Saturday, July 20, 2019

#191 Breathe

Dear all,

Having a bit more discretionary time this summer has had an unexpected downside: more opportunities to second-guess my choices about how I use my time. Am I using my hours to the highest good? With everything that’s wrong in the world, can I afford to slack off? Finding my way through these old voices and current worries is definitely a work in progress. It helps to remember that a key to transformation is deep connection—to each other and to the earth.

I’m making great kale-basil pesto to share, the peach tree that I planted in the public front bed of the community garden has been bountiful, I’m finding more buddies to work on the public banking project (let me know if you’re interested!), my new book—Money and Soul—is coming out at the end of the month, I’m blessed with good work and an abundance of caring and loving friends, relatives and colleagues. It’s good to know you are there.

Love,
Pamela





Breathe

I was listening to a friend who is at the center of a youth climate movement. He was feeling stressed about all the logistical challenges of pulling off big collaborative actions, wishing that there could be more time to reflect—and just breathe. He was hungry to experience more flow and resonance as he went through his days, and wistful that he didn’t sense a similar hunger for spiritual grounding in more of his fellow activists.

I had just come from a meeting where I felt both that hunger and that grounding. It was a group of mostly black and brown urban farmers, reaching toward a vision of cooperative organization and work. All the standard rules of the game of living—compete, entertain, pose, position, defend—had somehow been suspended, as we engaged in a common effort to seek truth and find a way forward toward a greater good. On the floor were topics not just of rewriting by-laws and reorganizing decision-making protocols, but of patience, relationships and willingness to be changed. Whether speaking, asking questions or listening, everyone was intent on growing their understanding, ready for transformation. There was openness in the room, space to breathe.

My friend shared, almost in passing, something he’d done that morning that he was pleased with. It was a potentially challenging meeting of people who needed to find common ground to make a decision. They chatted for a while, building connection. Then he suggested that they pause and take a moment for reflection. Into that quiet moment he offered a word of thanks—and they were able to move on to complete the task.

I think this story provides a clue to his earlier question. Even if it is unexpressed, we can see evidence of this hunger for grounding all around us. Some people are just too filled with work and worry to be able to notice; others are casting about desperately, but at a loss for how to even imagine or name the possibility; others may even be fighting against it, as a “luxury” in these perilous times. But we all need to breathe. As systems of oppression bear down on us more and more heavily, the struggle to breathe in what we need for survival is becoming more immediate, more pressing, and more widespread.

The preparation that went into that farmer coop meeting, and the tone that was set, provided food for my soul. The few minutes my friend took to invite that group to ground itself helped them complete their work. Anything we can do to break our bondage to the rules of the game— to invite others to connect with their best selves and a greater reality, to provide good air—is a gift.  As we help fill that deep hunger, we are creating badly-needed space in which people can breathe, and new possibilities can grow.





Rec room circle

He lived in this nursing home
for nine years,
wanted, at ninety-eight,
to pass without a scene.

Yet here we are
in a circle in the rec room
sharing stories.
His son did it for the staff,
so they could say goodbye.
Others came for love of the son.

Simple stories
of food, opera, bingo—
the courage of an old man
the humanity of care-givers
the love of a son
all brought to life
in this rec room circle.





Dare to Imagine:  A new economy is possible!
The Happy Planet Index

Created in 2008, the Happy Planet Index examines sustainable happiness on a national level, ranking 143 countries according to three measurements: how happy its citizens are, how long they live, and how much of the planet’s resources they each consume. The HPI multiplies years of life expectancy by life satisfaction (as measured by the Gallup Poll and the World Values Survey), to obtain “Happy Life Years,” which are then divided by pressure on ecosystems, as measured by the ecological footprint. The ecological footprint, in turn, measures how much land and water it takes to provide for each person.

The Happy Planet Index “strips down the economy to what really matters,” says New Economics Foundation researcher Saamah Abdallah. It measures “what goes in, in terms of resource use, and the outcomes that are important, which are happy and healthy lives for us all. In this way, it reminds us that the economy is there for a purpose—and that is to improve our lives.”

https://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/climate-action/why-costa-rica-tops-the-happiness-index-20190131





Some things that have made me hopeful recently

Japanese American elders who have been protesting the repeat of history as the Administration detains immigrants in internment camps from World War II.
https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2019/6/24/1866919/-Japanese-Americans-protest-outside-former-internment-camp-Stop-repeating-history

A Kenya court’s ruling to stop the Lamu coal plant, a win for environmental activists and local communities who for three years argued that the coal plant would pollute the air, damage the fragile marine ecosystem, and devastate fishing communities.
https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/kenya-court-stops-china-backed-lamu-coal-plant-project/ar-AADut6v

A Correct the Record initiative, in which social media companies would have to make sure that all users who see false information on their feeds are also later presented with fact-checks.
http://time.com/5540995/correct-the-record-polling-fake-news/

The energy and momentum of the youth climate movement, Sunrise, which can be joined at https://actionnetwork.org/forms/join-us-112?source=direct_link&





Resources


Money and Soul
My new book (based on a talk and a pamphlet of the same name) available via on-line distributors July 30


Money, Debt and Liberation
A video of a talk I gave at Pendle Hill in January, 2019
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7nP8eJ5vy8


Money and Soul
A transcript of a keynote address I delivered at a Quaker conference in New Mexico, June 2017
https://westernfriend.org/media/money-and-soul-unabridged


Toward a Right Relationship with Finance 
A book that I co-authored on Debt, Interest, Growth and Security.

The growth economy is failing to provide equitable well-being for humanity and a life-sustaining future for Earth.  However our institutional endowments and individual retirement are dependent on that same growth economy.  This book:
    • offers background on our current economic system--how it is based on unearned income on the one hand and debt on the other, with a built-in momentum toward economy inequality and ecological overshoot;
    • frames the conversation within the context of our deepest values and beliefs;
    • suggests plausible and historically grounded alternatives to the current system, particularly with regard to financing retirement; and
    • invites everyone to imagine new forms of durable economic and social security, and to help create the relationships and institutions that will make them a reality.
With many people now counting as never before on the performance of Wall Street for retirement security, how can this system be challenged with integrity and effectiveness?  Can we break with our dependence on financial speculation and build up new structures of security in a transformed, life-centered economy?

