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The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry

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"Walking to the Sky" — a 100-foot sculpture by Jonathan Borofsky that was originally installed at Rockefeller Center in 2004 before being moved to the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas a year later.

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The current economic disaster is a moral crisis in that people knew they were backing loans with nothing and selling loans that held a high probability of failure, but they failed to look outside their own current profit to see the harm hovering over the public sector. It's like selling a car to an individual and being so caught up in maximum profit that one hides the fact that the car has poor brakes. Eventually they fail and the new owner is seriously injured. The seller says, "Hey, I told him it was 'as is, let the buyer beware." The "sin of omission” is one people often overlook, but it is just as problematic as any other. Secondly, it is a moral crisis because those who engaged in such risky practices looked to law as a moral compass. They weren't doing anything illegal, so it wasn't wrong. That is a dangerous maxim to adhere to. Legality and illegality are set to run a country smoothly with a relatively accurate eye on justice and morality, but it is imperfect and cannot be expected to cover every possibility of right and wrong. Individuals cannot replace their moral compass with an article in a legal document. This country's "rule of law" works well overall, but it does have the potential for immorality, i.e. the tyranny of law.

I feel the crisis is a spiritual failure in that people are too focused on tangibles: money, consumer goods, physical comforts, etc. America's "crisis" will not be on a scale of say, a crisis in Ethiopia or Pakistan, but we're acting like it will. America needs to shape a new dream, one not based on financial status. The American dream needs a spiritual basis; one where what people seek out is kindness, freedom from prejudice, unity and community, and happiness for all. We should abandon those American dreams centered on ownership of things.

My wife and I have been talking about this bursting of the economic bubble for five or six years. Anyone with a modicum of education and common sense could see that it was going to break sometime. The newspapers we read regularly had articles that mentioned the dangers of loans backed with credit, in turn backed with bad loans. I don't think anyone in the financial industry can honestly claim ignorance of the risk.
So, to answer your question, “what moral and spiritual resources and virtues do you bring to approaching it — in your own life, with colleagues at work, in your family, in your religious or other community settings?”
Well, we mostly depend on the virtue of frugality and the importance of other aspects of life outside of belongings and services. As young people, long before we met or married, we invested in the stock market, saved the money, and were able to pay off our home once we did marry. When we moved to a rural home with an acreage that cost more, we were able to pay off well over half of the principle, so our mortgage is very low, under five hundred dollars. We do not eat out regularly, saving that for special occasions. We do not succumb to the gee-whiz factor and spend money on cell phones or other technology we do not need in the name of current trends or fashion. We do not buy clothes based on the fashion whims of anyone claiming to be “cool.” We have no credit card debt since we pay it off every month. By doing this, we actually make money using our credit card since it pays one percent. We have only owned one new car, and we always save the money to buy our used ones instead of going into debt and paying twice what the car is worth in interest. When purchasing a car, economy, maintainability, and insurance costs have always out weighed looks, speed, or style. We do not have cable because the vast majority of the programming is mind-numbing and crass, and anyway we’re unhappy with the inability to purchase only the programming we want. We also do not crave regular entertainment or altered mental states and so save money by not pursuing those. We play games as a family, Mom and Dad enjoy the occasional glass of wine and we leave it at that. We also do not snack much and so do not buy sodas or junk food. I do buy the occasional fountain drink and we do have crackers, but no chips, candy, large amounts of soda, etc.
Spiritually, we rely on the teachings of the Christian Bible about how to view money, how to use and enjoy it. There’s not much to it beyond that. We pray about things we may want for ourselves and our children, going through a process of discernment in order to make choices that are within our means and what we believe God wants for us. Our immediate circle of family and friends consists of people who are similar to us and attend the Catholic Church, so we can support one another. We have had to purchase very few clothes for our children because others have donated used items to us as needed and we reciprocated back to them. We don’t preach frugality actively, instead relying on example. If the issue arises in conversation we will certainly mention what we do and don’t do, but we find preaching to be counter-productive no matter how warranted or necessary it may be. Unfortunately, our culture doesn’t know how to listen to others very well when it comes to such matters. We absolutely teach our children the pitfalls associated with materialism, wanting too much, and living beyond one’s means. We provide them with a modest allowance, of which ten percent is automatically allocated to tithing. The rest is for them to spend as they wish, but after it’s gone, we do not supplement their income. So, they learn the uncomfortable consequences of spending without forethought.

As far as what we are doing now that is different, there isn’t much. What we now do will get us through this. We had to cut back on what few luxuries we enjoy even before the financial crisis because fuel went so high. So, we take fewer trips and buy fewer luxury foods.

In terms of leadership we are looking for someone who understands that being in debt is always a liability. We’re looking for someone who understands that programs need money to run and he or she should make absolutely certain that funding will be there when needed and not trust to chance. We’re looking for someone who is non-partisan because the current party system has fulfilled George Washington’s worst fears of party politics. We’re looking for someone who, when faced with a critical decision, asks, “Is this good for the country, not how will this affect my re-election chances,” which is something I heard often on the news lately, politicians worried more about their jobs than this nation. We’re looking for someone who realizes that if one solves every social ill in the world, it is for nothing if the Earth is depleted and made unlivable. This country cannot have a perpetual growth economy because resources are finite. Anyone who has gone through elementary math should understand this. We want leadership that has in mind a priority system that places the environment first and thinks in the long term, not election cycles. We are looking for leadership that understands the “Teach a man to fish” principle, and helps people help themselves without doing all the work for them. We're looking for a leader who in the face of reasonable doubt about life's beginnings, errs on the side of life. We expect no less in our courts; we should expect no less in our government. We're looking for leadership that values the breach between religion and state, especially for religion's sake. We're looking for leadership that values every person equally, untarnished by pride of origin, voting, etc. There’s much more, but this is getting long. I hope this gives you one family’s insight and the guidance it relies on. Take care and God Bless.

'You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.'
Atticus Finch

Perhaps I should have chosen Jesus or Buddha or a Sufi poet or Dante or Shakespeare or Cervantes or Milton, the story is ubiquitous. I chose Harper Lee because her arrow pierced my heart as no other. Such an archetypal truth doesn’t require authority to validate its message. It has been validated by experience.

What does this most complex and simple message have to do with our present economic paradox – everything! If you grew up and live in America or anywhere else in Western Civilization you are a dualist whether you like it or not. We think of a grey world as black or white. Blame is such a sweet way to defer responsibility. And so we paint Wall Street black and everyone else white and absolve ourselves of any responsibility as we continue our journey along the boulevard of life awaiting the next crisis and the encore.

Atticus, in my interpretation, was symbolic of a bodhisattva or a Jesus who fully understood that he was both black and white and it was this awareness that allowed him to suffer with his adversaries. He understood that he was that bigoted and crazed individual who so needed to expiate his own guilt by destroying another. So tell me, had you been on Wall Street and making millions selling credit derivatives, how closely would the fidelity of those instruments been investigated.

Compassion, in my opinion, is a trite word until one understands fully that he is everything he deems the other to be. Only then can we “suffer with” or have true compassion. And without true compassion we only set ourselves up for another encore, another trip around the cycle yielding the same results as the last.

The Moral and Spiritual Aspects of an Economic Downturn is a broad net to cast.
I hope the above qualifies.

David Richardson

I am so glad that you are asking this question, because I have come to believe that this problem, and many other problems we face today, could benefit from viewing scientific (and economic) matters as not being separate from ethical and spiritual matters, but as being naturally related. As one who was raised in Western society and trained as a chemical engineer, it has taken me many years to articulate this belief, although I do think it seemed obvious to me from an early age. Alas, cultural pressures can sometimes suppress our common sense.

In this time of crisis, I have turned to the writings of Benjamin Hoff, author of "The Tao of Pooh" and "The Te of Piglet," and I hope you won't think I am saying this in jest. Hoff talks about the importance of Seeing Things As They Are (he devotes an entire chapter to this in Piglet), and I think this philosophical approach applies to the current economic crisis in two ways.

First, I view what Hoff calls "Reality Appreciation" as a central principle that should guide scientific, ethical, and spiritual thinking. Hoff credits the Taoists as some of the earliest proponents of this approach. Any six year old knows you shouldn't lend your money to people who can't pay you back. Apparently we let economic theories, trickle-down morality theories, and illusions of prosperity get in the way of appreciating this rather obvious reality. Perhaps it is simple-minded of me, but I view this economic situation to have resulted from a cultural failure to See Things As They Are.

Second, I find my personal approach to the present circumstances to be grounded in similar Taoist thinking. Hoff describes the Taoist approach to reality appreciation as being not to characterize things as "good" or "bad", as we Westerners tend to do. A drop in housing prices is not good or bad, it just is. While it is hurting me personally (I bought my home in 2006 and need to sell it due to relocation), I think it is good that more people will be able to afford homes. A rise in gasoline prices is also personally painful, but I am very glad to see people driving less and carpooling more and generating fewer global warming gases. I also see the situation as bringing about political awareness and change that I view as positive.

Again, I thank you for raising these questions, and for offering your listeners the opportunity to respond.

in compassion and fellowship,
Debbie Goodman

Our government and our financial system are extricably linked instead of one providing "governance" over the other to protect the citizen. Those that exploit our financial system or fail to regulate it act as if they do not care whether or not we go hungry or thirsty, are marginalized or economically left behind, have medical care or are wrongly imprisoned. If our government does not care, then who will? If our government will not care, can it at least do no harm?

The Judgement of Nations - 'for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.'
Matt 25:35-37 (NRSV)

I am recently retired - just in time to watch my retirement funds shrink by 25%. My wife and I are lucky ones as we are basically debt free. My wife and I work with our church's "backpack buddy" program that provides some local elementary school children that qualify for fully or partially funded meals with food for the weekends.

The current crises in the financial markets have underscored for me the wisdom of C.S. Lewis' comments in "Mere Christianity" [essay #3, "Social Morality"] relating to the dependence of modern society in the U.S. and most countries upon investment as a basis for having more than a hand-to-mouth existence. Lewis asserts "...the ancient heathen Greeks, and by the Jews in the Old Testament, and by the great Christian teachers of the Middle Ages..." the practice of lending money at interest is forbidden. I don't know what references Lewis was using; but I trust him to be accurate in citing these sources.

On the other hand, I want to provide for my family and do what I can to ensure that I'm not a burden to either my fellow-citizens or my children. Simply putting money in a box to be used later is almost sure to be a bad strategy; inflation is a fact of life since the industrial age started. There is really no option (or at least, I tell myself there is no option) but to put money in a savings account (at least), and this makes me a party to the process of lending money at interest.

I could give away my belongings and become a religious. I don't have the courage to do that. I don't really trust God, although I claim that I do.

So I go along with the system. I take the advice of my investment manager. I have profited by selling a house in a greatly inflated market, and I profit by taking a salary from my employer that seems to me to be far greater than the value of the work I provide.

Am I guilty? I certainly feel guilty. I know I am complicit in the exploitation of poor people for the benefit of us few who can take advantage of the system.

I have been thinking about these issues. We live in an age of spiritual barrenness. Of hucksters and con men. Of the fast buck and the one minute quick profit, and forget about the consequences. Of a complete lack of concern for the well being of others. This applies to our mindless disregard for the rights of sovereign nations and to the callous disregard of our neighbors at home. How do we just go into a country and take its oil, and not expect people to be mad at us? We need a spiritual awakening in order to survive.

I have begun a spiritual journey primarily because of the worries that have overwhelmed my mind with an uncertainty of what tomorrow will bring with regard to my job, my government, my world, and my life.

The worries became so overwhelming to me that my mind was constantly searching for solutions to problems that don't yet exist. "What if" questions loomed ominously and cluttered my mind to the point that there were so many voices clamoring for attention that I could hardly focus on one thing at a time.

This caused a spiritual crisis for me because my inner voice vanished.

This inner voice is the real me in contact with the universe, but it just took a back seat to worries and fears that the popular media was making a fortune on, the president was feeding Americans to make us fear terrorists looming right around the corner, and the political debate leading up to the election bashed into our collective psyche all the problems of the world that need solving.

As a result, I contacted my minister (the church I belong to but go to only on holidays) and asked him to take me off their mailing lists and understand I needed to take a quest to find meaning in my life beyond what the church had to offer.

The wisdom I turned to came in the form of podcasts I listened to on my 30 minute drive to work every day. This became my church, my time for meditation, my time for reflection and connection with something greater than myself which could silent the many voices and allow me to focus on the one voice I believed to be my true spirit.

I thank SOF because you were the first step in my journey as I downloaded and listened to almost your entire archive. At some point, I came across an interview with Thich Nhat Han which rang true with my soul. That led to readings, but also checking out CD's from my local library by Han and Eckhart Tolle, downloading any interviews I could off the web to help me quiet the worry for worry was solving nothing and fear was looking to the future which didn't yet exist.

My wife knows I'm going down this path though she has no interest to follow at this time. My children, ages 12 and 16, realize I'm becoming a calmer person rather than one who talked of crisis around the dinner table.

What I am doing different now is breathing instead of holding my breath and getting stressed out. I'm not watching TV because it really doesn't support my journey (haven't found the Good News channel and Christian Broadcasting seems to be fear based as well). I'm starting to journal to get my thoughts out on blogs. I'm trying to catch the voice of fear when it pops up, acknowledge it and in doing so silent it.

The end result, I hope, is not me running away from the world, but realizing that no matter how much fear or worry I pour into myself, no matter how much stress I put in my mind and body, I gain nothing.

Inner Peace is my quest and if I find it, when I find it, I hope to share it with others just by my presence. Perhaps I can affect those around me in a positive way by not being stressed out. Perhaps by my spiritual journey I will move away from numbing the pain of fear with drugs and alcohol. Perhaps through daily Yoga practice, I will emerge a healthier person. Perhaps through conscious eating, I will make the world a better place.

Who knows where this will lead me. I don't search for perfection, but do strive to make myself a little better every day and in doing so may impact the universe in ways I haven't even considered.

All I know is living with the fear and worry about uncertain times needs to be let go and accepted for what it is and learn to live life knowing it really isn't as bad as I can create it to be.

perhaps we're healing. perhaps the moral/spiritual crisis isn't the economic downturn but the years of mindless spending--consuming. a nation of the consumed. be patriotic and go out and spend is what we were told after 9-11. maybe this year, as we approach xmas, predicated to be the worst for retailers in decades, we will be able to pause and breath and discover what it means to celebrate without being consumers.

and how i've changed? now that our budget is tight, it forces me to buy food intelligently. to learn to cook with want's on hand. make more things from scratch. this can only be healthier. and to learn to be grateful for the food on our table. to understand the ridiculous amount of waste i'm willing to tolerate.

as for our leaders, i'm looking for our leaders to ask me to do more. i truly was moved by our president-to-be asking for more community service. asking us to do more! i cried. all my cynicism melted away. so, perhaps this collapse is not a crisis but an awakening... can it be?

I consider the financial crash to be a moral and spiritual crisis of our culture, which has for decades gone far overboard in the direction of Hofstede's individualism dimension. How could anyone consider it morally right to sell a $650,000 house with a zero-down-payment ARM to a family earning, say, $50,000 a year? The only way someone could justify this to him/herself would be by saying, "Hey, I have to make a living and this is how I get my commissions." Individualism gone wild. The same selfish logic applies to the executives in the financial industry who got involved in trading credit default swaps, the legislators who refused to regulate the mortgage and investment industries, and so on. That's the moral side. The spiritual side? I think these individuals are just totally tuned out to spirituality altogether, unless it is a brand of spirituality that completely ignores "love your neighbor as yourself."

This week's show is about revenge and forgiveness. I'll confess I want revenge. I want the government to force the people responsible for the decisions that have destroyed my retirement savings to make restitution -- as NY State Atty. Gen. Andrew Cuomo is doing. As for forgiveness, when I see these folks getting together and using their millions to fund homeless shelters, jobs programs, and green energy initiatives, I'll think about forgiving them for their greed and poor judgment.

I don't agree with the rabbi that "all are responsible" -- how could that be true? The financial industry is not a democracy. We don't get a vote. Even the Secretary of the Treasury, supposedly representing the interests of all U.S. citizens, is appointed, not elected. We who are not executives or board members are powerless, and it was the powerful who made these disastrous decisions.

great story

Awesome piece of writing, this is.

The economic crisis is completely circled around morality, not spirituality. The morals behind business practices and responsibilities of consumers has led to this crisis. The unfortunate side affect is that communities, such as churches or non-profit organizations, do not have the continued support that they once had. As we spend what we have, spend what is loaned to us under false premises... we are brought to our knees to find... spirituality.

There lies the beauty of a crisis: when we have no where else to turn, we look up above and pray.

What we should hope for is to correct our own follies from the government down to the spender so that our children and their children do not pay for our mistakes: in fact, let them learn about this and make appropriate measures to prevent this from happening for, hopefully, all of their time.

It has been an interesting, if not challenging view of the turndown, as I began my retirement on September 30, 2007. Already signs were appearing and as I listened to the older members of my congregation talk of their observations, I decided to protect my investments where I could.
Is it a moral or spiritual reckoning - this economic downturn?
It is a crisis, I believe, of our inability to be a community. What do I mean? Human beings come together in community to create and to build towards the future. Human beings see the value of being with and working with other human beings. Human beings know that they have stake in their neighbor.
Clearly, I think, this nation has moved from being a community to a collection of individuals whose drive is only to gather in as much as they can to protect themselves and secure their personal futures. What is of value is that which is of value only to me. It matters not what other voices might be saying.
The clear dividing of this country into red and blue, and, a clear division between believer and non-believer (Christianity and Islamic fundamentalism)has blinded us to the necessity of rebuilding this national community. It takes cooperation, respect and appreciation for the diversity of this nation. Something we have been losing for 30 years and longer.
The turning inward for some spiritual question has been matched with equal vigor towards this downward turn. The spiritual economy has its outward ramifications.
We fail to realize always and everywhere that only a turning out of oneself leads to a upward turning. To turn out and up means less accumulation of stuff and more investment in people.
Right wingers get it wrong because they trust the machinations of the economic theory of free enterprise but fail to take into account the brokenness of humankind - that is the propensity to turn in ourselves. The left wingers fail because they trust in the governmental structures which are manned by human beings who are broken, and thereby turn in on themselves.
For the last 13 years I have thrown myself into two arenas: 1.Jewish-Christian Dialogue - it has helped me to refocus on my own faith and tradition, to think in new ways, discover old ways of thinking that have been buried over the centuries. It has helped me not to get pulled to either pole: of exclusivism on the one hand, and, the 'nothing really matters' pole on the other hand.
2. Holocaust Studies - to remember that bitter period of time, the role which my faith community played in it through the long centuries, to address bigotry in all its forms today, to employ what we learn from the Holocaust and survivors to help young people in the future.

I am looking for a non-anxious presence, one that is not afraid of going where we have not been before - to employ an old Star Trek line.
I am looking for a leadership that works on behalf of the betterment of peoples mind, body and spirit and not filling them with illusions.
I am looking for a leadership which employs restraint militarily, respects the international community, but holds those people accountable who would rule by fear and intimidation through terror.

I am working with an interfaith group to build a program in Holocaust studies for all ages to learn about racism and bigotry and the power of hate, and to direct people to building the future.

Dag Hammarsjkold has been an inspiration. he said:
God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal deity, but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illumined by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason.
That's where I find "it".

Name: Sergio Palacio
Country of Origin: Colombia, South America
Age: 51 years old

My personal objective as the president of One global Ethics, Ogethics is transferring a decade training of a cross-culture exchange in America to individuals, organizations, and communities. Since the beginning learning the English language, through different kinds of jobs in different industries with different groups of people, I have received a comprehensive self-training in ethics as an employee. The achievement of a Master of Arts in Human Resources Management and Development, with emphasis in ethics, inspired me to continue an ongoing self-study research in ethical issues around the world.

I hold a bachelor’s degree in BA from Eafit University, Medellin, Colombia, and a Master of Arts in Human Resources Management and Development from Webster University, St. Louis, MI.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Human resource is much more than an organizational term to define employees’ development and activities. It is the core value of society, of mankind, of the human race having or showing qualities, as rationality or fallibility, viewed as distinctive of people - a human act, a human failing - unique source to breathe ethics into the human being.
A. Services
1. Elaboration of Ethical Codes of Conduct
2. Ethical Training Programs
3. One Global Ethics, Ogethics-Etcetera Online Discussion
4. Confidential Ogethics Help-Line to Report Ethical Concerns
B. Customers
1. Individuals
2. Organizations
3. Communities
C. Future of Ethics
The ethical industry is the future of an ethically complex world. Those who want to discover what is and how to do the right thing in an ethically complex world will be the realistic leaders of this visionary utopia of building a better world in the middle of a chaotic, misunderstood, and grim panorama.

One Global Ethics, Ogethics knows that money is not the final solution for the problems and crisis of the world. The contemporary reality of living and working to the border of calamity has made Ogethics thinks about what works in terms of ethics. Thus, it has undertaken the ethical journey or mission of instilling in individuals, organizations, and communities the value of ethical human resources to create a new global economic order.

ETHICAL CRISIS IN THE 2008 FINANCIAL COLLAPSE

Actually, the 2008 financial market catastrophe has created a major uncertainty in my purpose to do ethical business as a small philanthropic entrepreneur; or perhaps, it should be assimilated as the opposite: What an opportunity! How ethical is the executive compensation, bonuses, and perquisites? Are their decisions in the economic best interest of the firm and its stakeholders? Or, do they have real political motivations that are an inevitable part of the corporate world? The world of compensation is very different in not-for-profit-organizations. How can anyone be worth tens of millions of dollars, they demand in the corporate world? (Milkovich & Newman, 2006). What is the real value we are giving to money in our businesses built on human relationships? Legal or ethical? Because it can be legal according to the raises congress did to the executive minimum wage before the 2008 financial meltdown to $565.15/hr (The Onion, November 12, 2003. Issue 39.44); but, it can be unethical too in accordance with the comparison we make with the compensation of the rest of the special groups who also have an important impact on corporate success. Thus, delegating the decision-making process in just one person is a glaring mistake, expensive, need regulation, and has showed an evident unethical example in the 2008 financial collapse. The Today’s debate (09/25/2008) in the congress is to make a fundamental agreement about the 700 billions-dollars’ fund the government - through tax-payers - is able to invest to recover the country from the financial crisis of major corporations, and avoid a future global economic depression around the planet.

There is not enough money to avoid the consequences of a continuum exploitation of our human condition in favor of a materialistic comfort that destroyed our free-will in honor of a false freedom that denies the existence of a higher power named ethics. Without that spirit we are helpless and empty bodies of dust and destined to slavery. It is a suicidal end…which can be valid for many. What it is not okay is that if some people have the ethical connection already, and they do not use it to transcend this realistic/materialistic plane, and create a post-material/ethical circumstance, a real-future-world, the opportunity to see our greatness as species is missed.

We are supposed to continue the human dialogue to advance to unimaginable levels where ethics dwells without condemning others who do not think, believe, and behave as we do. This is my utopia. This is Ogethics’ competitive advantage or disadvantage. Advantage, because we know we need to make a realistic change that evolves our human limitations to a better situation and advances ethics to a new plateau; disadvantage, because we also know our human nature does not believe in perfection. Even though we are facing a cognitive dissonance or unethical dilemma, thinking about ethics is a good omen for the future. Why do not we try and make in our intentions a virtue? Is there some reason to elevate the matter of ethics? Can business effectively regulate employee conduct? People - no regulation - run companies.

The main competitive factor of Ogethics in the ethics industry is the belief that despite the new government regulation, morality cannot be regulated. Ethics lives in a compliance world; traditionally, compliance has meant: “what you cannot do,” while ethics has been defined as “what you should do.”

“Imagination is more important than knowledge; knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world” (Albert Einstein).

Summarizing, Ogethics is ready to go into the world and have a niche for individuals, organizations, and communities who really want to take the next level of civilization as an age of ethical living and working conditions: The Ethical Age.

Ogethics wants to project a human dynamics image that is not complicated with religion, philosophy, or any judgment at all. It is reflecting a different caliber of ethical training programs and of inspiration in every kind of people into ethics. Customers should see Ogethics as trustworthy, professional, knowledgeable, caring, ethical, and friendly.

Ogethics focus is on the inner most of each person without touching judgment about psychological things or religious beliefs or moral philosophy or any other judgment that may alter the connection between freedom of speech and a different point of view. There is no ex cathedra about ethics in Ogethics, or authority to say one thing is right or wrong without the consensus and authenticity of the parts involved in the discussion. It is not always clear what the proper thing to do is; it requires a great deal of fortitude to actually do the right thing.

STRATEGY

Once identified the low-cost method to start my ethical business, going around family members, and a couple of friends and acquaintances, I realized the importance of building ethical connections with these group of people. Every one liked the idea and participated in a way we could talk about typical problems and difficulties we find everyday in life related to making money, how to treat others and ourselves, beliefs, attitudes, responsibilities, enjoyment, and change. However, there was a great deal of disbelief according to the charitable status of my business: “How are you going to live? Who is going to pay the bills? What are you going to eat? Yes! Your goal is stoical but unrealistic. It is utopia! We will never get that point; we are humans. Come on Sergio; come down to earth and find a real job. Money is the most important thing in life; that is reality for sure. I pay my drugs for my health problems, because I have the money to pay the health insurance; what could I do if I do not have that money? Prayers will not pay my bills. That is nothing to be with faith. Unfortunately, money is what moves the world and our lives.”

A few people encouraged me with the idea of One Global Ethics, Ogethics in other sense that the first family group. They said it is what we need in the world; people motivationally challenged who really take care of themselves. They did not go to the money issue; I guess they know the necessity of money to live is a reality, but it is not their priority in life. They can survive with less money and belongings; are intrinsically motivated to be healthy, exercise; and, enjoy life as it is in spite of problems and difficulties, because they see those troubles as opportunities to learn and grow.

After the familiar kick off of Ogethics, I decided to find a job in another organization to continue with my own ethical business as an employee, and see what kind of reaction and learning I may find in the corporate world about someone from the bottom line suggesting business ethics. The ceiling barrier - I spoke before in this ethical business plan - was so evident. The hierarchical structure in all the companies I worked with was so strong that any of them was able to debate issues of unfair employment practices, discrimination, lack of support, abusive treatment, negligence, jealousy, lack of professionalism, and a real fear of losing their positions of authority in managers or a real fear to lose their jobs in employees showed up. Thus, they saw me and awarded me - at first - like the best employee to work with due to I showed them how to work ethically, following instructions, working hard, making sound relationships, being honest and sincere, taking care of others, going the extra mile, connecting with the company’s mission and objectives, and showing a genuine interest to help customers, vendors, and peers.

After they realized what kind of work pace I was running in their businesses, and when I started making points about ethical issues in the organizational culture of each company, peers and management started ignoring my comments and tried to isolate me from the socialization process. Thus, I started sending letters to document my concerns and communicate better about those ethical issues. They did not respond the letters. I insisted again and again to hit myself against the ceiling barrier most organizations in the corporate world have to control someone who discusses their policies and procedures. The open door policy in most of today’s organizations is a ceiling barrier. Then, I was terminated in some organizations for: (a) insubordination (I refused to train the manager’s son without a job description); (b) disrespect (I had the courage to tell the management team there were several company’s policies and procedures they were not following); (c) not following the chain of command (they never responded to my letters or ignored my verbal comment; then I was escalating my concerns until reach the CEO); or (d) because I was in 90 days probation and they were under the “at-will” employment law. In other scenarios, I had to resign and leave the company because they started abusing of my good disposition to work giving me more duties to do, and telling me they were not interested in my white papers suggesting changes. “This is the way we do things for years in this company; welcome to America” she, the manager, said; “if you do not like the rules here, you may leave” said another leader then he through my paper proposal away to the garbage can.

Under those circumstances, I continued following up family reactions about the terminations and my insistence to talk in workplaces about ethical issues. At that point, I understood they made a point about my business: Ethics is my utopia! How can then I talk about that without creating destructive reactions, misinterpretations, and ostracism for me and others? My family said: “That is crazy. Yes, you were trying to help them, but cannot you hold your tongue?” The difficulty my friends, is not in avoiding being fired, but in avoiding unethical concerns or dilemmas. I have a passion for thinking ethically.

Currently, I am working part time in the Hunan Imperial, a Chinese Cuisine as a driver/dishwasher/utility man. We have a diverse group of people in the restaurant: Chinese, Americans, and Hispanics or Latinos. The diffusion of ethical practices has been smoothly. The Chinese management is open to listening to some advices and talk about ethical issues due to they are at the same time washing dishes, sweeping, doing delivery, and everything. It is an equalitarian culture; a flatter, more team-oriented structure with free food for their employees three times of the day. Hence, I have food, I can pay the rent, and help customers and peers about ethical concerns when the situation requires it. Nevertheless, the financial crisis in the country has reached an unemployment rate of more than 6% in October 2008. The restaurant is facing a lost of customers and shrinking the working schedule for the employees. I am working only 2 ½ hours per day. Looking for another part time job is a priority now. At least I have free food with the Chinese people while the restaurant is open.

Reading and listening to the news about the 2008 financial debacle in USA economy, I certainly know there is a niche for my ethical business. “The world is not ending. Not until people quit believing in themselves, not until people quit believing in a better future” said Jury Shelton in the Wall Street Journal about the economic crisis.

Ogethics is a leading organization in the ethics industry. My educational service is a need in individuals, organizations, and communities to create a new global economic order where the sole responsibility is the human being. The next strategy is to present Ogethics services to the churches in different denominations and communities. Public worships are a main place of people gathering together to listen a message. Under their approval and confidence I pretend to breathe ethics into their communities; thus they will spread the workings of Ogethics’ Internalized Advisory Approach (IAA) and a Non Judgmental Ethical Integrity Lesson (NJEIL) to their homes and their workplaces. The word of mouth will be stimulated in the churches services on Sundays, Bible studies and spiritual messages during some days of the week, and conversations with pastors and spiritual leaders.

Why churches if Ogethics is a non religious organization? As a matter of fact, religion itself does not make ethical people. However as Tenzin Gyatso, the Buddhist monk, the Dalai Lama (1999) said: “Religion has enormous potential to benefit humanity; properly employed, it can play a leading role in encouraging people to develop a sense of responsibility toward others and of the need to be ethically disciplined”.

It is due to the human dynamics in churches are highly related with people’s beliefs that Ogethics’ next strategy focuses on them. Understanding different beliefs and religious’ practices as a humane process of doing the right thing, without obligating others to change their behaviors because we think we have the truth, or they are wrong in the appreciation and manifestation of their faith or spirituality, is the ethical point to make in the arena of churches.

Legally by Title VII, employers cannot discriminate employees based on religion. They are supposed to accommodate the religious practice in the workplace unless it is onerously an undue hardship. Nevertheless, the ethical implications of religious discrimination in organizations and human relationships are oppressive to the mind or spirit as well as to the body in a higher level than the law. I know they are burdensome responsibilities to overcome the oppressive cruelty of the law that inflicts hardship, or emphasizes the severity of the undue hardship itself in benefit of the economic character of the business, which refuses the tedious character of dealing with people, ignoring the human character we are all supposed to give prior attention.

Legally by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), churches are charitable non profit organizations with the mission of helping people to find peace, be good among them, and worship God. However, by Title VII, they can discriminate employment against other people who does not profess its beliefs as a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ). Ethically, we should give others the freedom to make their decisions in their own, welcome and support them even though we have a different particular faith and worship in ways that are appropriate in our beliefs. Hence, Ogethics’ mission is to instill in them the value of ethical human resources and talents all the congregations of people have in spite of differences of credo, cults, prayer or denomination. Integrated as charitable non profit organizations, churches and Ogethics will work together to the benefit of individuals, organizations, and communities.

Introducing Ogethics to the Churches:

Open Your Heart to the World under the Grace of Your Faith and Love

Position, authority, and money are not important in an ethical world -what matters is faithful obedience from the heart. Heartfelt obedience is more important than legalistic observance and profit motivation.

Actually, this ethical position usually contradicts the world’s focus. Be prepared: “People will always try to stop you from doing the right thing if it is unconventional” (Warren Buffet).

The butterfly’s effect (Edward Lorenz) - small effects lead to big changes - seems strange to the world when you decide to live ethically in everything you say and do. “We must be willing to give when others take, to love when others hate, to help when others abuse” (Life Application Study Bible, NIV). By giving up our own rights in order to serve others, we keep our dignity as a main human resource.

One Global Ethics, Ogethics is a non profit organization under the IRS prospective 501 (C) (3) status with the mission of inspiring the value of ethical human resources and talents in individuals, organizations, and communities. We have found a niche in the arena of public worships. Ogethics will never say you are wrong or right, will never interfere with your belief or declare it has the truth.

Give us an opportunity to help your people to discover the value of their human resources and talents in an ethically complex world inside the faith, grace, and love that your community professes.

OGETHICS DISCUSSION TO CHURCHES - ETHICS LEADS TO GOD

DISCUSSION
Everyone has already made a faith commitment to believe what he thinks is the spiritual life or the thought that she is supposed to direct her destiny.

CHURCHES TEACH RELIGIOUS ETHICS
Public worships instruct their members in faithfulness, morality, honesty, and integrity. Ethical instruction is not a new law but a way of life according to the most of spiritual leaders’ new commandment to love one another or treat others as you want to be treated. Love is a strong motivator; however, love does not take the place of ethics nor law. Love is not itself ethics or the law. It is a “how” word, but it will never tell us “what” we are to do. It gives willing and cheerful obedience rather than coerced and forced compliance, and that is the best start to act so as to do what is good and right without being obligated.

REFLECTION - UNETHICAL DILEMMA
Thus we cannot obligate people to love each other, nor can we obligate others to follow one or another religious faith. We are supposed to be ethical with our beliefs, but we will find ourselves between equally unfavorable or disagreeable alternatives:
a) To pretend to convert others to our religion
b) To feel our faith is in jeopardy

What ought I to do? How should I act so as to do what is good and right? What is meant by good? Who is the ethical person?

Looking for a comprehensive word to define the modern/abstract term “ethics,” we learn it is doing the right thing, virtue, ideals. Also we can call it the manner of life, discipline, teaching, way or path of the good and the right. The closest parallel Greek term in the New Testament is “anastrophe,” “way of life or lifestyle.”

What makes the influence in molding ethics in our human resources is the character revealed in all teachings about religion; this includes the free-will expressed in all kind of faith throughout the world. All of them are making a definition of what is right, good, and ethical. “God causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Mathew 5:45).

In this sense, the Bible makes a decisive point in breathing ethics into the minds of Christian believers, and on those who may see this educational force as something that instills freedom of speech, conduct and custom, manner of life or practice. As a matter of fact, the Bible is an ongoing and continuous story about the character and will of God. It requires a permanent updating in our lives and practices to the limit of knowing whether or not we are following the proper basis to live so as to do what is right, just , and good. There is too much diversity in its content to decide that there is harmony and a basic ethical standard and norm against which all ethical and moral decisions ought to be made.

What defines the character of something we believe is more powerful than our own way is found in an internal examination or introspection. This process will unveil the human resources and talents everyone has to the level of discovering what always has been there within us without changing. In this sense, the biblical materials are unique to inspire people to find God through themselves. That is why free-will is so important in this search; it has to be voluntary. You have to make a choice. There is no power in the whole universe, except you yourself, that can prevent God from taking you to that goal of finding it.

Contemporary ethicists or moral-living individuals may be able to rest their decision on the ethical content of the biblical text from a past age. In short the Bible can be applied to all people, times, and conditions due to its consistency of the scripture’s teaching that presents a common front to the same questions in all its parts and to all cultures past and present. It seeks to command a certain moral behavior in a universal human way: We should love each other as the way to find what God represents in feelings like peace, freedom, and happiness. The characterization in the biblical book is created by humans who addressed their time and culture in a particular situation. This disposition has made a distinctive mark in individuals who read the biblical text and find a pattern of behavior to do the same in their lives. It is moral strength, self-discipline, fortitude, all in one. At least, the biblical reading directs the question: What kind of person ought I to be?

The answer is always a universal principle: An ethical person. Whatever the situation, place, age or belief we humans mean to be good and do well for our own sake and the sake of humanity. From that general principle, a person in a different setting can use the Bible to gain direction in a specific decision.

An ethical person is someone who knows how to behave in every circumstance even though there are blind moments and uncertainty. That person is not afraid to go beyond the duties and rules and make a positive difference in our human condition. In spite of the difficulties and knowing every act has consequences for the future, an ethical person has a vision of a beautiful and expanding future for all. And, she never hesitates to amend human errors, own one’s or somebody else’s, because that person knows what forgive means.

An ethical person sees others as equals no matter what the differences can be. That person is not only full of love for life and everything that is alive, but also understands death with serenity. There is no a word of judgment in the vocabulary of a good person; just understanding of the human limitation as a condition to improve every day in the human plane.

An ethical person does not know he is a good person. That is irrelevant. What the question of what kind of person I ought to be? makes them think about is the motives and intentions of their heart.

Thus, the internal response to morality rather than mere outward acts is what biblical ethics deeply concern. Every act has consequences to the future; but a moral act is not merely omitting or refraining from doing a forbidden thing - it can be more devastating than doing it when we recognize that even when we were believing we were doing good we were not. A moral act in the ethical realm is a positive participation in life. We must not just refuse to murder, but we must do all in our power to aid the life of our neighbor. Aiding the life of our neighbor as sound relationships, adapting with our circumstances in life, and understanding societal patterns is what make our human resources and talents ethical. “Seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand” (St. Augustine).

All lawmakers must keep pure the spirit of the law and their intentions. No matter how many new issues are faced in ethical discussion, the bottom line remains on the motives and intentions of the heart. Therefore, ethics is above the law.

Reference: Adapted from Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. Ethics. Holman Illustrated Bible
Dictionary, 2003

Please be advised on the current information presented to the Speaking of Faith Program is in the process of proofreading and analysis for people from different backgrounds like writers, religious leaders, professors of ethics, moral philosophy, literature, and business, as some ordinary people named friends. Hence, whether you think this project has relevant significance in the subject of The Moral and Spiritual Aspects of an Economic Downturn, I will appreciate a last chance for corrections before any publication of it as a final document (Sergio Palacio, 2008).

I think this is a moral and spiritual crisis because it is bringing people forward who clash with one another. Class differences already existed, and the economic problems are causing classes to turn against each other even more. Living near elderly people, I hear a lot about how they do not want to be taxed, to help the poor. The older people I know feel that they earned their retirement (those that have one left), and that Democrats have no right or business taking from them. These people voted for John McCain. They fear an Obama presidency that would tax them. They scoffed at Obama's speech about "fairness" and "equality." They are already resentful of the Bush Administration's taxing Social Security - one woman loses at least $80-120 a month from her check - and don't want it to continue.

In addition, I think that the economy has turned the lower classes even more against the upper ones. "Rich bitch" and other comments are made, with working class and poor people thinking that wealthier people do not suffer. Living in a senior citizen community, I can tell you that they do. But who wants to hear it? I may not agree with these older Americans, but I certainly empathize with their viewpoint. Many go to Canada for their prescriptions. Others have lost a good chunk of their hard-earned retirement dollars in the stock market. And now, they even more have to put up with invectives, resentment, and anger. People make comments about those who live in gated communities, not realizing the fear that many now have of the lower classes. Recently, a high school student in my area was gunned down in a gang conflict. His parents had no clue that he knew the people who killed him. Gangs have infiltrated even the "best" neighborhoods. People's natural response is to move to a gated community, to feel safe. Yet they find themselves being attacked for living there. As though nothing bad can happen to you, because you live behind a gate.

In this vein, I will describe several situations that I am aware of. I know some poor people, who have a hard time making their bills each month. Even before the economic crisis, they were having trouble. Anyways, they are of the belief that "no one suffers like the poor." Well, I am aware of two different women who in the past few years, for different reasons, had most of their intestinal tracts removed. Both barely survived, and are horrifically uncomfortable (having always to stay near a bathroom) now that they have lived through what happened to them. Both are elderly. Yet the poor people I know consider that these women have not suffered nearly as much as they have, themselves. I also know of several families who lost children to cancer. In at least two of these cases, the parents' marriage was directly affected by the death of the child. The poor people who I know have excellent health. They have never had to go to a hospital, needed an operation, etc. When I tried telling them that they were fortunate to have such good health, I was told that they suffer more than these parents whose children have died. That the poor suffer more than anyone else. The woman, the wife, in the family, has determined that she has suffered more than anyone in her family. Never mind that her cousin recently lost her husband to Hepatitis C. That another cousin recently died in his 50s. She has suffered the most.

I feel that our consumerist culture is at least partly to blame for this terrible division between the classes. People no longer can make do without. Now they have to have tv sets, video games, computers, gameboys, cell phones, ipods, and laptops. My sister, who has three children, has complained that all the gadgets she has had to buy for them cost over $1,000 per child. How are the poor supposed to move upward when faced with financial demands like this? We are all, myself included, addicted to a pattern of spending that is unlike what has ever been seen in the world. And now that the economy no longer permits it, we are crashing down and learning what it feels like to not be able to buy what we want. For a lot of people, it is more than uncomfortable. It is a disaster.

So, that is why I think we are having a spiritual and moral crisis. Believe it or not, I believe there is a moral aspect to spending money. You don't just earn and spend. You have to put your mind to what you are buying. Whether you really need it. Whether the price is fair. I believe in buying things on sale, particularly clothing and shoes. I have had friends who worked in retail, and they have told me what the markup is in all the stores. It is appalling, the amount of money that we Americans spend, without thinking. We are apparently of the belief that "anything goes," if you have the bucks. We admire people who have huge fortunes, and often do not care how they made them. We are resented worldwide, for using most of the world's resources. Only recently have we started thinking, as a nation, of the world's poor. Of people in other countries. A lot of us are of the mindset that "everything's great" when you have the almighty dollar at your disposal.

I am part of this equation, and have been part of it for several years. People like to see each other spend money (I still haven't figured out why), and I have changed my own spending pattern due to pressure from wealthier friends. I never used to spend more on my charge cards, than I could pay each month. Now I carry debt, and my discomfort at doing so has been laughed at by certain people. I used to be quite frugal - my parents are New Englanders, and I was raised to avoid conspicuous consumption - and even though it is nice in some ways to have the extra stuff, I can say that there is a certain satisfaction that comes from not owing any money. I used to take the bus, rather than drive a car - I did not have a car when I lived in Boston in the 1980s - and never felt that I was lacking. Only as I have gotten older, have I spent more. And sometimes, I wish that I did not. So yes, I am part of the moral/spiritual crisis of which we speak.

Anyways, I do think there is a moral/spiritual crisis in this country. I know that many think that the government should not bail out the corporations that are having problems. I think the government will have to, because of the jobs that would be lost, if they did not. And I think this will lead to some sort of assistance for the average person. Yes, we are becoming socialistic in this country. There is already tremendous resentment among the American people of the bailout plans, and considering how many are losing their homes, their jobs . . .I cannot blame them. I hope that President-elect Obama will be able to bring relief to the average person, as well as to the companies that are in trouble. Realistically, I don't know if the resentment between the classes will ever cease. I just hope that the new administration is able to make people's lives easier than they are right now. That people are able to accept a Black man as leader of this country, and that they respect his efforts to straighten our economic problems out. I also hope that frugality will not be laughed at, as it has been so recently. And that more than a few of us realize that money is only one aspect of a person, and that you cannot make a blanket judgment of a person, or group of people, by their economic class.

Following is a short essay that I hope will provide hope and encouragement to your listeners.

What if…?
By Michael Dant

As financial institutions around the world scramble to perform their “What if” calculations in this time of economic recession, I would like to propose a few spiritual “What if” calculations for God’s people to ponder in times of financial crisis.

What if financial news meant less to us than the weather report?

What if the cost of gas forced us to carpool, ride our bike, or walk to work?

What if exorbitant heating bills meant more time snuggled up together as a family by the fireside?

What if the high cost of electricity necessitated spending less time in front TVs, computers and X-Boxes?

What if we considered the loss of a job to be a gift from God?

What if losing our job turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to us?

What if no income meant trusting in God for all our needs?

What if having less money to spend on clothes meant thinking less about our outward appearance?

What if the high cost of food encouraged us to eat less and more simply?

What if we were truly destitute and had to be fed by ravens like Elijah?

What if losing our house meant strengthening our home?

What if we were forced to live in a small apartment but learned to live life large?

What if we lost our retirement savings but became adept at enjoying our “Golden Years” today?

What if we did not “store up wealth on earth where moth and rust” and recession destroy?

What if our money and all our possessions truly belonged to God?

What if financial crisis were a great adventure that resulted in a downpour of spiritual blessings?

What if…?

So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:31-33 NIV)

it seems the harder one works and strives for independence the more society/government beleauger, stomp and kick one. Born in a Catholic, irish midwest farm environment ..felt the patriotic urge to leave and serve in the miliatary where I saw the heartbreack of the soldier under a democratically lead US of A and became a republican(not staunch) just practical..tried to teach hard work, help those less fortunate and independence to 3 daughters...now , middle age feel defeated..our country is over taken by hollywood valuesa and BIG government..saddens me..feel helpless and kicked.

We welcome this turn of events, because we were running headlong into both financial and moral bankruptcy. Now we have an opportunity to reconsider our values, both financial and spiritual. One lesson is clear, even to he most materialistic: whatever we do will have global consequences. This is both heartening and sobering.

There is no doubt in my mind that this economic crisis is also a moral crisis. It may, in fact, be more accurate to say that a moral crisis spawned the economic crisis.
I have learned quite a lot about the economic crisis from another podcast, This American Life, from Chicago Public Radio. Their two episodes, "The Giant Pool of Money" and "Another Frightening Show about the Economy" explained the inner workings of the crisis in remarkable clarity. As I listened to these shows, one thought repeatedly came to my mind as each new detail was revealed: How could we be so greedy?
Mortgage-backed securities were dangerous in their own right. How much sense does it make to invest in securities based on mortgages offered without any income or asset investigation? None at all—unless you're desperate to make more money on a high interest rate. As if that weren't enough, mortgage-backed securities were further packaged into collateralized debt obligations (CDO's), which were in turn sold as securities. Some of the mortgages in these CDO's were rated so low that they were considered "toxic waste." Why invest in toxic waste? The desperate desire for more and more money.
I'm all for investment. It's necessary for our economy. When no one is investing (or lending), like now, we are in trouble. But we got here by making very unwise investments, by making greedy investments in toxic waste. It's fine to try to earn some extra interest. But there have to be limits, and our ignorance of any limitation—our greed—has brought us where we are today.

Between 2003 and 2007, my marriage of 20 years with five children ended, I lost my job teaching of 12 years and finally, I lost my home to bankruptcy. My heart was shattered by fear and rejection from different corners of my life. I had to turn to public assistance to put food on the table and depend on the generosity of family to help me creep through those days with some sense of dignity.

As a cradle Catholic I assumed that the church would be my solace...but I was wrong. There was no life-line literal or spiritual given. I found no comfort in the thought that God has given me what I could endure ....that I would be made stronger....and the best one, that there is a reason for it all even if I never know it.

Somehow I discovered the dharma and Buddhism. It wasn't a mysterious somehow at all. One particularly miserable week, I remembered hearing about a Buddhist monestry in nearby Massachusetts. I needed a place of escape; a place of refuge is more accurate. So off I went to Barre and there I was "thrown a life line with a knot at the end." I discovered the dharma and the beginning of a new way of seeing the reality of my life.

Since that time, I have found a teacher, attended workshops, listened to tapes, etc., because Buddhism is like chocolate - you just cannot get enough or break the habit. I am only still a beginner but what I have learned through my experience has changed my point of view, given me a deepening sense of peace and the courage to keep trying.

I remain without a full time job, just dollars in the bank and am actually living with one of my kids because I cannot afford my own place. Having said that as an anti-depressant free person, I wake up grateful for the moment of waking, the smell of coffee brewing, and soothing experience of just following my breath.

What the future will bring me and to all of us could be a source of great fear - and I have been there before. I like it better where I live now, trying to live in the present. I don't have this down yet. I have the sense of being on an exciting journey (at almost 60). My greatest wish is that each of my children have been witness to the fact that tragedy can be survived and at best redefined to bring a sense of hope and wonder.

Since I was very young, like just about everyone I know, I had a strong mechanism deep within that could smell injustice, layer upon layer of it. I knew at age three that going to daycare sucked, and I knew that my peers were favored because we were cared for by their mother. However, the complexity of greater social injustices didn't really begin to sink in until I turned twenty-five. Before age twenty-five I think of myself as a protestor/whiner. I saw the injustice at face value and whined about it. Growing up on poverty and years of watching PBS documentaries of war demonstrations, the liberation of concentration camps, civil rights marches, The Wonder Years, and listening to my parents old LP's of The Beatles and Janice Joplin had left their mark.

The tragedy of 9/11 took place just weeks after my twenty-third birthday. It was shaking; like someone had struck a chord that had resonated for years, and then on 9/11 someone struck a new chord, a chord no one knew. I quit my job to stay home with my kids. I flew home to Tennessee with my toddler and eight month old baby to visit family. We bought a new car. We waited. I was ready to act, but no direction came. I also began to seek out spiritual renewal, and joined a very fundamentalist Bible Study. Soon, my car was tuned to a different station, one that focused on my family and my role in it instead of news and the world. My head was filled with directives to isolate, seclude my young, and become as perfect as possible. My goal was to be Jesus Christ and to get everyone else to be just like me. The mechanism that smelled injustice began to be tweaked. "Could it really be injustice if the person isn't a Christian? God works for the good of those who believe in him." Personal behavior and faith status became the stick with which I measeured out those who suffered for no cause of their own and those who deserved it. No longer a sheep in the flock, I wasn't even the shepherd, I was the butcher, me and about 5 million others. So when the war that I had been fated to protest for years came, I was blinded by a belief system that mandated an eye for an eye.

My belief system had little sympathy or compassion for people who could not control their sinful nature. I didn't even believe in funding public schools, or that women should work outside the home. Our society was falling apart because of working women, sex, Godless public education, taxes and fast food. I really really believed in this.

Shortly after 9/11 my husband became the director of an enviornmental learning center. Two years later, when the funding was cut and the center folded my life changed. I started a cleaning business at seven months pregnant because no business would hire me, and I got a job as a coordinator for an after school program (in a public school). I also became vehemently opposed to any business that would have the audacity to discriminate against a pregnant woman.

My husband worked endlessly. He had three jobs. He went to tutor at the school at 3:00pm, from there he went to his overnight factory job at 6pm. He got home after working an eleven hour shift at 5am. At 9am, after four hours of sleep he went on call as an EMT with the local ambulance service. He could still catch some sleep if he didn't get a call. Without the paycheck that we had become accustomed too, public school began to look like a good deal, my dream of homeschooling was fading. Something I had railed against for years (welfare) began to look like a social safety net. I'll never forget the time I was at a Christian Women's meeting and the director of the food shelf leaned over and said, "You can go to the food shelf so many times per year. You should go." She squeezed the life out of my hand, as if to say if you don't go I'll hurt you. I went.

I'll never forget that experience. I, a hard working, educated, sober, business woman was going to a food shelf! The people were so nice. The form was one page, about five questions. I thought we'd get enough food for one meal, but I had to pull my car around so that I could unload box after box into my car. We were given so much, I couldn't fit it all in my cupboards. We ate every last can of tuna, box of instant potatoes, and even SPAM with relish.

Humility is the basis of my new faith.

I do not look at the state of our country's economy as a crisis in the same way as most. The state of affairs is an opportunity, in many ways. I still have a sense of justice, and so I think that someone should pay for the frivalous, machismo, arrogant politics and policies of the last fifteen years, but I know that for the most part the powerless, not the propogator, will suffer most in this mess. However, poverty for me is no longer a judgement handed down to the lazy, uneducated, drunken, ego-centric, sloth. I no longer define poverty by neighborhood, class, education, or even bank account. Poverty is to lack the ability to help others as one would want to help oneself. Poverty is the inability to forgive; the blind, misinformed faith that isolates and secludes a person from joy, self forgiveness, compassion, and love for one's neighbor.

Our family has gone through a financial crisis much like what the country is facing now. We have learned a lot and I feel that we are better off. The leadership I am looking for at this time, is a leadership that believes in everyday people. Leadership that doesn't look at the person's bank account or position of status to find value, but instead a leadership that understands the inherent value of every citizen of this country. A leadership that doesn't seclude or isolate, but reaches out to all of us and in turn gives some useful direction, a map.

What am I doing differently? I am no longer a secluded housewife. My kids go to school. We moved to a new community. I am grateful for welfare, food stamps, and medicare even though we no longer use them. The food shelf still rocks. Involved in my local political party, I fought hard for a candidate with real vision as a delegate to the DFL state convention. (I am the former chairperson for the Big Stone County Republican party). For the last year I worked two jobs, helped plan a fundraiser, door knocked for Barack, had a house party, marched in a lawn chair brigade in many parades for my local candidate for Minnesota House Seat 10A. As the volunteer coordinator for A Center for the Arts, I naturally voted "yes" on the constitutional ammendment. I find wisdom at a unique church. The church is actually two churches, United Church of Christ and a Presbyterian church, which came together to worship in the same house when a tornado blew through town almost a hundred years ago. The six of us live in a two bedroom house on the tracks in the "ghetto" of Fergus Falls, and I let the kids play with the neighbors. I could not be more different, or any further from my old idea of "perfection".

I find leadership in my elders, veterans, the people who grew up during the Great Depression, and my grandmother. I also look for ways to be of use. I find spiritual renewal in many forms of art, but my favorite is dance. I enjoy other's points of view and I don't always know mine. I like collaborating.

I once called into an MPR pledge drive during SOF to protest the show and withdraw my membership. I am sorry. Now, I want to tell you thank you. This is a humungous e-mail, but it's been a journey and I wouldn't be the person I am now without having listened to the different ideas and perspectives (especially an interview with an evangelical fundamentalist a few years back). Your show makes a difference, so I look forward to tuning in.

Gratefully,
Jessica Sundheim

Dear Krista,

You asked about our thoughts of the spiritual nature of what’s being called the financial crisis. I realized I could probably write a book about my sense of it all, so it’s almost painful to be concise, but here goes…

At the heart of every outer crisis, both personal and collective, is a deep spiritual movement, a shifting of the relationship with that which is larger than our selves. The shift is evolutionary, a sort of divine imperative, destined as an unfolding of what it means to be human. Coming into a new way of being requires old patterns to fall away. There are times when no crisis is needed to facilitate this development. This isn’t one of them.

Our relationships with money, survival, trust, blame, responsibility, generosity…with what it means to have “enough” are all up for review. More importantly, that ever so fragile sense of self and how we’ve identified that concept is deeply affected whenever money issues are triggered.

As always, we have some choices on how to work with deep change. We can lose ourselves once again in blame and fear. We can choose to see this as something happening "to" us. Or we can listen to the soft breeze of a greater freedom wafting through the midst of the turmoil -- a freedom which paradoxically brings us closer and encourages partnership, sharing and compassion and the possibility of something greater coming to fruition "through" us. Many things that are happening in our world today are imbued with this possibility. None seem to hold the promise of a deep transformation for so many as this particular development.

