Friday, December 30, 2022

In This Time of Liminal Space

I recently came across a meme that declared that because “the days between Christmas and New Year’s are a liminal space,” we should feel free to “lose track of time [and] spend all day in [our] pyjamas.”

Aside from the classism of this advice (after all, not everyone has the luxury of time-off between Christmas and New Year’s) I must admit I find myself drawn to the idea of liminal space – an in-between time wherein one can pause, realign, refocus, and prepare for what’s next.

I feel very fortunate to have both this week and next week off work. I purposely arranged for this some time ago as I really want to do all those things that liminal spaces invite us to do – whether I stay in my pyjamas or not!

This past year has been a challenging one for me. Much of it was spent dealing with often debilitating sciatic pain. I also have a dear friend who has been experiencing both physical and mental health challenges. In responding to my friend’s crisis, I’ve extended much time, energy, and money in supporting him. In time, it also meant undertaking the challenging tasks of holding space and setting boundaries.

Perhaps I should have known 2022 was going to be a challenging year when on its very first day I tested positive for COVID-19. Thankfully my symptoms were mild and I made a complete recovery. That’s how I’ve decided to look at all the various challenges I’ve encountered this year: in a spirit of gratitude.

Yes, my experience of sciatica was awful and frequently debilitating, but it has made me more aware of, and empathetic toward, those who live with chronic pain. In addition, the surgery I had in August ended my experience of chronic pain. So, yes, I am choosing to focus on the thankfulness I have for that rather than on the months of physical pain I experienced.

I’ve chosen the same focus in relation to my friend whose situation was (and, in many ways, continues to be) challenging. In the bleakest moments of this situation, I would get to the point of realizing that I needed to let go of any thoughts of being able to “save” my friend or “fix” his situation. Instead, I came to realize that I simply need to trust that God is working in his life. And sure enough, when I now step back, I can see in these past six months a trajectory toward stability and healing. My friend’s gentle landing into the loving care and hospitality of the couple he is now living with is the latest step in this trajectory. I also perceive it as a beautiful sign that God is indeed working in my friend’s life, as well as inspiring and guiding people around him, myself included. For all of this I am thankful.

So with this all being said, I am definitely looking forward to the new beginning that a new year brings. I am ready to let go of 2022 and its challenges and disappointments, while carrying forward the sustaining gratitude I’ve harvested from how I’ve chosen to look at and respond to these same challenges and disappointments (something I also did back in 2019).

In ways that are both practical and spiritual, I am mindfully preparing myself to enter into a new year with a renewed perspective of mind and heart.

To this end I’m cleaning and organzing my attic abode, as well as developing habits that will hopefully help me keep my physical space organized and clutter-free. I’m also re-establishing some spiritual practices that I’ve allowed to fall away this past year – my time of morning meditation, for instance. I’m also setting the stage for some new spiritual practices that I’ll be maintaining throughout 2023. These are my working with the book, A Year With Anthony De Mello, as well as my following of the year-long curriculum of daily exercises in the Workbook of A Course In Miracles offered by Marianne Williamson through her daily program, Mornings with Marianne.

I’m also going to work on getting into shape physically, starting by utilizing some of the online exercise routines offered by both Joe Wicks and Jordan Yeoh.

Finally, I’m going to try as best I can to cultivate and maintain a loving, generous, and grateful spirit in all aspects of my life, in part by identifying and removing actions and habits that are not in alignment with my highest/true-Self.

However you are able to lean into and embody the invitations of this time of liminality, I wish you an enlivening and transformative awareness of the presence and movement of the Sacred in your life.

Following is some of my recent photography that seeks to acknowledge and celebrate this current time of liminal space.

Above: My Christmas tree this year is in my bedroom. This is because its usual spot in the main area of my attic abode has been taken over by my ficus tree (left), a tree that actually dates back to the late 1980s when it was in the office of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM). This was a number of years before my arrival to the U.S. from Australia and my subsequest inheriting of this tree in 2003.

NEXT: The Light of This New Year’s Day

Related Off-site Links:
End Your Year Intentionally With These 10 Questions – Daisy U (No Sidebar).
Ten Surprisingly Good Things That Happened in 2022 – Medea Benjamin (Common Dreams, December 21, 2022).
Postures and Practices for the Year to Come – Anna Blaedel (Enfleshed, December 28, 2022).
New Year Transformation: Resources for the JourneyGrateful Living.
The New Year – Brigit Anna McNeill (Connection, December 30, 2022).
Ringing In the New: A Time to Begin Again – Marianne Williamson (Transform, December 31, 2022).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Somewhere In-Between
Dwelling in Peace
Christmas Dawns
Christmas for Mystics
How the Light Comes
Honoring the Darkness While Remembering the Light
The Christmas Miracle
I Need Do Nothing . . . I Am Open to the Living Light
The Light Within
The Source Is Within You
A Sacred Pause
Aligning With the Living Light
Mystical Participation
Returning the Mind to God
The Beauty and Challenge of Being Present in the Moment
Being the Light

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

“We Must Challenge the Entire System”

Author, activist and former Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson was interviewed yesterday of The Hill TV’s Rising program.