To order the book, or read it on line, go to http://www.quakerinstitute.org/?page_id=5 and scroll down.



More resources

www.findingsteadyground.org

Resource from my friend Daniel Hunter, Building a Movement to End the New Jim Crow; An Organizing Guide.  http://www.danielhunter.org/books/building-movement-end-new-jim-crow-organizing-guide 

Posts on other web/blog sites:

In http://www.classism.org/gifts-american-dream/, Pamela Haines locates her family's homey DIY celebrations on a class spectrum of different connections to upward mobility.

            http://www.transitionus.org/blog/unlikely-suspects-–-deep-outreach-diverse-initiating-groups-–-pace-building-trust

        http://www.classism.org/demolition-derby

Muscle Building for Peace and Justice; a Non-Violent Workout Routine for the 21st Century--an integration of much of my experience and thinking over the years:  https://www.trainingforchange.org/publications/muscle-building-peace-and-justice-nonviolent-workout-routine-21st-century (or just google the title)

Sunday, June 23, 2019

#190 Hemlock and larch

Dear all,

I’ve been harvesting bounty from my little community garden plot, and spent much of yesterday working at the urban farm that I love. I have also continued to find ways to support young people who are working with Sunrise, the youth climate movement, which has been deeply satisfying. There are many things to be thankful for.

I’ve also found myself in the midst of conflict in a variety of situations. I hate conflict, but try to remember that molecules move more readily in a heated situation—that it creates potential for change. And the direction I’m holding for myself is to just show up, as fully and as fully myself as I know how.

As we move past the longest day of the year, I wish you well in this new season.

Love,
Pamela





Hemlock and larch

A tiny insect is threatening our hemlock forests. We can’t see the signs of damage yet in the place we love up in northern Pennsylvania, but a friend pulled off a hemlock twig and put it under a microscope, and there they were.

I love the hemlocks. I love the feeling of moving from an open meadow into the hemlock forest, how from one step to the next you enter a different world, cool and shady and quiet. I love the soft flatness of the needles and the tiny little cones. Years ago, I dug little hemlock volunteers from the side of the road to plant as a screen against a field of briars. Now they are thirty feet tall.

It’s hard to imagine that the forest might be destroyed. Yet I know the power of many small insects. A plague of gypsy moths, three years running, decimated the maples in the woods. Many died. Others took years to come back to health.

There are poisons that can be applied to individual trees, and limited pricey supplies of a new predator beetle. But we’re talking about a whole forest. As I wonder what I can do, my mind turns to the beautiful larches by the pond—those conifers that lose their needles in the winter. I look around for their babies, thinking perhaps I can transplant them as I did the little hemlocks all those years ago, but can find none. A little research lets me know that they don’t grow much from seed; if you want to propagate larch, it is best done through cuttings.

I take those instructions with me the next time we visit. Early one morning, with the mist rising up off the pond, I carefully clip six inch bits off the ends of branches, and wrap them in a moist paper towel to take home. They live in my refrigerator till I can get to the garden supply place for a rooting hormone and potting mixture.

They are out of rooting hormone. What can I do? Thankfully the woman who works there is resourceful. She says you just need something that’s anti-fungal. Honey will do, or cinnamon. Cinnamon is probably best. We look for a potting mixture. They don’t sell peat any more, since the peat bogs are being over-harvested. But we find an organic alternative—made of aged forest products, coconut hulls, rice husks and worm castings. I hold the bag to my heart as I make my way home on the trolley.

That evening I wash the plastic pots. Usually I wouldn’t bother, but I want to do my best by these little larch cuttings. The potting mixture seems moist and friendly as I fill the pots. I carefully strip off the bottom needles, use a little rubbing alcohol to sterilize the end, dip it in cinnamon, shake off the extra and gently poke it into a pot. Twenty-four times. Twenty-four little larch cuttings, beautifully green and hopeful. I water, and arrange them on my wide kitchen window sill to avoid direct sunlight, as the directions say.

Next morning, and the morning after that, I come downstairs to a little larch forest on my window sill. They still look healthy. I don’t know if all, or some, or any of the cuttings will survive. If they do, I don’t know if I can successfully transplant them up there at the edge of the hemlock forest.

Yet they have been surrounded by love—those clear careful instructions, my early morning walk among the big larches with the mist rising from the pond, the woman who took the time to look up the powers of cinnamon and wished me well, the people who made that lovely potting mixture, with all its contributions from forest, field and soil.

Considering the threat to the forest, this is a small thing, perhaps not the best thing, but something. It’s good that others are working on bigger solutions, and opportunities to join them may open up. But we don’t have to wait. We all can love, and act on that love in ways that are within our grasp. And if it is not enough, we will still have acted in love, and that love will carry us through.





Tuesday morning

The shabby room
in the corner church
is packed this Tuesday morning.
Neighbors of all conditions
pregnant women, dads and toddlers
elders with canes
all waiting patiently
to exercise their democratic right
to vote.

Not the whole of democracy for sure—
our voices needed everywhere.
Yet, tainted by corruption,
bought and sold,
under attack,
it’s still a role to cherish and defend.

Neighborly civility prevails,
fathers speak of why we’re here
in words a three-year-old can understand,
and so we wait,
holding fast to this, our sacred right.





Dare to Imagine—A new economy is possible!

Postal Banking

With 68 million people in the US lacking access to adequate banking opportunities, the idea of having the US Postal Service engage in basic banking services has risen again. The Postal Service already cashes Treasury checks and issues money orders. It has statutory authority to offer ATMs, paycheck cashing, bill payment and electronic money transfers in post offices.

