a drawing every week to send one customer off with Tom’s employees to deliver that week’s shoes. Both very cool. But what intrigued me most about this company is its rather phenomenal attempt to achieve empathy for those who have no shoes by hosting an annual “One day without shoes” movement. Check out their website for a fun video showing folks from 50 countries trying get through a normal day without shoes. Talk about learning to walk a mile in anothers footsteps…

One of the themes of x0 was to explore the idea of how telepathy would affect our ability to be cruel, or even just indifferent to each others suffering. I’m in awe of this company for trying to achieve that same awareness of the thoughts and feelings of others through a simple act of identifying with them physically for a day. Will a day without shoes bring us closer to world peace? It seems like such a simple idea, but like any act that fosters empathy, it has to help.

And check out my great new shoes in the photo above.

 

 

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2012/08/13/one-for-one-for-one/+]

 

 

 

Planning for Peace in 2016

Published on Jan. 13, 2016

 

 

My interest in world peace began five years when I wrote a book about telepathy. Today, it is something of an obsession, along with the related topics of compassion and empathy. I like to look up every once in awhile from my writing and see who else is fascinated by the question of “can we really learn to respect each other and get along?”

The good news is that it looks like there is a fair amount of interest for 2016. From the Rotarians to meditations groups, from college campuses to religious institutions, a lot of people are holding gatherings to contemplate the concept of peace in their own ways. Here are some of my favorites, chosen to demonstrate the wide variety of approaches a war-weary planet is taking.

We all missed the 3nd Annual “Be the Peace Retreat” in Sedona Arizona held New Year’s Eve and Day, which offered an opportunity to come together in meditation with the “intention to create the peace we want to see in the world.” Presumably modeled after Gandhi’s famous advice to be the change that you wish to see in the world, attendees were treated to meditation training and live music to help them focus on peace.

Tomorrow, Jan. 14, an International Peace Conference will be held at United World College, in Maastricht in the Netherlands. The theme of this 2016 conference is “When Peace Meets Politics.” Here is how the website describes the origin of this meeting:

When Mohannad Mofid Alshalalda left his home in Palestine to attend an international school called United World College Maastricht, he had no plans to talk to Israelis, much less make friends with them. But when he met the school’s Israelis in person, a strange thing happened: he found that he could no longer hate them. It was one thing to hate the idea of an Israeli, and quite another to hate an Israeli when they were standing right in front of him.Over time, he and Ido David (Israel) began to talk about their differences in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While they could not reach a consensus on everything, they could reach a consensus on a surprising number of issues. Thus, with this inspiration in mind, they decided to plan a peace conference together. The conference grew. In six short months, we became a team of nearly twenty people, from Botswana to Hong Kong.

You have got to love this story, and what these students are trying to do. I hope that their conference is a huge success.

In only a few days the 2016 Rotary World Peace Conference will be held in Ontario, California, just outside of Los Angeles. My father was a Rotarian and, honestly, I thought they just got together for lunches. I was clearly mistaken. Today’s Rotarians are serious about world peace! January 15th and 16th, Rotarians from around the world will attempt to connect leaders and conflict resolution experts with solutions to create a culture of peace. Go Rotarians!

The Kroc Institute at Notre Dame hosts an annual conference for students to present papers, posters, workshops, round table discussions, panel presentations, artwork or media displays to illustrate how their project, perspective, or approach influences the development of sustainable peace.This year’s conference,“Members of the Mosaic,” is scheduled for April 8–9, 2016, at the University of Notre Dame. I love this idea! It sounds like a science fair for college students, but with ideas for pathways to peace replacing the science experiments.

Another entry from academia is the Waging Peace conference sponsored by the the Dale Center for the Study of War & Society at the University of Southern Mississippi. This conference will be held in New Orleans, LA September 8 – 10. Papers and panel discussions are being solicited on topics that include subjects as diverse as veterans and postwar politics, refugees and refugee resettlement, transitions to peace on the home front, violence inflicted by occupying forces, making sense of peace via the media and popular culture, memories as therapy, and postwar empowerment of previously enslaved, persecuted, or marginalized groups. The conference organizers add that they are “especially interested in panels that are comparative and that offer broad conclusions across time and place about the challenges of ‘Waging Peace’.” Wow.

At the same time this is happening in New Orleans, a group called Build Peace will be holding its annual international conference in Zurich, Switzerland. Build Peace takes the innovative approach of bringing peace builders and technologists together to “share experience and ideas on using technology for peace building and conflict transformation.” According to their website, they will meet on September 9 – 11.

World Peace Congress 2016 is scheduled for October in Waterford, Ireland. According to the website for the conference, its purpose is to “foster serious and immediate Dialog, in the hope of maintaining it on a continuing basis thereafter, between all the extant Paradigms/ World-Views/ Interests / Ideologies that have divided the Human World into disparate, and often feuding, Sectarian Groupings.” More information is coming.

November 10-13 will see an Interfaith Peace Conference being held at Lake Junaluska in my own home state of North Carolina. This group has a rather specific faith based approach. According to their website “The Interfaith Peace Conference at Lake Junaluska is an ongoing response to God’s call to peacemaking and reconciliation. Affirming the community of Abrahamic faiths, the Peace Conference seeks to work in partnership with Christians, Jews, Muslims, and members of other religious traditions to advance the work of reconciliation and peace.”

Finally, November will also see the 26th biennial conference of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA) in Freetown, Sierra Leone. According to the IPRA website, it is the largest and most established global professional organization in the field of peace research. More details about the conference will be forthcoming soon.

It’s not like we don’t have a lot of brain power and energy focused on various aspects of the problem. Is it enough to begin to make a difference? I think that depends on exactly what the real problem is. My next post will be a review of Rachel Maddow’s book “Drift”, and a look at why she thinks we find it so easy to go to war. Maybe the problem isn’t a lack of compassion and empathy at all.

 

 

[[._]

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2016/01/13/planning-for-peace/+]

 

 

 

Watching the clock for world peace?

Published on Dec. 12, 2012

 

 

Today, I was fascinated by the charm of 12/12/12. Yes, I know full well that it was a day like any other and the modern western calendar in common usage is arbitrary. But there was still something about it ….  and others apparently fell victim to the same harmless foolishness as they got married in groups of twelve, held parties for twelve-year-olds born on this day and even induced labor to give Junior a special birthday.

My hero of x0, Lola, wants to encourage face painting for world peace, and in the spirit of her desire I have blogged about paintings for world peace, music for world peace and, well, just world peace. Why?  Lola starts the book out as a natural empath and, before the novel x0 is over, she becomes a strong telepath who discovers that as her connection with humanity grows, her tolerance for violence decreases.

So, I was especially delighted to learn that a group outside of Tokyo took the exact time of 12:12 pm today to hold a get- together to pray for world peace.  REUTERS reported that it was billed as a "light meeting" with twelve seconds after 12:12 pm holding special significance. Great idea?  Of course it was.

And an organization called celebrate 121212 pushed for a world day of interconnectedness. What a fine idea, and not just for fictional telepaths. Please check out their website here. Surely we can’t ever find too many reasons for trying to get along better.

 

 

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2012/12/12/watching-the-clock-for-world-peace/+]

 

 

 

Peace Signs

Published on Nov. 20, 2013

 

Funny how things come at you clumps. One day its cute kittens every place you look, the next day its information on vitamin supplements. Yesterday, I had a “peace” day. Signs were everywhere. And many of them were on Facebook.

One of the joys of creating a Facebook page for my collection of novels 46. Ascending has been the way it has given me reason to seek out other people’s pages and to share some of my favorite finds. Many of them come from a wonderful page called Hippie Peace Freaks. Kindly give them a like while you are there.

There is no better place for peace signs than the Facebook page of the amazing Dalai Lama, who happily shares his wisdom with those of any faith (or none). Please consider liking his page as well. There may not be anyone more likable on the planet.

I am also impressed with much about the new Pope Francis and share this from his Facebook page. He doesn’t have his staff working on powerful imagery to go with his thoughts (yet) but these are thoughts worth liking.

Finally, a huge LIKE to the people who get out there and do something to promote world peace. Please visit the page for Peace One Day, where you can view this photo of a meditation flash mob at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany. A meditation flash mob may sound like an oxymoron, but these participants took off their shoes and meditated for an hour to promote mindfulness and peace in the world. Do such actions make a difference? Do photos of such actions make a difference?

I think we all change just a little when we start to see peace signs everywhere we look.

For more of my favorite signs of peace, please drop by my own Facebook page Number 46. Ascending, and look around as well.

 

http://tothepowerofzero.org/2013/11/20/peace-signs/

 

 

 

 

A Peaceful Place Amidst the Shouting

Published on Oct. 25, 2013

 

 

I’m learning to meld my blog world and my Facebook world into one persona and it is a fun process. Here I think about empathy and telepathy and the implications for both on violence and war. Under what circumstances could you shoot another human  if you could feel their fear? Know their thoughts? Lola, hero of x0, needs answers to this question, and her issues fuel my speculation here.

