Our Purpose

Limits to Growth
Anua22a / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

We take care of ourselves, our families, our communities, our nation, all humanity, and the planet in order to take care of Life itself. Each arena is equally important. To promote the common good of the Earth Community, we need to work in each simultaneously. We need to love ourselves, others, and Life at the same time.

If we neglect one arena, we become unbalanced, less than whole, with a hole in our soul. If we forget why we do what we do, we lose meaning.

It’s not a question of what comes first. We cannot change ourselves without changing the world, and we cannot change the world without changing ourselves. We need to do both at the same time, while avoiding both selfishness and self-sacrifice. Being selfless involves less self, not the denial of self.

Life seeks to survive and evolve. Our calling is to contribute to human evolution.

ABC of Life

ABC of LifeA sculpture by Stephen Schlanser. Text by Evelin Hyde.
Each line begins with a letter of the alphabet.

ACHIEVE HAPPINESS
BELIEVE IN HUMANITY
CELEBRATE LIFE
DISCOVER THE MOMENT
EMBRACE DIVERSITY
FIND LOVE
GIVE UNCONDITIONALLY
HAVE PATIENCE
INSPIRE OTHERS
JUDGE NO ONE
KEEP GOALS
LAUGH OFTEN
MANAGE ANGER
NOTICE MODESTY
OFFER UNDERSTANDING
PLAY FOR FUN
QUESTION EVERYTHING
REALIZE DREAMS
SPEAK TRUTH
TRUST YOURSELF
UNDERSTAND DIFFERENCES
VISUALIZE PEACE
WAKEN CURIOSITY
XXXOOO
YEARN FOR PROGRESS
ZEALOUSLY LIVE LIFE

Found in the office of Rebecca Crabb, Ph. D. 

Today is Not Adequate: A Sermon by Dr. Dorsey Blake

Following is the text of the sermon presented by Dr. Dorsey Blake at the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples on February 15. 2015. To hear audio of other, more recent Fellowship Church services, click here.

+++++

DSC02030Today is not adequate if we are to create a future.  Today with all of its affirmation of who we are, its stability and familiarity, its grounding, is not sufficient for what must become, the future that must be.  There must be in today a sense of beyondness, a sense of seeing beyond the present circumstances.  It is the impulse in the Black Lives Matter movement and other movements that moves beyond staying in today’s outrage and thereby consuming the self to incorporating an element of hope that what ought to be can be (The definition of faith by Harry Emerson Fosdick).  Without this element we will not create and embrace the fortitude needed for a new heaven and new earth, to use the language of John exiled on the isle of Patmos.

Freedom always entails a sense of beyondness.  No, we have not overcome; but, we shall overcome someday.  It is this dimension of the soul that allows one to deal with the vicissitudes, the pain, the  problems, the heartbreaks, the violence, the shootings, the corruption with Dr. Thurman’s understanding that the oppressions, the disappointments, the betrayals, the fear, hypocrisy, and hatred that enshroud one’s life are neither final nor ultimate.  For example, we hear these words in Charles Tindley’s wonderful song:

Beams of heaven as I go,
through the wilderness below,
guide my feet in peaceful ways,
turn my midnights into days.

When in the darkness I would grope,
faith always sees a star of hope,
and soon from all life’s grief and danger
I shall be free someday.

I do not know how long ’twill be,
nor what the future holds for me,
but this I know: if Jesus leads me,
I shall get home someday.

Listen to the words, I shall be free someday. I shall get home someday. Many people considered this and other songs like as other worldly.  And, felt that they guided people into accepting their struggles without struggling to overcome them.  But, when you realize that this was one of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s favorite songs, you know that isn’t true.  It was not otherworldly for him. There is a presence beyond the earthly, beyond today, that infuses the spirit with an unshakeable confidence in the sojourn ahead. It says that the empire’s timetable is not God’s timetable.  There is a dimension of human existence that is beyond the manipulations of those in power who seek to continue oppressing the people of God, all people.  It is this dimension that is embedded in the nonviolent struggle, that the victory may not come today, or even in one’s lifetime, but it shall come, if the people of God trust God enough with their lives, their God-given talents to press on to a higher calling, to higher Ground.

