Did I Say That? Oh, my . . .

I receive a lot of emails. Most of them are okay, even welcome.

But some I don’t enjoy receiving–including a fair amount of spam. But even emails from friends can be upsetting sometimes.

I try to keep this rule for myself as I compose an email: would I want to receive this email? It usually stops me from hitting “Send” when I have just typed an angry or emotional response to a message I have received.

Another rule I try to follow: would this message be better received if I actually spoke to the person? This is especiallyimportant for me when I am communicating a message with emotional weight.

I recently came across this wisdom. The man who penned it, Rabbi Menachem Mendl of Kotzk, died in 1859. So he was not addressing email. But it seems applicable.  

All that is thought should not be said, all that is said should not be written, and all that is written should not be printed.

Or as an old codger in the cartoon strip, “Shoe,” said–in response to the question, “How did you get to be so wise?–“It’s simple. Whenever I think of something stupid to say . . . I don’t say it.”

Blessed Are the Rich. Woe to the Poor

The Sunday gospel reading on November 7 was from Luke 6; Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor.” He also says “Woe to those who are rich.”

Many in Congress seem to have it backward.

They want to extend tax cuts to the richest two percent of Americans–to maintain, and perhaps increase, the growing inequality between that group and the rest of us. Did you know that the richest one percent of Americans now take home almost 24 percent of income, up from nine percent in 1976? Did you know that from 1980 to 2005, more than 80% of the total increase in U.S. incomes went to the richest one percent?

And did you know that even the rich would receive continuing tax breaks on the first $250,000 of their income–that’s a tax break of $61,000. So everyone is getting a tax break–except, of course, those too poor to pay taxes. What many in Congress–and its not just Republicans, although they are leading the charge–want to do is to give these rich folks continuing breaks amounting to $370,000.

Just think: if these rich folks–whom I think would not actually miss the money–shared that $309,000 (difference between $370,000 and $61,000) with the nation, it would amount to more than $800 billion over a decade. We could pay down the national debt quite a bit, and even manage to extend unemployment insurance to those still chronically out of work.

Who will guide us in these decisions? Tea parties? Politicians seeking favors from fat cats? Ideologues who never met a tax they did not want to cut or corporate welfare they dislike? Or Jesus and the Hebrew prophets (from whom Jesus drew inspiration)?

God, You Deserve that Much

Part of my prayer routine is to write these words each Sunday morning, as I begin a new round of scripture meditations in a prayer book called Sacred Space

                                   God, you are, therefore I am. You are with me, and within me. And I am with you, and within you.

The other day I noticed something. I capitalize “I” but do not capitalize “you.”

This got me to thinking, “Do I value myself more than God?” Do we, as a culture, do that? Have we become so self-preoccupied that we no longer give personal pronoun precedence to God?

Of course, we capitalize the word God, but then I capitalize Robin, too.  

Then, I remember that in the old days “He,” referring to God, was capitalized. “Him,” too. But modern usage stopped maintaining that custom. Even when I use “she” or “her” in reference to God, I do not capitalize (probably some traditionalists would faint if I did, for reasons other than capitalization).

I have decided to return to the old way. In my meditation book I now write:

                          God, You are, therefore I am. You are with me, and within me. And I am with You, and within You.

 That feels better.  God, You deserve at least that much honor. And much more, of course.  

“Robin, Its Me Again”

Recently, my friends Mike and Al gave me a plaque that reads, “God, its me again.” I cherish it. I put it up in my office, where many people comment on it. We all identify with its simple statement about turning to God.

But, as I ponder this more, it has begun to dawn on me that God may have a similar plaque, reading, “Robin [or your name], its me again.”

I know people who say they feel as if God is not listening. They ask God to help with something, and then nothing happens. Or so they say. Sometimes, I wonder. Maybe the silence is God’s answer. Or maybe they missed God’s answer as it came through another person, or something else that happened.

At any rate, how do you suppose God feels when we don’t listen? When God tugs on my sleeve, and says, gently, “Robin, its me again,” and I ignore God, how do you suppose God feels?

Help me, God, to hear you.

Enough. Give Peace a Chance

Today is the fifteenth anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Prime Minister and Nobel Laureate.

With his murder, the progress toward peace between Israel and the Palestinians was set back severely. President Clinton has said that had Rabin lived, a real peace would have been achieved within three years.

So the murderer, and all those who supported him, set back peace by at least twelve years. Twelve years of suffering by Palestinians, twelve years of terrorism aimed at Israel, twelve years of wall- and settlement-building, twelve years of children growing up in violence (and thus often perpetuating it).

Rabin’s words, spoken in 1993 at the White House–with Yassir Arafat at his side–to the Palestinian people, say it better than anything I can write:

Enough of blood and tears. Enough. We have no desire for revenge. We harbor no hatred toward you. We, like you, are people — people who want to build a home, to plant a tree, to love, to live side by side with you in dignity, in empathy, as human beings, as free men. We are today giving peace a chance, and saying again to you, enough. Let us pray that a day will come when we all will say, ‘Farewell to the arms.’

Let us pray for peace now, fifteen years later. Let us not waste any more time, or lives, or children.


Send Them All to Confession

The elections are pretty much over. A few close races await final tallies, but the tidal wave has been felt.

Still, we have a divided government. The only way it will truly work is if all parties engage in deep self-reflection and see how they, each of them, may change.

There already are pledges to work together. I want to be hopeful, but I do not know if they are real or just rhetoric.  Simply declaring that the time for partisanship is over and expecting it to end is like an alcoholic declaring he’s had his last drink–as he refuses to go to an AA meeting.

If I were in charge–and you should be glad I am not!–I would declare a moratorium of one week on any public comments about the election results, any promises to work together, any declaration of pre-conditions for negotiations, any list of “must do’s.”

Instead of the usual rhetoric and promises, let all the players go home for a week, play with their children and grandchildren, sit quietly with and love their spouse, and most of all, spend hours each day in prayer and meditation, asking for forgiveness for their part in how we got here, for the stupid and untrue things they said about each other (and even some of the true things), and for the obscene amounts of money they raised and spent to get elected or to defeat the other guy.

Then, when there has been some cleansing of the soul, let them come together, chastened by the realization of their own imperfections, the enormity of the challenges they have been empowered to face, and the obligation they have to actually make things right.

Maybe then leaders would begin leading us where we need to go.

How Precious Is Your Liberty?

It always feels good to me when I vote. Whether I think my candidates will lose–most likely today–or win, I am glad to vote. Perhaps most importantly, I am grateful I have the right to vote.

There are people who cannot vote. In Virginia, despite efforts by the last three governors, it is still difficult for convicted felons to vote–even when they have served their time.

One friend of mine made a big mistake many years ago. He was never caught, but eventually he turned himself in, went to prison, served his time, joined AA and got sober. Twenty-plus years after he was released, 23 years after he joined AA, 15 years after he obtained his real estate broker’s license, he  applied for restoration of his franchise. He supplied all sorts of documentation to attest to his good character, and he received the good news of his new status in August. He voted today.

Frankly, I think it should have been automatic. My friend  obviously did not need this restoration to assist in his rehabilitation, but he did feel tainted every time an election occurred. He feels more whole now.

Of course, there are lots of people–perhaps a majority–who will not vote today.

Maybe we should let them go to prison briefly to learn what it feels like to lose all their rights. Then, they might vote, realizing how precious liberty is.