Lynne Twist would be a wonderful person to chat with about this crisis and its implications. Also, a Jungian scholar who can speak about Jung’s concept of the transcendent function might provide a lovely context within which to see a larger view of current developments.

With deep gratitude for all you do,
Erin Palmer

I am concerned that in these challenging economic times, some people of faith are acting irresponsibly. There are poeple who speak that the "End Times are near" and that soon, the "Rapture" will be upon us, so "why worry anout anything? Wht take care of the earth? Why save or invest? Why worry at all?" I think such attitudes are reckless and dangerous, and yet there are people who based their faith on prophacy and not reality. This is immoral. This is not spiritual wisdom and is based on total supernatural beliefs. I am looking for pragmatic leadership, not mysticism in these hard times.

I feel the current financial upheaval is possibly the best opportunity we as a country could have. It is forcing us to consider what it is we truely value, to step back from the consumerism we have been absorbed with for the last 50 years.

I have tried to live frugally since having my own income. Growing up, my family learned that everything is temporary - particularly finances and work. For this reason I try to plan for the chance that something could happen that would change my financial landscape.

I am seeing the people around me starting to search for the bargins I have been shopping. I am more than happy to help, and hope this is a long term life change for them. I hope that when the economy does turn upwards again Americans will begin to save more, and begin to give some of their extra to people in need.

For me, the biggest part of the story is the rampant obliteration of values of connection, community, and individual humanity systematically over at least 30 yrs since the power went to individuals inspired by Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman. Also, the notion that the 'market made me do it' absolves the most endowed and privileged people from what were once called moral obligations or any responsibility for widespread and long-lasting effects of their choices on those less fortunate or able. Indeed, even the fortunate and able are getting whacked by these choices! Now, even people with great established businesses can't keep working capital credit lines, and customers everywhere are all stopping spending any money because of a loss of confidence and trust. The effect could decimate otherwise healthy and viable sectors all over the economy that had nothing to do with banks, hedge funds, or mortgages. Of course, the poorest amongst us always get hit ever since Jesus was observing things, but this is pretty new considering all these reforms were supposed to be 'pro-business'.

Values of community or interconnectedness are slurred today as 'socialist' (they are not), and human beings are objectified as mere consumers or disposable units of labor. Self-interest is heralded as the greatest motivation an individual can follow, and individuals who achieve high economic value are viewed as worth more than individuals who do not. This is all Ayn Rand, of whom Greenspan said was his greatest inspiration! HOORAY! And, of which the Chairman of BB&T bank plans to keep funding the indoctrination on campuses all over the US so he can avert a 'socialist' backlash from all of this market failure affecting young people and families now (should an IRS tax exempt Foundation be allowed to do something so covertly political?). No wonder we have so many young people who are nihilists and giving up on everything from education to eating healthy food and cultivating healthy relationships.

I believe there is a big difference between the current ideologues' 'self-interest' versus 'self-determination'. Self-determination ennobles and empowers individuals, families and communities. It would be a wonderful thing for all of us to achieve that now with this break-down of antiquated systems that we've become dependent on, but who owe us nothing and may not even be around to help us pick up the pieces. Too many influential, powerful and ordinary people living purely by 'self-interest', and thinking it is just fine to do so without any compunction, is what got us into the mess we are in now.

The Libertarians may think we should all live alone on our little plot of land, but I love to note that that was tried in New England too a few hundred years ago. All we have left are the rows and rows of stone walls now running through woods which overgrew the little farm plots these people intended to live their lives on for generations. It doesn't work, the Human Being is a social one, and depends on others for survival and success, and when collaborating can achieve great things.

I love to note that while Texas and Western Frontier Libertarian ideal got us Big Oil, Big Military, and Fast Food Nation, the mess we're in on many fronts, it was the collaborative work of individuals in community that got us Edison and all the amazing technological innovations that still power our way of life today all over the world. It also got us Silicon Valley and RT 128, the output of collaboration of many individuals bringing multiple educations and talents to bear to create wealth and livelihood for many communities.

In a sense, the 'dependency' culture that Reagan and all those others derided, is now the case for 100s millions of Americans. This time the highly educated ones are dependent on distant, poorly governed, and now misguided corporations for their livelihoods. Of course, the poor have always been dependent on others for their livelihoods, but what has changed is that so few of the most capable actually feel themselves empowered to be entrepreneurs and challengers.

I believe this happened through systematic indoctrination of neo-liberal ideology (theology!) into universities all over the country, the rampant spread of MBA degrees from these 'academies' which eliminated alternative viewpoints and methods everywhere in business, as well as proliferation of media sources that openly denigrate values of community and human rights. All of this accelerated the neo-liberal system and breakdown of our former small town, community, and family based business world into what we have today centered on Wall Street.

I am grateful that in my own life I have greater self-determination and practice of interconnectedness now. I am finding through laws of attraction amazing people with whom I can collaborate and work as things repair. I have no intention of ever working for another corporation again, except insofar as I have something to teach them to change themselves and become more productive, more innovative and more in tune with a Zeitgeist that is making itself known to many many more of us each day, and as more mighty oak trees (Goliaths) tumble! PRAISE GOD!

"God or the Dow?" (a blog post on dealing spiritually with the econmic crisis) (originally dated 11-13-2008)

Another month passed already, and the economic crisis shows no signs of abating yet. I don't know about you, but I'm starting to get used to feeling this low-level anxiety as a sort of backdrop to whatever else it is that I'm dealing with that day, which is, of course, always something, since life is a series of problems.

This crisis seems to be, for all of us, a unique type of constant spiritual challenge to "let go and let God." The economic problems we're currently experiencing are more serious and widespread than anything most of us have ever seen before, which gives rise to a totally unfamiliar psychic situation. The best way I can think of to describe it is to say that the fundamental economic security that we’ve always taken for granted is ours no longer. Our investment and retirement accounts seem to vanish before our very eyes, or at least to be mere houses of cards that topple at the drop of a pin, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

This helplessness, not only of ourselves individually but also of all of us collectively, including the experts, and the billionaires, and the leaders, and even all those cutting-edge business people in Japan and elsewhere, societies that are probably not past their economic peak the way America may be past its economic peak—anyway, the fact that none of these folks have a clue what to do either is what makes this particular crisis seem so utterly out of the reach of human control. Most other crises in the past have appeared to have some limitation to them, but not this one. It seems as omnipresent and as uncontrollable as the Flood.

Ah, the illusion of being in control! I’ve written elsewhere, in my book and probably in this blog as well, that the best thing that can happen to any of us is for us to realize that we’re not in control, that when we've thought we were in the past, it was an illusion. But now I see that although I was acting in accordance with this insight in most areas of my life—i.e., turning it all over to God and letting him help me with all of it—I was still, unconsciously, grounded in this fundamental economic security that we Americans have enjoyed pretty steadily since before I was born in 1956. Even though I had realized I wasn’t in control of most of the variables of my life, I nonetheless operated on the unconscious but huge assumption that the basics of the money system would stay the same. Of course, I occasionally had money problems and worries, but there was always that basic system to fall back on, where if you worked and did what you were supposed to do, you had both current money and retirement funds for more or less as long as you needed them. Now, however, we've lost that certainty. We don't know if our investments and 401K’s are going to hold out or not, because we know for a fact that they can shrink dramatically even as we speak, and that no one knows how to stop the shrinkage. We can no longer take for granted that basic system, or our own earning power, or job security, or even our very employability, if we were to have to look for new work. We are definitely not in control.

In my book, I write about how I wanted things and asked God for them, and in a later spiritual stage I found myself wanting things for others, so then I would ask God for those as well, but now, I find myself wanting—in the sense, that is, of feeling almost physically hollowed out by the absence of that basic security. I'm constantly grasping for it, only to feel it slip through my fingers with every new drop of the Dow. First I wanted, then I wanted for others, now I am wanting, I am lacking. It doesn’t feel good.

Another thing I find myself falling prey to is being teased by the market whenever it comes back one day and not only gets into positive territory but actually makes big gains, only to lose it all the next hour or the next session or the next week.

But, thank the Lord, the solution to all of this vacillation and all of this worry is the same as for all other kinds of worry:

BE STILL, AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD.

For sure, it's hard to do in this climate of near-panic, but we can do it now if we've done it before, and if we've never done it, we can learn to do it. The only difference is that now, more of us see more clearly than ever how utterly dependent on God we are, since we can’t even rely on that old familiar system of money and work and basic economic well-being. If only, instead of despairing, we will truly turn to God through meditation, prayer, deep relaxation of both body and mind, or even the "groanings too deep for words" of the Holy Spirit, and ask God to help us and show us what to do and guide us and keep us and continue to love us, which we know he will do because that’s what Jesus said, then we can find peace of mind and, eventually, the complete joy of God’s abundance and bounty, where no one has to concern themselves with money ever again!

In short, where most of us, myself included, used to depend on that fundamental economic security, now that that's been pulled out from under us, so that we know our dependence on it was a mistake, maybe we’ll finally come to realize, more deeply than ever before, that God is the only sure foundation for us to build on or lean on!

I confess, though, that even when I've made up my mind to adhere to the discipline of choosing this foundation over and over, during the workday I often find myself peeking at the market readings that are so neatly tucked into the corner of my internet homepage--hey, I didn't put them there, they did! Anyway, I find myself peeking, & if the market happens to be up at that moment, I breathe a sigh of relief, and if it happens to be down, I say to myself, "Of course it's still down, the bailout & other measures haven't had time to work yet; things will be better, but not yet." But the point is that WHATEVER is happening with the market, now or at any other time (and indeed, whatever is happening with the world, period!), if we want to be truly grounded and positioned to receive real joy, we've got to be resting in God instead of in the worldly things. In God's love & reassurance & promise & hope. And it's always up to US, every minute of every day, to put ourselves there. It's that simple: God or the Dow?

"God or the Dow, part 2" (originally dated 11-18-2008)

One more thing that can help us deal with the uncertainty is simply to get out there and do the best we can to help others, including those less fortunate than we are, instead of feeling that the crisis gives us an excuse not to concern ourselves with them. No matter what our personal situation may be, there are millions worse off than we are, including those who've lost their jobs or their homes, or both. There may also be many who are not worse off financially than we are, but who may be having an extra hard time dealing with things, and may need us for that reason.

That old secret of God's still works: we will feel better if we do things for others rather than sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves or worrying about the future. Healing (salvation, if you will, as explained in the post "Salvation as salve instead of forgiveness," April 2008 archive)--healing comes not from seeking our own healing but from being an agent of healing for others.

Also, I hope none of us decide not to donate as much as we normally would during this holiday season. Believe me, I understand the impulse to tighten our belts, but if we can just keep up our giving this year, the hurting world surely will be the better off for it, and, who knows, maybe by the following Christmas, this nightmare will be nothing but a distant memory.

God bless all who read this!
Sara

I work as a legal services lawyer in Indiana, trying to defend foreclosures in an escalating crisis atmosphere. Today's meltdown has been so predictable, given the level of predatory lending and unwillingness to restrain or check behaviors that appear to me to come straight from unfettered greed.

I'm also a Quaker. In 2003, I attended a gathering of Friends for discernment on economics and ecology at Pendle Hill, a Quaker retreat center. I was a representative of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). Out of that gathering came an epistle to Friends (Quakers); actually a series of queries (consistent with Quaker practice), as follows:

"In light of Friends Testimonies, what is God calling us to do about the continuing and increasing marginalization of so much of the world's population, the extinction of species and other environmental degradation? How do we integrate our human communities within the natural world so as to provide for the physical and spiritual needs of future generations? What changes in the institutions of economy and governance are needed to promote effective stewardship of the natural environment and caring for people and communities? What is it in nature and human knowledge that we have the right to own? How best can we promote the values expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Earth Charter? How can we promote understanding and awareness of the consequences of increasing global interconnectedness and the urgency of addressing the dangers and opportunities that these present?

As we earn, spend and invest money, as individuals and as meeting communities, how can we live in the "virtue of that life and power" that leads us to treat all humans and the Earth as manifestation of the Divine? Are we aware of the true cost of our consumption? Do we take into account our concerns for social justice as we earn, spend and invest money? What information, tools, and skills do we need to equip ourselves to work effectively for public policies that restore Earth's resilience, increase social equity, and strengthen community? How, as we labor with these concerns, can we engage with others in ways that help us discern God's will for us at this critical stage of Earth's history?"

It seemed to me that the only way out where we were headed was to have a global consciousness-raising about the intersection between economics and ecology.

Out of the Pendle Hill meeting, the Quaker Institute for the Future was launched, including the Moral Economy Project. www.quakerinstitute.org

At my own Friends Meeting in Bloomington, we started an Earthcare Witness committee, as have many meetings. The idea is to consciously examine our faith and testimonies (simplicity, peace, equality, integrity, community) as it relates to the environment.

I believe Lester Brown best articulates where we stand and what we need to do.
http://www.earthpolicy.org/Books/PB3/Contents.htm

In the search for where we can have an impact, addressing poverty is an imperative as well. The Circles Initiative began in Bloomington in recent months and strikes me as a wonderful correlative and hands-on means of addressing poverty (however, environmental concerns are not fundamental to it). Information about the Circles Initiative is at www.movethemountain.org

It's very hard to know where to put our energy and efforts, to direct our faith work. I find SOF an ongoing means of stimulating my thinking that's very valuable in this effort.

Thank you for your work.

There is much finger pointing going on about the financial collapse but we must all consider what beliefs and assumptions we have made about who we are and how we are related that has led us to our current condition. Morally we must ask how we have corporately created a lie that gives us value and worth based on how much money we make and how many toys we have. Spiritually we are empty and vacant because we have all believed the lie and spent most of our time and energy trying to live out the lie by working longer and longer hours, taking extra jobs and loosing connection with our own soul and with the heart of those we once loved but end up feeling burdened by.
The wisdom we need is through intellegent and thoughtful conversations that ask new questions and brings people together to see the possibilities that are present in the very crisis we have created. We do not just need smart leaders we need people to see that we are all leaders and it is time for us to step up and lead with the heart and wisdom that is available when we work together with the good of everyone in mind.
I believe that the problems are incredibly complex and they will take a collective view point to bring us into a new reality. We need each other in a way we have not for many years. Our survival depends on our nation and our world creating a new story not only about how we live together economically, but how we live together in every way. Because this current crisis is global in nature, we are being given an opportunity to do just that.
As a country we have talked about the American Dream which is a house, a family, a picket fence, and a dog. We have not included in that dream how we are with each other in that house and in the neighborhood in which the house is built. We have focused on things to the point that we are in increased isolation. When we are not related to others and we can't see the impact our choices have on them, it is easy to make choices that objectify anyone out there. We don't even know we are doing it because we have such a strong belief that we should be able to do what we want if it doesn't hurt anyone else. We don't consider that all our thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and assumptions have a profound effect on the world as we have brought it into being. I believe this crisis is a profound and important opportunity for the American people to come together in ways that they have forgotten or not yet imagined. I believe that what we can create from this will strengthen us morally and generate the possibility for a new and deeper connection to our spirit. When what is outside fails us, we finally turn inward and if we wait and listen, we are usually surprised by the gift that shows up to help lead us into something new.

Initiative for the Redemption of Economic Life (IREL)

In the primordial Garden Man was charged with the responsibility to “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it”. The state of Man was destined to unfold from a purity of innocence, into a full consciousness of knowledge of the dark and the light, under the harmonious guidance of an all–wise, all–knowing spirit. His purity, however, was fatally sullied as he failed to wait upon God, but willfully reached for powers he was not yet fit to receive. As the wages of this rebellion, he was ejected from the Garden, and henceforth obliged to labor by the sweat of his brow to earn his comfort and keep.
The travail of subsequent effort took on a coordinated form which replicated roughly the divinely symbiotic material and energy flows of the Garden. The evolving matrix of relationships thereby established became an aspect of the social body known as the “Economic Life”, while the vitalizing spirit of that body took on the guise of “Money”. Money, then, is a proxy for the spirit that imparted a burgeoning harmonic order to the Garden, while the Economic Life became the vehicle in the material world by which Man would seek, upon requisite redemption of personal goodness and threefold completion of social evolution, to return home to the unspoiled state of the Garden; this time in the full consciousness of the dark and the light, but also with a purity of spirit that partakes of the innocence of Man‘s original state.
In the interim, though, the spirit of Money, and in turn the Economic Life, has been hijacked by forces that would seek to derail human evolution. Humankind has descended into abject materiality; estranged from one another and seduced by the shadow forces of false dominion; all orchestrated by the spirit of opposition that has co–opted Money. The woes thereby unleashed are legion. Brother has been pitted against brother in a false competition for livelihood. Mankind‘s Mother, the earth, is counted as a body to be ravaged and consumed. Tyrannies of number haunt Man‘s sleep. Clearly an “Initiative for the Redemption of Economic Life” in the material world is called for.
The purpose of this initiative is threefold:
(1) – To strive for redemption in oneself and others from the spiritual dissonance that was the cause of Man’s alienation from a harmonious relationship with God in the earth,
(2) – From which it becomes possible to transform Money and rectify the Economic Order to a condition which reflects truly the state of providence in human evolution at present,
(3) – Which would, finally, redeem the Economic Life as a fit vehicle for the reassertion of Man‘s fruitful, replenishing and faithful dominion over the creation.

Thus would the Kingdom of God materially in the earth be at last established.

I'm in the process of finishing my bachelor's degree, and I wonder if this downturn will mean I won't be able to find full-time job as planned, now that the children are about to start college. I wonder how we'll pay for their education, and our eventual retirement. My husband is a federal employee, so he's not in danger of losing his job, so we're certainly not in dire straits, but I would like to see some reward for earning a BA.

What I hope this downturn teaches us is that there are more important things in life than a big house, a luxury car and all the latest gadgets. Maybe it will do us good to realize we can't keep on spending as if there is no tomorrow.

Maybe something good can come out of this crisis by propelling us to invest in health care, infrastructure and education, rather than further increasing our debt by stimulating consumer spending. It's our spending that got us into trouble in the first place. Maybe president Obama can get us to invest in America in tiny increments, just as we invested in his campaign in $25 increments. I for one would be willing to do that, if it means the government's debt doesn't need to be held by countries like China anymore. The 44th president comes into office with an enormous mandate for change, and I hope he uses his bully pulpit for the good of nation.

At a time when a very few earthlings are consuming nearly all of the earth's resources morality has to factor in. In addition those few who have privilege, comfort, relative safety and gourmandous calorie intake have seemingly lost any sense of membership as earthlings! We have seemingly lost any sense of empathy or compassion for those who barely subsist day by day!

In the scriptural book of Genesis the human is fashioned from the humous, earthling from the earth! Some sense of interdependence on the humous, and on one another seems to call out from every corner of spiritual practice and tradition. We are called to be in relationship with the Divine and with the Earthly. When we open our hearts with grateful abandon – then we are able to be generous with our resources and in our actions. We are nothing if we miss the importance of this spiritual truth.

Largely, as Americans and I'm sure there are members of the upper classes in many other countries to whom this also applies, we are loathe to think of ourselves as "upper". We forget that access to indoor toilets, hot running water and more food than we need to function places us in the upper-class in terms of international economics. We are out of touch with the idea that our lifestyles resemble royalty in the perception of many cultures; that a majority of the world's children go to bed hungry. .

Even so, most Americans will spend SOME of every day whining about how unfortunate, troubled and/or needy we are in some way or the other. We have completely lost site of the splendor of our blessings.

I’m sure you know about the notion put forward by Jeffrey Sachs, [UN Millennium Project director & Director, Professor at the Columbia University Earth Institute] which frames world poverty inside of the vast resources in the developed world. For the first time in the history of the human race we actually have the resources to end world poverty: economically, technically, transportation wise, distribution wise!!!

What we lack are the moral and the spiritual sense of responsibility.
We have forgotten that “commerce” was invented so that people who had plenty of cheese, but no grain, could trade their cheese for grain to feed their goats!!! Folks without access to seafood could trade with folks on the rocky shores for fruits and vegetables they grew in their inland meadows.

This didn’t start out as a game of king-on-the-mountain-of-money but rather as an effective way of distributing resources and “tending” the whole of humanity.

The idea that we can actually feed all humanity, eliminate fatalities from simple cold and flu viruses, educate the children invigorates and excites me. And without fail I can find no other person who will so much as entertain a conversation about where to start.
I know that some are somewhere. That in itself sustains my sense of hope.

Still, as a culture, we seek affluence as a cure for our emptiness without grasping the truth of our folly. We forget that a crisis can be an adventure, a dangerous-opportunity (one Chinese definition). We forget that the way to feel full and fulfilled is to be generous so that our hearts can be grateful so that we can be generous so that our hearts remain grateful . . . etc. etc. etc.
This is a spiritual truth . . . this is what God [whatever the name] requires from the earthling. We suffer from the loss of this simple truth as the basis for our every decision.

I know – AMEN Sista’
What can I say? I’m an Episcopal Priest!

I gave myself this year to study the scholars, to converse with friends, and to participate in solitary contemplation about the meaning of trust, and its importance in life.

The Oxford dictionary defines trust as a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. How do I know whom I can trust? How do I decide, not only to what extent I can trust someone, but what this person can be entrusted with?

The easiest answer to the question, “How do I know whom I can trust?” is to ask, “Who do I trust at this moment?” and “Who have I trusted in the past?” If the list of people you trust presently contains the same names as the people you have always been able to trust, you’re probably one happy trooper.

In my case, I tend to trust people near-and-dear to me with information or in situations where I need a shoulder to cry on, or their truthful opinion, or their knowledgeable judgment. Sometimes I have trusted wisely, at other times very unwisely. What I have learnt is that even though it would be wonderful if we could trust our loved ones with everything, it is not always prudent to do so.

This is because trust has many dimensions. First, we must find someone who is equally committed to the outcome of the situation we are entrusting them with, as we are. I trust my husband with my worries about my impending unemployment (my work contract is coming to an end in a months’ time), not only because he loves me and cares about my concerns, but because our financial livelihood is dependent on my contribution.

Secondly, the person we trust has to have the required skill or ability to carry through that which we are entrusting them with. It is not prudent to trust someone with my life-savings, if they’re always living on the brink of financial disaster. Lastly, there is always an element of unpredictability, or risk, when we trust someone to do something. If there weren’t risk involved, then we wouldn’t be entrusting them, but just instructing or informing them.

When I reflect back over the last ten years on situations or persons who have failed to live up to my expectations, I asked myself why did they fail: lack of commitment or lack of skill? And, as it turns out, it is nearly always the lack of skill that is the central cause for the failure. Not only their skill is lacking, but also my sense of judgement. Why would I trust someone with something they have no ability to succeed in?

Going back to the Oxford dictionary definition of trust (a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something), the question is where does that firm belief come from? I can only conclude through experience. Since childhood, I’ve trusted those near to me: my parents, my siblings, and my friends, with aspects precious to my wellbeing. And, the outcome of those experiences becomes memory.

No matter how distorted these memories are, they are all I have to navigate by. Thus, it is important to consider what I remember about these people, particularly their abilities, when I decide to ask them for constructive help and quiet solace. It is as simple as that.

I am attaching a document that provides a fresh and surprisingly powerful overview of the greater crisis that is manifested in part as a financial crisis. The first 10 pages of the document describe how our world view has increasingly been driven into a corner we can call dogmatic materialism which for most of the world's peoples only causes an agonizing separation between their heart, which is still controlled by faith, and their cultural heritage which is increasingly engulfed in this materialism. The rest of the document provides a broad a powerful explanation of how to move beyond this crisis.

I would love for you to do a show on this perspective. If I may be of any assistance with this, please let me know.

Thank you.

ps. If you cannot open the attachment, then the document is available here:

http://bahai-library.com/pdf/2005_11/one_common_faith.pdf

TO me, everything has a moral and spiritual dimension because all that we do relates to how we treat and connect with other people, either those with us, those affected by us today or tomorrow,and even those future generations unborn.

Economic downturns can remind us of what's important in life (my favorite saying is "the best things in life are not things"), but they also hurt those without the least, the hardest, so even those of us with more means who are affected negatively in our finances, still have a responsibility to think in terms of helping others when we can.

Doing with less means for many people, not being able to spend as much money on things, on activities, on luxuries or even on some things felt to be "necessities" which paradoxically can be better for the ecology of our world. This is moral and spiritual because we are called as humans to live interdependentally with with others, including animals, and all aspects of the natural world.

The bad economic times can help us refocus on important values, such as community, love, compassion, and more, as we remember that objects and selfish pursuits are not what life is about; those things are not why we're here.

I try to live consistently with the points I make here all the time, but when I feel the pinch it reminds me more of the importance that we all live that way.

I'm a financial services veteran of every downturn since 1987. While external things are different this time, I am too. I've been studying meditation and yoga for more than 10 years...these practices have helped me to see the part that fear is playing in this whole situation.

My newly minted consulting practice is intertwined with the NYC area financial services community. Things are a bit frozen in this arena, and one of the catalysts to this chill is fear.

To respond, I'm actually shifting my business focus a bit, to something that I think can directly help, based on my own experience. I've been a practitioner of meditation (with varying levels of dedication) for about the past 10 years. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction practices are based on ancient meditation techniques -- but in a secular form. I'm talking with a friend who runs a major Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program about offering this program to corporate clients. In October and early November, I had a great experience with students when we offered an introductory program to members of my business school's NYC alumni club. I hope it will help.

Instead of looking for leadership, I'm naively hoping to follow the advice of one of the greats, and be the change I wish to see in the world.

(And another observation: the press, and language used in the press -- including some responsible outlets like NPR -- is inflaming the situation. We've been living in this environment of "be afraid, be very afraid" since September, 2001. Hopefully a new day is dawning where we will see that leadership doesn't come from fear, and doesn't use fear to motivate.

One thing that could help is for editors and producers to take another look at everything you put out in the world. How often are you using the word "fear", "afraid", "scared", "scary"...or talking about breadlines, the Depression, or other catastrophic possibilities? Are you part of the problem, or part of the solution? I wouldn't ask for happy talk, there are reasons to be concerned. But some journalistic neutrality might help, and it surely won't hurt. There is only one reason to shout "fire" in a crowded theatre.)

The economic downturn of this country is perhaps the pinnacle of moral, spiritual, and volitional deficiency. I am say this from the perspective of a 21 year-old American male of African descent. Many citizens of the United States have fallen prey to advertisers; consequently, they are unable to make healthy decisions about daily life—simply a lack of knowledge due to lack of will. The majority of the citizens, not only of the United States, of the world have since forfeited the reigns of control for which their life is bound to the leaders of government, religion, and entertainment. Better said by their submission of self control—control of their thoughts and ideas—we as a global nation have progressed little in the sense of moral and truly intellectual maturity in the past 40 years. I come from a generation so affectionately called the "Hip-hop" generation and witness said submission--not only within the "Black" youth but in our predecessors as well. Example, through this form of music, Hip-hop which was originally meant for upliftment and giving voice to an underclass, we currently are subliminally taught to value much which has no moral, spiritual, or intellectual value. Our current economic crisis has been perpetuated by corporations and the media as well. Citizens of the United States are no longer producers but the main consumers of the world in this global economy. Our lust for the latest technology has silently placed us last in the heat. We have become slaves to technology with which we literally struggle to keep pace.
Each man and woman must look within his or her own being to find the answer to dealing with our economic problem. As many are looking for government to solve the problem, we shall keep in mind that we are the government and by electing those men and women we want in office we assert our control of our state. But on the most basic level, we, the citizens of this great nation must turn off our favorite TV show, pay more attention to our leaders—political leaders, advertisers, and religious figures—and deny them the power to make decisions for us. Government and religion are two of the oldest institutions of the world and under their watch we have seen atrocities that by no way exemplify nothing that either institution is or should be based upon. Another tool to fixing our problem is the abandonment of the endless race for technology and convenience. We should only advance technology in every sense that it would do us a social good and reject that which would spread destructive and distractive forces. Nearly 85 percent of the "American" household is composed of luxury and creature comforts. I am also in favor of taking a critical look at religion and its tendency limit access to that which may help us and its tendency to divide otherwise complementary people. We should relearn how to make informed decisions about the world in which we live and to do this full exposure is required. That means that we will be forced to learn and confront that which our religions would have initially commanded that we avoid. Self discipline, initiative, and taking responsibility are the keys to growth. Once the "American" people accept the fact that we are the product of choices that "we" have made in the past, our economic problem will soon be a fond memory; therefore, knowledge of global history is essential. Religion cannot solve all of our problems, do there never would have been any problems—remember that religion is one of the oldest institutions in the world, alongside government.
There is nothing different about my approach to rectification but rather its popularity. Simplicity is what I am speaking of. Gandhi is an example of simplicity; albeit, an extremist but he is still an example. I am examining my position: economic situation, educational level, spiritual level, self discipline. All of these are at risk in today's "American" society. I am no longer aware of the latest pair of sneakers, or the newest Hip-hop sensation's latest-hit single, video game, TV drama, sit com, or reality show, etc. This is a small list of that which countless quantities of "American" dollars go to every day. Keeping up with the "Joneses" has led us into financial turmoil. Today I live below my means. I have clean clothes that are of timeless style, the latest computer only because it is necessary for study—as I am a university student—and a modest apartment with a super-modest vehicle that I rarely drive despite the cold months of the year. I am making whatever sacrifices I can to spend less and conserve more.
I am following courageous leaders despite race or religion who preach the above philosophy. I need someone who is going to tell me that the answer lies within me and that is my decision whether or not I will perpetuate the problem or be responsible for its solution. So far that leader has been me and those which are closest—my family.

My daughter is a high school senior applying to college. She is understandably anxious about her future and how we will pay for her education, even more so now that the economy is in crisis.

We had an opportunity to have a heart-to-heart conversation about this at lunch after visiting a college. I did not plan my comments, just spoke from my heart.

I said, "All around you people are going to panic. Things will probably get worse before they get better. During the crash of '29, some people committed suicide when they lost all their money. You know your great-grandfather was one of them. But the longer story is that your great-grandmother got a job and put her daughters through college. It's too bad he never gave life a chance to work out.'

"The most important thing now is to not be afraid. Fear is like a strong drug. You will see people around you go crazy on fear. We have to stay very sober. In our family, we will all work together to make your education happen somehow."

What I am experiencing more often everyday through my conversations with many people in my life, is the worry and anxiety of economic hardship more than the hardship itself. When we hear the doom of our culture without the automakers; the freefall of the value of our retirement investment, and the collapse of our financial system, we become strapped by the meaning's potential rather than the any actual experience.
Yesterday, while waiting for a haircut, I glanced at a "money" magazine and briefly read an article's advice. When we look at the economic situation historically, we see that a downturn such as this is common and predictable, and that the markets will recovery with time. The article recommended that most of us essentially "close our eyes" and wait.

I am the Executive Director/Superintendent of a private special needs school in southern New Jersey. My students exhibit autism and aspergers, along with communication, behavioral, MR/MH, and medical disabilities.

Since we are considered an "out-of-district placement," our funding comes from public school budgets, and is quite expensive considering the individual educational plans (IEPs) we are legally required to implement.

With the current economic crisis just beginning to impact us, I am seeing fewer children referred to my three schools. The districts are choosing to "include" them with their general education students.

I often tell my staff that we are "the least restrictive environment" for these students; not necessarily their home school with thousands of students and activities they will never be capable of enjoying.

I fear for the jobs of my very talented staff: special education teachers, teacher assistants, one-to-one aides, social workers, occupational, physical and music therapists, nurses and specialists in art, computers and family living.

My administrators and I have "hit the road" to tell our stories directly to sending school districts, reminding them of their "lost children" placed with us. We are asking them to allow these students to remain in their safe place, where they can not only see the possibilities of future success, but also receive all the supports to attain it.

I have made a conscious effort to visit classrooms with messages of hope and understanding. I am presenting a series of lessons dealing with writing about feelings (I am a former English teacher), so that my students know that I care about not only about the future of our schools, but more importantly them...the least of our brothers.

Doug Otto
The Archway Schools
Atco, New Jersey

How do I place this economic catastrophe in perspective? I can point a finger at Wall Street or Washington – who have contributed mightily to this mess – and scream “Greed”, “Incompetence” or “Neglect” – all which are true. But this is not just about others, this is also about me. Every time I overspent or feed this consumer society by spending I contributed to this catastrophe. When do we move beyond being a mere consumer to becoming a human being? Only a new economic order – based on a real value for life – is required to bring us back from the brink of a real disaster. In the words of the Theologian Bernard Lonergan what is needed is religious conversation.

Religious conversion is being grasped by ultimate concern. It is other-worldly falling in love. It is total and permanent self-surrender without conditions, qualifications, reservations. But it is such a surrender, not as an act, but as a dynamic state that is prior to and principle of subsequent acts….For Christians it is God’s love flooding our hearts through the Holy Spirit given to us. It is the gift of grace….the replacement of the heart of stone by a heart of flesh. Religious conversion is a total being-in-love as the efficacious ground of all self-transcendence, whether in the pursuit of truth, or in the realization of human values, or in the orientation man adopts to the universe, its ground and its goal. (Method in Theology, Bernard Lonergan, pp. 241)

This transformation, conversation, change in horizon leads inexorably to a moral transformation – when one’s decisions and choices are not based on satisfaction, but value so that our freedom may exercise its ever advancing thrust toward authenticity. Authenticity that sings in the words of the band Swithfoot, that we are tried of a culture that “equates success with excess”. This moment in time cries out for a genuine human spiritual transformation – a being-in-love with God – that we have perhaps never known. Taking shape in an economic and environmental change of heart that puts the human race on a path to reconciliation with the created order.

This will not be easy given human nature. Some 76 years after they were written the words of Reinhold Niebuhr ring like a clarion call to our age:

The justifications are usually dictated by the desire of the men of power to hide the nakedness of their greed, and by the inclination of society itself to veil the brutal facts of human life from itself. (Moral Man and Immoral Society, Reinhold Niebuhr, p. 8)

And again:

The limitations of the human mind and imagination, the inability of human beings to transcend their own interests sufficiently to envisage the interests of their fellow-men as clearly as they do their own makes force an inevitable part of the process of social cohesion. But the same force which guarantees peace also makes for injustice. “Power,” said Henry Adams, “is poison”; and it is a poison which blinds the eyes of moral insight and lames the will of moral purpose. (Moral Man and Immoral Society, Reinhold Niebuhr, p. 6)

My prayer is that we seize this moment – regardless of religious belief or non-belief – and wake from our sleep and begin building a kingdom were “…the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.” (Isaiah 11: 6)

Regarding this economic crisis, I speak and think of it largely as a American phenomenon but I am aware of the global aspect of it as well. This crisis was caused by the USA but is dragging down the entire world. IOW, the Republicans have learned another lesson of how to weild their dangerpous mindset of 'me first and me only, screw everybody else'. Also know as 'I am not my brothers keeper'.

I am also clearly aware that this entire mess has been perpetrated by the Republicans, BUT with the support of their associated fundie relgions, including my own religion. Also, I am aware that what is being and has been perpetrated into the USA by fundie religion has not been perpetrated in Europe and I am wondering why is this so. I have some ideas about that question, as well.

This economic mess is due to what I choose to call Theo-Fascism. It has been perpetrated under the guise of religion but it has largely been done for economic reasons. It seems safe to say that when Fascism comes in the rooom theism is akin to a mote of dust in the Wind Tunnel of life. Whooosh!

This economic crisis has been totally the cause of Reaganism/ Reaganomics , it's 'no-regulation and de-regulation mentality. It has taken place with the help and complicity of organized religion, in America. Some religions have erred by ommission, by not speaking out against Theo-Fascism. But most religions have sinned by comission, by endorsing this Theo-Fascism.

The economic crisis has had little effect on my life, so far. I am, however, waiting for the other shoe to drop. I am sure there is more to come. I also fully believe that those who perpetrated it are NOT done sowing their disastrous economic strategies. I fully ewxpect that unless the Republicans 'get true religion' they will put forth for the 2012 general election two more Theo-Fascists. They are likely to be Sarah Palin (Pentecostal) and Jeb Bush (Catholic). These two people have the religious power to force the USA and very likely the entire world into a continuation or enhancement of this current economic disaster.

The above sets the stage for my comments about this economic mess because it speaks to the fact that they, the perpetrators, and we the victims, may not have learned our lessons, yet. The Bushie Republican voters will never learn anything from this, save for the idea that they did NOT try hard enough, were it so they would have succeeded in turing the world into their economic 'oyster' to be plucked for further pearls of wealth. We, the victims may not have learned our lessons because, a) it was not sever enough and , b) we are still grredy, just as greedy as the perpaterators. It seems to be an awful part of human nature to serve only onself via either religious greed(monetary or theological) or personal greed (monetary or theological, as in Calvinism where religiosity is measured by wealth).

Though people have died and others are starving, this crisis was not bad enough for us to swear off of the depravit of greed. The Republicans pander to the lizard brain passionms of their base, but in a sense we are all part of that frothing-at-mouth base. Some leess than others. We all want more than we casn pay for or really need. The latter, being the most important part of that equation, the equation of greed. The later speaking to the question: how much do we realy need.

Were I a good writer, I could wirte books on this subject.

To me the problem is both moral and spiritual, and many different levels. One level is that the supposedly amoral people among us, the Atheists and the Agnostics seem to have a very clear understanding of it, yet they endorse no religion., While the religious people that have caused and are a partof this economic mess are not yet clearly understanding of what they have done or been a oart of. Does any one actiaully think that the Bsuhie Republicans could have gotten away with what they have done over the least two decades, since St. Reagan, the patron saint of the Republicsan party, and of their assocaited religious right wingers have gotten away with what they have done were it not for the endless support of their religious right, the so called Values Voters? NO, they could not have gotten away with their perfidy and iniquity, were it not for the unending support of the religious right and their congregants.

It is safe to say that every religion was a part of this mess. Some for reaosns of ommission, in that they failed to speak out loudly against it. Othes are guilty of sinning by direct commission, theyare the very reason why the Republicans have been able to get away with their sins of greed and their wars for profit. The Republican party is truly the party of the "Culture of Death for Profits".

Those religious leaders of the Jewish, Methodist, Quaker, Unitarain and other the anabaptists like the Amish and Mennonites were either never a part of or are no longher a part of the support system for these economic criminals, the republicans.

If, in the long run, we get so badly burned by this economic mess that we never allow it again than we will have leraned something from it. If we reform our consumerist ways then too, we will have learned something from this economic mess.

My great fear is that we may not have been burned badly enough, we may go back to oiur evil ways. We will continue to let the Republican party, the oil industry and egregious consumerism rule our lives. And a lot of organized religion will continue to tell us everything is okay,

We must keep on attacking everyone in America who supports the Republican party, the party of god (their god is money), the party of the Moral Majority, the party of the religious right, the party which claims to be of the truly and only religious people in America and the entire world. And their reasons for continuing to call for further endless support of the Republican party is that they are the party which will stop all homosexuals and abortionists and women needing, abortions from getting abortions. And we/they will do so unto the destruction of our nation,even unto the destruction of our world. Either NWO ( New World Order) or the End Times cum Rapture cum Armageddon is no small price to pay to stop ALL abortions. BUT, this has very little to do with abortions and everything to do with economics, the economics of wealth and power.

So it seems safe to say that Nazi-Fascism is once again rearing it's ugly head, even unto the destruction of our nation, even unto the destruction of our world. IOW, they, the religious right,will kill us all, in order to save us from ourselves.

But of course who will save us from them, is the real question. Again, this economic mess is really all about the politics of greed, and has little to do with religion. The Republican party (Rove) has spun it as a religius issue to enrage their Values Voters, their base, and done so to keep them sufficiently inflamed in order to stay in office and to gain further time to hone their machine. The machine of their specific kind of economic Capitalism to gain the most political and economic power for them and they do it becaue all wealth/profits come from God and thus is a measure of their religiosity. IOW, profits=wealth=godliness. It's a simple and yet morally corrupt equation.

The Republican Party is totally besotted with the "it's us against everyone else" nmentality which is a religious idea, the idea of us against the evil world. This binary mindset is that everyone is evil and only we are Christian. Southerners also are rampant thinkers that everyone is attacking them since they lost the Civil War, but in reality they did not suffer as much as the blacks they were hell bent on enslaving and which they think is supported by their biblical interpetration.

I guess, to them, the Bushies and their associated religions, including my own, they are all about stamping out or killing off the enemy, and everyone else other than them is the enemy. So war is a just and righteous undertaking and is sanctioned by God himself and told to them.

Wow, wow and wow. What a convoluted and involutional theology.

First, I'd like to say that I believe this crisis has brought about the possibility of viewing life, our resources of all kinds, differently. Perhaps we can use this crisis to -reassess or re-value what we have that has been neglectfully underappreciated - especially the non-tangibles. My Thanksgiving blog underscores this point well I think.
Dishing it out - scoops of steamy, hot melty goodness = brocolli & cauliflower into a small section of an alluminum tray; then a gentle push to the left; scoopful of savory, fragrant cornbread stuffing; slush - a slab of turkey meat swimming in gravy; push; a lid goes on and is crimped securely into place. Multiply that times 1100 - several hours worth!

Stack - into coolers they go - a dozen or so; accompanied in another cooler by crisp white paper bags containing fruit, dessert, a roll & a small carton of milk.

There were strong armed men who stacked the trays on gigantic cookie sheets and shoved them into 1000* ovens- and then hauled them out when they reached the appropriate temps.

There was a palpable energy - a spirit truly - of joy and gratitude for being able to participate in providing this tasty meal to homebound seniors hungry for food and human contact.

It made me think long about the sadness I see and feel with our clients - the dozen or so I see every week and the many many more I speak with daily on the phone. The sadness, the depression, the anger, the despair, the anxiety, the fears - all weighty and dark. Bleak in outlook - not much cheerfulness. But then this Holiday comes along and I encounter this vibrant, loving, giving spirit and realize that is the essence of our volunteers gift to our clients. Yes - people love to be fed - pretty basic stuff there but what they are often deprived of is the intangible food of the spirit - food for the soul - that joyous, loving reaching out of one human heart to another. It happens via our Meals on Wheels volunteers - daily but is especially poignant on Holidays - those universal occasions of celebration in life - of the bonds of family and friends.

Next to me for a while was a young teenage girl whose Mom and Dad have brought her along with them to help every Thanksgiving for years -'ever since she could remember.' Then later it was a young Mom with MS who brought her charming 7 year old along. There was a Dad - newly divorced with his teen and young adult son and daughter - needing to be busy and to contribute what they had an abundance of: time and energy! There was a regular MOW volunteer and a friend of his, there were others too, including a couple of staffers. We all felt good and it was no mystery why.

Sheila Cody
MOW Program Coordinator
Volunteers of America
303-294-0111, ext. 13124
scody@voacolorado.org

Gratitude is the memory of the heart. ~Jean Baptiste Massieu, translated from French

I'm a Religious Scientist and I believe this is happening exactly as it's supposed to be happening. I feel it's as if God/Universe is sending us a huge wake-up call in that we're being hit hard in our pocket book.

For so long we've seemed to believe that God and money are two separate things. This is simply not so. I feel that what we must wake up and stay awake to is the fact that money and Spirit are the same because, indeed, if God is everything then God is money as well.

For me - having a financial relapse right now - it's about knowing I'm enough, and worthy and deserving of having and enjoying money. That there is no separation and I must accept my good right here and right now.

As the verse says, It is Gods good pleasure to give us the Kingdom - it must be my privilege to accept it.

It is absolutely OK to have and enjoy having money. My not having money doesn't help anyone to have more. My not paying my rent doesn't put someone on the street in a home.

I am looking for the type of leadership that comes from knowing there's enough and being willing to not live in the fear.

I'm paying way more attention now than every before and I'm coming from gratitude for what I do have in this moment.

Is anybody really surprised that a system which aligns itself around the short-term and impulsive, fueled by greed and fear, doesn't work out very well in the long run? This could be an enormous opportunity to realign our activities on the planet to reflect global priorities like climate change and social justice. For example, the auto industry should not be allowed to continue in the same way. The country must begin to produce carbon-neutral transportation and energy.

When The Wall fell, along with soviet communism, the western Capitalists, and most of the world were amazed and rejoiced. Now, capitalism is beginning to collapse and it is being felt around the world - shaking almost every country - just as the the Lord God promised to do in Haggai 2:6,7 - "For thus says the Lord of Hosts; "Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory." , says the Lord of Hosts. Those who have been set free from the tyranny of things/possessions, hording and making money at others expense will pass through this judgment - the blessing of the poor in spirit.
Other judgments are to come. All things will be shaken to reveal what cannot be shaken - His
Kingdom of Justice and Righteousness in which things are set right, people are aligned with God's heart and do and say as they hear the Father direct. This all flows from these people
coming into union with our triune God, who resides now in our hearts through centering prayer.
I continuously choose to live in His Kingdom, where the "increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the Throne of David and over His Kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever." (Isa9:7)
Graham Kendrick's song "Restore Oh Lord the honor of Your Name" went up as prayer and it is happening....

This economic crisis is to me not an economic crisis, it is both a moral and spiritual crisis. The economic crisis is merely the physical symptom of that moral and spiritual crisis. This is the case as this current financial crisis would not exist if both moral and spiritual laws were being followed. I will give you a brief summary of what I have had to deal with over the past four years that has brought me to this conclusion.

My economic crisis started in April of 2004 when I was terminated for exercising my legal right to a fifteen minute break. I won't go into the exact details and circumstances at this time.

Due to not being able to find work I was given an eviction notice to move out of my (paid off) Mobile home on February 26, 2005. At the time I went to the various non-profit and government agencies which refused me assistance because I did not have a job.

I then called my church which I had attended for the previous twelve years and was told by them that "there is no free money". This is despite the fact that over the previous four or five years I had put over eight thousand dollars in the offering plate.

Six months into my extended unemployment, I decided that I should begin to follow the life long calling, vision and dream of going into full time ministry Preaching God's word. Since I was not able to find work, it seemed, and still seems reasonable to view this crisis as the hand of providence directing me toward that end. When I approached one of the associate Pastors at the afore mentioned church, his response was: "If God be for it He will provide." (Read on, it gets better).

At the age of sixteen, I had an experience through which the Lord called me to preach, that has been my life long goal ever since. I am not forty-seven, and throughout these thirty-one years, I have yet to meat a Pastor that responds to that knowledge in a proper Biblical way. This is a tale tale sign of a moral and spiritual bankrupt society.

After being refused assistance from the afore mentioned church, I decided that they would not give me any assistance to do what 1. Not help me with my financial needs. 2. what the pastor preached every week I should do: That being God's will.

I then attended a much smaller church and was given some opportunity to preach. During that time I continued to seek work and also came up with two different plans that would enable me to begin my ministry while at the same time take care of financial situation enabling me to eventually resolve my problems of not having enough food and being homeless. In every case, the plan was met with opposition and failed. The whole mentality of these "Christians" was that I did not have a job because I did not want a job, and if I simply wanted a job, God would give me a job.

In March of 2006, I obtained what became my last job. I was hired as a Garden Associate for home depot. While working there I soon discovered that the lengthly period of homelessness, and insufficient supply of food had drastically reduced the strength of my body. After lifting 20 to 25, forty pound bags of dirt which was necessary quite often, I would become completely exhausted, my heart would begin racing beyond what could be considered safe, and I would have to take a thirty minute break and eat something to restore my energy and strength. In June of 2006, I was terminated for, quoting assistant manager "You can't do all the work."

At that time I had only twenty dollars left and was denied food stamps. This made it impossible to eat and one Saturday evening at church, after expressing the fact that I had not had much to eat, I was engaged in a debate that "God helps those who help themselves" and then the associate Pastor said to me, "if a man does not work, then neither shall he eat."

On April 28 2006 I was taken by ambulance to Saint Joseph Mercy Oakland hospital due to sever illness. I suffered a myocardial infarction that was the result of pericarditis. Surgery was performed to remove the build up of excess fluid around my heart. I was in the hospital for twelve days.

Currently, I receive State disability assistance that includes $264.00 dollars in cash assistance and $135.00 in food assistance which totals $399.00 per month. This enables me to pay rent in a HUD subsidized apartment complex and have a phone so I am able to connect to the internet through a free dial up service.

The doctors now tell me that I am able to go back to work. That's nice, but somebody has neglected to inform my body of this assumption as I do not at this time have the strength and resiliency that I had when I was terminated from home depot.

I have just received a letter from my Michigan Rehabilitation Services Counselor that I need to call her tomorrow or my account will be closed. Hmmmph, I tried contacting her in November and she did not respond to my calls. Many State employees in Michigan are not very diligent and choose to blame the client when anything doesn't work. It is quite discouraging.

I have had a lot of anger to deal with over the past year. The unwillingness of "Christians" and especially Pastors to assist me so that I can do God's will, while at the same time condemning me for having financial difficulties has been extremely discouraging.

If the state assistance holds out, I am hoping that I will be able to set up a business model that will build a revenue stream which will enable me to focus on the very thing that does the most good for me emotionally, psychologically as well as work within my current physical limitation. Begin Preaching God's word.

I had emailed a Pastor that was on a Michigan radio program. I really did not expect anything other than the same response that I had already received from Pastors. He chose to have one of his associates respond to me. That response in a nut shell was: "you need to get right with God", "you need biblical counseling". Both of these statements are completely inappropriate when we consider how Jesus expects the church to respond to "the least of these my brethren".

I am currently having a very difficult time functioning in this current crisis.

The Pastor tells me to do God's will and I will prosper, then in essence makes God a liar by deserting me while I am actually walking in the direction of doing God's will.

Many in our society tell me that if I work hard, I will get ahead. Then when I work hard and other's who do not work hard look bad, I get fired.

While other's in society tell me that if get an education I can get a good paying job. Yet, I see daily jobs being lost by those who are more experienced and better educated than I am today. I hear how they cannot find work because of this financial crisis, all the while I am being told to go to college and build up $40,000.00 dollars of debt for a job that I may or may not be able to get once I graduate. That doesn't sound lie a logical direction to go.

It is not likely I will have the time to do that as the state disability assistance will perhaps not last much longer. The only thing that makes sense to me is to follow the path to full time ministry. However the moral and spiritual crisis in the church is at such an extreme crisis, that I have better odds of winning the Michigan Mega Millions jack-pot while not playing.

I have done the math and it shows a major crisis.

Rounding up the $399.00 dollars a month in state aid I receive to $400 gives us the following numbers.

The numbers break down as follows:

134 people donating $3.00 per month.
200 people donating $2.00 per month.
400 people donating $1.00 per month.
400 churches donating $1.00 per month.

There are not 134 Christians that love Jesus enough to sacrifice $3.00 a month for His cause.
There are not 200 Christians that love Jesus enough to sacrifice $2.00 a month for His cause.
There are not 400 Christians that love Jesus enough to sacrifice $1.00 a month for His cause.
There are not 400 Churches that love Jesus enough to sacrifice $1.00 a month for His cause.

four hundred dollars a month will allow me to maintain my housing, food and heat. It will not allow me to pay th over $10,000.00 in unpaid medical expenses I have. It will not allow me to purchase new pants to replace the ones that are currently wearing out. It will not allow me to make the over $2000.00 of mechanical repairs needed on my Aerostar Van which has over 203000 miles. It will only maintain my current living conditions and allow me to begin focusing on the work that God has commanded me to do. There however, is not enough Christians that love Jesus enough, to let this poor man do as God has asked.

Bishop Scott A Tovey

PS.
What is your intent on the following question? Faith if it is true, will always be a daily walk. Even when you stumble.

"How regularly do you observe or practice your faith?"

This is so painful to watch 40-50%+ of our savings vanish. We felt we were savers not consumers but I'm sure we still partook in much of the growth on the last decade.

Is it possible that out of this painful crisis we experience a "reset" in expectations and priorities. I am trying to look for a light at the end of a tunnel but I think it is a different, warmer light than we might expect (or be wishing for!). I don't think that it the light we recently lost but maybe one a generation or two ago.

If it is the easy credit that allowed us to acquire so many goods and services, and it now goes away, what will be important to us? Will we spend more time with each other, family time, experiencing the core of life not shopping, trying to get somewhere, be something? Maybe more time in the kitchen and less at a restaurant, rediscovering family recipes and passing down culture. More time with our faith.

How might a reduction in jobs work through society? Will 2-income families become 1-income so that the recently unemployed have a "chance" at employment?

Does the gap between the haves and have nots close? How will those who still "have" step up to help and share those who do not? Will we pass the test?

Might we actually be less stressed and more content with a simpler life?

Might this be a painful blessing in disguise?

Hamid and his wife, Suhayla began feeding 220 plus homeless at the
Armoury in Santa Anna, California in 2007. It was this spring, 2008, a couple of
weeks before the Armoury closed its doors to the Homeless for the summer
hiatus, that I heard about the work they were doing and was
moved to go out and help serve dinner. When I arrived at the Armoury that
first night something changed forever inside me. I was drawn to a
young woman who was sitting on her mat eating dinner. I asked her name,
and how long she had been in her situation. Her name was Raquel, and there
was just some quality about her that drew me towards her, a goodness and
sense of gratitude that made her stand out from all the others. Once we
met, I heard a voice from within tell me clear as a bell, “you can’t leave her.”
Responding to the calling, I reached out to Raquel offering to give her
shelter in my home, and help her find a job and a place to live. I did set some
ground rules: Raquel had to bathe daily, keep her room clean, not smoke in the
house, and call in daily so that I wouldn’t worry. I never felt more sure of what I was doing my life, feeling incredibly compassionate, feeling a warm and glowing inside.

Raquel was involved in an abusive marriage with an alcoholic. They had a child
together, Celeste. When the baby was nine months, she says that her husband,
“beat her senseless”. Social Services took her child away when she told them
she heard voices and the baby’s father was abusive. Her child was put up for
adoption. She never saw her again. They arrested her husband and put Raquel
in an institution for mental health for 2 years. Since her release 3 years ago she
has lived on the streets. She is 31 years old. She takes her medication regularly
and all her symptoms have disappeared.

Here is an excerpt from my journal of the time I spent with Raquel

April 18, 2008
Raquel called me this morning to apologize for not coming home last night and
not calling me as our agreement stated. I was fully prepared to tell her that she
had broken our agreement and that she could pick up her things and go live
wherever she wanted. But I stopped short of saying anything so cruel. Instead, I
chose to give Raquel the opportunity to realize that I cared about her well being
and safety. She felt terrible that I was so concerned about her safety. She told
me she was so use to having no one care about her that she just didn't realize
what she had done. She was very sorry and asked for my forgiveness.
Then we had a wonderful evening. Raquel opened up to me and I asked lots of
questions. We spent some quality time together, about 3 hours and she shared
the most amazing stories with me.
1) She only wears white blouses, sweaters or shirts because it’s easy for the
police and others to see if she has been hurt or stabbed! How incredible. She
said that if you wear a dark color it's easy for people to not see you or visibly
have a sign that you've been hurt.
2) She has survived on the street by going to the 99 cent store and purchasing
$3 worth of candy which she then sells on the streets (usually takes her about 2-
3 hours) and on a good day will resell the candy for $30-$35. I asked her how
she approaches people to buy her candy, she says that the money is for the
church and people donate $1 or $2 and she thanks them with a piece of candy.
She always goes back to the church in the evening and gives money to the
church. She says God always provides for her, so she always makes sure to give
back to God to help others.
3) I asked her how she slept on the street for 3 years. She told me she slept
behind the Kmart behind the bushes and in a flower bed. She would unroll a
couple of blankets and slide behind the bushes. She said no one ever bothered
her there.
4) For her clothing she went to the Thrift store and negotiated sweaters for 25
cents! She told me that Goodwill was too expensive at $4 - $10 for a shirt or
pants.
Raquel is a wonderful person who needed to have a break. She is so happy and
grateful to be with me. She thanks me and her laughter is a breath of fresh air!
The metamorphosis of Raquel has been amazing. Within a few weeks of living
with me, Raquel secured a job at a flower shop which also provided her with
a room. She left a “tremendously beautiful” bouquet in her room for me
when she left. The story although still happy, did not have a fairy tale ending.
Within two weeks it turns out that the flower shop owner wanted more than flower
arranging in exchange for her room, and Raquel left, returning to live with
me.