Remember in Dr. King’s last speech, he assured us that we would get to the Promised Land even though he may not get there with us.  And, he did not get there with us.  And we have not gotten there yet. For a nation threatened by his vision and commitment to the beloved community, to eradicating poverty, to studying war no more, understood his anti-imperialist incarnation and caused the blood to cease to run in his veins as it poured upon the concrete at the Lorraine Motel, April 4, 1968.  But, he will get there with us when we get to that Promised Land; for his blood will never lose its power to help us overcome our fear, and will gird our loins, minds, hearts, spirits as we continue the march up to freedom land.

He knew and embodied the understanding that as Audre Lourde said so beautifully that the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.

This past week many of the most progressive Black religious leaders in the nation gathered in Norfolk, VA, for the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference.  Young people and older people, men and women addressed the conference addressing the theme:  Reclaiming Our Moral Authority:  Faith and Justice in the Age of Reinvented Empire.

That is not the master’s tool, moral authority. False claims to moral authority yes, those are tools of the Empire, but not moral authority.  You may recall that I have shared from this pulpit that in my junior year of college, Dr. King, spoke in Sayles Hall at Brown University.  Afterword, he was asked in a press conference about the idea that was going around about his running as Vice-President on a Presidential ticket with Robert Kennedy.  He responded by saying that he would never do such because he saw himself not as a politician but as the moral voice of the nation.

Dr. Samuel DeWitt Proctor was a friend and mentor of Dr. King who wrote a book entitled:  My Moral Odyssey.  I was so pleased that the conference honoring his life honored the centrality of morality in its conference.  I’m not talking about the phony morality that some, including religious, leaders use to talk about private morality such as drinking, smoking, dancing, premarital sex.  No, the folks at the conference talked about our moral responsibility to address the empire on behalf of the discarded ones, dispossessed, the locked out members of our society.  It did say that we have to be careful that our lives reflect the kind of society we want to see. There is an extensive internal examination that we have to make sure that we are living up to the values, the morality, that we project upon society.

It reaffirmed nonviolence as the moral way to create a moral society.  Violence was the master’s tool.   Nonviolence was a higher order.  It supports the idea that what is moral is that which elevates human personality and dignity.  And, what is immoral is that which degrades human personality and dignity. King stated that the ultimate goal of nonviolence was to understand that the destiny of all, white,  Black, whatever, is tied together, that is, to reclaim our walk together as one people.  He said that now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of what we called brotherhood.

The beyond dimension was there because it was clear that violence only perpetuated violence, creating an unending cycle of violence.  It, violence, could perhaps win some skirmishes but not win the heart of the people and the nation.  And winning the hearts, possessing the souls of people was absolutely necessary for the creation of that beloved community, the modern expression of the reign of Kingdom of God ideal.

One idea paramount at the conference was that we buy into the protocols and practices of the empire daily.  And, we need to examine ourselves and our duplicity and complicity with the empire and imperial practices if we are to be leaders of the people, leading them into this space of beyondness essential to the creation of the New Heaven and Earth.  which is our purpose for living. These are my words and concepts with which some at the conference may disagree. The empire understands violence. It will squash violence. But nonviolence is a new concept. They don’t know what’s going on. They cannot understand people going to jail. And that is what nonviolence does. It gives people time to do something before the empire catches on to what they are doing, allowing time for victories.

John exiled on the isle of Patmos envisions a way forward, a future beyond space, time, circumstance freed from present notions.  That is what beyond entails.  It is not a place but a consciousness, understanding, a vision that lifts us from our fallenness, not an original fallenness, but one in which we have been victimized by empire, victimized so thoroughly, so completely that we feel impotent to be the people we are called to be and create the future that needs to be.

“Behold, I saw a new heaven and a new earth” the writer of the Biblical book of Revelation wrote. And of John Dr.Thurman said: Very daring words they are and it is important for us to recognize that these words came out of a background of struggle and pain and tragedy and persecution.  They testify to the fact that there is something about the human spirit that is able to project itself out of any dilemma which may be facing it, and to act as if the dilemma has been resolved.

