Lessons from the Peace Pilgrim

But has anyone bothered to ask where the great big mean old corporations get all that money? They aren’t printing it. They aren’t stealing it. Where does it come from?

From you and from me. That’s where. Each and every one of us is responsible for this mess, because the entire time we are waving our picket signs with one hand, we are giving our money to huge companies with the other. And all the while, we are foolishly expecting those in power to say “Hey. You’re right. This isn’t cool. We’re manipulating and exploiting everyone, and they’re just letting us, so we should stop.”

I consider myself an optimist, but to put it as kindly as possible, I don’t see this approach making an impact, like, ever.

Every day of our lives represents a series of choices. Take the car or take a walk. Corporate grocery store or farmer’s market. Big box retailer or buy local. You get the idea, and I’m willing to acknowledge that some choices are more practical than others – I don’t expect all of you to quit your jobs and start communes. I’m not advocating anything that radical. All I’m asking you to do is to be aware. Make conscious choices about these things. Recognize that we are and will remain in control of this problem, but that we are really only in control of ourselves.

So control yourself, already.

The Woods are Lovely, Dark and Deep

Just take a moment to observe the people moving about in the world around you. In traffic. In line at the grocery store. At work. People are so ugly to each other. So selfish. So mean. It’s everywhere. They have no respect for one another, and they think it’s necessary. People have come to believe that they must put themselves first – above and ahead of everyone else. We are convinced that this is the way of the world, and we justify this ugliness by telling ourselves that everyone else is ugly, too. Reflect on this for a moment.

Kill or be killed. Look out for number one. If I don’t, someone else will.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Life shouldn’t be this intolerable. And it can all be different if we are willing to acknowledge exactly two things:

The world isn’t full of bad people, it’s full of sad people.

Compliments of the Blessed Bohemian

Our first reaction to anger is anger. Our first reaction to violence is violence. Our first reaction to hate is more hate. Instead, we must cultivate the patience to understand that anger generally begins as sadness, that violence is borne of fear, and that hate is the intersection of all of these emotions. Recognizing the source of these emotions is crucial to overcoming them, and we each have a responsibility to make certain that they end with us.

I went out of town and missed a post and then I was tired when I got home and I missed another post and then my routine was completely out the window and I hadn’t been waking up every morning and writing and then that habit was broken and … Well, suffice it to say that this thing doesn’t write itself.

When I reflect upon my many failed attempts to make positive change in my life, this is the point where it always falls apart. I’ve addressed this before, but I really felt like I had made a habit of waking up early every morning and making the time to write – I felt like I’d made it over that last bit of the mountain. Perhaps it’s not that simple – or perhaps I had just hit a plateau on the long, steep climb to real, lasting change – but part of me was ready to let this thing go. At least for now.

Control Yourself!

Then someone paid me a compliment, and it completely changed my perspective.

I was tired, overwhelmed, depressed, and hungover. The last thing I wanted to think about or talk about was my (potentially failed) blog. I had all but given up on the idea of the Blessed Bohemian being read by anyone – much less making an impact – but a few kind words turned

That’s the power of a compliment.

We are constantly presented with opportunities to give compliments, and we should give more of them. They take almost no effort. They don’t cost a thing. They are perhaps the simplest kindness that we can offer to anyone – even a complete stranger – and they really can make all the difference in the world.

I love you Mom, but I reject the idea that I am incapable of saying something nice. I think you raised me better than that.

Go compliment somebody. Then go compliment somebody else. Give compliments until you feel a little awkward about it, and then give a couple more.

Tell people how wonderful they are, how nice they look, and how great a job they’re doing. Make a habit of it. Do it all the time, no matter how crappy you think you feel.

You’ll feel better, and you might just make a huge difference in someone’s life.

My Position on Perspective

Thanks for reading.

A great many of my contemporaries don’t seem to like the way things are. They complain about this. They complain about that. They are in a constant state of wanting things to change.

There is a pervading sense of hopelessness that seems to hinge on some other, greater power that has its finger on the button, and that but for this “power’s” selfishness and greed, everything would be better. They gather, the bearded masses, at major intersections across the land in order to make heard their complaints. They shout until they are carried off to jail (or until it’s obvious they’re being ignored). Bystanders on street corners and laptops across our nation complain in support of the complainers, saying “Yes! We believe in you! We complain of these things, too! It’s all so unfair!”

And what happens? Nothing.

We have gotten extrememly proficient at identifying what precisely is the matter with everyone else in this world. We blame the Democrats. We blame the Republicans. We blame the rich. We blame the poor. We blame the corporations. We blame the consumer. We blame the Devil. We blame God.

