Sunday, February 1, 2015

#140 Love and mastery

Dear all,
    We are freshly home from a rich ten days with our son Tim and his family in Nicaragua, thankful, as always, for the role of loved ones in helping us find our way more deeply into the hearts of local communities than we could ever do on our own.  Coming home to cold and wealth, it was the wealth that was harder to adjust to.
    It took me hardly any time this month to think of four things that made me hopeful.  In the face of challenges that seem overwhelming, change may be afoot in this world.

Love and mastery

The conversation had turned to trauma and healing, and a pastor of an urban church was asked how he approached the perpetrators of trauma.  “That’s a hard one”, he said, and he paused.  “I just try to love them, right where they’re at.”  He took a deep breath and leaned back.  “Just love them, love them, love them, love them.”  He paused again.  “I can’t heal them.  God is the one who does the healing.  But if I can do my part, and love them just the way they are, then maybe they will be more open to God’s healing work.”

On the way home, my friend, another pastor who knew this man, said, “You know, that’s really what he does.  His theology is pretty conservative.  He has a struggle with my work of welcoming GLBTQ folks.  But he keeps reaching out in love.”

As I soaked up the simplicity of the model this man had offered, my thoughts turned to mastery.  I can’t imagine many other career helpers responding with such humility.  How many more would have jumped right in and explained their particular methodology or fix?  How did we come to be so committed to—and seduced by—the vision of mastery?

I guess it shouldn’t be surprising. We seem to have a built-in drive toward mastery when we are born—to master mobility, to master language and communication, to master an understanding of our environment, and then to bend that environment to our will to the extent that we can.

Yet we have ended up with delusions of grandeur.  With all the expanded knowledge of the scientific revolution, and all the added power of the industrial revolution, we’ve come to believe that we can bend the most complex systems to our will, that we can gain mastery over anything.  The things we are able to do are incredible—and scary.  The misjudgments we have made as a species on the basis of an assumption of mastery are coming back to haunt us more and more.

Perhaps our ultimate challenge is to understand what is not ours to master, and where our role may be to simply build our connections and our love.  I think of our children and what they most need from us.  I think of our earth and what will allow it to flourish.  I think of those around us who do things beyond our understanding and how they might heal.  I think of this good man taking a deep breath, leaning back, and deciding just to love.


Almost home from the park
recycling our holiday greens
I met a pair with a Christmas tree
told them where the pile was growing
then, looking down
saw a tiny pinecone.

Our branches had been festooned
with ones just such as this.
I could see another a little way beyond
and then another.

I followed the pinecones
as they led me surely, surely
to the steps of a house—
our house—
covered in a generous layer
of needles and pinecones.
It was a sure sign
I had found my way home.

Imagine--A new economy is possible!
Fair Food

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has pressured Florida’s tomato growers, through enlisting the might of major restaurant chains and retailers, to increase wages for their 30,000 workers, and to follow strict standards that mandate rest breaks and forbid sexual harassment and verbal abuse.

The Coalition started with a four-year boycott of Taco Bell, which agreed in 2005 to pay an extra penny a pound for tomatoes to help increase workers’ wages. Through their expanded Fair Food Program, the big companies have pledged to buy only from growers who follow the new standards, paying them an extra penny a pound, which goes to the pickers, and to drop any suppliers that violate the standards.  Since the program’s inception, its system of inspections and decisions issued by a former judge has resulted in suspensions for several growers, including one that failed to adopt a payroll system to ensure pickers were paid for all the time they worked.

“When I first visited Immokalee, I heard appalling stories of abuse and modern slavery,” said Susan L. Marquis, dean of the Pardee RAND Graduate School, a public policy institution in Santa Monica, Calif. “But now the tomato fields in Immokalee are probably the best working environment in American agriculture.”

Some things that have made me hopeful recently

A Nicaraguan fisherman who knows and loves the mangrove swamp ecosystem that supports his livelihood.

The election in Greece that successfully harnessed a popular desire for the government to serve the welfare of the people rather than the interests of financial institutions.

An initiative near Albany, New York that combines black farmers, teen restitution, prison visiting and healthy foods.

The continued growth of the fossil fuel divestment campaign, with around 200 institutions globally, with a combined asset size of well over $50 billion, having now committed to divest., and

More resources

Recent posts on other web/blog sites:

In, Pamela Haines locates her family's homey DIY celebrations on a class spectrum of different connections to upward mobility.


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:  (or just google the title), a website that I've contributed to often (check the archives), a home for all the parenting writing I've done over the past 20 years.  NOTE THE NEW URL. START: a way to study and work together with others to create a better world.

For earlier columns, go to  I'm currently posting at