We have learned much from each other. I had been
experiencing a very difficult time in my life, feeling financially stretched with the
market conditions and emotionally drained as well. Since Raquel has come into
my life, business has been coming my way. I have no doubt that God is rewarding me for my kindness, although I didn’t do it for any reward. When I saw what life was like at the Armoury I was, “filled with gratitude and felt privileged that I could help feed the homeless.” And as for Raquel, she prayed that someone would come and help her. I have encouraged Raquel to keep her daughter in her heart, write her letters, and birthday cards and keep them all. “Life” I told Raquel, “Has a funny way of bring back to us what is really ours.”
My story is a lesson to us all. When we reach out to others, we get so
much in return.

I feel when something goes wrong, people are quick to try to point the finger to someone to take the blame. I think we are all in this together, as individuals and as a whole. I take responsibility for my financial choices putting myself in my own predicament as well as our country or even the world.I do feel morals are not what they used to be. It seems more things are now acceptable that once were not. As far as the economy, bad choices by depending on foreign oil, or the environment healing itself, to something about depending on China to need our dollar? I work w/children and families and everday try to give back to that community, the school I'm in, families, and the children. I try to get my families sponsors from the channel 4 Neighbors for Neighbors every Christmas to help w/food, clothes, and toys. I attend Hollywood Faith Christian Church that also gives to the less fortunate by giving out food, clothes, counseling, and once a month goes into the community delivering food. I feel things I do now is not buy things that I can really do without. I drive less, stay home more to watch television or read and eat more at home. My family gets together and we take turns eating together at each others homes making dishes and sharing meals. As leadership, I want to keep my family close and set a good example to my family, colleagues, and families I work with. I find personal support from my faith in God, a great mentor in my pastor, and relationships with the congregation. It appears more and more that God is being taken out of the schools, court houses, no prayer allowed, cannot bring Bibles to school, but certainly can, in vain, say "Jesus Christ" in many movies. Other wise dont bring up that name. I feel our nation needs morals, values, and a good God fearing leader. Wisdom? I hope I get it from learning from my mistakes, moving on from them, then trying not to repeat them.

My grandparents fared better than most during the great depression.

My grandfather had transferred the skills he'd honed growing up on a farm in Western Tennessee to his peach, plum, and apple orchards in Santa Rosa California. My grandmother Winifred Rose who had always taken personal stands against unjust laws ran a "speak-easy" out of their Daly City house. She served home-made apple and plum brandy out of fine porcelain tea cups. Needless to say where most of their cash came from.

When Winifred was not serving her special "tea" she volunteered at one of the many soup kitchens in the San Francisco bay area dishing up simple meals for the many who lined up each day. It was there that she met Joe and Mary Morabito.

Day after day she would see this same couple in the line. Mary was quite visibly pregnant and near term. Winifred's Italian wasn't great but was better than their English. One day when they came through the line, she told them to wait by the wall. That was the day Joe and Mary became part of our family.

Thirty four years later Mary told me that story with tears streaming down her face. She told me how my grandmother had welcomed them into her home and helped her weeks later was she gave birth to her first son. She talked about how my grandfather had taken Joe to Santa Rosa and taught him about growing fruit trees and given him a job. And she cried because even though my grandmother Winifred who she called "Freddi" had died years before I was born, she could look into my eyes and still see her soul.

Now as I see what is happening not just here but throughout the world, I draw on the stories I grew up hearing about my grandparents and their tenacity through the greatest adversities, not just the depression, but my grandmother's fight for suffrage, losses of friends and family to both world wars, the influenza epidemic of 1918, the polio epidemic that followed. If they were here today, they would say as I do that this is a crisis of morality grown out of the complacency that comes from our sense of entitlement. My other grandmother Edna would say we were all "just spoiled", but if Winifred were here I'm sure she would say "Don't just stand there waiting for someone else to fix your problems - Do something!!"

One of the many things I am doing right now is gardening, actually I've been growing food on a small scale for years, but now I'm doing it organically and I'm composting so that I don't have to use chemical fertilizers. During the year I share my bounty with others, but now I'm doing all I can to teach others to grow food themselves because you can give someone a tomato and they'll eat for an hour or you can teach them to grow tomatoes and they'll eat for a lifetime (to paraphrase). So I guess I can say I am trying to lead, it's not easy to find people to follow, but they're coming around, slowly.

My sister lost her job in Aug '08. My husband and I have been paying her bills for the last 2 months, until she finds employment. My spiritual crisis revolves around the fact that her daughter and husband refuse to help her because they think we will become enablers, that she is not living her life the way she should, etc. (and they don't like her current boyfriend.) My sister has always worked and been generous to others. I was raised as was my niece, to help, forgive and love those in need. I am so blown away by my nieces smugness, lack of forgiveness and callousness that it's making me critical of her and I find I don't want to have anything to do wi her. I realize one has to be careful of how much to help but what is our moral responsibility to a family member who lives alone and would lose her house wi/out our support, which we can afford to give at this point. Her daughter is in a financial situation to help but refuses...my sister has a broken washer and cranky heater...keeps her house at 62 degrees to save money.
I'm struggling to love my niece and her husband. They strike me as morally bankrupt because money is central to their values.
I seek wisdom from talking wi friends, my husband, prayer, worship at church (which hasn't been very helpful), and listening to your show.
Helping the less fortunate is not different for me or my husband. The struggle is always "how much is enough".
So here I am castigating my niece for her lack of compassion and I am having a hard time being compassionate toward her.

The adage that nothing is easy or free comes to mind when I reflect on the current economic situation. I see this time as more of a moral and spiritual opportunity for our country than a crisis. The crisis occurred as we spent our children's future for our own satisfaction and enjoyment. I do not mean, personally, but collectively we spent as if we could not get enough of anything and everything. What was even worse was the stress and anxiety that accompanied that greedy and gluttonous era. The social standard said not only could you be happy with a place to live, but everyone needed a house and often a big house that had all the bells and whistles. We craved name brand clothing, purses, cars, all in the name of vanity and keeping up or ahead of the Jones'. Personally, I am a little relieved to see that era of competitiveness and stretching to keep up passe. The pressure to acquire for the sake of saying one had such and such or bought it at such and such is not only gone, but now out of style. We can now focus on what we are grateful for and I do not mean a Coach purse. I mean family, the familiarity of home and the comfort it brings to be with those we care most about, friends, work and good health. I truly believe that we are being given the chance to appreciate the really best things in life before it is too late.

We need to maximize this moral opportunity by getting to know our neighbors and in doing so join together to take responsibility for our country. We can do this by talking to one another and discussing how to solve our problems and how to build a better future for our children. My personal commitment toward this end is in my role in overseeing an educational community program, I am inviting others to collaborate and seek answers to our collective problems together. We will start with facilitating a book discussion program aimed at bringing together community leaders to look at how we work together to solve our economic, environmental and human problems. The book we have chosen is Tom Friedman's 'Hot, Flat and Crowded, Why We Need a Green Revolution Now."

I am not a pollyanna. I realize many people are out of work and they are in a real survival mode. but, as a country, I also believe we have been fat and sassy for too long. Each of us needs to think and act in survival mode. We need to find that entrepreneurial spirit that brought many of our ancestors to this country. That spirit lives in each of us, the will to work hard, find solutions, help our neighbors and collectively do the best thing for the greater good is in our DNA. It might need some dusting off, but it is there. There is no time like a fall in an ice cold river to bring us to our senses, force us to really examine our lives, our values and then get to work on solutions that serve all of us.

I consider it to be a continuation of immorality. It is an economic crisis, but I don't expect this society to become self critical. I am afraid it will be exactly that "challenging, edifying, cross-cultural conversation" on very superficial "New Age" level after which everyone (feeling so good about him/herself) will proceed to further destruction of world. I have a problem with Rabbi Herschel's words which ignore the victims and almost equate victims and perpetrators. I don't believe that anything truly significant can be achieved without "truth and reconciliation" process, and I don't expect this society of hypocrites to be able to go through a similar process.
This downturn isn't a surprise for me, multicultural, multilingual and yes, "multidegreed" (including one in history), so it doesn't affect me spiritually or intellectually, even though it will affect me economically. I, a Pascallian agnostic, am guided by the wisdom of my late parents and some of my friends, genuinely religious, and I not looking at the moment for leadership, most certainly not "New Age, psychobabbling." I enjoyed the conversation with Palmer Parker, but I find his statement about victimization of whistle blowers in American institutions incomplete - countless individuals' lives have
been totally destroyed, but it was done by very concrete individuals and not by some abstract institutions (as repulsive as they are). There seems to be preoccupation with wealthy "victims" of the downturn who went from being multi-billionaires to just mono-billionaires, but the real question still remains the victimization of whistle blowers. We can't just state "Oh, there were victims, now let's talk about our poor perpetrators who have lost money."
Sorry, storyteling is not my specialty.

Daily I pray in a multi-denominational meditation group to be, "led from unreal to real". It's only within the last few months, during this economic "crisis" that I understand, on many levels, the value of the prayer.

What's going on in the economy feels like a correction, the boomerang of Karma heading back to us. Enduring this correction is itself a meditation, a practice. As in meditation, I try to bring my thought back to whatever mantra I'm working on in the moment, often this is hard, but ultimately soothing. I limit my sources of news, I read the paper and log onto only one news source.

Through the course of my day I try, to the best of my ability, to steer clear of negative, overly dramatic economic moaning. This too is not easy; like gossip, economic commiserating is oddly comforting, a strange guilty pleasure, a seduction, walking away from it is lonely.

Thank you for the podcast...my battery's low, I need to cut myself off.

Corporate America has a long history of violence against those who are less able to defend themselves. The tobacco industry has conducted a holocaust that has sickened and killed more non-smokers that the death toll of the Nazi concentration camps and about ten times as many children whom these predators converted into smokers. Nestles took only a few weeks to murder one million infants with its aggressive marketing of infat formula in third world countries. Cokecola hires death squads that mutilate to death suspected union organizers in Columbia. I have met former prisoners who say that they worked for a mafia because they prefer a less violent and less dishonest employer than large corporations. The business community has always been a predatory Frankenstein monster whose displays of counterfeit conscience are but a public relations exercise in mass communications. They compete and destroy.
Some of their physical violence including their violence against children is more vicious than sexual exploitation and beating. In particular, by combining junk food with the junk culture of video games and the likes of MTV, they have made people so fat and ugly as to break the spirit so that it is easire to control people and harvest more wealth from them by selling them more.
They have filled the world with the ugliest culture this planet has ever witnessed, with their pop music that we are all forced to hear in every public place. Thi legacy of commercial enterprise is junk food for the body, junk science for the mind and junk culture for the spirit.
When a school yard bulley punches someone in the face he does so to mark his victim with a black eye. That black eye is the bulley's public trophy which his victim must wear as a banner of humiliation that tells the world he is a whipping boy and a loser who is less fit to survive, in invitation for otjher bullies to gloat over. It is a label that is designed to rape the victim for the world to see. Corporate America does th same thing when it sells soft drinks full of high fructose corn syrup and McDonalds to children and places them before video games and makes them so spectacularly fat and ugly. The obesity they bear is a form of sexual violence because it makes their bodies repulsive and it is also a banner of humiliation similar to the black eye the bulley inflcts.
But it does not stop with junk food for the body. Commercial music is designed to humiliate a public that from childhood is forced to make it their own, from the vicious racism of assigning the black community rap or minstrel show hip hop music and costumes designed to make them look and sound more primitive than human to country Western soft rock that is drooled in baby talk lyrics.
Sports are designed to brainwash the public with the belief that the world must be separated into winners and losers so that the destruction corporations inflict in their shark like behaviour will be accepted.
But the most inportant corporate crime is not just its violence. It is its fradulence. Dante's Divine Comedy presents Inferno as a place where those who earned their place are there because they blame others for theirchoices. "The customer choose to smoke and we only provide the service they want" is the kind of excuse we hear today. Dante's Inferno places the fadulent at the bottom of Hell and the junk culture industry pretending that pop songs are equal to classical music much in the manner of a 6 year old child scribbling on paper and pretending to be equal to DaVinci and Raphael and cowering behind "Beauty ix in the eye of the beholder>" is the fraud Dante had in mind. The greatest violence big busness has done is to feed people junk culture for the spirit as Hardee's feeds its junk food to the body.

The current economic crisis is a balance point where we are being forced to see ourselves through a clear lens and make adjustments to what we value in the world. I am in my late 50's and have always struggled with acquisition of material things as the value proposition we stand foor as a people. To me, the greatest value is found in helping others who seek aid, not through grandiose gestures, but in small, anonymous, almost imperceptible ways. I have tried to live this principle all along, although at times I struggle with what is most helpful long-term. Sometimes, allowing the person who seeks help to work their way through their issue, knowing that you're rooting for them, is the best answer. At other times, brainstorming solutions with them is best. And at others, merely touching someone's hand while they share their burden lets them know you care.

Having said all this, I too was caught up in appearances. As the child of a narcissistic alcoholic mother and absent father, I worked way too hard for much longer than was sensible to look good -- I imagine for the ultimate goal of acceptance, approval and being good enough. That period was very costly -- financially and emotionally. Sadly, there was no focus on one's inner life in my family of origin, so it took many decades of reading, thinking and brutal self honesty to come to understand that all outer trappings - clothes, toys, cars, homes - had limited value. If there is any silver lining here, it is that I learned this painful lesson gradually before our current economic crisis. So my lifestyle is modest and my use of money as an exchange medium is deliberate.

My adaptive coping mechanism today has less to do with spending differently -- that change already occurred. It has more to do with staying grounded when waves of fear of the unknown pound my internal shores.

1. Knowing that I am not alone in this brings some comfort.
2. I tell myself that I will find a way through this, even if I can't see where the road leads past the bend.
3. I tell myself that I don't have know everything to be safe. I was nearly still-born and started at a precarious 4 lbs -- I didn't know everything then but managed to survive and thrive.
4. I put a limit on the time I spend in fear or worry -- time, like money, has value. If I fritter it away non-productively, then I've done the equivalent of charging an extravagant purchase on a time-based credit card.
5. I try to remain present in the moment, to do what needs to be done for myself, to act responsively toward others.
6. I get strength from keeping expectations realistic, seeking opportunities to lend encouragement to others, and savoring small joys.

None of us know what is in store. We will manage whatever comes with grace by staying present, grounded and responsive to the needs of others and ourselves. Our job is to find that balance point every day.

Because most of us individually, our leadership and our society in general accepted and participated in a multi-year consumer based false economy, most of us individually, our leadership and our society are all at fault. While the impact on almost everyone appears to be serious, each of us needs to view this as an opportunity to get ourselves back to reality and form a basis for our proper personal and society re-development.

Twenty-two years ago I started the Uncommon Individual Foundation www.uif.org with the idea that the most important way for me to benefit my fellow man was to "Give Forward" by using mentoring to assist individuals in developing and pursuing a proper personally defined life objective. We are now develping www.mentorsphere.com in a way to enable individuals and organizations to activte and implement this process.

While we believe education is important, we are focusing on encouraging and assisting in the process of activation and implementation. Activation and implementation are the most complicated and difficult components of becoming and getting to where one needs to be in life.

I am inspired by many, including Krista and Athena who provide the wisdom that encourages proper passion and leadership in this effort. I am finding that leadership comes from the acceptance by many of the importance of our mission and objectives.

Dec 14, 2008

Dear Ms. Christy:
I am a retired teacher and literary scholar and would like to make a few comments.
Since Minoan times, all the deeper virtues or spiritual insights that your many guests have spoken about have been with us all along. The ideas that our culture and its systems undergo cycles of expansion (hubris) and then compression (sorrow), as well as the ideas of death and rebirth, the struggles between individual and communal values, and most of the other ideas we deem either Western or Christian have been with us for over four thousand years, meaning that our culture and its peoples have been imbued with these values for a very long time, and yet with almost every new season, we find ourselves shocked by the turning of the wheel. I have listened to your show for about two years and am both cheered and fortified by the comments and observations of your guests, and by implication, by you and your involvement with them. However, directing us to our traditional responses of inward turning and renewed collective values may be fortifying and reassuring, but perhaps some finger pointing and criticizing may be good for the soul, as well.
Our current economic downturn is not an isolated event, as your guest, Mr. Palmer notes. Economics is the bottom line of any culture (excuse the cliché) and the entire culture is effected when the economy goes south. Looking inward to deeper values is an appropriate response, but I should like to make a few observations about the American psyche, in the meantime, as regards our economic situation.
I believe Mr. Palmer is correct in saying that our recent economic bubble was a form of self-deception, a kind of blind hubris or eating of our young (as in the myth of Kronos, perhaps, as well as for pigs). The recent housing bubble is symptomatic of the systemic changes on Wall Street, deregulation and innovative financial instruments, whose effects and abuses no one was willing to calculate despite the cautious nature of most economists. Over-expanding greed, seemingly, is the cause of our current calamity. But as financial markets regroup, a deeper problem becomes evident, a festering one, namely, the loss of good jobs in America. After all, if the American working class is unable to earn a decent living, how can a consumer driven economy, populated mostly by the working classes, thrive?
Mr. Palmer suggested that the materialistic, consumer driven economy should be looked at more seriously. I agree, but this is a long term solution.
More immediate is the problems American car manufactures are having as indicative of our current reality. Manufacturing in America is quietly dying and with it manufacturing jobs, for today most manufacturing is done overseas. In my neighborhood, South Florida, its obvious that 65% of the vehicles on the roads are imports. That is, GM, Ford and Chrysler appear to have only 35% of the American car market, approximately 12% each. This is mind boggling, and the consequences of these companies collapsing, even with the help of congress, appears very real as many fiscal Republicans are arguing in congress today, as well as the devastation to all the jobs connected to suppliers and dealers, as argued by the Democrats. Why, one has to ask, were American car manufactures unwilling to give the public what it wanted to buy? Why were the CEO’s unwilling to produce compact, quality cars instead of large, fuel consuming vehicles when the trend in consumer buying habits, as early as the 1960’s, has been in the opposite direction. For example, GM’s newest line of vehicles was the Hummer. The Hummer is a beautiful vehicle, but the reality is that most people are driving small, fuel efficient cars, and therefore most of the profits from sales would be with these smaller cars. Was the American image of large and powerful more important to the car CEO’s than the reality on the street? Or are the CEO and the managerial class of American car companies as well as other manufacturers so international minded that the collapse of our manufacturing sector is of no consequence as long as they can manage big business in whatever country it resides, China, India or Central America, were labor is cheap and profits are high? Here are two obvious points of concern, even to those of us who are more use to problems in literary studies.
Of course, your program does not deal with the psychology, if not the hubris, of the American business class, but as we are now learning all over again, these and other concerns, including religious perspectives, are all connected.
Sincerely yours,
Eugene M. Arnone

As a follower of a spirituality outlined in A Course in Miracles, I have come to see my perception of the outer world as illusion (as it is in many religions). It is illusion because the world does not offer salvation. Indeed, it is usually from the world that we need to be saved. The current economic crisis reminds me of these spiritual lessons:

1) My success blinds and distracts me into thinking that I can handle everything myself, because I am getting recognition and have financial resources sufficient to meet my needs. I am content and feel that life is good, thanks to my own efforts. When these artificial props are kicked out from under me, I am given the opportunity to look for something more spiritually founded, more authentic, more sustaining.

2) The problem is never "them." I am not a victim. This is a bit hard for me in that I have seen the inevitability of the coming correction. Retiring on January 1, 2009, I was planning at that time to liquidate all stock and other risk-based investments and place them into safe tax-free bonds to help fund my retirement (modest though they be). My timing was off by only a few months, but now my resources have been halved and the basis for my retirement rather shaky. I do indeed believe that the crisis was caused by greed and lack of morality or regulation, but assigning the blame is not a worthwhile exercise. Nor is it necessary to dwell on articulating my own culpability. The spiritual lesson for me, at this point, is to look within and not to try to criminalize someone else. But it's hard. I do blame myself for not realizing the crunch would come before the end of the Bush administration, and I do blame others. Herein lie my spiritual lessons. They have been imposed upon me rather precipitously, but they are, nevertheless, a good thing.

3) The greatest illusion of all is the belief that there is something wrong, that things are not as they should be. A Course in Miracles claims no monopoly on truth, calling itself only one of thousands of paths to God. But it does claim to be a short cut. The basis of that short cut is that its learning process takes place in the world around us, not in fleeing the world, denying it, trying to convert or control or fix it, or hiding from it. As illusion, the world never makes sense, because it reflects our own dysfunction, fear, guilt, and insecurity. The solution is not to try to make the world work better, even the economic system (spiritually speaking). The goal is to see between all of my brothers and sisters and myself no separation, only commonality in our divine origin. So the greediest most shallow most irresponsible predatory lender or illicit purveyor of worthless derivitives is my brother. If I can see him innocent and free of the illusory values (and condemnation) of the world, if I can see that he is still as God created him, loved, and unchanged, then I can understand that same thing about myself, and know that I, too, never left God's embrace, hard as I may have tried. In this way, the Course calls all of my brothers my saviors, because as I see them, I see myself. This is NOT the way the world works. It IS the way forgiveness works. Forgiveness is the main tool the Course uses for our awakening.

4) My biggest lesson may be in trusting that I am and will be adequately cared for (through the grace of God), regardless of my financial circumstances. There is no correlation between one and the other. At a time of financial loss, I get to be reminded of this important lesson. I never have more than two choices: To move toward love and forgiveness and trust and joy, or to act in ways that take me away from them. I see the choice as getting closer to my true identity or getting more into my ego and into illustion. Times of upheaval such as we are experiencing now, are ideal opportunities for spiritual growth and learning, since they make the choice very clear to me. Now all I need to do is make it.

Robert Ferre

What I am doing that is different, is being willing to listen and understand this crisis in America from various points of views and from all walks of life. My approach is to understand first, then communicate in a way that is enlightening and/or encouraging.

We can be quick to be negative or hopeless. But how can we progress with regressive energy? I believe that creative, encouraging and conscious dialog will help us climb out of our current condition in America.

Listening, then building a progressive conversation from there does help, and will help. If we can learn to do this as Americans in struggling times, we will be able to see brighter days I believe.

I am finding leadership in the creative ideas we have as people, and in the solutions we intelligently craft when we can fully understand our situations here in America.

I hardly ever took notes in college, but just now, listening to Prabhu Guptara, Martin Marty, Rachel Naomi Remen, and Ester Sternberg I have been taking notes, underlining, and marveling at the richness of these conversations. They have engaged me deeply.

I have much to ponder and only one thing to contribute now: Life lived in community, nor just with acquaintances,friends, or family, but in an accountable community of respected companions is the matrix in which we live out the answers to Dr. Remen's three questions: What can be trusted? What sustains me? What do I really need in order to live?

Thank you, thank you, thank you for the great service you are providing to so many people. The Rev Dr. Steve Crowson

As a holistic nurse and director or clinical working in a community hospital in Atlantic City, New Jersey, I am seeing first hand the impact this current situation is having on my colleages, our patients, area employers such as casinos, our hospital and health care in general. Our organization, AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center is financially strong as they were wise enough to invest during the boom economic years and have good reserves, however, many of our staff members are being affected because their significant others are getting laid off, some of them of course are on the verge of losing their homes, etc. Moreover, as the number of people losing their jobs increases they will also loose their health benefits and that will put a strain in our already taxed health care system. Our hospital already provides an increased amount of services to the uninsured in our community and gets reimbursed by Charity Care - which the program itself seems to be on the verge of collapse. We are preparing ourselves to see an increase patient population and doing more with less. This of course can add more stress to already stressed out health care providers.

So when I look for inspiration during these tough times, I am reminded on Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing - Nightingale channeled her work to support hospital reforms and the need for educated, centered and grounded nurses who could provide better management of the hispital environment. She was not afraid to speak her truth to those in powerful positions. She saw beyond roles and addressed inequities in the system whenever it threatened the well being of her patients or those in lesser circumstances. I am sure she had her fair share of friends, enemies and friendnemies. Fast forward 100 years later and we find ourselves in our present circumstances.

The economic, political, and health care crisis that we are currently experiencing is once again a call to action. It is an opportunity for us to understand the realities around us and to rally together to do something radically different. Before us is the possibility of using this current crisis as an opportunity to unite, collaborate and to empower ourselves, and others, to actually get our health care system to work. Embracing an uncertain future, we need to support leaders, who are inspired, courageous and effective. We need to renew the energy of our healthcare workers who are burnt out and apathetic in our hospitals and clinical practices. If we point them to an inner compass that renews their passion, there is hope for real solutions and inspired creativity. All that we need is already there, in the currency of our collective, and it only needs to be tapped into.

Nightingale was able to transform the health care delivery of her era and beyond by looking at the healing process from a whole person perspective. She also saw nursing as sacred work; she believed that every person who is drawn to ease the pain and suffering of another is an instrument of genuine healing, regardless of whether they are a healthcare professional or not. So Nightingale's vision is generic, applicable to everyone, regardless of his or her occupation or profession.

In today's highly specialized health care, we are often tempted to compartmentalize our lives, putting our professional interests in one corner and our spiritual concerns in another. Nightingale’s spiritual vision and her professional identity were seamlessly combined. As she put it, "My work is my must." Nightingale exemplifies a degree of courage and fearlessness that is rare in any era. She shows that it is possible to honor our spiritual vision and integrate it with the highest standards of nursing practice - to "walk our talk." By her example, she invites each of us to find our meaning and purpose - our own "must.”

Andrew Harvey an internationally renowned religious scholar and teacher states that when the deepest and most grounded spiritual vision is married to a practical and pragmatic drive to transform all existing political, economic, social institutions, and I will add health care, a sacred force - the power of wisdom and love in action - is born. This force he defines as Sacred Activism.

Nurse theorist, Jean Watson in her Theory of Human Caring asserts that caring is a science and transpersonal caring relationships are foundational to our work. She defines caring as a moral ideal, rather than an action, that is necessary for the preservation of humanity. She explains how caring, as an ideal, benefits the person as well as the healthcare provider. She believes healthcare provides must cultivate sensitivity to self and others through self reflection, awareness and spiritual practice by cultivating lovingkindness, developing authentic caring relationships, being fully present, attending to basic needs with caring consciousness, engaging in the artistry of caring-healing practices, and ministering to the spiritual needs of the person by maintaining human dignity and nurturing the soul.

Amid the challenges we face in our nation, indeed the world - - it is easy to be overwhelmed by a sense of futility and hopelessness. As a nurse, and a recent cancer patient, I challenge us to embrace this radical way of looking at these challenges – not as health care reform, but health care transformation from the inside out in the form of personal transformation and empowerment through an encounter and special attention to the heart - for "sacred" and "heart" reflect a common meaning – it can generate the hope, courage, and vision required for our troubled times. We need to be connected to a vision of action that is inspiring, hopeful and rooted in deep spiritual wisdom and compassion.

To thrive in the current healthcare culture, we must create environments that redefine health, foster personal connection, and celebrate human potentiality. These environments must reflect and sustain the values and behaviors that are congruent with caring and healing.

It is my believe that this transformational process is not esoteric, but is entirely organic. This sacred activism is counteractive to the naysayer and do-nothings who are part of our problems. It is important to realize that this message is not a matter of philosophy, but of survival.

And so in the words of Nightingale, ‘So never lose an opportunity of urging a practical beginning, however small, for it is wonderful how often in such matters the mustard-seed germinates and roots itself.” Thank you.

I definitely consider this a moral crisis of America's mindless consumerism and abandoning ethical and moral values for get-rich schemes. My strongest spiritual resource is this green earth and the web of life, and the movement of this country to encourage consumption that can't be sustained has outraged me for years.
The values I bring that keep me steady in this time are several. First, I have lived in third world countries, and am trained as an anthropologist. I know that it is possible to live with very little, but I also know that the consumption of America is directly linked to how little these people have. In the US, I have lived in poor rural areas, and similarly know how to live with very little. I have practiced voluntary simplicity for years and participate very little in the consumption economy.
Second, I am the director of a non-profit organization, and our little grassroots program has been hard-hit by this downturn. Foundations have cut grants and donations usual at this time of year haven't materialized. I have worked for several months to find additional resources, cut non-essentials, and cover payroll. I finally had to layoff staff, but I began with myself. I am paid for one day a week, and volunteer 3 or 4 other days. I cut the days of my admin assist. next and the program manager will be next since I consider the program the priority of the organization. I hope that we'll be able to survive the next year but I hope my own dedication lets other staff know that I value their work and will try to find the funds to keep them working.
I found the reflections of your panel very interesting, and I thank you for providing this way of thinking about the crisis. As a Buddhist, I see this as a way of moving another step away from materialism, and it brings my attachments into sharp focus.
Like many others, I hope that our new President can really help this country re-orient. I have learned to value the many strengths of the people around me, especially those who hold on to hope for their many different reasons. Some are young, and have the hope of innocence. Some are older and have learned to have something to hold to. I try to listen to them all.

At the Core of the Recent Financial Collapse
By Sampson Iruoha

Mankind have for several millennia gravitated towards recognizing only what gives earthly pleasure and gain, and they have increasingly made their every decision based on the potential for the attainment of these.

But there is something that is lost to that person who so binds himself through his limited and base desiring. What has eluded a great portion of mankind, but which always can be discovered by anyone through earnest exertion and objective observation, is the fact that our desires, i.e., those stirrings which rise from deep within us, contribute to what develops for us to experience and live through on earth. With these inner stirrings we determine what we experience in our lives. They are like magnetic energy-forms which pull together our earthly conditions according to their (the forms) nature.

When our goals become so narrow that we are concerned only with earthly wishes and desires, the opportunities for our experiencing of happiness get correspondingly narrower. The emotions of envy, greed, anger, fear and anxiety grow in size and in magnetic strength. We express more of these as we encounter various conditions on earth, because it becomes increasingly more difficult for us to find those very narrowly-defined conditions for our happiness. These conditions become even scarcer as the gaze of men on earth becomes even narrower and their goals more earthly in nature, and thus, more limited and rigid.

The surroundings which form around us as a result of the energy-forms we generate come together in ways that encourage feelings of envy, greed, anger, fear, anxiety, superficiality, conceit, narrow-mindedness, and many other related base attributes and emotions. All of this has the effect of keeping man’s gaze low, away from the enlightening and ennobling currents from above, from the Spiritual World through which light flows to us, because these base emotions and attributes are dissimilar to what is light.

If the guidance from above, which comes to us through our Inner Voice, and which leads along a natural, upbuilding path, is heeded, what is built on earth by men would always have beneficial effects to all. Destruction and despair, however, come as fruit to whomever builds differently, that is, whoever cannot recognise and heed natural Law and thereby abstain from causing harm (consciously or unconsciously). The desire for earthly wealth, comfort, power and influence, keeps our perception low and cuts us off from what will truly help us upwards spiritually and also materially.

The amassment of wealth, as a means of ensuring security and of achieving life’s purpose, has become a major preoccupation of many a person, rich or poor, young or old, without regard to nation, race or culture, so that everything else, including the cultivation of good qualities, which alone could lead to ennobled earthly institutions, has been left to deteriorate.

A powerful wave now courses through Creation, dislodging whatever is not built on a sound foundation, as is everything that has not been built under the right guidance. The recent financial collapse, shake-up or transformation is only an indication of this happening. It will affect people to the degree that they are bound to the collapsing structure. Only that person who is able to heed its rousing call can navigate well through the ensuing debris.

The economic breakdown is a metaphor for our cultures spiritual breakdown. Many of us have been expecting it. We have been preparing by living very simply, building community, getting out of debt, saving money, and becoming as self-sufficient as possible. My life/home is a model of this. I am 56 and plan to retire from directing a school for 20 years in April 09. I could continue to work, but I feel a need to change my role in the world. My finances are safe. I may return to foreign service (Peace Corps), work in energy conservation, on an Indian Reservation or work in Southern States in the schools. Or? The idea is to be of use. I am healthy now, but death waits. So my question is "What can I do to help?" There is much to do. And I have many skills. My plan is still nebulous, but all will become clear. I can wait for the Voice, the sudden opportunity. Already one good job offer has emerged. Next year I will be doing something exciting and helpful. Like Parker Palmer, I try to stay out of the fear turf. I have gratitude for my situation. All will become clear.

The spiritual crises is the fading of CONTENTMENT. Many forces in our culture work together to reshape contentment and toss it aside.

Some years ago, I set a level of retirement savings that I would need to live a frugal, but giving lifestyle. Since that time , my savings have surpassed my original goal. Rather than reach for even more, I began to tithe the surplus assets to charity. Now the tithing combined with the market slump have taken me back to my original contentment level of savings. At first I was distressed by this loss of virtual savings, but now I look back on the giving over the past years and see that the money given was the best investment! It has lost no value.

This time of stress is a normal part of my Christian spiritual journey. Stress is a refining process. Scripture is clear on that issue.

You are "looking for practical resources for individual and communal evaluation and renewal, moving forward from this crisis". But what do you offer those who lived evenly and moderately along the way, who are not experiencing economic crisis, buy who are instead celebrating and reaping rewards after years of hard work, saving for the future, giving to others, and contributing to society? It seems that all minds and hands are now turned to economic bailouts or spiritual and moral lessons. What a shame that there is little or no attention "left over" for reinforcing the positive behaviors and rewarding those who have exhibited them.

I bring a kindred and keen energy to this crisis, personally. In a failing economy where things are so uncertain, I have an optimism that will remain, even in the darkest of times. My soul's strength will not allow me to be negative when we need innovation, ideas and leadership to get us out of this crisis. Practicing Yoga every morning, I am empowered each day to have positive energy - I go about my day with stability and direction. I believe we need this during these trying times.

My spirituality, loving myself and the world around me, encourages me each day to seek answers and language that will help people smile and/or feel that hope surrounds us. From this, I understand that we want help and hope. Therefor my positive and peaceful energy is welcomed wherever I am.

I see people gravitating towards this peaceful and positive energy. Conversations that develop with me or around me encourage others to listen, to want to learn, and to gravitate to words that are opposite of dark and negative.

With this understanding, we will empower one another and help one another escape or avoid creating situations or the energy involved in this crisis in America.

I consider myself a Change Agent. In the previous words, I am a Change Agent in the sense that I am helping others see that there is hope in the depths of crisis and it can be used to brighten our days and our paths in life.

First let me say this is the first time I've listened to your program and it won't be the last. I was driving and I've become a huge NPR fan. I was so immersed in Parker's conversation with you that I pulled over to the side of the road to write down your program name and time. I drove around in the car, down to the bluffs in Santa Monica listening. The mix between the cold wind, both your warm hearts, the economic implosive and the magnificent explosion of colors across the sunset helped me really feel my aliveness. Not the rote, automatic movements that so many of us have fallen into. You ask how do we get to a place like we are, both financially and spiritually/morally? Little by little, we learn how to turn off others around us, then we turn off ourselves. Or does it begin that we learn to slowly turn off ourselves and then it becomes habitual to turn off others. Walk by people in need because we don't have time or the inclination to be in the now of our lives. In our race to the finish line of who has the most stuff, we inevitably lose the race...the human race. And here we are. And like Parker, I think this devastating downturn may just be the bottom that we need to feel in order to begin to rebuild ourselves as a person, people, nation and world. How easy it is to forget we are human with all our darknesses and our light and that we can determine which path we decide to follow. The good news is that turnaround can happen in an instant. Piaget spoke to humans needing 10's of thousands of experiences for a real change within the organism to occur. A real structural change, not just a cosmetic change. The difference between accommodation and assimilation. Now is the time for that real structural change. I also loved the concept that an inner life cannot be turned on and off or just on by enormous amounts of data digesting. But clearly, creating an environment that allows and supports the study of one's innards as being as important if not more than one's outards, opens the doors for inquiry and meaningful searching. I also recall the question Parker posed of why no one spoke up if they had or more solidly that they knew of the divisive programs in the financial markets. The answers were fear (of being known as a whistle blower) and of course, greed. And then begs the question, how much is enough. When does someone say when. That a society is not known by how well its most wealthy and successful achieve but how that society treats the least fortunate members. As a doctor of psychological, a clinician for many years, I might suggest that we are so disconnected from our true selves that we cannot connect to those who are not akin to us even in our false selves. We need to return to ourselves. We push away those parts of ourselves in others we fear the most. We may give money, but not our time. And clearly, what is more precious than time. Once spent, it cannot be reclaimed. Though we all have hearts that beat in our chest this is most certainly a matter that is driven straight from the heart. Our spiritual heart. I suggest that many are not afraid of telling but more afraid of being known. Of being revealed. Of realizing that in spite of a vast fortune, there is no where anyone can go to get away from the world. People can no longer pretend the rest of the world does not exist. We are all globally connected. Their existence is our existence. There is no where to go to get away. Away is always with us. We have to change the way we live, from the inside out and then from the outside as well. We all rise and fall together. Tomorrow depends upon today. Now more than ever. Thank you for your show. I needed to listen. We all need to be reminded. And we are all the reminders as well.

Crisis is questioning everything you though you knew and could believe in, trust in, and losing yourself for years in the aloofness of questioning with only receiving half truths or total lies from others. Fear follows you night and day, tracking your every step. Waiting for you to make that fatal, final one last mistake. Then all is lost. Your choice is of life or death by your own method, or the comforts of living on the streets and about to turn 60.
I saw it coming, this so called recent new great depression way back at the end of 2005. I saw people with nothing but greed, bouncing on a lonely new person who had relocated to the attractive area of southwestern Utah. The pretense of being sweet and friendly is how they did it, practiced at hiding a truth and knowing exactly what you need to hear, taught from the confines of a religious cult, it's the business end of their church.
From the first minute I stopped my RV to camp and have a look around, they worked me to the point they destroyed my life and stole nearly every possession I had ever gathered and worked to pay for. They kept me and any one like me isolated and trapped, with no way out after the beginning of 2006.
I am empowered once again, and tomorrow will be a better day, forgive? Forget? Remember! And live better today!

I work in the mortgage industry. Last June, I left my position as the head of sales and marketing for a grouping of default-related divisions at one of the largest Title insurance companies in America, and started a company to help mortgage lenders and servicers work through their growing inventories of foreclosed properties. I have a front row seat to what I feel is one of the defining moments in the history of the United States.

To borrow from Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg address, "...our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure." I believe that we are now engaged in another "civil" war.

That civil war that Lincoln referenced in June of 1865 was both an ideological conflict, as well as a horribly deadly affair - a moment in history that forever shaped our young nation. With no less sweeping influence, the current "economic downturn" brings to bear a similarly urgent ideological conflict, with the potential for similar casualties.

I do not speak of the death and carnage of human flesh that men and boys experienced at places like Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Manassas. That great conflict produced almost 213,000 combat casualties and approximately 625,000 total loss of life. I speak of an avalanche of homes lost, businesses ruined, and lives that will be forever changed.

It was announced recently that 10.3% of all mortgages in the US were delinquent in November of 2008. Those delinquencies translate to over $1 TRILLION in mortgage debt that is now past-due. In this age of spin-doctored headlines and politicized prognostications, it’s easy to become numb to these staggering numbers. Let me help you put into perspective exactly how much $1 TRILLION really is.

Picture a stack of 100 one-dollar bills – the kind that are banded and stored in a bank teller’s cash register. Each stack of bills is approximately ½ inch thick and has a value of $100, of course. How much is $1 MILLION dollars? Picture a stack of $1 bills 417 feet high. That’s taller than a 40-story building. That’s how much $1 MILLION is.

OK, so how much is $1 BILLION? Imagine a picture of the earth from approximately 79 miles high - a picture like many we've seen transmitted from orbiting spacecraft. Imagine a stack of $1 bills extending so high that the one-millionth bill on the stack is right outside the spacecraft’s window. That’s how much $1 BILLION is.

OK, so how much is $1 TRILLION? Imagine (if it is even possible) a stack of $1 bills extending upward 79,000 miles from the surface of the earth. The one-trillionth bill on the stack would be about 1/3 of the way to the moon. That’s how much $1 TRILLION is.

(Note: At the time of my writing this, our national debt stands at $10.6 trillion dollars. Our stack of $1 bills to equal the amount of our national debt would extend from earth to the moon, back to the earth, back to the moon , and halfway back toward the earth.)

Some Pollyanna pundits point to the recent slowing of foreclosures filings as the beginning of a recovery. They laud the effectiveness of the strategy of modifying loan terms for troubled borrowers as a way to avoid foreclosure and reverse the economic decline. What they fail to focus on is the fact that foreclosure moratoriums are now in-place in many states. This will only delay the inevitable. They also don't point to the fact that approximately 50% of loans that were modifed out of foreclosure in the first half of 2008 are now again delinquent just 6 months later.

American homeowners will collectively lose more than $2 trillion in home value by the end of 2008, according to a report released today. 11.7 million Americans now owe more on their mortgage balances than their homes are worth. At the April 2008 meeting of an industry association focused on foreclosed real estate, a guest economist pointed out that we have built 4.1 million new residential structures since 2006, but created only 2.2 million new households.

The dirty little secret that nobody wants to address head-on is that there are two constants at play today, just as they have been forever -- 1) the cold hard law of supply and demand is still in effect; and 2) lenders will always want to be re-paid, WITH INTEREST. Those immutable laws seem to have been forgotten by, or worse yet never taught to our current generation.

In a head-long rush toward prosperity since emerging from The Great Depression, we Americans have put aside the basic value of honest pay for an honest day's work. Fueled by greed, we set forth each day to get more stuff. We have ignored the needs of the needy around us. In fact, their very presence has only served to fuel our drive to never find ourselves in such a state of poverty and want. We take pride in our great accomplishments, evidenced by the trappings of success. We have strayed from our recognition an Eternal Supreme Being, from whom all we have is derived. The result has been a widening gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots" in America today.

History is a master teacher. As we look backwards, we have the opportunity to learn from those who came before and make necessary course corections in our lives and in our society. Over and over, through eons of time, great civilizations have succombed to the Pride Cycle and crumbled to dust. Each one of those peoples were supremely confident in their abilities, knowledge, power, and wealth. They started out humble and hard-working, recognizing their puny power in the face of nature, and bound to a strong belief in a Diety. Their characteristics of hard work, honesty, mercy, charity, and duty to their God translated into prosperity and wealth. However, with prosperity came greed and envy, with a resulting separation between the rich and the poor. Ultimately, the great civilizations collapsed in corruption and conflict as the "house of cards" came tumbling down.

I do not presume to argue that American society will crumble to dust. I am more hopeful than that. I do, however, believe that a humbling of America is coming. With arrogance and greed, we have wielded our global financial, military, and governmental powers for decades, with the goal of prosperity at all cost. We have strayed from our belief in a Supreme Being, from striving to produce an honest day's pay for an honest day's work, and from our duties to take care of the needy around us.

The fundamental ideological conflict that we - that I must confront in the current economic downturn is this: how much is enough? How many cars do I really need? How many flat screen TVs do I really need? How many square feet in my home do I really need? I must reflect on and challenge my motivations for my labors.

To guide my quest, I do not look to the media or elected officials for wisdom and direction. I find myself all too often cynically evaluating the hidden agendas of those talking heads. Rather, I find myself taking more time for introspection, reading, and personal religious discipline. In the process, I have found that opportunities for service to others abound.

In the current raging economic battle, with growing cries of anguish and pain all around us, I suspect that we may all find a source of solace in taking opportunities to focus our attention away from our personal fortunes, finding opportunities to reduce and simplify our lives, and giving service to those in greater need. If we would all take a moment to seriously refect on how much we truly NEED, distinguishing that from what we WANT, we would find a wealth of resources that could be directed at those who are TRULY in need.

I am a self-employed optometrist in rural Minnesota. I have always personally struggled with the moral and spiritual decisions related to being a Christian, a health care provider, and a businessperson at the same time. The economic crisis has made this struggle even harder. Jesus and the Bible teach us to help our neighbor and do what we can for them. As a doctor, I'm able to help a lot. However, as a businessperson, I need to charge for my services and products as well. I have patients who need glasses for themselves or their children... but can't afford them, with our current economic crisis. Like many in our country, they have "fallen between the cracks" of our health insurance system. I have a program set up with our local Lions Club to help in paying for glasses - but even then, I wind up donating my services. I have to draw the line somewhere - but it's very difficult. To make my struggles even more difficult, I live and practice in a very small town (population 2200) - so I see my patients every day, and in situations outside the office. Sending patients to collection or small claims court is difficult and can have extensive repercussions. However, writing off unpaid bills affects me, and my family.

I remember once when I was young, I came home after school and baked a cake for dinner, to surprise my mother, who worked a full-time job as a Clinic Manager before her "second shift" as Mom.

We had run out of eggs, which I didn't discover until after I emptied the cake mix into the bowl. Then I remembered the stories my mom and aunts used to tell about growing up in the rural, segregated South. Though Jim Crow Blacks suffered severe institutional oppression, their communities were strong, and neighbors were always helping one another out. "People we come over to ask for a cup of sugar or a loaf of bread," they would wistfulyl recount "And if you had it, you gave it."

So I went across the street to Mrs. Jesse, our retired neighbor across the street who kept and eye on my brother and I for those few hours between 3 and 6pm when we were left to our own devices. A gentle grandmother in her 60s, I was sure she'd have some eggs, and fondly recall this tradition of sharing.

And she did. I got my two eggs and baked a cake. When I presented the cake to my mother, I proudly told her of my efforts and resourcefulness. The glow on her face from good deeds quickly faded when I got to the part about borrowing the eggs.

She called my father to the kitchen, and together the scolded me about going around the neighborhood "begging for food."

"But I thought that's what you guys did in the olden days?" and pleaded.

"That was a long time ago." My mother retorted.

I have only once in my life knocked on a neighbor's door to borrow eggs, or anything else, ever again. It appears that in today's culture, "strong" communities are those where estranged neighbors live on 'islands' of manincured, McMansions in gated exurbs, and have no "need" for one another; where sharing is an act of last resort for the truly destitute, not a practice of healthy community builing.

I find that I am living much the same way I was living before this financial crisis, though I should explain this a little. I am a Romanian-born American citizen, and I have been in the US since I was 8 years old. I was raised by a single mother, who was 45 when she and I immigrated to the US, who not only struggled to make ends meet in a language she hardly spoke initially, but also to live a bigger story (touching on Rachel Naomi Remen's interview), that is, to practice as a licensed pharmacist, as she had for 23 years in Romania. She currently runs a moderately successful practice as a homeopathic pharmacist. I attended a small, private, all-girls' high school in Connecticut, received a BA in English from Yale and an MA from Johns Hopkins. I reconnected with my father while I was in college and have a good relationship with him, found great mentors and colleagues in all three of the aforementioned institutions. My childhood was marked particularly by the kindness of my second grade teacher (my first teacher in the US), who took my mother and me under her care during our private financial crisis, investing more than would generally be expected of any teacher: paying for my piano lessons, making visits to the apartment she had found for my mother and me when we weren't home -- she had arranged to have her own key -- and stocking the fridge, laying out new school clothes on my bed every September for a number of years. One December, my mother and I arrived home to find a decorated Christmas tree, with gifts underneath. Needless to say, her family is my family, and to this day my mother still spends every holiday with them, as do I, when I happen to be able to make it home.

This lengthy introduction was meant merely to illustrate that I have lived something like the American Dream (my mother, even more so). The genuine one. We are an American "Success Story." And yet, my college years, and particularly the year I spent in the writing program at Johns Hopkins were marked by a lot of anxiety and intermittent bouts with depression. Not unusual, one might say; one's twenties are tough years of confusion, self-doubt and self-discovery. I took leaves of absence. I traveled abroad. I returned. A critical unease with my life in the US continued to mount, until, sometime around 2003, I felt that if I didn't leave the US, I would face some kind of irrevocable death of the soul. There was no logical explanation for my return to Romania, the country both of my parents had fought hard to leave not long before the fall of Communism. Two things made that return (and departure) vitally necessary: the realization that the institution that was generously funding my education in poetry was able to do so partly because of heavy financial investment in national defense (I opposed the war and felt helpless in my complicity), and the nervous breakdown of a close friend, which forced me to consider the fact that the majority of the talented, creative people in my life were on various forms of anti-depressive, anti-psychotic, anti-anxiety, anti-- you get the point -- medication. I realize now how subjectively my own self-preservation mechanisms were integrating the symbolic events around me to make me feel that if I didn't leave, find some alternate path to the one I was on, I would literally die. This is the stuff of spiritual crisis, of extensive self-evaluation, but most importantly, intuitive action toward some possibility of "living life well," or, at least, better than I had been to that point. I didn't understand what was driving me away and what I thought I'd find in Romania, though, in retrospect, I see an obvious search for a different kind of independence, which I found in the pursuit of a creative engagement with filmmaking. But it could have been theater, or another collaborative art form. Romania was a good backdrop because it was both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time, allowing for a unique exploration of who I was and from where I'd come.

Now to bring things to the present. I live in Los Angeles, where I work in the film industry, an industry defined by uncertainty, risk, dreams and largely egotistical ambitions. For the non-union filmmaker, there is no health insurance (I have not had any formal health insurance since I left Johns Hopkins). Paying work comes unexpectedly, or not at all. Rewarding work is sporadic, but great communities are possible as a result. I have worked for and with people I admire. There is a tenuous sense of meaning in all this -- tenuous, but meaning nonetheless, and I can honestly say that during the past five years I have had the fullest, most enriching experiences of my life, though I was broke or badly bent the majority of the time. I only mean to say that I am no stranger to the uncertainty that is gripping so many people right now -- and I say this with neither self-pity nor self-righteousness. I only have myself to look after, and I have chosen this way of life (though, choice and necessity are terms both open to debate). I am sorry for people who are finding themselves entirely unprepared for this painful -- but absolutely necessary -- period of adjustment. I wish that we could all have been raised with the gentle wisdom of Parker Palmer's father. I am looking for ways to apply my own experiences to an effort to help. I find wisdom and leadership in people around me, the American producer who encouraged me while we were working together in Romania to come to Los Angeles and pursue my dream, who then financed my first effort in filmmaking; my wonderful boss, the chef and radio host Evan Kleiman, who is a natural community-builder, whose restaurant serves as a surrogate family for everyone employed there, as well as its loyal customers (her decision to provide an "economic crisis discount" for all customers was a generous and inspiring gesture); the insightful guests on this radio show -- perhaps one thing I am doing now that I did not do before is to contribute to the show. Not to do so, in light of pervasive budget cuts seems almost reprehensible. I find leadership in the likes of Lewis Hyde (who defends the value of the artist in a market economy) and other academics, writers, artists, for whom their work is a form of activism aimed at protecting the integrity and vitality of culture. It is an exciting time to be alive, almost overwhelmingly exciting.

I don't know how useful I have been here -- I don't think this is exactly the kind of response you were seeking -- but I have been finding the show so heartening and had to respond to a very personal need to voice these thoughts. Thank you, whomever you are who has taken the time to read them.

Oana Sanziana Marian

P.S. I include a photo of my mother and me, in Romania, and some time later.

A congregant suggested I send you a story/sermon I gave at a Yom Kippur family service in October at Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, NY. The economic crisis was really spiraling out of control at this point and I wanted to highlight the effect this hysteria was having on our children. "Debbie," in the story below, is a 4th-grader who believes that the entire economic downturn is her fault.

Here is the text of the sermon and thank you for your consideration,

Rabbi Dan Sklar
Westchester Reform Temple

------

Debbie was too afraid to tell anyone at first. She knew that look that grown-ups get when something is really serious. And it’s not to be confused with the look of mild annoyance. The look of mild annoyance signals to every kid that there’s still a certain amount of wiggle room. "Knock it off!" is usually a good indicator that it’s time to stop but this was a look beyond "knock it off" or "cut it out." It was a look beyond, "I’m only going to ask you once." It was even a look beyond, "Deborah Judith Kandor!" The three names used in their longest form could only mean trouble. No, this was a look that Debbie had never seen before. It was something between frustration and nausea but that’s to say nothing of the abject terror that lingered just under the surface.

People were afraid and Debbie was afraid because she knew that something she had done had caused the climate of fear that had descended upon their town. Now she couldn’t pin it on any one act she had committed, but it seemed that the unfortunate combination of several acts had caused this downturn.

And now the High Holy Days were here and there was nowhere to hide. Debbie was desperate this Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. She kept her head in her prayerbook and she didn’t even join in the singing when her favorite song came and went. Debbie’s parents noticed that something wasn’t quite right, in fact they noticed several days ago, but they thought that seeing her temple friends and hearing familiar words and music would snap her right out of her funk. But something about this service just seemed to make Debbie even more uncomfortable and distracted.

On the car ride home, Debbie didn’t make a peep- she didn’t even respond to the many annoyances her little brother had cooked up for her. The kicking of the leg, the Indian rope burn, the inner eyelid trick- nothing seemed to provoke a response and finally her little brother gave up, turning his attention to the action figure wedged between the seat buckles.

When it came time to break the fast at the Kandor household later that evening, Debbie showed a distinct lack of interest in any of her favorite brunch-time foods, including her mother’s world famous cheese blintzes. Her parents couldn’t stand it any longer. Her mother sighed, “Debbie, you’ve been moping about for days on end. To look at you, you’d think the world had run out of chocolate milk.” Her father put his hands on her shoulders, “Debbie, what in the world is the matter?”

Without missing a beat, she said with desperation, “It IS the world that’s the matter.” Debbie looked up at her father, she looked at her mother and she knew that she couldn’t hold it all inside for one minute longer, she blurted out, “It’s all my fault! Everybody’s upset and it’s all my fault!”

“Debbie, what in blazes are you talking about?”

“I blew bubbles in the house!”

“You blew bubbles in the house?”

“I blew bubbles in the house and my clothes are too clean!”

Now her parents were truly perplexed.

“Debbie, why would bubbles and your clothes make anyone upset?”

“I blew bubbles in the house and my collars are too white. I heard it from the man on TV.”

Suddenly their daughter’s shameful secret dawned on them and for the first time in weeks, Debbie’s parents cracked a smile and the smile became a grin and the grin became uproarious laughter. And Debbie knew at once that they weren’t laughing at her and that she wasn’t to blame.

Her parents realized that with CNN, MSNBC and Fox News running almost 24/7 in the house for the past three weeks, the height of the economic crisis, Debbie had internalized their fears and had drawn conclusions from the bits and pieces she heard on the news as only a 4th grader can.

“So let me get this straight, you blew bubbles in the house and that caused the housing bubble?”

“Pretty much.”

“And your clothes are too clean, so that makes you a white collar criminal?”