Facebook is more of a sales tool, frankly, where I and 1.2 billion other people jump up and down and shout “Look at me.” Luckily, some of the people doing the shouting bother to yell interesting things that can be passed along, even on a blog that likes to reflect on world peace.

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2013/10/25/a-peaceful-place…dst-the-shouting/+]

 

 

Part 8: Links to Art and Music for Peace

 

 

 

Music to Read By

Published on July 9, 2013

 

“Dooooon’t do it ……”

That was the advice from several published writers at a website called the Absolute Write Water Cooler. It is a forum for people who write, hope to write, or like to talk to people who write and you can find it here. You will meet some of the most encouraging folks there that you will ever find anywhere (and a few of the snottiest) and will get help from both.

I was working on my first draft of x0, and wanted to include some snippets of well known classic rock lyrics to give my reader something to hum in their head while they took in certain parts of the story. It turns out that a LOT of authors have this great idea. I was concerned about copyright issues, but every one that I mentioned this to assured me that I would be fine thanks so some vague notions of public domain and fair use. Only the nice people at AW said differently. Song lyrics are like poetry. You cannot safely use even a tiny bit of them. Doooooon’t do it.”

I was forewarned but still determined, so I tried another approach. I took my nine songs and found out who owned all or part of them in the US and world wide and I started writing people.  Can I please use this line from your song? How much will it cost? The assorted parties for seven songs just ignored me, and they kept ignoring me no matter how many times I wrote them back.

Sony/ATV Music Publishing however, has people on staff to handle just this sort of thing, and I found myself in negotiation for weeks with a Licensing Analyst named Lacey. She wanted to see context, I sent her pages from my book. We argued about how many copies I could sell for the price she decided on. I’ll never know why I persisted with this, but I think it was just that the whole process fascinated me. There are people stealing these songs left and right all over the internet, not to mention quoting the entire lyrics, and yet this very nice woman was spending time dickering with me over few words in a self-published first novel that might not sell ten copies. I think we both thought that the other person was nuts.

I will also never know why in the end I paid about $300 of my own hard earned money to secure the rights to use selected words from two of my favorite songs, in the first 5000 electronic copies of my book. But I did. No, I have not sold 5000 copies yet, and yes I am keeping track. I’m like that. And so is Sony/ATV.

I’ve included links to the two songs below, along with the placement in x0 that I paid for so dearly. What can I say ….. these two songs will now always have a special place in my heart :) . And maybe Lacey bought my book.

 

This part of her job sat somewhere between treasure hunting and puzzle solving, and Lola had to admit that her day-to-day work would not have made a bad 3D video game if someone added a little bit of music and some glossy effects. And, okay, maybe a car chase or two. Lola enjoyed herself as she twisted and turned her 3D visualization of the rocks on her computer screen, humming as she looked for shifts in the rock layers known as faults.

“If you’re lost you can look / And you will find me / Time after time.”

Cyndi Lauper’s 1984 hit Time After Time had once been a favorite of hers, and now that Lola thought about it, it made good music to prospect by. She was surprised she hadn’t remembered the song for years. She sang a little louder.

“If you fall I will catch you / I’ll be waiting—”

“Time after time.” Bob, the older engineer in the group, joined in her song as he walked by her door. “Geez Lola,” he said, “I’ve had that song in my head all damn morning. What are you doing singing it?”

“No idea. Maybe we listened to the same radio station on the way to work?” she guessed.

“I only listen to my iPod,” he replied.

 

Amnesty? That sounded hopeful. As she started to read, Bob walked by, singing in his head one of the many great oldies he had managed to amass on his iPod. Where did the man find so many good old songs?

“What’s Up?” had been the 4 Non Blondes’ 1993 hit, coming out the year that Ariel was four. Lola loved it, and the two of them had sung, actually, screamed it together whenever it came on the radio when Lola was driving little Ariel to preschool.

In her BBC article, Ms. Duffield described talking to taxi drivers, shopkeepers, and hotel clerks in the Niger Delta region who were all hoping for peace as they watched militants hold disarmament ceremonies which involved relinquishing guns, rocket-propelled grenades, explosives, ammunition, and gunboats. Gunboats??

And so I wake in the morning and I step outside And I take a deep breath and I get real high / And I scream at the top of my lungs / What’s going on?

The BBC article added that while no one appeared to have given up their entire arsenal, the quantity of weapons released, presumably for cash, was significant. Concerns had been raised that no independent monitors were tracking what was being done with the weapons, and this caused particular concern because in the past, corrupt officials had sold confiscated guns, which had then made their way back into the hands of a wide variety of criminals.

And I try / oh my god do I try / I try all the time, in this institution.

The article noted that another major obstacle to peace was that there were now thousands of young men in the region effectively unemployed, given that their previous full-time profession had been guerilla fighter, with resumes that included kidnapping, blowing up oil pipelines, and stealing massive amounts of crude oil.

And I pray / Oh my god do I pray / I pray every single day for a revolution.

The government plan, according to the article, was to retrain these young men in new skills. It noted that they were already being processed at centers where they were being asked about their other career interests. Other career interests??

The BBC said that retraining would be a daunting prospect, and that in the case of failure, the young men would likely return to their previous activities.

And I realized quickly when I knew I should / That the world was made up of this brotherhood of man / For whatever that means …

She looked at the photo of the giant pile of automatic weapons. Seriously, right now in Nigeria there were actually thousands of angry young men filling out employment questionnaires??

Twenty-five years and my life is still / Trying to get up that great big hill / Of hope … for a destination.

 

 

(For more on my adventures with including music in novels, check out my z^2^ blog here for a little fun with bubblegum music and my y^1^ blog here for songs I wished I had used.)

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2013/07/09/music-to-read-by/+]

 

 

 

Everything is Going to Be Alright

Published on Oct 29, 2016

 

 

There is barely anyone alive today who did not grow up with movies. We almost all understand the concept of having a soundtrack for our lives and in fact a lot of us spend a good deal of time designing playlists or inputting musical preferences to get just the right music playing for us as we live.

Our needs for certain kinds of music vary with the times. So, let me just ask you straight out -- are you seeking out more songs of reassurance these days? I sure am.

I’m also in the process of looking at the last song referred to in each of my books as I update the music pages on each blog. Today I got to song number nine for x0 and guess what? It’s Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”. This particular song has gotten me through several tough spots in my life, and it shows up in my book when my hero Lola is at her most distraught. A fellow telepath provides her with reassurance by singing a bit of this timeless song. The result? Lola becomes calm enough to do what needs to be done.

As part of updating the music page, I had to seek out a video to which to link. There are so many wonderful ways to enjoy this 1977 classic online. One of my favorites manages to use Bob Marley’s original music, some footage of him and his performances, and clever graphics and a story line to make this wonderful song come to life visually. I recommend playing this daily as needed for, oh, the next twelve days or so, and longer if required.

One can also enjoy (and buy) the powerful version of this song performed by “Playing for Change.” Finally if you want one last shot of reassurance, check out the very first recording at “Playing for Change” as a powerful group of folks sing and play instruments to calm everyone down in this moving version of a song called Don’t Worry.

For more oblique election commentary, see my posts Our brand is crisis?, We need to talk about this, just maybe not so much, and Is it over yet?

Finally, here is the excerpt from x0 that refers to “Three Little Birds. Hope you enjoy it also.

 

 

Lola absolutely did not want to go to New Zealand. But even more than that she did not want to miss her plane and then have to leave the secured part of the airport and try to figure out what else to do instead. So she did as instructed, and grabbed a quick copy of The Daily Telegraph at the newsstand on the left and was a little startled when the sales clerk actually did call to her as she turned to go.

I, I think you left this miss.” The girl offered a small brown ladies handbag out to her.

Thanks, yes.” She slipped her own purse onto Nwanyi’s shoulder and took the new bag. “Thanks so very much.”

She allowed herself to slow down enough to look inside while they walked. There was a wallet containing quite a few New Zealand twenty-dollar bills. Wow. She had been considering just staying put in Singapore, but decided against that option completely when she also found the little disposable cell phone bearing the logo of Vodaphone New Zealand. These folks were really looking out for her.

She dug further into the purse. More ibuprofen and lots of aspirin. Headaches must be a well-known part of this gig, she thought. At the bottom of the purse was the item that made her heart stop. Oh my. She knew this one. A little Beretta Bobcat. Her gun collecting and gun-loving father had bought her one for protection years ago, and the two of them had spent hours getting her familiar with the gun. As a girl she had shot rocks and tin cans with whatever her father gave her, like most kids did who grew up where she had, but this particular model had been his gift to her as a young woman, and he had wanted her to know it thoroughly. She’d kept it locked away for years now as Alex did not share her ease with guns, and he’d had little trouble convincing her that a house with teenagers and their friends was not a good environment for firearms. But still, she knew this gun, and though she had not touched a handgun in years, it was a comfort in her hand. Who was this guy who had met her anyway? Some sort of super-spy?

