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Seeking your thoughts on world peace

I will soon be publishing a book of essays on world peace, and I am seeking YOUR thoughts on the subject. If you would like to contribute an short essay (approximately one to five thousand words) please contact my character Lola.Zeitman at her gmail account or ask me for more info here. Any thoughts expressed with an open heart and good intentions will receive serious consideration for inclusion. Pieces with unique perspectives or unusual ideas are most likely to be used.

seeking

The book will be published electronically in about 4 weeks on Amazon and Smashwords. It will be sold for ninety-nine cents but there will be several promotional giveaways, so no significant profits are anticipated. Half of any proceeds that are received will go to the humanitarian organization “Doctor’s Without Borders.”

tshirtAll essayists will retain the full rights to their own work but must grant me permission to use their words in this publication. Writers of all pieces that are accepted for inclusion will receive full credit for their work in the book, as well as a “Telepaths for World Peace” t-shirt in a size of their choosing, and the chance to use their essay as the cornerstone for a guest post on this blog. I hope to hear from many of you. If the world ever needed our ideas on this subject, it is now.

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2016 in peace, writing

 

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Happy International Day of Peace, Lahcen and Najet

The Airbnb site says my hosts at the Riad speak English, French and Spanish along with the local Arabic, but it only takes a few minutes for me to realize that the claim regarding English has been exaggerated. Lahcen, the helpful house manager who greets me, probably does know several hundred words of English, compared to my several dozen words of French and two of Arabic, but his ability to answer my questions is limited. Najet, the cook and custodian who assists him, speaks some French and no English at all. Soon the three of us are communicating with gestures, key phrases and facial expressions, and it’s not going as poorly as you might think.

img_3275Still jet lagged, I get a slow start the next morning and Najet is anxious to begin cleaning my room. I am sitting in the public area getting organized for my day when she gestures to her cleaning equipment and my quarters and gives me a questioning look. I nod my consent. She pauses.

“No douche?” she asks clearly and politely. I’m sure that my eyes widen before I remember that douche is the French word for shower. “No douche aujourd’hui,” I declare, thinking that sometimes even a few words in a common language can make all the difference in the world.

When I return that evening, there are lots of things that I want to ask Lahcen. Is Najet his wife? A relative? Is he from Marrakesh? Is this his full-time job? What does he think of tourists, of Americans? But every time I start talking he nods and smiles and looks confused, which is exactly what I do when I can’t understand someone.

img_3290The next day he volunteers some information. “I love Hollywood,” he tells me. “I love your movies, but I watch them in French.” He shrugs, a little embarrassed. “In English I can’t tell what they say.” And I get that I’m like one of those movies to him. He thinks that he ought to understand me but I talk fast and use idioms and shortcuts and make no sense to him at all.

“I wish my French was half as good as your English,” I reply and I mean it.  I think he understands me for once because he gives me a genuine smile back.

“I think that all of your country should learn Arabic. In school,” he adds. I’m sure my eyes widen at the idea. “And we should all learn English here. In school.” He looks at me hard for signs of comprehension. “If we could understand each other, then we would get along.”

img_3284I get where he is going with this and I have to admit that I like it a lot. I appears that my gracious host is a kindred spirit of mine, someone hoping to bridge the gap between cultures, filling it with empathy and a compassion born of recognizing our common humanity. I lack the vocabulary and the inclination to argue with him about the practicality of his plan, so I just say “I hope it happens.”

When I settle my bill, ready to move on to my next destination, I leave him and Najet a generous tip. He takes my luggage to the cab and speaks to the man in rapid Arabic. I realize that he is using part of my tip to pay my cab fare, which I also notice is a only small fraction of what the cab drivers have been charging me. I appreciate his gesture.