“I guess so.”

“And you think you’re to blame for the nation’s woes? How exactly did you arrive at all of this?”

“I know because my stuffed animals told me so.”

“Your stuffed animals told you that you caused the economic downturn?” Debbie’s parents were having a hard time keeping it together at this point.

“Yes, the rest of the animals told on Teddie.”

“Oh? And what did Teddie have to say?”

“He didn’t say anything at all. It all started because Teddie Bear was Stern.”

“The Bear was Stern. OK, we are turning the cable news off for the rest of the year.”

And with that, Debbie’s parents explained to her that the world of high-finance generally did not respond to the bubble-blowing, stuffed animals and laundry cycles of the Kandor family.

Perhaps Debbie's parents themselves learned the most important lesson. They realized on Yom Kippur day, that the stressors and uncertainties they had been facing were not lost on the children. Indeed, the children could make some creative connections and start to feel responsible for something so far removed from the world of children.

They even saved some of the famous blintzes from the break-fast for the perfect midnight snack.

And as the years passed, Debbie never forgot that summer of ’08, the year of bubbles in the house and white collars. The year of “stay-cations” and expensive gasoline.

The year that the Kandor family realized that the single greatest asset they possessed was the Kandor family.

We are not in a crisis. We are in a transformation. The crisis is of the ego, not of the society. The Old Testament and New Testament are books the inform Americans to always strive and never arrive. We have no goal posts. When you don't know where you are going you will never get there. Where are the goal posts?

What race and gender quota is the right one? Everyone knows the wrong quota, get rid of the white Christian male. Rejoice in electing and appointing people based on race, gender, corporation, and nation state, not merit. That is the source of the financial crisis.

The financial crisis could have been avoided by listening to our parents. It is a bad idea to charge interest rates that are a crime against humanity. It is a bad idea to give unqualified people houses at interest rates they can not pay with no money down. The crime was perpetrated by brokers, in New York City, who desires unlimited money.

How good is good enough? Where are the goal posts. What does America want? My definition is simple. Everyone should have 100 square feet of safe personal space. Everyone should have two gallons of drinking water per day. Everyone should have 2500 calories of whole, healthy, unprocessed food per day. Everyone should have three changes of clean, durable, functional clothing. Everyone should have 228,000 btu's of fuel per day (two gallons of gasoline). Everyone should have five friends that love and respect them and tell the whole transparent truth. Everyone should have simple, cheap, basic health care (not unlimited exotic health care). That gives us a floor to share with people. I also believe no human is worth over one million dollars a year, thirty million dollars in thirty years.

I am a college graduate, former teacher, home builder. I have a family. I had cancer. I took a trip around the world. I built a nature retreat near the Canadian border in Minnesota. I have studied history, I have thought a lot about the world "situation". I have enjoyed the oxymoron of your show, speaking of faith. That is like "studying spirituality". True faith is silent and practiced, not spoken. I do love and appreciate your scenic overlooks of faith and spirituality. It's educational and refreshing.

The Buddhists don't speak about loving kindness or spirituality. Buddhists practice loving kindness. The crisis in all tribes, all groups, most lives, is there is no goal posts. There is no definition of when the war will end. The war becomes globalism. We will get our races all mixed together (except for my tribe of course) and then mix all the races of the world. For what? Where are the goal posts? There is a difference between colonization, invasion, and social justice. America was an escape from evil empires. Now America is the evil empire.

Groups want unlimited permanent war. Groups are excited by the Old Testament and New Testament, permanently exciting the ego. That is not what individuals want. Individuals want the feeling of being fully alive in calming the ego. Individuals want to calm the fears and desires.

What the tribes want, global domination, and what the individuals want, are not in harmony. Tribes want permanent free employees, slaves, soldiers, weapons, for the war. The individuals want to go home and play with their kids and be in love, being human beings. The human doings and human beings excite each other to keep the war going.

America has been in a crisis since 1492. Before that Europe was the crisis. Before that Iraq, Mesopotamia, was the crisis. The cure for complexity is simplicity. The cure for war is peace. The cure for crisis is going back to basics. That is what fundamentalism is trying to do. People are turning backwards, to fundamental simplicity. Society, the machines, automation, internet, television, cell phones, sports stadiums, are too complex to operate.

I have my off the grid nature retreat on a wilderness lake. I visit with no electricity, using wood heat, propane lights, an outhouse, and experience wilderness basics. I love it. I can not solve the world's problems. I can, but they will crucify me when I suggest the cures. I am simplifying my life. I am not participating is solving the problems of the world because the groups want wars and want problems. The race gender quota people want permanent invisible goal posts to sustain permanent race gender wars. I don't want that. The people of Israel want to be persecuted and engage in behaviors that insure and guarantee their persecution. I don't want that.

The wisdom I am looking for is to have less currency debasement, less income taxes, less public debt, less government meddling, and less dead beat subsidies for racists and terrorists in the Middle East who want to provoke wars for profits. I want less government. I want government to stop selling my children into debt slavery. A ten trillion dollar public debt is a financial crime against humanity. Subsidizing the guys who imploded our economy in New York City is criminal. They should be jailed, not bailed out. Do you think Bernie Madoff will stay in New York City or flee to Israel? He will flee. How can I protect myself and my children from unlimited government and investment corruption? How can an economy have faith in fake paper money that always destroys the lives of people who use it?

I find all my wisdom in nature. I find NO wisdom in groups. What do groups promote? Social injustice? Yes. Pensions? Yes. War? Yes. Groups hate and despise wisdom, gold money, and freedom. Groups are shepherds that want to fleece, milk, and devour all the world.

Religions are corrupted because they are used by groups to support the automated mechanized slaughter of human beings in the name of Yahweh, Jesus, and Allah. Spirituality comes from wilderness and nature. Religion comes from armies and governments. When the Roman Empire could not defeat Christianity it adopted it after a three hundred year war. Religions are used and abused by groups to invade, kill, steal, and lie about it.

Obama is not Jesus the Christ or Buddha. Obama is a government bureaucrat, just like Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, all from East Coast ivy league schools.

All government employees and politicians agree on invading, killing, stealing, and lying about it. What they disagree and argue about is where to invade, who to kill, how to kill them, what to steal, how much to steal, who to steal from, what lies to tell, and who gets the loot. The war in Iraq is a shameful culmination of unlimited fears and desires. We need a financial collapse to wipe out the currency elite and replace them with people who are more frugal and less fixated on taking over the world and forcing our way on all people. We need to go back to the basics like our elders suggest we do.

Colonialism, globalism, our "way of life" forced on all people. Nothing has changed in 2,000 years. I have simply given up. Why sanction the evil doers with voting. Obama will change nothing. The system will change Obama. Obama will change nothing. We don't need to change drivers. We have a car problem, not a driver problem.

There are four sources of permanent social injustice in our culture. Unlimited currency debasement (printing fake money and fake credit), unlimited income taxes with declining benefits, unlimited public debt to cross fund all budgets, and unlimited, unconditional subsidies to Israel are our four sources of permanent social injustice. Until these four change, from collapse, depression, hyper inflation, or voting, nothing will change.

By the way, I bought a bicycle, quit the YMCA, cook simpler foods, but I am still living way beyond my means. It's shameful but that's life in America.

I would like to see Bush, Cheney, and their ilk tried for war crimes, spend 24 hours in jail, and pay a fine of one dollar. They would both feel better about that and so would I. They are directly responsible, along with about fifty others, for the tragic failure of leadership and mess we are in. Congress is also implicit for lack of over sight. Americans are such spineless chumps, particularly the spoiled baby boomers. Neither Clinton (Monica Lewinsky) or Bush (Iraq) were up to the task of being presidential. Both are evil liars. It's all good. We need a crisis to harden the country back up again.

You don't find a miracle, you life one. Protect yourself. No one else can or will. The harder and smarter you work the luckier you will get. Good luck to us all. We are going to need it.

Jack Goldman
St. Paul, MN

I think the economic crisis is both reflected in our moral and spiritual well being. We have been told to spend spend to help the economy and yes many have done the duty they were told to. I think the me and my generation of the 1980's have come home to roost. We have been far removed from financial and spiritual responsibility over the last 2 decades. We are a shadow of the people that have come before us. Easy money quick fixes and shallow theology have helped us to be at this point in our economic,political bankrupcy. I hear nothing from the Christian churches to have given us any real souce of helping us become responsible stewarts of our financial blessings. I hear prosperity theology preached "give to God and you will be blessed" Many have been turned on by this naive belief and will soon find out the real truths of LIFE>
Family offers me the strength to face the uncertain future. I was born in the depression and have enjoyed the financial benefits of these 50 years of what was called "prosperty" good times we named them.
My wife and I have always lived somewhat "close to our chest" comparted to the extravegant life style of our friends. We will continue to be conscience of our spending and responsibilty to our country and envirenment. We will hope that our national leaders will set a good course to follow. That is one of my greatest hopes that we can now have responsible leadership and direction from oour elected officals. I really think it will come from our individual neighborhoods in seeking to right the ship that has been in a run away mode for too long.

Thanks for the conversation with Parker Palmer.

Mr. Palmer identified two emotions that motivated those who were involved in the real estate bubbble/mortgage securitization scheme to led to the implosion of the credit markets:

(1) Fear (especially potential whistle blowers who suspected something was wrong), and

(2) Greed

But Mr. Palmer overlooked a third psychological factor that has been around long enough to qualify as one of the Western world's seven deadly sins:

(3) Pride

Knowing quite a few of the finance professionals in the banking and investment world, I can confidently say that many were stunned that their assessment of the risks in residential real estate proved to be so flawed, or that they completely misjudged the pervasive effects of real estate investments. These men and women graduated in the top of their class from some of America's most prestigious business schools... their annual compensation for years had confirmed that they were, in Tom Wolfe's famous phrase, "masters of the universe"... their ascent in the corporate and social worlds was a previously unbroken path. How could they have been so wrong? Simpel: as Proverbs says, "pride goeth before a fall."

Ironically, the same sin of pride now tempts those who would fix things. Politicians, bureaucrats, journalists, and just plain old angry people can easily be blinded by the same old fashioned error... believing in your own infallibility. As a result, I have practically no doubt that the cure for the credit crisis will be every bit as bad as the disease.

Finally, I want to add that I believe Mr. Palmer did not reflect enough on the culpability of the victims (unwise mortgage holders), who were also driven by the same emotion as the perpetrators: greed (as in wanting a bigger or better house than they could afford), and pride (like the pros, the simple homeowners unwisely ignored all the warning signs in the belief that they were too smart to fail).

We can find the perpetrators of the credit crisis by looking in the mirror.

Thank you for your broadcast, "Repossessing Virtue" with Parker Palmer. The economic crisis has not hit our home in terms of job layoffs, but we are very sensitive to the possibility in the near future. As a Christian, I have trusted in a virtuous God who is far above the economic crisis, but who will also allow the wages of sin to run its course. And since He causes the rain to fall on all his people, we are very aware that we are in this together. What I am doing differently is something that I did not plan, but that has come about as a natural response to the inability to trust the things we have taken for granted (job, paycheck, home, friends) and that is to spend more time with my siblings and their families. I am finding we are gathering more than we have in the past six years. We talk about the economy and what we will do if any of us were to lose our job. We talk about buying land and planting crops, things our parents knew about that we never thought we’d be considering. What we are considering is self-sufficiency, but we are talking about community not individualism which is what has brought us to our breaking point as a society. We are preparing ourselves for the worst. I like what Parker Palmer says about our predicament – how “society’s greatness is not to be measured by how well the strongest in its midst can do but by how well it takes care of the weakest in its midst.” We have a renewed interest in the “weakest” and what it will take to sustain them or lift them out, because we see now that we ourselves are one employer away from joining them. ________________________________________

In the introduction to your episode. you spoke of "we" whose avarice and greed got us into this mess. There are plenty of us that do not belong to that "we." My family has always lived within our means. We have forgone many of the latest electronic crazes and stayed at home on vacations. We paid cash for our cars which we chose for their reliability and high gas mileage at a time when SUV's were the status vehicle. We saved even though interest rates were so low that we weren't making much. Our daughter is a freshman in college who will graduate with minimal debt. We will have our modest house paid off in just a few years. All this on a couple of public school teachers' salaries.

With all the emphasis on "repossessing virtue," I feel like the kid in the class who tries to do what is right and gets punished anyway because the rest of the class misbehaves.

In regard to the financial fiasco that involves General Motors....I think it's disgusting that this corporation has the American government's dollars at it's disposal when for decades, an arrogant upper crust of management have taken advantage of HUGE profit sharing, bonuses and selfish pay outs. I have executives and assembly line workers in my family. Getting together at Christmas has always been interesting in this respect. I recall one year when my cousin, who is an executive sat at one end of the table admitting to getting 6 weeks off paid vacation over the holiday plus a $140,000.00 bonus(!) while my 2 assembly line working relatives sat at the other end of the table talking about their 3 weeks off and $2,500 bonus. Well, to me, both seemed rather exhorbient! Then all the benefits, health care and union-defended "rights" etc....I think the Government should give the money to Toyota that they might buy out General Motors and run the company like it should have been run from the begining. I have a cousin who works for Toyota. There is no union. They are paid sound, not extravagant salaries- across the board, recieve reasonable benefits and perks, but are also ecologically compliant and very efficiently run. I am angry that General Motors continues to pollute the environment in it's production facilities (ever been to Zugg Island, Michigan?) and to create vehicles that are completely out of touch with the ecological and economical crises we face today- as a nation and a planet. When I think of this blatant slap in the face to the American public, I wish the money grubbing, arrogant people running that company would wake up to their conscience's call and do some repenting.

Articles by the Master —, through Benjamin Creme
The stage is set, by the Master —, through Benjamin Creme
The collapse of the world's financial markets provides a window of opportunity for Maitreya to step forward into public view. (484 words)
http://www.simedia.org/new/the_Master/stage-is-set.html

________________________________________
Letters to the Editor
Star sign
A reader from Germany reports talking to Maitreya in the guise of a woman, who said that just before Maitreya gives His first public interview, a bright star in the heavens will be visible to everyone. (587 words)
http://www.simedia.org/new/letters/star-sign.html
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Social/Economic/Political perspectives
The future economy - a compilation
A selection of quotes from Maitreya, Benjamin Creme's Master, and Benjamin Creme describing the fall of financial empires and the need for reordering priorities in keeping with the spiritual basis of life. (4941 words)
http://www.simedia.org/new/soc-econ-pol/future-economy.html

I feel this is truly a moral crisis manifesting itself in the form of economics to wake this nation up. This nation is paying the price for it walking on true Christian and decency values like not torturing people, not caring for the poor, promoting racism and other things.

My firm belief in God is what is keeping me going even though I lost my job over a year ago. I know times will get better but I must fight for justice in all things. As a nation, we have to start living by the U.S. Constitution and treating people via the golden rule and our economy will get better. With Obama as President, it will be a good start.

For me the major moral issue in all this, is that although we do not have enough jobs, there is so much work to be done. Children to be cared for, housing to be repaired or built, and a variety of other human needs to be addressed (dare we even consider to 20 some thousand children around the world who die each day from preventable causes?). We have become a constantly expanding economy and culture that does not often enough consider what is really needed to sustain and support life itself. We don't need another SUV, flatscreen, or cell phone, but those are the jobs we have created and pay for, to more securely line the pockets of the very rich. Sooner or later those chickens will come home to roost in a more profound cataclysm than an economic downturn. Like George Bush experienced in Iraq the other day, the people who have guided our ways better be ready to duck.

PROFITS FALL AND PROPHETS RISE
“Markets are good servants, but bad masters.” Keynesian saying/Sukhamoy Chakravarty
Luke 12:48: “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.”

Never has the discrepancy between “profits” and “prophets” been so great. It is generally acknowledged we are in the most serious economic slump since the Great Depression and there is no end in sight. “Profits” are down, not only in Detroit, but around the world, including in our retirement funds. It is easy to assign blame, depending upon your perspective. While the left proclaims the “greed” of the “haves” as the culprit, those on the right believe it must be the fault of liberal bureaucrats. Others would counter it was the “greed” of those who dreamed of mansions on a starter-house budget that is to blame, or those who seduced them into loans they could not repay. Deregulation in monitoring new financial instruments was also cited. Incompetence and sheer stupidity are not to be discounted, even among “masters of the universe.” I think that probably all these analyses contain some kernel of truth.

However, this economic crisis raises an even more basic question: “How much do we deserve?” (coincidentally the title of my Skinner House book of the same title). Our nation has been on a drunken orgy of getting and spending – consumerism run amok, especially for the affluent among us. We may have become the “greediest generation” of haves alongside the “neediest generation” of have-nots, both at home and abroad. While welfare roles have been cut in half over the past dozen years, poverty has ballooned to over 37 million – not taking into account the past several months. And there are those who say poverty, based on a 1965 “market basket” measure, is grossly underestimated. There are 47 million people without health insurance (a growing figure); food stamp use is up, soup kitchens are busier than ever, etc. etc. etc. Meanwhile I would be bemused if I weren’t so angry at CEO multi-millionaires who are willing to sacrifice their salaries and bonuses after they bankrupted their companies and came with hat in hand to the government, which Ronald Reagan told us was the problem. Have they no clue? (Evidently not in a company jet – or even in a hybrid car.)

Barack Obama has been chastised for his “spread the wealth” comment to Joe the Plumber. Francis Bacon said money is like manure, of very little use until it is spread around. Fair distribution is not only an ethical imperative, but it is an economic imperative to drive the economy (70% of which is consumer spending).

Profits are falling; but are prophets rising? Based on a personal experience, perhaps slowly. At a ministers’ meeting I was moaning about my diminishing retirement funds. A colleague serving a congregation in an impoverished inner city reminded me that, despite everything, she and I would be OK, but the people around the church she served were hurting desperately. I had been gently reminded about justice. It is time to reflect and act on the proposition that we are all in this together. And if income and wealth gaps continue to grow, we will continue to have economic instability as well as economic injustice. How about a “bailout” of those who have not benefitted from the unbridled greed of our society; how about a “bailout” for the common good?

This economic situation is both a moral and spiritual crisis. But that is what is necessary for change to occur. And we certainly need change. There are many dilemmas facing our society at this time: financial devastation, health care accessibility, child neglect and abuse, corruption in the educational system, accessibility of mental health services, student loan and credit card debt, housing affordability, breakdown of the family by geographical distance, deinstitutionalization of psychiatric patients, etc. Personally, I am beginning to feel that finally I am not alone in my surrefing. Since 2001, my divorce left me financially and emotionally devastated and a single parent. In my distress, I felt alone and hopeless for a long time. Somehow, I didn't give up. My children were depending on me. It was up to me to find a way to survive. So this meek, shy, and unaggressive individual became a fighter. In my mind, I decided that my children were going to have the opportunity they deserved to be educated adults. I was determined to make a college education available to them any way that I could. And I have done that thanks to student loans and financial aid. I have some concern for my children's distress in the process of paying back the loans when they graduate, but I do not regret my choice to encourage them to incur such debt. Whatever the future holds, they will be better equipped to handle it with the advanced education. I doubt that my financial situation will ever recover in my lifetime. As a single woman with a B.S. degree, I currently earn $14.50/hour. My credit is poor. My physical health is limiting my ability to excel and increase my income. My hope and faith is in my children and myself to keep on keeping on. And now my hope is restored in the government with our new president who appears to be sincere and dedicated to improving life for suffering Americans.

Having abandoned business as a career move, I have been terribly disappointed in the course of business over the last 20 years. As a society, I was blaming the depression era generation of taking for themselves and selling off our businesses to the highest bidder rather than make a place for the next generations. I am disappointed in the me generation of baby boomers who have let the greedy rise to the top. I have watched business do nothing more than take away from the workers for the greed of stock options. A handful of people have taken away from a few generations to enjoy their material insatiability.

There has been no insight or entrepreneurship in business for quite awhile. It is a matter of taking away from the business and the workers for the sake of stock options for the few at the top. Nothing is being created. It has been moved off shore. Responsibility has been legally maneuvered to protect those who should be held responsible. Government has no idea how to protect the worker or stimulate business in America. While everyone has lined their pockets with these outrages bonuses and perk, no one bothered to ask who will buy their product when no one can afford it.

I decided to do what I enjoy and took a low paying job as a wine representative. I have had no benefits, nothing paid into social security, no retirement, etc. My last employer took over 10,000.00 from me with no regard to the ethics. I did this to be able to go back to college and finish my bachelor's degree, Gen. Studies, Social nd Behavioral Sciences. I have since enrolled in a Graduate Program in Education for my teaching credentials in Special Education. I did this with an altruistic purpose of teaching the next generation that ethics and responsibility are good and should be expected. I did this to care for a generation of students all too marginalized by our society. It is my dream to raise a special education student who can lead. And a lot more who can earn a living in this society.

Our society is in crisis. There is next to nothing in the medias' to support our families. The family paradigm is failing in this culture. The very source of comfort and strength in most other cultures is being abandoned and we are spiritually bankrupt as a whole. I am so hopeful that Obama's rhetoric and talking of the right answers is met by a starving society and champions who will take us to a place that turns around this out of control, selfish definition of living in America to a more responsible place. There are so many good people in this world and in this society and they are not heard or powerful enough to keep the greed and selfishness from taking over, it seems.

I have a deep abiding love and respect for God. All peoples' God. I grew up with the values of my Grandparents, those who were adults and raising children through the depression. I am not guiltless in living the values of the past few decades, but I have drawn a line and see the need and importance of preparing a way for the next generations rather than piling so much debt upon them with little opportunity to make a good life. We have little moral or ethical meaning in this life right now as a society. I fear the baby boomer generation will be loathed for its greed rather than its ideals of peace and love and happiness beyond the individual. Goc bless us, everyone.

WE ARE ONE. WE ALL ARE ONE. Division, as perpetrated in this money-centered world, is COMPLETELY ILLUSIONARY. We are in the painful difficulties which we are now experiencing, simply because we have been
believing in, and functioning exclusively with, COMPETITION. I was born in 1933, and what I saw, at the beginning of my life, I am seeing all over again: A republican administration presiding over a major stock market crash, followed by a depression, which was worked through by a Democratic President. Same thing, all over again, TODAY. The stock market inculcates "More And More Money Into Fewer Fewer Hands." When the aristocracy did that in France, 200 years ago, they lost their heads for it. Hopefully, we will Unite Peacefully under President Obama, and begin to replace the old idiocy of destructive, violent competition with another old idea: COOPERATION. The founders of this nation made certain that we print on all of our money "IN GOD WE TRUST." Thay also made certain that we obtained complete freedom of religion. We have the privilege of worshiping The One God in any way we choose. We are all the children of the ONE GOD, as the founders Absolutely Knew. This is NOT a doctrinal or theological statement of religion. It is a statement of Philosphical, even Scientific, TRUTH. When we begin to treat each other as Brothers and Sisters, knowing ourselves as Children Of The One God, we will begin to get beyond the pain and suffering which we have brought upon ourselves, and create a life here on this Blessed Mother Earth worthy of our Exalted Status as God's Chidren.
WE ARE ONE.

I think it is a spiritual crisis in the sense that we have, over time, come to trust in an economic system (and the economists and policy makers who interpret it for us) to "save" us. By "save" I mean that we trust that capitalism can assure us of economic progress that will, in turn, meet our need for 1) security 2) personal growth 3) rest 4) meaning. This is a form of idolatry and that is why I conclude that it is a spiritual problem.

As a follower of Jesus I am seeking, in this time, to identify the "false presence of the kingdom of God" and name how this false kingdom manifests itself. My hope is to simultaneously find evidence of the true kingdom. For example, I believe that God created us to enjoy meaningful work, to enjoy community, to live in peace with our neighbor, etc. Unfortunately the MEANS by which we seek these ends are corrupted by an economic system that has come to promise all (or most) of these things but in a way that perverts them. So, we seek security in retirement funds for which we expect returns that are not sustainable over time. Work has become a means to consume rather than a way to fulfill our desire to exercise God-given gifts. And we trade true community building for entertainment experiences in groups of people with whom we need not develop long-term relationships.

Capitalism has favored and enabled these practices--these means that (as Jacques Ellul reminds us) allow us to move ahead at amazing speed (progress!) towards...nothing. In this time I am seeking the wisdom of theologians and brothers and sisters in many faiths who are showing us how to (among other things) 1) live in genuine community, 2) provide mutual support and security and 3) engage in work that finds its own reward each day.

This is a time to engage in symbolic acts (that point to the true ENDS of our yearnings) and tell alternative narratives that will lead us from our silent desperation towards hope.

Courage and renewal north Texas

To “Speaking of Faith”:

I have listened to inspiring episodes of “Speaking of Faith” in the past, and would currently be exploring the website in depth; however, because of the close margin of my personal finances, and the uncertain future of employment prospects, I have not yet purchased a “sound card” for my new “used” computer.

I believe your efforts to “(explore) the spiritual and moral aspects of the economic downturn” and “(look) for practical resources for individual and communal evaluation and renewal” will bring to the surface important observations and practical wisdom. I hope you are alerting as many people as possible to your project.

I am making use of the opportunity to comment on the above themes by sharing the feature essay of the “Current Educational Materials Outreach Package” of The Interfaith Peacebuilding and Community Revitalization (IPCR) Initiative. (The essay is titled “The 1000Communities2 Proposal: Creating a Multiplier Effect of a Positive Nature”.) I am the founder and outreach coordinator of The IPCR Initiative.

Besides the approximately 1000 word essay (below), there are two other recently created essays describing “1000Communities2” ("1000CommunitiesSquared") proposal, which I'd like to mention also (both of which are somewhat over 3000 words). The titles are “A Greater Force than the Challenges We Are Now Facing” and “Transitioning from Less Solution-Oriented Employment to More Solution-Oriented Employment”. Both of these essays can be accessed on the homepage of The IPCR Initiative (www.ipcri.net)(see the section "Highlights from The IPCR Community Journal"), or through a google search on the titles.

[The following are two excerpts from the essay “A Greater Force than the Challenges We Are Now Facing”.

1) "However, public discourse of this nature will consistently fail to provide sufficient understanding of how to build up 'confidence' as long as it cannot or will not identify enough of the 'whole picture' to properly serve the needs of the problem solving process. For true confidence is never really built up by merely convincing a majority of the people involved that they believe the markets are based on sound and practical principles; true confidence is built up because people believe that the efforts of everyone working together is a greater force than the challenges they are facing. In accordance with this point of view, confidence is dissipating rather than being built up—particularly in the United States—because our public discourse does not honestly and truthfully identify enough of the actual challenges we are now facing for all of us—collectively—to know that our efforts will be enough to overcome them."

2) “Everyone is involved when it comes to determining the markets which supply the ‘ways of earning a living’. All of us have important responsibilities associated with resolving a significant number of very serious challenges in the months and years ahead. Communities of people can deliberately create countless 'ways of earning a living' which contribute to the peacebuilding, community revitalization, and ecological sustainability efforts necessary to overcome the challenges of our times. We—collectively—can become a greater force than the challenges we are now facing.”]

Thank you for your good work.

The “1000Communities2”("1000CommunitiesSquared")Proposal:
Creating a Multiplier Effect of a Positive Nature

Introduction

In 1984, the non-profit organization Chattanooga Venture [Chattanooga, Tennessee (USA)] organized a Community Visioning Initiative that attracted more than 1,700 participants, and produced 40 community goals—which resulted in the implementation of 223 projects and programs, the creation of 1,300 permanent jobs, and a total financial investment of 793 million dollars. (For source references, see p. 9 of the “1000Communities2” proposal)

Many Difficult Challenges Ahead

We now live in very complex and challenging times. More and more people, in more and more parts of the world, are coming to the conclusion that all of us have important responsibilities associated with resolving a significant number of very serious challenges, which include (but are not limited to):

a) global warming and reducing carbon emissions
b) peak oil and reducing dependence on petroleum based products
c) global inequities and the tragic cycles of malnutrition, disease, and death
d) an increasing world population requiring more resources when many resources are becoming more scarce (with a special emphasis on the increasing number of people who are consuming resources and ecological services indiscriminately)
e) cultures of greed, corruption, and overindulgence have caused a crises of confidence in financial markets, and are in many ways slowing the restructuring of investment priorities needed to respond to the challenges listed here (and other challenges)
f) there still seems to be a majority of people on the planet who do not have a clear understanding, well-grounded in personal experience, of which basic elements of community life and cultural traditions lead to mutually beneficial understandings, which lead to cycles of violence—and why it is so important for people to achieve clarity on this subject.

The “1000Communities2” Proposal

One suggestion which could assist in bringing many solutions to light at the local community level is a 161 page proposal by this writer titled “1000Communities2” (“1000CommunitiesSquared”).

The “1000Communities2” proposal advocates organizing and implementing Community Visioning Initiatives in 1000 communities (communities—or segments of rural areas, towns, or cities—with populations of 50,000 or less) around the world

1. which are time-intensive, lasting even as much as 1½ years (18 months), so as to give as much importance to developing a close-knit community as it does to
a) accumulating and integrating the knowledge and skill sets necessary for the highest percentage of people to act wisely in response to challenges identified as priority challenges
b) helping people to deliberately channel their time, energy, and money into the creation of “ways of earning a living” which are directly related to resolving high priority challenges
c) assisting with outreach, partnership formation, and development of service capacity for a significant number of already existing (or forming) organizations, businesses, institutions, and government agencies
d) helping to build a high level of consensus for specific action plans, which will help inspire additional support from people, businesses, organizations, institutions, and government agencies with significant resources

2. which expand on the concept of “Community Teaching and Learning Centers” (created by the “Teachers Without Borders” organization) so that such local community points of entry function as information clearinghouses, meeting locations, educational centers for ongoing workshops (on a broad range of topics related to the Community Visioning Process, and building the local knowledge base), practice sites for developing “teacher-leaders”, a location for an ongoing “informal” “Community Journal”, a location for listing employment opportunities—and provide a means of responding quickly (by changing the emphasis of workshop content) to new urgencies as they arise

3. and which suggest—as a way of emphasizing the need for an exponential increase in compassion for our fellow human beings—that communities (with the resources to do so) enter into “sister community” relationships with communities in other countries where there has been well documented calls for assistance with basic human needs.

If even a few….

There are many important initiatives which are critical to overcoming the challenges of our times, but which are not quite “coming through the mist as much as they should be.” Community Visioning Initiatives can be very helpful in exactly these kinds of circumstances, as this community building tool encourages and facilitates the creation of a “constellation” of initiatives by which the best (in view of the participants in the community visioning initiatives) solutions to the most difficult (in the view of the participants in the community visioning initiatives) challenges can bubble up to the surface, be recognized as priorities, and therefore be brought forward as appropriate recipients of people’s time, energy, and money. Many people can realize the wisdom of deliberately focusing the way they spend their time, energy, and money. The result can be a deliberate increase in the “ways of earning a living” which are directly related to overcoming the challenges identified by residents as priority challenges. As the ancient Chinese proverb says: “Many hands make much work light.”

If even a few of these kind of Community Visioning Initiatives generated results similar to those achieved by the Chattanooga, Tennessee (USA) Visioning Initiative carried out in 1984 (“Vision 2000”)(see reference in first paragraph), people in all parts of the world—keenly attuned when it comes to resolving challenges which require urgent solutions at all levels of society— could be inspired to carry out similar Community Visioning Initiatives. And if many communities carried out similar initiatives, and also achieved significant results, our collective capacity to resolve the challenges of our times would surely begin to accumulate at an accelerating rate.

Even now, as you are reading this, truly inspiring contributions of genuine goodwill are being generated in a variety of ways—and in a variety of circumstances—by countless numbers of people in communities around the world. A combination of Community Visioning Initiatives, “Community Teaching and Learning Centers” and “sister community” relationships can bring to light the many truly inspiring contributions of genuine goodwill in your community and region, and contribute much to the building of “close-knit” communities of people… communities with a healthy appreciation for each others strengths, communities with a well-developed capacity to resolve even the most difficult challenges—and communities which demonstrate a high level of compassion for their fellow human beings.

[Note: In light of the urgent need to increase collaboration between diverse communities of people, anyone may access all IPCR documents (including the above mentioned 161 page “1000Communities2” proposal) for free, at the website of The Interfaith Peacebuilding and Community Revitalization (IPCR) Initiative (www.ipcri.net). With Kind Regards, Stefan Pasti, Founder and Outreach Coordinator The IPCR Initiative P.O. Box 163 Leesburg, Virginia 20178 (USA)].

Before I write anything else,I'd like to preface what I communicate by pointing out that the U.S. seems to be by and large a very religious society. I'd also like to communicate that because it is a religious society within each of the capitalistic families there are rules that the governing entities establish in an attempt to maintain command and control of their followers.

And, while there are rules that are emphasized and enforced, much of what has passed for internal governance appears to have been a kind of self-serving "policing". This hardly seems efficacious since those who govern/police themselves have proven time and again to often lack the discipline and objectivity necessary to say a firm "no" to the geniunely "bad" and a firm "yes" to the geniunely "good".

Having said all that, I was born into this culture and to the extent that I bought into the ethos of the recent past I have had to individuate myself and "work" my way out of that "lifestyle" and into embracing a wholly different kind of lifestyle that provides more of a balance of servicing not only others needs and cares, but also those of my own.

To the best of my current knowledge I was trained to be a "co-dependent" or a "self-less" giver who was to give little or no thought to what was truely important to me, but was instead prone to an over-emphasis on the needs of the other--be they Mother, Teacher, Employer,Other.

This inevitably led to a kind of spiritual burn-out and the adoption of a host of very unkind verbal games such as murmuring and complaining, judging people/blemish, worrying aka ain't it awful?, and control games.

To the extent that I am now able to control my environment(limited contact with large groups of people, no T.V.,limited radio, and a good dose of the KJV Bible) and get the rest and sleep that I need I find I feel far more confident in my spirit,body,and my mind. I am better able to balance the needs of myself and others without unconsciously engaging in the aforementioned verbal "games" that only seem to lead to distancing, anger, resentment,and eventual dissolutionment of relationships.

In listening to the speakers interviewed for your series "Repossessing Virtue" I am struck by certain recurring themes: one is the importance of trust - in ourselves, our relationships, and our institutions - and the consequences of its absence. I think our current crisis provides myriads of examples, not the least of which is currency itself. Without a general belief in the value of monetary currency, our economic system could not exist. We continue to cling to these beliefs because we have no alternative at the moment, but our faith in the institutions that have preached this value to us for as long as most of us can remember has been shaken to the core. In fact, the institutions themselves no longer believe in their own tenets. Thus, the inability of the credit system to right itself despite the zillions of dollars being poured into it.

Another recurring theme: the importance of community and the consequences of this loss as well. We have become so estranged from each other that we no longer believe (trust) that anyone will be there to help us when we fall. Strident voices and a world beset by violence have led us to fear each other on many levels. There it is again - a lack of trust. We point fingers. We identify "enemies". We can no longer talk to each other. We no longer believe in common humanity. Maybe we never really did.

For me, personally, I have coincidentally been on a year-long spiritual quest. I did not know this when I started out. But discovering your program and sampling the archives have led me to recognize that this is, in fact, where I am. Approximately a year and a half ago my husband and I sold our house 20 miles south of Boston along with everything in it. We paid off all of our debts, moved into an RV and set off to see America. I had worked for the state and became eligible for a (very) small pension - sufficient to pay for health insurance. My husband - already retired - receives social security and we had sufficient savings that we felt if we could minimize our expenses we would be able to travel until we figured out where we wanted to land. We did some research and learned that we could volunteer in state and national parks in exchange for camp space, often including utilities. This allowed us time off the road (saving gas and where-and-tear on our vehicle and our psyches) as well as keeping our living expenses low. We had been on RV excursions in the past and looked forward to re-experiencing this type of journey without the time limits enforced by working life.

The experience has been nothing short of a marvel. This is a huge country. There are so many people living in a myriad of circumstances. The strident voices and frantic pace of the East and West Coasts seems so irrelevant to the immense spaces in the middle of this amazing and beautiful land of ours. During the presidential campaign we were struck by how different urban areas are from rural areas, East and West Coast from the vast "center", north from south, east from west. We lived through sky-high gas prices and skyrocketing food prices. Through it all we were continually looking for the right place to land. We finally found it in Custer, South Dakota. A small town (1,800 people) with pretty old-fashioned values. It is located in the center of the breathtakingly beautiful Black Hills National Forest and is close enough to a reasonably good sized (60,000 people) urban area, Rapid City, that any amenities we need are reasonably accessible. Cost of living here is low enough for our meager income to accommodate us. We decided to put down roots. Then the financial crisis hit. I feel so fortunate that we were able to liquidate our savings and put it into a house here. We had already simplified our lives so it is no problem at this point to opt out of the consumerism that is plaguing our society. It has been fascinating to learn how little we really need to be comfortable. This area has so far been relatively insulated from the turmoil of other regions since the extreme highs and lows of some other markets (Las Vegas, Florida and California) have not been as pronounced here. Again, though, we have been struck by the hand-wringing, gloom and doom that has been evident in the national media. It seems that most people here are simply going on with their lives. The more that I learn about the Great Depression, the more it seems that that was also the case then - most people managed somehow to go on with their lives. I am really appreciative of my local community, though. The culture of helping each other is alive and well here.

In listening to your interview with Parker Palmer, I was particularly taken by his description of human longing for a connection with something outside of our own ego. I have come to realize that I have been very much in search of community. I am uncomfortable with religious groups since to me they seem more exclusionary than inclusionary. But I do believe in God and I am completed distressed by the violence in our world today and the inability of human beings to communicate with each other on the most basic levels. Just this morning I listened to Israel's leaders expressing their need to "punish" Hamas for breaking of the cease fire agreement. Contrast this with your segment featuring the Israeli woman and Palestinian man both of whom experienced extreme losses due to the conflict but still manage to find common ground on a very human level.

I realize that I have rambled on here somewhat so let me end with a suggestion. Once congress comes back in session and our new President is inaugurated, I am certain there will be calls for recriminations against those in the financial institutions (both public and private) who are perceived as having caused this crisis. It will be an opportunity for our illustrious elected officials to express their self-righteousness for the benefit of their angry constituencies. Instead of endless useless congressional hearings, I think a better solution would be to take a lesson from Africa and conduct "Truth and Reconcilation" sessions. Let those who feel victimized confront their perceived oppressors. Let those "oppressors" explain themselves. It was enlightening to hear Parker Palmer describe the financial leaders in his retreat group. They, too, are human beings with their own anxieties. Let them see the real consequences of their actions, greed and preoccupation with self. Let these hearings not only be completely public but allow for a wide range of testimonials - even if the process takes years to complete. In fact, a lengthy process might keep the whole concept in the public eye even after the economy begins to recover. We who are so fixated on instant gratification and short-term results need a lessen in patience. Perhaps, then, we might not be so prone to forget. Establish a commission to convene these hearings that will be charged in the end with recommendations for rebuilding trust in our institutions and proceeding from here. I think we all have to learn how to talk to each other again, how to recognize our similarities as human beings instead of fearing our differences.

Finally, I would just like to mention how much I appreciate your podcasts. They have become a necessary part of my week.

As someone who works in the field of philanthropy, I am asked every day about how charitable giving is affected by our current economic recession. It always heartens me to be able to say that, over the past 30 years, philanthropy has not declined during economic recessions. It has held steady or even increased -- this represents the hope and spirit of philanthropy. We realize that our communities and those in need suffer more during an economic downturn, and our response as community members is to give more.
The holiday season holds different meanings for different faiths, and giving is one of the only common virtues that unify these beliefs. Charitable giving is one of the obligations of a full life, according to the Quran. Charity is one of the six requisites of Buddhist discipline. Judaism has a long history of reinforcing charity; in fact, the Hebrew word for righteousness is the same as the Hebrew word for charity. Humanists view charity as an essential virtue. Christians view Christ's very life and teachings as a gift and sacrifice. And there are countless other examples.
Increasingly, the global community is seeking ways for diverse faiths to coexist in tolerance. I think that charitable giving does much more than allow us to coexist. It allows us to express our faith in common ways -- it is the best expression of the human soul. During the holiday season, we are constantly reminded of how wonderful it feels to give.
The essayist Stephen Fry writes that the three most beautiful words in the English language are not "I love you," but "please help me." They are words of hope that show that we can call on each other to care for each other.
Many Vermonters will be cold or hungry or living on the edge this winter. The economic crisis is already affecting people from all walks of life. Low- and middle-income Vermont families are finding it impossible to keep up with the growing costs of basic needs such as food, heat, shelter and transportation. At the end of November, more than 40,000 households had applied for fuel assistance, an increase of 25 percent from 2007. Food shelves are also struggling to meet the rising demand in their communities. Some have had a 25 percent increase in families visiting this year compared to last year, and the cost of food has risen 20 percent.
I hope that we will all consider giving a little more this year -- whether to a favorite charity or of our time. Our current economic downturn is an opportunity for us to act on the true spirit of caring that unites us all.
Peter Espenshade of Shelburne is vice president for community philanthropy for The Vermont Community Foundation

I view the financial crisis as a cultural/global symptom of the much larger problem of a genuine spiritual or moral vacuum within the larger culture/human family. To the extent that I was or am a part of that culture I have endeavored to individuate myself and through prayer,reading from the KJV Bible, and by attending "Church" services I have begun interacting with a manageable number of people who regularly populate that same culture. Hopefully, bringing the extent of my more "mature" understanding of spirituality or perhaps more appropriately its lack to those same people. I know that much of the discord within the human family is the result of people rushing. Rushing to even appear grown up, rushing to assume the mantle of maturity(often represented as being synonomous with the acquistion of material possessions). Rushing into relationships and careers without taking stock of themselves and the gifts they possess at any one time within their lives, so as to live those lives in purposeful and fulfilling ways. One of the major ways that I differ from many is that I have actually taken the time to stop-out of the culture to do this kind of self-examination. May I also say that this is not a one time event. This kind of introspection must occur througout life as we change.

In the swirl of events surrounding the collapse of global capital markets we are certainly in the middle of an epic time. It is one of those chaotic crisis/opportunity moments and in my view, a time that presents interesting insights into the interplay among morality, markets and the role of "faith" in investing. After all, when folks "invest" it is with a sort of belief in something intangible that will lead to a better future. The irony is that most investments have a disclaimer that says something like, "past results are no guarantee of future performance..." Faith is a little like that, without the disclaimer of course!

I come to these questions from a three-part perspective. I am trained as an engineer, scientist and finance person. I began my professional life as a chemical engineer in beer can manufacturing plants (I am not making this up!) Next I went to Wall Street for nearly twenty years, starting as a plain old stock broker, ending up as a portfolio manager specializing in "Value" investing with a mission related spin. As a large-cap value manager I was automatically given the "nun money," the accounts that had a moral spin because I was interested in how values integrated with investment and the "socially responsible investment movement." I was frequently introduced as "the only socialist on Wall Street." Now I run an organization that is often cited as the catalyst for the divestment movement that helped South Africans destroy apartheid.

The perspective of faith-based, institutional investors is pretty unique and arguably prophetic. The members of our organization, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (www.ICCR.org), issued their first formal resolutions against predatory lending in 1993. As investors and activist investors, we warned the companies we held in our investment portfolios over and over again about the risks inherent in insufficient underwriting standards and the folly of securitization of sub-prime debt. As these companies are all public and their proxy statements are filed with the SEC, this is all part of the public record.

So here we are having issued these warnings ever before the CFTC; 300 primarily Protestant, Catholic and Jewish faith organizations who were "right" about the risks of unsustainable market practices. We take little joy in "being right." The "I told you so moment" doesn't last. What we are asking ourselves now is what could we have done differently to get our voice heard more effectively? Not with a sense of "guilt," but rather a sense of urgency.

We would like the insights we've had, the learnings we've accumulated, and the real connection between faith and investment to be incorporated in some way into the policy making environment moving forward. We would also like the "people in the pews" whose personal investments and pension funds (and jobs, mortgages and security) to understand that the organizations that manage the endowments that support the mission of their various faith traditions really were speaking up as this storm was gathering.

There is a lot that could be done. The notion that "socially responsible investing" is a nice little boutique for progressives is shortsighted. The approach we are talking about is more ethically and analytically rigorous. There is a lot that can be "seen" by integrating social values into corporate and investor actions through the lens of faith. The best investors have the best foresight. They see what others don't. Prophecy, if you will.

By the way, I really love the show. Thank you all for the wonderful...thought provoking...inspirational stories you bring. I am the mother of a 20-year-old with Aspberger's Syndrome and your recent Autism show was a miracle. Truly. Thank you, Laura Berry.

I feel that what has happened is very disturbing. On the one hand we all wanted less goverment (regulation) in helping us manage our money, but how could we know what that meant. I expect greater minds than mind looking at the possible long term ramifications instead of the short term. We have become a nation wanting something now at the least possible cost with little regard to what that means to our people or the world. There appears to be too much greed, living for the short term instead of building a better world for the long term.

I am so thankful that there is hope in our incoming presidential leadership but I pray that every citizen will participate in the healing and change required. The upcoming months and years will very difficult for many of us.

I am concerened that the gap between the haves and have nots will widen further. Christian teachings say that we are all in this together but I don't see that lived out by many because more times than not I see people living for themselves.

I can do more and I have resoved to do more. I have never been part of something like this but I am starting now.

My family has been protected--by the hand of God alone, I think--from the current economic crisis. My husband has a good job, and mine has been solid so far as well. However, we live in an area of the country where things are about as bad as they can be for many people. Our county is one of the hardest hit in Southern California.

For almost a year now I've been trying to record one thing I'm thankful for each day. I'm a mom of two small children, and I write a blog called "Morning Thanks in Elmo's World." In November I contemplated a few of the questions above when one of my friends moved her family across the country to start over. I'm pasting the blog entry below.

Thank you for your time!

Sunday, November 16, 2008
Tomorrow morning my friend, her husband, and her children will board a plane and fly east. Over the course of the last couple weeks they have packed a moving truck, held a sale, and emptied their big, lovely home of just about everything. When I walked in on Saturday morning, the day of the sale, a lump rose in my throat. The hallway where my daughter had run circles with her daughters led to an empty living room. The play room where we'd sat and chatted while the kids played had no toys.

Now a full set of her bedroom furniture sits in my house, waiting to be assimilated into the guest room. We will go this week to pick up the rest--a leftover jug of dishwasher detergent, some of her pretty curtains, a set of pots and pans--all things she didn't sell, can't pack, and has to leave behind. I'm already preparing myself to go into that empty house and feel the space left by our missing friends.

The current financial crisis led them to make the move. My friend--God bless her--has a new job waiting for her on the East Coast. They'll make a new start. They're going to be okay.

We are watching an unprecedented number of people just up and disappear around us. Every day moving vans and trucks haul away lives and hopes, leaving behind hulking empty shells, houses where homes used to be.

A few days ago I was thinking about my 34th birthday. It'll be here on Wednesday. My grandpa on my dad's side, the grandpa I really never knew, was almost exactly the same age I am when he weathered the Great Depression. Born in 1898, Grandpa C. would have been somewhere around 31 on Black Tuesday. Three years later when he hit 34, the worst financial crisis in U.S. history would have been in full swing.

I've thought about him a lot this week, and Grandma C. too. I've always wished I had gotten a chance to know them, to really be able to see and remember their faces, but this week as my friend sold her belongings and prepared to walk away from her house, I wished I could sit down for coffee with Grandpa. I so want to hear what it was like the first time it happened. I want to know when he knew it really was that bad. I want to know what it was like to watch his friends walk away. I know he would have been able to tell me.

As strange as it seems, if this financial meltdown really is what none of us want to call it, then Grandpa and I share something I never had notion to imagine--this experience of watching the bottom fall out, of watching life shift and change in ways that are frightening. And sad.

Both my friend and her husband have told me that no matter what, they have always had enough. They both speak with an awed combination of wonder and faith when they see how God has provided for them even in the most difficult of circumstances. They have always had what they needed.

And that's the promise, I guess, and that's what I'm thankful for. Our God never pushes us beyond what we can handle. And there's always enough. God bless our friends. God bless my Grandpa and his friends all those years ago. God bless us all.

In my opinion, the current economic climate is caused by severe breeches of truth and a resulting lack of trust. It is the result of lack of regulation of greed, but the solution requires more than just better regulations - it requires a change of heart to recognize our interdependence. It demands “justice”, not only as a judgment of wrongdoing, but for the correction of unjust systems and imbalances. It requires turning to God in repentance of the violent injustices of humanity, armed with weapons, conceits, deceit and lies. It calls for the expression of compassionate grace.

As a result of the current economic climate I am now more careful than ever to both discern and speak the truth (clearly and with a caring heart),as best I can. As a citizen I can focus on being a better neighbor and encouraging others to focus on our common good. As a Realtor I can best help clients by neither succumbing to the prevailing downward spiral of pessimism nor portray an unrealistic optimism.

I find my source of wisdom in following the life, death and resurrection of Jesus - the way of the cross. I find truth telling in Jim Wallis’ 1981 book The Call to Conversion, in Brian McLaren’s Everything Must Change and Will and Lisa Samson’s Justice in the Burbs.

I find hope that God hears my prayers that the Spirit of Christmas may live in all of our hearts.

Rick Bonetti
www.SaratogaVoice.com

Clearly there is a crisis of interpersonal ethics in America where investment money and banking is concerned. Sadly, unethical conduct and behavior patterns seen in our political leadership and public officials, have reset the new low standards that everyone wrongly thought they could "justify" following.
Justification and mere tolerance are the warning signs of a troubled individual. Honesty, openness, and respect are the cornerstones of healthy cultures and nations.
Any national leader that allows the likes of Zimbabwe's Mugabe to retain power, and Israels aggression to go on, without outright vocal condemnation seems hypocritical, and lacking in the moral character, which alone... gives impetus to creative, active engagement and positive solution investigations.
Through my church we are shipping 40 foot containers, of used furniture and complete inventories of everyday household and personal effects, donated by congregation members for the refurbishing and furnishing/building of orphanages for damaged children's lives in Namibia,
I actively engage in the One cause, and assist with feeding local poor and needy people, and make donations to several causes where transparent NGO's have proven results.

At work with every client, I lead a team that emphasizes a caring and truthful manner in appreciating the business that each client brings us, taking on a helpful American attitude. This starts with a real greeting and a smile worthy of a neighbor, and not engaging in unnatural dialogue for the sole purpose of making extra sales opportunities,

The business attitude and words 'consumer beware' in this fiscal fiasco in particular, have leaked into every day life relationships and have come back to bit us all, we are all consumers trading commercially and inter-actively with one another in everyday life.

I pray for Obama's inspiration, good guidance and a wisdom that will lead to a greater sense of mutual trust and world peace.

What moral and spiritual virtues do you bring?
What am I doing now that is different and why?

I have started to respond to the monetary needs of members of our church family and locals highlighted in newspaper stories. The economic downturn affects those without a college education more than those of us who have one. While worshipping at church last Thanksgiving, I became aware of how grateful I am for all I have; this sense continues. I have steady job that pays well, few wants and simple needs, at least for a middle-class American in 2009. (As Joan Chittister writes in The Rule of Benedict, to have one car in a culture where folks have multiple vehicles, that's mortification!) My income has steadily increased, often more than five percent a year. There are always needs. Giving is satisfying and purportedly triggers the brain's reward center. I'm not very philosophical about it -- just do it. Just as change is a constant and growth is God's call to us, so I trust that when computing the total contributions for the the past year for tax purposes, the percentage of giving relative to income will increase. To not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing may be the the next step, that is, to abandon meticulous record keeping of contributions for income tax purposes. Also, giving money is easy; it is the highest score on the test of spiritual gifts. Does God have a charge that would be a test and a struggle?
The irony is that this entry strikes me as self-congratulatory, but it may serve to motivate others.

From what I can gather, spiritually, it is the end of the church age and the beginning of the Spirit age. By that I mean that more and more we as a [Christian]people are going to realize that God is not outside of us. God is us. For an age now we have been taught that good and evil, God and Satan, Heaven and hell are all places or beings or states of being that have been attributed to something or someone outside of our physical, spiritual selves. We are outgrowing tradition, the old guard. I see it everywhere. Gender lines are blurring (a somewhat uncomfortable but nonetheless necessary step). Our children seem to be 'plugged' in so much more than we were. Just look at the 'Indigo' and 'Crystal' kids today. On the other hand, young people are looking, searching for something deeper, some explanation of life in todays world. The ME era that ruled the 80s/90s is turning into a hunger for our TRUE selves.
In January of 2007 I had an experience that put all of this in the forefront of my mind. I was having a conversation with God, maybe a bit of a bitch session, when I heard so clearly, "It is time to leave my house, David. No longer will you look to me for all of your answers. No longer will you come to Me with your whining. I have given you all you need to not only survive, but to flourish and help others with their own questions. Now go out there and BE".
My conversations with God ended on that day. I had been speaking with Him for many years, and had grown quite fond of my time with Him. I was in quite a state for a few months, trying to reach Him but knowing that what He said to me was right. I had to leave my Fathers house. I am growing more used to looking inward for my answers these days, even though I still miss those awesome times with Him.
Odd, He didn't die that I might be saved, I died that He might be a savior. Here. Now.
Todays economic turmoil is a condition of the confusion and unavoidable tantrums that will accompany us being asked to leave His house. Church will move out of the traditional brick-n-mortar setting and move into the marketplace. The generations of kids today will push the spiritual, philosophical envelope to the point of social chaos. Remember when all the kids started wearing those clothes that said NO FEAR! Hmmm... It is the older generations that are afraid. My generation, maybe yours. As I get more used to walking in Him, literally, my fear is turning into not just a faith but a knowing. Never have I felt more, well, just more.
Ask a Lion what he is and if he could he would tell you "I don't suppose I know. I just am". He doesn't have an identity to attach to himself. We are starting to realize that we are the "I AM".
So, to make a long story just a little longer, I do not believe this is a crisis, but rather a stepping off. I think they call it evolution. Spiritual evolution. God DNA.
Here is my new mantra, and may it become yours;
Affect Change Effect Generations.
Oh, one more thing I have been seeing lately (with my spiritual eye);
Instead of saying "To thine own self be true" how about we all start saying "To thine own true self, be".

As long as political and/or economic systems stand between a human and her/his right to shelter,energy,food,water, and air the "crisis" will not abate. We must invoke these necessities for ourselves and we must show and help as many others as we can to have the same. We must realize that the world is one body much like the human body. If the people on one small elite part of the planet are happy and well cared for, they will be very comfortable until the rest of the planet dies. The whole planet must be equally cared for to avoid specific damage that will ultimately affect the whole body. We cannot wait for or rely on politics or economics to do it for us, we must act now.
I live in a yome(cross between a yurt and geodesic dome) with my family in a friends backyard. We do work trade in exchange for the space and small amount of electricity. We as a family of four use 7 gallons of water a day not including laundrymat and showers at the YMCA. We have a compost toilet. We are saving for land and paying off debt. We are going to build our home out of cob using the earthship(look it up) concept. This concept requires no energy input to stay warm in the winter or cool in the summer. Sometimes it seems like we will never reach our goals. I keep saying over and over to myself, "the master accomplishes the great, by a series of small task" lao tzu.