She felt a chuckle and saw her helper whose name she did not even know working on a pile of tax returns. He was a tax accountant? She felt a surge of gratitude for her unknown benefactor, and in return she felt a soft feeling of You’re welcome, and Be safe. She had a reassuring image of him heading over to say hello to an old friend who worked in airport security, and Lola had the distinct impression that his visit with his friend would last at least until the man was very sure that he could leave Heathrow safely himself.

As a final gift, she heard him softly singing the words to her favorite Bob Marley song ever, “Three Little Birds“. Nwanyi, who had been walking quietly, stopped and gave Lola a funny look. Lola realized with surprise that she had been so grateful to hear those lyrics assuring her that everything would be well that she hadn’t noticed that tears had started to run down her own cheeks.

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2016/10/29/everything-is-going-to-be-alright/+]

 

 

 

“We are the World”

Published on Oct. 22, 2015

 

 

Every character I create is part me, part fiction, but none is more like me than Lola, the hero of my first book. We do have our differences, but we share a strong desire to make the world a better place. She will find her path in the sixth book of the collection, which I am writing now. My path, for the time being, seems to be to write these books about her.

The music in x0 is tied into this idealism. “We are the World” by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie was released in 1985, the year that my characters Lola and Alex were married. In x0, Lola becomes obsessed with Africa once she starts work at a Nigerian based oil company. Michael Jackson’s death in June 2009 brings to Lola’s mind his role in both the song and the fundraising he was responsible for. A short excerpt is below.

 

 

On June 25, Michael Jackson died. Although none of the Zeitmans were devoted fans, all five mourned the loss of a talented, troubled man who had written songs that they had enjoyed. Lola noted with interest that so many people accessed the internet in search of more details about his death, or even just in search of shared comfort, that several major websites became unusable for a while. What a force we can be together, she thought.

While she found herself humming snippets of his music for days afterward, she mostly sang to herself the one song of his that she had liked best of all. Forty-three other musical stars had joined in to sing his 1985 collaboration with Lionel Richie called “We are the World”, with over sixty million dollars in proceeds donated to fight starvation in Africa.

She could still see in her mind the video of Michael in the black jacket with the gold sequins, his sparking white glove undulating to the music while he sang the first rendition of the chorus. Lola thought that when Cyndi Lauper quipped that the lyrics sounded like a Pepsi commercial, she had a point. There was no deep meaning here. Just a hell of a great idea. “We are the world.”

 

 

Due to the number of artists involved and various claims of copyright infringement, videos of this song being performed are few and far between, and are often removed from the internet. This version has been viewed over forty-seven million times.

Twenty-five years later, a new group of artists performed this song to raise money for Haiti after the island was devastated by an earthquake. For the full experience, and a chance to give your tear ducts a little exercise, spend a few more minutes enjoying this official 2010 Artists for Haiti rendition.

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2015/10/22/we-are-the-world/+]

 

 

 

“For What It’s Worth”

Published on Oct. 29, 2015

 

 

Like most people, I reacted with horror at the video of a Columbia SC police officer grabbing a high school student by the neck and throwing her across the room. No classroom infraction warrants this, and certainly not a refusal to put away a cell phone or leave class. But today, my thoughts are with the girl’s friend, Niya Kenny, who was handcuffed and arrested as well for daring to object. Speaking up to others, saying “this is wrong, somebody do something” was deemed illegal too, and that is even harder for me to believe.

Both girls were charged with “disturbing school”, a criminal offense in South Carolina. I listen to this old song and remember the feeling that we all need to “disturb school” and disrupt life when it means standing up for what is right.

Because life works that way, today I also came across a moving post entitled Why I’m prejudiced & So Are You and in my humble opinion it ought to be required reading for the human race, preferable followed by lively and healing discussions held among people with vastly different bodies. Allow me to quote one of my favorite lines from it. “I know that every body on this Earth has equal, unsurpassable worth.” Who can disagree with that? And yet …. well, read the article.

I filled the novel x0 with music that spoke to the part of me that wants a better world. I’m going through each of my blogs and expanding my writing on each song, and on today’s to-do list was the 1967 Buffalo Springfield song “For What it’s Worth.” As part of the rewrite, I’ve just watched about a dozen different videos of it, and each time I listened to it, the echoes of the Columbia incident would run through my mind.

When it comes to this classic, one has a lot of fine video performances to chose from. Dates range from 1967 through a live Buffalo Springfield performance at Bonaroo in 2011, not to mention a wealth of covers by notable artists and several moving montages created on YouTube showing scenes form the Vietnam War and various protests. I decided to step out of the box on this one and link to the original Buffalo Springfield performing way back when on the Smothers Brothers show. This clip will remind you of just how young these guys were when they wrote this song, and of the goofy humor of that era in the midst of the turmoil. Enjoy!

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2015/10/29/for-what-its-worth/+]

 

 

 

Singing for World Peace

Published on Nov. 5, 2012

 

 

At a concert a few nights ago, it struck me that making music is so much more collaborative than writing fiction. Actually, you could argue that almost any human activity is more interactive, except maybe art. So it isn’t surprising that while authors produce novels and plays hoping to encourage world peace, and artists paint and sculpt and sketch to do the same, music rules as a powerful medium for getting across a message of peace (or anything else) because it is something that people make together and appreciate together.

Don’t believe me? Check out this list of hundreds of peace songs at everybody’s friend Wikipedia.

A list of my top five personal favorite peace songs:
“Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan (1963)
“From a Distance”  written by Julie Gold. and performed by Bette Midler (1988)
“Imagine” by John Lennon (1971)
“Russians” by Sting (1985)
“Turn! Turn! Turn!” by Pete Seeger recorded by the Byrds (1965)

I couldn’t help notice that this list dates me a little a bit, and so I plan to check out every song on the Wikipedia list written after 2000 and report back with a top ten list that is at least half from this millennium. Meanwhile, check out another groups list of top ten peace songs here that spans genres and decades. I’m also very happy to “take nominations from the floor” for the best peace song ever. Got a favorite to nominate?

 

 

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2012/11/05/singing-for-world-peace/+]

 

 

 

The Look of Peace

Published on July 17, 2013

 

I am in search of images that convey the idea of peace. Interesting ways to assemble the peace sign work well. Doves are a favorite also, and I found this version with doves and olive branches especially appealing. Finally take a look at this beautiful mural. It is from a fascinating website listing many examples of peace monuments using the symbols of hands & handshakes

 

 

(If you like the idea of searching for an image to capture a quality we all seek, come see images of joy on my y^1^ blog _][_here and images of hope on my z^2^ blog _][_here.)

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2013/07/17/the-look-of-peace/+]

 

 

 

Art for Empathy and World Peace

Published on Aug. 29, 2012

 

 

Lola’s most cherished gift for her 50th birthday is a print from fellow telepath Maurice of Norman Rockwell’s famous painting called “The Golden Rule”. It occurred to me that I’d like a copy of it myself, and now that writing the novel x0 has me thinking so much about the subject, maybe I’ll even start a little collection of prints relating to empathy and world peace. So I looked around.

It turns out that one can get a print of the April 1, 1961 cover of the Saturday Evening Post as shown at the left at art.com and for additional dollars it will come matted and framed.

If you prefer original art on the subject of world peace, check out redbubble.com where the original of the painting to the right, entitled Peace to the World by the artist saleire  is available at an affordable price. If you are looking for nostalgic peace symbolism  (and how could you not be?) take a look at this original by Laura Barbosa on her website.  She also has quite a bit of other original art available on the rest of her blog, and much of it may bring thoughts of empathy, telepathy and world peace into you head. Although this particular original has been sold, prints can be purchased at redbubble.com.

I’m going to keep seeking more prints to add to my world peace art collection, so you can expect to see additional items here soon.

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2012/08/29/art-for-empathy-and-world-peace/+]

 

 

 

Painting for Peace

Published on Feb. 4, 2013

 

 

I confess.  Every once in awhile I search for things I’ve posted about to see if my blog will show up. It’s a jolt of joy when it does. You know what is even better?  Having some other wonderful kindred site show up that you didn’t even know existed.

This happened the other day when I did a search on painting for peace.  My hero Lola is only half joking when she suggests that if the citizens of the whole world would hold each others children on their laps and paint their little smiling faces, war would be harder to wage. Her wish inspired the name of this blog, and now I often post about all kinds of painting for peace.

But the other day I found a site that is truly doing something about it. I Wage Peace.org has a project called “painting for peace” and you can read all about it here.  Basically it involves getting community members from diverse backgrounds to hand paint their own interstate peace billboard. The group itself is dedicated to peacemaking in the Middle East and has the inspiring slogan shown on the bumper sticker above.