It seemed obvious to me that at one point hosts Briahna Joy Gray and Robby Soave were keen to have Marianne announce she was planning to run as a progressive challenger to Joe Biden in 2024. Yet true to form, Marianne took the conversation to a deeper level, noting that “it’s not that we challenge Biden or whether we challenge Kamala Harris, we must challenge the entire system.” (Of course, this will mean in time on a practical level challenging corporatist Democrats like Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.)

The system Marianne is talking about is the neoliberal ecomomic system by which the Democratic party establisment is enthralled, perhaps not to the same extent as the Republican party but enough so as to never make a genuine effort to name and disrupt this system’s deep dysfunction. This dysfunction isn’t an unfortunate fluke or side-effect, for as Marianne reminds us:

[We] still have locked-in as a feature, not as a bug to the neoliberal establishment, an income disparity the likes of which we have not seen in 100 years. That’s what needs to be challenged. . . . We must challenge the entire system that makes a free market more important than free people. . . . This generation has to find its courage. We must disrupt the neoliberal agenda that has taken this country for the last 40+ years into a place where democracy itself is under an assault.

Following is Rising’s 10-minute interview with Marianne Williamson. It’s followed by more of this interview’s transcript.

Says Marianne Williamson:

I’m disappointed at the lack of choice that the Democrats are allowing. You know, the point of a political party is to facilitate democracy, not suppress democracy, not make it so that nobody can say anything other than their pre-prescribed agenda. And that’s what’s happening right now. We’re changing the primary schedule, making it so that Joe Biden can just stride into South Carolina where he knows he has James Clyburn, where he knows he has Jamie Harrison, where he knows he did well last time. All of this is designed in order to suppress any idea of a progressive challenge or any challenge. I think it’s bad for democracy. I think it increases the distrust that many people, particularly young people, have in the Democratic party. And I think we should start right now calling foul so that they don’t think they can continue with this and everybody’s just going to go, “Oh, okay.”

It’s all a football game to [the corporatist Democratic establishment]. This is exactly what George Washington warned us about: becoming more about the party, more about the faction than about America. We should be talking about what’s happening in this country. We should be talking about the fact that whether it’s Joe Biden or any of the other corporatist Democrats, all we’re talking about is staying within the box of a neoliberal establishment. Yes, the president has done some good things but all within the box.

Let’s talk about what’s really going on in this country. If you put together the poor, the near-poor, and the afraid-of-becoming poor you have a third of the American people. You still have locked-in as a feature, not as a bug to this neoliberal establishment, an income disparity the likes of which we have not seen in 100 years. That’s what needs to be challenged. It’s not whether we challenge Biden or whether we challenge Kamala Harris, we must challenge the entire system. We must challenge the entire system that makes a free market more important than free people. Remember FDR said a necessitous man is not a free man.

. . . So, yes, Joe Biden has made some things easier, he has alleviated some stress, all of which is to be appreciated. But we need more than the alleviation of stress. We need to challenge the underlying, particularly corporate forces, that make the return of that stress always inevitable. We need genuine economic reform – fundamental economic reform, such as you get from universal healthcare, such as you get from free college. If the Democratic party is not a channel for that conversation than it has completely strayed from its traditional roots of genuine advocacy for the working people, for the average person in America.

What are [progressives like Rep. Pramila Jayapal] doing going along with the very system that I thought they were in Washington to disrupt? If they won’t disrupt it, the American people have to disrupt it. And that’s what I think there’s a hunger for.

We need to disrupt the corrupt, and everybody needs to decide for themselves the best way they participate in that disruption. For some people it will be third party involvement, for others it will be staying within the Democratic party and working there. I don’t think there’s a right answer. It’s the way that each person feels that they can best serve.

Having ran myself [as a progressive candidate] I understand how vicious that machine can become. I understand that [the corporatist Democratic establishment] have no patience with anyone who doesn’t fall in line with their pre-prescribed agenda. I know what they will do to you if you “paint outside the lines.” But we must paint outside the lines. This generation has to find its courage. We must disrupt the neoliberal agenda that has taken this country for the last 40+ years into a place where democracy itself is under an assault.

. . . So, yeah, I’m doing what I think everyone I know is doing: making that decision. And it’s time to make that decision of how can I best serve, how can I help articulate an alternative to the current agenda, and how can I best help effectuate it. And I’ll be making that decision very shortly, I think.