I remember my last encounter with people with whom I could not speak. A few months ago a couple in Portugal named Alberto and Maria helped my husband and I rescue our rental car when it became stuck on a dirt road. A few days later, when I discovered it was “International Day of Peace,” I wrote a post about them, and about how the wordless experience was so intense that Maria and I hugged each other afterwards with tears in our eyes.

img_3304I have enough cultural sensitivity to realize that a hug would be inappropriate with Lahcen, especially in such a public place. But I am equally grateful to him and Najet and I wish them both joy and peace, even if I do not know how to tell him so. I can only nod my thanks to him as we part, two souls seeking the same harmony in a fragmented world.

(For more about my trip to Morocco see  That’s Why you Make the Trip, I see ghosts , It’s an angry world in some places and My Way on my other blogs.)

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2016 in empathy, peace

 

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Everything is Going to Be Alright

There is barely anyone alive today who did not grow up with movies. We almost all understand the concept of having a soundtrack for our lives and in fact a lot of us spend a good deal of time designing playlists or inputting musical preferences to get just the right music playing for us as we live.

Our needs for certain kinds of music vary with the times. So, let me just ask you straight out — are you seeking out more songs of reassurance these days? I sure am.

I’m also in the process of looking at the last song referred to in each of my books as I update the music pages on each blog. Today I got to song number nine for x0 and guess what? It’s Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”. This particular song has gotten me through several tough spots in my life, and it shows up in my book when my hero Lola is at her most distraught. A fellow telepath provides her with reassurance by singing a bit of this timeless song. The result? Lola becomes calm enough to do what needs to be done.

As part of updating the music page, I had to seek out a video to which to link. There are so many wonderful ways to enjoy this 1977 classic online. One of my favorites manages to use Bob Marley’s original music, some footage of him and his performances, and clever graphics and a story line to make this wonderful song come to life visually. I recommend playing this daily as needed for, oh, the next twelve days or so, and longer if required.

One can also enjoy (and buy) the powerful version of this song performed by “Playing for Change.”  The song is also available for purchase at Amazon.com.  

Finally if you want one last shot of reassurance, check out the very first recording at “Playing for Change” as a powerful group of folks sing and play instruments to calm everyone down in this moving version of a song calledDon’t Worry.

For more oblique election commentary, see my posts Our brand is crisis?, We need to talk about this, just maybe not so much, and Is it over yet?

Finally, here is the excerpt from x0 that refers to “Three Little Birds. Hope you enjoy it also.

Lola absolutely did not want to go to New Zealand. But even more than that she did not want to miss her plane and then have to leave the secured part of the airport and try to figure out what else to do instead. So she did as instructed, and grabbed a quick copy of The Daily Telegraph at the newsstand on the left and was a little startled when the sales clerk actually did call to her as she turned to go.

“I, I think you left this miss.” The girl offered a small brown ladies handbag out to her.

“Thanks, yes.” She slipped her own purse onto Nwanyi’s shoulder and took the new bag. “Thanks so very much.”

She allowed herself to slow down enough to look inside while they walked. There was a wallet containing quite a few New Zealand twenty-dollar bills. Wow. She had been considering just staying put in Singapore, but decided against that option completely when she also found the little disposable cell phone bearing the logo of Vodaphone New Zealand. These folks were really looking out for her.

She dug further into the purse. More ibuprofen and lots of aspirin. Headaches must be a well-known part of this gig, she thought. At the bottom of the purse was the item that made her heart stop. Oh my. She knew this one. A little Beretta Bobcat. Her gun collecting and gun-loving father had bought her one for protection years ago, and the two of them had spent hours getting her familiar with the gun. As a girl she had shot rocks and tin cans with whatever her father gave her, like most kids did who grew up where she had, but this particular model had been his gift to her as a young woman, and he had wanted her to know it thoroughly. She’d kept it locked away for years now as Alex did not share her ease with guns, and he’d had little trouble convincing her that a house with teenagers and their friends was not a good environment for firearms. But still, she knew this gun, and though she had not touched a handgun in years, it was a comfort in her hand. Who was this guy who had met her anyway? Some sort of super-spy?