» What kind of wisdom and leadership are you looking for at this time, close to your life? Where are you finding it? *

The community at Gethsemane Episcopal Church in downtown Minneapolis is facing a problem that, I imagine, is not uncommon in these times. We, as a church, are not financially sustainable. We have a beautiful old church that requires upkeep and maintenance and our operating costs exceed our revenue by an uncomfortably large amount.

Yet, we are not without assets. We have a vibrant and growing community at a time when many religious communities in the area are shrinking. Despite our own financial woes, are able to organize and support a food and clothing shelf and provide assistance to those who have lost their apartments due to building foreclosure. Our building, though costly, has a gym and a stage that provide wonderful space for the community to use.

How can a church with such energy and spirit be failing? Our priest, an embodiment of the energy and spirit of the congregation, made it plain last week at the annual meeting: the old way of doing things is simply not working. Gethsemane cannot be content as a building and a location. It must be a community beyond the walls of our church. Simply put, what it means to be a church has to be redefined and reworked.

To provide that vision, he turned to the congregation. Our energy and ideas drive the remaking of Gethsemane. Our ideas have been small thus far: Taking advantage of social networking sites like Facebook and Ning to strengthen the community, work to make the church environmentally friendlier both in the health of the building and the behavior of our members, for example. These ideas alone will not save the church, but they are the start of a process that will change the way Gethsemane "does church."

As people look for guidance during these troubled times, I encourage them to start with themselves. In my own community, our financial problems are dire, but by unleashing the energy of the congregation and being open to the transformative power of that energy, we can ensure that, no matter the fate of our building, that Gethsemane survives.

Yes, we are in a time of moral and spiritual crisis. We are reaping the results of the exercise of our free will to make choices that are not in harmony with God's laws.

I have found all that I need to understand and deal with what is happening in the world today in the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda even though he left his body in 1952. The recent messages of Sri Daya Mata's (the leader of SRF and a direct disciple of Yogonanada)are a particularly hopeful, insightful and practical guide in these challenging times. The SRF website www.yogananda-srf.org and the Winter 2008 issue of Self-Realization magazine contain these messages.

What has changed for me--deepening my conviction that the Kriya Yoga techniques that Yogananda brought to the West in 1920 are still a powerful way to transform my life and in doing so the lives of others so that our individual and societal choices will begin to harmonize more closely with the laws of God and to bring an end to much of the suffering in this world.

I think we've confused the "bottom line"--thinking it is money or "growth," possessions, "entertainment." The little "sustainable" community I grew up in kept going by knowing how much was "enough" respected that measure and there were no mega-rich living next door to homeless. Folks just tried to have enough, and any more was considered "gravy" to be shared with others.

My spiritual resources are varied and many. Right now I'm reading Satish Kumar who was a Jain Monk for part of his life. His belief is that homo sapiens are not the center of the universe. We have to get along with each other, critters, the earth herself. We have not been living like that for a long time and sadly much of the world has envied us and fashioned their lives after us.

I've pretty much stopped buying things I don't need. My radio is on its last legs and before I would have just trashed it and bought another cheap one at K-Mart. Now, I'm holding on to it. Sure, I have to hold onto the little antanea sometimes to get reception or move it around the room or just go without. I don't feel like I'm being deprived. I feel like I'm honoring the folks in that small town. My roots are producing a strange and wonderful fruit.

I think I might be a sort of leader right now. Living more simply.
Trying to determine for myself what the real sustainable and wholesome bottom lines are. Overcoming any "covenenting" of other people who still get a lot of stuff. Seeing clearly that that lifestyle, which is all it is, is not helpful. Just keep trying, seeing clearly. Leading myself onward through the fog!

Two years ago I left behind college for about the 4th or 5th time. Largely, because the Career Services Director walked into a classroom full of young and not-so-young adults and proceeded to proclaim that as he put it "entitlements mean nothing".

I've heard college-grads try to defend this bald-face lie, but I have not been persuaded that entitlements mean nothing. I personally believe that long before man set foot on the earth a God created hierarchies to which he assigned entitlements for the very purpose of maintaining order in His created world.

To be told by an entitled authority figure that entitlements mean nothing caused me to begin questioning not only this particular persons competency, but the veracity of things I was being lectured about. Why on earth wouldn't they?

I know for a fact that the only entitled authority with the power to evict someone physically from "their" home is a sheriff, but that still leaves the person occupying that office with the choice of whether or not he will do his job with compassion or relish for the people involved--and thus, to mitigate or inflict as far as he is able the pain of this kind of tragedy, is that not so?

Over the last 20 of my 50 years I have become something of a social scientist seeking to understand why so much of what I precieve to be negative has happened to me as the result of projected blame by entitled authorities,and how I could get rid of not only the bad feelings but the collateral damage done to my brand-name.

I have found my answer in leading a celebate and therefore for me, sober life. I have also been made a witness to the abitlity of my God(the word made flesh)to correct my false accusers in love and truth.

This would not have been possible without the help and discouragement of entitled FBI Agent Abe Alba who came to my then-residence to discourage me from standing up not only for Judge Alison Colgan's right to affirm that I did not sexually harass anyone and for my right to attempt to collect damages for the salacious lie promulgated by one of Delaware North Co. own employees namely Yosemite Concession Services Risk Manager John Huey.

By falsely accusing and firing me for harassment he denied me the means to acquire food,shelter,work,entertainment,clothing,and the means(EAP programs) for the supposed "need" to rehabilitate myself for the purpose of being eligibile for re-hire.

As a result of my "failure" to acknowledge any of FBI agent Alba's false allegations of extortion(I sent them copies of Judge Colgan's determination, but apparently nobody was "home" to listen/read it.)I have been witness to the "bad-mouthing" of America as Abu Ghraib abusers, Geneva Convention violators,the termination of millions of jobs(what do I need with millions of jobs where I was made a scapegoat by other lazy employees? Because its not what you know,it who you know-I only needed one job)by employers looking to make themselves look "good" to stock-holders and bds of directors, and the final irony the mortgage-foreclosure/homeless debacle of the last couple of years.

And unfortunately,at this point, it seems just to me.

I realized I will not stop being harassed and bullied until I remove myself from corporate involvement.

Group Relational Dynamics have had a way of turning people ugly in my presence(but then that's why the grade-school teacher found me such a tempting target of her own abuse, I suppose, because I was alone), so I'm keeping better company with my God these days or I'm battling the forces of evil in group settings.

That is just plain old herd dynamics 101.

My personal objective as the founder and sole staff to initiate One Global Ethics, Ogethics, is transferring a trans-religious exchange in the United States of America (USA) in the last decade to individuals, organizations, and communities. Since beginning to learn the English language, I have received a comprehensive self-training in ethics as a student, employee, and community member. I have earned a Master of Arts degree with emphasis on ethics; the different working experiences in the service, recreation, hospitality, retail, and fashion industries with different groups of people; and my personal involvement in community gathering as churches, libraries, and cultural events, all inspired me to continue an ongoing self-study research in ethical issues around the world.

The ethics industry is the future of an ethically complex world. Those who want to discover what is and how to do the right thing in an ethically complex world will be the practical leaders of this visionary utopia of building a better world in the middle of a chaotic, misunderstood, and grim panorama.

One Global Ethics, Ogethics, knows that money is not the final solution for the problems and crisis of the world. The contemporary reality of living and working to the brink of calamity has made Ogethics realize what works in terms of ethics. Thus, it has undertaken the ethical journey and mission of instilling in individuals, organizations, and communities human ethical values to help to create a new global social, legal, educational, economic, spiritual, political, and ethical order.

The ethics element has been considered essential in the interpretation of our relationships with others, the environment, and ourselves. Subjectively, the ethics industry goes inside individuals who want to be an unspoken expression of the human values, attitudes, and beliefs inspired by their inner code of ethics, making a difference that gives value to the corporate culture, oxygen-starved society (family, communities), and in the pursuit of a career for the human life.

Every day “reality” impacts who we are and how we are living our lives. Is the real world what makes our lives, or, do we work to shape that reality? Human consciousness and responsibility does not come from what is going on in the world, even though the real world is reflecting a lack of them today. These human ethical values come within each individual, regardless of any religious or non-religious setting. Happiness, freedom, and peace are not with us just because we have human rights, democracy, or a good job, but because they are inherent in our human dignity. This is a universal ethical principle which could help everyone to achieve those human ethical values that we can aspire to.

My educational service involves a need in individuals, organizations, and communities to create a new global order where the sole responsibility is on the human being. The strategy is to present Ogethics services to the churches in different denominations and communities. Public worships are a main place of people gathering together to listen a message. Under their approval and confidence I and my future staff will breathe ethics into their communities

Ogethics wants to project a human dynamics image that is not complicated by religious differences, philosophy, or any judgment at all. It is reflecting a different caliber of ethical training programs and of inspiration in every kind of people into ethics.

Why churches, if Ogethics is a non-religious organization? The fact is that religion itself does not make ethical people. However as Tenzin Gyatso, the Buddhist monk, the Dalai Lama (1999) said: “Religion has enormous potential to benefit humanity; properly employed, it can play a leading role in encouraging people to develop a sense of responsibility toward others and of the need to be ethically disciplined.”

Because human dynamics in churches are directly related with people’s beliefs, Ogethics’ strategy focuses on them. Understanding different beliefs and religious practices is the ethical point to make in the arena of churches. The humane process is doing the right thing, without obligating others to change their behaviors because we think we have the truth, or they are wrong in the appreciation and manifestation of their faith or spirituality.

Hence, Ogethics’ anticipated outcomes are to instill in them human ethical values all the congregations of people have in spite of differences of credo, cults, prayer, or denomination. Integrated as charitable non-profit organizations, churches and Ogethics can work together to the benefit of individuals, organizations, and communities.

What will be Ogethics enduring impact? It will help to create an ethical age.

I just listened to the podcast interview with Sharon Salzburg. In it, Sharon mentioned that she found herself paradoxically being more generous in these times of economic hardship. She specifically mentioned that she has become more purposeful and aware of smiling at people, even in New York City.

As Sharon said this, four recent memories sprang vividly to my awareness. Each was of an ordinary encounter with an associate, a clerk and passers-by. All occurred in the last few days or so. Each memory was of a fleeting moment of courtesy, kindness or uncharacteristic friendliness. Each was by itself perhaps unremarkable... A stranger, offering to walk my just-unloaded shopping cart back into the store... A clerk at the store, making eye contact, smiling and asking if I would like help carrying a bag of ice to the car... A stranger, filling their car at the adjacent pump, commenting on the glorious sky and weather that day... A business associate, inquiring about my daughter who has just left home to travel abroad.

Sharon's comment assembled each of these encounters into a larger picture of people, reaching out to each other in a time of worry and fear.

Suddenly, I am more joyful. Suddenly, I am encouraged. Suddenly, I am resolved be more positive and uplifting to all those I meet -- to pass on Sharon's wisdom and compassion.

I thank all the SOF team, and especially Sharon Salzburg, for helping me become a bit wiser and more compassionate!

Dear Krista,

First, thanks for your wonderful show. I listened to your Parker Palmer podcast earlier today--I happen to be currently reading his "The Courage to Teach"--and then listened to the radio broadcast this afternoon (on Chicago's WBEZ) of your Charles Darwin show.

To take your questions in order, I do think we are experiencing a spiritual and moral crisis, one that from a sociological perspective, and using some "sociological imagination," can be a godsend for our country and the world. I say "the world" because the world will depend heavily on our nation's becoming less militant and more caring.

A few years ago, 2006, when my younger son graduated from high school and went off to college, I moved from a house to an apartment, gave up owning a car--my new apartment is on a bus line--and thus have significantly reduced my "carbon footprint" and cost of living. A happy result is that I now can devote myself to writing, community service and, to some extent, politics. I campaigned hard for President Obama in the Indiana primary and in the general election.

By living frugally, I don't need to earn a living and have returned to college myself to gain an education degree. I plan to be a middle school substitute teacher. Having done a lot of acting in community theater in the last 15 years, I am comfortable around young people and find middle-school children to be delightful and interesting and not at all frightening. I think my services will be in great demand!

My life so far has been far more varied and fascinating than I'll attempt to relate here in detail But here's a "for instance"--as an ad agency creative director (Chicago, New York, Philadelphia,) I once helped create and produce a TV campaign for McDonld's. In 2006, going through tough times during my son Fred's senior year of high school, I cleaned restrooms, washed pots and pans and took out the trash at a local McDonald's. Talk about "I've seen both sides now!"

Thanks to "Speaking of Faith," NPR, the BBC, the CBC, the Internet and a vast personal library, not to mention my college classes, I'm getting an adequate supply of wisdom and leadership. At the age of 64, I hope to provide a little wisdom and leadership for others!

Yours, R. E. Roderick

I was raised a Missouri Synod Lutheran, graduated from Valparaiso University (which, thankfully, liberalized my religious ideas), eventually became an active Episcopalian, until I decided that I could no longer vow a Christian oath. I see all religions as informing my understanding of the Universe and my role in it. And I absolutely ache for what fundamentalists have done to corrupt all religions and the actions of their followers. Beliefs that advocate hate, suppression of thought, secrecy, death to sinners and nonbelievers, and unequality are gangs in my view, not religions.

With all that as background, I think financial crises do have the potential to elevate conservative values as "right" and other values (say of a Buddhist point of view) as foolhardy. Lutherans, for example, are very, very big on identifying "the right way" to live your life, make, save, invest, tithe and spend your money. Those who follow are good Christians; those who don't are in trouble spiritually as well as fiscally.

So when I see the debates in Congress about whether to spend or stop spending, I see the positions taken as so much more than political. It is part of one's spiritual beliefs -- whether giving more and living smaller, worrying as much about the planet as the purse -- or jumping into the fiscal bunker -- will inform one's rhetoric.

These are indeed trying times. In the last few months I’ve seen savings dissipate and real estate value decline. Skilled and talented workers have lost their jobs; hardworking, bill-paying citizens have lost their homes. Frugal retirees have lost their life savings. And everyone hears and knows that it will get a lot worse before it gets better.
What sustains me through these days of uncertainty is my spiritual path which has at its core three main virtues: gratitude, humility, and acceptance of the will of God. In addition, this path, called Sukyo Mahikari (universal laws + true light; www.sukyomahikari.org), gives me a sense of what spiritual economics might be.
First, let me explain how the three main virtues are helping me. Clearly, gratitude for all things, even those I consider “bad,” helps me to look beyond the immediate effects of this downturn to see what benefit might come from it all. I certainly am more cautious of my spending; I was able to finally follow through on giving to charities on behalf of my family at Christmas – something I have been planning to do for years. And I am deepening my appreciation of what I do have – my job, my home, my family and friends, and my faith. On a larger scale, I am grateful that the economic trends that had widened the gap between the haves and have-nots may be narrowing and we, as a global community, might be re-examining our values.
The stunning and radical shifts and turnabouts of the economy are humbling to us all, I imagine. Occasionally I read about some clear-thinking expert who had been warning us of the bursting of the various bubbles, but I didn’t hear the call and I couldn’t understand the complexity of the situation. As I stretch to understand the house of cards my economic future has been built on, I am left to experience mostly “shock and awe.” Yet, these changes are useful reminders of how little we do control in our lives beyond our own actions and reactions.
Finally, as I move forward, I am confronted with the challenge of acceptance. I have followed my financial advisor’s advice. I have made tentative plans to soften the bump from future falls.
Yet, I know that the only real preparation is my faith in staying tuned in with God’s will in my life, as it has carried me forward to this point of a sense of abundance even in the face of loss. My faith allows me an abiding belief that as I ride on God’s will, I will maintain my gratitude for whatever comes and be clear that I may not understand all the consequences for myself or the world around me. Ultimately, I will end up right here: firm, solid, and at peace.
In holding fast to the guidance of spiritual economics, I am also focused on the 4 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repair and in so doing, living more firmly within my means. As I look at my workplace, I also recognize the need for greater interdependency between labor and management – an occasion for humility as we appreciate our mutual strengths and support each other in our weaknesses.
These times are indeed trying, but they present such an amazing opportunity to all of us for learning and growing into an even greater nation, a more compassionate world. We can hold fast to enduring guidance for a better future.

Even amidst all this despair and heartache and hardship, I have to say the economic crisis is a good thing. I believe this because this unusual crisis has forced or allowed (depending on your perception) us to look at the world in new ways.

A few weeks back Starbucks announced that it would only brew decaffeinated coffee on-demand after noon. Previously the company brewed fresh coffee every half-hour. It takes about 4 minutes to brew a pot of coffee. By only brewing decaffeinated coffee when requested, the company expects to save $400 million dollars within the next 6 months.

Some people heard this and despaired over another example of how our economy is collapsing. I read this and was outraged! I was outraged at the waste of resources literally going down the drain everyday, just for the luxury of saving potential customers four minutes. And that waste reminded me of other prepared food companies who waste untold tons of foods by throwing out what is not sold. It’s true there are great organizations like Second Harvest but, I’d hazard, they do not capture even one-half the food that’s prepared but never sold.

Another example of our changed perspective is the loosening of standards regarding what is advertised. I read that more broadcasters are allowing ads from “hard” liquor companies where before, when more money was available, those types of advertisers were refused on “moral” grounds.

These two examples remind me that the word crisis is translated in Chinese by two characters meaning “dangerous opportunity”. The economic crisis puts us at a point of “dangerous opportunity”. If we do not adapt, if we do not change, we will find ourselves clinging to ideals and processes that are no longer viable and in effect, going down with a sinking ship.

On the other hand, we can use this unusual time to choose things that bring us into better harmony with our planet by being more conservative about our use of resources. We can stop brewing decaffeinated coffee when there is no demand for it. We can grow some vegetables rather than purchasing veggies that have traveled hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles to reach our plates. And, we can also use this opportunity to re-evaluate things we would never have considered when money flowed copiously.

Here are three choices we might now make.

1) Legalize (and thereby regulate and tax) prostitution. I am a woman and do not endorse the exploitation of women under any circumstances. Rather than penalizing the practice, let’s legalize it and put in safety nets so the women (and men) are made as safe as possible and we are in a better position to prevent the exploitation of children through prostitution.

2) Legalize (and thereby regulate and tax) marijuana. Just that one thing opens a world of ecologically-sound and renewable products like hemp-based papers, fabrics and furniture. If the resistance to marijuana were about preventing access mind-altering substances, then we should ban a whole list of ingestibles including chocolate, cheese, sugar, coffee and alcohol.

3) Publicly and regularly recommend that people eat less meat, not stop eating meat, just reduce our consumption of this extremely resource-intensive product. The meat industry will surely cry “foul!” but the health of the country will improve and we will save money through having better health.

These are frightening times. Very few people like change and right now, things are changing quickly and dramatically. But within these changes are opportunities for us to make better choices, choices that evolve our spirits and our world.

Quote: Again and again over the years you’re pushed to a brink that challenges you to either rise to the occasion or else surrender to demoralizing chaos…Seeded inside each of these personal turning points is the crux of the evolving global apocalypse: You get to choose whether you’ll adjust by taking a path that keeps you aligned with the values of the dying world or else a path that helps you resonate with what’s being born. In effect, you get to vote, with your entire life for which aspect of the apocalypse you want to predominate. -Rob Brezny

I have been working on my essay for a couple of weeks. Your topic is timely. Thank you.

Benevolent Despites: Take a Time Out
Essay by Maria Rella

As I ponder the media headlines, “Class Warfare” and “Greed Is Good” I wonder if we have a generation of citizens who have forgotten their roots. Our country has evolved as a result of past philanthropic financiers such as John Rockefellers, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, Eli Lilly, J. Paul Getty, and our present day benefactors Bill & Melinda Gates, Paul Newman and Ophrah Winfrey. Are they capitalists? Yes. Do they have interest in growing large institutions that are based on capitalistic ideas? Yes. Is that so wrong? No. The endowments of philanthropic champions may not directly provide funds to the poor on the street, but their foundations create fundamental long-term investment in our country by providing on-going programs that support public health projects, education and cultural programs that enrich and benefit our children past and present.

The contention that there is class warfare between Main Street and Wall Street is not useful and is a sidetrack to the larger issues. Are we to denigrate the attributes of the affluent who have contributed to nonprofit foundations; their talent, expertise and creative ideas--the same attributes that have made their businesses so profitable and provide a basis to our economic vitality?

What I believe, is that we need to take a deep breath and reflect back on the essential foundation of ethics that made our country robust. As a grandchild of Italian immigrants, I cannot forget the core values that my mother a widow, instilled in her children – by action and words to her children. You may be familiar with these adages from your childhood, if your parents lived during the great depression - pay your debts, your name is your word, character and reputation, work smart, enjoy a good debate, respect your elders and take care of them; listen to their stories, help children in need especially those who do not have both parents, and be true to yourself.

I believe the technocrats involved in the greed of the mortgage and bank debacle did not contemplate the repercussions of their actions. Yes, they violated our trust and we have all been personally impacted by their actions. Citizens are moving through the stages of grief as described by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book "On Death and Dying". Our leaders and the populist have been in “denial” for sometime. Those affected with financial ruin are in stages of “anger, depression and sadness”. Our legislators continue to “bargain” for a plan that will repair the damages.

We have the ability to be resilient and live successfully in the new economy. CEO’s must not violate the periphery by exceeding their rightful share. Remember the words of Abraham Lincoln, “I don’t believe in a law to prevent a man from getting rich…But we do wish to allow the humblest man an equal chance to get rich with everybody else.” It will take time for us to heal and for confidence to reemerge. I believe we must move beyond the anger and progress to the next stage of positive solutions so innovations can develop. Remember and convey to your grandchildren how the large gas guzzling vehicles and over valued investments were examples of the self-absorption of the first half of the 21st century. Your story will continue recounting the lessons learned and the resilience of the citizens who reshaped a renewed recovery.

I think this is very much a moral and spiritual crisis of our culture. The legitimate, defining, American values of freedom and individual success, among others, have brought more wealth and freedom to more people than any other society in human history. However, the valid affrimation of the importance of these values for partial human fulfillment and dignity has degnerated into an invalid affirmation of unabashed greed, materialism, and selfishness. At some point in time, these values insidiously crept into our consciousness as the definition of success in America, to the neglect of spiritual values, and they seem to be, unfortunaetely, affirmed everywhere you look in our society--school, work, sports, television, the seemingly utter removal of the notion that faith and ethics should influence how people participate in the economy. Jesus said "what profiteth it a man to gain the world and lose his soul?" I think that in their daily efforts to gain the world and wealth, Americans, have been daily chipping away at their souls and in the process, America might be losing her soul.

This sounds grave, but I look to the Bible and the promises of God for hope and assurance. There is always infinite hope in repentance--returning to the living God with all your heart and soul.
Psalm 130, verses 7-8, says "O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with him is plenteous redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities." I think America again needs to recognize the true breadth and depth of the spiritual foundation of her greatness. True and lasting human well-being flows only from obedience to God, our Creator. Sin is the indignation of man, not obedience.

this is a comment on Krista's pronounciation of 'buddism' and 'budda'. it is 'bu-dh-dh-ism' and 'bu-dh-dh-a'. there is no equivalent sound or letter in english. it is close to the 'th' sound in 'ma-th-ematics'. i would suggest better talk to a person knowing sanskrit or hindi language to get the sound right. as lot of people including me listen to your program on sundays, it will help all. again this is my lil request. thanks, vinot

I see Hebrews taking over America because their faith is success obsessed. The Hebrew faith of Judaism, based on the flat Earth, Earth centered Universe, egocentric, ethnocentric way of life, as having a major impact on this downturn and it's effects. The faith is Jewish, the tribe is Hebrew, the politics are global Zionism, and the nation state is Israel. I say Hebrew because money is about personal possession by a body, an ethnic group, a tribe.

Hebrews are 100% of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Hebrews run 75% of the member Fed Banks. Hebrews run the World Bank, International Bank of Settlements, and International Monetary Fund. Hebrews have their own concentration camp in Israel. Israel takes more money than any nation in the world, per capita, from America.

Israel is a failed state that is subsidized by America, provoking wars and attacks such as the attack of September 11th, all based on faith. Israel has no declare borders, no constitution, a right of return for all Jews, and no definition of what or who a Jew is. The Israeli view is "we'll know one when we see one", on a case by case basis. This provokes holy wars based on faith. The Israeli Zionist Hebrew war is sixty years old but it is really two thousand years old as many wars are. War is always about money, never faith. Politicians use religion, use faith, to wage wars for money. Faith is behind the eyes. Politics and money is outside the eyes.

The Pentagon was attacked and New York City was attacked on September 11th, 2001. New York City is the largest Hebrew city in the world and the epicenter of the global financial crisis. The cause of the attack is social injustice, caused by the Israelis who invade, kill, steal, and lie in the Hebrew state of Israel in the name of a faith. America supports Israel. The enemies of Israel attacked America, the source of financing.

America subsidizes Israeli Hebrews and ignores the plight of the refugees of the sixty year old crime against humanity in Israel, also known as occupied Palestine. This is all due to too many people chasing too few jobs, too little money, and the same people wanting the same land. This is all based on faith, that Hebrews and Arabs have claims to this land, based on faith. There is a clash between social justice, faith, and money.

The Hebrews are clearly winning this war but there is blow back, unintended consequences, such as Israel's financial and military support being attacked in America.

This is all based on faith, the faith that one group, one tribe, the Hebrews, should rule the world. All tribes believe this. Hebrews are the best at accomplishing this with education.

Hebrews send eighty per cent of their children to college because the rightly believe and have faith this will lead to a better economic life. We all want to be better off. Sixty eight per cent of Hebrew children graduate from college. No other group is this high. This gives Hebrews access to money, power, and fame which they use to benefit Hebrews and promote their faith. This can be seen when Hebrews refuse to use the BC and AD regarding the Christian calendar, yet use the Christian dates. The use of the BCE and CE degrade and insult Christians. If Hebrews want to use this dating system they should use the correct labels instead of slurring the labels to show bias and insult. This is no surprise. All tribes seek to do this. All tribes want their own faith based nation where all other way of life are excluded and their way is the only politically correct way. To my knowledge only Hebrews have a faith based, exclusive nation state, that is struggling to succeed as a failed state and can not stand on it's own two feet, financially.

The struggle of the Hebrews, Arabs, and English, the struggle of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims, the struggle of the Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans, are always about money and economy. Which faith will dominate the empire? Which faith should the empire choose to favor as it picks winners and losers in Egypt, Rome, Germany, Israel, and America?

Ever since the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as the official faith, the Hebrews have been following the money to promote their faith as THE FAITH. The story that Jesus was a Jew is utterly false but allowed to persist. Too bad the Old Testament is based on flat Earth, Earth centered, obsolete beliefs that "my tribe" is THE ONE AND ONLY sacred tribe at the center of the Universe. That faith is dead. The Earth is round, not flat. The books, The Old Testament, Koran, New Testament, Iliad, Mahabharata, remain to haunt us as the tribes all gather around their sacred books to proclaim they have the right to all the money and all the world. Then there is war. The war is always for the money.

The Western struggle for money is wound deeply in the Old Testament, New Testament, and Koran. All these books have nuggets of truth wrapped in faith, seeking more money. How much is enough? Too much is not enough. Only all of it is enough.

What I would like is a show defining how much is enough? How much food, shelter, and clothing is enough? How much war and war budgeting is enough? How much faith is enough? What is the minimum people should have globally, before we have a Bernard Madeoff? Should people still have faith in a book based on a flat Earth, at the center of the Universe, as all tribes falsely believed, based on faith, two thousand years ago?

The current down turn will be survived. Companies go bankrupt and out of business. What worries me is false documents survive bankruptcies, based on faith. Should people have faith in bankrupt companies or bankrupt Federal Reserve Notes that are worth nothing? Should we have faith in bankrupt faiths, bankrupt books, that are obsolete and do not work outside the tribe?

Why does faith, the full faith and credit of America, have to do with our money? Our money is bankrupt. We have no real money. All we have left is faith and that changes everyday so the stock market must wildly gyrate to reflect our gaining and losing faith in fake paper money. Should science and business be based on faith? That is scary. Faith is too personal. I don't want to have faith in food. I want food. I prefer science and repeatable experiments to people who have faith the Earth is flat, at the center of the Universe, and some invisible deity promised someone a holy land in Palestine three thousand years ago. Where is the proof? Show me. Prove it. Otherwise keep the faith silent, behind the eyes.

Faith and money have a lot to do with business. I personally prefer some collateral for loans besides faith. This economy is readjusting because collateral values have changed and people are walking away from promises they had faith in but proved to be too expensive. Where is the collateral regarding faith? Business is about facts and cash flow. Faith is about invisible deities and taking over the world as a Hebrew, Arab, or Englishman. What can we do when economies collapse because they were based on faith instead of sound scientific business principles and collateral?

Faith belongs behind the eyes, in silence. Outside the eyes people need experiments, facts, and reality we all agree on to meet our needs. Faith trumps reality behind the eyes. Reality trumps faith outside the eyes. The moral and spiritual aspects of this down turn are all based on groups struggling to take more rewards, awards, and media time than their numbers in the population justify. The group that exceeds all others at doing this is the Hebrews. How can the Hebrews fix this problem their book and their group largely caused? If it's broke, fix it. Will they? Can they? I don't know. What do you think? What does history tell us will happen?

I doubt if this commentary will ever see the light of day because it is not politically correct, embracing the zeitgeist of the times. Truth is often like that, in any tribe, over all times. You don't find a miracle, you live one. Protect yourself. No one else can or will. The harder and smarter we work the luckier we get. We'll all work it out one way or another.

Sorry this got so long. I just got on a roll and couldn't stop. I think the financial system works great. I think it is faith that has the flaws and has no place outside the eyes. Politics and political flaws is what we are seeing, not financial flaws. The Federal Reserve has failed us, Greenspan and Bernanke have failed us. The Fed should be abolished.

The wisdom I am looking for is to let banks and failed businesses have the consequences of their actions so the system can reallocate wealth properly instead of having government pick winners and losers. Wilderness always serves me with wise advice. There are predator and prey cycles. Stocks are not investments. Common stocks are dangerous unsecured speculations. I have beaten the Dow, S&P, Nasdaq, Warren Buffet, and John Bogle. I am happy with that. I feel sorry for people who have been wiped out listening to advice to "buy and hold". Protect yourself. No one else can or will. Faith needs no protection behind the eyes. Money and life outside the eyes does need to be protected. Good luck to us all.

Jack Goldman
St. Paul, MN

Hi!
I am finding much comfort and practical tools from the 5 simple strategies of the Virtues Project www.virtuesproject.com and the writings of Linda Kavelin Popov, namely, A Pace of Grace...

I am taking time to spend intentional time in nature, with my soul, and with my close family whom I trust. I am honoring my spirit by doing an art activity or writing every day. I am looking to honor the stillness and the movement of ideas within me! I know there is a teachable moment every day, and that I need to make time to reflect, and to fill my cup, as I continue to give and to share with others.

I believe that the economic crisis is a reflection of our inner spiritual ciris. One that will need much caring and recovering.

Looking to listen to/or read "Speaking on Faith' every week! Thank you for the inspirational books and authors you suggest.
Best regards,
Delaram Hakiman-adyani
Portland, OR
www.virtuesconnectionportland.com

Below are my thoughts in the form of a commentary. This crisis is the opportunity to rethink the fundamentals of the economy... should it be based on greed or the broader good?...

I applaud President Obama's pragmatic and honest approach to jump starting our economy, but he is also missing a bigger opportunity. I have no doubt we can get this economy on track and growing again. But is that good enough? No. We have an opportunity and an obligation to remake the economic system even better.

The fundamentals of our old economy pushed us to extremes in search of profit. Yet we know that extremes do not work in the long term. Communism, the extreme form of government intervention, doesn't work. And we're learning the hard way that unchecked capitalism doesn't work either. With a single purpose - that of profit above all else - 'all else' gets brushed to the side. Yet 'all else' is what makes up the real world and our quality of life.

Let's examine one simple, yet fundamental change: Short term profit for shareholders, versus long-term benefit for stakeholders.

Examples... Target's 4th quarter earnings were down 41%, but they we're still profitable, then laid off600 workers in Minneapolis alone. Caterpillar completes sixth consecutive year of record sales and revenues with 2008, but in anticipation of a recession, cuts 20,000 jobs. So the shareholder's future profit may increase a fraction, but it's a disaster for the overall economy. And because corporations aren't designed to serve the broader economy/society, the shareholder's profit will now drop with the rest of the economy.

This is all due to a fundamental singularity of corporate purpose: to earn and distribute taxable business earnings to shareholders.

Yet by considering stakeholders (such as employees, local communities and the environment) and not just shareholders in its incorporation, actions would inherently lean towards stronger, sustainable growth.

For too long, citizens have been asked to abide by civic responsibilities, while corporations have been given a pass. It's time to demand corporate citizenry as well. Not with self-policing bodies, but with one simple change in the incorporation articles. We - the people - hold the rights to incorporation for every corporate charter, and we can revoke them as well.

Imagine if even national banks had dual and equal purpose: to make a profit for shareholders and to strengthen local communities where their branches are located? How different might American look today?

In this great experiment of a nation, why would we rebuild our economy in the image of the false idol economy of 2005? This is our opportunity to reinvent and improve. Let's be truly bold and one day look back at this time in our history with pride that citizens took control over our battered economy and fixed it ourselves.

Jim Cousins

I think poverty is the inability or unwillingness to be generous to others.

Several weeks ago I went with twelve other men to Benton,KY with our chainsaws to work with Mennonite Disaster Service cleaning up properties for mostly elderly people who had been affected by the recent ice storm. I was asked by a local person why we were doing this.
Why did we come all the way from Pennsylvania to help them? I responded that back home our economy is not doing well either. In fact, several of the Amish men in my group were presently out of work because the construction industry is not doing well. And their companies were not expecting a bailout so why not use the time to go give someone else a "bailout"? What better stimulus is there than to help a neighbor in need, even if they are 816 miles away? To me, seeing the joy on an elderly person's face and hearing their story about the ice storm was ample reward. And hearing twelve chainsaws in a backyard is stimulus enough for me!

Ms Tippett,

I enjoy your show on Sunday mornings here in Indianapolis. Your discussions cover subjects found no where else on radio, and link them with literature and philosophy new and old.

The only bone I have to pick with you is, right in the middle of the discussion you shoehorn, "Where is God in all this?", into the moot.

Occam's Razor asks us to seek the simplest answer to a problem. Doctors look for horses, not zebras, when they hear hoofbeats in diagnosis. I invite you to start with what can be repeated and used first before jumping to postulating large powerful invisible Beings that control our fates.

Thank you for letting me vent, Jeff Flowers

Earlier this week I attended a Theology on Tap program. The presentation was based on the relationship between biology snd religion (Science/Faith). Evolution was surely part of this and then the impact on the environment.

It was pointed out that change will have to occur as conditions are effected by the financial crisis and global warming. Significant here was the recognition that our lifestyles will inevitably have to be impacted. I was struck with a fundamental question that I find most perplexing. What within us encourages us to believe that we are entitled to this lifestyle? What about us suggests that we should expect that having our 'needs' met is not enough and that we deserve most or all of our 'wants'? We do so without ever thinking about the impact this may have on others.

This particular financial crisis owes its origins to those "experts" who put their "faith" in individual greed to generate capital but forgot that such initiative also requires oversight from the community (i.e. government) to keep it from destroying the market itself. Booms and busts have occurred regularly in capitalistic societies over the course of several centuries. The hubris of these "experts" meant that they thought that the laws of capital no longer applied.

Yes, capitalism harnesses and maximizes the creative and personal efforts of individuals but it is essentially amoral. People, however, require moral and ethical rules of operation when they live in communities so that they don't destroy each other either through physical or through fiscal violence.

Capitalism is a market system where survival of the fittest is the rule. It operates consistently to be as efficient as possible until it has maximized production etc. at which point demand may fall off and it can't continue. It doesn't matter what the sphere of expansion. The market will always move toward maximum efficency and profits unless it is reined in by the moral rules imposed by the community or by its own natural collapse/fall back. These community rules may govern labor or trade but they impose responsibility on the market that doesn't exist otherwise.

The regulations put into effect after the Great Depression kept the market in check, and more moral than before that crisis, for nearly 80 years. When Republicans argued that these rules crippled the marketplace they ignored both history and ethics in favor of the wild west, survivial-of-the-fittest type of market. And to quote Bible: when you sow the wind, you reap the whirlwind, and all those Bible quoting Republicans either forgot those lessons or never really knew, understood or believed in them.

The cause of this mess lies in intellectual hubris: all these smart money men who couldn't see the forest for the money trees and who all thought that regulations were somehow outdated, that it was the market that posited the morality. Those who loaned money to people who couldn't carry the mortgages (you only needed simple arithmetic to know the ones who couldn't) did so because they could make money by shifting the risk to someone else and the lack of regulation made that easy to do. Those who took the easy loans kept thinking they could always sell when the crunch came. (They too were irresponsible.) Both parties did what was the smart, market efficient thing to do. It was a "no brainer." It was also a "no oversighter."

All financial crises are felt primarily as emotional and psychological crises for individuals. The ethics and morals of it operate on the level of community and at the moment business has destroyed the trust (as well as the capital) necessary for them to do their work.

I have been arguing with a libertarian friend about the lack of basic morality of unregulated business and markets for more than eight years. I suspect that he believes me now. My present problem is that I did not follow my own instincts with respect to retirement savings and I am having a difficult time forgiving myself for that. Cassandra saw what was going to happen to Troy but no one else believed her and even she didn't leave before the city was destroyed.

Some people find solace in religion during a time of economic loss. Personally, I think a lot of religion's "solace" is a kind of projection of one's best internalized parent that people then believe "forgives" them or offers them "love."

I think that sorrow is a part of the human condition. Trying to escape it through some Big Daddy in the sky just doesn't do it for me. In my mind that's just another escape from responsibility. I remain angry with myself for not acting on my own instincts and although I am active politically I have a jaundiced view of how courageous Congress can be to restore the market.

Furthermore, it seems clear that a lot of the guys who got us into this mess still believe their own PR and some, especially the Republicans in Congress, are still peddling this junk. Unbelievable! Now that's something to laugh about, and maybe gallows humor is the only kind left.

The current world crisis is fundamentally a spiritual crisis. Our default mode is that we are human beings who sometimes have spiritual experiences when the reality is that we are spiritual beings who sometimes have human experiences. OK, your understanding of reality is 180 degrees upside down and backwards, now go out there and have a nice life. We shape our lives by the stories we tell each other about the way the world is. These stories go by such names as history, religion/theology, economics,etc., but they are all just made up stories. The map is not the territory. We confuse our story about how things are with reality, and they are often very different. Even science is a story, but a much more reliable one because there is a real committment to verification and consensus. Even there, however, there are fads and fallacies that are accepted as fact, honest mistakes, political manipulation, and a great deal more fraud than many scientists would like to admit.
We need better stories, stories that more closely match reality, whatever that may be. We have tools and strategies for determining the truth, or at least a more likely, more useful story, but our old stories and our fear gets in the way. We do have some new stories, and a few very old stories that just need to be dusted off and rehabbed a little. However, tinkering with tax policy or messing with an already messed up money supply will not work. We mostly don't even know what money is--Jacob Needleman has addressed this topic on your excellent broadcast.
No punk-ass terrorist can bring this mighty nation to its knees, but the unholy alliance known as the military industrial complex surely will. And just may blow the rest of the world to hell in the process. Not some radical crackpot, none other than Five Star General and Supreme Allied Commander in World War II, later President Dwight David Eisenhower warned us. In his farewell address to the nation in 1961(!) Ike said that "the military industrial complex represented a threat to democracy that exists and will persist." We couldn't believe that the same people who had, at that time in living memory of many, saved the world from the Nazi scourge and the same people who were producing a flood of glittering consumer goods could possibly be any kind of threat at all. We the People did not act at that time and today Ike's "iron triangle" of top military leaders, so-called defense contractors, and Washington politicians have morphed into an "iron rectangle" that has boxed us in with a sophisticated apparatus of a mass media controlled by major corporations, populated by talking heads who drift from academia to the corporate world and back, foundations and well funded think tanks that produce a steady stream of white papers and policy and strategy, and a stealth PR industry that has ballooned into a multibillion dollar monster to sell the lies and fake news that keep the People distracted and deluded. Weapons of Mass Distraction, as it were. Add in the Christian Right and we are in real trouble. Those poor, misguided souls believe that the essential precondition for the Second Coming of Jesus is nuclear war with the Arabs and the Russians. It's equally to know that many fundamentalist muslims believe something similaronly they are pulling for the return of the Caliphate, the religiously rulers of Mohammed's time.
Things are actually much worse than they appear, bad as that may be. The United States of America has abandonned its foundations in the rule of law and has gone the way of empire, where power and the status quo are all that counts. George W. Bush, Dick Chaney, and a host of flunkies inside and outside the government should be prosecuted for crimes against the People (Rep. Elizabeth Holzman of Watergate "fame" drew up a legal brief detailing at least five Articles of Impeachment, now languishing in the dustbin of history.) We must not forget that the obscenity of our war against the people of Iraq to secure the oil has been distorted into a noble cause, the search for democracy and helping the Iraqi people achieve peace. Can't happen, not as long as we pursue the primarily military strategy based on a corrupt vision of the once noble idea of America as a nation defined by the Constitution and the rule of law.
When the Massachusetts Supreme Court, with the stroke of a pen, abolished slavery so long ago, they did not bow down before the vast wealth and entrenched political power of the slave trade. They said that slavery was an abomination and must not be allowed to exist, and it was gone, just like that.
Today we are well on the way to a corporate faschist nightmare enforced by ways and means unknown to past despots. Our peril is real and immediate, but we are not in danger from the terrorists or the Liberals or the Conservatives or the homosexuals or the bogeyman. Our greatest threat lies in the Hall of Congress and the corporate boardrooms, and even these, culpable though they may be, are not at the root of our difficulties. It is the False Evidence Appearng Real, the fear that guides our civic order. From the bogus war on drugs to the idea that we can put a fence around our country, guards, gun, and gates will not work for the sustainafuture we need. Never have and never will.
The dialog you good people are engaged in is much more effective for addressing our economic disorder than the criminal, futile, puerile floundering that the moguls of finance and the princes of power in Washington are currently about.
God(dess) bless you. I'll write again when I can. As you might imagine, I have looked into these questions a lot for a long time. I think I may at least have a few possible directions to go in the inquiry, if no final answers. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

My wife and I created a community-building service called Front Porch Forum (http://frontporchforum.com) and already one-third of Vermont's largest city subscribes.

During this economic downturn, Front Porch Forum is seeing signs of hope as people turn toward investing more in community and personal relationships with those around them. This is a good move individually, as well as for our region. A recent study (http://frontporchforum.com/blog/2008/11/24/citizen-engagement-and-econom...) found a "significant correlation between community-citizen engagement and the economic growth."

An example... One can take a second job working at WalMart, invest the income in a mutual fund, and hope that the principal is still there in a few months. Or, one can spend those hours instead volunteering on community projects with neighbors (rebuilding a playground, forming a neighborhood watch, etc.)... investing that time and energy into your home place.

Some recent vignettes from FPF...

COMMUNITY MORE POWERFUL THAN LOCKS!
"Hi folks - With all this talk about bike theft, thought it would be a good time to share with you that my bike, which I reported stolen about a month ago, was spotted by a friend and successfully returned to me! I'd also like to share how super supportive this community was in response -- I received over 10 offers to borrow or keep spare bikes. I feel very, very, fortunate to live here, and appreciate the ways we work together. Thanks to everyone!"

ROOM AT OUR TABLE
"Hi Neighbors - Did you forget to make plans for Thanksgiving? Plans fall through? Looking at a boring/lonely turkey sandwich? Have a friend in such a situation? Please consider joining us. We have a few (1-3) extra seats at our cozy table, a big turkey, lots of other yummy dishes, and a lot of friendship to share. Kids welcome.

Please join us in celebrating this season of blessings and renewal…give me a call or email..."

LOST DOG PULLS NEIGHBORS TOGETHER
"I did get a lot of responses offering help [from my Front Porch Forum posting]. Many people offered to take the dog in until the owner was found, others offered to help put up notices in the neighborhood and others gave support by offering food and such to help me while I looked for the owner. Using the front porch forum really brought the community together for a small little dog, that I truly fell in love with in just over 24 hours. Thanks."

I do regard this as a spiritual / moral crisis. In this country we kill 3-4,000 plus human beings each business day. Look what happened to the Confederacy, which promoted slavery. Look what happened to the Nazi's, who promoted racial discrimination and killing. Our country supports, now more and more legally, this killing of human beings. So what will happen to us as a result? We are seeing what will happen.

I guess I am finding all of this talk about virtue and morals a bit arrogant and maybe middle and upper middle class of us. Our concentration on our loses and how they are affecting us. Funny what I am seeing is lots of anger out there. Driving, people are driving so crazy and without concern to others. I think those who did not have are now feeling anger in that there is now money for the middle class to recover when there was not money for the poor ever. Here we are worried about ourselves, me included. So what am I doing. Trying to work a bit more. Not looking at my portfolio I still have one, I think? Knowing that I will be okay I have lived more simple anyway. Back to rice and pasta away from Boca Burger and the such. Working with my kids on more simplicity for ourselves and others. This has not been easy. Letting go of cable and the land line. Spending more time with friends and taking walks and talking more honestly about money and how to live. I no longer charge a fee for my yoga classes but it is by donation so all can come. My belief is people leave from nothing to $20.00 it all works out. I do not teach yoga for money I do other things for that.
Leadership I am looking for is one who will not cave into big corporations and continue with the gluttony of capitalism. One who will not bail out companies that are unwilling to change. Big cars have been a thing of the past for years. Time to make something that works for a new country of people. Time to work on wind energy and solar energy. Start at the White House! Time to stop the wars. It has been a big part of our economy for decades. We kill others so we can live better. Mr. Obama has some of what I am looking for he has to be brave and not cave in. There is great hope for leadership that will bring us closer to a new world and new way of life. Work with people on letting go of the fear. We will be better then we were if we can just let go of what was and prayer for a future that will truly benefit all on this planet. The new Global world is a new challenge and we can meet it but in a new paradigm that has yet to unfold. We need to allow it to unfold.
Thank you for reading this and allowing me to vent and say some of what has been on my mind now for a couple of years. And more since October of 2008. Blessing! May Peace Prevail on Earth, Dove

I am a college student about to graduate. Today it's safe to be a college student, but it's not so safe to graduate. What happens after graduation is unpredictable and unreliable because of the financial crisis.

The economists say the financial crisis is larger than they thought, but at the same time it's smaller too: it's just one part of an ever larger "future" crisis. The problems looming for my generation have grown from hurdles into mountains before my eyes: the severe ecological limitations of oil, water, and food; the wracked social security system and my parents that it might not be providing for; the tensing political and economic climate - Sometime I feel like I'm in over my head, and the anxiety gets to me.

These problems have really provoked me, and have got me thinking about many of the assumptions I was raised with. I've realized the inviability of many of the intrinsic doctrines of our epoch. I've begun to consider the possibility that the facade of our material society is just that, a facade, and can itself collapse; maybe Man will not always be progressing, and even that our material progression has caused us to loose sight of the importance of intellectual and spiritual progression; that science may not provide all of our solutions, and that it certainly does not answer the questions of suffering and death.

In fact, I've come to see these myths as the reason for the current crisis - an intellectual and spiritual weakness has caused the financial crisis. We've come to rely on material society and the explanations if offers to ease our struggles and solve our problems, and so we've been able to neglect the more important questions and problems of life.

And as the financial crisis exposes these suspect myths, perhaps we can gain the benefit of it. Let's hope it will inspire a deeper awakening among our population, a return to what is important. Even if things regress far beyond our anticipation, it aught not perturb us if we have a profound understanding of life - death is inevitable, and at the individual level our future is in the hands of fate, whether that be ease or struggle.

My religion, Islam, teaches me what's important: God, family, and community. It teaches me to hold my material possessions in my hand, and not my heart, so if they're taken away from me I won't be affected. It teaches me to count my wins and my losses as one, both important facets to a far more important journey.

Yes, I'm graduating, but no, I won't let anxiety get to me. In times of struggle, there is work to be done, people to be helped. I'll remember what's important, and I'll make do.

Our capitalist culture is in a moral crisis because the limited resources of this planet cannot sustain the demands of the growing populations. The Iraq war was immoral and pointed out our inability to militarily exploit third world nations for their resources and maintain our consumption levels at home. China and India's exploding materialistic populations have exposed the Western nation's wasteful and exploitive economic lifestyles. We can either go to war and bomb each other into the stone age or address the main flaw in capitalism, "the Tragedy of the Commons". The collective 'economically rational' behavior of exponentially growing populations will lead to a collapse of the commonwealth. Any solution to this global crisis will require discipline, whether by the individual or by governments. We must all become scientists and economists. Reason and rationality must prevail over faith and belief. We know the physical limitations of our planet and the consequences of not following the laws of nature. Wishing these truths away is paramount to insanity.
Our family is not changing its behavior except to do what we have been doing more so. We live close to the land in a rural area of the midwest. We do not see immoral behavior in our community. We see rational behavior that doesn't make sense when everyone does the same thing on a collective level. Our government is immoral when it does not provide the leadership we need in this global crisis. We think that Obama is trying to correct the course of a ship that may already be up on the rocks. That's the problem, we may have already passed the Malthusean tipping point and Nature will take over in rebalancing the ecosystem. And God help us when Nature takes over. " Hell hath know fury like a Woman Scorned."
On a personal note I find "Speaking of Faith" somewhat naive and simplistic in a world where 90% of the population can barely feed the adults or provide shelter for chlidren. I would like to see more of your interviews with government officials in those countries where our future already exists. Go to China, India, Indonesia, Somalia, Pakistan, and find the scientists, economists, mathematicians, and policy planners and ask them what the Truth is. The West is not reality, our thinkers have luxuries that only the richest of the Third World can dream of, interview the real world. And throw away the Bible, Koran, etc, and reelevate Reason to its proper place as the basis for solving our collective moral and spiritual problems.

Just east of St Louis here, this Sunday morning there was a shooting at a Baptist church, killing at least one. Can't say what the killer's motives were, but I've certainly been angry - enraged, in fact - at God in my 51 years of existence. When I was enraged at God (1981), I was suicidal yet "crazy" enough to not want to commit suicide: God would undoubtedly send me straight to hell was my "crazy" notion.

One thing that's helped me is meditation. I don't know why it works so I "just do it." It helps me find acceptance of things I don't like including violence. It also helps me to accept that there will always be religion that the fragile and desperate turn to for help. Buddhism emphasizes the practices of meditation & compassion because, I think, when we meditate we are confronted with our selves, what we think & feel which isn't always pleasant to see. Thus the practice of compassion for our warts & farts, if you will.

It is my wish that churches would come closer to recognizing what science has seen, and find compassion for themselves if their faith doesn't match up. The outward trappings of religion can enrage someone who finds his/herself caught in it. "The truth shall set you free" Jesus is supposed to have said and it is time to practice the truths of honesty with compassion about the organizations built around Jesus.

What we are currently experiencing in America is the culmination of twenty years of greed and materialism run rampant-- in all industries, and in our personal lives. Too long the attitude, "What's in it for me?" has prevailed. I live on the edge of obscurity, yet, write every day, with the hope that one day any one of my original screenplays will find the savvy producer who understands that "less is more", that "great films" can be small in elements or concept, but big in heart and the human element, and integrity of the story... Great films are born of great screenplays, and one needn't be a "brand" name (writer, producer, or star) to be the only ones creating the blue prints for "the classics of tomorrow". Perhaps a "shift in consciousness" in Hollywood, and elsewhere, is called for-- one that comes from seeing and listening to our world in new ways-- and also in the discovery that the very mysteries we find so exciting, are part of all of us. We can feel the tension between civilization and nature, because we humans have created it.

The economic crisis has only made us all more aware of our humanness, that we are not Gods, no matter how grand our lifestyles. Now we become more selective, more open to finding new ways to thrive, despite the economy, and without funding sources. Many of us are unemployed, but despite this economic downturn, we can rely on our imagination, and our American dexterity at problem solving-- if we choose to explore what is really important and necessary in our lives, if we choose to really live, without "things", and without the attitude of "entitlement". This has led to the inflated worth of everything, including ourselves as a society.

With a "fresh outlook" and new-found consciousness, we can overcome just about anything. Let me share this simple wisdom, something I wrote when all seemed lost:

OUTLOOK--
How do we reaffirm, above all else, that life is good, and of itself, the greatest pleasure?
And if at times, it is surprisingly violent and sad, and we do not have the clarity of vision,
each day, to see the beauty of life, inconstant as it is, alternating with sorrow and joy, then we miss the most profound meaning in our lives; and much of life's beauty, simplicity, and intricacy escapes us entirely.

This is what I mean when I say: "It begins with a shift in consciousness..."

All things are possible. Find happiness in people, not things. Find wealth in sharing food, words of wisdom, poetry, and art. We all have stories in us-- sit under the full moon and share stories with others. Make time for family and friends. Laugh, and be content in knowing you are making the world a better place.

Barbara Rosson Davis
Mother, Poet, Screenwriter,

I teach Language Arts at a high school where over 70% of our students are economically disadvantaged. As the economic crisis has deepened, I have seen several of our students' parents lose their jobs. Some have lost their homes; some students depend on the school lunches and breakfasts for their main source of nourishment. When I look at these children, I question the value of what I teach. Does it really matter if they know how to make their pronouns and antecedents agree when they are not sure where they will sleep tonight? Will Shakespeare's beautiful words keep their stomachs from growling in the middle of the night? How do they concentrate on homework when they worry what will happen to their families?
Even so, I believe that everything happens for a reason - has a purpose in the bigger scheme of things. Since last August, my Honors American Literature class has been discussing the American Dream and tracing how it has changed over time. One of my first assignments was for the students to define the American Dream. Typically, the definitions mostly centered on money and fame - luxury SUVs, mansions, and notoriety. At first I was disappointed in the answers, but as the economy worsened I began to see the situation as an opportunity for all of us, me included, to realign our priorities.
What better time is there to re-examine the values on which the nation was founded and to evaluate their worth today? Through the great American writers both the students and I get to see how our ancestors weathered the tough times and what helped to keep their hopes and dreams alive. These pieces start conversations about our responsibility to our communities and society in general, how much is enough and can there ever be too much, and the difficulties of controlling desire in a materialistic nation.
I heard one of your guests say that "a crisis is a terrible thing to waste." I agree. People only grow through dealing with difficulties. I hope this economic crisis stimulates people all across the globe to have the same conversations that my classes are having. I am sure the economy will eventually get better; it always does. But while we are here, let's put it to good use to build stronger ties to our community and one another,teach our children that people, not things, matter, and remember that we, not our possessions, create our own happiness.