Let us remember the necessity of this beyond dimension as we move forward, asserting in no uncertain terms that Black lives do matter, that all lives do matter, that life itself matters.

When the writer of Revelation dreams, he says that he sees a new heaven and a new earth.  If heaven is where God dwells, and there is a new heaven, what does that mean?  Is the seer saying that God moves out more and more in creative exploration, that before there can be a new earth, a new Ferguson, a new New York, a new Santa Rosa, there must be a new heaven, a new way of thinking, of being, a new consciousness?

A new earth — we talk about it! One world (United Nations) we talk about it! We try to get sufficient dynamic, sufficient conception, sufficient insight, from an old heaven, an old dogma, old theological discipline, to provide power, insight, guidance, strength, substance for a new world.  And, we can’t do it.

Victor Hugo comments in Les Miserables “We often deny by our way of attaining the goal the meaning of the goal.  We strive for an ideal tomorrow by borrowing as the process of attaining it from the falsehood of yesterday.   We do not put our faith in the irresistible and incorruptible strength of our principles until after we have made ourselves secure on the world’s past falsehoods.”

But a new heaven! The dream of a new heaven, with all that that implies, works over the stubborn and often unyielding stuff of the old earth until at last out of the very heart throb of the new heaven is born the new earth.

There can be no greater hope, no greater stirring of the mind and the spirit, as we face going forth into the future with all of its withering disillusions and its grounded despair than that we are visited by the glory of a new heaven.

Wherever we are, however we are functioning, whatever responsibilities are ours — if we capture the mood, the spirit, the intensity of a new heaven to steady us and to strengthen us, we shall walk though the “crud” of the earth in preparation for a new earth — a new earth which will be the heritage of little babies and little puppies and little kittens yet to come.  What a wonderful thing to make that kind of demand upon today and tomorrow!

Behold there shall be a new heaven and a new earth, because the new heaven is already born in the heart and the spirit and the life of anyone anywhere who has made the great and central surrender to God, replacing “hands up I can’t breathe”  with:

1.      Breathe on me, Breath of God, fill me with life anew, that I may love what thou dost love, and do what thou wouldst do.

2.      Breathe on me, Breath of God,  until my heart is pure, until with thee I will one will, to do and to endure.

3.      Breathe on me, Breath of God,  till I am wholly thine, till all this earthly part of me glows with thy fire divine.

4.      Breathe on me, Breath of God, so shall I never die, but live with thee the perfect life of thine eternity.

 

 

 

Cultivating My Home

DSC02380Organizing the Western Park Residents’ Association has been rewarding and time-consuming. It’s interfered with writing, but since I expect to live here the rest of my life, I might as well make the best of it.

My 200 elderly neighbors are a rich and diverse collection of talented characters. Many are rather quirky, but never having been normal myself, I fit in.

Recently rehabilitated, our affordable housing complex is like new. With one 12-story tower and three multi-unit “cottages,” we have a small library, activities room, laundry room, roof-top garden, well-equipped exercise room, meeting room, computer room, and a large multi-purpose room with a ping-pong table, flat screen TV, and public address system.

From my one-bedroom apartment (see photos), my view stretches from Mt. Tam to Twin Peaks.DSC02381

Situated on the edge of the historic Fillmore District, two blocks from Japantown, and six blocks from Robert Redford’s Kabuki Sundance Cinema (with reserved seating!), the location is convenient. The bus at the corner goes directly to BART, which travels to the East Bay.

I knew I wanted to live here when twenty years ago I visited a resident, Bob Forsberg, a fellow member of the Campaign to Abolish Poverty. As I approached sixty, I dropped by once a year to try to get on the waiting list, but it was always closed. Then one day the staff took my number and within a year, almost four years ago, I moved in.

Since the building is owned by a church-related non-profit, my partially subsidized rent is only $971 per month (which is low for San Francisco!). When I get to the top of the Section 8 waiting list in several years, my rent will be even less, one-third of my income.