She felt a chuckle and saw her helper whose name she did not even know working on a pile of tax returns. He was a tax accountant? She felt a surge of gratitude for her unknown benefactor, and in return she felt a soft feeling of You’re welcome, and Be safe. She had a reassuring image of him heading over to say hello to an old friend who worked in airport security, and Lola had the distinct impression that his visit with his friend would last at least until the man was very sure that he could leave Heathrow safely himself.

As a final gift, she heard him softly singing the words to her favorite Bob Marley song ever, “Three Little Birds“. Nwanyi, who had been walking quietly, stopped and gave Lola a funny look. Lola realized with surprise that she had been so grateful to hear those lyrics assuring her that everything would be well that she hadn’t noticed that tears had started to run down her own cheeks.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2016 in music for peace

 

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Happy International Day of Peace, Alberto and Maria!

Thanks to a crude bomb that just exploded in a dumpster in New York, much of the world learned that the United Nations General Assembly is preparing to convene in New York, as it does it does every year at this time. What much of the world does not know is that at the same time the U.N. sponsors an annual International Day of Peace “devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.”

1-multiGiven that I write a blog about world peace, I’m a big fan of this day. This year, I will celebrate it in another country. I’m also a big fan of travel. I believe that war is often (though not always) the result of old grievances and common fears being nurtured and ignited by politicians eager to preserve power and prestige for themselves and wealth for their friends. I recognize that any interaction that results in armed conflict is complicated, and that many people try to do what is best. However, my own reading of history tells me that “bloody few” armed conflicts were ever noble or unavoidable; the only thing they all have in common is that they were bloody.

Those of us not in politics have few ways to steer the human race away from the machinery of war. One of those is travel. As we spend time with others who are currently demonized, or who once were, we learn to question the assumptions about other nations, religions, races, continents, and what ever else you have when you describe “those people” in terms vile enough to make the average citizen believe that they must die. Of course, you can’t just get on a bus or plane and go somewhere. You need to interact.

roadYou need to try to drive up a road that your GPS should never have thought was a road in the first place. You need to try to turn around on a steep, narrow hairpin curve and manage to get your rental car stuck with its nose in the dirt and its ass two feet off the ground while your tires spin. You need to hike down the hill, stand out on a highway, and hope that some decent people will stop and give you a hand.

Odds are they will. If you are lucky, someone like Alberto and Maria will pull over cautiously, looking nervously at their daughter in the back seat. They will see how sweaty and frustrated you are, and ask what is wrong in a language of which you speak only a hundred words quite poorly. You will figure out that they speak no English, but you might manage to convey carro for car and espouso for husband and point up the hill. If you are very lucky Alberto will say “cima?” very clearly, like he cannot believe both the car and husband are up there, and you will recognize his word for “on top of” from your hours with Rosetta Stone and you will nod.

On a good day, Alberto and Maria will take it from there. They will drive their old car up the road that brought you to a standstill, chuckle with sympathy when they see your predicament, and gesture to the two of you to help them lift your car and literally set its rear end down in a better place. While you marvel that it is even possible, it is done. You will try to press some money into their hands, helpless to thank them any other way, and they will not want it, at least not until you insist. Maria will give you a hug and, as she does, you and she will both have tears in your eyes, brought on by the intensity of the exchange you have managed without a single word. They will drive off and you will never see them again.

c_norman_rockwell_do_unto_others_2But later that night, as you read about the ideals of learning to coexist with your fellow humans, you will think of them, and understand how one can travel for world peace.

So, Happy International Day of Peace, Alberto and Maria. May others always treat you with the same kindness that you showed to us. And happy Peace Day, as well, to your seven billion brothers and sisters, most of whom have needed help at least once or twice and, in turn, have helped a stranger or two along their way.

(For more vacation-inspired epiphanies see The Moon Rises on my c3 blog, Our Brand is Crisis on my z2 blog, and That’s Why They Play the Game on my d4 blog.)

