Tag Archives: Activism

Harmony Image


Harmony is my word for the new year. The inspiration for selecting harmony as my word of the year has been the study of nonviolence with Michael Nagler, narrator of the film and author of the book The Third Harmony: Nonviolence and the New Story of Human Nature. I had considered nonviolence as my word of the year. Much has been written and spoken about the nonviolence inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, often focused on non-violent resistance, rejecting the use of physical violence in order to achieve social or political change. Nonviolence is much more than the absence of violence, it is more of a way of being. I am more of a writer and philosopher than an activist, and my desire this year is to be more conscious and purposeful about bringing harmony to every situation.

Tom Eddington, the executive producer of the film, The Third Harmony, joined Michael Nagler to host a wonderfully insightful ten-day program on nonviolence for Humanity Rising, an initiative of Ubiquity University. Founded in its original iteration by Matthew Fox, Ubiquity University has flourished under the leadership of Jim Garrison who launched Humanity Rising at the beginning of the pandemic to represent a global movement of people and organizations coming together to take counsel on how to start shaping the world beyond the pandemic through conversations that matter. A library of the recordings of the daily broadcasts that began during the  early days of the pandemic is an important component of a multitude of freely available resources and includes the ten-day program on nonviolence.

Now back to harmony. The three harmonies described by Michael Nagler in The Third Harmony: Nonviolence and the New Story of Human Nature are:

  • The First Harmony: Harmony with the cosmos and outer world.
  • The Second Harmony: Harmony with one another and with the environment.
  • The Third Harmony: Harmony within, radiating outward with the force of love.

Harmony within ourselves is where nonviolence begins. This aligns well with my own thinking on Conscious Leadership and the practice of leading consciously from the inside out. Imagining inner harmony brings to mind harmonious music, where different notes from different instruments are played together to create a beautiful sound. In my recent blog post, I wrote about Finding your Voice. Harmony is the word that will guide the finding of my voice, getting my outer voice in tune with my inner voice, and inspiring responsible action.

My commitment this year is to bring harmony into every situation I encounter.  As theologian and civil rights leader Howard Thurman said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” What is bringing us alive? What is the music inside of each of us this year?

Evoking the words of Paul McCartney in the song, Ebony and Ivory, let’s aspire to live together in perfect harmony. Whether our attention this year is on nonviolent activism for the greater good of humanity or creating greater harmony in our families, workplaces, or communities, I invite us all to start with creating harmony within ourselves and then using the force of love to truly make a difference in the world. Let us all live in harmony within ourselves, with others, and with the world around us. Don’t die with the music still in you!

Originally published on the Dr. Paul Ward Blog.

AD(H)D World

As grandparents and elders, we should be troubled by the startling rise in developmental disorders among children today.  Autism and ADHD have become commonplace — one in every 110 children for autism; nearly one in 10 children in the United States aged 4 to 17 years for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) — and so are kids on meds and in special education.  Some experts point to better diagnostics for learning disorders (LD) in general, but I’ve wondered what role our speedy, information-saturated culture plays.  What might be the effect of  food additives, dyes, artificial sweeteners, or just too much sugar in everything we eat?

Yesterday, I had two experiences — a film called Bag It! and an NPR program (Our Toxic Love Hate Relationship with Plastics) — that make a strong case that the epidemic of learning disorders we are seeing in our young is due to exposure to chemicals, in utero and in infancy.  The chemicals in plastics, that is, specifically phthalates or plasticizers, ubiquitous in toys, food packaging, hoses, raincoats, shower curtains, vinyl flooring, wall coverings, lubricants, adhesives, detergents, nail polish, hair spray and shampoo, baby care products and, until recently, baby bottles.

We are from birth to death, literally saturated in plastics: see Five Gyres, if you still believe that when our plastic bagged garbage is picked up from our curb or dumpster, it goes ‘away.’ As one interviewee in the film said, There is no away.

As grandparents, we need to be concerned, very concerned, and we need to decide what we personally are going to do about it.  You might start by watching Bag It! , now part of the Whole Food Film Festival, Do Something Reel, showing this month in celebration of Earth Day, April 22, nationwide.

In another lifetime, I helped promote plastics professionally. You could say this is by way of a small mea culpa.

Helping Japan

The first thing many of us want to do after we absorb the news of a catastrophe like the tsunami in Japan and its aftermath, is reach for our checkbooks.  Money is important, of course, but where and when and whom it best serves need careful consideration.  For instance, after Cyclone Nargis devastated Burma, the country of my birth, I discovered that the most effective relief agency was The Merlin Group because they already had staff on the ground, familiar with the population and local conditions.  For the same reasons  I gave to Partners in Health after the Haiti earthquake.  This time, I also decided to wait until it was clearer where a relief donation could do the most good.  Apparently, I’m not alone in this: http://blog.givewell.org/2011/03/11/japan-earthquaketsunami-disaster-relief-donations/ Once again, the key is to target dollars to local groups.  http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/03/15/what-aid-makes-sense-for-japan/work-with-local-groups-in-japan

Check out what your community or congregational response is, and join it if it meets your criteria.   Here’s a list of agencies vetted by InterAction: http://www.interaction.org/crisis-list/interaction-members-support-japan-earthquake-response A useful article: http://www.interaction.org/how-help

Sweating the Big Stuff

Sound familiar?  You are (blissfully) unaware of the aging process until one morning, you are standing at the bathroom mirror brushing your teeth as usual, and whoa! this strange person stares back at you.  Your eyes may be as sharp as ever, the expression in them the same, but your features seem to be slouching in a Southerly direction.  (French women seem to enjoy special dispensation from these facts of life.)