I’ve just listened to the full SOF program of the first week of March. It seemed that the capsules of reflection and (some) reconsideration contained therein all had value and merit. But, across the current spiritual landscape as a whole, I would vouch that two important features went almost fully unconsidered. Firstly, there is a new generational responsibility in play today, somewhat the complement of what Dr. Guroian spoke to. Those of us who have grown children for whom education was narrower than our own, but who now have the responsibility of raising and nurturing a new generation, surely need to “plug fill” some of the gaps that were left open in the race for graduation diplomas and degrees, M.B.A.s or otherwise. The current economic situation is – after all – largely the result of opportunism (here in the U.S. at least) by our own baby-boomer set. (Not leaving aside that much of the ongoing, global environmental degradation also has the same root.) As a second observation, it seems that the SOF series has not delved into the role that art can play in gathering and catalyzing enthusiasms, and in uplifting the spiritual aspects of life. From the website it appears that no professional visual or musical artist has featured at all – to date – in the ‘Repossessing Virtue’ series. Ms. Min, in today’s program, may have been able to go on to cover some perspectives on these topics, from her viewpoint as a writer, but presumably had no scope to do so. (She did, however, speak eloquently on one aspect of the generational aspects of social change; that involving perspectives from within a new immigrant family.) History reveals that visual art, including architecture, plus poetry and music, have, through millennia, spurred huge spiritual renewals and growth, even in times of hardship and pestilence which would lay society low in any region of the “developed world” today. Why was it – for example – that live poetry and music were featured in the recent Presidential inauguration, against the visual backdrop of one of the U.S.’ finest architectural gems? It was not simply to provide an aesthetic experience. Fundamentally I do not take it to be constructive to attempt a wholly generalized answer to the “who will we be for each other?” question. Perhaps this would have been better phrased as: who can I become for the betterment of my family and community. In any event, my own baby-boomer generation needs nowadays, when either approaching or in retirement, to get concentrating upon leaving a positive legacy that outlives us (and not simply be adding to piles of Chinese-produced possessions). For myself, I’m committing to transition to being a full time artist, as a member of a local arts center focused upon teaching as well as exhibitions.

Hi, Krista! I listen quite regularly, and like the variety of topics you explore. On the economic downturn: I noticed some weeks ago that on my days off (when I don't set the alarm), I was waking up with frightening dream images fairly often. I would be outdoors, usually with other people and doing something perfectly ordinary, like setting up a picnic. Then I'd look around at where we were, and we'd be maybe 50 feet from the edge of a cliff and hundreds of feet up! I'd wake up a bit frightened; I don't like heights. A few times, I've dreamed of standing on a cloud, looking down and wondering how I'd ever make it back safely to the ground.
I've spent some time with these dreams, and in my own mental/emotional language I seem to be sending myself messages of insecurity. Since I'm not in financial trouble, it may be that I'm paying too much attention to the bad news these days. It's hard to hear all the news and still reassure my subconscious that I'm doing okay, if I'm on a long-term personal spending freeze and not talking to others about this stuff. I don't have what most people would consider a lot, but I call it "prosperity on a shoestring." I've noticed, too, that talking about my situation and the ways I've learned to live on less for most of my life can make a difference in how often I have dreams that speak of insecurity, and the responses I get are warm exchanges that speak of our common problems and practical ways of dealing with them. I think it just helps to share more about our lives.
I talked to my daughter this evening (she & her family live out of state) and we talked of Unity Church and the wonderful Giveaway event that was held annually in Grand Rapids in the 1980s. She was going to ask her pastor if such an idea would fly in her area now. She's also suggested a church-wide occasional potluck, which would bring people from 3 services into contact. I love these ideas for bringing people into closer contact and community; I'll be eager for the updates.
Thank you for your show. I'll be listening for more insights.

I have always thought of economics in moral terms. Our income is quite modest and we have never invested because, morally, it felt wrong to support companies that were willfully destroying our natural resources or exploiting humans in far off countries for our personal gain. My hope is that we will become more aware of our own vulnerability and that of our planetary resources. For so long we, in this country, have focused solely on financial gains that we have lost touch with love and the everyday miracles that are right outside our windows. The other day I was taking a walk. The snow was melting rapidly and forming a temporary waterfall down a nearby hillside. I get to see this once a year and it was fantastic. These are the everyday miracles that we take for granted. We think we have to drive to Oregon to see a waterfall, but there it was, in my midwest town, on my walk. Today, appreciation and imagination have been replaced by instant gratification. And to what end? Children are given video games instead of bikes. They kill fake monsters on TV instead of making mudpies after a rain. Maybe this wave will take us back to something more basic. I am not immune. I too am being affected. It's stressful, but I am trying to put it into perspective. I have friends, family, food. I have love. Those things have always mattered to me. The question I have is, can we, as a society, be grateful again? Can we re-learn how to act as a community instead of acting individually? And when the economy recovers, will we retain the lessons? Or will we start the cycle over? Money has corrupted societies for thousands of years. Its handling always involves moral, conscious decision making. Not just now, because there's a crisis. But always.

I think we will never be getting back to 'normal'. After all, what is normal about so few having so much, while the rest live on ever decreasing resources.It is also becoming very obvious that those with way more than enough didn't get it because they work any harder or are any more 'deserving.And all the dissapearing jobs exposes the lie that the wealthy must keep their wealth because they 'create' most of the jobs.So when one looks out at the absurd wealth still enjoyed by a few it certainly does raise moral and spiritual questions.Not to mention issues of trust, like have we been duped? Not only by our business and financial institutions, but by our religions? Or have these instituions simply reached the point where they're not sustainable. I mean, how many times can one convince themselves that Jesus will return to save the rightous? Or some variation on that story. Humans are high maintenence creatures and if they're not paid enough to live on, they must be subsidized. Profits go down, share holders find themselves with incomes more like regular workers, and eventually, we all have enough, but not enough to horde.Money, like energy must be allowed to move and circulate. Look to the natural world for new models. Squirrels store enough for winter, not enough for generations and then make loans to be paid back with interest.And no, I don't think we'll go back to living in mud huts, unless those that have don't come out of denial soon and begin gently shifting the money supply downward so those of us living in poverty can start doing as much as we still can for ourselves and hiring our friends and neighbors to do what we can't. This is where ground zero community building starts. PS. I'm self-employed. I make about $6000 a year [six thousand] and I live in the country in rural northern WI.
The only welfare program I qualify for is food stamps and fuel assistence, even though I have no saveings. I do own my own home, which I have been building for 30 years. I've never had a building loan, or a credit card.I am the Poster Old Lady for what happens when you really do live with-in your means in this inflated economy.
We will learn to do far more with less, thru inovation, conservation,and cultivating a spirituality that is experiential in a very personal and practical way.

I moved to Stamford Ct in August of last year with my husband and two small children, because my husband had a job here. I left my dear friends, faith community and support system of "Mom" freinds, i.e my community. My husband was laid off in September. I sat in this house we rented with my toddler while my other son went to kindergarten. I knew no one, I had not really met anyone new, or felt very welcomed or comfortable with anyone yet. My friends and support system and sustaining lifeline of community, networking and familiar were either back in Brooklyn or on Cape Cod where the rest of our family lives.
I felt paralyzed, and kind of like I was living in the twilight zone.
Then I decided we were going to find a church.
"Christ the healer" appropriately named, an Episcopal church here in North Stamford.
I walked in the door, and knew immediately that this was where I needed to be.
The "body" as it were of people were and are welcoming, wonderful and offered hope in a time when I felt lost and lonely. I was looking for community, and support as we try to find our way through this labyrinth of life. I had found it. I immediately dove in. Prayer group for healing prayer, bible study, pancake suppers, lenten booklets, sewing banners. The essential quality of being in a community, involved and counted on as a "member of the body" is enriching and sustaning. The leg cannot move without the hip and so on....
The idea that we live in community is not treated as sacred, and it should be. We are here on this planet to support one another, watch out for our neighbor, care for eachother in crisis or not. There is no real point to being here unless we can help one another, is there? I hope I can instill in my children the values of kindness, consideration, love, and a belief that we can count on those we need in a time of crisis, just as we would be that person/those people to others in their need. I's not rocket science, actually rocket science is probably easier, it doesn't involve the complexities of human relationship and emotions.
Who we need to be for eachother is that person who says simply.
"How are you doing?" with a kind smile or a simple touch.
"What can I do?" "Can I do anything to help?"
Look in to each other's eyes, offer a kind word, tell people to remember to breathe. We will embody hope and understanding, living out community in action.
I know I will be cared for ultimately if things get any worse. I have loving family back on the Cape. We are the lucky ones. My husband still does not have a job, and we are trying to figure out what to do and where to go next. I can be that person to others in a similar situation- I was today as I spoke on the telephone to a brand new friend whose husband just got laid off. I told her, "one day at a time, don't worry this second about what you will do, and don't forget to breathe, you are not alone. Please come over."
The simplest of things are kindness, consideration, being loving and finding community. In a sense it is hospitality. Hospitality is what can sustain me at this moment. It happens to be in faith community, which is what it needs to be for me, especially now. But even when things are great I still say TBTG-Thanks be to God. My life by standards (in the world, even in America) is great and I count my blessings every day. My beautiful children, wonderful husband, warm bed and food to eat. It's all simple, ultimately.

Holy Interruptions and Transforming Initiatives

I am an ordained American Baptist minister, though I teach religion and philosophy in a liberal arts curriculum at Mars Hill College in Western North Carolina.

Your call to speak of our own responses to this economic crisis comes during the observance of Lent. Lent was not in my tradition growing up, yet its pull upon me in later life has an appropriate and even necessary correlation to Socrates’ high call to the examined life that renders life human.

This year, I experimented with a new ear to listen to the call of Lent. It has two chords. The first sounded during a course I teach on human nature. A challenge emerged after a week of studying Plato’s depiction of his mentor “The Apology of Socrates”, and of Glaucon’s more terrifying challenge to the human spirit to become vulnerable and visible in his story, “The Ring of Gyges.

“Lend me your cell phone batteries,” I asked, “for 24 hours. If that’s too threatening because of circumstances you cannot control, then lend me your iPod, your X-Box, your computer cable – whatever it is, and whatever it takes, to demonstrate how much reach the electronic, virtual culture has a reach into our individual and common lives.” (I am a participant too.) Right then, we watch together a segment of the first Matrix movie, the part that has the following quotes.

Morpheus: The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you're inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.

[Neo's eyes suddenly wander towards a woman in a red dress]

Morpheus: Were you listening to me, Neo? Or were you looking at the woman in the red dress?

Neo: I was...

Morpheus: [gestures with one hand] Look again.
[the woman in the red dress is now Agent Smith, pointing a gun at Neo's head; Neo ducks]

Morpheus: Freeze it.
[Everybody and everything besides Neo and Morpheus freezes in time]

Neo: This... this isn't the Matrix?

Morpheus: No. It is another training program designed to teach you one thing: if you are not one of us, you are one of them.
[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8sZAv71ENnY]

I emphasize from this quote that most of us (1) “are not ready to be unplugged,” and will (2) “fight to protect” an enslaving system, AND (3) one is either a plugged-in agent who can be anything … and dangerous, or one has unplugged and thus cannot be a deceiver.

This really gets the students thinking! Heck, it gets me thinking!

I ask the students to figure out where they are plugged in, living virtually, and not concretely. If it’s a cell phone (for many of my students 300-400 texts per day are not uncommon, a feat that must take hours each day), then offer the battery up for 24 hours. If it’s X-Box or anything else, go on a 24-hour fast from that. Write about your experiences, with the Matrix dialogue above sounding in your mind’s ear.

The papers turned in were astounding. “I didn’t realize how much I had sold out!” “I actually read – finished – a book for the first time in years.” “I feel like I am a prostitute; I can be bought. I have a price.” For someone who listened to music literally all day, came this Aha! moment: “I had never heard birds on campus before!”

These responses affected me deeply. What I unwittingly initiated was a spiritual practice – holy interruption. While our lives get interrupted by the unexpected time and again (for Mary, the visit of Gabriel; to us, the phone call in the middle of the night), what would happen if we “planned” interruptions? Could we “transubstantiate” or render these naturally occurring interruptions into sacramental, free-willed intentionality – freely willed choices to remove something through holy interruption?

With the above in mind, for Lent this year, here is my second chord: I have initiated Sundays interrupted by not eating solid food. In contrast to this interruption, I have begun an integration (“addition” is not the right word) of reading and learning more about hunger, with an eventual end to doing something more about hunger in my area.

This regular interruption/integration has led me further afield. An interrupting city bus ride instead of taking the car brings up fascinating conversations that would otherwise never happen. Sitting with students instead of work colleagues in the school cafeteria invites surprising and often in-depth conversations.

“Transforming initiatives” is a phrase by ethicist Glen Stassen. Instead of waiting for the sky to fall, the world to intervene or something to occur that stimulates a mere reaction, can one speak of pro-active initiatives that bring about conscious, transformational initiatives?

How does this work with the current economic crisis? Why not live “already on the edge,” remove more and more of the unnecessary, and integrate a transformed consciousness? While there’s a good chance that I will not be really seriously affected by this crisis, does that mean that I have a right to live above it? Can I not live “as if” it’s affecting me as much as it already affects my neighbor? Can I not remove key elements of my lifestyle, learn its transformational and interrupting power, and then live in accountable ways to the fact that most of the world already lives like that, and then donate my excess to those in more need?

Where’s the human nature here? Since I teach a course on human nature every year, I think of this a great deal. For me, the Sermon on the Mount, and the hard teachings of the recognized spiritual masters in the world’s faith traditions, are NOT impossible, but “difficult possibilities” for which we are capable, the more so that we are conscious and living an examined life. I do not think I could love my enemies as well if I am being merely reactive, for example. Joining this, the Confucian point of view demonstrates to me that our human nature is almost infinitely malleable; we are teachable and can adapt to almost any circumstance. These insights give me great hope that we can weather great trials, because we can initiate such trials – even if on a “trial basis” – before they become trying.

So I write about these reflections to you. Hope they help.

Marc Mullinax,
Associate Professor of Religion & Philosophy
Mars Hill College
Mars Hill, NC 28754
mmullinax@mhc.edu
828-713-7319

Daylight Savings Poem

These are the days we were warned of
When our jobs and self-worth face the knife,
Foreclosure knocks for the neighbor next door;
There is caution and worry at night.

On great times self-reliance
Is bought by you and me;
Ego obscures the Vision
Of Everything we see.

Hard time will cause Man to pause,
He fails or reaches out;
The helping hand that touches pain
Is what this Life's about.

Make no mistake, you were given a break
As far back as the womb;
The dash in the dates on your headstone
Represents time between birth and tomb.

Love and Compassion are free for the taking,
Restoring self-worth just when I think I'm breaking;
Myth is illusion, Only Love counts.
These convictions are formed as the evidence mounts.

Blessing are gifts that one does not deserve;
They are lost when I think they're my right.
I no more bring up the Sun in the morning
Than I cast out the shadows of night.

Hard times will level a fellow,
Ladies give heed to this, too;
Nothing but Love and Compassion
Saves me or satisfies you.

F.Greg Wright
3-8-09
5:55 a.m.
Falls Church, Va.

For the last eighteen years my husband and I have worked to raise my daughter in, what we have hoped to be, a holistic way. She learned her academics, strengthened her body and began her own spiritual path. When she applied to college last year, she choose a college that met her needs in a holistic way. This should not have been surprising given her past upbringing, but strictly academic schools or schools that emphasized athletics did not ring true in her search. She selected a school that has a spiritual grounding steeped in a tradition of community service and social action,with high academic standard and very competitive sports teams.

After 18 years of schooling my child full time, I turned to re-enter the work place as a professional fund raiser. The timing of my re-entry could not have been worse. What had been a large field of fund raising positions disappeared over night. Giving went the way of the market and yet demands of non-profits services that depended upon these gifts increased.

I had a choice to look for work that I would perform for the sole purpose to bring home a paycheck or to try to remain in the fund raising field to help non profits find their way through the mine fields of this depression/economic "reset". My search for a job, like my daughter's search for a college,needed to have a holistic dimension. Our souls need to be fed by our jobs, as well as our bodies, especially in this difficult economic climate.

I am in the process of opening up a fund raising consulting business that uses tools such as eBay and social e-networks that can help nonprofits through this economic storm. I am hoping this fund raising "reset" will help non profits enter the future economy ready to serve in a new way.

IN ALL THINGS MAY GOD BE PRAISED! IN ALL THINGS IN LIFE WE MAKE CHOICES, LIKE MY MOM BAKING A CAKE. ECONOMICS ARE THE RULES OF THE HOUSE. OUR MORAL CHOICES, THE HABIT OF CHOOSING ONE THING OVER ANOTHER, IS EQUIVALENT TO A PATTERN OF CONDUCT OR BEHAVIOR (MORALS). THIS PATTERN OF BEHAVIOR IS OUR SET OF RELIGIOUS VALUES.

MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE OF THIS TIME FRAME IN MY LIFE AND THE COMMUNITY THAT I LIVE IN IS DEFINITELY AN ENCOUNTER OF THE SPIRITUAL, ECONOMICS AND MORALS.

IT HAS BEEN A VERY PAINFUL TIME AND AT THE SAME TIME A VERY DEEP SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE. LAST YEAR I LOST MY JOB BASED ON INTERNAL CONSPIRACY TO ASSURE EMPLOYMENT FOR THOSE WITH HIGHER SENIORITY ABOUT TO BE PINK-SLIPPED. A CASE OF THE ALLOCATION OF SCARCE RESOURCES. THE MORALS USED TO MAKE THESE DECISIONS ARE A SIGN OF MORAL CRISIS, STEP ON AS MANY PEOPLE AS YOU WANT AS THAT PERSON COMES OUT ON TOP.

FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE, AND THAT OF MY FAMILY I AM NOW ON FOOD STAMPS. IT HAS BEEN A VERY HUMBLING AND HUMILIATING THING TO LIVE THROUGH AND OFTEN I FEEL TOO WEAK TO GET OUT OF THE SITUATION. WHEN RECURRING TO MY FAITH-BASED COMMUNITY THE HARSHNESS OF THE MEMBERS OF THE CLERGY ARE TOO PAINFUL TO REPEAT. OTHER PERSONS KNOWING OF MY PLIGHT, NO MONEY, NO INCOME, NO PLACE TO LIVE, HAVE COME UP TO PAY FOR A MONTH'S RENT AT A TIME, FOOD, BEDDING, AND A SMILE AND A PHONE CALL TO LET ME KNOW THEY CARE. NOW, I HAVE TO SAY THAT SOME OF THESE PEOPLE DO NOT WANT ME TO TALK TO THEM OF GOD, OR CHURCHES WHERE ALL THEY PERCEIVE FROM THAT GROUP'S ATTITUDE IS COLLECTING MONEY OR WHAT KIND OF CAR YOU DRIVE.

AS I READ MY BIBLE AND THE WRITINGS OF JOHN OF THE CROSS, STEPHANIE POWERS, BLESSED TERESA OF CALCUTTA, THE WORDS OF THE AUTHOR ASSURE ME THAT THIS IS AN ONGOING CYCLE, JUST KEEP THE FAITH IN A LOVING GOD AND CONSOLATION WILL COME. SOMETIMES IT IS ME THAT IS LEARNING AND OTHER TIMES OUR LOVING GOD IS USING ME TO TEACH OTHERS.

Searching

If God is on some mountaintop
Must I ascend the heights?
Do I need endure the heat of the desert
Or weather the cold of night?

I'm sure that I will lose close friends,
I will mourn the loss of pets;
Future fears are also fueled
By past acts we regret.

But if I make an effort
To look for God today
He leaves the lofty mountaintops
And leads me on my way.

God does not reside upon
Some distant mountain range;
He lives inside each molecule
Although that may sound strange.
He roams and reigns the Universe,
Owns the sky and the wind and the sea,
Of course He cares about this Soul
And live inside of me.

F.Greg Wright
Written 11-29-08/4:55 a.m.
Falls Church, Va.

Not "If" Do not seek and you won't find, Close the door on being kind; Hate the sinner but love your sins Or believe that the one with the most toys wins. Call people stupid to make you feel smart, Give from your wallet instead of your heart; Climb over friendships to get to your goal, Worship possessions and be in control. Stifle the urge to be Human, Treat yourself as Number One; Fail to love another And fail as a man, My son. F.Greg Wright Falls Church, Va.

At the end of 2006, my husband I retired early - at ages 59 and 57, respectively - so that we'd still be active enough to enjoy our new found freedom from the workplace. In 2007, we visited friends on the West Coast and traveled to airshows [where my husband took photos and I wrote articles for an aviation magazine]. My husband began taking classes at the local community college, working part time in the computer lab and doing volunteer work for NAMI [Nat'l Alliance on Mental Illness]. I focused on the novel I was writing and various community charity programs, such as Elizabeth House and the American Cancer Society's Road to Recovery. In 2008 I drove more than 1,600 miles for charities. In March of 2008, I started my self-publishing company, so that I could produce my novel and have control over its marketing and any future rights that might spin off of it. When the summer of 2008 rolled around, we bought kayaks and practically lived on the local reservoirs; making one trip to kayak on the Broadkill river in Delaware.

Then the "crash" came in October and we saw our comfortable retirement nest egg crack and begin to dribble away. Suddenly, we were faced with the real possibility that not only would we have to trim our spending drastically and live on a frugal budget, but we might have to return to work. Yeah! Right. Return to work with more people every day competing for what jobs still existed. Graying 60-year-olds competing with sharp "youngsters." Fortunately, the time my husband had spent at the computer lab and in class paid off. He had met people who encouraged him to take an adjunct teaching position - something he had always wanted to do; teach college students. Without a Masters degree he couldn't have applied right off the street. But, with the backing of his contacts and a strong work-experience background in the computer language he would be teaching, the school hired him. He's currently teaching an evening course this Spring Semester.

I took this opportunity to form a division within my publishing company that offers virtual assistant services. Though not as successful as my husband's teaching venture, I've had one customer and I've done one free service for a charitable organization. I have a couple potential customers who may call on me when their seasonal workload peaks. It's probably going to be harder for me until I build up a client base, but we seem to be doing alright. We've cut back, but we don't go hungry. We have clean clothes to wear and a roof over our heads. I never was one to chase after a new product or name brand. When asked what I wanted for Christmas, I only wanted to go to a local live theater and see a show. I am happy to get by with less. I treasure what I have and I give what I can to those who have so little. It's amazing how it is still possible to give in the face of scarcity. The hardship of the times has showed us what is really important - our health, our family and friends, strangers in need, a sunset, a quiet moment with a cup of coffee. Life sparkles more.

And in the face of hardship, another positive side about our autumn years seems to be our resilience. Neither of us has become depressed about where we are. We have faith in the advice of our financial advisers, each other and in the qualities within ourselves that keeps moving us forward. We both have a strong spiritual nature, too. Although from Jewish and Christian backgrounds, we follow our hearts. I rely on the Holy Spirit to keep me going in the right direction and for whacking me aside of the head when I venture off the path. Focusing on the present really helps, too. Worrying about an unknown future isn't worth the pain and suffering. When we've been confronted with an obstacle, we look for the best way to move beyond it; even if that leads to retreating to a simpler place and way of life.

When I think about the economic situation, one idea immediately comes to mind: groundlessness. I work in the arts, and I know many people who have taken pay cuts, and suffered job loss. It has been my intention to adopt an attitude of optimism, abundance, and prosperity, no matter what (keeping in mind the Buddhist slogan "Don't be swayed by external circumstances"), but I can also experience concern, anxiety, and the concept of groundlessness. However, I am grateful that my longstanding spiritual practices help me stay in the present, and provide solace. These practices include yoga and meditation, reading (I am re-reading passages from Jacob Needleman's "Money and the Meaning of Life", in order to gain perspective), and cultivating gratitude for what is already abundant in my life. Reaching out to others, in the spirit of community, is also very important at this time. Last year, I was in Ireland on business, and I enjoyed a spontaneous conversation with an elderly woman who had suffered a bad fall the night before. She was in discomfort, and yet when I asked how she was feeling, she said "It's the spirit that keeps you going!" I loved that response! For me, this woman's attitude is inspiration as I live my life these days. I am grateful to "Speaking of Faith" for the show's focus on the economy, and how people from various walks of life are coping......

On shaming:

I was startled to hear President Obama use the word “shameful” in upbraiding Wall Street executives who accepted $20 billion in bonuses last year, in some cases after their firms had received federal bailout funds. As the President told a gathering of reporters in the week after he took office, “it is shameful” that these executives were continuing to reward themselves as they had during the boom – or rather, bubble – years, even as they expected taxpayers to prop up their failing firms. Wall Street was going to have to repent, by showing “restrain,” “discipline,” and above all, “responsibility.” Sounding rather like a parent astounded by a display of adolescent selfishness, yet still hoping that an appeal to reason might get through, the President added, “They should know better.”

I was startled, I realize, because I’d learned to think of the practice of shaming as distasteful, primitive, a throw-back that could and should be engineered out of contemporary society whenever it cropped up. One of the issues I follow in my work in health care ethics is what happens after a patient is injured, whether this injury results from one person’s mistake or from a badly-designed system. I’ve learned to condemn those reflexive “blaming and shaming” habits in health care that may seek relief through scapegoating a resident or a nurse, rather than by facing a complex problem and, if necessary, beginning the hard, slow work of changing a damaged culture that cannot keep its most vulnerable members safe from harm. And I’ve learned that good doctors and nurses may feel ashamed of their mistakes: as physician Atul Gawande memorably wrote about a mistake he made as a surgical resident, “I was what was wrong.” This private shame, if coupled with public shaming practices, may mean that physicians and nurses carry their mistakes around with them for years, even decades, rather than figuring out where these incidents belong in their moral and professional lives.

I also realized that I’d learned to think of the practice of shaming as an anthropological and psychological curio. Honor and shame cultures were understood to be utterly different from justice cultures – and we were one of those justice cultures. Except, of course, when we, as a society, reverted to the rough justice of scapegoating. We should know better – but sometimes, shaming felt better.

And yet, I don’t think President Obama was scapegoating the Wall Streeters, indulging himself, and ourselves, in a little rough justice, a little dose of public humiliation to transfer our unruly emotions – including, perhaps, our guilty consciences – onto the fat cats. I think he was reclaiming what scholars of Jewish and Christian ethics refer to as the prophetic tradition, that bracing diagnostic practice that calls a society back to its moral self, sometimes by calling out its most flagrant transgressors, who were always those who broke covenant with the widow and the orphan, who ignored the stranger at the gate. The goal of this kind of shaming is not necessarily the conversion of the moral outliers, but a reminder to the rest of us that their behavior lies on the other side of a discernible line – no ethical “grey area” here – that divides right action from wrong action. They should know better. We do know better. We are responsible for using what we know to create that culture of “restrain,” “discipline,” and “responsibility” that will take care of the widow, the orphan, and the stranger, that will serve us all better – until, inevitably, flawed builders that we are, we have to repair it yet again.

Last Christmas in my choral society at Grace Church we sang O Magnum Mysterium. I know the latin text is about the incarnation of god in man.

But, in my mind last Fall the Magnum Mysterium as what seemed like the whole social order I knew my whole life and that my grandparents worked so hard for and spoke of was breaking down, and maybe lost to us forever. The data and metrics of rising poverty, infant mortality, bigotry and crime and forecast destitution are all there below the surface. It seemed like the apparent unwinding of a great mystery, a great social mystery never before achieved in human history from which my family and I were privileged to benefit our whole lives. Of course, I read too much history and carry it around with me.

Most of the Western Hemisphere or New World countries are terrible places of economic poverty, injustice and perhaps other kinds of poverty too. That is the experience in the entire new world outside of the 'Old Europe' our leaders are so quick to deride, except for Canada.

They certainly are not places where human potential can easily express or achieve, like happened here so easily in the last two centuries. Or, where higher forms of consciousness about justice and human rights and dignity of the individual spoken of by Socrates broke free from the tyranny of normal caste society, or rule by the strongest and most brutal, as in Callicles who had him executed for suggesting something that could upset the social order over which Callicles and his thugs ruled.

The great mystery was a momentary balance between centuries of evolving moral and ethical culture struggling in despotic kingdoms across the sea, and man's natural tendencies for tyranny and grabbing even here in the new world. Against that same struggle here at the founding of our republic, individual change agents fought to craft unique founding documents that started us on our way. They were a few enlightenment intellects with superb classical philosophy and theologically inspired educations of their day that few of us can muster, or at least while having a day job. Over two centuries many worked hard to spawn democratic institutions that did for a time create a society on the planet that had never expressed before. Although the ideas have been with us now for 2400 yrs, Callicles and his thugs worked hard to block them every step of the way, and they had once again advanced their game even here, even today. Warren Buffett said it well himself, in his comments about someone waging class warfare and winning in this round!

We did manage to push through at some points in our history and demonstrate an inspiration to the whole world for justice and democracy and also the benefits they bring for creative economic and cultural prosperity, even for a brief time in history.

During all those rehearsals and daily news reports of financial destruction, I couldn't help but see the delicate balance we'd achieved being brutally discarded by Callicles and his modern era licenses from Chicago Schools, or Ayn Rand. Ideological licenses so rapidly and rabidly pushed by clandestine powers that be for decades to advance their own material grip, and break down the counterbalancing democratic institutions that had served us all well.

I can only say, I am glad to have been here albeit briefly for this great moment in history. I am glad my grandparents don't see what is happening now, and more importantly don't have to live through anything like it again. My parents however,like everyone else in their generation may feel unprepared for hardships we haven't yet seen.

I'm beginning to see signals though that the knowledge we accumulated this time is more explicit than in failures of states and empires in times past. Because of our educations (a democratic institution starting as a one-roomed school, despised by Callicles) and skills together with a new form of consciousness we've attained in our generation, this great mystery won't have to go underground again for 2000 years until resurrected at the end of some unforeseen Dark Ages!

Just like the image of 100,000 proteins in a cell you spoke about with Dr. Nuland today, we are noisily working in chaos to ensure survival of the species, and something even better than mere survival!

I increasingly think it is up to us to choose to already be through our dark ages, the run-up to this mess perhaps, and emerge rapidly this time. It is up to us. The Magnum isn't such a Mysterium anymore! Why am I surprised?

The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Falmouth is one of the "green churches," on Cape Cod, in Massachusetts. It's a church with a long history of involvement with environmental issues. Many of the members are active in environmental groups, like the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society, and many are biologists or government workers who work in the scientific centers in Woods Hole.

A year ago, it was easy to be green on Cape Cod, and on the nearby islands of Nantucket and Marthas Vineyard. The region is beautiful and it has many defenders. However, the recession raises some difficult questions about environmental protection and social justice.
In religious groups, individuals are starting to address these questions and a new understanding of "environmental justice" is starting to develop. The goal is to protect biodiversity and the natural environment while respecting human rights and human needs.

The cost of living is very high on Cape Cod and on the islands.
Traditional industries, like commercial fishing and agriculture, have been declining for many decades and the region imports most of its food and fuel from the mainland. Many jobs on Cape Cod and the islands are seasonal or part-time, with few benefits. The local economy is heavily dependent on tourism. The area has a large population of retired persons who are past the age of sixty-five.

In some respects, the situation on Cape Cod and on the nearby islands is similar to the situation that exists on resort islands in the
Caribbean and in the Mediterranean. The region is attractive, and it receives thousands of visitors each year, but it's increasingly divided between the "haves" and the "have nots." Some of the natives
complain about "gentrification" and "eco-apartheid." Wealthy visitors arrive on their yachts or on private jets. For a few weeks each year, the wealthy live in multi-million dollar mansions on the coast. Meanwhile, many of the people who make the economy work - the mechanics, the restaurant workers, the nurses and the teachers, and others - struggle to find affordable housing. Young adults leave the region, to search for better opportunities in other areas.

In the future, Cape Cod and the nearby islands may become an exclusive, very protected area, only accessible to a few wealthy
people and their servants. Some environmentalists may welcome
this possibility. However, it's a future that excludes many of the
families that now live on the coast of Massachusetts.

In religious groups, people ask, "What kind of future do we want for Cape Cod and for the Massachusetts islands?" Different people are sustained by different faith traditions. The Unitarian Universalist churches in the area are unusual, because they make a special effort to bring Jews and Christians, Buddhists and Muslims, nature mystics and skeptical scientists, and others, into an interfaith conversation about community life and environmental justice. At the Unitarian Universalist church in Falmouth, a picture of planet Earth is displayed in the foyer. The words on the picture say, "We're all in this together."

I am in the privileged position of still having my job, an income, and a place to live. However, when I last looked, I had lost half of my life savings toward retirement which now seems very far away indeed despite the fact that I'm 61.

I may be in a minority, but I welcome this crisis. I believe that it may save us as a country. For 30 years I have watched with increasing alienation, frustration, and helpless rage as what I deemed fundamental values of a civilized society were systematically being dismantled, ridiculed, and perverted. Caring for one another, paying your fair share, protecting people's rights at work and to work, freedom of thought and action, public media that watched over the welfare of their constituents as politicians wouldn't...the civic life that promises safety and civility. What happened to personal, professional, and institutional ethics? I felt like a stranger in a strange land. Profit ruled everything.

Greed, conspicuous amassing and displaying of wealth became the values of our culture spouted and fostered by increasingly mindless and superficial mass media. It's what our children were asked to aspire to. "Education" was designed to make worker drones out of them, not to enrich their intellect and human spirit or give a sense of mutual civic responsibility.I have never been a believer in conspiracies, but there seemed a plan at work to foster mindlessness, poor reasoning ability, lack of curiosity about anything other than consumption in our children because it makes them less likely to recognize injustice and exploitation or to protest if they do sense something awry. The most honest protest against the status quo in the past few decades seems to me to have come from the world of rap and hip-hop, which has itself fallen victim to the very same excesses it once descried. The most powerful images of this past presidential election for me were the young people, so impassioned, so involved, yearning for something better than they had been offered and KNOWING it!

I was never prouder of my son than when he told me once that he lives simply because he doesn't need to surround himself with things to feel worthwhile. He has said, "I don't mind paying taxes. They bring me civilization." He has always preferred the life of the mind to the pursuit of profit. He is a historian and now a teacher. I wish I could put his message on a million billboards, in every boardroom, in every classroom.

My daughter, on the other hand, wants to become successful in the "conventional" sense and make money. She says it will give her the freedom to make documentary movies that can have a social impact. For her, having enough not to have to worry about it also means regaining a sense of safety and security she lost during the bitter financial battles of my divorce from her father. I do not fault her for wanting this because I have also taught her responsibility towards others and that money can be a means to a life as she would like to live it, but that comfort is not what gives a life meaning. And she too, like her brother, is a seeker for a meaningful life.

I believe that I have raised my children well. I do not worry about their spiritual well being, their intellectual curiosity, or their ability to engage with others and each other in a loving way.

As for the economic consequences of this crisis, I have only half-jokingly told my daughter that she is likely to be my retirement plan! She doesn't seem to mind.

Last week I received my contract for the next teaching year. I am a survivor of this time. Our private school marches on in spite of our down sizing.
I have been the survivor before. Years ago my daughter was struggling, barely living with ALL Luekemia. Children all around us at the hospital were dying. I was going to funerals for these once beautiful children. I would saying good by and return to my daughter and our little family.
Sometimes surviving can be harder than going. The guilt of it all. Why did my child live and another mom's child not? I am reminded of that humbling time all those years ago as I sign my contract and return to my work.

Below is how I experienced the current climate that has led to the economic ression/depression we are now in. I expressed my thoughts in an article [below]. Today I would add to the list, in addition to Ennorn et al, Bear Sterns, Merrill Lynch, AIG, and Lehman Brothers, otherwise what I wrote is as pertinent today as it was at its publication in 2007. Thank you for considering my thoughts relative to your radio project.

Sincerely,

Ed Grippe

CAPITALISM, ETHICAL EGOISM, AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

Dr. Edward J. Grippe
Norwalk Community College, CT
Published in Contempory PhilosophyVol. XXVIII No. 1 & 2, Fall 2007

1. In a recent New York Times article entitled “In Economics Departments, A Growing Will to Debate Fundamental Assumptions” , it was noted that a rising number of career economists have begun to specifically challenge “the profession’s most cherished ideas about not interfering in the economy” , and more generally they have called into question the neo-classical model which Milton Friedman helped to shape. The more radical among the challengers have been labeled ‘heterodox’, implying that there is an orthodox view of free markets and the irrefutable benefits derived from them. It will be my contention that the neo-classicalists illicitly appropriated Adam Smith’s notion of the “Invisible Hand” to legitimize corporate control of the economy through the intentional manipulation and subversion of the laws and regulations meant to promote the common good by containing market excesses and the collusion to benefit from this unrestrained behavior.

2. Adam Smith in his famous Wealth of Nations observed:

Each individual . . . neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it . . . . He intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for society that it was no part of his intention. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it.

A religious man, Smith saw the promotion of the interests of society as the invisible hand of a benevolent God acting through the world to maximize human happiness. For the mechanism of the invisible hand to work it must be assumed that God has created humans with a certain nature. A critical part of that nature is the personal pursuit of happiness through the acquiring of wealth. In the individual’s striving to become wealthier, involuntarily, the sum of total human happiness is increased via the organs of exchange and the division of labor. Smith further recognized that in practice the maximization of human happiness required a social structure of considerable complexity. In order for the invisible hand to work, property rights and the social mores of the culture—such as prohibitions against deception, theft, and corruption —must be recognized and honored.
The contemporary interpretation of the invisible hand, as Helen Joyce describes it, is that it is a process in which “the outcome to be explained is produced in a decentralized way, with no explicit agreements between acting agents.” (It is a process that is not intentional.) And “The agents’ aims are neither coordinated nor identical with the actual outcome which is a byproduct of those aims.” That is, it happens in an undirected free market, where, out of the twin concerns of self-interest and for self-improvement, the individual is forced to think about what other people want in order to attract their interest for and elicit their cooperation in his or her entrepreneurial project. As Smith put it:

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love.

3. This appeal to self-love as the engine of human happiness, in ethical terms, is labeled as Ethical Egoism. A normative theory (i.e., a theory about how we ought to behave), Ethical Egoism argues that we have no duty except to what is best for ourselves. James Rachels stresses that this ethical theory does not say that we are to promote our own interests as well as the interests of others. Rather the only ultimate, and hence moral, principle of conduct is self-interest. Of course this does not preclude cooperation with others. Rachels notes that:

It may very well be that in many instances your interests coincide with the interests of others, so that in helping yourself you will be aiding others willy-nilly. Or it may happen that aiding others is an effective means for the creating some benefit for yourself .

In fact, Ethical Egoism demands these sorts of cooperative actions. What the theory stresses, however, is that benefiting others is not what makes the actions right, what makes them right is that they are to one’s own advantage in the long run. We may choose to altruistically help others at our own expense. Human nature allows for this sort of liberality, but Ethical Egoism advises against unbridled altruism as an unwarranted sacrifice of personal integrity and a loss of autonomy. Also, the foolish pursuit of immediate pleasures that wealth can bring is equally discouraged by Ethical Egoism in favor of the acquiring of long-term benefits for oneself. Thus, the pursuit of wealth ought to be done with enlightened self-interest.
It is further argued that in this pursuit, one should follow certain rules such as (1) keeping promises (for example, fulfilling contractual agreements), (2) speaking the truth (avoiding deceptions in, say, advertising), and (3) acting in an honest fashion (rejecting the harms and resultant the loss of public confidence resulting from corruption and fraud). Of course, the following of these rules is not done out of a social responsibility borne of altruism, but from an Ethical Egoist’s understanding of the Golden Rule: “Do unto others” because if we do others will be more likely to “Do unto us”.

4. Milton Friedman, the famous advocate of the Capitalism and the free market system, in a 1970 New York Time Magazine article entitled “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase Profits,” embraces the Golden Rule according to Ethical Egoism. Arguing that only people, and not entities such as corporations, can have responsibilities, Friedman contends that in “a free-enterprise, private property system, a corporate executive is an employee of the owners of the business,” and as such, the executive must conduct the business in accordance to the employers’ desires. These employers, the stockholders, generally desire to make as much money as possible, within “the rules of society . . . embodied in law . . . and in ethical custom.” Decisions by the corporate executive that result in a transfer of stockholders’ investments away from the intended self-interested purpose of profit-making toward “social” purposes, such as community improvement projects, and the hiring of underqualified workers, almost always amounts to a non-consensual taxation of investors. Frowning on these corporate concerns for the social welfare as, at worst, “a suicidal impulse,” and at best, rationalizations and “hypocritical window-dressing” that approach fraud, Friedman chides the corporate leaders to discard the cloak of social responsibility even when it is used to promote a business’ bottom line. For despite the short-term kudos they may earn, the use of investors’ funds for allegedly worthy causes only “helps to strengthen the already too prevalent view that the pursuit of profits is wicked and immoral and must be curbed and controlled by external forces.” Friedman contends that socialism run by “the Iron fist of Government bureaucrats” looms, and with it the mismanagement and misappropriation of wealth that comes when, as Smith wrote, “kings and ministers . . . pretend to watch over the economy of private people, and to restrain their expense.”

Friedman, offering the contemporary interpretation of Adam Smith’s sentiments, states:
In an ideal free market resting on private property, no individual can coerce any other, all cooperation is voluntary, all parties to such cooperation benefit or they need not participate. There are no values, no “social” responsibilities in any sense other than the shared values and responsibilities of individuals. Society is a collection of individuals and of the various groups they voluntarily form.

Thus democratic liberty depends on a free market. Friedman argues that the great virtue of private competitive enterprise is that “it forces people to be responsible for their own actions and makes it difficult for them to ‘exploit’ other people for either selfish or unselfish purposes.” This, of course if true, is a boon for each person. The creation of a zone of free, autonomous action guarantees for each individual an economic liberty that has a positive and beneficial effect on one’s social and political interests. Free enterprise can be adequately exercised only by a free people. The invisible hand for human happiness manifests itself through the implementation of Ethical Egoism and not through altruistic social responsibility.

5. Nevertheless, I contend that there are serious flaws in this libertarian argument. I will concentrate on only one in this article: that of the claim, made by Friedman, that private competitive enterprise makes it difficult to exploit others.
Recall that Smith couched his view of human happiness in terms of divine benevolence. It was God’s creative act that made humans strive for happiness and believe that personal wealth would greatly aid in the procurement of said happiness. Smith also wrote his treatise as a counterbalance to the dominant economic theory of his time: Mercantilism. In those heavily planned and dictatorial societies dominated by the mercantile overseer, the notion of economic freedom of choice was both novel and revolutionary. With poverty endemic and wealth highly concentrated, Smith’s libertarianism could be and was viewed as a call for the reform the social conditions in the name of God. Thus it could be argued that The Wealth of Nations was a direct act of social responsibility on Smith’s part. (He didn’t go on a book tour or appear on 60 Minutes to increase sales and hence his residuals). Ironically, the publication of Smith’s masterwork on self-interest must be appreciated as largely an act of social altruism. As Robert L. Heilbroner writes:

Smith is not, as is commonly supposed, an apologist for the up-and-coming bourgeois; . . . he is an admirer of their work but suspicious of their motives, and mindful of the needs of the great labouring masses. But it is not his aim to espouse the interest of any class. He is concerned with the promoting of the wealth of the entire nation. . . . (After Smith) [w]e are in the modern [democratic] world, where the flow of goods and services consumed by everyone constitutes the ultimate aim and end of economic life .

If the purpose of The Wealth of Nations was to justify the struggle for wealth and the greed it spawns by transforming this selfish scrabble into the an egalitarian godsend for the common man, then Smith’s libertarianism also must be understood as humanitarianism.
But the contemporary notion of the invisible hand evident in Friedman’s writing comes out of a different historical setting. The contemporary era is largely devoid of appeals to a deity, especially in the arena of business. The metaphysical grounding that Smith depended upon to mount his challenge to the concentration and control of wealth in the hands of a few has been retired, and in its place stands a philosophical supposition about the nature of humankind derived from the notion that self-interest is rational. Yet in a world without grounding how can we discern the rational (when reason governs self-interest) from a mere rationale (the use of reasoning to advance one’s self-interest)?
With this question in mind, consider the following statement from Friedman.

In a free society, it is hard for “evil” people to do “evil,” especially since one man’s good is another’s evil.

This is the relativism that is at the heart of Ethical Egoism. If self-interest is the moral basis for capitalism, and if the standards of behavior ultimately reduce to one’s own act of judgment concerning right and wrong, it follows that an individual can never be unbiased about his or her perceived interest. How, then, can one get the perspective necessary to evaluate one’s own behavior to conform to the social “rules of the game?” Add to this relativism the claim by Friedman, previously quoted, that all associations are voluntary, and that, (and I quote again) “. . . no individual can coerce any other, . . . all parties to such cooperation benefit or they need not participate,” and we have a fatal contradiction. Either the individual’s radical freedom to join or leave associations, along with the moral relativism that Friedman espouses, provides no basis for cooperation in areas of social and political spheres (e.g., the keeping of contracts, truth-telling, and acting in an non-corrupting fashion), or there is a realm of cooperation that reaches beyond self-interest to a grounded and commonly held good.
Here is what is at stake. If the common good that would ground social responsibility cannot be found, or is outright denied, then cooperation is wholly contingent upon one’s perceived self-interest. In a competitive environment this seems natural and wholesome. For example, Corporation A is out to beat the competition, and Corporations B, C, and D are engaged in the same effort. To gain an edge, Corporation A attempts to make a product or provide a service that the consumer will find more valuable and/or at a lower cost than of the competitor’s. This is good. However, to gain a greater edge, Corporation A also attempts to that bribe government officials to win the bid for a lucrative project. At this point Friedman would argue that this action breaks the rules of the game. Corporation A is said to be a “bad apple,” one that doesn’t play be the rules and will be ostracized and otherwise penalized. So market forces work to check and balance itself, without appeal to an Adam Smith-style deistic guiding hand.
But suppose Corporation A is shrewd. Instead of offering a bribe, it lobbies the government to amend, add, or eliminate a law or policy—whatever serves them best—and that change gives them a now legal advantage over their competitors. But this might be seen as acting against the ethical custom of the society to which Friedman appeals (i.e., the constitutional exercise of equal voice, or the ability to have equal access to one’s representatives). But why should Friedman or anyone else be concerned with the ethical customs, even those embodied in the United States Constitution? After all, he claims that in a free market there is no need to participate in any association that is deemed to be not of benefit to one’s interest. And if there is no illegality involved, the free market system supports this refusal to participate on the grounds of self-interest alone. Friedman in his book Capitalism and Freedom concludes, “there is one and only one social responsibility of business—to use its resources and engage in activities designated to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game.”
But why stop there. In a world where there is no metaphysical or moral grounding other than self-interest, then laws may be seen as no more than encoded customs, or cultural rules of a game that served some long-ago interest, or the interest of some other individual or group that may be no longer viable in the contemporary world. These laws could be seen as relics of traditions past, holdovers that block the exercise of a free market and interfere with innovation (think: anti-cloning laws). This is indeed a troubling thought, for it undermines the main pillar of democracy: the rule of law and the related claims of objectivity and impartiality upon which it rest. With objectivity and impartiality in question what is taken to be enlightened self-interest now depends on the skill of persuasion or “spin”, and who controls the meaning of terms controls the meaning and scope of the societal rules by which we all play. It is a social system whereby ambitious egoism produces wealth that may or may not trickle down to the commoner, a system Adam Smith was opposed when it was in the guise of Mercantilism.
It gets more troubling. If meaning is up for grabs, this state of affairs will impact internal corporate relations as well. Remember that for an Ethical Egoist, the promotion of the corporate interest is contingent upon the egoist’s personal benefit. Friedman uses this to establish the linkage between corporate managers and their stockholders. As employers, the stockholders judge whether to keep or to fire the CEO on the basis of his or her performance, that is, whether the executive’s policies and practices promotes profits and long term corporate stability. This scrutiny by itself, however, does not prevent the manipulation of the business’ performance, and hence the stock prices by the corporate managers for their personal gain and to the detriment of the shareholders. The names of firms such as, Enron, Global Crossings, Adelphia, and Parmalac come to mind. Competition for corporate profits does not stop at the front doors of the business; it extends into the boardroom.
But the reader might say that the list just mentioned goes to show that the system works, and that the “bad apples,” even those in the boardroom, are eventually singled out and held accountable by society. This assumes that the term “accountability” has more than a relative, politicized meaning. But in a Friedman universe it cannot. Then, as John Wild writes in a different context, but apropos to out topic,

When thus defended, democracy is represented as a wholly negative doctrine, its aim being exhausted in the avoidance of tyranny. All common action and government are viewed as evil, though perhaps necessary in a minimal degree. From this point of view, cooperative action of any sort is regarded as undemocratic, and the function of government is reduced to that of removing all checks to individual action, no matter how capricious or even vicious this might be. Presented in this negativistic manner, democracy would seem hard to distinguish from anarchy; and modern experience, to say nothing of the experience of the ages, has shown that freedom, when thus identified with license, leads inevitably to the domination of those who are most greedy and self-assertive.

Unless there is a grounded common good to which one can be socially responsible, justice is reduced to mere manipulation of words, or to partisan coercion, or to force. Reason is reduced to rationales; truth becomes the exercise of rhetorical flourishes; and might makes right. In a world without grounding, there can be no “bad apples,” only winners and losers in a no-holds-barred power struggle to survive. This is the sort of world structure, where the interests of the commoner were swamped by those of the powerful, that Adam Smith worked to overturn. And this is a world against which our country’s founders, though efforts that could be rightly termed as socially responsible, sacrificed mightily so as to allow for this time, our time, where the notion of self-interest could be and ought to be extended beyond enlightened self-interest to a cosmopolitan concern for and identification with our fellow humans, both here and abroad. As Martin Luther King said in an effort to bridge the destructive self-interest of his time, “No one is free until we are all free.” And I contend that the “freedom” that Milton Friedman espouses is an equivocation on King’s sense of democratic freedom. In the hands of a Friedman capitalist this term is no more than a Machiavellian ruse by the powerful to control the economical environment and to subjugate the common “consumer” for their (the powerful’s) selfish benefit. Enron, Global Crossings, and the rest were not isolated bad apples but the obvious fruit from a tree infected by the virus of an unchecked Ethical Egoism, a worldview that, at bottom, is identical with license that ends, not in the benefit of most as Adam Smith envisioned, but in the subjugation of a society by those most greedy and unscrupulous.

ENDNOTES
1 New York Times, July 11, 2007, p. A17.

2 Ibid.

3 Adam Smith (1776/1904). An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Fifth edition, ed. Edwin Cannan. (London: Methuen and Co., Ltd)
(Reprinted: http://www.econlib.org/LIBRARY/Smith/smWN.html)

4 Helen Joyce “Adam Smith and the Invisible Hand”. +Plus Magazine: Issue 14, March 2001.

5 Smith, Op Cit.

6 James Rachels (1999). The Elements of Moral Philosophy, Third Edition. (New York: McGraw Hill College), p. 84

7 Milton Friedman (1970). “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase Profits”. New York Time Magazine, September 13, 1970.
(Reprinted: http://www.colorado.edu/studentgroups/libertarians/issues/friedman-soc-r...)

8 Ibid

9 Robert L. Heilbroner. (1986). The Worldly Philosophers, Six Edition. (New York: Simon and Schuster/Touchstone Books), p. 53.

10 Friedman, Op Cit.

11 Ibid.

12 Ibid.

13 Op Cit, Joyce.

14 John Wild. (1963)“Plato as an Enemy of Democracy: A Rejoinder” in Plato: Totalitarian or Democrat? Thomas Landon Thorson, ed. (Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc.), p.109.

I'm very excited about what is happening in these tough economic times. I welcome and celebrate the adversity. Out ancestors did some amazing things from which we have benefited and they did so under conditions which would be unthinkable to us today. We've no doubt become a generation with a generally week constitutions and these tough times will help to strengthen us.
I was in the automotive business and now I'm the real estate business; each tough industries today. Even though I no longer live the lifestyle I once had I feel more alive because I'm being challenged beyond belief. I'm learning things about myself and have a better sense of who I am. Although the benefits are intangible/abstract now, I know they will have more tangible benifits in the future. I am optimistic future generations will benefit from the adversity and challenges that will make us better and stronger. Not sure I would have been so optimistic otherwise.

I personally do not feel I or my family is in a moral or spiritual crisis, however, I think all of us in the United States are feeling the consequences of moral and spiritual depletion in recent years. I believe that humanity puts itself through a cycle of giving and taking with our fellow humans. We seem to be wired for both selfishness and selflessness and when one attribute becomes too dominate, we find ourselves wanting to self-correct. I do feel we are coming out of a time of extreme self-righteousness and finding humility to be necessary of all of us. When even the mighty take a fall, it becomes obvious that we need to pull back, take stock and really consider not only what will benefit each of us but more importantly what will be best for all of us.

I recently read a provocative book that discusses this very concept of human patterns from the beginning of time, "Yearnings: Embracing The Sacred Messiness of Life" by Rabbi Irwin Kula. I found Rabbi Kula's poetic and pragmatic words to be comforting and reassuring that we have and we will evolve again as the human race. Be it on the individual or the collective level, we need to sustain hope, as he describes it through the Hebrew lens. 'Hope' in Hebrew is 'tikvah' which finds it's root in the word tension. "It is the bow just before the arrow is released: poised, suspended, determined, but not there yet." We are at that moment in our human evolution. "Tikvah reminds us that hope itself is a paradox." says Rabbi Kula.

I feel like we are at that precipice of hope, yet we must heal our spirit to realize our hope actualized.

My youngest son, now 15, once asked me when he was very young, "What is the trick to life, Mommy?" At the time, I responded by saying that we always need to ask that question....to keep seeking answers. If we recognize that we are both unique and special and yet insignificant all at the same time, we have a decent chance of surviving any crisis thrown our way.

Four years ago I was hired by a children's book publisher in New York City. The company is a household name. This was my second job designing and illustrating children's books. At both jobs, during healthy economic times, the staff were encouraged to see the company as one big family. I was always skeptical of this application of the word "family" to a group of people brought together somewhat randomly by a corporation. I mean I'm not naive: there's a fiscal benefit to convincing your employees to work for the company as if they were working for their own flesh and blood. But I fought my cynicism thinking, "I see these people every day. I want to nurture, love, and grow with them as if they were family. Wouldn't our lives be better if everyone gave themselves over to this? If we took time out to share and listen to and be kind to people at work as if they were indeed family?" My resistance was somewhat justified. While I was at my first publishing job, terrorists knocked down the twin towers. Following 9/11 my company brought in therapists to help us cope. Then in the subsequent economic downturn, executed a major downsizing sending a mixed message: it became abundantly clear that the fiscal health of the company always takes priority over the well being of the socalled family. Miraculously, I was spared. But I watched, with much discomfort, as the most senior members of my "family" changed the lives of the less senior members of my "family" forever. My colleagues were asked to pack up their desks. They were escorted to the door. Their boxes were searched for company property. They were replaced, almost immediately, by younger people willing to work for much lower salaries. Last November, weeks after delivering my second child, I returned to work to find a certain familiar smell in the air. Layoffs were imminent. My boss, who I had come to see as a friend, was suddenly not making eye contact with me. It looked like I was going to be kicked out of the family. And, indeed, I was. Now unemployed, with more spare time to listen to your show and think about what this recession means, I've been thinking again about that idea of the corporate family. Particularly, the emotional toll it must be taking on those of us who were cut off suddenly from the life and people they came to know, trust and sometimes even love. I have a strong urge to reach out to the people I work with, to be my most authentic self at work. But also a strong instinct to protect myself and see corporate life for what it is: an economic deal that can go south in a moment. How do we avoid applying these cold economic metaphors to our relationships with our work colleagues and friends, our bosses, past, present and future? How do we fight the bitterness, the powerlessness, we feel after a layoff? How do we return to our work with an expansive, open spirit ready to share our lives with new people and contribute to the group in a good way? To close up, contract, withdraw from people you share so much of your life with seems like a bit of a death. But it's so normal to recoil when struck. I've always loved this poem by Rumi about expansion and contraction being the very thing that keeps us alive: breathing. I'll keep it in mind as I turn toward my new work, new life, new family., whatever that may be. Your grief for what you've lost lifts a mirror up to where you're bravely working. Expecting the worst, you look, and instead, here's the joyful face you've been longing to see. Your hand opens and closes, and opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open you would be paralyzed. Your deepest presence is in every small contraction and expansion, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as bird wings. --Rumi

Please see the attached and feel free to use any of it in your broadcast. I am an emotional intelligence practitioner (some say I am the pioneer). I have always felt like emotion is the way the divine speaks to us and am passionate about "making the world safe for emotion". As you will see in the quotes and the narrative in the attached eBook, my instincts tell me that this is the time that Charles Darwin predicted, "When the human species has learned to harness the power of emotion, we will be ready to take the next evolutionary step". Personally, what has happened to the economy has been devastating to my life both personally and professionally. However, after a day or two of shock last fall I reminded myself that I knew why I was feeling as I did, and I felt morally compelled to share that information. So I sat down and started writing the attached. What you will find is still a draft and I think that parts of it could be meaningful to your listeners. Please take what you want from it; I do not require citation or other recognition. However, if you have any suggestions for improvement I would welcome them.