At that point, I’ll probably stop driving taxi. Though I may then have to become even more frugal, it seems I’ll still be able to live comfortably and maybe even spend $2-3,000 a year to travel, including trips abroad. To have more time for my community work, until now I haven’t worked for money enough to save for my retirement. So I feel fortunate I will be able to sell my taxi medallion, have landed in a great home, and have a good retirement plan.

When I moved in, the Residents Council was small and relatively inactive. Then the Council became completely inactive. As the rehab was nearing completion, however, some residents called a meeting to kickstart the Council. About fifteen people, including me, participated.

When I proposed a deliberate, fully informed process for recruiting candidates and conducting an election of officers with a secret ballot, my proposal was accepted and I was recruited to serve as Chair of the Election Committee. Later, when no one else would agree to run as President, I told the committee I would be willing to do so. They responded with spontaneous applause.

Though old-timers predicted a small turnout for our first meeting, more than 40 residents came. Later, more than 60% of the residents voted for the slate of candidates. Those responses were encouraging. We were off and running.

But the owner was bringing on a new executive director, our building only had an interim manager, everyone was recovering from the year-long rehab ordeal, and the new Residents’ Council was finding its feet. These transitions led to ambiguity about how the Council and management would relate to each other. So the Council decided to hold off on meeting during the holidays.

The New Year brought a new, permanent manager with whom the Council has collaborated productively. She has engaged in dialog with residents at our monthly Council meetings and participated in a vibrant Saturday night potluck with 50 residents. We’re solidifying our committees, including a Conflict Resolution committee that will address resident complaints about other residents and management.

The Council recently circulated a 10-question survey to all residents. The 58 responses were interesting and informative. In response to “I would like to participate in a gathering at least once every two months to get to know people on my floor more fully,” the replies were 24 Yes, 12 No, and 22 Not sure. When asked which committee they would like to work with, five respondents said they were interested in the Floor Gatherings committee. (Five also expressed interest in the Welcoming committee).

As an experiment with enriched social interaction, I invited 10 residents (the four-person Executive Committee and seven other active Council members) to a Saturday morning brunch in my apartment. After eating, we went around the circle and everyone told their story, including their current interests, using a timer to limit the responses to five minutes. All of the participants seemed to really enjoy it.

Also interesting is that when asked if the Council may let other residents know “if and when I am hospitalized,” the responses were about equally divided between Yes, No, and Not Sure.

Where all this goes in the future remains to be seen. But the prospects are promising and I’m enjoying the challenge.

Google Teams

Big Google brother ?
Alain Bachellier / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Whenever one of my taxi passengers mentions that they work with a “team” in their workplace, I inquire about how the team operates. I am particularly interested in whether the team leader is “in charge” and holds the authority to make the final decision. More often than not, that has been the case.

Last night, however, I gave a ride to a high-level Google executive. He said he prefers 6 -8 person teams. Larger teams are more problematic, he said.

The key process with Google is that proponents for proposed changes in Google’s codes present their proposal to others who review and evaluate the proposal, who must approve it. If the reviewer sees a problem, he or she can block the change. Thus, consensus is required.

The head of the teams are called “Tech Leads.” If the Tech Lead has an idea that the other team members do not support, “the Tech Lead loses.”

I find this process remarkably democratic and encouraging.

Brooks, Jobs, and Education

Public Education in Valencia Today
helena_perez_garcia / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

After reading “The Temptation of Hillary” in today’s New York Times, I was about to post a comment on his most ridiculous statement: “If we could close the gap so that high-school-educated people had the skills of college-educated people, that would increase household income by $28,000 per year.”

But then I saw that in the Comments section, the editors’ pick highlighted at the top a comment that first quoted the same sentence and then reflected: “This proposition holds good only if the demand for ‘college-educated-skills’ also increases by the corresponding number in a corresponding time-frame! Is this a reasonable assumption?”