There really are people out there painting for world peace. Really. What a jolt of joy!

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2013/02/04/painting-for-peace/+]

 

Part 9. Hmmmmm

 

 

 

A Gesture of Peace?

Published on July 24, 2016

 

 

No, that can’t be right.

Every once in awhile you read something so bizarre that you do a sort of mental double take. This happened the other day when I read that the classic hippie peace symbol from the sixties had its origins in satanic worship. What?

Well, it turns out that a fairly common misconception is that the peace symbol is based on the Nero cross, once used to represent the torture of Christians by the Romans. A few years ago the Huffington Post carried an article about a Christian school in Holland that destroyed 3,000 of its calendars when a student in one picture was discovered to be wearing the symbol on his jacket.

But, the misconception simply isn’t true. According to the Peace Day website, the peace sign first appeared on letters from the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War after it was designed in 1958 by British artist Gerald Holtom for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). The design came from superimposing the semaphore letters “N” for nuclear and “D” for disarmament over each other.

The other common peace sign is a hand gesture in which the index and middle fingers are raised and parted, while the other fingers are clenched and the hand is held with the palm facing outward. It was originally used to symbolize V for victory in Britain during WWII, but by the 1960s, the “V sign” became widely used as a symbol of peace. As a victory sign, the symbol’s origins do include a story involving satanic worship, but not the way one might think. It was well know in Britain that Hitler’s inner circle was fascinated by the darker sides of mysticism, and British occultists were sure that the Nazi swastika was based on an ancient evil symbol. The story is that in 1941, Aleister Crowley, a British occultist, suggested using the V-sign as a magical foil to counteract the swastika, and that the usage caught on from there.

The story could be true, as Crowley not only had contacts in British intelligence, he actually worked as a consultant for them to help them better understand what Hitler might be hearing from his astrologers and other mystic advisors. The very idea of the hand symbol for peace being derived from seeking a magic symbol to counteract the evils of the Third Reich is appealing. Wouldn’t it be nice if, as we casually use it today, it could help ward off some of the evils of our times as well.

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2016/07/24/a-gesture-of-peace/+]

 

 

Searching for World Peace …..

Published on March 26, 2013

 

 

I spend a lot of time searching the internet for information for my blogs and my books, and one subject I search on often is “world peace”. The idea fascinates me, and I devote much of this blog to the concept. And every single time I search, what do I find?

That’s right, I find World Peace. Metta World Peace to be specific, player for the Lakers formerly known as Ron Artest, and perhaps best known for his role in brawl with the Detroit Pistons in 2004.  Who is this guy? And why does he keep getting in my way?

With basketball everywhere right now (yes I do know it is college, and Metta plays professionally) it seemed like the right time to learn more about this nemesis who keeps fouling up my searches. So I searched on him.

Well ….. He’s more than another rough player who makes a lot of money. He’s also the father of four, and he donates much of his money to causes, especially those aimed at helping high risk students and supporting mental health. He doesn’t just play basketball, he plays it well and is having an impressive career.  He he speaks his mind, also raps, and just released a new single “Get Like Me.” (I listened and thought it was interesting  but I’m really not part of the right demographic. If you like rap it might be great.)

He legally changed his name in September 2011 hoping to inspire youth and he chose Metta as his first name because it is a Buddhist word for loving kindness. He is described in the media as eccentric and outspoken, but frankly I’d call this man something of an idealist. An odd one, and hardly a perfect human, but upon some reflection I’ve decided that anyone who would actually change their name to World Peace is a kindred spirit. I’ve decided to stop groaning every he shows up in my searches, and to become a Lakers fan instead. Go World Peace!

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2013/03/26/searching-for-world-peace/+]

 

 

 

And the Winner is …..

Published on May 20, 2013

 

 

Open the envelope.  Award the trophy. Quickly commend the losers who participated and thank the spectators and the organizers. Then, cut to the interviews with the winner. We get background pieces for color, and praise from the experts.  Finish it all off with a final shot of the victor or victors waving their prize with the stark joy of success etched onto their faces.

We love the formula, whether it involves singing or acting, playing tennis or hockey, driving a race car or riding a race horse. We love a winner. We hate to lose.

The man I share my life with doesn’t write fiction like I do, or create in any of the more conventional senses of the word. Rather he puts his creativity into how he lives. Almost every day brings some new idea that leaves me wondering, how did he think of that? Clearly, I like this about him.

One of his most recent ideas involves three letter words. There aren’t so many of them and he is on a search to find the most meaningful and thought provoking three letter words in the English language. He’s got folks making lists and arguing for their favorites. He and I are on a road trip right now, electing to turn an eighteen hour drive into a three day journey using back roads and having leisurely nights. Our conversation in the car is better too and he announces that he has thought of a new one, and it is one of the best yet.

I know exactly what he is talking about, and he challenges me to think of it.  It begins with the letter “t” he says.  Okay. Top. Good one but no.  How about try? Better, but no. Tug?  He likes tug, thinking that sometimes we all need a helpful tugboat to keep us in the deepest part of the channel as we come into the bay and head to the harbor. But tug isn’t the word either.

I’m starting to get frustrated.  I hate losing these little games even if they’re silly and I’m only playing against him or myself. So he insists on giving me another clue. The word has two vowels. Well that certainly narrows it down. Too? Tea? Tau? Tie?  I’m not getting a lot of deep meaning out of any of these. “Tie,” he says. “It’s a great word. Think about it.”  I’m thinking. My mind goes to tying up your livestock and moves on to fifty shades and finishes off with uncomfortable men in neckties. Really?

“Think about it,” he insists. “A contest without a winner and without a loser. A tie. We used to have them in football, in lots more sports in fact, but over the years we’ve added overtime and tie-breakers everywhere because no one likes the idea that this particular time around nobody won.”

I get it. It’s wonderful when you or your side wins. Even losing can bring renewed determination, new strategy, better training. But maybe we could use  a few more contests that end in ties. Aren’t concepts like “nobody did significantly better than anyone else” or “these two did here did equally well” concepts worth embracing too? I think that they are.

So, of course, is the knowledge that not everything is a contest, and the wisdom that not every contest matters. In truth, we’ve got win, lose or draw, and we’ve also got “didn’t bother to keep score” and the ever popular “Huh? We were playing a game?”  Each one of those deserves its own place in the grand scheme of things. Maybe especially the last one.

 

(It looks like I am fond of this title …. I used it on my blog for the novel z^2^ back in February and forgot all about it! Check it out here to see the same title go a whole different direction. For some additional thoughts about when natures grants a tied score, visit my z^2^ blog for my latest post here. And for a few later thoughts on the merits of a close game please visit my y^1^ blog here.)

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2013/05/20/and-the-winner-is/+]

 

Part 10. Fighting for Peace

 

 

 

It’s a VUCA World Out There, People

Published on May 15, 2016

 

 

I’m a big fan of the TV show “Person of Interest” and last night I watched the long awaited first episode of Season 5. It has turned into a story about two warring supercomputers, one of which is good. Good supercomputer had to be totally rebooted last night and as it became reacquainted with its human helpers, it considered the amount of death and mayhem they had inflicted during the fight for goodness. To no science fiction readers’ surprise, it ended up deeming them every bit as bad as the bad guys.

The supercomputer has a point. When does what you are fighting for become irrelevant due to the amount of carnage and pain you have inflicted? Is the answer really “never”?

Enter an article in my to-be-read file called “The Madness of Modern War” published on the blog Alternet and written last month by William Astore. I stumbled on it this morning and it fed right into my funk about the moral ambiguities of fighting for peace. It begins

Since 9/11, can there be any doubt that the public has become numb to the euphemisms that regularly accompany U.S. troops, drones, and CIA operatives into Washington’s imperial conflicts across the Greater Middle East and Africa? Such euphemisms are meant to take the sting out of America’s wars back home. Many of these words and phrases are already so well known and well worn that no one thinks twice about them anymore.

Things do have a way of coming together like this, don’t they? The truth is, life under the watchful eye of good computer would be a whole lot nicer than human life on bad computer’s watch. And life in the freedom loving  U.S.A., for all of its faults, is orders of magnitude better than anyone’s life under the rule of the Islamic State.

So exactly how horribly is one morally entitled to behave in order to achieve an outcome destined to provide more freedom and joy for all?

I fall in the camp that believes there are limits. Something you do remains something you have done, and it stretches your capacity to do the unthinkable. I worry that good guys can become bad guys by imitating them. I think that part of a moral compass includes having lines you will not cross, and directions you will not go.

Let me be clear. I will fight for my own life and my liberty, and thank the others who do it for me. But I will not pay any price to purchase those things, and I like to think that I have the courage to accept that.