Thanks for all the good work you do!

Kate Cannon

p.s. I would answer the last question, "who will we be for each other?" with the response, "whole".

I have collected my thoughts, and a verse, about the matter here:

http://digitalcuttlefish.blogspot.com/2009/03/speaking-of-faith.html

I am reminded of the fable about the tortoise and the hare. It is best to take care and not jackrabbit around when it comes to your finances and life in general. Slow and steady wins the race.
It is not a coincidence that it is called "playing the market". It is not a level playing field. The ones "in the know" need the ones who are "not in know" to make money.

Three years ago, my family of four pulled up roots and moved across the country from Northern Kentucky to Salt Lake City, Utah. In hindsight, it was the worst possible time to have been in the market for a house. We sold our house in a relatively depressed market and had to turn around and purchase a house in an exploding market. We ended up buying practically the same house for twice the mortgage.

The experience was bewildering. We are a one income family but my husband's employment as an engineer should have put us firmly in the upper middle class. We found ourselves in a modest home scrambling to make ends meet. I gave up my role as a stay at home mom so I could work and make up our financial shortcomings.

Meanwhile, the people around us seemed to be flush with cash. Houses were enormous and the prices were astronomical. It seemed everyone was outfitted with a new SUV. Our summer camping outings were dwarfed by our peers vacations to Hawaii and Europe. I have to admit we spent a lot of time wondering what they had that we didn't. What were we missing? What were we doing wrong?

This current economic meltdown has in some ways brought some sense into the world for us. No wonder, we exclaim! The stories of unethical lending are atrocious. We even heard of a young couple on a salary of $40K purchasing a mortgage of $600K! Things are not always as they appear on the surface. The danger of making personal decisions based upon popular culture, fads, and peer pressure has become glaringly obvious for us. We have found a new sense of contentment with our small simple house and camp-out vacations.

The melt down has brought the sins of the past decade into the light. As frightening and unsettling as the current economic downturn is, it is also liberating. People's financial lives are suddenly out on the table. Where as before it was a race to see who could accumulate the most wealth, now people seem to be placing more value on living with less. Suddenly it is hip to be frugal! Living in a modest house isn't the "shameful" experience it was just a few years ago. And I am not exaggerating when I say that living modestly during the past few years brought a certain amount of shame. We weren't keeping up with the Jones's and it showed.

You hear older generations state that they grew up very poor but they never realized how poor they were. Now, we feel poor when we actually have more material and financial wealth than ever before! Perception is everything and one of the fruits of the current crisis is a giant perception shift. We are gifted beyond our wildest dreams and finally our culture is putting the spotlight on those gifts we have overlooked for so long. My Mother used to say that if you take your blessings for granted you might as well not have them at all. I believe the financial boom brought a certain dehumanizing poverty to the United States.

Personally, this economic crisis has caused me to focus on what really matters to me. I have a new appreciation for my family and a new motivation to be present in every moment and to relish the people in my life. As a Christian, I seek to see God in every person and every situation I encounter. I yearn to find the gifts that are hidden in the challenges of our time.

I had the privilege of working in several social work positions for approximately years before 911. The last one was with an agency and under a supervisor who not only allowed me to grow professionally in the manner that I wanted to do; but, who also saw the importance that ethics and moral professional behavior had in how I acted in my professional role. After searching and being budgeted out of several social work position following this particular position, it became clear to me that the frantic search for well paying and professional jobs in this field were getting scarcer all the time. I must say that following 911 the agency I worked for received a contract that allowed me the privilege of counseling residents in the area that my office was located and that I came across many clients who had family members working in security during 911. The stories told of how the clients' were so proud of how these workers handled their tasks both ethically and morally lead me to decide, at that time, that when I retired and could handle a lower salary, I too would go into the security field.

Well, it finally occurred to me that the decision to "retire" came earlier as I found it increasingly difficult to continue to work in the social work field as workers had to become increasingly callous and unaware (?) of just how much ethical and moral behavior needed to be put aside in order to maintain their jobs over others looking to do the same work. I simply could not keep up with that pace; and, so in my mid 50's, just about two years ago, I left the social work field to go into security guard work. Almost everyone I know has repeatedly commented to me how much more relaxed I am because they see that I can present myself both morally and ethically to the world in the way that I need to do so. The challenge is the large salary cut I have incurred with this job change; but, well worth it as I can work in a more ethical and moral way.

But, how did I manage to cope with the budget juggling I did and continue to do now....especially as the cost of everything increases so much and retirement money is flying out the window. ONly with the help of an especially strong synagogue community and friends and family who contiinually offer their encouragement with words and actions that somehow help me to overcome each monthly/daily budget challenge that occurs....

A specific examkple of my synagogue community's assistance. I am particularly connected to this community and its women's Rosh Chodesh group and members. The group schedules an annual Spring retreat which has always been so very important for me to attend; and, which occurred last yearonly a very few weeks after I was hired on my new job and just beginning to truly feel the effects of the lower salary cut. I requested financial assistance from the Rabbi to attend this retreat (which I truly would not have been able to do otherwise at that time without such help); and , with no hesitation it was readily offered. No question(s) in my mind....this is what community is all about; and, while always important, all the moreso during these challenging/economic crisis times.

This is surely the type of ethical and moral actions that I think I had done previously to help others when I could...honestly for myself and I must say because I had hoped to believe that such behavior would come in my direction should the day/s come that I would need it. Those days did and continue to come....and I am so very pleased and grateful to say...what goes around comes around and times....and I am now privileged to see this happening in my own life.

As several of your effects of the current economic crisis program have been emphasizing over the weeks....I have heard several of your speakers elude to the growing emergency of communities, etc. out of need. Overall, I have been privileged to see this coming to fruition in my own life at this time....I don't know how I could be surviving this economic crisis in my life without it and I am eternally grateful.

For the last 10 years I have been a commercial real estate lender at a commercial bank. Throughout that period I have worked with numerous clients to sell the bank's loans and financial services based upon the promise of the bank being a good financial "partner" that was interested in a long term business relationship with the clients and their businesses. Implicit in the relationship model is a promise to be financially supportive of clients in time need --- such as this financial crisis. Many clients have come to the bank because they trusted in me. However, due to major financial losses being suffered by the bank at this time, neither senior management nor the regulatory environment allows a positive relationship with clients, even with clients that are meeting all of their financial obligations to the bank. I personally feel betrayed by my employer who advertised as a "Strong Partner" for local businesses. The attitude of the bank makes additional lending very difficult and strains the relationships I have developed at the request of the bank. I find the handling of this financial crisis by both the government and my employer quite poor. I am personally being put in a difficult position having sold the bank as a supportive financial partner who would "take care of good clients" when they needed us. Unfortunately, taking care of clients is no longer a goal of the bank. This has created a moral dilemma for me when clients ask about the bank and its attitude towards new or renewed loans. Instead of taking care of clients we are being forced to deny credit and restrict lending to all clients. This is not the relationship based lending concept we sold to clients.

You have caught me today, walking in my mucky barnyard boots among newborn lambs, feeding my leftover recipe tests to a sow named Sally, and heading over to an elementary school to help build a vegetable garden. You have caught me today, cooking and writing and piecing together a living as a food writer on a small New England island, more than a year gone by since I left my stressful job as chief Editor of a national magazine and my highly mortgaged New York suburban life. You have caught me in a new and happier world, where I feel—at last—a sense of community for which I didn’t know I was longing.

I guess I am an early adopter or just a good trend-spotter from all those years in the magazine world, but my own personal spiritual and moral crisis conveniently arrived a little ahead of the economic crisis. In truth, it didn’t just arrive, it erupted—in the form of an addiction I’d not wish on anyone. And yet, for the grace it’s brought me, I’d wish it on everyone. Oddly enough, now that I’ve begun to stop navel -gazing and I look around at the rest of the world’s fears and addictions, I see that my own crisis was just a tremor before the quake, a ripple from the storm surge of fear and loss now washing over us all.

I have to laugh at myself, taking so long to figure out it wasn’t just me—that we’re all connected, that the very most tangible evidence of flourishing spirituality is connectedness. And that if I’m ill, my neighbor’s ill. Just imagine a whole world of sickly folks, everyone decaying and hollowed out by misguided materialism and ego-driven, soul-surpressing pursuits. You don’t have to imagine, we are there. Billions of little shattered pieces.

For me, healing began when I connected not just to other people, but to myself again. I had to stop spinning, be still, and listen to my heart. How is that possible? The heart doesn’t exactly have an instruction manual. And yet, by simply abandoning my complete reliance on my ego, I found my own true desires welling up and guiding me to a new place. In my case, not just a new spiritual place, but a new physical place.

Slowly, I’ve come to realize that I came to this place, this island, to heal the deep chasm that had opened wide between my love of food and cooking and the place where it all starts. And slowly I’ve come to realize that my disconnect with the natural world -- with the land -- wasn’t just my own personal cross to bear, but also a manifestation of this modern blight, this malaise of nearly epidemic proportions. And I have realized that what I really wanted, what everyone wants, is to be part of a community, one where people freely share their skills and knowledge, and even material goods (and yes, overgrown zucchini), with the common belief that only by giving something away can you truly keep it.

In my new (physical) life, I live in communion with the people and animals and land around me. In my new spiritual life, I live—or try to live—in communion with the Holy Spirit within me. But really, they are one in the same.

Hello Peoples!! I love technology when it allows us to use our potential to Jump Spiritual Obstacles in a single bound!
It may be premature, but the economic, health care, climate, equality and other events have produced that "perfect storm" that may test the human condition and force us to live together or perish. The poems I shall try to send are original and a product of my journey through abuse as a child, rebellion and the resulting consequences, depression, addiction, recovery as well as the psychic transformation that has occurred as a result of this journey/path. I have practiced solitude and introspective writing and early morning reading since I entered a 12 Step program ten years ago. I have had near-death as well as "spiritual experiences" (I lived on a farm on the eastern shore of Maryland that had a rich history of Indian as well as the underground railroad during slavery which tended to make camping on the shoreline an experience to remember.) I have been blessed to be able to write and do public readings of my poetry in the Northern Virginia area and enjoy doing private readings over tea or coffee. The 300-plus pieces I have written over the last ten years have coalesced into a record of what I have determined to be akin to channeled writing. They are a product of the reading and meditation that I have pursued in the quiet hours between 3 and 6 a.m. I shall now try to send a sample! Wish me luck! I can be reached at 703-217-7253 Bye, Bye! F.Greg Wright Falls Church, Va. 22042

i do not view this economic down turn as a crisis at all, in fact i think of it as a breath of fresh air. for years i have felt that some people have putting an emphasis on materialism. A slow down would do some folks good. my husband and i both recently seperated from the military, so to us community isnt something we've had much of considering we're never in one location for more than a couple of years. we try to teach our kids less is more. it might be nice to have more new "stuff" in our lives, but at the end of the day that stuff wont create genuine joy and fulfillment. it's all in how you look at it really, it may not be an easy adjustment for all but nothing worth while is easy.

I do not think one can answer the question "Who will we be for each other?" until we answer the question "Who am I?". Both individually and collectively how we define ourselves is essential to how we respond to events in our lives and how we treat each other. With the mystics of all major religions, I believe that we are spiritual beings who have form as opposed to forms who have a spiritual aspect. Our essential nature is eternal and transcends any other identity we take on as we individuate. We so readily define and identify ourselves by age, gender, accomplishments, education, membership, intelligence, possessions, economic wealth, the roles we play, health, athletic prowess, appearance and on. When any of these are challenged or taken away, it is a crisis. It is a spiritual crisis first and secondly may be a moral crisis. It is a crisis of identity. If we define ourselves as spiritual beings, issues of trust, responsibility, community, mutuality, and virtue are addressed first spiritually.

A crisis of metastatic breats cancer, which affects both health and finances (since my investmenst are now worth half of what they used to be and insurance costs are high), has reassured me that who we are spiritually is what matters most. I have found great sustenance in both my practice of contemplative prayer and the insights of a book by Kathleen Singh, The Grace in Dying.

Her experience with hospice patients has led her to beleive that those who are dying are forced to go through the same process as those who are seriously pursuing the path of enlightenment through spiritual disciplines. Those who are dying are forced to let go of all by which they have defined themselves. What is left in the dying process is their essential nature, their spirit, which is transpersonal. Those seeking enlightenment, union with God, are likewise opening themselves to higher levels of consciousness that transcend the personal and consequently letting go of old ways of defining who they are.

When we as persons or communities or nations define ourselves by our personas, egos, myths and differences instead of our essential beings, a crisis will knock us of our feet. When grounded in our essential being, we have the strength of a mountain which is changeless and calm no matter what weather is raging. This does not mean there are not practical things to be done, but we can remain calm and focused. We might ask ourselves if such an economic crisis would have happened if more were truly grounded in our spiritual being instead of in greed, deceit and personal gain. Perhaps we as a nation have dropped to the lowest common denominator in our spiritual life.

I hope my children and grandchildren will ask "Who am I' and learn to define themselves by their spiritual natures, not by their physical forms or achievements. Then they will be for themselves and for each other what is needed for our mutual benefit.

First, by way of introduction, I am the board chair of a not for profit group called "Seeing Things Whole". Bob Wahlstedt, is a colleague of mine on the board and a friend of Speaking of Faith. I know that Bob has mentioned us to Krista, but I want to take the opportunity to say a few words about what we are doing because I think that it is particularly important at this time.

As our vision statement says, "we envision a world made better through organizations whose lives and performance are informed as much by faith and moral reasoning as by the press of economic reality". I heard similar words from Vigan Guroian in a recent interview. At our best, we collaborate with organizations and their leaders to see their work and their challenges in a larger context of meaning and possibility. We currently engage 12 organizations, 6 in the Twin Cities and 6 in the Boston area, where organizations hold each other in trust around the real world challenges facing each organization. We try to create a space where a conversation of moral reasoning and business challenge can be laid side by side, each informing the other in the process. In addition to the obvious learning by the participating organizationas, we then partner with business schools, theological schools and religious communities to explore the theological and economic implications of seeking to more intentionally live in this intersection of faith and organizational life.

I do believe that we are in the midst of both a moral and spiritual crisis. In order to emerge from this malaise, we will need to develop a new sense of trust in organizations (particularly government & businesses). This means "business as usual" must change. We need organizational leaders to lead from virtue, we need organizations that are focussed on multiple bottom lines, we need college graduates who are learning a way of "thinking broadly", and we need religious congregations that are exploring this intersection of faith and economic reality to support congregants in the work world in which they live.

So what are we doing for each other to bring this about? I've already mentioned the roundtables. In addition, a group of colleagues at The University of St. Thomas are preparing a series of case studies where moral imagination intersects real world issues. Both St Thomas & Augsburg College are laying liberal arts, faith and business side by side in courses such as faith and entrepreneurship and a capstone course on faith and business. Augsburg College is integrating the "seeing things whole " model into it's keystone course in the Master of Arts in Leadership program. We are working closely with the United Church of Christ in Norwell, MA and the Incarnation Lutheran Church in the Twin Cities to develop a new model of holding up the ministry of the laity.

There is more to say, but I think that I have made this email long enough. We are a very limited budget organization doing as much as we can during this crisis to in some small way, help us to begin to "repossess virtue" which this country (and the world) so badly need.

Thank you for the opportunity to share our work with you.

Best regards,
Ed Mosel

I view this economic moment as an opportunity for growth. I like to think of this country as being very young and this period as a growth spurt we are having. In broad terms, as humans, we are growing into adults - right now we are young and learning lessons so that we might grow and develop into full spiritual beings who recognize we are all connected.

Last summer, my wife and I (we are one of the 18,000 same-sex couples who got married in CA and are waiting in limbo for the courts to decide the status of our marriage) discovered a passion for RV traveling. We decided that we wanted to buy our own motor home, and then the economy turned. We kept hearing reports of people not spending and even rich people being embarrassed and cutting spending. We choose not to live inside this story of fear. In January 2009, we paid cash for a new motor home. We are now traveling with our dog and loving the experience. We get to enjoy the beauty of this country. We spend money at local businesses on fuel, groceries, meals and souvenirs. The best part of our travel - the part that got us hooked in the first place - is connecting with people. We share our travel stories, help each other with concerns about our vehicles, trade tips on what to see and road conditions along the way. Our favorite part is connecting with strangers. It's not so much what we say; it's the feeling of being related and connected to each other.

I am feeling a dual mixture of indiffrence and sadness in this current economic downturn. I am going to be laid off next month from a job that I had for almost two years where the realtionships that I had with my co-workers and management have grown into a second family. You see, despite having very distant relatives in the same city that I live in. My core local family memmbers are my friends, neighbors, and co-workers who are more understanding of who I am and how I live besides my biological family who live somewhere else.

I am equally challenged by finding a new job because I have already made major decisions over what no longer desire and where I choose to end up. This is a professional crossroad that I started to take greater insight in since I am very deeply spiritual person who lives out God's purpose on an ongoing baisis. I don't belong to a particular church since leaving my former church several years earlier because I outgrew it. In other words, seeking out and/or belonging to another church is a very low priority that I don't visualize ever becoming dominant again for me.

Economic downturns with people that I know have been a somewhat humbling experince because no one is immune from being faced with a layoff notice. It doesn't matter if you are a retail sales associate, such as myself, or a corporate executive, comapnies are downsizing all over. I see this economic moment as a relfection of living through the last several recessions, where despite periods of uncertiancy, I used God's faith to pull me through the deepest caverns into developing new ways to imporve myself by changing careers and returning to school. I am very blessed to have numerous options because of my educational background which ensues me that I don't have to be stuck in retail for the remainder of my working life.

This economic downturn came at a unique time for me in my life. A few years ago I found out that I would not be receiving the money and property that I had spent most of my life working for in my families buisness. This at first had a devastating effect on me. I went from living as a privileged rich person to being an unemployed poor person in one day. After working for a while as an installer of audio/video and computer systems the company I was working for went out of buisness. I then attenmpted to get another job but was frustrated to find that noone seemed to want to hire a 50 year old man with a strange resume. I then decided to make a deal with God. I had worked in my youth as a minister and believed that if I gave I would receive. so I made a deal to give whatever any poor person that I saw on the street asked me for. I also volunteered at a local methadone clinic and was eventually able to run a weekly Bible study group there. In the meantime I took whatever recommendations people gave me that rang true. I was soon receiving my SSI disability and food stamps, and while it wasn't enough to eat for more than 10 days a month or pay my rent I never was hungry and never missed a rent payment. If I needed money my phone would ring and someone who had met me as a result of my working as an installer would ask me to design and install a television or computer system in their home.
It has been four years since I "retired". I have been able to install a state of the art recording system in my home so I could pursue my first love, music. I've received a scholarship to a local gym, so each morning I can excercise. I then spend an hour at the clinic taking part in the group therapy program. From there I go home, practice flutes and saxophones for about 4 hours and then work on my recordings. I hope to have a CD ready for release by the end of the year. By giving up on the idea that I would ever own a car or a home, and by realizing that the accumilation of things was not the most important fact to be concerned with while I am living this life, I became more content with my situation than I have been at almost any other point in my life. There are things that I would prefer to change about my situation, I don't like living alone for instance, but I know if I am patient and continue being grateful to God for the life I do have, whatever is best for me will happen.

I do not experience this time/moment as a crisis, but simply as one of inner/ conscious growth for all - individually and collectively. We are not just human beings.....we are humans being. Should you be thinking of economy you are imagining the outside/physical realms which are always a manifestation of what one chooses to think about most of the time.....cause and effect. Life is and inside job, so if we don't go within, we go without.

I believe that the most important thing man is currently (since time began)re-cognizing is that he will always be in the midst (now) of becoming that which he/she has always been. The wonderful, simple thing is that we each become exactly what we think about and believe ourselves to be at the moment, as It should be.

An eternal change/growth in conscious awareness (paradym) is happening globally at a pace today in the 21st century that equals the growth and speed/expansion that is simultaneously happening on a universal scale. In simple terms, we as a species are sharing a form of mental/spiritual communication in 2009 that has never occurred before.....but for the first time we're consciously aware of It on a wider scope/togetherness. Not the easiest to put into words.

As we re-cognize our light I believe it is important to feel that we are always beginning, always and in always brand new.....never staying in the past and keeping in 'Mind' that not judging oneself or another is one of the most enjoyable ways to spend now. Joy.

Life is an inside job.....if you don't go within, you go without.

I find myself questioning how to get by on almost a daily basis. My goals for me and my family have changed. This isn't always easy to swallow, but I have learned how to live with less "stuff" that doesn't have meaning anyways. I have lowered my expectations and taken the time to see all the wonderful things I do have in my life. Life has changed, but in so many ways as strange as it seems, it has been for the better. I don't take anything for granted anymore. The change in our family income has been extremely straining. The stress is very wearing on our family.I have learned to set a better budget out of this matter. I have spent a great deal of time reflecting on life and have realized that we can get by with so much less than before and still be happy. I don't know anyone who is not struggling in some way and people seem to be coming together more and giving more time to voluntarily help others out. I appreciate everything I have on a different level then I did before. We have found new ways of stretching the dollar out and have the necessities we need to get by. I now see everything as a gift or blessing and know things could be much worse than they are.

one nation divisible

there’s an old story about God & a peasant.
God says: “I can take one eye from you
& one eye from your neighbor
or two eyes from both of you.
which do you choose?”

“take both eyes from each, please. then my neighbor
will be blind.”

in a 1960 social studies class, Mr. Paterna
taught why America would never be defeated:
“however fiercely our politicians battle in an election,
they come together to honor the results
to work together for the good of the country.”

we are become the un-united states,
so shortly ago, the greatest power in the world.

there was a time, when politics was
not a disfunctional blood sport & congress
served as a parliament of shared democracy.

the wisest judgment comes from our
most enlightened president:
“a house divided against itself
cannot stand.”

» Are you experiencing this economic moment as a moral or spiritual crisis as well?

Contrarily I am experiencing this economic moment as the most spiritually lucid time of my life. In fact, I am just now emerging from a period of financial, emotional and physical wreckage that was caused by moral and spiritual crisis. I’m emerging strongly at this point but I’m starting over in the arenas of my life where I finally have regained some of what I’d lost: a well suited career position, a car of my own, advanced stages of fitness for my personal benchmarks and a better sense of understanding to name just a few. It was an unsolicited bout of spirituality that lured me in a direction that I, as I got stronger, began to run towards. I’ll pause here to make the important distinction between spirituality and religion. I’m more of a student than a parishioner. Raised Roman Catholic in typical Sunday school fashion, at age of 39 I am not a religious man. But spirituality is a powerful and constant presence for me, suddenly. So I pause often to help bear the load of this sort of encroaching awareness. It can be overwhelming at times. It has been for me. I share the experience with few others. For me it took time and effort to embrace so I hold it pretty closely, maybe guarding it a bit.

So you might understand that from my vantage point I best see the economic downturn as a leveling of the playing field. I lost everything two years ago by way of divorce and substance abuse. Now that my introspective, strategic and diligent work is producing positive results I can stoically observe the turn of events and react accordingly. I’m over the pain everyone is going through right now and I’m much stronger for it. I have very strong foundations to rebuild upon and I sincerely believe that these assets place me in a position of advantage over others now reeling from the pain of loss.

» What qualities of human nature do you want to cultivate in yourself or your children?

I am a father of a beautiful six year boy named Eric whom I share joint custody of with my ex-wife. This arrangement provides me full time with my son two up to sometimes four days each week. The quality of fatherhood is one that I cultivate and maintain in myself throughout my struggle and is an immeasurable force in my recovery that is anchored in spirituality.
I recently did an hour guest spot in his kindergarten class where I wove a tale of gifts bestowed by true sincerity. (All based upon a true NY experience that Eric and I had when a series of cool little events and coincidences led up to meeting Dave Grohl and family at the playground in Madison Square Park. Eric and I had been listening to the Foo Fighters earlier that day as we got ready to head in to the city.) I had one of the gifts from the greatness of that day, a set of children’s bongos, in my hand and I displayed them as I riffed this story show and tell style. That day I shared with the entire class, all my little friends who let me take my shoes off to get comfortable, the quality I most cultivate in my son: Sincerity.

I think we have gotten into this financial mess because of a moral crisis. This is where the path of greed has brought us. Mortgage companies with predatory lending, people who thought they deserved mansions when they couldnt afford them, etc. I think this new depression is a blessing. It is making people learn how to live on less, and the earth will certainly thank us for that. It is a return to old values. I have seen people being more gentle with each other in New York than ever before, because everyone is hurting.

These time remind me of my favorite scripture
"The house of the wise is the house of mourning, the house of fools is the house of mirth."

We have been living int he wrong house for a long time, now we will have to move to the right one. It will be uncomfortable, but in the end, it is what is best.

Many think that economic indicators are the beginning or source of cultural trends, but, I believe, in fact, they are one of the outermost symptons. Our economic crisis is a system gone way out of balance. Corporate greed and excessive financial decisions are not economic trends, but the results of a culture of self-benefit and self-advancement at any and anyone's expense.

To attribute these qualities to corporate America alone is hugely hypocritical. Our humor, our politics, our entertainment, our marriages, our civil rights, even our educational systems have focused on personal gain and success largely at the expense and defacement of others. This has snowballed in the last two decades, but it is nothing that new.

To blame past administrations is likewise hypocritical. There is always some direction in which to point fingers, but the truth is that throughout all of human history, including American history, those in the position of power have generally taken advantage of the weak. When workers were abused, we united to make unions. When unions became corrupt, an administration moved towards deregulation. When the internet hit and we became a global ecomony, deregulation had a hay day. We so quickly became a culture of excess it is a wonder the economy survived the nineties, which it almost didn't.

We can play the blame game back to Adam and Eve. The fact is, when a society is based on excess and self gain, disaster is ineveitable. No, Mr. President, you did not inherit this mess. We created the mess, and if there are to be solutions, we must all take responsibility.

As Charles Osgood said, it is not the systems that are bad. It is that we are always trying to beat the systems. From human trafficking to national power plays, the world is out of balance. Until we learn to live with a conscious of the whole, as families, as communities, as nations and as a global family, we will continue the process of action and reaction until it snowballs to the next crisis.

On almost every level I can think of, this time is a great opportunity for us to look at things in a new light. But unless those eyes turn out of ourselves, as eyes are made to do, to see others, turning inwardly only to examine the quality of our love, then we are destined to reach this point.

AN UPSIDE TO THE DOWNTURN: ONE PSYCHOTHERAPIST'S VIEW

One of my favorite cartoons from The New Yorker shows two mice with two exercise wheels side by side. One mouse is running frantically around his, while the other, sitting still on the edge of the wheel, says, “I had an epiphany.”

The cartoon speaks to the territory I deal with all the time in my work as a psychotherapist specializing in issues of life balance: the elusive change of mind and heart that enables a person to shift from running endlessly on the treadmill of our culturally-sanctioned 24/7 way of life, to being able to slow down, or–dare I say it–even to stop every now and then.

I’ve spent the last 15 years helping women intentionally slow their pace in order to experience less stress and more depth and meaning in their everyday lives. In a culture that so highly values speed and efficiency, that’s a humbling proposition, in my own life as well as that of my clients and the women in my groups. However, the task becomes much easier when certain life circumstances come into play. Circumstances such as:
•death of a loved one
•serious illness
•divorce
•job loss
•some other major life crisis

Difficult life events tend to throw people off the treadmill, forcing them to slow down. Often, this downshifting results in asking themselves tough questions, reevaluating their priorities and ultimately (though certainly not without pain), making significant positive changes in how they live their lives.

The experience of a client of mine whom I’ll call “Louise” is a good example of a difficult event leading to a major, positive life reorientation. A mother of two who worked full-time, the event that shifted Louise’s own life dramatically happened to someone she was close to. Louise had worked hard for fifteen years at a job in sales which, she said, “sucked the life right out of me.” Looking back at her life then, she described it as “totally externally-focused, driven, and very out of control.” During that time, one of Louise’s friends was in a very severe car accident. It was unclear whether she would survive. During one of the first nights that her friend was in the hospital, Louise slept only intermittently, thinking and dreaming about her and her family for what seemed like most of the night. She said, “Toward morning, just as I was awakening, I had this thought about my friend: ’Even if her life is over now, she can know that she has done a great job as a mother.’ Then all of a sudden I applied that thought to myself, and I remember the clutching feeling in my chest. It was a visceral reaction as I thought: ’If I were to die tomorrow, that couldn’t be said about me.’” She saw that she had been run so ragged by her job that she wasn’t “living her values,” which to her meant putting her children first. The incongruity between what she believed in and how she was living was so stark and jolting to her in that moment that she had to act.
“I gave my notice to a job that I’d had for fifteen years, I didn’t go for options, I didn’t think about how else I might resolve this. It was completely: I’ve got to stop this freight train, and get off.”

The next several months were hard in a different way for Louise. She was at home and spending much more time with her children, but she still felt driven and could not settle down. “I was sewing pillow-covers with a vengeance! I felt enormous stress, but now most of it was self-generated.” Eventually, in an effort to address the stress she was feeling both physically and emotionally, Louise attended a weekend retreat that included some guided visualization. At first, she had trouble focusing her attention inwardly, but on one of the “inner journeys,” she found herself able to truly go inside, and her inner world opened up. She went in her mind’s eye back to her childhood home, and re-contacted a deep sense of loneliness that had been with her often as a child. She realized that in her adult life, the “freight train” energy that caused her so much stress was fueled in part by trying to avoid the old feeling of discomfort with loneliness from her childhood. This awareness helped her with the changes she wanted to make. Later she said, “I had lived my life for so long in an outer fashion, and I was so out of synch and so screwed up. I had some sense that I needed to look inside, but it was so hard. I didn’t know how to do it.”

Her weekend retreat was the beginning of an inner exploration that led Louise to one of my groups, and eventually, as her children got older, to an entirely new career that connects back to that early-morning moment that affected her so profoundly: she teaches, trains and writes about parenting skills. She says, “What I’m doing now uses all of who I am: my professional experience, my skill, my education. And it’s married to my passion. So it’s very powerful for me. And now, because what I’m doing is inner-driven, there’s an energy and an authenticity about it that keeps me going.”

I see a striking parallel between this process of personal transformation and the societal shift we are experiencing with the economic downturn.

We are in crisis.
We have been thrown off the treadmill.
We have an enormous opportunity to ask tough questions and reevaluate our priorities. What is sustainable growth? How much is enough? What is real wealth? How do we go forward from here?

Australian environmental business expert Paul Gilding has called this time, when we have hit the wall both economically and ecologically, “The Great Disruption.” Thomas Friedman of the New York Times quotes Gilding: “We are taking a system operating past its capacity and driving it faster and harder. No matter how wonderful the system is, the laws of physics and biology still apply.” (Thomas L. Friedman; The New York Times; Opinion; March 9, 2009.)

This is precisely what so many of us are doing in our daily lives: pushing our wonderful systems–our bodies and minds–to the breaking point with over-crammed schedules, incessant distraction and interruption, and non-stop busyness. Because the laws of physics and biology still apply, some of us do reach the breaking point. And it is there that transformation often begins.

As a psychotherapist, when I see day after day of headlines about layoffs, rising homelessness, and sinking stock values, I take heart from having witnessed so many individuals who have reached the breaking point and from there, fashioned new lives that are slower and more balanced, healthier, richer with meaning and purpose, and more conducive to happiness. My hope is that the economic crisis can lead us, collectively, along a similar path.

Abby Seixas, M.Ed., LMHC Author, FINDING THE DEEP RIVER WITHIN http://www.deepriverwithin.com

Yes, I see this as a moral crisis. The financial piece is huge, but as a teacher who preaches, "work hard, do your best and you will succeed," my world has done a 180. . What do we say to our children who see their parents laid off. Parents who have worked hard, been honest, done their best. What do we say to children who ask, "Why should I work hard? Look what happened to my dad.

This financial crisis has changed my view of the world, and now I need a new message, and I'm not sure what it will be.

And to make matters worse, this is my generation that did this. My generation, the old hippies of Woodstock, the peace generation whose presidents were Clinton and Bush, and who's business leaders have cheated the world for their own gain, no matter the cost to others.

Right now it's the cheaters who are winning. . .

But then, look at the history of the world, there have been worse situations, crueler tyrants and bigger tragedies. We will pull through this, but I believe the world order will be altered. Great civilizations have come and gone. Now we need to make it a great world civilization. We are all in this together.

In September, within two weeks of each other, I lost my job and my home and now live in my vehicle. It has definately been a spiritual crisis for me and I have questioned other people's morals. Somehow I feel as though I have failed God and this is my punishment. I have no family and feel so absolutely alone. I have always been a person to be there for others as much as I possibly could. You see, since I have no family I always considered my friends to be my family. And since loosing my home, I don't get calls from my friends anymore. I asked someone last week, who hasn't talked to me, why. She said that no one wants to talk to me any longer because they believe I will ask for things. I had to somehow explain to her that my intelligence didn't get evicted along with me. It hurt so much, I can't put it into words. I'm so lonely and have no one to turn to. I pray and things seem to get worse. I told someone that having my nightly entertainment be watching the rats running around the McDonald's dumpsters does not make you feel that there is any hope. It feels so weird after being such a good friend to others to have no one. I hope I do not loose that good quality. I just don't feel there are many communities out there anymore. I want more than anything to feel as though I matter and can make a difference. I grew up in a wealthy home and now have nothing and no one. I pray that the world grows up and starts to love each other. Thank you.

greeting ms tippet no, i am not seeing this economic downturn as a spiritual or moral bankruptcy in my life. i have a strong belief system that gets me through the tough parts in life. but i can see that in some people it is effecting them in adverse ways, such as stress, worry, etc. if you have a strong basic concept of beliefs in God, faith, spirituality , you should not have to alter your core values for the changes in life that will eventually come to you. well, looking at the news in print form or online, their would not be many people i would want my children to emulate. that said my wife and i have tried to instill the values of Jesus`s second command, that is to help others. you have to do this by leading in small ways, such as helping out at church carnivals,by cleaning tables, cooking and the like. teaching religion, working at their school affairs. teach by example, not by sitting in front of the television. taking a positive note, i think that we as a people will be around for the other person. some of us know an acquaintance who is a self professed atheist or agnostic, but this person will still have a strong desire to help the down and out person they meet. it takes all kinds but we as a people will help each of us get over this hurdle in our way. thanks

I was laid off three months ago (Jan. 15th). This time has be one of great reflection about how faith affects America's current economic crisis and what it will take to turn things around. Below are my thoughts.

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

The quote above is the last line of the Declaration of Independence, the historical document declaring the United States of America a sovereign nation. This phrase demonstrates the co-authors’ reliance or faith in a being greater than themselves. With this same faith we must once again mutually pledge our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor to shaping an America where all citizens endowed by their Creator can experience the unalienable rights of Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

The Declaration of Independence is such an intriguing document because it courageously addresses both the secular and spiritual nature of individuals and institutions. References to God, Creator, and Divine Providence demonstrate a belief in a being beyond human existence. There was a fervent hope in the ideas and beliefs conveyed in this foundational document. Faith compelled the “Founding Fathers” to pioneer the journey toward the American Dream.

This country must revive the journey began by the members of the Second Continental Congress (adopters of the Declaration of Independence) on July 4, 1776. Their faithful spirit must move beyond the sturdy walls of Congress to the fragile sidewalks of impoverished neighborhoods. People must regain faith in their dreams of every child receiving an education, every individual being financially stable, and their ability to construct a neighborhood that will be a beacon of hope for the nation.

As our country strives to recover from its current economic (perhaps socio-economic) crisis, many economic experts and pundits are in a frenzy offering grand, complicated solutions to the problem. It is really not that complicated. People have lost faith. Not just in institutions and markets as most experts suggest. But long before that people stop believing their dreams and aspirations would come to pass. As a result, individuals wait and hope for institutions to resolve society’s problems. Since institutions implement institutional solutions, we never get to the heart of the matter, individual faith.

Hope makes you wait. While faith makes you actively pursue. It is a person’s faith that makes them take steps toward their dreams. As people’s faith in something bigger, more powerful than themselves increases, we will draw closer to the dream of creating a nation where all people have the opportunities needed to succeed and thrive. More importantly, they no longer wait on institutions, but actively work to transform their internal faith into external realities. It is this Faith Stimulus, not just an economic stimulus, which will once again put our nation back on track toward the American Dream.

Who else better to lead this faith stimulus than the Faith Community. As the cornerstone of neighborhoods and local communities, Christian churches and organizations can direct the crusade of restoring hope to American citizens. America is not a nation of independent institutions but a society of diverse yet inextricably linked individuals. The fortitude of businesses and organizations is directly linked to the spiritual development of individuals. Restoring their faith and creating opportunities to maintain good works will stimulate community revitalization. By expending its spiritual capital, the Faith Community can rekindle the flames of faith ignited by the Declaration of Independence and produce an invaluable Faith Stimulus Package.

As you can tell from the above information I am both a transplant from the state of California and a 5 year resident of Fargo, ND. where we are experiencing unprecedented Red River flood conditions.

I sand-bagged along with many other residents and a lot of national guards people, and much of my time was spent/invested very productively because people were focused on sand-bagging and on saving their possessions and their city, this was truely preceived as a crisis.

However, when I have found myself in the company of people primarily concerned with the making of money or a "living" as some might call it, I have not found the focus quite as intense on accomplishing the larger goals.

Instead, because it seems to me that the U.S. is a hyper-religious culture when not engaged in efforts that directly effect people such as in a crisis situation people will begin to look for scapegoats in order to relieve stress by corporate bullying.

Such, it would seem, are the dynamics of group interaction where increasingly people sell their time and efforts cheaply and are forced to make impossible choices between eating and sleeping indoors.

Sadly, it would seem it takes a crisis of the Red River flood proportions to bring this kind of focus on the important to the fore.

My financial difficulties began a few years before the rest of the nation's. I was an editor at a children's publisher, enjoying a nice salary and respected position. But my soul was dying--from what I thought was the depravity I saw in the workplace. Unable to maintain my humanity in that environment--of devaluing people, manipulating and scheming--I quit and fled the situation. It was when I left that my transformation began. I started to realize that the real problem was in my heart. I had been choking my spirit for a very long time.

I experienced a total stripping down of all control that I imagined I had over my life. God had to take me down into total submission and start teaching me from scratch, as one does for a child or puppy (yes, puppy--I recently got one and, strange as it may seem, am seeing a lot of parallels in the God-human/human-puppy relationship). I still have no stable job, no health insurance, no financial security whatsoever. But an amazing change has happened in my heart. It softened. And I am feeling God deeper and deeper in my heart as each day passes.

I have definitely experienced this economic moment as a spiritual crisis, but feel I'm moving upward and out of the crisis into a new phase of living with conviction--motivated to move this way or that by love for God and others.

I read Exodus during my darkest times -- and I began listening to your SOF program. I wanted to tell you that God has been and still is speaking to me through SOF. Recently, I listened to the program about Quarks and Creation from 2006. It inspired me to start moving. You see, sometimes I still get so discouraged that I sit idle, waiting for God to do something. After listening to the program I was touched by what the guest said about how God works in our lives -- patiently, through processes more than through miracles and magic. I'm learning to take steps, to move, as my spirit and heart rests with God. And trust that he'll illuminate the better path.

Thank you for the work that you do--you have helped me so much.

This may be a completely different twist on the question, but we've started a job networking group that is offering more connection and community in the midst of the economic crisis.

For a really good rundown, please check out this article:

http://www.delawareonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2009304120012

I'm happy to share more or put you in touch with others in the group.

Thanks!

Ken

Ken Grant
302-588-4151
http://random-ken.blogspot.com/
www.linkedin.com/in/kengrantde
twitter.com/kengrantde

Forgive me but I have struggled with the SOF program recently and really struggled with Vigen Guroian easter experiences as "a call to our senses." I have a conservative evangelical background and now struggle with any discussion about the God of the Bible. Easter has no meaning for me whatsoever. I love any discussion of Tolle, Buddhism and Eastern religions. "A New Earth" is one of my favorite books. Thanks to SOF I'm currently reading "An End to Suffering, The Buddha in the World." Again, forgive me, but I expected so much more from the discussion of gardening. Sustainable, slow food, organic gardening is what is going to rescue our planet from a food crisis. Maybe I missed something but it seemed incredibly lite weight.

This economic moment is absolutely a moral and spiritual crisis. It's all about greed and short term gain. It's not about sustainability, the long term and helping your fellow man. I personally, do not reach out to the Christian tradition for answers though.

The Saturday morning Farmers Market is our new church. It's our community. My wife and I see friends and talk to the farmers that grow our food. Our meat farmers treat their animals humanely. Our produce farmers practice sustainability and avoid the monocultures of the large factory farms. Plus, we learn small ways to take care of ourselves and reduce our expenses while improving our health.

We want to cultivate living in the now, sustainability, recycling and helping the less fortunate. We want to cultivate reducing our carbon footprint and fighting for reduction in greenhouse gasses.

on the first Sunday after it became apparent that this was not just a downturn but a crisis, I opened our worship service at First UMC, a typical small-town Methodist church that i pastor, with my guitar, singing REM's "Its the End of the World As We Know It," the chorus of which ends with the line "and I feel fine" as our call to worship.

What had happened that week in my soul was that i had started with obsessing over my 401k and retirement funds. I even figured out how many days longer i had to work before i retired for every 1% the DJIA fell. (FYI - I will now feel lucky to retire at 85.) But by Friday of that week I had begun to care less about my monetary assets (and when i could retire) and began to understand a little more about what it means to rely on God. Even with the Dow out the window, I noticed that the sun kept coming up, my wife and my dogs still loved me, my cats and my children still ignored me, and that life went on more or less as usual. And I realized I had made money my functional savior. And that somehow or another, the huge drop in the markets had changed me. More "In God We Trust" and less "In Cash We Trust."

And I felt fine.

John Purdue

1. Let me start by saying this; Crisis is defined by Webster as:
a turning point, as in a sequence of events, for better or for
worse.
Having said this I must admit that it has most definitely affected
my spiritual/moral center in a most positive way! I cannot
remember a time when I have been more blessed. Living the American
dream for me, you know, having 'stuff', was fun until I realized
that what I had been wanting all along was to truly know myself.
My God self. My true self. This economic downturn has shown me in
a physical way that wanting and having in a physical way is surely
temporary. Only when we want and have what is within ourselves can
we know peace.

2. We have consistently been faced with those times when we can step
up and help another. In today's world, we can sometimes be
overwhelmed with them. Listen to intuition, let it guide you. You
will know what to do or say to that someone who needs what only
you can offer. Opportunity is knocking folks!

3. All of them! We would be sub-human otherwise! Think about it..

4. Exactly what we are supposed to be. How many times has a situation
come up with another person where you are thinking, "Man, what a
jerk" only to realize later that what happened between you
actually made a huge difference to you or them or both!

Presently, our faith community is seeking to address these pressing issues. Motivated by this quote from an overheard economist: “We have behaved so badly, in our savings, our spending, our debt, that we now have to go through an economic reset.” -- we having been discussing our need to hit the reset button relationally, spiritually and economically. However, though our conversation this past week about the Jesus-story found in Luke 12:13-21, we are realizing that reset might not be the best term. What we need is more like a reorientation. How can we reset to values that we have never possessed. Sourced in this story, we developed three 'mantras' of sorts. Already, I find myself filtering my choices through these small bits of wisdom.

1) MORE STUFF ≠ MORE LIFE.
2) LIFE IS A LOAN. SURPLUSES ARE A GIFT.
3) PEOPLE MATTER MORE.

Thanks for tackling these issues.

Spiritual intelligence is the sum of all forms of intelligence: analytical, intuitive, creative, cultural, biological (including the functions of the triune brain), moral. To be spiritual is to so live that all forms of intelligence are congruent, harmonious, synergistic. The tragedy of human beings is that this spiritual awakening of harmonious intelligence is so rare. In most persons there are degrees of harmonized function, but never to the degree necessary for us to produce a human world that is balanced and fulfilling for all humans.

One of our spiritual shortcomings is the economy we have evolved, sometimes labeled a "capitalist", or "free market" economy. While clever analytical minds can construct a dizzying array of methods for profiting from this system, the notion that avarice, greed, materialistic lust, untempered by moral regulation, can be generative of economic outcomes beneficial to everyone is tragically absurd. And despite the frequent, historic, periodic collapses of such an economic system, with great losses of production, losses of wealth, losses of jobs, with great damage to the lives and livelihood of millions of people, we persist, unintelligently, with the notion, that the "free market"--unregulated by the moral conscience of people gained through painful experience, and exercised through the agency of governance--can help us achieve a healthy world order where hunger and homelessness is eliminated, unnecessary sickness alleviated, and humans enabled to achieve their highest good everywhere. This is the spiritual disorder that capitalism represents, this is the perpetual spiritual crisis that goes back hundreds of years--to the time when Christians, and other so-called religious people, enslaved Africans, dispossessed Native Americans, subjugated women to domesticity, employed and abused child workers, and mistreated adult workers.
The latest episodic economic collapses--Enron, WorldCom, Wall Street Investment Banks, AIG, Automobile Manufacturers, Bernie Madoff--are simply part of the failure to integrate our predatory economic brain, with our moral, spiritual intelligence. The collapse of the automobile manufacturers are exemplary of particular kind of economic and spiritual failure, the inability to comprehend that human economies are subsets of the larger world ecology, ecology being the economy of nature. Pushing for greater profits by building bigger, gas guzzling SUV's irrespective of considerations of global pollution, and oil depletion, was not only stupid, but revelatory of the mindset of corporations and their CEO's--immediate profits over long-term concern for the world condition, including the natural world. This is not only immoral, but ultimately unprofitable.

And yet, one hears little conversation about the spiritual lessons to be gleaned from this economic crisis. That, to me, is also revelatory. We are not as moral, or as spiritual, as we like to think.

If this is the best that we can do, humanity is in deep trouble.

I have a tri-fold vocation as a writer, an organic farmer, and the director of graduate ministry programs at Saint Meinrad, a large Benedictine monastery and Roman Catholic school of theology in southern Indiana. I certainly see the current economic situation as a crisis, in the root sense of that word: a judgment, and a moment where individuals and the culture face a decision about new paths forward.

Living on a solar-and wind-powered farm in a rural area, I'm pulled in two different directions, which I've come to see as complimentary. On one hand is the temptation to "hunker down" on our farm, turning inward, focusing on being as self-sufficient as possible, and cultivating these qualities of ruggedness and independence in our three children. On the other, both among our rural neighbors and the burgeoning number of students in the ministry program I run, I feel the desire--on my part and others'--to turn outward, in service, vulnerability, and mutual dependence.

Somehow, I think both of these tensions can and must coexist as part of a new way forward. We must cultivate new forms of asceticism as both a practical and a spiritual discipline, such that we actually can simplify our lives and thus be less dependent on all of the systems that have been unmasked as wobbly and unreliable. And yet any real independence from these will always mean dependence on what is ultimately far more reliable: the love, care, skill, and good work of people whose lives intersect with ours. Grace, forgiveness, patience and love span the tension between these poles.

I write about these issues regularly for America, a weekly publication of the Jesuits: www.americamagazine.org. If my story is of interest to you, I'd also be happy to share my experience in an audio interview in the Repossessing Virtue series.

My hope for each of us is that we give thought to what "sustainability" means. Perhaps to do that we need to give more honor to the virtue of prudence. I have spent many years studying for a graduate degree in biology, and, as a mother, have become aware of the limits of our influence as well as the limited supply of our natural resources.
It is difficult to assess the popularity of "mini mansions" that have sprung up, each on its own 5 or 10 acres of grass. Grass, for heaven's sake! How much energy--human or fossil fuel--do they plan to spend each week keeping it all looking beautiful? To say nothing of washing windows and paying the cleaning bills on all that beautiful stuff in the 6,000 sq.ft. house?
Where and when did we get so acquisitive? Taking care of the house would seem to be much more important that taking care of or having fun with each other.
I used to tell my kids that it all started because logs floated. That made them easy to harvest, so they could be used to make paper, and without paper we could not sustain a huge economy. This was obviously before computers & e-mail replaced books, letters, envelopes and the USMail. Who will we be for each other? We must be friends and neighbors, using our talents to help each other enjoy what we have, and put the "we can have it all" world view behind us.

I am an aging single female, dependent on a pension and Social Security. I am lucky to have both; I fear for both. I live in a facility for the elderly which is a primary community for me. I think we have more than one. Several here have suffered losses great enough so they must leave, and finding places they can afford is proving difficult. At least one goes to live with a relative as a dependent. A relative of mine is seeking a place to live. If I have information that might help, I try to share it. Otherwise I try to listen.

The voices of the 5/17/09 program are asking the same questions and finding some of the same answers I found years ago when I had breast cancer. That experience changed my life and became defined as a gift. That was 14 years ago.

My current immediate crisis is again one of health, although that links heavily with the economic. I find I am again asking basic questions: Who am I? What can I do to be of value and to feel of value? How can I be of service? How can I better express love and compassion? What is mine to do?

Those voices on the program reinforced my belief in cycles. I feel a new sense of urgency now, however. Partly this is my age; partly, my perspective on the planet. If this life is like attending school, I want to graduate. I hope the planet and others on it can and will as well.

Listening to Repossessing Virtue, I've heard a lot about living in community and relying on others, and this past year, I have found myself having to rely on others more and being more comfortable with it.

I recently graduated from college and found myself without a short term plan. I love to travel, so I decided to reconnect with many of my college friends who were at this point scattered across the country. I sent out a number of emails asking if I could stay with people on my trip and I was astounded with the enthusiasm that I received in most cases. I spent 40 days last fall, hopping from one friend's couch to another, and it made me realize that often times all we have to do is ask.

This coming fall, I will be living in Chicago, and I will be sending out a different kind of email. This time, I'll be asking old friends to come stay with me.

I am experiencing this economic moment as a spiritual opportunity. I entered my story in the Intuit Competition. I am very moved to talk about the economy. Here is the address of that essay.

http://community.intuit.com/contests/dGgHGUy50qllvkab8P4pmk

Of course, I violated all of the rules, I don't think this is what they were looking for at all. I have not been contacted with the news that I am a finalist, but I felt I had to write something.

I am very blessed to be living in a real NEIGHBORHOOD, where many of us are keeping an eye on each other, where we share food with one another.

I look for leadership in my choir, and among the people of my Church family, who have also been very helpful to me. At the same time, I provide leadership. I will ask for and accept help. I will talk about what is happening with me. I will listen to what is happening with someone else. I think that there are very few leaders available, and that it is everybody's duty to see if they might provide leadership in the place where they all.

I use choir as a model of leadership all of the time. In choir, I am a leader in my section. If there is a very exposed alto entrance, I can be relied upon to come in, on time. People usually join me, just a split-second later. At the same time, I must always be listening, because it is a choir, not a solo, and I rely on the rest of the choir, just as they rely on me. I rely on the director to keep time faithfully, and to help us rehearse so that we have all the tools we need to come in on time.

And that is true of leadership in general. A leader relies on everybody else, but the leader accepts the exposure. The exposure of coming in first, the exposure of starting out alone. It would be better, especially in a choir, if everyone came in at the same time, and usually they do, but there are still those entrances that frighten people, because they don't understand them well, don't understand the timing well, and they don't want to make a mistake. It is a responsibility.

Now, more than ever, we need more leaders, more people willing to take risk and responsibility. More people who will stand up for "the right thing" whatever that may be, wherever they may experience it. Less crowd mentality, and more willingness to listen to the less popular view. We need to lead where we are able and to follow where we must.

I am concerned with the obsession to follow the advice of experts. It is not that we must each go out and reinvent the wheel, but the reason a choir works is because all of the members of the choir, including the director, have the same goal. Not necessarily true of all the popular experts that people chase after.

Sorry, this rambles...I do love the show. And there's more, but I'll save that for later....

It is an economic crisis, but at root I think it is a spiritual crisis. We kill 4,000 human beings each business day in abortion: decapitated, dismembered, burned alive human beings. This economic crisis will make us realize how much we need people, to rejoice in life, and to repent of this killing. I hope. It took the Civil War to end slavery.

(Hyperlocavore is a free yard sharing community I built to help friends, family, neighbors and faith communities to grow more food closer to home so that we can all eat better, live in neighborhoods that nurture us, learn the value of barn raising, rent parties and caring about each other.)

I am not a 'faithful' person, but if I had to be pressed I would have to say I have faith in human creativity and power to choose wisely. Perhaps this comes from living through three disasters and seeing people express the best in themselves each time in the face of fear.

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

One of the most useful things I have ever learned in my life is that the most effective way to deal with worry and anxiety is to act on those things in your life that you can control, and leave the rest up to the Universe. Some call it the “Serenity Prayer.” Whatever you believe in or do not believe in, knowing just what you can control in your life and what you cannot is the key to your joy. This much I know.

Everyday we are presented with immense rolling overlapping catastrophes, environmental devastation, societal malaise and violence, running out of the stuff that we are told underpins our every creature comfort - oil. All of these things are true. That hand basket you’ve heard so much about, we riding in it!

How do we “carry on”, as the Brits used to say. Well, I’m not at all interested in “carrying on” actually. Nose down, joy in check, plodding and miserable. I want to thrive. I was raised with mighty high expectations of what this life can be, and I’m not giving those expectations up. I want to reach the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I want to love and live well. And I want to eat REALLY well. I got used to that in the 1990’s.

Well, first I would like to suggest some humility, for many on the planet, this rolling crisis has been their daily experience for as long as they have lived. It is nothing new. Check in with yourself. What are you grateful for? What have you been given in life by your community, your family, your beloveds, your friends and your neighbors, by this Earth? You can read this. There must be someone who taught you to read. Take a moment. Sit with your gratitude.