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2016 in being better, empathy, peace

 

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Do less harm

Is a course of action better if it results in less harm? Most people would say yes, at least until they are confronted with the reality of the choices made by those who struggle to improve the world without making it perfectly right.

What am I talking about here? Well, drug addiction and educating women in Afghanistan and preventing pedophiles from molesting children and female genital mutilation and pretty much everything else I’d rather not discuss or think about. It turns out that there is a lot of icky stuff in the world, and it’s hard to make it any of it go away.

Enter the British news magazine “The Economist.” It shows up every week, and recently I read about the plight of Aziz Amir, an Afghan cardiologist trying to raise funds for an all-female university in Kabul. Dr. Amir particularly wants to offer medical training to women in a world where many females will risk death rather than visit a male practitioner. He knows that some families who would never allow their daughters to attend a coeducational college might relent and allow them to attend his university. But foreigners are reluctant to support gender-segregated education.

life lessons1I agree with the foreigners. I believe that by studying and working together, young males and females learn to respect each other as human beings. But I also agree with Dr. Amir. He is trying hard to make the world better, in a way that will work. My high-minded ideals matter little in a situation in which many girls will be denied any schooling and many women will not have access to any medical care. The issue seems to me to be about whether I am going to look at this through my own eyes, or through the eyes of the girls of Afghanistan.

A few pages later I was drawn into an article about Stop it Now, a group dedicated to reducing the sexual molestation of children. This practical group runs a hotline for pedophiles, and has been criticized for being “offender friendly”. In fact, the group is trying to understand what can be done to prevent pedophiles from acting on their desires, and getting such information requires talking to potential offenders with compassion, and trying to offer them realistic ways of coping. Other similar groups face related challenges by offering confidentiality to those seeking help.

Of course I agree with those who never, ever want the identity of a child molester to be kept hidden. And yet I understand those who point out that if you take that approach, you have effectively decided not to offer assistance to those seeking ways to behave better. Do you really want to do that?

The issue here seems to me to be about whether I am even capable of looking at the world through the eyes of a potential child molester. Am I?

How about seeing the world through the eyes of parents who would insist on mutilating their own baby daughter’s genitals? I can think of few actions I personally consider more despicable, and yet I have come to learn that these parents accept this religious procedure as necessary to their daughter’s upright moral behavior in later life. Luckily, even a tiny symbolic prick with a knife often will suffice for the parents, but a modern doctor willing to perform such a ceremony is understandably condemned. Unable to find a doctor, the parents then turn to non-medical religious personnel who insist on performing a far more horrific procedure.

It seems like what I am talking about here in every case is harm reduction. So I was surprised when a quick little search showed me that the term harm reduction, according to the Harm Reduction Coalition, is actually “a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use. Harm Reduction is also a movement for social justice built on a belief in, and respect for, the rights of people who use drugs.” Those working in this field accept that “licit and illicit drug use is part of our world” and they choose to work to minimize its harmful effects.

wise and quietSo the term harm reduction is about practical ways to improve the lives of drug users? That sounds like, you know, once again looking at the problem through the eyes of the ones you are trying to help.

I’m starting to see a common theme. I can look into my own heart and try to make the world a better place. Or I can dare to experience the world through the heart of another human, one as imperfect as me, and allow myself and others to try improve their bad situation using compassion instead of my personal sense of how the world should be.

It’s that old empathy thing again. It just keeps on showing up everywhere, even in “The Economist.”

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2016 in empathy

 

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A gesture of peace?

peace 1No, that can’t be right.

Every once in awhile you read something so bizarre that you do a sort of mental double take. This happened the other day when I read that the classic hippie peace symbol from the sixties had its origins in satanic worship. What?

Well, it turns out that a fairly common misconception is that the peace symbol is based on the Nero cross, once used to represent the torture of Christians by the Romans. A few years ago the Huffington Post carried an article about a Christian school in Holland that destroyed 3,000 of its calendars when a student in one picture was discovered to be wearing the symbol on his jacket.