So I just “recommended” that comment and posted a comment on Facebook, which has elicited the following comments:

Justice St. Rain:

More education just increases competition for good jobs. It doesn’t create any. Demand creates jobs, and it takes income at the bottom to create demand. Simple as that. That is why “redistribution” is necessary, no matter what other factors you consider. Money hoarded at the top will never create demand, and without demand the money at the top will never be spent on new investments.

Valerie Winemiller:

And at the cost of a college education, the increase is eaten up in school loan payments for over a decade. So many holes in this argument I can’t start!

The myth of education as the panacea lives on. Alas.

Leonard Roy Frank Memorial

No Man is an Island” — Five minutes of footage featuring Leonard from Richard Cohen:

Ellison Horne’s video of the memorial service:

Also see:

James Welling’s photos.

My eulogy.

The online obituary.

Information about participants in the memorial services.

The University of California at Berkeley took 52 boxes of Leonard’s papers, magazines, tapes, and other materials concerning psychiatry for “The Leonard Roy Frank Papers,” which will be available for researchers at the Bancroft Library on campus.

Long live Leonard!

Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts

NOTE: I have not posted here recently because dealing with Leonard Roy Frank’s death and serving as executor for his estate was exhausting. Now that my life is returning to normal, I hope to post here frequently, often with brief comments about and links to items of interest.

Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts,” an essay in today’s Times, indirectly addresses why I did not want Birdman (Or the Unlikely Virtue of Ignorance) to win the Oscar: it reflects the trend toward amoral postmodernism that is widespread in today’s culture. But I had not previously realized how it has infiltrated our schools so thoroughly.

Leonard Roy Frank Has Died

Leonard Roy Frank (1932-2015)

Leonard with books

Monotheist, Vegan, Gandhian, Social Reformer, Writer, Opponent of Involuntary Psychiatry, and Collector of Quotations

He led exactly the life he wanted to lead.

Leonard Roy Frank, my best friend, died suddenly sometime the night of January 15. Though he had suffered with a cold for a few days, otherwise he was healthy. He had apparently fallen after having what the medical examiner said was probably an “event.” The cause of death may not be declared for several weeks.

A large number of tributes to Leonard have poured in and are being consolidated on the Mad in America Tribute page.

The memorial service will be held at the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples, 2041 Larkin Street (near Broadway), San Francisco, on Saturday, January 31, 10:30 AM. There will be a reception afterwards with a light vegan lunch provided. Please email Wade Hudson <wade@wadehudson.org> if you plan to attend.

Following the reception, we plan to invite his friends to visit Leonard’s nearby apartment, where visitors will be able to take books from his large library. (His books on psychiatry may be donated to a nonprofit.)

Parking in the area is difficult, with a two-hour time limit. The #19 Polk bus that is due to stop on the north side of Market Street near Civic Center BART at 9:50 AM goes to Polk and Broadway. Nearby parking garages are:  Lombardi Sports Parking Garage, 1600 Jackson Street, $12.00 max; Old First Garage, 1725 Sacramento Street, $10.00 max; Ace Parking, 1776 Sacramento Street, $25.00 max.

Contributions in memory of Leonard may be made to: Mind Freedom International and/or the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples.

If you want to buy flowers for the service, you can call Polk Street Florist, 415-441-2868, to order them.

 

A Meditation on Dr. King and his Mentor, Dr. Thurman

One of the individuals portrayed in the film Selma, Diane Nash, spoke at the White House Celebration of Music From The Civil Rights Movement in February 2009. One comment she made there helped to put me on the path to Fellowship Church. She said the point of the movement was “reconciliation.” That word, reconciliation, rang a bell and prompted me to realize that for 45 years I had forgotten that principle and had been driven by anger, not love.

In the speech Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave at the end of the march to the state capitol in Montgomery, which moved me profoundly as I stood in the crowd, he said:

That’s what happened when the Negro and white masses of the South threatened to unite and build a great society: a society of justice where none would prey upon the weakness of others; a society of plenty where greed and poverty would be done away; a society of brotherhood where every man would respect the dignity and worth of human personality…. And so I plead with you this afternoon as we go ahead: remain committed to nonviolence. Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man, but to win his friendship and understanding. We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. And that will be a day not of the white man, not of the black man. That will be the day of man as man.