Related Off-site Links:
“The System” Is Ruining Our Present and Collective Future – Peter Montague (Common Dreams, December 28, 2022).
Beyond the Politics of Despair: An Interview With Marianne Williamson – Charlotte Dennett (CounterPunch, October 19, 2022).
Marianne Williamson Advocates for ‘Ethic of Love’ and Economic Reform at Stanford Town Hall – Cassidy Dalva (The Stanford Daily, October 3, 2022).
Former Presidential Hopeful, Marianne Williamson, Says Purity Testing in Candidate Endorsements Is “Immature”The Hill (February 16, 2022).
Marianne Williamson Says Difference Between Two Political Parties Is “Performative”The Hill (January 20, 2022).
Marianne Williamson: A Politico or Apolitical? – Casey Schwartz (The New York Times, January 16, 2022).
Marianne Williamson: Democratic Convention “Like Binge Watching a Marriott Commercial”The Hill (August 18, 2020).

For more of Marianne Williamson’s political insights at The Wild Reed, see:
Progressive Perspectives on the U.S. Midterm Election Results
Marianne Williamson on the Current Condition of the U.S.
An Essential Read Ahead of the Midterms
Marianne Williamson’s Politics of Love: The Rich Roll Interview
Marianne Williamson: Quote of the Day – July 28, 2022
Progressive Perspectives on the Overturning of Roe v. Wade
“For the Love of Our Children, Let’s Not Shut Up”
Celebrating Tuesday’s Progressive Wins in the Midst of the Ongoing “War for the Future of the Democratic Party”
Now Here’s a Voice I’d Like to Hear Regularly on the Sunday Morning Talk Shows
A Deeper Perspective on What’s Really Attacking American Democracy
Marianne Williamson: Quote of the Day – November 11, 2021
Marianne Williamson on the Tenth Anniversary of Occupy Wall Street
Progressive Perspectives on Nina Turner’s Election Loss
Cultivating Peace
“Two of the Most Dedicated and Enlightened Heroes of Present Day America”
Inauguration Eve Musings
Progressive Perspectives on the 2020 U.S. Election Results
“As Much the Sounding of An Alarm As a Time for Self-Congratulations”
We Cannot Allow a Biden Win to Mean a Return to “Brunch Liberalism”
Marianne Williamson on America’s “Cults of Madness”
Marianne Williamson on the Movement for a People’s Party
Marianne Williamson: Quote of the Day – September 4, 2020
Eight Leading Progressive Voices on Why They’re Voting for Biden
“We Have an Emergency On Our Hands”: Marianne Williamson On the “Freefall” of American Democracy
Marianne Williamson: Quote of the Day – June 2, 2020
Deep Gratitude
Marianne Williamson on the Contest Being Played Out by Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders
“It's Time to Take a Stand”: Marianne Williamson Endorses Bernie Sanders for President
“I Learned So Much From the Experience”: Marianne Williamson on Her Presidential Bid
“A Beautiful Message, So Full of Greatness”
Marianne Williamson and the Power of Politicized Love
Marianne Williamson: “Anything That Will Help People Thrive, I’m Interested In”
The Relevance and Vitality of Marianne Williamson’s 2020 Presidential Campaign
Caitlin Johnstone: “Status Quo Politicians Are Infinitely ‘Weirder’ Than Marianne Williamson”
Presidential Candidate Marianne Williamson: “We’re Living at a Critical Moment in Our Democracy”
“A Lefty With Soul”: Why Presidential Candidate Marianne Williamson Deserves Some Serious Attention
Marianne Williamson: Reaching for Higher Ground
Why Marianne Williamson Is a Serious and Credible Presidential Candidate
Talkin’ ’Bout An Evolution: Marianne Williamson’s Presidential Bid

For more on neoliberalism, see:
Will Democrats Never Learn?
Cornel West: Quote of the Day – December 3, 2020
Ben Ehrenreich on the Global Uprisings Against Neoliberalism
Sarah Jones: Quote of the Day – October 30, 2019
The Neoliberal Economic Doctrine: A View From Australia
Carrying It On
Hope, History and Bernie Sanders

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Quote of the Day

Since mutual mistrust lies at the heart of any security dilemma,* the [Ukraine/Russia/NATO] situation is further complicated when any of the parties is seen to act in bad faith. Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently admitted that Western leaders had no intention of enforcing Ukraine’s compliance with the terms of the Minsk II agreement in 2015, and only agreed to it to buy time to build up Ukraine militarily.

The breakdown of the Minsk II peace agreement and the continuing diplomatic impasse in the larger geopolitical conflict between the U.S., NATO and Russia plunged relations into a deepening crisis and led to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Officials on all sides must have recognized the dynamics of the underlying security dilemma, yet failed to take the necessary diplomatic initiatives to resolve the crisis.

Peaceful, diplomatic alternatives have always been available if the parties chose to pursue them, but they did not. Does that mean that all sides deliberately chose war over peace? They would all deny that.

Yet all sides apparently now see advantages in a prolonged conflict, despite the relentless daily slaughter, dreadful and deteriorating conditions for millions of civilians, and the unthinkable dangers of full-scale war between NATO and Russia. All sides have convinced themselves they can or must win this war, and so keep escalating it, along with all its impacts and the risks that it will spin out of control.

President Biden came to office promising a new era of American diplomacy, but has instead led the U.S. and the world nearly to the brink of World War III.