For some folks, women mostly but not exclusively, this new old face is enough to send ripples of panic through the whole body.  Before you know it, you’re Googling anti-wrinkle creams, Botox treatments, and/or face lifts.  (Yes, I admit I went as far as to check out the non-surgical options, see The Perricone Prescription.  The good news: it is based on an anti-inflammatory diet and boosts one’s general health and well-being.)   If you are past your fifth decade, you may personally know women (and maybe a few men) of a certain age who have submitted their tissues to the surgeon’s knife.  While I respect the right to make this choice, ‘nip-and-tuck’  isn’t in my future.

Of course, I’m not in the entertainment business where my wrinkles could directly affect my livelihood.  And I don’t plan to run for political office, ditto.  If Sarah Palin looked like Golda Meir, goes one recent joke, would we even be having this conversation?  The truth is, whatever we do cosmetically, we will all end up looking something like Golda Meir (or Mike Wallace) if we’re lucky enough to live that long.   But honestly, would you choose youth and beauty over a reputation for doing good work; passionate support of worthwhile causes; spreading joy; being trustworthy; being a good parent/grandparent/friend or any number of other qualities you value?

In The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a baby is born old and grows younger each year until he ceases to exist.  The tragedy was that he was moving through life in the opposite direction from everyone else, including the love of his life.  It wasn’t so much an compelling story-into-film as a cautionary tale.   In the world of the imagination, maybe we can fool Mother Nature.  In real life, not so much.  The aging face that looks back at you by dawn’s early light is a reminder that it’s time.  Time to cultivate a sense of self deeper than your skin.  If we — especially we women, weren’t so caught up in how the world sees and judges us (our faces, our clothes, our homes), we might be putting more attention on things like, let’s see, the epidemic of violence against women; the threats to our basic rights to clean water, air, education, health care; what kind of world we appear to be leaving to our grandchildren.  We could be sweating the Big Stuff.

V-Day: A Movement to End Violence Against Women and Girls

The Center for Public Integrity

Hands Across the Sands

Maybe you don’t think of yourself as someone who joins a rally in the street brandishing a hand-lettered sign and shouting  slogans.  Me either.  Whenever I get an email alerting me to a social action that requires me to actually show up, I find myself wondering if my physical presence really matters, say, at a rally with members of my congregation in support of affordable housing in my community.  I question whether I really need to drive down to Senator Bill Nelson’s office when I could sign a petition on line or fax or call him.  Not that those things aren’t important, too.  Then I remember what Gandhi and Martin Luther King accomplished by being willing to put themselves at risk, and I feel ashamed of myself for even hesitating.

There are some things that cry out for organized, apolitical action and the BP spill and all that it represents — corporate greed and malfeasance, hubris, folly — is one.  If you live anywhere near a beach, particularly in Florida, you can take a stand.  Chances are excellent that someone is organizing a  local Hands Across the Sands event on June 26.  As the name suggests, it will be a human chain lining the beaches at noon for 15 minutes, to express opposition to offshore drilling and support of clean, renewable energy.

The movement actually started in Florida on Saturday, February 13, when thousands of Floridians representing 60 towns and cities and over 90 beaches joined hands to protest the efforts by the Florida Legislature and the US Congress to lift the ban on oil drilling in Florida’s waters.  Florida’s Hands Across the Sands event was the largest gathering in the history of Florida united against oil drilling.  Thousands joined hands from Jacksonville to Miami Beach and Key West to Pensacola Beach.  On June 26, we’ll be at Juno Beach, wearing this DYI T-shirt.

If you’re landlocked, you can organize or get involved in a different kind of action.  Here is a list of other volunteer opportunities connected with the BP spill.

Other ways to get involved in saving the world.  If our generation doesn’t, who will?

Faith-based activism

The Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers

The Elders

Get Back!

350-chart_0Get back, get back, get back to where you once belonged, sang The Beatles.  Fast forward a few decades and an entirely different world, Get Back could be the mantra for the 350.org, a group of environmental activists including author Bill McGibbon, Van Jones, founder of Green for All and most recently, Obama’s point man on the environment, and Dr. James Hansen (the NASA scientist whose testimony before Congress in the 1980s helped bring the issue of global warming to the foreground.)

350 is the number that leading scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide—measured in “Parts Per Million” in our atmosphere. 350 PPM—it’s the number humanity needs to get back to as soon as possible to avoid runaway climate change.  Click to understand 350 better.

October 24 is the International Day of Climate Action.  This is 4,000 events in 170 countries, the biggest movement on the planet.  We will head down to Delray Beach to join others in Palm Beach Country in the Climate Change Wall of Hope and Shame.   After hearing from members of the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition; representatives from the Reef Rescue Team; members of the Whitecloud Turtle Rescue Team; and Greenpeace, we will all stand shoulder to shoulder at 3:50pm for 350 seconds.   Will you stand with us?  Click here to find local events.

See what other older adults are doing:

Gray is Green

Green Seniors

National Senior Conservation Corps