You don’t think you agree? If your life, or your freedom, required you to push a button and wipe out every living creature in Australia, would you do it? Would you let someone else do it for you? How about just half of Australia? Just a quarter of it? Okay, exactly how much of Australia are you willing to destroy? How about if we change the country to Somalia? Syria? Sweden?

It’s a messy question, isn’t it? As a species we can identify some actions clearly on one side of the line and others clearly on the other, but it is all that grey area in-between that gets us into so much trouble. How about we begin by at least agreeing that there is a line. That’s a start.

William Astore concluded his article with

If the gray zone offers little help clarifying America’s military dilemmas, what about _][_VUCA? It’s an acronym for volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous, which is meant to describe our post-9/11 world. Of course, there’s nothing like an acronym to take the sting out of any world. But as an historian who has read a lot of history books, let me confess that, to the best of my knowledge, the world has always been, is now, and will always be VUCA.

Well said. Very well said.

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2016/05/15/its-a-vuca-world-out-there-people/+]

 

 

 

Dynamite and World Peace

Published on July 23, 2012

 

 

World peace  ….  that favorite topic of beauty pageant contestants and those attempting a serious drinking toast ….. was also an obsession of the inventor of dynamite, Alfred Nobel. His personal recipe for world peace was to use part of the fortune he amassed from his invention to present an annual award to the human or humans who had done the most in the past year to make peace happen.  Along the way people as diverse as Mother Teresa, Leo Tolstoy and  Henry Kissinger have been honored. The award is presented every year in Oslo Norway, and a few days ago the author of this blog got to visit the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo.

I and the character I created, Lola Zeitman, both share Alfred Nobel’s obsession with the concept of world peace. Lola believes that empathy is the key to getting along, and that if we could all just walk in each others shoes (or feel each others feelings) hatred would be difficult. I like to think that she is right. However, I may be less of an idealist than Lola. Humans are remarkably clever and I fear that even if we all became telepathic tomorrow, we’d still find a way to hate, not to mention figuring out a hundred new ways to manipulate and take advantage of each of other.

I do now know, however, that Norway is a stunningly beautiful country (see waterfall at right), Oslo is a fascinating city (see statue above) and the two exhibits at the Nobel Peace Center during July 2012 were truly moving. I walked away with a few trinket souvenirs, and the belief that if even the man who invented dynamite can reach out for a solution to war, maybe there really is an answer out there somewhere.

Go here for more information on the Nobel Peace Center and here for details on the Nobel Peace Prize.

 

 

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2012/07/23/dynamite-and-world-peace/+]

 

 

 

Weapons for Peace

Published on Dec. 10, 2013

 

 

I live in Texas where the very idea of gun laws cause heartburn. We like our guns. My father collected them and my co-workers discuss their firearms in the break room. In the novel x0 my telepathic hero Lola has a gun in her purse and has to consider whether her new powers will render her unable to use it. Guns show up in my next two novels as well.

In spite of the disposition of my home state, and the behaviors of my fictional characters, I am an advocate of reasonable gun regulations.

According to the blog of the Houston Chronicle a state gun law scorecard was released yesterday (Dec. 9) which showed that in the last year 21 states have created or expanded gun laws while 25 other states, including Texas, get F’s for failing to provide the most basic safety restrictions.

This didn’t surprise me, but it prompted me to learn more. Thanks to a website called Texas Gun Laws I found out that in Texas

Texas

*
p<>{color:#000;}. There is no waiting period for purchasing a firearm

*
p<>{color:#000;}. There is no state registration of guns

*
p<>{color:#000;}. If you have a concealed handgun license you may carry as many hidden revolvers as you like

*
p<>{color:#000;}. You can get a CHL now with four hours of instruction and a proficiency exam at a shooting range

*
p<>{color:#000;}. You can keep a gun loaded and within reach in your car, and a school campus cannot prohibit you from doing so.

*
p<>{color:#000;}. You may carry a gun while drinking but not while legally drunk

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Machine guns, suppressors and other assault weapons are perfectly legal

*
p<>{color:#000;}. There is no limit to the number of rounds the magazine for your gun may hold.

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Background checks are required by federal law and Texas leads the nation in running them. No check is needed for sales between private citizens or at gun shows

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Texas averages about ten major gun shows a month

 

That’s a lot of firepower out there folks, in a lot of inexperienced hands. Additional changes have been proposed to allow concealed weapons to be carried into a bar and into places of worship, and to allow weapons to be holstered so that they are visible.

Accidents happen. Stupid things get done. Tempers flare, people show off, children get curious. Is this sort of world we really want? Not me. I like my heritage and my freedom, but I also like my peace of mind. The idea of a whole lot of barely trained people strutting around with assault weapons does not make me feel safer.

How does one fight the sort of paranoid movement that wants the most dangerous of guns readily available? Luckily there are other kinds of weapons in this world and other ways to fight.

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2013/12/10/weapons-for-peace/+]

 

 

 

Guns for World Peace?

Published on Dec. 16, 2012

 

 

My father was an avid gun collector and a mildly enthusiastic hunter. I got to traipse along on an occasional pheasant hunt myself, and under his careful supervision I shot the hell out of a some hapless aluminum cans as a child. My main character in x0, Lola, shares a similar background with guns and (like me) she owns a small handgun for protection and I support that right. Mine sits in a drawer. She almost had to use hers. However…..

The right to own a hunting rifle or a gun for protection is not infringed upon by reasonable laws forbidding me from owning semi-automatic weapons. There simply is no law-abiding need for that kind of destructive firepower. I do not get to own Ebola cultures.  Small nuclear weapons.  Nerve gas. Land mines. My own tanks. Someone please explain to me why some otherwise rational gun owners explode into fury at the thought that some types of guns just do not belong in the hands of the general public?

Nor are my rights infringed upon by always requiring background checks and waiting periods. (I’m looking at you, gun shows.) In fact, my safety and the safety of all of us is increased by demanding such.

The gun owners in my immediate family have all slowly dropped out of the NRA, one by one becoming disillusioned with that organizations zealous refusal to support legislation that sensible gun owners favor. With every new tragedy, the NRA says this is no time to talk about gun control. For heaven’s sake.  When is there a better time?

The above sculpture, usually referred to as the Knotted Gun, is actually titled ‘Non-violence’, and I first admired it in a visit to New York in 2003. It stands outside the UN building and was presented as a gift from Luxembourg. It points the way toward a world of peace that we all yearn for, my gun toting relatives included. Until such a time as we do have world peace, however, reasonable people may wish to own one. But now would be a very good time to get over the idea that his means that they can own any kind of gun, any number of guns, and that they can get those as fast and as easily as they would like.

Guns are dangerous. People are dangerous. The combination is deadly. That’s what my dad taught me in western Kansas before he ever let me shoot. Isn’t it time we all agreed that society has the right to regulate and monitor that which so clearly can result in so much tragic loss of lives?

 

 

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2012/12/16/guns-for-world-peace/+]

 

Part 11. Avoiding War

 

 

 

All the Empathy in the World Won’t Help?

(A review of Drift by Rachel Maddow)

Published on Jan. 25, 2016

 

 

(1) I write fiction about telepaths and examine whether the increased empathy from knowing others thoughts could be a key to world peace. (2) I like Rachel Maddox a lot and occasionally watch her show.

I read Rachel Maddow’s new book “Drift” because of the second item, but was surprised when I discovered that her central thesis casts doubt on the whole theory of my book x0. If Ms. Maddox is correct, U.S. wars today are waged by our leaders not our people, and all the empathy in the world is not going to stop the fighting. She does a wonderful job of detailing how over the past fifty years the United States has moved from the World War II model of “a nation at war” to the current state of affairs in which our commander in chief uses executive powers and resources to keep conflicts going around the world with very little involvement from most of the citizens and very little consent from other branches of government.

I like how she sticks to the facts and interjects very little of her political bias. Rather, she places blame at the feet of every president, Republican and Democrat, and credits all of them with generally trying to do the right the thing while making matters worse. It’s very un-MSNBC, but all the more compelling.

Her one exception is Dick Cheney, to whom she dedicates the book. He pops in and out of the story over the course of four decades, continuing to push his personal agenda of making war ever easier for us. She never asks why, but begs him in the dedication to let her interview him. As far as I know, he never has.

Her careful weaving of the small decisions that lead to our current ability to wage ongoing wars with almost no emotional involvement could have made for very dry reading, but it doesn’t. In spite of the fact that she has no political axe to grind, her sense of humor shines through, as does her incredulous disbelief at some of the well-intended but just plain stupid decisions that were made along the way. You can almost hear her voice in your head as you read, and you have to smile in spite of how sad a story it is.

The end result, she points out, is that U.S. presidents now have the technological ability and the ridiculous authority to quietly conduct ongoing wars in any corner of the globe for as long as they wish. Yet, Ms. Maddow ends this book on a hopeful note. She argues persuasively that going to war should be hard, and should require the bulk of our people to wish harm upon another nation or at least be willing to hurt that nation significantly in order to stop its leaders.

