Sunday, January 30, 2011

Free Speech

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Our family has been discussing the idea of free speech. Asking questions like: "What are the effects of our words? Are they injurious or muddled or untrue to our being? Is there a core of fierce compassion in our conversations?"

Recently, I discovered a blog I'd written in 2009 offended a distant family member. When I heard about this I went back to the words I'd written. At first I tried to find a defense for the post and my feelings at the time. I reasoned: "How could they find fault when I mentioned no name or heaped no blame?" Isn't our country built on the idea that I can say whatever I want as long as it is not slander or libel?

I worked myself up for moments and began to dig in my heels by claiming my words as My Right and My Property! Indignant. For moments.

Then I felt the distress of the young person who relayed this information to me. I saw her concern and caring for the benefits of family peace. I recalled my own history where words of perceived praise or blame became stuck in my hardening heart. I recalled how love and progress are so easily torn down on the back of words. And how difficult and skillful it is to be constructive and nourishing with our speech.

This morning I spent time with my wife in meditation. I listened to my own heart. I tried to imagine the feelings in the heart of the receiver of my words. How important was it that I spoke of another person, even if veiled, in a public manner?

It is sometimes correct to stand up and cause friction to let one's voice be heard. It is important to witness truth! Important to speak for the disenfranchised and unheard. Was this one of those times? Really?

Whose truth do I supposedly know?
Is that "truth" flexible and open to the grace?

Is free speech really free?
Or is there responsibility implicit with freedom?

While meditating, I remembered a Buddhist reflection that goes something like this:

Before you speak ask yourself these things
about your reactions and words:

Is it true?

Is it kind?

Is it necessary?

Does this improve upon silence?

These questions are especially vital in this age of easy, push button mass communication. The universe was created by the word. Now we flood our space with words, many haphazard and even cruel.

How many words are based on truth and justice and love?

When pondering my old blog I wonder which side my words fall on? It's not clear to me. But in this case I will lean into the benefit of the doubt, and the benefit of peace.

The truth is a moving target. It is a target, not a weapon of war.

I deleted the section of the '09 blog in honor of my young friend, not from fear or being pleasing. I am more aware that people's feelings and lives are important, even the people we have called "other" and "shadow". We are all bound together in the heart of this world.

Being fierce for love is different from being aggressive. I apologize if I was the latter. Being human is sometimes heavy with discernment.


(c) Richard Sievers, 2011

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Field of Stars

Letter to a reader in the future:

A hundred starlings, in their fine winter plumage of stars, move as one being out in the field. One bird stands alone on a strand of barbed wire. A sentry perhaps? Two robins hop along the periphery of the cloud of stars. The rye and vetch are bent with a rolling season of ice and thaw. I talk out loud, as if you can hear me: See the wanderers out amongst the grasses, grazing, gazing and galloping with claw and wing?

What's the point of describing this scene to you, my future friend? To remind you of holiness that breathes just outside of your little stories and dramas. To tell you of our world now.

We've experienced paradise without recognizing its divinity. Like flying animals in waves of one mind. And a field's open face of green, spread beneath the cerulean sky.
A view enfolded by hushed sigh of a dark woodland.

How many generations neglected to see the singing verdant earth for who She is? Then told stories about "the good old days" of their childhood, when the world was purer, safer and happier. These are the good old days! Will a cloud of winged stars be-held by your gaze in the future? Or will the innocence be lost to you? Will this era on earth be only a wonder portrayed in the lines on your flickering screen... a place you cannot touch, cannot know?

What will we love while looking back into our sacred life?
Are we observing on the fence or from a window?

What is truly known is loved and protected.

Does the sky arc in blue white song for you dear reader?
Are the stars moving as if with one mind?


(c) Copyright Richard Sievers 2011