This is not a new idea. From 1911 to 1967, the Postal Service maintained its own banking system, allowing citizens to open small savings accounts at local post offices. At the end of World War II, it had a balance of $3 billion, roughly $30 billion in today’s dollars. Congress did away with postal banking in the 1960s, but post offices in other countries—including Japan, Germany, China, and South Korea—provide banking services. Japan Post Bank is consistently ranked as one of the world’s largest financial institutions based on assets. 

https://www.thenation.com/article/aoc-bernie-sanders-postal-banking-sean-hannity-john-nichols 






Some things that have made me hopeful recently

The San Francisco D.A. has unveiled program aimed at removing implicit bias from prosecutions by removing racial data from initial documents. https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-san-francisco-da-prosecutions-implicit-bias-software-20190612-story.html

New York City realtors have lost their grip on the state legislature, which has significantly reined in their power, giving tenants a fairer deal. https://inequality.org/great-divide/in-new-york-and-beyond-our-plutocrats-may-need-a-new-playbook/

Dads who are finding their role in encouraging young children to read. https://www.facebook.com/6abcActionNews/videos/vb.9335481377/2365107793547204/?type=2&theater

Rural populists, seeing that native tribes can more effectively guard their local economies from large corporations than their state, local or federal governments, are joining “Cowboy-Indian” alliances to protect the land and waters of the place they all call home. https://wagingnonviolence.org/2019/05/populist-alliances-of-cowboys-and-indians-are-protecting-rural-lands/





Resources

Money, Debt and Liberation
A video of a talk I gave at Pendle Hill in January, 2019
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7nP8eJ5vy8


Money and Soul
A transcript of a keynote address I delivered at a Quaker conference in New Mexico, June 2017
https://westernfriend.org/media/money-and-soul-unabridged


Toward a Right Relationship with Finance 
A book that I co-authored on Debt, Interest, Growth and Security.

The growth economy is failing to provide equitable well-being for humanity and a life-sustaining future for Earth.  However our institutional endowments and individual retirement are dependent on that same growth economy.  This book:
    • offers background on our current economic system--how it is based on unearned income on the one hand and debt on the other, with a built-in momentum toward economy inequality and ecological overshoot;
    • frames the conversation within the context of our deepest values and beliefs;
    • suggests plausible and historically grounded alternatives to the current system, particularly with regard to financing retirement; and
    • invites everyone to imagine new forms of durable economic and social security, and to help create the relationships and institutions that will make them a reality.
With many people now counting as never before on the performance of Wall Street for retirement security, how can this system be challenged with integrity and effectiveness?  Can we break with our dependence on financial speculation and build up new structures of security in a transformed, life-centered economy?

To order the book, or read it on line, go to http://www.quakerinstitute.org/?page_id=5 and scroll down.



More resources

www.findingsteadyground.org

Resource from my friend Daniel Hunter, Building a Movement to End the New Jim Crow; An Organizing Guide.  http://www.danielhunter.org/books/building-movement-end-new-jim-crow-organizing-guide 

Posts on other web/blog sites:

In http://www.classism.org/gifts-american-dream/, Pamela Haines locates her family's homey DIY celebrations on a class spectrum of different connections to upward mobility.

            http://www.transitionus.org/blog/unlikely-suspects-–-deep-outreach-diverse-initiating-groups-–-pace-building-trust

        http://www.classism.org/demolition-derby

Muscle Building for Peace and Justice; a Non-Violent Workout Routine for the 21st Century--an integration of much of my experience and thinking over the years:  https://www.trainingforchange.org/publications/muscle-building-peace-and-justice-nonviolent-workout-routine-21st-century (or just google the title)


Pamela Haines
215-349-9428

The hope is always here, always alive, but only your fierce caring can fan it into a fire to warm the world.
-Susan Cooper

www.pamelalivinginthisworld.blogspot.com

Monday, May 20, 2019

#189 Climate - what if?

Climate – what if?

The International Panel on Climate Change came out with a report last year saying that we have twelve years to turn this climate thing around. It’s eleven now. But, in a point that was lost on many, they also said we could do it. There are big obstacles in the way, for sure, but none are insurmountable.

A significant one is our own despair—which our culture feeds. Books, movies and media of all kinds play out scary, and seemingly inevitable dystopian futures, and we are numbed into a strange kind of passive acceptance. A perceptive friend has said that it’s easier to imagine total destruction of the world as we know it than a transformation of our economic system.

It’s easy to feel scared and hopeless. It’s also easy to feel divided. But at its core, climate is not a divisive issue. Everyone wants a future for their children and grandchildren. And, if we think about it, none of us want our children and grandchildren to learn that we were bystanders during these critical years.  We want to be able to tell stories of courage and creativity, of tenacity and unexpected discoveries—of a time when we learned that we were bigger than we knew.

What if we can turn this thing around and have a livable future? What if we can find a way to step outside of all the feelings and pressures that keep us in the role of helpless bystanders, and be who we really are—with all the boldness, vision and courage that we can muster?

This will, of course, take more than scared and lonely individuals changing lightbulbs and signing on-line petitions. But we can do more, and we can do it together. Here are some ideas about steps that everyone can take.

Learn about what’s working. Pay attention to reasons to be hopeful, like this one:
https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/10-reasons-feel-hopeful-about-climate-change-2019
Develop a conscious strategy that works for you to not get immobilized by bad news—don’t let climate change have the last word.

Get support. Find people to talk with about what scares you, what you want, what you love, the part of this challenge that calls out to you. Better yet, make a plan to get together over time with two or three others to share ideas, set goals and report back on them.

Start conversations. Ask people what they love about the world around them. Focus more on solutions than problems. Share why you decided to act and what gives you energy to keep going. Give space for people’s worries and feelings of despair, but don’t get sucked in. Talk about how to dissipate fear’s hold on us by acting together.

Build on your strengths. Good at writing? Look for ways to get the word out about climate solutions. Active on social media? Post things that offer opportunities, energize people and give hope. Good at website design or art? Offer your services to an activist group. Love cooking? Cook for the local youth climate change house or do a fundraising dinner. Have friends? Invite them over for an inspiring movie or a conversation about what’s possible.

Take what you’re already doing up a notch. Passionate about living a sustainable life style, for example? Encourage others in your extended family, social or faith circles, or neighborhood to do the same. Already doing that? Get involved with your township or municipality’s sustainability plan, or your local or state emission reduction goals.

Explore new territory. Try things that seem just a little too scary (not alone!). There are so many possibilities: visiting city officials, calling a group to action, asking your friends to back you, giving testimony, looking for common ground with someone you disagree with, facing arrest for civil disobedience, believing you have the power to shift the tone of a group.

Help others. If your circumstances don’t allow you to do much, find someone who is able to be more active, and put energy into supporting them. If you don’t have time even for that, help others by just holding out the belief that this thing can be done.

As we steep ourselves in the possible, remembering that we are part of a vast majority rather than a beleaguered minority, what if, together, we can do this?





Bubbles

A child is blowing bubbles
from the back of the trolley.
Tiny, they float and drift.
People turn, smile.
“I thought it was snowing” says one
and laughter ripples
through the car.