Clearly, the only solution to a security dilemma like this is a ceasefire and a peace agreement to stop the carnage, followed by the kind of diplomacy that took place between the U.S. and the Soviet Union in the decades that followed the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, which led to the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963 and successive arms control treaties. Former UN official Alfred de Zayas has also called for UN-administered referenda to determine the wishes of the people of Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk.

It is not an endorsement of an adversary’s conduct or position to negotiate a path to peaceful coexistence. We are witnessing the absolutist alternative in Ukraine today. There is no moral high ground in relentless, open-ended mass slaughter that is managed, directed and in fact perpetrated by people in smart suits and military uniforms in imperial capitals thousands of miles from the crashing of shells, the cries of the wounded and the stench of death.

If proposals for peace talks are to be more than PR exercises, they must be grounded in an understanding of the security needs of all sides, and a willingness to compromise to see that those needs are met and that all the underlying conflicts are addressed.

Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J.S. Davies
Excerpted from “Ukraine Crisis Is a Classic ‘Security Dilemma’
– and It’s Urgent We Find a Solution

December 28, 2022

* Benjamin and Davies define a “security dilemma” as “a situation in which countries on each side take actions for their own defense that countries on the other side then see as a threat.”

They go on to say:

Since offensive and defensive weapons and forces are often indistinguishable, one side’s defensive build-up can easily be seen as an offensive build-up by the other side. As each side responds to the actions of the other, the net result is a spiral of militarization and escalation, even though both sides insist, and may even believe, that their own actions are defensive.

In the case of Ukraine, this has happened on different levels, both between Russia and national and regional governments in Ukraine, but also on a larger geopolitical scale between Russia, the United States and NATO.

NEXT: Reed Brody: Quote of the Day
– February 6, 2023

Related Off-site Links:
A Blueprint for Peace in Ukraine – Alfred De Zayas (CounterPunch, December 20, 2022).
We’ve Reached Peak Zelensky. Now What? – Robert Freeman (Common Dreams, December 28, 2022).
West Prepares to Plunder Post-war Ukraine With Neoliberal Shock Therapy: Privatization, Deregulation, Slashing Worker Protections – Jake Kallio and Ben Norton (Geopolitical Economy Report, July 28, 2022).
The Missing Piece About Putin and Ukraine – J.D. Warren (UC Riverside News, March 9, 2022).
The 2014 Coup in UkraineWorld Socialist Web Site.

UPDATES: Can NATO and the Pentagon Find a Diplomatic Off-Ramp in Ukraine? – Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J.S. Davies (Common Dreams, January 3, 2023).
Ukraine’s Zelensky Sends Love Letter to U.S. Corporations, Promising “Big Business” for Wall Street – Ben Norton (Geopolitical Economy Report, January 25, 2023).

For more on the crisis involving Ukraine, Russia, NATO and the U.S., see the following Wild Reed posts:
A “Post-Cold War Train Wreck Long In the Making”
Yanis Varoufakis: Quote of the Day – February 24, 2022
A Prayer for Ukraine
Jeff Cohen: Quote of the Day – February 28, 2022
Something to Think About – March 4, 2022
William Hartung: Quote of the Day – May 24, 2022
Phyllis Bennis On the Need For a Ceasefire in Ukraine
“Our Anti-Imperialism Must Be Consistent”

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Norman Solomon’s “Objective Look at U.S. Foreign Policy”
Marianne Williamson: Quote of the Day – November 11, 2021
Rallying to End U.S. Militarism
Cultivating Peace

Image: Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin. (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

“Our Knowledge of Others Is Always Partial”: Garth Greenwell on the Morality of Fiction

I can’t remember how I recently came across To a Green Thought, the substack of novelist, poet, literary critic, and educator Garth Greenwell, but I’m sure glad I did. He is an exceptional writer – insightful, erudite, humorous.

Greenwell’s latest pieces in entitled “I Hated The Hours (et d’autres tristesses),” in which he muses on “the morality of fiction, writing like a pianist, and freedom in art.” Following are excerpts relating to the “morality of fiction” part, the one I found most compelling.


I’m not sure [that “aestheticizing a quagmire”] is . . . what great novels do. Please don’t quiz me on this – it’s been a few years since I read it – but I’m not sure that Anna Karenina, say, forces me to permanently suspend judgment and hold everyone blameless. I don’t think that’s true of any of the books I love, which actually I think are constantly inviting me to exercise my judgment. But they also constantly remind me that human beings are not monovalent, that no judgment can be final, that any life is more ample than any judgment I could draw. That’s what annoys us, I think, in our age of ideological bubbles, of blocking and ostracization: the insistence that judgment does not exhaust our knowledge of a person; or rather, to put it more strongly, that judgment does not exhaust our duty to know a person.

