March Reflections – 2019

Carol A. Hand

*

I woke up this morning. Late, of course, when defined by daylight savings time. Sunlight was streaming through the eastern window. But when I awoke, a gentle but stunning realization dawned as a simple question ran through my mind.

“What happens if you put good people in an evil place?”

It’s a paraphrase of the question Dr. Phillip Zimbardo said he wanted to explore in his famous experiment, The Stanford Prison Experiment.

Another thought quickly followed.

I have been in evil places. Many of them. And I survived despite a tender heart that was ripped open by intense suffering. Both my suffering and that of others who were vulnerable.”

A sense of gratitude followed from knowing that I did my best to hold true to integrity and protect myself and others from the most destructive harm anyway. I got up every morning and walked in to face the fire, knowing that it was an experiment to see if it was possible to transform evil systems.

Although I made many mistakes in my journey, strength came from the ancestors who sometimes appeared to me and the wise beings who visited me in dreams. They taught me that compassion comes from forgiving one’s self as a necessary foundation for forgoing the need to demonize others for the choices they make.

“Mistakes are, after all,
the foundations of truth,
and if a man does not know
what a thing is, it is at
least an increase in knowledge
if he knows what it is not.”
(Carl Jung)

Thanks to Eddie Two Hawks for sharing this quote in a recent post.

I look at the state of the world today and know that I am just one unimportant person among billions. There is little I can do to affect change in the systems that harm others. That’s a choice only each individual must make for themselves. It’s a choice that one makes each moment.

I am inspired by the choices Diane Lefer recently shared on her blog, Nobody Wakes Up Pretty, about those who are working to address the egregious harm being done along the border with Mexico in the name of “Making America Great Again.” Diane’s work reminds me of something written more than a century ago by Jane Addams when she and the women of Hull-House in Chicago lived among newly arrived immigrants in the poorest of city neighborhoods.

“. . . the good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain, is floating in mid-air, until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life” (Jane Addams, 1961, p. 76).

*

May we all continue to make wise, compassionate choices to use whatever gifts we have to build a kinder world.

Work Cited:

Jane Addams (1961). Twenty Years at Hull-House. New York, NY: Signet Classics.

 

24 thoughts on “March Reflections – 2019”

    1. Thank you for your comments, Diane. The work you continue to do is inspiring and so important. I wanted to encourage people to read your recent post, but I haven’t figured out how to do that effectively. The link was also shared with faculty where I teach. Sending my best wishes to you! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  1. “They taught me that compassion comes from forgiving one’s self as a necessary foundation for forgoing the need to demonize others for the choices they make.”

    Carol, it’s only been in the last few years of my life that I have come to realize this truth. And now I am seeking to apply it to my life and massive failures. I am getting closer to this goal of forgiving my self, but not quite there yet. However, in recognizing my many failures and my need for self forgiveness, I have grown more aware of the frailty of others. And I am thankful for this.

    Thanks, Carol!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Rosaliene. Your choices to use your gifts to build a kinder world show clearly in the important topics you share on your blog, and the respectful way you respond to others who express differing perspectives in their comments.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have so come to admire your activism, Carol. You’re among the relatively few people in this country who is still willing to take to the streets.

    That seems to be one of the major changes of the past 100 years — We no longer take to the streets in protest of evils as a people. We take to the malls as individual shoppers in search of discounts.

    That’s coming from someone who thinks the “good old days” is mostly a scam.

    The other thing I love about you Carol is you balance inward and outer activism. I have known so many people who are all outer activists. They seem to me always tending towards making the same mistake over and over again — replacing one system with another just like it — or worse.

    Orwell’s Animal Farm activists.

    You strike me as having effected a balance between the reflective nature necessary to avoid repeating the same mistakes again and again, and the active nature necessary to make things happen.

    That you teach others on top of all that is pure fresh water and blue skies to me.

    There is almost nothing of the activist in me. I accept that — the highest value is to live true to ourselves in socially and environmentally responsible ways — so far as I can see. So I accept I have almost no activism in me.

    My “activism” is to make maps. To make them as true and accurate as I can. And then do my best to offer them to those who want them.

    I would love to have your balance, but I won’t lie to myself and say that I do.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Paul, this is such a delightful comment on many levels. I no longer “take to the streets” these days, although my daughter does on all kinds of issues, and hopefully, some of my former students do, too. I do my best to encourage others to observe, listen deeply, care about others and the environment, and come to their own conclusions about how to make a difference after carefully researching issues.

      Your description of knowledge-guided action is so important. It’s really the only approach that makes sense to me and your clear description makes me wonder if you are familiar with the work of Paulo Freire (https://www.freire.org/paulo-freire/). His work as an educator, organizer, and writer is truly inspiring.

      And thank you for sharing your honest reflections about your strengths. Making maps is a powerful ability and helps build a solid foundation for those who need help finding their way. One of mine is refusing to follow orders from those who think they have power and know the answers. Life is still teaching me how to do so with greater patience, wisdom, compassion, and humor…

      Sending my best wishes to you, and again, thank you for a thoughtful discussion. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. This is the first I’ve heard of Freire. But my first glance excites me.

        Some cords braided together recently. Bojana, a German (?) blogger commented on a political post of mine that “In Europe, we would simply take to the streets”. That put me in mind of the reasons — as I understand them — that Americans and Europeans differ so noticeably in that regard. In response to Bojana, I’m about to publish a post giving my take on all of that.

        Meanwhile — this wonderful discussion with you here.

        And now you have introduced me to what has the feel of a love at first sight — Freire.

        I couldn’t be having a more stimulating day or a happier one.

        Thank you for your insightful remarks, your kind compliments, and your thoughtful introductions, Carol!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I am reminded of the story of the tiger resting in his cage. The other animals pitch and fit and fight to get out, but the tiger waits, knowing that sooner or later the keeper will come and the cage door will have to be opened. It is the tiger that is rested that will have the energy to free itself.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a great post, much needed wisdom in these diffcult times.

    I often feel that we’ve already lost in our endeavor to become compassionate and civilized in this experiment on our beautiful planet. Reading posts by people like you, smilecalm and a few others makes the pain a little easier to deal with. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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