Singlehandedly
a small child
has lifted our spirits.




Dare to imagine: A new economy is possible!
Costa Rica’s Banco Popular

Costa Rica’s BPDC is perhaps the most democratic bank in the world, with its highest governing body the Assembly of Workers, which represents nearly 1.2 million savers, or 20% of the population. Effective control over daily operations is exercised by the National Board of Directors, which is composed of four representatives of the Assembly and three of the Government. Presently, there are four women and three men on the Board, fulfilling the requirement that it be at least half women.

The third largest bank in Costa Rica, BPDC operates with a triple bottom-line: economic, environmental, and social. A quarter of its returns are channeled into a series of ‘special funds’ to meet the social needs of those typically excluded from the banking system, yet its earnings are greater than the average private bank.

All public and private employers contribute 0.5% of paid monthly wages to the bank’s capital base and workers contribute 1% of their monthly wages. After a year, 1.25% of these savings are transferred to each worker’s own pension fund; the bank holds the other 0.25% as a means of permanent capitalization and economic stability. The BPDC also accepts over 40% of the public-sector payroll deposits and receives deposits and loans from other publicly-owned development banks to support its own lending operations. 

The BPDC has developed specialty green and sustainable lending facilities, with loans for solar energy panels in residential settings, and the provisioning of safe local water supply systems. The bank has begun tracing its own consumption of energy; the pensions division, for example, has been certified as ‘carbon neutral’ for the last four years.

https://www.tni.org/files/publication-downloads/how_public_banks_can_help_finance_a_green_and_just_energy_transformation.pdf






Some things that have made me hopeful recently:

The Sunrise Movement, that is mobilizing youth all over the US to fight climate change and push a Green New Deal into the mainstream of public conversation.
https://actionnetwork.org/forms/join-us-112?source=direct_link&

The deal that ended the largest private-sector strike in the US in years, in which 31,000 New England Stop & Shop workers won raises and preserved retirement and healthcare benefits, standing up to one of the biggest and most profitable supermarket chains in the country.
https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/04/22/when-workers-fight-workers-win-union-declares-victory-stop-shop-strike-ends-deal
https://ips-dc.org/stop-shop-workers-end-11-day-strike-with-a-tentative-agreement/

Sudanese women, whose lives have traditionally been tightly controlled by men, playing a decisive role in the protests that overthrew the autocratic Bashir this spring.
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-sudan-politics-women-idUSKCN1S60X3

The antidote to despair in laying out reasons to feel hopeful about our future on earth.
https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/10-reasons-feel-hopeful-about-climate-change-2019





Resources

Money, Debt and Liberation
A video of a talk I gave at Pendle Hill in January, 2019
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7nP8eJ5vy8


Money and Soul
A transcript of a keynote address I delivered at a Quaker conference in New Mexico, June 2017
https://westernfriend.org/media/money-and-soul-unabridged


Toward a Right Relationship with Finance 
A book that I co-authored on Debt, Interest, Growth and Security.

The growth economy is failing to provide equitable well-being for humanity and a life-sustaining future for Earth.  However our institutional endowments and individual retirement are dependent on that same growth economy.  This book:
    • offers background on our current economic system--how it is based on unearned income on the one hand and debt on the other, with a built-in momentum toward economy inequality and ecological overshoot;
    • frames the conversation within the context of our deepest values and beliefs;
    • suggests plausible and historically grounded alternatives to the current system, particularly with regard to financing retirement; and
    • invites everyone to imagine new forms of durable economic and social security, and to help create the relationships and institutions that will make them a reality.
With many people now counting as never before on the performance of Wall Street for retirement security, how can this system be challenged with integrity and effectiveness?  Can we break with our dependence on financial speculation and build up new structures of security in a transformed, life-centered economy?

To order the book, or read it on line, go to http://www.quakerinstitute.org/?page_id=5 and scroll down.



More resources

www.findingsteadyground.org

Resource from my friend Daniel Hunter, Building a Movement to End the New Jim Crow; An Organizing Guide.  http://www.danielhunter.org/books/building-movement-end-new-jim-crow-organizing-guide 

Posts on other web/blog sites:

In http://www.classism.org/gifts-american-dream/, Pamela Haines locates her family's homey DIY celebrations on a class spectrum of different connections to upward mobility.

            http://www.transitionus.org/blog/unlikely-suspects-–-deep-outreach-diverse-initiating-groups-–-pace-building-trust

        http://www.classism.org/demolition-derby

Muscle Building for Peace and Justice; a Non-Violent Workout Routine for the 21st Century--an integration of much of my experience and thinking over the years:  https://www.trainingforchange.org/publications/muscle-building-peace-and-justice-nonviolent-workout-routine-21st-century (or just google the title)

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

#188 Commonwealth

Commonwealth

One of the things I love about living in my state is our name. I’m not speaking of “Penn’s Woods”, though that’s lovely as well, but of the “Commonwealth” of Pennsylvania. What a concept:  common wealth.

It’s related to “the commons”, which some of us learned about in history class. As part of the Industrial Revolution, the open areas in English villages where everybody freely grazed their cows and sheep were increasingly enclosed as private land, threatening rural livelihood and forcing villagers to move to the cities as industrial laborers.

We learned that it was sad but inevitable, and it all happened a long time ago. Yet the enclosure of the commons is a very current threat, with the idea of common wealth as central. In the US, our common land is in the form of parks (and state game lands in places), whose integrity is under increasing attack. There is also our common water, our common air, our common airwaves, all being exploited for private profit in one way or another. Privatization is steadily expanding to include our common heritage: knowledge, culture and even DNA.

Then there is all the wealth of our economy. Some flows to private owners as profit, some goes to maintain ourselves, some goes to taxes. While we could argue until those English village cows come home about who deserves the profits, I want to think here just about the taxes.

In Philadelphia, our local tax base and our share of federal taxes that come back as grants make up this part of our common wealth. Yet we currently have no control over the part that is not immediately put to use. We pay the big banks on Wall Street—the only ones currently big enough to manage that amount of money—to hold our wealth. They, in turn, invest it where they will get the greatest return—which is not in the social and infrastructure needs of our citizens. To pay for such needs, we float bonds and borrow it back from them. With interest between a third and a half of the total costs of such projects, this is no small deal. In Philadelphia last year, we paid $170 million in debt service.