To be sure, there are situations whose moral valence is clear: there are crimes, and there should be punishments. But if that’s all you want to know about a situation – that there’s a villain and they should be punished – then I don’t think we need art to think about it. This was part of my annoyance with Tár, which I really don’t want to write about very much, since I think it’s best forgotten. But that’s an example of a film that always already knows the answer, in which everyone is held up for our derision and condemnation, in which dumb horror-movie atmospherics (which never add up to anything or lead anywhere) try to fill up the void where characters should be. There’s no complexity: Tár is a monster from the start, threatening schoolchildren and tyrannizing her family, not to mention talking about music in the dumbest, most cartoonish way possible; and her victims are nothing but victims. (The most interesting character in the film is Tár’s assistant, whose story it should have been: she adores Tár and hates her, is betrayed by her and engineers her destruction. Make that movie, you cowards.) Anyway, I didn’t need a movie about Tár, or not this movie, since it doesn’t convincingly portray her brilliance or her hungers, or even, with any depth or penetration, her cruelty. For the story the movie apparently wants to tell, an article in the Times would have been plenty. I want more from a novel or a film: call it a moral quagmire if you want, or call it depthlessness, an awareness that our knowledge of others is always partial; an awareness that the value of others’ lives is not exhausted by their bad acts, that such value can never be exhausted. This doesn’t mean permanently suspending judgment, or suggesting that “nobody is at fault”; it means seeing that no one is reducible to fault.

. . . [S]ome people might argue that art is nothing but manipulation: that all art intends for us to have an emotional response, and performs certain maneuvers to elicit it. I guess I just don’t think this is true, finally; good art doesn’t treat us like mechanisms. This is something mysterious to me, the way that great art refrains from dictating our response, the way it respects our freedom – presenting us with something too complex to coerce an uncomplicated response. The greatest art, I sometimes think, has a kind of terrifying, sublime indifference to our response. I feel this about certain poems by Bishop or Geoffrey Hill, say. This isn’t coldness or a rejection of emotion; it’s emotion profoundly felt, emotion that has wrestled with itself.

Or maybe that’s not quite right. Maybe it’s emotion in which something is genuinely at risk. In the great operas, which so often are all about flooding us with emotion – Tristan, or the Inquisitor scene in Don Carlo, or Grimes’s madness – there’s a danger, a wildness, a teetering up to the abyss, that has something in it beyond manipulation because there is something in it beyond control. Call it the duende, maybe.

To read Garth Greenwell’s “I Hated The Hours (et d’autres tristesses)” in its entirety, click here.

Related Off-site Links:
Garth Greenwell’s Official Website.
Review: Garth Greenwell’s Cleanness Thrums With Life’s Questions – Nellie Hermann (Los Angeles Times, January 10, 2020).
James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room: An Antidote to Shame – Garth Greenwell (The Guardian, November 19, 2016).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Distinguished Rhone Fraser: Cultural Critic, Bibliophile, and Dramatist
Yahia Lababidi: “Poetry Is How We Pray Now”
Boseman on Wilson
James Baldwin’s Potent Interweavings of Race, Homoeroticism, and the Spiritual
Austen and Australia
Return of the (Cornish) Native
On Brokeback Mountain: Remembering Queer Lives and Loves Never Fully Realized
Passion, Tide and Time
As the Last Walls Dissolve . . . Everything is Possible
E. M. Forster’s “Elusive Ideal”
Love at Love’s Brightest
Don Gorton on the Significance of Maurice (Part I)
Don Gorton on the Significance of Maurice (Part II)
Conversing and Arguing with the Theology of Philip Pullman
At Swim, Two Boys: A Beautiful Novel
My Travels With Doris
Tariq Ali Discusses Rudyard Kipling
John le Carré’s Dark Suspicions

Image: Oriette D’Angelo.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

The Christmas Miracle

Writes Marianne Williamson . . .

Christmas heralds the salvation of humanity through our ability to love one another. It is not through simply believing in Jesus but rather through following his example that this miracle will come to pass. His birth is not only a miracle that happened two thousand years ago; it is a miracle that happens in each of us in any moment when we choose love instead of fear.

. . . Being a “believer” in Jesus of itself means little, while being a “disciple” of Jesus is infinitely transformative. The words “disciple” and “discipline” come from the some root, and to be his disciple means to discipline ourselves to think and to love like he does. There is a line in A Course in Miracles where it says that his way isn’t difficult, it’s just different. I find that to be true time and time again as I admonish myself, “It’s not that hard to be kinder, more charitable, more generous, more forgiving, Marianne – it’s just that the world has trained you to think differently.” What’s hard at times is getting over my resistance to doing it. Miracles are a choice. Surrendering our defensiveness, our fear, our belief in limitations, our judgments, our obsession with past and future, our attack thoughts, our lack of forgiveness – the rigor needed for the effort is an effort that spans a lifetime.

According to A Course in Miracles, “light means understanding:” an understanding of who we really are, which is love itself, and why we are here, which is to love one another. Truly it can be said that humanity today does not understand. We have fallen asleep to who we are and we have forgotten why we are here. The Course points out that in the Bible it says Adam fell asleep and nowhere does it say that he woke up.