The Ultimate Guide To Lessons From The Peace Pilgrim

If we can carefully and honestly assess questions such as these, and have the courage to make choices based on our responses, the results are life-changing. This is of course far easier said than done, but that’s why I’m here – to make the case that we can all do it.

I have pushed as hard as I could in the opposite direction. It didn’t work out. We will never experience the kind of joy and contentment that we are capable of experiencing if we try to fit into roles that don’t match who we are, and the harder we try, the more painful it becomes.

Kill Them With Kindness

Nobody’s going to do it for us.

3. There is hope. As your attorney I advise you, there is no law that says we have to play by their rules. This idea was also embedded in my previous post, but I’d like to elaborate.

I make choices that lessen the impact of “their” choices on me. You have all the freedom in the world to do that, too: Close your bank account. Skip grad school. Grow some of your own food. Take it out in trade. Ride a bike. Read a book. Quit borrowing money.

You get the idea.

In addition, I choose to be an optimist to the extent possible, and I try and share that optimism. I try to cultivate compassion and gratitude and patience in every moment of my life, and this allows me to be happy no matter what Wally Wall Street does with my student loan payments. He can choke on them, for all I care, because I still have a beautiful wife, an amazing little girl, and another little one on the way. I still have my friends, my books, my MP3 collection and my guitars. “They” can still be as greedy and selfish as they darn well please, and “we” can still take a long walk while the sun comes up, drink cold beer on the front porch, and sing songs to our children – and there is nothing they can do to take those things away from us. Not ever. I promise.

They can only make it as bad for us as we let them. Please don’t loose sight of that.

The North Wind and the Sun saw a man walking and began to argue over which one of them would first be able to make the man remove his cloak.

Arrogantly, the wind blew as hard as it could at the walking man in an attempt to blow his cloak right off of his back, but the harder the wind blew, the tighter the man pulled his cloak around his shoulders. The wind blew and blew but could not remove the walking man’s cloak.

Smiling, the sun simply parted the clouds and shone down in all its warmth and kindness at the walking man. The man smiled back, and happily removed his own cloak.

Where force fails, kindness often prevails.

Three Indisputable Truths about Occupy Wall Street

I wrote a post several weeks ago that (I thought) was on the subject of making conscious choices in our daily lives, and about taking responsibility for those choices. I chose the Occupy Wall Street protests as a backdrop for the discussion, which, as it happens, became the focal point of the piece for the majority of the people who read it.

That was unintentional, but I was pleasantly surprised at the volume of reactions that it generated. Indeed, some of the more intelligent and spirited discussions I’ve had on the subject came about almost directly as a result of that post – it was referred to on the one hand as “briliant and eloquent”, and it was characterized elsewhere as “capitalist propaganda”.

I was equally surprised by both characterizations, but in any event, the resulting discussions prompted me to think about Occupy Wall Street in a different, broader way, and after conducting extensive research on the subject (in the form of online articles, blog posts, Facebook comment thread disucssions, and barroom arguments), I have drawn the following irrefutable conclusions:

1. This anger is justified. There is no doubt that the game is rigged, and that the vast majority of us are balanced precariously on the ever-shortening end of that stick. Insofar as “they” have enriched themselves at the expense of “us”, we are absolutely righteous in our indignation. As I

We should take all of their money away and put them in prison for a significant period of time. Way longer than someone who gets caught growing pot, for example.

2. We helped make the mess. If we aren’t willing to make a change, then they have all the power, and if they have all the power, then nothing is ever going to change.

This was the central idea underlying my previous post, and I won’t belabor the point here. Suffice it to say, that if you keep using your credit card to shop at Wal-Mart, things will keep getting worse. We must take responsibility above, beyond and in addition to our righteous indignation. We helped make the mess, and just like when we were kids, we have to help clean it up.

9 Ideas For Lessons From The Peace Pilgrim

Take my law practice, for instance. Easily the most miserable experience of my life, and a cautionary tale that I will share at some point in the near future. Suffice it to say I wanted to be an attorney for all the wrong reasons, and I tried like hell to be a good one. It very nearly killed me.

It turns out that I very much like being alive. For the past year I have been reading and thinking about these ideas, and the things I have read have fundamentally changed my perspective. I have concluded that it is time to make a change. A number of changes, actually. It is time for me to begin living in harmony with my values, talents and passions, and thereby begin living in harmony with the universe.  This is what I am calling the Way of the Blessed Bohemian.

One Thing at a Time

For more resources on this subject, Google the phrase “Be the change you seek“, which is, you’ll find, a quote from Gandhi (or a paraphrase, I don’t know, I didn’t hear him say it).

And as I like to do when I’ve written a little on the heavy side, I’ll leave you with another highly entertaining John Prine song, this time covered by the Avett Brothers.

As, ahem, “entertaining” as the verses are, wait for the chorus …