What would it mean to keep our common wealth at home, in a public bank, owned by—and operated for the benefit of—the people of Philadelphia? Such a bank could be professionally managed under the governance of a Board that is politically independent and representative of our communities. It could reduce the costs of funding public projects and invest our common money locally rather than remain dependent on Wall Street banks. In this way it could promote programs of public benefit such as low-cost housing, renewable energy, energy efficiency, education, and the creation of family-sustaining jobs.

It can be done. The state Bank of North Dakota has been in operation for 100 years, receiving state funds and reinvesting them in state projects. It consistently makes a profit—40% of which is returned to the state treasury, and it supports more community banks per capita than any other state. Not surprisingly, North Dakota was the only state in the country to come through the recession of 2008 unscathed, because its money was not in the bubbles of Wall Street.

It’s exciting to be part of an effort to encourage Philadelphia to establish a public bank. The concept is powerful and the logic is compelling. Once ordinary people have the opportunity to imagine an alternative to the status quo, they get it immediately. We have found City Council members and staff remarkably receptive. All the studies that have been done are clear on the advantages of keeping our public money at home.

Of course it will be a battle because, as Frederick Douglass said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand”, and this is a challenge to the locus of greatest power in the world—the private financial sector. Yet there’s something refreshing about not nibbling around the edges, but going straight to the center and naming the big question: who should control our common wealth?






Private?

Our backyard neighbors
put up a tall wooden fence—
ensuring their privacy
blocking our little bit of sun,
the life of my lettuce and herbs,
flowers and currants
not their problem.

Our school’s neighbors
have cut down the great oak tree
that shaded us all.

I pass the magnolia
two blocks down
a neighborhood treasure—
now in full and glorious bloom.
It sits in a private yard—
fills it up.

My heart constricts.
What if they no longer chose
to have it there? Cut it down,
as is their right?
As is the right of wall builders
and tree cutters everywhere
on private property.

How did beauty
and sunlight
and shade
become private?





Dare to imagine – a new economy is possible!
Banking on Values

Beneficial State Bank, with more than 250 employees at 17 locations throughout California, Oregon, and Washington, boasts about $1 billion in assets. The bank is mandated to produce meaningful social justice and environmental benefits at the same time that it is financially sustainable. All the owners are non-profit organizations which collectively reinvest all distributed bank profits back into the communities they serve. Their main business is providing credit to constructive businesses and non-profits—especially those boosting entrepreneurial activity in inner cities, following and strengthening wellness models, or reconnecting vital rural/urban dependencies—with credit allowing these beneficial activities to grow and scale.
https://beneficialstatebank.com/our-story/about-us/our-history

Bank president, Kat Taylor, says that if Beneficial’s return exceeds 10%, “we’re likely either overcharging our customers or underpaying our colleagues”—and that “would be in defiance of our mission.” She believes that Beneficial can help upend the banking sector by demonstrating that a bank can thrive competitively, loan money in a way that boosts economic justice, is restorative to the planet, and still pay its workers 150% of a living wage.
https://capitalandmain.com/upending-the-nations-financial-giants-with-beneficial-state-banks-kat-taylor-0621





Some things that have made me hopeful recently

The news that thousands of bees living on top of Notre Dame have survived the fire, https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/bees-living-on-top-of-notre-dame-have-survived-fire/ 
along with the action by France to ban all five pesticides linked to bee deaths—the first country to do so. https://returntonow.net/2019/01/24/france-becomes-the-first-country-to-ban-all-five-pesticides-linked-to-bee-deaths/?fbclid=IwAR1uc9bsP80YiSXLHFCF11JtkRDY2FGRSUWOLQYHe3j0ialBuvLKTLYZS_g

A new movement, Freedom to Prosper, working to stop the student loan trap, and restore education to its rightful place as a public good. http://www.freedomtoprosper.org

A clean energy act in Washington DC which requires the city to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2032 and to invest millions of dollars in clean energy and sustainability projects that will benefit all D.C. residents. Read more and watch the video.

A barber whose training of other Black barbers in the South to act as informal mental health counselors has started a movement.
https://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/mental-health/what-is-barbershop-therapy-20180823





Resources

Money, Debt and Liberation
A video of a talk I gave at Pendle Hill in January, 2017
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7nP8eJ5vy8


Money and Soul
A transcript of a keynote address I delivered at a Quaker conference in New Mexico, June 2017
https://westernfriend.org/media/money-and-soul-unabridged


Toward a Right Relationship with Finance 
A book that I co-authored on Debt, Interest, Growth and Security.

The growth economy is failing to provide equitable well-being for humanity and a life-sustaining future for Earth.  However our institutional endowments and individual retirement are dependent on that same growth economy.  This book:
    • offers background on our current economic system--how it is based on unearned income on the one hand and debt on the other, with a built-in momentum toward economy inequality and ecological overshoot;
    • frames the conversation within the context of our deepest values and beliefs;
    • suggests plausible and historically grounded alternatives to the current system, particularly with regard to financing retirement; and
    • invites everyone to imagine new forms of durable economic and social security, and to help create the relationships and institutions that will make them a reality.
With many people now counting as never before on the performance of Wall Street for retirement security, how can this system be challenged with integrity and effectiveness?  Can we break with our dependence on financial speculation and build up new structures of security in a transformed, life-centered economy?

To order the book, or read it on line, go to http://www.quakerinstitute.org/?page_id=5 and scroll down.



More resources

www.findingsteadyground.org

Resource from my friend Daniel Hunter, Building a Movement to End the New Jim Crow; An Organizing Guide.  http://www.danielhunter.org/books/building-movement-end-new-jim-crow-organizing-guide 

Posts on other web/blog sites:

In http://www.classism.org/gifts-american-dream/, Pamela Haines locates her family's homey DIY celebrations on a class spectrum of different connections to upward mobility.

            http://www.transitionus.org/blog/unlikely-suspects-–-deep-outreach-diverse-initiating-groups-–-pace-building-trust

        http://www.classism.org/demolition-derby

Muscle Building for Peace and Justice; a Non-Violent Workout Routine for the 21st Century--an integration of much of my experience and thinking over the years:  https://www.trainingforchange.org/publications/muscle-building-peace-and-justice-nonviolent-workout-routine-21st-century (or just google the title)

Saturday, March 30, 2019

#187 Crossing borders

Dear all,

Well, the big news is that spring is here—a great life-giving cause for celebration.  Two deaths in my wide circle of loved ones have been hard, even as they remind me of the importance of tending our connections to the living. Similarly, amidst corrosive bad news in our country and the world, I am grateful for signs of new life—the Sunrise Movement (I just signed up to stay in touch at https://actionnetwork.org/forms/join-us-112?source=direct_link&), the Green New Deal, the growing interest in public management of our common wealth. I’m reminded of a song I love to sing, The World Is Always Turning Toward the Morning.