Yet it also says that while there has been no mass awakening, it is time for one. In fact we will awaken or our nightmares will overwhelm us. From climate change to war, from poverty to all manner of injustice, the problems of the world were not made by God, they were made by us. And clearly it will take more than a new law, a new institution, or a new logical conclusion to unmake those things. It will take a change in us, an awakening in our hearts.

Marianne Williamson
Excerpted from "The Arrival of Light
and the Peace It Portends
December 19, 2022

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Christmas for Mystics
How the Light Comes
Honoring the Darkness While Remembering the Light
Christmas 2020: A Time of Loss and Grief, Gratitude and Hope
The Joy of Christmas (2019)
Christmas 2018 – Reflections and Celebrations
Christmas in America, 2018
Something to Think About – December 25, 2018
Christmas 2017 – Reflections and Celebrations
No Room for Them
Getting Into the Holiday Spirit
Christmas 2016 – Reflections and Celebrations
Something to Think About – December 25, 2016
The Magi and Our Journey to God
Christmas 2015 – Reflections and Celebrations
Our Story Too
Christmas 2014 – Reflections and Celebrations
Christmastide Approaches (2013)
Celebrating the Coming of the Sun and the Son
The Christmas Tree as Icon, Inviting Us to Contemplate the “One Holy Circle” of Both Dark and Light
Something to Cherish (2012)
Christmas in Australia (2010)
John Dear on Celebrating the Birth of the Nonviolent Jesus
A Bush Christmas (2009)
Clarity and Hope: A Christmas Reflection (2007)

Image: Michael J. Bayly.

Christmas Dawns

NEXT: The Christmas Miracle

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Skylight View of the Buck Moon
Photo of the Day – January 23, 2022
Photo of the Day – January 5, 2022
Photo of the Day – December 17, 2019
Brigit Anna McNeill on “Winter’s Way”
Winter Beauty
Winter Light
Winter . . . Within and Beyond (2020)
Winter . . . Within and Beyond (2019)
Winter . . . Within and Beyond (2017)
Guruk Sunrise
Guruk Seascapes: From Dawn to Dusk

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

“Our Anti-Imperialism Must Be Consistent”

I have self-identifying progressive friends who are so focused on being critical of U.S. foreign policy and its detrimental effects on other countries that they don’t seem able to cast this same critical eye onto other nations that engage in similar imperialistic behavior. In particular, I’m thinking of the actions of the authoritarian governments of Iran and Russia.

For these particular friends of mine, the U.S. government is the one and only “enemy.” Accordingly, they have uncritically taken to heart the adage, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” It’s insane, I know.

I, on the other hand, take to heart the wise words of Dr. Cornel West: “I stand on the highest moral ground I can gain access to, which is in opposition to imperialism – be it China, be it India, be it America, be it Britain, be it France, be it Russia. Across the board, our anti-imperialism must be consistent.” Amen, brother! (For a good definition of imperialism and how it is different from yet related to colonialism, see the image below.)

Dr. West shared his perspective on anti-imperialism earlier today, when part of a round-table discussion on the daily independent news hour, Democracy Now! He and others were discussing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s one-day visit to Washington, D.C., where he called on the Biden administration and lawmakers to provide more military and financial aid to Ukraine in its fight against Russia. It’s been just over ten months since Russian leader Vladimir Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine.

Dr. West is one of over 1,000 faith leaders in the U.S. calling for a Christmas truce in Ukraine. He was joined on this morning broadcast of Democracy Now! by Reverend Graylan Scott Hagler, senior adviser to the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and peace activist Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CodePink. Following is part of what Dr. West and Medea Benjamin had to say.


I would hope we accent both the American empire, that set the context for this situation with the expansion of NATO and pushing the gangster Putin with his wounded Russian empire against the wall, and [Putin’s] wrong, illegal and immoral invasion and occupation of our precious Ukrainian brothers and sisters. . . . We have to be willing to have a moral witness that keeps track of the organized greed, the routinized hatred, the manipulated fear and the chronic hypocrisy of [both] the wounded Russian empire and the American empire. [The latter] has 800 military [bases] around the world and doesn’t want to be honest about its own role. We know that if there were missiles in Canada or Mexico or Venezuela or Cuba, the U.S. military would blow them to smithereens. So we have no moral authority when it comes to dealing with the gangster activity of Putin. We have American gangster activity in our military-industrial complex tied to the White House. . . . I stand on the highest moral ground I can gain access to, which is in opposition to imperialism – be it China, be it India, be it America, be it Britain, be it France, be it Russia. Across the board, our anti-imperialism must be consistent.