Powers that have been given over time, and even for good reason, can be taken away, she says. It won’t happen quickly, but she convinced me that we can make waging war the messy, inefficient, and difficult task it once was. We can make it painful again. If we do, we won’t be quite as good at it, but we will more far more incentivized to find other solutions.

Then, just maybe, superheroes gifted with telepathy could help guide the population towards more compassion and understanding. Okay, that could be bit of a stretch in the real world, but it might make for a fun read.

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2016/01/25/all-the-empathy-…-world-wont-help/+]

 

 

 

 

Telepaths for World Peace

(a short excerpt from x0)

 

Thanksgiving night, after the dishes were done, the television off, and Teddie and Alex in bed, Lola curled up on the couch with her laptop. With both of the older two kids flying home in just a few weeks for Christmas, the Zeitmans had for years passed on the effort and expense of a family reunion at Thanksgiving as well. So, with other family either far away or passed away, it had slowly become less of a holiday for them, with four days off to relax being its chief asset.

She found a series of new links on the x0 website, apparently posted by members. One area caught her eye. Crime statistics. Hmm. She followed a link, to the website of an organization called the [+ Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence+], and discovered that there now was a group out there devoted, purely and simply, to reducing the amount of times one human being intentionally uses a weapon to kill another. By any means. War, gang warfare, murder, mass murder. Whatever.

She read that this declaration was endorsed by more than a hundred countries, but the good old U.S.A. did not appear to be one of them. Why not?

According to the website, an estimated seven hundred and forty thousand men, women, and children are shot and killed each year worldwide. She had to wonder how many of those humans would not have died if the person pulling the trigger had been able to read the mind of the life which they were about to snuff out. Would telepathy have prevented every single such death? Most of them?

She doubted it. What about those who were under orders to kill? Those whose fellow warriors faced death or whom faced death themselves if they failed to shoot? Solving that mess required more empathic ability on the parts of those actually giving the orders, she thought, and probably more creative options than shooting for those in the midst of armed conflicts as well.

Lola let herself try to imagine a world in which that problem had been creatively addressed. She saw in her mind’s eye imaginary news footage showing hoards of foot soldiers, armed with Tasers instead of guns. Occasionally a bomb would fall from the sky, spewing pepper spray. The fight for territory, for whatever reason it was happening, was harsh and brutal, but it was being done by soldiers on both sides who were taking unusual pains to spare every life. Why? Because in the war Lola was imagining, the soldiers operated in a world where murder was so abhorrent, so disgusting, that its commission, even in war, would lose the hearts and minds of those they were sworn to protect.

Seven hundred and forty thousand people a year. Could humans change enough to alter the very rules of warfare if society demanded it of them? We’d walked away en masse from cannibalism, incest, slavery, and human sacrifice, she thought. We were capable of declaring some actions not worthy. Why then not the action of taking another human life?

Were there circumstances in which a telepath would choose to shoot? Lola could think of two. The first seemed a contradiction in terms because it required a telepath who could sense the feelings of others and simply not care. He feels the other persons fear, anguish, possible remorse, hope for life, and then he shoots anyway. But to feel and not to feel was an oxymoron, or at least she hoped so.

The second possibility made her shudder as well. In this case the armed, yet caring, telepath sensed the potential victim’s thoughts and feelings, but instead of finding compassion, he or she would find those feelings so reprehensible, and so dangerous, that the telepath would make the painful and yet the fully informed choice to pull the trigger. To shoot anyway. Lola wondered what kind of victim it would take for a caring and moral telepath to make that choice.

 

 

 

 

Women Warriors for Peace

A Guest Post from my c3 Blog “Leaving the Nest to Touch the Sky”

Published on Sept. 20, 2014

 

 

Tomorrow is the thirty-third International Day of Peace. What’s that? you might ask, and why have I never heard of it before?

Well, it’s a twenty-four hour period during which the United Nations invites everyone to honor a cessation of hostilities. It doesn’t get a lot of press, at least not here in Texas, and it doesn’t always work out so well on the battlefields of the world either, as you might guess. Yet it is a noble thought.

Today it’s got me thinking of the role many women play as peacemakers. We are encouraged, possibly by nature, certainly by society, to communicate, soothe and nurture more than our brethren. So while the world does have females quite adept with the sword, so to speak, and a good number of just plain bitchy women not all that adept at anything, we women do turn out to play a frequent role in the fight for justice and empathy on the world stage.

Meet some of my favorite women warriors for a better world, and consider checking out the stories behind them.

Sister Simone Campbell organized a “Nuns on the Bus” tour to challenge extreme budget cuts that threatened the well-being of the very poor, whom she believes her religion calls on her to care for. In the process she ending up earning the ire of the former pope and much of the catholic patriarchy, and got to appear on The Colbert Report. Her book is “A Nun on the Bus”

If you enjoy reading about feisty nuns fighting for justice, also check out “If Nuns Ruled the World.” where you will not only learn more about Sister Simone, but will also meet Sister Megan Rice, who is fighting to eliminate nuclear weapons; and Sister Jeannine Gramick, who is leading the charge for the acceptance of gays and lesbians in the Catholic Church.

I first learned of Somaly Mam from my daughter, who was taking a social work class concerning human trafficking. Somaly is a Cambodian survivor of sexual slavery who has grown into an activist fighting the corruption and injustice that allows the lives of so many young girls to be destroyed. Her book is “The Road of Lost Innocence” and it is well worth reading. As an aside, both this book and my daughter’s class played heavily in the development of the story line for c3, and I count all the many survivors as heroes in their own right, along with the social workers, police officers, and counselors who work compassionately with them.

I’ve recently become a fan of Shannon Galpin, a cross-country cyclist and adventurer who has founded a group called Mountain2Mountain to work for peace and rights for women Afghanistan, the country named the absolute worst place to be a female. Sharon tries to get women out on bicycles as a symbol of their basic rights. Her book is called Mountain to Mountain and I look forward to reading it soon.

I became aware of Shannon and her book through Cathryn Wellner’s website “This Gives Me Hope”. I’ve mentioned Wellner before on my blogs because I find that her daily posts almost always inspire me. She also joins the list of my favorite women warriors as she fights to shine a spotlight on what is inspirational in this world.

One of my favorite fighters of all is a Pakistani girl known the world over as Malala. In 2011, she received Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize and she was subsequently attacked by a gunman for her efforts to support education for girls. I believe in her cause so strongly that ten percent of my proceeds from c3 are being donated to the Malala Fund at malalafund.org. This is an organization dedicated to providing a formal education for the more than 600 million adolescent girls in the developing world who struggle for this basic right. I can think of nothing more likely to make a peaceful world than to have 600 million open minded and educated young women available to help lead the next generation.

Finally, I owe a thank you to Sheryl Wudunn and Nicholas Kristof , wife and husband authors of “Half the Sky.” Their inspirational book first introduced me to Malala’s full story, along with tales of many other women and men fighting to bring peace to this world. These tales also inspired me to take the c3 story line down the unconventional path I choose, as I tried in my own small way to shine light into corners that have remained dark for far to long.

What is world peace about? Yes, of course it is about people not shooting at each other, or bombing each other either. But if we’ve proved nothing else with modern society, we have demonstrated how horribly difficult that is to accomplish.

I’d like to celebrate World Peace Day by suggesting that this is really about there being enough justice and fairness and freedom in the world. If we fight for those things, instead of fighting for more land, or more control over others behavior, then perhaps over time we will finally loose the desire to hurl objects at each other. Wouldn’t that be nice.

 

 

[+ http://ctothepowerofthree.org/2014/09/20/women-warriors-for-peace/+]

 

 

 

and then you bleed …

Published on: Sep 7, 2013

 

 

I’ve just handed my fourth novel off to the first of my beta readers and I’m taking a little time to reflect, not to mention time to do a few loads of towels and go through the “where the hell did this junk come from” pile on my dresser. I’ll be starting d4 in October, and it now looks like I will in fact write a collection of six books. Wow.

I’m thinking of Ernest Hemingway today. It’s somewhat embarrassing that I’ve never read one of his novels even though I love many of his quotes. Recently I found this one. “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Five years ago I would have found that silly and overly dramatic. Today it strikes me as the most succinct and accurate description of writing fiction that I have ever read.  Not that I write as well as Hemingway. He wasn’t talking about good or bad writing, just about the act of pouring yourself into a story. No matter how overblown it seems, the truth is that I have pretty much gotten up for three days a week for the last seven months and picked up my lovely new ultralight computer, taken it out to my porch, and bled all over it. And found it fun.