That’s where I began when I built hyperlocavore.com - a free yard sharing community, sitting with gratitude. I had just been laid off. It was April. I had been a tech strategy person at a 35 year old sustainability non-profit that had been fighting the good fight as long as I had been on the planet. I took an inventory…

OK. Stop. Honestly? I can’t lie. First, I felt terror. Then, blind rage with a dollop of total panic. Boiling blood, fist shaking, laying curses on all who had done me wrong - all that. That lasted for a few months, if I tell the truth. Then there was a substantial period of pouting and just feeling so sad for myself. My poor pitiful sorry self. That got old really fast. I bore easily. And I got bored with myself behaving that way, pretty quickly.

When I moved on, it was via gratitude. Sitting with and contemplating all that I was and am grateful for, after all the crying, bargaining and bemoaning had subsided. What did I have, well besides the sweatpants I had been wearing for a few weeks? I am literate and reasonably intelligent, if broke. I have knowledge that people can band together and build amazing fantastical giant things, cities even, because I’ve been part of a community that does that for more than a decade now. I speak of the Burning Man festival and year round astounding creative beautiful community made of doers. I believe I write well enough.

And I have an good idea that has been bugging me since I was about 5. I used to look at the inside of city blocks in San Francisco and wonder, why the heck were the yards all fenced off, in the middle and mostly unused. Why not, I thought way back then, tear those fences down and build a garden full of fruit trees, nut trees and veggie patches? Why don’t people grow food there?

I am grateful that I grew up in the Silicon Valley, a place that fed my voracious curiosity and kept me tinkering. I am grateful for growing up in the Bay Area, a place absolutely crammed with practical minded revolutionaries and doing daring dreamers. The rest of the country seems to think the only thing we gave them was tie-dye and 4 foot bongs, but they would be mistaken. The Bay Area is a place that teaches everyone “Why Not?” A society of people that does not let you just talk about a good idea without telling you, in chorus, to “DO IT!” It is tough to get away with a lot moaning and jaw flapping in a place like that.

Yard sharing is all about being grateful for what you have, not anxious about what you don’t. It’s about responding practically to chaos, to the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns. Never in all my life did I think I would quote Donald Rumsfeld but, there you are. These are strange days, indeed!

You do know these things for sure. You know you need healthy food and you know you need it cheap. So do all your friends and neighbors, the members of your faith communities, so does your slacker posse. So does your family. Doing for yourself, deepening your food security and your community resilience is the most direct thing you can do to bring your rational and general anxiety down to a manageable size. Sit down to a meal that you grew yourself from seeds which you saved, bread you baked, eggs you gathered, and you will know in your bones that you and yours will be alright.

We get new people signing up to the social network every single day, practical people looking to get down to business. I built the site because lots of people don’t have all resources or skills they need to grow their own. Some of us lack time, some lack space, some have physical limitations, or lack certain tools. Some have so little experience growing things that the task seems overwhelming. Where do you start? All of these issues can be minimized in a well gathered and tended yard sharing group, a healthy community.

Some folks are linking up yards and creating mini suburban farm/CSAs, like Kipp Nash in Boulder, Colorado. Each family gets a weekly box of the freshest produce and the rest he sells at the farmers market. If this looks like the job for you, come on by the site and find some farm clients and yards to tend! Kipp’s got eight yards he is farming. Will you ever look at a lawn again in the same way? When I see a sad lone Honey-Doer on a loud riding mower all I see is wasted space, wasted water and meaningless work.

Green thumbs will appear and share the secrets of plant whispering, food waste will be gathered from multiple households and make a formidable sweet smelling compost pile. Friends will band together to buy 3 year old apple trees, for a lifetime of apples. Abuelitas will pass on magic recipes and kids will coax worms to party in warm living soil. Their curiosity will catch fire! Streets will become neighborhoods, neighbors will become friends. No one will feel alone, frozen or powerless, because no one will be alone, frozen or powerless. Potlucks will abound! All will eat better.

This is the future we see, us hyperlocavores. We know it’s coming, because we’re building it right now. Who has time to fret? Pass the cornbread and fresh salsa. Look someone brought the boom box!

Our great great grandparents used to have victory gardens but, they also had rent parties. Londoners danced in underground tunnels as fire came down from the sky. They stayed put. They raised rent, barns and kids together. They didn’t just survive, many of them thrived. I hope we will all use this compound crisis as a reminder that the hard times are very often the very best of times. Take note of what you have, be grateful for your loved ones. Take note of those around you that may feel alone. They are not and you are not, alone.

We each of us every moment of the day will choose our responses to what’s happening. Some will choose to go numb, watch more TV, play more video games, surf mindlessly. Some will chose hate, rage, to nurse grievances and will choose take their pain out on the people around them, the people they love most in this world.

Will you choose another day of fear, of distrust, anger or powerlessness, of envy and isolation or will you choose the plentiful garden, the neighborhood, real community, real food and pleasure?

Yes.

Pleasure.

“There’s only two things that money can’t buy,
That’s true love and homegrown tomatoes!”

- Guy Clark
I would add ‘real community’ to that list of things money can’t buy.
I choose real community, dancing in the chaos, pleasure, delectable food and the edible and musical neighborhood.

Happy Digging!
Liz McLellan

Thank you for a wonderful radio show and forum. Your listeners are great people.

I am currently working on a packet of materials to help faith communities get yard sharing programs going so please get in touch if this is of interest.

I am seeing this crisis as a wonderful opportunity we are given, that is pressing the "Reset" button. It may be triggered more visibly by a financial or economic crisis, but I see more than that. The economic impact is signaling that we have been doing many things wrong: our priorities, our way to be with each other, our habits and behaviors that we came to call "modern, progressive, the way it is" have generated a negative impact on our environment, our communities and on our deeper self. All these impacts are slow, the time lapse between what we do and its effect is not obvious, and as a consequence we are myopic to the consequences of our behaviors. Now that we are experiencing the consequences, we may be lucky to react and begin connecting the dots, and start doing things differently.
The good news is that - given a little silence to listen to our wisdom inside, we all know exactly what to do.

Dear Krista,

Yes, I am challenged to forgive humans I have found myself hating since my own Mother began abusing me 48 years ago. Abuse became habitual,so the feelings of hatred grew like normal human feelings do.

I was not allowed to protest my mistreatment. I had no alternative than to stuff my human voice and the feelings of anger,resentment,and desire for retribution that accompany judgmentalism,being manipulated by false guilt,being made the object of projected and displaced rage as my Mother struggled to project the "normal" and therefore "healthy" nuclear family.

My Mother was a very damaged human being and she found trust seemingly impossible for most of her life. I know that trust is something I was trained to give away without regard to who was asking the questions. I also know this has been very detremental to my own growth because humans appear to be very immature and have taken advantage of almost every vulnerability I have expressed.

I know I was sick because I continued to want to trust even the people who hurt me the most--my own family of origin--and those I learned through culture were "trustworthy", when I often discovered through direct experience that quite the opposite was true.

I have,over the course of the last 20 years, had to unlearn the many sick ways of relating to society forced upon me by my own Mother and the society that looked the other way as she continued to abuse me.

Nobody,it seems, was willing to stand up to her rants and rages.

Actually, there aren't any qualities of human nature I want to cultivate personally because I now believe as a 51 year old that most of them are toxic in nature...leading only to disenchantment, disagreement and ultimately....divorce.

Who we will be for each other is something I think each of us must determine for him/her-self.

As for me, I would like to be thought a good husband,a good father(I love little kids and their unadulterated perspective), a good provider for a family, and to live out the rest of my life trying to make my girlfriend,fiancee,and wife always look twice as intelligent as she is, while I hope one of her major aims is to make me look a whole lot more attractive than I know myself to be.

Thanks for reading, Raul Armas

First, let me say that I applaud this program. It is sorely needed. It is a wonderful program which deals, appropriately, with a world which is complex, spiritual and not as reduced to sound bites as this corrupted culture and its handlers would have us believe.

I am experiencing this economic situation as a spiritual crisis which I believe is a divine unfolding. I believe this country was given untold blessings and benefits, which a narcisstic and corrupt few, aided by weak leaders, crashed this country economically, culturally, morally.

I have tried to cultivate kindness, generosity of spirit, honesty, and some altruism.

There is no basis for trusting any more in this society. It is decadent and corrupt. Extreme individualism at the expense of the many has overtaken and destroyed what was life sustaining in this culture.

I think there are places of community. Not many.

We do not know who we will be for one another. We need a transfiguration of this society, to go back to the strengths of our 17th century leaders who did understand what "society" and "community" and "e pluribus unum" meant, minus their prejudices and elitism.

We need to recreate a "creative" and "creating" culture with a means of production. Naomi Klien and Mr. Grider have proposed ideas with merit.

Without means of production, a reinvention of agriculture, the turning of our factories (what is left) to new production, and the moving away of basic living (such as health care) from profit, is the only way we will find redemption. Otherwise, we will perish or life will become so miserable for most people that it will not be worth living here.

I don't have any answers to the above questions, but would like to let you know that I quit my job as a County Health Nurse to pursue a position as a Parish Nurse. I went from a fairly lucritive income to no income at all. The position (Parish Nurse) was made known to me the day I planned to take my life by drowning in Lake Ontario.

I've been an RN for 12 years. The only way I saw to make a difference in People's lives was to get as close to the top rung of the ladder as possible (You know, to develop policies and have the power to make things happen). I reached the top as Director of Nursing and found out, it wasn't good enough. There is no "good enough" in our puny human terms. The Lord gave me an avenue that fulfills all of his needs for the people in my little community. Parish Nursing is an old idea, renewed by need, in our modern time. I drove 130 miles, one way, for five days to become a Parish Nurse. My official beginning was today and I've already had 2 people in Pulaski, N.Y., ask for help. It is an incredible experience to help when you know there is no $ in it, and, you realize the people you have just seen are not trying to take advantage of your services, but are really trying to better their lives so that they may also be a strength for others.

The above paragraph makes my attempt for planning suicide really insignificant!

God had other plans for our community and decided that I was to be a part of those plans.

I'm grateful to be alive, renewed, restored and given a purpose in this world.

The only image I have to send you is of the place where I was going to go into the water. I'm not sure you really want that.

Thank you for your time,

Esther Keeney, RN

This economic moment can't be separated from the spiritual moment. Life is a spiritual journey. Every choice we make, economic or otherwise, creates the reality we live in. We the, individual person, is the creator of what we call our reality.
The point I would like to make is that we as a whole are looking at this moment from a perspective that can only make the human condition harder for everyone. First, I would point out that government is not the solution to this problem, its the cause. Wall Street and Washington in bed together etc., Almost everyone would agree that this is the equation.
President Obama said that the most important thing is to fix the banking, economic system (capitalism), I respectfully disagree, the most important thing is the human condition, and our planet. Even one individual is more important than all the money in the world. And we as a tribe daily sacrifice individuals for the greater good of the economy.
All of the so call problems of the human race are based on one factor that no one will address, human population: Until we address this issue we will continue to pollute, destroy, and suffer from its consequences. We just need a human-planet equation that works for both. And we don't need to send people off to the gas chambers or kill anyone to create this balance.
Government, money, the economic system, are not natural phenomena, they are created and controlled by people. And those people that control these situations could create any outcome they desire. The question becomes, why do they (we) desire this particular outcome?
If we as individuals would focus on growing food, self-sufficiency, and taking responsibility for giving our power away, and taking responsibility for what we have created, we will be on our way to creating another reality.
We as a species have the technological ability to make this world into a garden of Eden, if we choose, or we can continue to create the hell we have created in certain places.
The choice is in the moment and is ours.
Thank you

The economic downturn seems to be a spiritual regrouping brought about by less-than-moral belief systems and consequences that have dominated our societies for too long a period.
As a tenured teacher and single, sole-supporter, mother of a young adult daughter, I recall my days growing up in an extended family with grandparents, parents, sharing a home, responsibilities, love, stories, joys and challenges. The interdependence, the flow of relationships in familial community is something that "old world" societies still wisely maintain. Extended families are common in other parts of the world, mostly for economic but also for cultural reasons.
As I grow older, (I am now 56 years old), my parents are no longer living and I have come to realize the profound value that living in the family community has had on my life, my focus, my development. In Western societies and in particular, the U.S., we have been indoctrinated to equate extended family living with "lack of independence" and "inconvenience". Instead, I suggest that the perspective has long needed to change. Instead of perceiving others as "inconvenience", we explore deeper into those human and spiritual values constituting our "essence" and learn to value relationships within our own life journey. Indeed, by so doing, we may not only save money, but we may find that we save a part of our spirit as well by enriching each other. I have downsized to a smaller apartment and now, seeking to provide a home for my daughter and myself, I will attempt to become a first-time home buyer with a small, modest home purchase.
The qualities that are necessary for myself and my daughter, as well as the students I teach and all whom I have been blessed to meet revolve around empathy for each other. An analogy I have often used is that when you look deeply into the eyes of the "other" and are able to see your own reflection, you have truly been able to connect with the spiritual nature of us all. This quality of empathic awareness, I believe, is not limited to religion, age, economic, social or cultural persuasion,ethnicity, race, gender, or any other qualifying category. Instead, it is purely a spiritual evolution that is connecting those of like mind and heart to transcend boundaries that have been instrumental in dividing us. It is this kind of awareness that leads to action with and for others, and eventually to a life full of joy, of peace and therein the discovery of God and Spirit. This is the vision I hold for myself and for others of kindred spirit. This is who I pray we will be for each other.

In the attached picture, you can see some people building a road together. These are Hmong people who live in a remote village. I included this picture because it illustrates how much can happen when people work together in community. Do you notice those smiles? I think the smiles come from contributing and belonging. Happiness in poverty is possible, but it helps to have a community and something to give to the community.

1. Are you experiencing this economic moment as a moral or spiritual crisis as well? My husband and I live in Laos, where he works for an organization that helps poor villages. Sometimes I feel detached from the economic crisis. We are so far from America, we have everything we need, and most people here haven’t really been affected by the economic situation in the west. That’s partly because Laos is so isolated - it was poor before and still is (actually it’s gotten slightly wealthier). The villages where my husband works mostly grow their own rice, so the increased cost of food hasn’t made a big difference. It’s easy for me to foolishly think I’m immune to the economic crisis because we’re doing okay right now.

On the other hand, I know many people in the U.S. who have lost their jobs and some who could lose their houses. The organization my husband works for is supported by people in North America. Although I feel distant from the problems, I know that we are just as susceptible to job loss as anyone in America. I wish people would see this as a time for generosity, but I’m concerned that they might become more focused on their own problems. Our organization has seen a decrease in donations and is preparing to continue work with a smaller budget. I hope Americans won’t forget about the rest of the world. That would be a moral crisis.

2. Do concepts of trust, of living in community, of what sustains you have relevance in new tangible ways as you face changed economic realities? I suppose my “changed economic realities” have more to do with where I live than with the economic crisis, but maybe some things I have learned here can be helpful for people in the U.S. I’ve learned that there are things worse than poverty. Poor people can keep enjoying life and each other. It would be harder for a Lao person to be without a family or community than to be without a job (partly because families take care of each other in times of crisis). Another thing I’ve learned is that cultures that are used to being poor are really good at frugality. In the U.S. people have forgotten how to eat and how to have fun without much money. I think that makes this crisis even harder – we don’t know how to deal with poverty. Maybe Americans could learn to cook like Indians and Southeast Asians – mostly rice and vegetables, a bit of meat, and lots of spice!

Seriously though, I know this is a hard situation for many people and I hope I haven’t made light of your difficulty. Sometimes we don’t know why life is so hard. Maybe the best thing to do is keep going and try to focus on the basic things: food, love, shelter, and faith.

As a student, there’s a sense in which I’ve been shielded from the economic downturn. Aside from stymied prospects for financial aid boosts, my full-time student status has more or less cushioned me from many of the hard financial realties those around me are facing. Yet, in the wake of this crisis (which began interestingly aligned with the outset of an academic year), I’ve noticed a palpable shift in my attitude both within and beyond the academy. It is always tragically ironic to me in academia, when we approach conversations with a posture of intractability, when the nature of education itself (yes, inscribed within its etymology the word educere, meaning “to lead out”) implies transformation contingent upon a willingness to be led, and thus contingent first upon listening and on humility. During this time where many of our basic assumptions about financial, ethical and national spheres are being called into question, I am reminded of the fundamental importance of approaching questions raised by this turbulence with the spirit of: “I could be wrong.” Indeed, as I weekly approach the altar in my church’s Eucharist service, it is this similar spirit of awe-induced humility that allows me to listen with authenticity for new possibilities and move with hope with toward new beginnings. My prayer is that out of this time, I, and the communities that surround me, would remember the significance of the phrase “I could be wrong” as we discuss for new possibilities and look for change.

If You Love Your Daughter

If you love your daughter, then join the fight
The fight to make her future bright
If you love your daughter then spare no might
To make her a social citizen with full right

Don’t just sit there and hope for a change
The world will endeavor to keep her strange
Don’t trust the laws, they only arrange
Those whom your daughter’s rights derange

Don’t tell me you love your daughter
When you don’t care for her mother
Don’t tell me you love your daughter
When you teach your son to be like his father

If you love your daughter, then join the fight
The fight to amend her plight
If you love your daughter then let her take a flight
A flight to the heights beyond the moonlight

What do you say about violence against women?
What do you do to prevent their living in a dungeon?
What do you say when women are bitterly beaten?
What do you do when your daughter’s heart is broken?

Do you tell your son a woman is a mother, a wife, a daughter?
Do you tell him he would never have survived without his mother?
Do you show him by your own examples that a woman is not a server?
Do you show him by your own treatments how best to treat a lover?

If you love your daughter, then join the fight
The fight to make her future bright
If you love your daughter then spare no might
To make her a social citizen with full right

copyright, 2009 Richard Homawoo

Hi Everyone,

I am Sudheer from India and just wanted to share my thoughts and feeling towards the recent economic crisis which has affected worldwide. We actually see the aftermath in every country possible. As there is this wide chunk of people whom I refer as "workaholic"....infact I too fall in this category are the ones who usually suffer the most during these situations. The problems they face are dangerous- family, loss of work/employment, despair, financial commitments.... struggle to make the 2 ends meet is very much required.

To over come such stress and strain, we need to focus our thoughts towards positive thoughts. let us take this opportunity to unwind, relax, spend time with family and discuss on future. Its time to end our greed and help one another and come up the crisis situation. Its time to turn to God and seek his help and blessings. Let us pray to get strength o overcome this hurdle together. Its time to work together and support our families and friends. Let us keep our ego aside and work for people welfare. Use the present resources and help people in need for basic resources. Its really important that people dont hurt anyone and focus building strong relationships.

God..Give us strength to spread love and support one another, give us the confidence and help us work towards building a better greener society...

By dint of many years of much suffering, sacrifice, risk, loss, and exertion to defend and uphold my profession of engineering, its code of ethics, and the public health and safety as licensed professional engineer (PE), employed by US Department of Energy as a nuclear safety engineer, I have become a well-known and influential member of mankind largest and most global profession of engineering (one can google my name for details). My profession's 20 million degreed members worldwide collectively hold civilization and much of the natural environment in their hands.

There is no organized Christian influence in my profession and never has been one - not in its modern form from around 1850. This is not without consequences - my profession enables much institutional evil in the world and inhibits much common good.

"Love of money is the root of all evil" is the best explanation - Christian members of my profession are reluctant to "rock boats" in the profession because of fear of professional/economic retribution. This kind of personal "look the other way," no "boat rocking" type of evil is necessary for instititional evil to take root.

Christian religious professionals take no exceptions for the lack of an organized Christian influence in my profession, also out of fear of professional/economic retribution if they "rock boats" about the failure of Christian engineers to "rock boats" in their profession. Neither do they criticize institutional lawbreaking when established by rule of law in situations as mine, sending a clear message to concerned professional employees - you are on your own with your concerns.

I see this fear of "boat rocking" in secular professions playing out in SOF and its "Reinventing Virtue" series - the economic meltdown is not an act of God, it was manmade and resulted, in essential part, from the lack of an organized Christian influence in financial professions - and the lack of Christian religious professionals taking exception to its absence. SOF takes no exception to either - not the lack of an organized Christian influence in mankind's secular professions nor the lack of concern expressed by Christian religious professionals to it.

A few years ago, I wrote a short article for "The Huntsville Times" about how writing a poem is actually the search for the spiritual. My writing poetry is an attempt to transform the grit of daily life into more than itself. One way I do that is, sometimes, by looking at the past. A big part of American history deals with our desire to strike it rich. That can be seen from the gold rushes of the past to the current greed by the oil industry and Wall Street. Sometimes thinking about the past puts things in perspective for me. My poem below deals with this issue that is so "American."

Photographing Bodie

Everything was left in place
in that high town dug so deeply
underground, the magazines
on the rack, billiard cues
on the table, the drinks
still set, a world map
schooling you to new mines.
But what gain was there
in Bodie? The corrugated
buildings housed the fortune
grinding everything down
for that moment of gold.
Now the brilliant light,
thinned by snow and dry wind,
heat and cold, polarizes
the gaming wheel, your last
poker chips. Coffins and
sewing machines, typewriters,
skis, a violin, its pieces
all unglued by dust, do
the speaking for you
as if you cast them down
like demons unto the earth,
a scar in the Nevadas cut
in haste, sick with altitude,
dehydrated, your bones chilled.
The human eye tries to correct
the colors here, find the contrast,
make up the difference with
filters, but we know the truth,
of the fires consuming you,
street by street, shop by horrid
shop, so violent a struggle
between you and the outside.
We mourn you isolated
in your death, arrested
in your frenzy to get somewhere,
torn by need. Did you find
what you were after? Or is it still
buried beneath you like
some mother lode never found?

---copyright, Virginia Gilbert
Published in "Greatest Hits"

I'm listening to the interview with Joe Carter and Negro spirituals. I was particularly struck by his comment, "Older people [of faith] will say 'it is well with me.'" Not that they are saying: I'm fine, all is great.
I've been trying to buy a house and I was told on Friday by the organization I'm working with that my debt is still too high, there have been too many late pays. I can work on the debt, but how do I erase the late pays? I don't. So I'm having a pity party. And the comment 'it is well with me' really reminded me that I am healthy, I have loving siblings (deceased parents who did love me), I have faith that I will succeed in my goal to get a home, just not this month.
Remembering that black people in slavery, concentration camp survivors, and others in impossibly oppressive conditions chose their attitude, I know I can too.
Who will I be for someone else? A support to my sister who had to put down her 13-yr-old dog, a support to a coworker with cancer, a laborer for my brother who is painting his daughter's new home and on and on.
Your program is my Sunday church. Thank you. In the photo I'm on the left with graying hair, younger sister and brother on the right.

I have been blessed with an amazing recovery from a serious mental illness. While so many others have been forced into a crisis of the soul because of the economic downturn, I have experienced over two decades to discover, recover and renew every aspect of my life.

My downturn began in 1981 when I was hospitalized after the birth of my baby at the age of 25 due to a clinical depression that subsequently “grew” into a serious psychotic disorder. With over 30 hospitalizations in mental hospitals from Dallas to Austin, I lost days, months, years, decades to a broken brain that kept me from functioning in the “real world”.

To make a very long story short, let me share that the blessings from my illness come from the forced opportunities to discover the authentic Diana Kern.

For so long, I was hidden inside a delusion that kept me disconnected from the world; disenfranchised like thousands of others who experience the terrifying symptoms of schizophrenia and similar brain disorders.

Now for the last ten years, I have enjoyed a life that I always wanted and a life that God and my community helped me to discover and enjoy.

Very early on in my adulthood, I learned that my success did not depend on my financial state or even in my place in the world. Rather, my fortune existed within when I discovered community, understanding, self-confidence and responsibility.

It is not only the right medications that keep me mentally healthy; it is the deep knowing that indeed we are all one.

My mission is to connect with others who aren’t as blessed as I am. I want to reach through their delusions and offer them the space to just “be”.

Is this a story? I'm not sure, but it is a record. Its beginning predates the present recession, but the same sorts of moral distresses resulted. I am not naive; politicians sometimes have to conceal the truth, and even to lie. But I began to feel morally sickened early in the George W. Bush presidency. The scope, intensity, and regularity of falsehoods and deceptions wormed their way into my spirit to the point that I told my friends I was felt culturally or existentially ill. I had physical symptoms of this disease. I saw much goodness in individuals, but my overall impression of human behavior in American culture widely speaking took on the grey color of hopelessness or despair. I am afraid that those eight years will end up taking eight from the back end of my life.

Anyway, that morally expedient or even lawless environment was fertile ground for a sort of thoughtless euphoria in the minds of many people who, for one reason and another, looked to the culture, not themselves, to provide their morality. The culture responded by providing distractions and entertainments designed to forestall careful consideration of situations that arose, such as the husbandry (what an outmoded word!) of one's financial resources. "Less is more" became totally defunct, and was replaced by "more can never be enough." This attitude turns a community inside out: the individual triumphs over the community.

Who will we be for each other? Government is attempting to exercise more control, and perhaps in the long run such a different ethos can restore to the citizens some dignity of intention when it comes to managing one's own affairs. The "green" movement, too, has begun to influence the way individuals see themselves in relation to the whole. More people are seeing themselves in terms of the world, rather than the world in terms of themselves. I believe we need to be better and better stewards of others. This can start in each family, as parents encourage their children to make principled, rather than self-driven, choices in economic matters. I do not believe we can condemn, criticize, punish, castigate, or force others into prudence, but people can be led or induced, especially in a scary situation like the one confronting us now.

Like most respondents, I'm thoroughly convinced that the present moment has deep spiritual roots. But I want to push back a bit on the notion that we're presently in crisis.

I think the spiritual crisis happened some time ago; we are now in the inevitable denouement. If I can compare these economic times to an avalanche: the crisis happens at the top of the mountain, when a cornice of snow collapses. The snow tumbles down the hill, gathering mass and momentum. Eventually, it reaches the valley, destroying buildings and lives. We are now, metaphorically, digging people out of the wreckage, bracing up tumbled walls, applying first aid, and mourning our losses. These are all good things, the necessary steps for this moment, but when the immediate has been dealt with, we should also devote some thought to preventing a the next crisis, and here it will be necessary to recall the cornices.

So, when did it start?

A lot of analysts have pointed to deregulation over the last ten years or so, which I'm sure has been a factor. But I think Paul Zak is closer to the mark, pointing to a loss of awareness of the humanity behind our abstractions.

There is a farmer's market near my apartment in Louisville. It is a large gathering at a Christian Church for a few hours every Saturday morning. I have made it a habit to visit every Saturday, regardless of whether or not I purchase anything. This market is a wonderful realization for me. People share and talk,laugh and exchange recipes. I can stop at one booth and hear news of the tomato crop and step 10 feet away to the next booth and find the most glorious flowers. There is a great peace to my Saturday mornings. I remember back to Krista's discussion of neuro-economics and the need to view tranasactions as more than impersonal exchanges of money for goods. This market embodies the virtuous exchange that is possible in business. Farmers harvest such beautiful crops and I help to sustain that beauty with my purchase.

Every time I am there, I think of what Thomas Merton said while standing at the Corner of 4th and Walnut, in my home of Louisville, Kentucky

"Yesterday, in Louisville, at the corner of 4th and Walnut, I suddenly realized that I loved all the people and that none of them were, or, could be totally alien to me."

I hope we can begin to see what Merton saw. This is a perfect time to find virtue in business. I struggle sometimes with this hope, and so I wake up every Saturday and I travel to the farmers market and I remind myself of what is possible.

The economic downturn appears to me as a welcome event, one that is capable of returning our culture to a measure of the resourceful self-reliance long reported by our elders as the good old days, and to the trimming back of our appetites to the benefit of our souls as taught by our spiritual directors. I make this brave statement as a previously employed and dues-paying taxpayer who is now a member of the handicapped, disabled and impoverished underclass. In other words, I have already trimmed back. When I could no longer climb stairs or get around without a walker, I too gave up riding horses, flying airplanes and driving for pleasure -- but I also had to give up personal independence. My cutbacks came a long time before gas prices became an issue and I haven't eaten out, seen a movie (except on DVD) or taken a vacation since well before others my speed slowed down on their shopping sprees. There's no such thing as a weekend off from MS. Accordingly, and long before the economic downturn, I moved back to my rural hometown where prices are cheaper, rents are lower and early retirement doesn't come as such a shock. Family matters, neighborhood means someone notices if you haven't picked up your mail, and going to church makes the difference between despair and discovering that suffering does purify the soul. I pray for those who have lost their jobs, homes, comforts and self-esteem. But still, let's be clear about this -- the stock market crashed because greed took advantage of weakness and the trickle down, ripple out effect from that is what's now chilling our world. Let's also notice one more important point -- a lot of us had already crashed. Half a million of us deal with MS, many more from other neurological impairments and far more than that from cancer, heart disease, crippling injuries and that meanest of all levelers --plain old age. We've already adjusted our lifestyles and cut back on our frivolities. We're already making do, doing without and asking for help -- more often than not without adequate answers. So excuse me if I'm not brimming over with concern that you've had to give up your second car. If you can still walk, as my mother used to say from her wheelchair -- you won't get much sympathy in this house. Welcome to the bottom of the heap. And let the trip teach you all a thing or two about tolerance for the weak and the weary, because you never know when you might have to join us.

On your program Parker Palmer said, "It seems to me that one of the commonest features of human life is what I sometimes call secrets hidden in plain sight, things we know but don't want to know and thus find systematic ways of evading or ignoring or denying. And I suppose the fundamental answer as to why we do that is that if we knew these things we would have to change our lives, and we don't want to change our lives."

Mr. Palmer reminded me of an article I wrote which began, "There are things in our history that most Americans don't know because they haven't been told, or what they have been told is not true. Unfortunately, some of the things are so disturbing that many of us would prefer to keep it that way."
http://www.dcdave.com/article5/090527a.pdf

I am a physician and a person who has suffered from and overcome depression through a multifaceted approach. I have also been extremely disciplined n my approach to personal finance, business planning, generous employment, charitable giving and caring for patients that have come on hard times in the state of Michigan. I appreciated Palmer Parker's contribution here but have a few disagreements with him.
1. Most of the time depression has a biological and genetic contribution that is beyond a person's control. I have several generations of depression in my family and no amount of spirituality will overcome that. Spirituality is one important contribution along with medicine, therapy, physical exercise and, quite frankly, a little bit of good luck to battle a very real, biochemically induced ailment. Implementing strong habits for overcoming depression is important, but please don't imply that those that are depressed are so because they have invested their spirituality in the wrong place/values or have ignored spirituality altogether. A person with high blood pressure is not a spiritual malfeasant, he/she has an illness that should be addressed in a number of ways. Same with those who have a tendency to be depressed-particularly in difficult times. Don't place indue burdens on those of us suffer with such problems and don't congratulate those that are wired for a more up beat disposition as they have not chosen their genetics either.
2. Community:
I find the term most interesting in these times and have morphed to a different view. As an active Christian for several decades, I have always tithed, participated in medical missions, have sacrificed my own personal income for the sake of my employees. I have been a strong believer in "Community". My experience lately in this country has caused me to re-evaluate my view of this term. As a potential "victim" of "Health Care Reform", I see a mob gathering outside my door demanding that they want more of me for less and it is "their right"- all in the name of "Community". I see beneficiaries of my generosity in the "Community" over many years voting to raise my taxes and lower my salary, so I can no longer generously participate in the causes or efforts that they hold so near and dear. They don't seem to understand that this is a time where I need to see some reciprocity of support for the years of generosity they have enjoyed and benefited from.This mindset will eventually destroy some of the efforts that have been built by "Community". It has become almost a Pavlovian reflex for me to go into "protection mode" now whenever anybody talks about "Community" because I have come to recognize that many times it is trying to convince me that I need to be more generous, they want "something for nothing", and a reciprocating form of support (of any kind) coming in my direction is never going to happen.
Call me cynical (to say the least), but this economic time has caused me to re-evaluate my generosity so that it is invoked and put forth on my own terms for the causes I value on my time frame. I also don't expect anything in return-which is sad and very demotivating in terms of jumping into the deep end of "Community". Quite to the contrary. I will be more guarded and skeptical. This is more like a realization of Rheinhold Neibhor's "Moral Man Immoral Society" than an awakening to the virtues of Community. I have been summarily unimpressed with many of the communities I have worked for tirelessly in the past to support only to see them apathetic or antagonistic in a time when I need their support.
Scott Wilkinson M.D.

I was so happy to hear Parker Palmer's comments on Sunday morning here in Ohio. I especially loved his comment on Jesus' words: "Be not afraid." As a minister myself, I have struggled with these words on a personal basis because of my own life fears and on a public basis as I have attempted to preach about it. When he said that Jesus didn't say that we shouldn't have the normal fears that often accompany human life, he said not to become our fear, I felt my heart leap. Our economic situation is frightening as I witness my friends lose jobs and struggle to find new ones. Though I feel that my jobs as a social worker and part-time pastor are pretty secure, one never knows. Because of state and federal budget cuts to human services, I am not guaranteed a job if something happens to my current position. I witness my clients who face medical crises (I work at a hospital) and how they struggle to stay financially solvent when it is becomes more and more impossible. I listen to them struggle with how to make sense of severe medical issues in theological/spiritual/religious ways. And I feel the sense of unrest as people struggle to trust their elected leaders and whether or not they really have any clue at all what middle America thinks or needs.

The concepts of trust and of living in community sustain me more now than they ever have. I think that if people are going to survive beyond these times, we need to pull together and make sure that people are being fed, nurtured, comforted and enjoyed. I preach about the building of community frequently on Sundays because I am hoping that people will look at the church as a means of finding that community and remaining hopeful in God and in each other.

I want to affirm the qualities of compassion, acceptance, honesty, healthiness and love in myself and in the people in my life. In my family and in my church I focus on the wonders of diversity and that God is open to everyone, no matter what his or her journey has been. I encourage people to listen to the undertones of messages because sometimes very judgmental ideas can be conveyed in terms that seem, at least on the surface, to be inclusive and positive. (The term "family values" comes to mind since it is really about a heterosexual couple with 2.4 children, etc.) I also remind people that God gave them a brain and God expects them to use it and not allow themselves to have their faith spoon-fed to them.

I hope that we will learn from this economic crisis the difference between what we need and what we want. American culture seems to be so much about "I want what I want when I want it." We have stockpiled a lot of "stuff"--far more than we need. I hope that the shortage of money helps us to become more creative in how we spend time together and makes us see that it is our human connections that are really important. I hope that we become more grateful for what we have because even in this economic downturn, it is still more than most of the world's poor will ever know.

I think this is a time when people might start to realize the relevance of the overlooked teachings of a whole bunch of different religions.

One of the main causes of this crisis -- and one of the main causes of the Great Depression in the 1930s -- is borrowing money on credit. Right before the Great Depression, people were buying stocks on margin: They would pay a fraction of the actual price of a stock, with the promise that the remainder would be paid by the change in stock's value. It was a promise to pay with money that might or might not materialize sometime in the future. The same is true of bond issues, mortgage-backed securities, and other instruments: they represent a promise to pay back loaned money, with interest that has to come from somewhere, sometime in the future, but the money might or might not be there. The value of these instruments is entirely in people's imaginations. People are paying money for promises of varied and sometimes questionable veracity. And the fulfillment of these promises is rarely within the control of the promise-maker!

Do you remember the story about Jesus kicking the money-changers out of the temple? Suddenly these religious teachings against money-lending are starting to make sense....

I have found the teachings of Asatru (reconstructions of the Norse pre-Christian religion), to be valuable also. It teaches that a person's value stems from their honor. And a person's honor comes from fulfilling promises and doing great deeds. So it's a really bad idea to make promises, when your ability to fulfill those promises is out of your control. By doing that, you're putting your honor -- your life -- into someone else's hands. You had better have a lot of trust in that other person! It teaches that "a gift demands a gift," and that this exchange of gifts is the foundation of friendships and other valuable relationships (gifts need not be physical!). One must contribute in order to benefit, if the community is to remain stable. It teaches that a person is nothing without a community to live within, and that no man is an island. A person should strive toward self-reliance, but in the end, complete self-reliance is impossible -- everyone needs a community to help them live. In short, it teaches how to live a sustainable life in the face of constant hardship.

I have found much inspiration in the writings of John Michael Greer, the leader of the Ancient Order of Druids in America. His blog is about some of the false premises our society is based on, and their frightening logical consequences: http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/

hello, my name is adam majewski. and i am a pagan. spicificly a slavic reconstructionist. i live here in the twin cities and have for almost all my life. i am 22 and am a culinary specialist, and one of the local restaurants in town. currently i feel that for my self the economic moment has be come a moral and a spiritual crisis. the reason being is because before the crisis i was not to spiritual if at all. i like to think a was moral before the crisis but since it has started i have become even more moral through both the increase of spiritual practice, and how i run my life. the reality is, is that i have made changes in my life and how i think about thing and i carry my self as a person as changed be cause of the down turn. i am a year round bicycler and have been for some time, and the tightening of financing as made me very glade that i don't own a car, and don't plan on owning one in the near future. it has also opened my eyes to see that i don't have to many close people that i call friends, all i have is my mother, sister, grandfather, and myself, i don't have lot's of people to call on for emotional help, but would like to change it if at all possible. as a group that are only similer in the sence that we are all human, we are all going to screw up alot, but we are all going to be in some way a shining light for one another because we all want to do better then the person next to use, weather caused when looking in our selfs and saying we can be better people then we are when we see others being better people or just straight up competition, because here in the u.s of a we are all very strong competatures

Around Christmas time 2008 there was a news release published by some very credible media sources, like the Wall Street Journal and Reuters (to name two) stating that:

"...in the very near future a large, bright star will appear in the sky visible throughout the world, night and day. Around a week later, Maitreya will give his first interview on a major U.S. television program."

Since that time the aforementioned star did in fact appear all over the world and a subsequent news release published by at least the Wall Street Journal (and I'm assuming the others who covered the first news release) stated the following:

News Release: The Star is seen worldwide
As tension and desperation mount among those who suffer the fallout of the financial collapse, Maitreya waits for public debate over the new starlike luminary to signal the necessary response from humanity which will release Him to step into public work as Teacher for a new way forward for mankind. As photographic reports increase, it is hoped that with the help of media and the Internet, the law of free will may be fulfilled and His emergence can proceed apace.

This post is an effort to kindle some of the needed public debate.

Maitreya is a Divine Intermediary by the way.

In other words, all we need to do to trigger Divine Intervention is TALK about a star that has been photographed all over the world.

There has been very little media reaction to this story. Unless the voice of humanity (i.e. public opinion) demonstrates an interest in these events, Maitreya and the Spiritual Hierarchy are forbidden to take any action, because it would be a breach of free will.

I believe a program like yours could do tremendous work towards enlightening the masses about the ongoing changes in our world. There is plenty of video footage and information to support these grandiose claims. Please take the time to review the content at www.shareintl.org. Humanity's purpose is not to have a handful of powerful, greedy organizations controlling the resources of this planet forcing everyone into a life of financial imprisonment. We are chained to our jobs which suck the life and energy from us so that the rich can get richer. We are divine creatures living on a planet which can provide everyone with abundance. It is the imbalance and greed which have caused this economic collapse.

I hope you consider this story. When you read some of the underlying details, it sounds a little far-fetched, I realize, but that doesn't make it any less real. 2,000 years ago, the same kind of story was unfolding. Back then, very few people really understood what was happening. I can think of the three wise men, and the Essenes, but everyone else were relying on the wisdom of the Pharisees and the church elders. Jesus made it clear that those experts were way off the mark. The same scenario is likely to occur when He returns. Thousands of different denominations exist, each of them claiming to know the truth. Each of them expect that when God comes back to Earth, He will walk into their particular church and pat them on the back for seeing the real truth. What is far more likely to occur is that God will look around and announce that the majority of the churches are mistaken. Where is the church that stresses self sacrifice and self crucifixion? Jesus made it clear that we must pick up our crosses and follow Him down the path that leads to self annihilation. Nobody wants to hear that message. There are plenty of churches that offer an easier alternative. Just believe and you are saved from eternal damnation! No cross is necessary! These are the churches that the masses flock to, because people are not really interested in following a spiritual path to enlightenment. They are more interested in maximizing their creature comforts. The truth of the matter, however is that there are two mutually exclusive worlds: The World of God and The World of Man. Everybody claims to want to find the bridge to the World of God, but our churches haven't figured out yet that the only way to reach the spiritual kingdom is to eliminate desire for the material kingdom. Life is a gradual evolution into the awareness that the material world cannot satisfy. Things are not as important as relationships. Where two mutually exclusive worlds exist, it is only logical that paradox holds the key to bridging them. Jesus mentioned a few, we must die to gain eternal life, it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven... Here is my favorite paradox: We identify our self as a separate, distinct subset of physical form, emotions and mental activity. We each have a self, and the rest of the universe is the not-self. The paradox of truth is that our true self is really our not-self. As our love of self shrinks through spiritual maturity and loving our neighbor, our awareness expands to include ever more of our environment. At first it is just me and my wants. But when I put myself in the shoes of my neighbors, and I truly start to care about them and their circumstances, my life is enriched exponentially, because when someone is loved, they have a tendency to love you back. Just think what it would be like to love everyone! Rather Heavenly, don't you think?

I know I'm rambling a bit. The point I'm trying to make is that the messages which are going to change the world and solve all of its problems are going to center around SHARING. This is what Maitreya will teach. You have an incredible opportunity to enlighten the public to the most incredible story imaginable.

By the way, I love your show!

Speaking of faith in these hard economic times.
to me is the most natural thing to do. Living
here in the Now remains our greatest defense
against hardships and difficulties.It had been
said that when times are good we might aspire
to emulate the buddhist, but when times are
hard we become Taoist. But can we really have
it both ways? The Tao te Ching is a book that
means many things to different people, yet it
is essentially unchanging and timeless. It is
the point of daily practice in the Way that
makes all of the difference. In these hard
economic we times we aspire to be Taoist but
why should this be any different in good times
or bad?

Natural Time

Here are a few old poems and a few new, most
tend to have a bitting edge. Not for everyone.

"It is, unfortunately, only too clear that if the
individual is not truly regenerated in spirit,
society cannot be either, for society is the
sum total of individuals in need of redemption."
-C.G. Jung

This Burden

I did not ask for this burden
when one becomes two
In a moment
everything changes
that is when a teacher is needed
- chop wood carry water -
this is only the beginning
As the old Shaman will tell his
apprentice
'I am sorry that you have become
enlightened,
Now get back to work'
Waking up is nothing
living it free and undetected
in a world without vision
that is the challenge
How do you speak a laungage
that has no words?

In The Dark

We can live in the dark
without a spark
And call this the light
We can live all our life
In obediance to ignorance
and call this divine
We can worship our own
intelligence and believe
that what we achieve
is worth the price
Who is at the helm?
We are a nation of fools
In a world spun out of control
In our bid for power
Without honor or humility
there is no impeccability
We neglect the totality
of the Self

Inside Out

If we are constant within change
like the Sun which remains
bright even in secret at night
not only upon it's rising
then contentment is supreme
without the weeds of desire
clogging the portal of awareness
Blind allegiance selfish and uncaring
will never rise up to the heights
Gradual development is the surest way
where as prompt delivery
gained in haste is soon wasted
If you know the firing process
for the gold elixer of illumination
then you have the quality of humilty
with great power in virtue
This is the Spirit of Tao
not detached but engaged on principle

~*~*~*~

Fear

All fear is death
make peace
the spirit
within
Ego
will not give up
the fight
step aside
one clear moment
there is no blame
plumb the depth
of your being
think outside
the box
let go
the identity
of opposites

Epitaph

And any last brave words
In the face of death
It is a good day to die
We have the capacity not
To think about
Those things we find
Fearful like our
Own Mortality
Let alone that of others
Stand up
There is no dress rehearsal
Live fully in the moment
Future and past have no presence

The Agreement

The Policy
of hate
and control
polarize factions
destroy obfuscate
Stop the mystic mind
before it can multiply
what isn't us
must be them
kill all heretics
recognize the danger
don't invite it in
be silent
don't disrupt the apple cart
make waves and
pay the consequence
remain myopic and all is well
don't distrub dead religion
fear is the cause
of all consequence
open the portals of clarity
bless our petty tyrants

Beneath Obstruction
Nov. 08, 2003

they felt they were justifed
in burning me at the stake
going through the fire
getting to the other side
being celibate all those years
not knowing what this might bring
I had become enlightened
soon to be crucified
beneath obstruction
Carl Jung did say
it is "a moment of deadliest peril!"
"this immortal" capacity
we have within
it is in the voice of sages
silent as thunder
discredit me
rob me of my good name
I can see the image you would create
a lie built upon obstruction

"When the fundamental is established.
the path develops."

"Once you recover your potential, it is like
it was always there..."

Taoist I Ching

Restore and rouse your vital spirit
nurture the virtue of natural reality
Return feelings to essential nature
Acting in the dragon's pool
enter the lair looking for the tiger
crossing great rivers beneficially
is not empty tranquility without action
working in the midst of great danger
and difficulty knowing when to act
return to the essence of real knowledge

The Mind of Tao

To active the Mind of Tao
dissolve the human Mind
Day by day
Mundane energy wanes
Gradually
Celestial Energy grows
Ture Mind
Building the foundation
There is White within Black
Male within Female
One must use the Bellows
Self-refinement
Requires the True Lead
The Four Signs combine
The Five Elements
Are One Energy
The Three Treasures
Return to One
At the Edge of the Universe
Yin and Yang Merge
Unified Energy
Absolutely Open Nothingness
The State before Birth
Clear and Free
Round and bright
Unfixed to Form or Void
The Gold Elixir Burns
With Illumination
At the Heart
Of Heaven and Earth

The Tao flows through all things
and returns to the origin of all things
Serene, empty, solitary, unchanging,
infinite, eternally present ~ mother
of the unverse - something formless
and perfect before the universe
was born... it you can accept the world
as it is the Tao will never leave you

Tao Te Ching

By nurturing the small to lofty greatness
keeping centered and embracing unity
taking charge of the pivoltal mechanism
to cultivate spiritual virtues, fulfill nature
and reach the meaning of life...

Interesting Jung's use of the word redemption
in the context of social survival not only of the
individual, but as this metamorphosis affects
the macrocosm in particular.

Turn around operate in reverse, away
from progressive conditioning, back
to the original integrity of the real mind
As long as a breath of living potential
remains there is hope for the way ahead
Where there is trust mutual progress
is assured earthly vitality is transformed
true vitaltity is born open awareness unobscured

"The energy of harmony of essence and feeling in people
is the yang fire; this is the real. The restlessness of acquired
energy in people is the yin fire; this is the false."

I Ching

~*~*~*~

Original flawless undamaged
pattern of nature...
nothing is more important
than accord with
the basis of true reality
Refining away acquired yin
is the work of refining the self
if you wish to conquer feeling
first conquer essence...
when stillnes is complete
then action goes into motion
utter emptiness beckons fulfillment
"if you give little and withhold much,
the spirits and immortals will not come"

"If you do not refine the mind thoroughly, the true yin
within yourself will not become manifest; if you do not
become thoroughly empty and quiet, the external
true yang will not come."

The Taoist I Ching

My friends tell me I should write from the heart
all this technical spiritual science is all well
and good from the safty of some ivory tower
but the real risk is in the living practice in action
And here lately new avenues have opened up
even though this is far from finished, this higher
calling as it were, it now feels ok to let up just a
little, long enough to be an artist that other part
of the creative nature... and yet i don't write nearly
half as much as I feel compelled to and a day
missed is a day lost in time forever...

Natural Time

All that we know can not be spoken in words,
words without appropriate action are
meaningless; reaching into eternity is as
simple as turning over the palm of your hand
step into the now and all things are understood
sustaining the 'now' takes practice, to often
we give up along the way, slack off on our efforts
forgetting the truth that is just before us...

Refining the self with dignity
Acting with unfailing clarity
once the earthly and celestial
are completed in consumation
use the path of nonstriving
to preserve completion and balance

Having your own epiphany only
marks the beginning of learning

"When illumination returns to the center,
and you show your own lack and respect
what others have, even if you are ignorant
you will gain understanding, and even if
you are weak you will become strong,
without losing your basic flexibility and
receptivity."

"What is auspicious and leads to good results
is the ability to empty and open the mind."

The Taoist I Ching

~*~*~*~

Images from the ~ Tao Te Ching ~

He who talks, it is said, doesn't know
he who knows doesn't talk...
After all once we are cleansed
of our personal history, once
the past falls into proper perspective
What more is there to say?
How many more books need be read
at the point of nonstriving spontaneity?

We simply learn in a different manner
once the search has ended... once there
is no more need for seeking if we do not
understand the necessity for hidden
practice all that has been gained will be
set to ruin against the mundane...

If you realize that all things change
there is nothing you will hold on to
If you aren't affraid of dying
there is nothing you cann't achieve
teach without a teaching
act without doing
arrive without being summoned
heal yourself of all knowing
without opeing your door
you can open your heart
to the world...
seeing into darkness is clarity
knowing how to yield is strength
if your want to take something
you must first allow it be given
if you want to shrink something
you must first allow it to expand
this is the subtal percepception
of the way things are
return to the source of light
practicing eternity...
these teachings are older
than the world how could
we grasp their meaning?

~*~

the subtle perception of the way things are
less and less do you need to force things
until finally you arrive at nonaction
when nothing is done - nothing is left undone

it is possible to arrive without
understanding the process
many paths will do
in recapitulation...
understanding the process
however, requires mastery

~*~

The master, it is said, teaches
by weakening their ambition
and strengthening their resolve
to emtpty one's mind and
thereby filling one's core...

yet there is danger
in solitary cultivation
of tranquility...
being outwardly flexible
but inwardly firm
refining oneself
controlling the mind
ascending from lowliness
to the heights...
eliminating anger
and convetousness
entering gradually
this realm of beauty
stopping falsehood
maintaining truthfulness
clarifing the good
restoring the original
"Profoundly arriving
at self-realization,
one will rise into
the inner sanctum
of sages."

"When one is flexible and balanced, keeping to
one's lot calmly and constantly, without thought
or effort, sincere and singleminded, this can
be called constancy in this one virtue. However,
fidelity to this single-mindedness is suitable
for cultivating quietude apart from society, but
it is difficult to thereby comprehend essence
and reach the destiny of life."

"So practioners of the Tao should be constant
in the right way, especially in practice of the
right path. Only then can they get somewhere
beneficially, comprehend essence and arrive
at the meaning of life, and preform the great
work in the world that is eternally unchanging."

I Ching

According to the Tao te Ching the world is sacred
it cann't be improved and yet much like the art of
governing a large nation is similar to cooking a
small fish, We spoil it with to much poking. Living
a spiritual life in this human existence can be a
challenge even under the best of circumstances.
Freedom, liberataion, transformation, illumination
are merely concepts much like fingers pointing at
the moon, if we focus on the fingers we miss what it
means to be authentic beyond the veil of words.

Much lip service is given to living an awakened
life, cults of fancy are created out of dark rituals
unquestioned as consumers are left to fend for them-
selves amid a sea of half truths and lies. And yet
from Holly Wood Kabbalah to out right worship of so
called higher intelligence in dianetics, we are daily
bombarded with ever increasing notions of spiritual
entitlements to few of us could afford. One need
only look beneath the surface to recognize that the
source of so many popular beliefs from Scientology
to New Age are deeply rooted in the radical precepts
of western magic(k).

Yet, is it little wonder that in the void created by
established religion the disenchanted would turn to
precepts that expound the virtues of being spiritual
but not religious? We do not need a new religion
new age or otherwise, but merely a greater understand-
ing of society in relation to our human condition.

~*~*~

Please note that my previous submission, though written
with good intention, was offered in haste with to little
time for authenticity.

One of the challenges of being unemployed for so long (more than two years now), has been a feeling that I have been forgotten by society. The unemployment benefits lasted for only a few months, and they seem such a dim memory now. I hear reports on the news about the fluctuations of the level of people receiving unemployment from the government, and I get the feeling that the economists and analysts have completely lost touch with reality, because I know very well that there are huge numbers of people who are unemployed just like me, but who are no longer counted because their benefits have run out. The government does not seem to care about us. I feel in some way the government does not care that I and others like me even exis, and this has actually had a subconscious effect on me: a small part of me feels like maybe I no longer really matter. That is a very dangerous thing to feel, if one is unemployed.

Fortunately, my wife works full-time, so the struggle for me has not been so much a financial one (although that is a real challenge), but rather, it has been a struggle to maintain a sense of personal self-worth. I believe this is probably a universal struggle for anyone who is long-term unemployed.

However, perhaps even more frustrating, is dealing with the immense frustration of absolutely knowing with complete certainty that I do have a lot to contribute to society, and that I could contribute so much through my work. I want to contribute, and because I do not have a job, I feel as if a huge part of me is lying unused and unappreciated. The thought of being able to do a good job, to help in some way to improve something, seems to me to be a beautiful and wonderful vision. To take this vision further, and to imagine someone actually complimenting me for my work or contribution seems to me right now to be akin to heaven. Not being able to find a way to fully contributte to society has been absolutely devastating.

These two things basically come down to one issue: the feeling of being invisible. And that is the hardest part about being unemployed, from my experience.

To whom it may concern:
Hello my name is Sarah Sierra, and I would like to share my story with anyone that will listen. This economy has made it so hard for single mothers to survive. I lost my job almost 2 years ago due to layoffs. I decided to take advantage and finish my school while my boyfriend and father of my 6 year old son took care of the bills. 2 months ago he decided to leave without any notice leaving me to survive with no job and no money. I was on extended benefits with unemployment and barely made enough to cover my bills. With unemployment and child support I could only cover my bills leaving my mortgage unpaid. It has been 2 months now since he left and I am now 2 months behind on my mortgage. I have tried reaching out to the bank even before I was late and they are not working with me and are only applying all kinds of late fees making it impossible to even catch up if I wanted to. To make the whole situation even worse I get a letter in the mail that they are cutting off all extended unemployment benefits so now I am left to survive off of $562.00 a month that I receive in child support. That covers just my car and insurance note. I applied for welfare and that is still pending, I had to take my son to the ER and they informed me that I have medicaid for my son however it is shared cost and unless the bill is $1497.00 they will not pay it. My medical bills are outrageous and the only medical care I can get for my son is if i take him to the ER because he does not have insurance. I have reached out to many agencies requesting assistance and have called for weeks and weeks and no one returns my calls or they say they are too busy and for me to call back. I have no family here in Florida and when i lose my home due to foreclosure I will be left in the streets with my son. This has been the hardest Christmas ever and it is so hard to explain to my son that Santa will not be able to make it to our house this year. I have been searching for a job for about 6 months now and have not had any luck whatsoever, I have experience however no one will hire me. I have even applied at places that I am over qualified for because i am desperate, but NOTHING... I only received 1 call from tons of jobs i applied for and after the interview they went with someone else. I have always had good credit and good jobs, however with the crash of the economy it is so hard to survive especially being a single mother. i am going to lose my home and do not have enough money to pay my bills, and the WORST part of it all is that is during the holidays....I am crying out for some HELP!!!! I am at my wits end and do not know where else to turn.
Desperately Needing Help,
Sarah Sierra (30) & Anthony Sierra (6)
Thank you for taking the time to read my story

apples