Unfortunately, it seemed to me, the film Selma did not capture that philosophy, which Dr. Howard Thurman helped shape.

In Dr. Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited, a brilliant self-help manual for activists that Dr. King reportedly carried with him when he traveled, Dr. Thurman writes “To love such an enemy requires reconciliation… It involves confession of error…. To love those of the household he must conquer his own pride.” And Dr. Thurman points out that “too much pride on either side [makes it difficult] to make amends…. The underprivileged man must himself be status free. It may be argued that his sense of freedom must come first…. Love is possible only between two freed spirits.” By “status free,” he meant transcending our social roles and relating person-to-person.

Thurman insists we need “an overall technique for loving one’s enemy…, a discipline, a method, a technique, as over against some form of wishful thinking or simple desiring,… a technique of implementation.” The technique he proposes is “the attitude of respect for personality,” which requires us to “put aside the pride of race and status which would have caused [us] to regard [ourselves] as superior….[and declare] ‘I am stripped bare of all pretense and false pride. The man in me appeals to the man in you.”

When “we emerge into an area where love operates,” we say, as did Jesus, “Neither do I condemn you.” We judge our own deeds and confess our trespasses. “[We] must recognize fear, deception, hatred, each for what it is,” Dr. Thurman states. “Once having done this, [we] must learn how to destroy these or to render [ourselves] immune to their domination.”

Yet, as we saw indicated here at Fellowship Church last week in the film about Grace Lee Boggs, most political activists don’t engage in that kind of critical self-examination, which is essential to nurturing the nonjudgmental humility that Dr. Thurman affirms. Most activists are too busy trying to mobilize others to do what they, the activists, want them to do. They focus on the outer world and neglect the inner world.

Not even faith-based and faith-rooted organizations really talk about the need for critical self-examination. For example, in the call for a strategy conference late last year, Michael Lerner, founder of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, said nothing about the need for self-improvement rooted in acknowledging mistakes and resolving to avoid them. To the contrary, he said, “Nor are we writing you to suggest personal repentance.” I found that statement shocking, but par for the course.

I’ve discussed this issue many times with faith-based leaders and activists and organized some workshops to promote that commitment. But so far I mainly see a focus on external issues and neglect of internal issues. Some projects train activists to work on themselves individually. But I know of no political organization that facilitates all of their members to support one another in open-ended self-development as defined by each member.

I envision user-friendly, easily replicated templates that like-minded individuals could use to provide mutual support — so that we could better transform our social system. The first step, it seems to me, is to establish a new primary purpose for our society: to “rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society,” as Dr. King put it. Once that new mission statement were affirmed, we could better reform all of our institutions, our culture, and ourselves to serve that purpose.

With that positive thrust, we who are working on so many different issues could better overcome our fragmentation by occasionally uniting to support one another on timely, top priority issues. By uniting, we could accomplish much more together than we can fragmented, focused on building our own organization. That vision seems clear and convincing to me. But so far I’ve found no organization engaged in that kind of holistic work and have been unable to initiate one.

I trust, however, that some day soon holistic politics will crystallize. It may be just around the corner. As James Baldwin said:

A day will come when you will trust you more than you do now and you will trust me more than you do now. We will trust each other. I do believe, I really do believe in the New Jerusalem. I really do believe that we can all become better than we are. I know we can. But the price is enormous and people are not yet ready to pay.

In the meantime, I plan to stop pushing my vision, ask God to take the weight of the world off my shoulders, try to become more humble, take better care of myself, and learn better how to “love [my] neighbor directly, clearly, permitting no barrier between,” as affirmed by Dr. Thurman.

Then, before I die, perhaps I’ll be a foot soldier in a global movement to transform our global society into a compassionate community dedicated to the common good of the entire Earth Community.

Thank you for listening.

+++++

Presented as the Meditation at the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples Sunday, January 18, 2015