There is no trust on any side at this point. But there is a need for negotiations. Both sides have staked out their positions, maximalist positions on each side – Zelensky now saying they want every inch of Donbas and all of Crimea back, and the Russians saying they now control and own these four regions of Ukraine that they can’t even control on the battlefield. But these are positions for negotiations. But the call for negotiations has to come from Biden. And it is not happening. We see that after he met with Macron, the head of France, Macron said there are legitimate security interests of Russia that have to be taken into account. So that all has to be dealt with at the peace table. And so, what we are saying with this Christmas truce call is let’s be realistic with the American people. We keep pouring more money [into this war] – another $45 billion will be approved by the end of this week. That’s over $100 billion, without a year going by, that could have been used for so many essential needs here in this country, and instead poured into a war that is not winnable on the battlefield. So, we need to be honest about this. . . . The U.S., unfortunately, and the Biden administration, has been against negotiations, nixed the negotiations that were going on in late March, early April, and told the Ukrainians, basically, “You don’t have to negotiate, because we’re going to keep pouring more weapons in.” This is only helping the weapons companies, who actually were the sponsors of a reception at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, D.C., on December 8th, brought to you by Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon. They are the ones who are getting rich in this. The Ukrainians are suffering. The whole world is suffering from this. And we have to get Congress – all of Congress – to recognize this is not in the best interest of the American people or of the entire world.

Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J.S. Davies:
Quote of the Day – December 28, 2022

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A “Post-Cold War Train Wreck Long In the Making”
Yanis Varoufakis: Quote of the Day – February 24, 2022
A Prayer for Ukraine
Jeff Cohen: Quote of the Day – February 28, 2022
Something to Think About – March 4, 2022
William Hartung: Quote of the Day – May 24, 2022
Phyllis Bennis On the Need For a Ceasefire in Ukraine

For more of Cornel West at The Wild Reed, see:
Cornel West on Responding to the “Spiritual Decay That Cuts Across the Board”
Cornel West on the Legacy of James Baldwin
“Of Course America Is Racist”
“Two of the Most Dedicated and Enlightened Heroes of Present Day America”
Cornel West: Quote of the Day – December 3, 2020
Eight Leading Progressive Voices on Why They’re Voting for Biden
Progressives and Obama
Progressive Perspectives on the Election of Donald Trump
Rocking the Cradle of Power

For more of Medea Benjamin at The Wild Reed, see:
Out and About – August 2008
Progressive Perspectives on U.S. Military Intervention in Syria
Progressives and Obama

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Solstice Storm

Related Off-site Links:
Solstice Storm: Bitter Cold, Snow and High WindsMinnesota Public Radio News (December 21, 2022).
Blizzard Warning Expands; -25F or Worse Wind Chill to Last Days – Joe Nelson (Bring Me the News, December 21, 2022).
Best and Worst Times to Drive Wednesday-Saturday in Minnesota – Sven Sundgaard (Bring Me the News, December 20, 2022).
Wild Winter Weather Brings Drastic Temperature Drops Within Minutes Across the U.S. – Giulia Heyward and Jaclyn Diaz (NPR News, December 22, 2022).

UPDATES: A Massive Winter Storm Is Sweeping Across the U.S., Making Holiday Travel Dangerous – Becky Sullivan (NPR News, December 22, 2022).
Here’s How to Best Prepare for Winter Driving – and What to Keep in Your Car – Jaclyn Diaz (NPR News via MPR News, December 22, 2022).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Blizzard of Epic Proportions (2020)
December’s Snowy Start (2018)
The Spring Blizzard of 2018
Winter Beauty (2017)
Winter Storm (2016)
Winter’s Return (2014)
A Winter Walk Along Minnehaha Creek (2013)
Winter Storm (2012)
First Snowfall (2010)
Winter Arrives! (2009)
A Snowy December – With An Aussie Connection (2007)
Brigit Anna McNeill on “Winter’s Way”
Brigit Anna McNeill on Hearing the Wild and Natural Call to Go Inwards
Winter Light
That Quality of Awe
Out and About – Winter 2020-2021
Out and About – Winter 2019-2020
Winter . . . Within and Beyond (2020)
Winter . . . Within and Beyond (2019)
Winter . . . Within and Beyond (2017)
Solstice Eve: Honoring the Darkness While Remembering the Light
Winter Solstice Blessing
Brigit Anna McNeill on the Meaning of Winter Solstice Time
To Dream, to Feel, to Listen
Reclaiming the “Hour of God”
Celebrating the Coming of the Sun and the Son

Image: Michael J. Bayly.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Honoring the Darkness While Remembering the Light

On this winter solstice eve of 2022, I finally put up my Christmas tree!

I’ve previously written of how we can think of the Christmas tree as an icon, one that invites us to contemplate, in the words of Jokhim Meikle, the “one Holy Circle” of both dark and light.

And so along with pictures of my glittery little tree, I share this evening words, images, and music that seek to recognize and honor darkness, something that’s often maligned, even demonized by many religious traditions. Personally, I prefer to use the word “bleakness” instead of “darkness” when referring to negative situations and moods. I do this as I recognize the wisdom in Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney’s invitation to “learn to talk about brokenness in the world without reducing evil to darkness and goodness to light.”

In their different ways, all of the following have helped inspire and guide me in such learning.


The Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, [is almost here]. [Beyond it comes] the birth of a new year. This is a potent time for honoring the darkness that surrounds us, seeking the wisdom it holds, and creating space for light that is making its way into being.