Thank you That's a Good Sign

But, the misconception simply isn’t true. According to the Peace Day website, the peace sign first appeared on letters from the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War after it was designed in 1958 by British artist Gerald Holtom for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). The design came from superimposing the semaphore letters “N” for nuclear and “D” for disarmament over each other.

The other common peace sign is a hand gesture in which the index and middle fingers are raised and parted, while the other fingers are clenched and the hand is held with the palm facing outward. It was originally used to symbolize V for victory in Britain during WWII, but by the 1960s, the “V sign” became widely used as a symbol of peace. As a victory sign, the symbol’s origins do include a story involving satanic worship, but not the way one might think. It was well know in Britain that Hitler’s inner circle was fascinated by the darker sides of mysticism, and British occultists were sure that the Nazi swastika was based on an ancient evil symbol. The story is that in 1941, Aleister Crowley, a British occultist, suggested using the V-sign as a magical foil to counteract the swastika, and that the usage caught on from there.

peace sign handThe story could be true, as Crowley not only had contacts in British intelligence, he actually worked as a consultant for them to help them better understand what Hitler might be hearing from his astrologers and other mystic advisors. The very idea of the hand symbol for peace being derived from seeking a magic symbol to counteract the evils of the Third Reich is appealing. Wouldn’t it be nice if, as we casually use it today, it could help ward off some of the evils of our times as well.

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2016 in writing

 

More in Common

This post is barely about recently murdered British Member of Parliament Jo Cox.

That’s because it’s kind of about how the book x0 was supposed to take place in Saudi Arabia, where my book’s hero, the oil hunting geophysicist Lola, was going to run up against all manner of things she did not understand or agree with, but as a budding telepath she was also going to learn that she had far more in common with those around her than she knew.

peace1Only the book ended up being about Nigeria instead. You see, in 2010, when I started to write it, Americans on the whole considered Nigerians scarier than Arabs. I had just taken a job with a Nigerian oil company where I often worked late in a common room and couldn’t help but overhear the phone calls of my young, male Nigerian co-workers as they called home. These “nefarious” young men spent their free time helping their younger siblings study for exams, assuring their mothers that they were eating well, and telling their girlfriends how much they missed them. I watched them struggle to overcome physical disabilities, inadequate training, and prejudice while noticing that all of that was usually overshadowed to them by their worries for those back home.

And I thought, we could not be more different demographically, and yet how is it that the same things occupy our hearts and minds? It was an eye opening revelation. So, thanks to a handful of Nigerian geologists, Lola went on to have telepathic experiences in Africa, and part way through writing her story I added this to my dedication:

to my Nigerian coworkers and friends, with thanks for reminding me every day how the ways we are all alike are so much bigger than the ways we are different

But this post is only kind of about x0.

That’s because according to The New Yorker’s beautifully done coverage of Jo Cox’s funeral, Brendan Cox spoke about how his late wife had —

“come to symbolize something much bigger in our country and in our world, something that is under threat—her belief in tolerance and respect, her support for diversity and her stand against hatred and extremism, no matter where it comes from. Across the world we’re seeing forces of division playing on people’s worst fears, rather than their best instincts, trying to divide our communities, to exploit insecurities, and emphasize not what unites us but what divides us.”

It was an eloquent tribute, made all the more fitting given that the words she used in her first speech in parliament were

“[we] have far more in common than that which divides us.”

This blog is about the fact that I never heard of Jo Cox before her murder, although I wish that I had. I’d like to write a dozen pieces about her, even though I’d stay away from the subject of Britain leaving the EU because it seems to me to be an internal decision that the people of Britain were entitled to make.

No, more than anything, this post is about Jo Cox’s core values.

And it is about how I believe with all my heart that what she said holds the secret to world peace.

others

 

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2016 in Nigeria, peace

 

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