Love,
Pamela




Crossing borders

The trauma of border crossing has been much in the news—and in our hearts—as more and more people flee war, poverty and oppression, seeking safety and opportunity across national lines. Unexpectedly, I have found my attention drawn to the less discussed issue of crossing borders the other way—from places of more rank and privilege to less.

After our trip to Uganda this winter, I was asked a question whose essence was “How could I travel as a white person to Africa and not fall into the trap of perpetuating colonialism?”

I can’t say for sure that I haven’t, but I do know some of the signs. Years ago, a group of U.S. high schools found out about the school in Northern Uganda that a dear friend of ours had founded, and jumped in to provide scholarships. In their enthusiasm, they raised lots of money—and kept needing more and more from the school to support their help. No one doubted their good intentions, and the money was certainly welcome, but their growing feeling of ownership of the school began to be perceived by folks on the ground as problematic.

We watched with dismay. Our approach seemed so different. When Abitimo asked us to do something, we just did it. When she died a couple of years ago, not only did we grieve, but we were caught off balance. What should be our relationship to the school without her at the center? Fortunately, her son, whom we had known for decades as a lovely, quiet, behind-the-scenes kind of guy, stepped up—and we started following him.

We learned that many of the school’s systems, which this other group had complained about loudly before ultimately bailing out, were, indeed, badly in need of change. Yet, rather than making our own judgments, we followed our friend. When he decided there needed to be new school leadership, we backed him to make the hard calls. We listened and supported, took dictation, joined him in meetings, kept track of the things he said he needed to do, and rejoiced in his every success.

Considering what makes such border crossings go well for everybody, love is the best medium, and relationships are critical. When I’m approaching a border, if people who belong there can say “She’s with us”, a legitimate place is made for me. This is how we found ourselves invited, at home, and able to be of real use among a group of South Sudanese refugees in northwest Uganda; a series of loving friendships opened the way.

It also helps a lot if we are okay with who we are, in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, class. If our interest in border crossing is to become somebody else, to have another’s identity rub off on us, something will always be a little off balance. We end up having neither who we are nor who we want to be.

Home from Africa, I read a book describing the joys of crossing a border that few of us ever contemplate—that of species. What would it mean to set aside our human assumptions and put energy into being fully present to the life and reality of a foreign-seeming species? There are big barriers to connection, and therefore perhaps to love, but the opportunities for wonder are great, and we can always stand in open-hearted respect.

We can also learn from all the mistakes humans make with other humans—our unaware assumptions about what’s “normal”, and all the ways we cast others in the role of lesser beings, from captivity, anthropological study and voyeurism to seeing others only in their relationship to us.

Our connections with others through our shared DNA and shared home are real, regardless of the borders of nation, ethnicity or species that separate us. The rewards of such border crossing are great. Is there anything more hopeful and reassuring than finding a bond of commonality across differences that may have seemed unbridgeable? By being willing to find our way across those borders, our own lives are immeasurably enriched. 





Bookends

Winter morning
east to work
rising sun catches the trees from below
bathes them in a glow
of golden pink.

West that night
thinnest sliver of a crescent moon
breaks through the clouds
for a shining moment.

A day
framed in grace.





Dare to Imagine: A New Economy is Possible!

Indigenous Cooperative

The southern state of Puebla, Mexico, is home to a network of cooperatives, Tosepan Titataniske or “United We Will Overcome”, which has been working for 40 years to build up a parallel solidarity economy among largely Nahua and Tutunaku indigenous communities. It encompasses some 35,000 members across 430 villages in 29 municipalities.

Based on the premises of democracy, fair economic participation, self-reliance, autonomy, compromise, gender equality and cooperation, it aims to provide a healthy diet and profitable businesses while employing the community members, preserving culture, and working within a sustainable framework. Activities include: the creation of an eco-friendly hotel; organic pepper, coffee and honey production; a women’s livelihood association; education in marketable skills and local sociopolitical/ethnic/environmental issues.

https://library.iated.org/view/MORALESPAREDES2014TOS  https://www.localfutures.org/tosepan-resistance-and-renewal-in-mexico/





Some things that have made me hopeful recently

The youth-led Sunrise Movement that is changing the conversation in the US on climate change (and I know and love some of them).
https://www.sunrisemovement.org/

A California federal judge who ruled to eliminate cash bail for those who are awaiting arraignment in San Francisco, finding that it is an unconstitutional "get out of jail" card for those who can afford it.
https://www.courttrax.com/cash-bail-system-ended-in-san-francisco-by-federal-judge/

The governor of a county in Kenya who refused to participate in the usual corruption, despite extreme pressure, and was able to use the unlooted funds to benefit the community.
http://davidzarembka.com/2019/02/28/541-ending-corruption-is-possible-a-positive-example/

A lobby day for public banking in Philadelphia, where City Council people were eager to support the idea of keeping our public money out of the big banks and under local control, to be invested and reinvested to meet common needs. https://www.facebook.com/PhiladelphiaPublicBankCoalition/ and www.publicbankinginstitute.org 





Resources

Money, Debt and Liberation
A video of a talk I gave at Pendle Hill in January, 2017
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7nP8eJ5vy8


Money and Soul
A transcript of a keynote address I delivered at a Quaker conference in New Mexico, June 2017
https://westernfriend.org/media/money-and-soul-unabridged


Toward a Right Relationship with Finance 
A book that I co-authored on Debt, Interest, Growth and Security.