Now that I’m handing the bloody mess off to friends and strangers alike, I have to wonder what motivates such odd behavior. I’m a very private person, yet I’m incapable of creating a story that isn’t filled with my most personal dreams and fears. I’m also incapable of not creating stories. I am aware that this didn’t end well for Hemingway, or for a lot of other writers that I admire. Others seemed to have navigated those same waters and survived and even thrived. What makes the difference?

Maybe while I’m on break I’ll skim a few writer’s biographies and try to figure out how others bandaged up their open wounds in between books. Maybe I’ll even finally read “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. I mean, how can I be writing a collection of stories that starts off with the premise that we are all one, and not have read a book that takes its title from a 1624 quote that says

 

 

No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

 

 

Words worth considering as our world contemplates one more outbreak of war, and as each one of us sits on our porch and tries to bandage our own wounds from the previous day.

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2013/09/07/and-then-you-bleed/+]

 

Part 12. Embracing Peace Within

 

 

 

Defining Peace

Contributed by Jagruti Gandani

December 10, 2016

 

 

Peace is not just absence of war or fights or arguments. According to me, peace reflects in every feeling of a person which is calm and happy, in every thought which results in integrity of relations and in turn results in progress, in every action which shows care of every soul, in every habit which forms the structure of society, in every word which makes the world bloom.

So peace is not just about NO WAR. Rather peace is a way of life.

 

 

 

Peace in Your Heart, Peace in Your World

Published on March 6, 2016

 

 

I wish you peace. Do I mean peace of mind? Or do I mean freedom from coercion and violence? I mean both, and I’m not sure which is the more difficult to attain. I am sure, however, that you can’t have much of the one without also having a lot of the other.

Your own peace of mind is largely in your own control. But let’s be honest here. It is hard to find that inner calm while dodging bullets, figuratively or, worse yet, for real. On the other hand, world peace is something we all have to work for, one might even say fight for, even if fighting for peace sounds like the ultimate oxymoron. When we end up fighting each other instead, while thinking it is for the cause of peace, we have truly failed.

But no matter how many times we hear that peace must begin in our own hearts, those of us who have a certain level of impatience find that this process of trying to live a peaceful life does not seem like it is bringing peace into the world at nearly a fast enough pace. I’m part of this group, and I’ve had to accept that no amount meditation and deep breathing is going to make me feel otherwise.

It is true that my own inner peace would be easier to hold on to if I stopped following the news. But I think that changing the world is a two pronged process. Yes, I need to be the change I want to see, just as Gandhi said. But I also need to know what is going on, even if some days what I see looks like one giant food fight in the cafeteria. I can refuse to join in. On some occasions, I can even laugh at the people throwing peas and carrots instead of crying about the food being wasted and god-awful mess they are making. Then other days the fight turns deadly, and I understand better the gravity of the issues with which we all must deal. That is the point at which is becomes real easy to get cynical and give up.

So it is always encouraging to stumble across others who are singing their own song of peace, if you will, in their own way.

This morning a friend sent a link to an article on politics in the New York Times called Beware Exploding Politics. It is written by Thomas Friedman, a man who doesn’t particularly share my views, but what caught my attention was his reasonable plea for us to all stop throwing rocks at each other and to work together to find solutions to the world’s problems. It is short, funny, and worth the read.

Then I stumbled on an old blog post from Cindy Knoke, a photographer I admire. I had saved the link months ago to re-post on this blog. She does beautiful work, but this particular one was her way of wishing the world peace. It is called Peace and is well worth the look.

Stumbling on two other kindred spirits was just the emotional boost that I needed. Yes, I will keep working on peace in my own heart. I want to sing that song as best I can so that others might hear me, too, and find encouragement to sing their song as they work harder to find their own peace within. It’s far too slow a process for my tastes. But I understand that it is and always will be the only one that will ever provide permanent peace.

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2016/03/06/peace-in-your-he…ce-in-your-world/+]

 

 

 

Not Thinking in Costa Rica

Published on July 25, 2013

 

 

I get it. Thinking about not thinking does NOT constitute not thinking.

Apparently I have persistent chatter in my head, which I have agreed to refer to by the rather unflattering phrase “monkey mind”, at least for the next few days. Friends have talked me into joining them on this week-long retreat in beautiful Costa Rica for an introduction to the ancient art of Qi Gong.  It is related to Tai Chi and King Fu, all of which involve understanding and ultimately manipulating the flow of energy through one’s body. I’m a long way from doing anything impressive, but I am finding the concept cool and the exercises alternately invigorating or relaxing. Originally we were planning on a girl’s weekend in San Francisco shopping, and I’m not sure how it morphed into this activity instead, but oddly enough I am glad that it did.

We are entering into the meditation phase of the day’s session. Be quiet, monkey I say to myself. Luckily I talk to myself a lot anyway so this isn’t a problem. You’re a person of words my inner monkey replies. You need your words. You use them to write books, remember?  Well, the monkey has a point there.

Just to demonstrate her worth further, the monkey begins reciting back to me the post called Feeling Gratitude in Costa Rica that I just wrote for my other blog. It is true that as I write, I stop every so often and recite the words I have written back to myself, listening to their sounds and turning them over in my head, analyzing whether each has conveyed my thought or feeling in the best way possible. See, that’s me and you writing, the monkey says.

Really? Because when the words themselves are being created, once I’ve gotten going, I don’t say the words in my head and it often seems as though I’m not in my head at all. There is this sort of odd peace inside me while ideas flow all mistyped onto the screen and although sometimes I anticipate what I am going to type, more often I don’t. It’s a state in which I can be startled by everyday sounds and can’t easily function for a few seconds after an interruption. It’s dynamic and yet peaceful and it feels as good as anything I know. In fact, it is very much like meditation, but with me being a lot more active.

Then it occurs to me, and I have an answer for my monkey.  I mostly write without you, dear monkey mind.  What you and I do together is called editing. You’re my internal editor! And  you’re a great one. I’m so glad I have you.

I give my internal chattering monkey a mental hug of appreciation and then send her off for a nice nap. We’re not editing now. We’re meditating. Not thinking. Not … no not that thought either. Not anything. Not any thought. We are.

 

 

 

 

(Read more about my novice attempts at meditation here. Read about other changes this week has wrought here.To learn more about Qi Gong and what I have spent this past week studying, please visit Sifu Anthony’s website called “Flowing Zen” here.)

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2013/07/25/not-thinking-in-costa-rica/+]

 

 

 

My Imaginary Prison Time

Published on Nov. 11, 2015

 

 

We get by. When those around us have more, we feel cheated. When those around us have less, there is this sense of satisfaction, or gratitude, or relief at our good fortune, that makes us happy. I don’t think most of us consciously want to have more than others, but I do think that we define normal based on what we see.

Everyone in the neighborhood has a hover car but you and maybe one other person. Feeling bad? No one in the neighborhood has a car of any kind but you and this real rich guy up the hill. Feeling good? You get the idea. I recently read a short story that intimated that fairly tale princesses were far less well off than today’s teenagers. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that princesses were happier though, because they were special. Then again maybe not. We are talking about teenagers here.

At any rate, a while back I hit a difficult time in my career and I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. I’d made my way into some management positions early on and the perks were pretty nice. I had a corner office and I do like my windows. Nice wood furniture and big plants can make you feel pretty important, especially when yours is little nicer than everyone else’s on the floor.

Things changed. My company was bought out and as my career morphed with new circumstances, I returned to technical work and a single window, cheaper office furniture and a small plant. Still not bad. Things kept changing. I had choices to make and went with consulting as I liked the freedom. But consultants usually get put in cubes. My little cubicle wasn’t bad. I could see out of a window down the hall. But when a new contract put me in the tiniest cube yet in the darkest corner of a windowless room, something in me screamed. This isn’t fair. I work hard. The situation wasn’t helped by the many beautifully furnished window offices sitting empty, being held for “real” employees soon to be hired.

Okay, I thought, time to get a grip. So I started to do what I do best. I began to make things up.

I was being held in a minimum security prison. I’m not sure what crime I committed, but it was something non-violent and even kind of noble. Maybe I refused to give up the name of a source and was being held for contempt. Yeah, that was good. My sentence included being kept in this little dark cube all day, where I was required to contribute by working on some inane thing I could care less about. (Not every piece of this fantasy was total fiction.) But lucky, lucky me. Due to prison overcrowding and my general good behavior, I was released every night to go directly home, where I could see my husband, eat a good home-cooked meal, watch TV shows of my choice and sleep in my own bed. The requirement (enforced by some sort of ankle-bracelet arrangement I was a little vague about) was that I had to return at the same time the next morning and continue to serve my sentence.

Not a bad deal when you think about it. I had creature comforts at the end of every day and all the sky I wanted to see from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. and most of the other women here weren’t half as lucky. I started to feel bad for them, and feel pretty good about my own situation at the same time.