Darkness brings an opportunity to live more deeply in every moment. In meditation, we close our eyes to limit the distraction from the outside world. When we are visited by grief, sadness, and despair, that kind of darkness seems to envelope everything around us. And yet, when we try to escape it, the darkness burrows its way deeper into our hearts.

The question then becomes: How do we honor the darkness while remembering the light?

Darkness is a time for release. We can unburden ourselves of the tethers we no longer wish to be bound by. We can sit with whatever emotions are living within us, feeling their depths and their contours, honoring their power. And then we can release the stories we have built around them that create the architecture that keep them anchored to us.

When we are complete with the honoring of the dark, we can begin to let in the light.

Light a single candle and let the flickering flame envelope your awareness. Begin to dream of what you want to spark the light for in your life. Let the intentions you hold in your heart begin to make their way into the light.

With the power of the cycles of nature surrounding us at this time, our intentions become amplified. Feel the fanning of the flames of your deepest desires and let yourself know the truth of what you are moving toward.

Write down your intentions for this next cycle, the places you will live into with all of your heart. Revisit these writings daily, and remember the sensations you felt while writing them down, the deep knowing that inhabited all of you.

As you go through your days, notice what you are bringing into the light of your awareness, what you are igniting with your attention. Ask yourself if that is what you want to be moving towards. If it is, keep moving towards it; if not, redirect your focus so that with each moment you are moving towards the light that was born from the seed of stillness in the dark.

May we all know how to harness the power of the dark, and move more powerfully toward the light.

It’s unfortunate that we continue to regard darkness as evil when there is nothing scientific or cultural to support the assumption. This belief is often reinforced by religious symbols and texts that emphasize the blessedness of light and the demonic potential of darkness.

Harboring such negativity makes it more difficult to embrace our darker neighbors in the world community.

. . . In the beginning, there is darkness. It is the womb out of which we are born, a genesis space for light and nurture and creativity.

A bird flew by
Sang a melody that made me cry
Turned to dry my eyes
He flew away
Tried to hide
Everybody needs to be alone
Gotta get to know
The dark side of their soul

Ain’t it strange
Morning wakes you to find something changed
In a stranger’s shoes
Nothing seems to fit
All my friends
They seem to handle everything so well
You can’t even tell
They have a dark side to their soul

You’ll never know
That you are strong
Till something makes you fight
If you never know the darker side
You’ll never see the light
Of your soul

Ain’t it strange
Some people never see the light come through
If it’s there for you
Don’t let it hide
It will wait for you
Any morning make your dreams come true
Don’t you be afraid
To know the dark side of your soul

You’ll never know
That you are strong
Till something makes you fight
If you never know the darker side
You’ll never see the light
Of your soul

Little bird flew by
Made me cry

– “Dark Side of Your Soul
by Kiki Dee
(from her 1979 album Stay With Me Baby)

Darkness is not bad. We’re made, not just for light, but for darkness, too. Incredible miracles happen in darkness. In our deep-down being we know darkness well. We began in darkness when we were knit together in our mother's womb. We welcome darkness at the end of day so we can fall into the darkness of sleep. Darkness is the inward place.

Beginnings are always dark. The most creative works we ever do are conceived in darkness. . . . Mystics speak of holy encounters as dark light, the “cloud of unknowing.”

My blackness is radiant, luminous and will not and does not need to be made white as snow. The blood of Jesus will not make me white. We must learn to talk about brokenness in the world without reducing evil to darkness and goodness to light. Blackness is God’s good gift.

Today I’ll sing you a black song
You need to hear about beautiful black things ’cause
Most time we hear about black,
We hear about black magic and black witches
Black list, black book, black market
Black Friday, ya spend off your black riches

. . . They never told us that black is beautiful
They never told us, black is beauty
They never told us that black is beautiful
They never told us, they never told us black is beautiful

– From “Black Is Beautiful
by Jamar McNaughton and Stephen David McGregor
(performed by Chronixx)

Related Off-site Links:
Holy Blackness: The Matrix of Creation – Wil Gafney ( (December 1, 2019).
Holy DarknessThe Inner Journey (December 17, 2018).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Sweet Darkness
Dark Matter: “An Intriguing Aspect of the Universe”
Photo of the Day, 5/3/2015: “Black Is Sacred”
“And Still We Rise!” – Mayday 2015 (Part I)
“And Still We Rise!” – Mayday 2015 (Part II)
God’s Good Gift
Winter Solstice Blessing
Brigit Anna McNeill on the Meaning of Winter Solstice Time
To Dream, to Feel, to Listen
Reclaiming the “Hour of God”
Celebrating the Coming of the Sun and the Son
Advent: A “ChristoPagan” Perspective
Advent: The Season of Blessed Paradox
Something to Cherish
The Christmas Tree as Icon, Inviting Us to Contemplate the “One Holy Circle” of Both Dark and Light
Christmastide Approaches

Images: Michael J. Bayly.