The growth economy is failing to provide equitable well-being for humanity and a life-sustaining future for Earth.  However our institutional endowments and individual retirement are dependent on that same growth economy.  This book:
    • offers background on our current economic system--how it is based on unearned income on the one hand and debt on the other, with a built-in momentum toward economy inequality and ecological overshoot;
    • frames the conversation within the context of our deepest values and beliefs;
    • suggests plausible and historically grounded alternatives to the current system, particularly with regard to financing retirement; and
    • invites everyone to imagine new forms of durable economic and social security, and to help create the relationships and institutions that will make them a reality.
With many people now counting as never before on the performance of Wall Street for retirement security, how can this system be challenged with integrity and effectiveness?  Can we break with our dependence on financial speculation and build up new structures of security in a transformed, life-centered economy?

To order the book, or read it on line, go to http://www.quakerinstitute.org/?page_id=5 and scroll down.



More resources

www.findingsteadyground.org

Resource from my friend Daniel Hunter, Building a Movement to End the New Jim Crow; An Organizing Guide.  http://www.danielhunter.org/books/building-movement-end-new-jim-crow-organizing-guide 

Posts on other web/blog sites:

In http://www.classism.org/gifts-american-dream/, Pamela Haines locates her family's homey DIY celebrations on a class spectrum of different connections to upward mobility.

            http://www.transitionus.org/blog/unlikely-suspects-–-deep-outreach-diverse-initiating-groups-–-pace-building-trust

        http://www.classism.org/demolition-derby

Muscle Building for Peace and Justice; a Non-Violent Workout Routine for the 21st Century--an integration of much of my experience and thinking over the years:  https://www.trainingforchange.org/publications/muscle-building-peace-and-justice-nonviolent-workout-routine-21st-century (or just google the title)

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

#186 Reimagining men

Dear all,

I had an unexpected adventure this month, getting invited to attend a conference of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values in Vancouver—600 wonderful people from all over the world, working passionately to build and maintain financial institutions that serve people and the planet. It really required me to reassess my stereotypes about bankers (!), and I’m full of wondering about how we can work together toward a new monetary system where the creation and distribution of money is more aligned with the common good.

One of the things I love about February is our family tradition of reaching widely to loved ones with a Valentine letter. It always reminds me of how many loved ones I have!  If you didn’t get a copy and would like one, just let me know.

Love,
Pamela






Reimagining men

There is a big soft spot in my heart for men. The warmth and welcome I received from some of the dads in my community growing up was like water in a parched land. The man who taught our Sunday School class when I was thirteen opened a rare and precious space by actually listening to what was on our hearts and minds. A male mentor saw what I was capable of as a young adult, and guided me toward a sense of self-worth and a life of meaning. I have an unfailingly loving and supportive partner and many dear male friends. I will never be confused about the goodness that can be found in men.

That said, it’s hard to see them so lost as a group—and to see so many men behaving so badly. It is heartbreaking to take in the damage that has been done in this world by men wielding power. As their right to behave badly is beginning to be called out, it is painful to watch the fear that such a challenge evokes.

The training in entitlement runs so deep. How many men believe that they have a right to have their way, and that behaving like jerks with women is the natural order of things? Their outrage at a challenge to the assumptions that are at the core of their very identity is understandable. Such men are facing the unimaginable prospect of losing the only world they know, the world that has always been theirs.

The latest challenges to men’s right to behave badly (the right of white men in positions of power most particularly) follow a whole series of attacks on their status. Their “natural right” to be in charge of our country is being attacked on all sides. Black people are just not staying down, despite the best efforts of Jim Crow and mass incarceration. The tide of immigrants of color is seemingly unstoppable. And now the women—including white women who “should” be standing at their sides—are starting to turn against them.

As their control is increasingly challenged, it’s not surprising that the response is to hold on more tightly.  Don’t we all do that when we feel we might lose our grip? So we see men in positions of power and privilege sacrificing their brothers while trying desperately to hang on to every bit of control within their reach.  

It’s not easy to see the good in such men. Yet it has to be true that there’s a place for every human being in the world we seek. We were all born good and innocent, openhearted and reaching for connection. Society has played a cruel trick on our men, training them in the ways of power while cutting off avenues for real closeness. It’s only within this context that we can begin to understand the little boy longings that get played out so disastrously in grown men—and the strength it takes to stay human in the face of that training.

I see an opportunity here for women to claim a much bigger power than we may ever have dreamed possible. We don’t want to set our sights too low, and see victory in breaking into traditionally male positions of power. How many women have felt compelled to take on male patterns of behavior in the name of liberation? Nobody will win by women following the men. We have to be in the lead. We have to see right through the entitlement, the quest for control, the reliance on violence, to the sweet little boys hidden deep inside. We have to stand to their bad behavior without ever being confused about their innate goodness—and expect them to change. In this scenario, everybody wins.





Laying claim

A winter of obstacles
dark mornings
cold and rain
trips away
big deadlines
a bout with pneumonia
so much catching up…

But now, this morning
I head out
in unexpected cold
marking my territory
sweet and familiar
like a dog.

My corner
my streets
my park
my neighbors

My birds that sing
my trees that will bud
my sky
my world, all of it.





Dare to imagine: A new economy is possible!
Germany’s public development bank

Germany, the world leader in renewable energy, has a public-sector development bank called KfW which, along with Germany’s nonprofit Sparkassen banks, has largely funded the country’s green energy revolution. Initially funded by the United States through the Marshall Plan in 1948, KfW is now one of the world’s largest development banks, with more than $500 billion in assets.

Unlike private commercial banks, KfW does not have to focus on maximizing short-term profits for its shareholders while ignoring external costs. The bank has been free to support the energy revolution by funding major investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Its key role in the green energy revolution has been played within a public policy framework under Germany’s renewable energy legislation, including policy measures that have made investment in renewables commercially attractive.