The fantasy was helped along by the fact that my real-life contract was for 10 months, after which I knew I would be moving on. I exed off the days on my calendar like any prisoner would, and did my best to savor and appreciate the wonderful privileges I had been granted while I served. When the real-life contracted ended, I said something to my husband about being so excited to finally get out of jail.

“It was that bad?” He looked shocked.

“No, not really.” I squeezed his hand. “They treated me okay and let me come home every night to you and it could have been so much worse.”

“You’re a weird one,” is all he said.

Yeah, well, we all find a way to get by. Some methods leave us feeling happier than others.

 

 

(Read more at “My Imaginary Time in Witness Protection“.)

 

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2015/11/11/my-imaginary-prison-time/+]

 

 

 

A Part of the Whole

Published on Feb. 10, 2013

 

 

I ended up quoting dear Albert a couple of times in my most recent book z2, but I just discovered the quote below and it has risen to one of my favorites of his.  It is so well suited to the theme of x0 that I had to post it here.  Thank you Mr. Einstein.

A human being is a part of the whole called by us ‘universe’, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” ― Albert Einstein

 

 

 

 

Maybe while I’m on break I’ll skim a few writer’s biographies and try to figure out how others bandaged up their open wounds in between books. Maybe I’ll even finally read “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. I mean, how can I be writing a collection of stories that starts off with the premise that we are all one, and not have read a book that takes its title from a 1624 quote that says

No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2013/02/10/a-part-of-the-whole/+]

 

 

 

World Peace Pieced

A guest Post By Susan Bridgers

 

 

World Peace, in one vision, arrives like a great enveloping force that enters through each person’s mouth and settles in the base of the heart muscle. Like a spasm that convulses its way into the rhythm of the human being on the downbeat, the force uses the brilliance of the heart structure as its distribution system. Pulse, squeezes the blood with oxygen through the arteries out to the extremities. Pulse, returns of the oxygen depleted blood back through the veins. The force sits in the base of the heart, reenergizing the blood, giving with the oxygenated fresh blood a contentment that allows the invading peace.

 

Peace is comprised of many pieces, some organic, some constructed through the participation in the human experience. Like building blocks, the pieces need the thought of a planner to gather and cement into place. Poor planning causes poor assembly. Cognizant construction, though, can make a world of difference.

 

A particularly crucial piece to gather for the healthy concept of peace is contentment. This is the state of being in non-neediness. This is the satisfaction of the need for shelter, food, clothing, safety, community, purpose, achievement. In all situations, the soundness of the individual is key. The individual is the piece, the key, the one point of origin for the development and sustenance of contentment. The achievement of the individual is a keystone. These personal needs in the best of situations are provided by ancestors to allow a child to quickly contribute her gifts of achievement to buoy the tribe. Achievements within the tribe build on individual achievements. In a healthy, supportive tribe, each individual mind is engaged in creativity. Creatives see the connections and alliances possible and reach out to tie on more pieces. Individuals grade progress on how well the tribe brought others into this system that sustained contentment.

 

In a tribe’s supportive system covering personal needs, the destructive elements of neglect, hunger, fear, jealousy, exposure, and unfulfillment are negated to a great extent. Elimination of these elements allows the space for contentment. The heart and mind being non-needy is contentment. Contentment magnified is peacefulness. Serenity. Quietness. Being. Awareness without needing action. This is the emptiness of self where the self ego is not calling to be fed or clothed or paid attention for any reason. In this full liberation state the self ego is absorbed into nirvana. “Blown out” is the original meaning of the word nirvana. It can also mean quenched. Not stopped like staunched, but satisfied. Satisfied as a being and ready to dissipate into otherness. Content not to be the individual but part of the whole other.

 

Yet we are born as individuals and must figure this existence out for ourselves before we can dissipate again. We are born into bodies prone to suffering without the sheltering systems that can satisfy our bodily needs. The work of a life is one of tapping and enhancing the systems that provide shelter and eliminating the fears and discontent neediness brings.

 

If this enveloping force could enter the mouth, travel the esophagus, settle in the heart, feed the stomach and cleanse the sweetmeats of the human body, the peace of contentment would pulse through the body and calm it. It would calm the fear of needing the next meal or of sleeping in the cold or of being attacked. It would provide the recognition of others in the same state of being and provide community. It would provide the stasis for the individual to sit in serenity under the Bodhi tree until dissipation into the enlightenment of nirvana. The world would be at peace when all the individuals were set to this final task of sitting in serenity.

 

If the imagining of the great force of world peace entering all mouths is utopian, then the quest or a life’s work must be to address the imbalances that prevent this utopia from being manifest. These imbalances may be the windmills of a unique mind, but given the need of a purpose for the individual these serve as practical purpose. The aims of this social justice mission are clear: feed the hungry, shelter the unsheltered, clothe the naked, quell the fear of being attacked, bring calm and tolerance to those in need of these. Do this work until it is done. Plant bodhi trees, the fig tree Ficus religiosa, meanwhile. People will need places to sit while they dismiss the past worrying thoughts that have been dealt with. They will need places to dissipate from.

 

Another crucial piece to world peace requires the reparative work of healing the planet now. If the life sustaining waters and food fertile earth are contaminated, then the lack of human sustenance will cause fierce wars of survival. With so many humans in imbalance or discontent themselves, the extent of the wreckage wrought on the earth’s ecosystems is severe. Time for the superheroes of the environmental justice league.

 

Clean the waters. Detox the soil. Rid the air of pollutants. Bring on the awareness of simple living, living lightly on the land. Provide education on the permaculture systems of farming. Acting locally like a responsible steward in one’s individual life provides for global health. The health of humans and the earth is the state of not needing or the contentment of having enough. The bodies supported and sustained.

 

Maybe the enveloping force coming into our mouths in the initial image is our openness. Maybe the contentment in our hearts is the knowledge that we know these pieces of peace. Maybe the oxygenated blood boosted to our extremities is telling us to act. Now. While we have a pulse. While our hearts beat. Open our mouths and invite in the enveloping force of peace. Then speak of these understandings.

 

 

 

The opposite of Anger

Published on Jan. 14, 2013

 

 

Would it be harder for a real telepath to hate someone? To kill someone? These are premises I explored in my novel x0, and so I was delighted the find the quote below.

 

The opposite of anger is not calmness, its empathy.  [+ Mehmet Oz+]

 

Indeed. I think that is exactly what I’ve been trying so hard to say.

 

[+ http://tothepowerofzero.org/2013/01/14/the-opposite-of-anger/+]

 

About the author

 

 

Sherrie Roth grew up in Western Kansas thinking that there was no place in the universe more fascinating than outer space. After her mother vetoed astronaut as a career ambition, she went on to study journalism and physics in hopes of becoming a science writer.

She published her first science fiction short story long ago, and then waited a lot of tables while she looked for inspiration for the next story. When it finally came, it declared to her that it had to be a whole book, nothing less. One night, while digesting this disturbing piece of news, she drank way too many shots of ouzo with her boyfriend. She woke up thirty-one years later demanding to know what was going on.

The boyfriend, whom she had apparently long since married, asked her to calm down and explained that in a fit of practicality she had gone back to school and gotten a degree in geophysics and had spent the last 28 years interpreting seismic data in the oil industry. The good news, according to Mr. Cronin, was that she had found it at least mildly entertaining and ridiculously well-paying. The bad news was that the two of them had still managed to spend almost all of the money.

Apparently she was now Mrs. Cronin, and the further good news was that they had produced three wonderful children whom they loved dearly, even though to be honest that is where a lot of the money had gone. Even better news was that Mr. Cronin turned out to be a warm-hearted, encouraging sort who was happy to see her awake and ready to write. “It’s about time,” were his exact words.

Sherrie Cronin discovered that over the ensuing decades Sally Ride had already managed to become the first woman in space and apparently had done a fine job of it. No one, however, had written the book that had been in Sherrie’s head now for years. The only problem was, the book informed her sternly that it had now grown into a collection of six books. Sherrie decided that she better start writing it before it got any longer. She’s been wide awake ever since, and writing away.

 

 


Face Painting for World Peace

I am passionate about the cause of the world peace. I believe in our ability as a species to get along without killing each other and it is hard to keep that conviction out my fiction. It is my character's struggles to be better humans that interests me most. From early 2012 on I have maintained a blog in which I often write about empathy and what I call intra-species harmony. Others have told me that they would enjoy having these short essays available together in book form. So I have arranged the pertinent posts into twelve loose categories. This book is being published right before Christmas 2016. A lot has changed in the world, and in my own life, over the past four years. But what has not changed is that I continue to cherish time with those I love, and to recognize how others do the same throughout the world. This book is my holiday card; my way of wishing hope, joy and peace to every human on earth, with no exceptions.

  • ISBN: 9781941283196
  • Author: Sherrie Cronin
  • Published: 2016-12-21 07:35:34
  • Words: 36905
Face Painting for World Peace Face Painting for World Peace