Renewable energy in Germany is mainly based on wind, solar and biomass. Renewables generated 41 percent of the country’s electricity in 2017, up from just 6 percent in 2000; and public banks provided over 72 percent of the financing for this transition.   https://www.truthdig.com/articles/the-financial-secret-behind-germanys-green-energy-revolution/





Some things that have made me hopeful recently

An African American Quaker elder who is making real a dream of medicinal herb production for marginalized members of the African diaspora.
https://www.quakerearthcare.org/sites/quakerearthcare.org/files/bfc/bfc3201_web.pdf (scroll to p.6)

All the bankers in the Global Alliance for Banking on Values who are dedicated to working for the common good.
http://www.gabv.org/about-us

The White Earth Band of Ojibwe’s adoption of a law recognizing the rights of wild rice, the first law to recognize the rights of a plant species. 
https://celdf.org/2019/02/the-rights-of-wild-rice/

Sheila Watt-Clothier, and her depth of understanding of the importance to the rest of the world of the Arctic and the Inuit communities who call it home.
https://www.rightlivelihoodaward.org/laureates/sheila-watt-cloutier/





Resources

Money, Debt and Liberation
A video of a talk I gave at Pendle Hill in January, 2017
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7nP8eJ5vy8


Money and Soul
A transcript of a keynote address I delivered at a Quaker conference in New Mexico, June 2017
https://westernfriend.org/media/money-and-soul-unabridged


Toward a Right Relationship with Finance 
A book that I co-authored on Debt, Interest, Growth and Security.

The growth economy is failing to provide equitable well-being for humanity and a life-sustaining future for Earth.  However our institutional endowments and individual retirement are dependent on that same growth economy.  This book:
    • offers background on our current economic system--how it is based on unearned income on the one hand and debt on the other, with a built-in momentum toward economy inequality and ecological overshoot;
    • frames the conversation within the context of our deepest values and beliefs;
    • suggests plausible and historically grounded alternatives to the current system, particularly with regard to financing retirement; and
    • invites everyone to imagine new forms of durable economic and social security, and to help create the relationships and institutions that will make them a reality.
With many people now counting as never before on the performance of Wall Street for retirement security, how can this system be challenged with integrity and effectiveness?  Can we break with our dependence on financial speculation and build up new structures of security in a transformed, life-centered economy?

To order the book, or read it on line, go to http://www.quakerinstitute.org/?page_id=5 and scroll down.



More resources

www.findingsteadyground.org

Resource from my friend Daniel Hunter, Building a Movement to End the New Jim Crow; An Organizing Guide.  http://www.danielhunter.org/books/building-movement-end-new-jim-crow-organizing-guide 

Posts on other web/blog sites:

In http://www.classism.org/gifts-american-dream/, Pamela Haines locates her family's homey DIY celebrations on a class spectrum of different connections to upward mobility.

            http://www.transitionus.org/blog/unlikely-suspects-–-deep-outreach-diverse-initiating-groups-–-pace-building-trust

        http://www.classism.org/demolition-derby

Muscle Building for Peace and Justice; a Non-Violent Workout Routine for the 21st Century--an integration of much of my experience and thinking over the years:  https://www.trainingforchange.org/publications/muscle-building-peace-and-justice-nonviolent-workout-routine-21st-century (or just google the title)

Monday, February 11, 2019

The Gift of Loving


A friend has asked me to re-post a piece I wrote in 2004, in celebration of Valentines Day. Here it is.

I’ve always known that the opportunity to love is a gift, that loving unconditionally is the biggest perk of parenthood.  I also know that it is easily obscured by work and worry, by accumulated disappointments and assaults on our sense of goodness.  I’m seeing that gift these days unadorned—stark in its power and beauty.

Some of you may remember Chino, the young man in Nicaragua who claimed my son as a brother and me, by extension, sight unseen, as his mother.  I knew enough to take that claim seriously, and when I met him he was not hard to love.  I knew little about his home life—only that it was not happy.  Since our common language was my limited Spanish, we couldn’t speak in detail.  Intention, body language and tone of voice were as important as words.  I would sit outside in the early mornings watching the world go by, he would come over from down the street and I would welcome him to my side.

As I sit here thousands of miles away, remembering those times, I think of how simple and profound a welcome can be—an open smile, open heart, open arms.  I hadn’t realized how starved a life can be for such a welcome.  I hadn’t thought that I was giving a gift.

At the airport, as I was leaving Nicaragua, my attention was mostly for my first born.  He was lonely, weighed down by responsibilities there, needing places to let down and complain.  I did my best to invite Chino to that role, to be a resource for my loved one.  His mind was on other things.  He asked, rather wistfully, “Vas a regalarme?”, literally, “Are you going to gift me?”  I was a little taken aback.  I’m not much into presents and I had nothing there to give.  When I asked if he wanted anything in particular he mentioned a nose stud, something unavailable in Nicaragua.  So my first act as his mother back home was to go the teen rebel part of town, find a body piercing store and spend good money for strange adornment.  The alternative—not gifting him—seemed worse.  I sent a loving postcard, included his gift in a letter to my son, and wondered what else I could do.  Though I didn’t forget, my life quickly filled back up with all the responsibilities and relationships of home.

Finally a letter came.  With my poor Spanish and his poor handwriting and spelling, I wasn’t sure I understood.  But I was afraid I did.  He was not happy.  He had been drinking, doing bad things.  He wondered if his life was worth living.  I was the only one he could tell.  All of a sudden this situation was transformed, from a sweet cross-cultural claim of connection to the real thing.  This young man needed a mother now, seriously, for real—and he had chosen me.

I got help confirming my fears of what his letter said, and started wording Spanish phrases in my mind.  How could I use that blunt instrument—at a distance—in this time of exquisitely fragile human need?  It helped enormously that he sent an e-mail soon after, both reassuring me that he was doing a little better, and offering a more direct way to be in touch.

The only way I knew how to compensate for all the inadequacies of the situation was to offer love without limit.  I loved him more than anything in the world, and with all my heart.  When he thought about drinking, could he think instead of drinking in my love?  I stayed up late that night, forming my sentences, trying to forge our connection and my love into something that could work for him.

He was in my mind constantly the next day and the day after.  At breaks in a busy work week I thought of other things I might say.  I invited him to rewrite history with me, to have me there in his memory, every morning of his unloved childhood and every evening.  I used the dictionary, started sentences over when I ran into verb construction I couldn’t handle, prayed that my best would be good enough.

He wrote back, full of love for his mama.  Miraculously, something of what I intended had gotten through.  I wrote again, profligate in my love, saying things I would never say to my birth children, where a look or a touch would do, and anything more would be an embarrassment to us both. This narrow window of contact required me to offer as big a love as I knew how.  Perhaps it was just as well that I couldn’t be subtle in Spanish, and that in its unfamiliarity I could try out a new, more extravagant persona.

We have been exchanging professions of undying love all summer.  He has stopped drinking.  I feel like I’m living in the middle of a miracle.  Everything else is stripped away to reveal the simple and stark truth--that my love matters.