A Christmas Tragedy: Killing Claire Davis

On December 13th, when Karl Pierson, a student at Arapahoe High School, in Centennial Colorado, shot Claire Davis, he was carrying three gasoline bombs, a machete and 125 rounds of ammunition. Claire Davis died on December 21st. She was 17 years old. She was not a “planned target.”

Hardly anyone noticed. What does it take? If one’s not enough, do we need three, ten, twenty, a hundred? Do we need a room full, a theater full, a packed stadium? Is there any number at all that would make an impact, that could turn things around?

Claire Davis was a high school senior sitting on the steps of Arapahoe High, on her way to the library with a friend.  She was no-one and everyone. She was your daughter and mine. She was the one who didn’t get away.

“It is with unspeakable sadness that we write and say that Claire has passed away from the gunshot wound she received,” her family said in their statement to the press.  “We ask that you give us time to grieve the death of our daughter by respecting our wishes for privacy.”

I can’t begin to fathom the grief and the loss. Each time this happens it’s different from the time before.  Its worse.  More tainted by ill will and ignorance. More uncaring. More loaded with bad karma. By now we should have seen the light.  Become able to set aside the dance of political ego and outdated Second Amendment rights in favor of sanity, respect, reverence, loving our neighbor — opening our arms to life instead of “bearing” them. But if we haven’t done it by now, what are the odds we ever will?

Can one more murder restore us to our senses? Or has the magic moment already come and gone, leaving us to wander in the darkness of our small mindedness till death us do part? Can we somehow manage to remember that the will to power leads us only to disaster, while the will to love, to give, to share, and (yes, dare I say it) to sacrifice, leads us to salvation? Perhaps even to heaven.

While I was living in Vermont, a friend and I attended a picnic given by an attractive, self-promoter whose charm was exceeded only by his unbounded ego. It was a perfect summer day, birds chirping, brook babbling, but my friend was feeling down and out, The previous afternoon had found her bearing a bunch of straw hats, strung along a pole, down to the field by the entrance to our Pittsfield community where we cut a circle and a path into the midst of the high grasses to make her more accessible to passers-by for purchasing her wares. After several hours of standing in the almost 90 degree heat she finally sold one hat with a pink tissue paper flower, artfully attached to its brim. And wound up with ten dollars for her days labor.

She asked how she was supposed to deal with this, and when the good times might begin to roll? The host waved his arm, told her to look around, and said “Heaven is right here on earth at this very moment.” It was what she needed to hear. Though God knows if either one of them knew what he was talking about. At the time, I had no idea.

That was twenty years ago. My friend and I, and the self-promoter guy have all moved on. As for heaven being here on earth at this very moment, I eventually found great value in this belief. For the Claire Davis’s who lose their lives so senselessly each day, it better be. Who knows what comes next? And when whatever it is, does, I hope that by then we’ve worked our way through the pain of our lives so we don’t need to come back and do it again, to finally get it right.

Meanwhile, stay safe and use the following imagery exercise for protection from harm for yourself and for others. And especially for the kids:

Circle of Light

When you awake each morning, before you begin your day, close your eyes and exhale one time through your mouth, and imagine you are surrounded by a circle of protective white light. Know this light is with you throughout your day, wherever you go, whatever you do. Use it when you’re alone and when you’re out in public places. Just see it and sense it and know that it’s there.

Now call upon your guardian angel.* Ask her or him for the protection and peace you want and need. Give thanks, and Know that all is well, that you are safe and sound. And keep saying Thank You throughout your day.

* We all have Guardian Angels.  But If not called upon, they languish.  To create a strong connection stay in touch. Ask for what you want and need. This may be protection from harm, as in the exercise above. Or it may relate to any part of your life in which you desire assistance. Express your gratitude by saying  thank you when you make your request, as though what you ask for has already been given.

 

 

 

Lost In the Wicked World of Compliance

I go to sleep late most nights, and wind up watching some pretty strange stuff on TV. Among the strangest and most unsettling was a movie I happened in on a few days ago called “Compliance.” I should have known better. I’ve hated this word since before I even knew what it meant. Its mean-spirited vibration speaks loud and clear: No questions asked. No back talk permitted. Thinking for oneself not allowed. Ever.

Its history is dark. When used in the lingo of medicine it’s particularly chilling, insisting that we abdicate being in charge of ourselves and our choices when our lives are at stake and we’re at our most vulnerable. It’s the path to self-betrayal, to compromised integrity, to weakness, and fear. If you’ve been there, you know what I mean.

“Compliance,” is based on a true event that shows how workers at a fast food restaurant turned on their own and bowed down to the scare tactics of a bogus police officer, who used a phone card to disguise himself and his whereabouts and successfully coerced the employees into strip searching, sexually humiliating, and raping a young woman for a theft she never committed, a crime which had never occurred. So cowed were they by the man’s manner and tone that all of them complied with his outrageous directives, which ended only when one person finally said “No,” and had another employee call the home office to check him out. No one else balked. Even though some of the workers had doubts, they remained hypnotized, keeping their heads down and their mouths shut as they shoveled fries into bubbling pots of oil and greasy burgers onto the grill.

We’ve seen this tendency in ourselves and others, waiting in the dark corners of our minds, anxious to rear it’s ugly head and remind us who’s boss. I remember it well, from the time I was a child, when I felt compelled to stand up for myself and saw the cost of not falling into line. Of not doing what I was told to do, even when it made no sense to do it. None!

In a New Yorker piece this past week on “Duke Ellington, the Beatles, and the Mysteries of Modern Creativity,” Adam Gopnik writes that swing, jazz and rock wasn’t just about “creating a new sound; it was about the sound of self-discovery.” That American music in those days was “the soundtrack of self-emancipation.” The opposite of compliance!

He tells us that “few jazz fans didn’t hate the Nazis.” That this music “immunized its listeners against fascism.” It made them crave freedom, feel it in their bones and their bloodstream.

Compliance is the antithesis of jazz.  The enemy of swing. The saboteur of rock. It withholds. It limits. It belittles and disallows the creative.  Whenever we have a choice, we had best choose freedom. Our lives depend on it. To thrive and survive we must encode this message in our hearts, and live it out each day, even when the experts and authorities tell us not to.

“It’s a Free Country” is something kids said and believed in my youth — a way of saying  ”I can do what I want”  Maybe we can. Maybe not. But for now, let’s act as if it still applies.

Use the following imagery exercise to assist you in your quest to become free of restricting beliefs and habits.To live your life as your true self. Not in compliance but in freedom and truth.

Breaking The Idols

Close your eyes and breathe out three times. See yourself in the museum of your life. See there all the statues and artifacts that you bow down to. Sense and know how these creations prevent you from living freely and wholly in the present.

Breathe out one time. Walk through this museum and in any way you choose, destroy these constructions. Once you have done this clear away the debris and get rid of it. See what happens and how you feel. Then breathe out, open your eyes and return.

 

Falling in “Lerve” with Pope Francis

He’s Time Magazine’s “Person Of The Year.” He’s the Pope-sist with the most-sist. He hath restoreth Soul to the church and faith to the faithless. What will he dare do next?

With the cardinals scratching their hats and the republicans just plain scratching.  And with His Holiness having already gone so far out of the box, who can we depend on to walk the straightest and think the narrowest, to live lavishly, while casually blessing those who don’t, to keep the “idolatry of money” as a sacred practice, and the common folk where they belong? And worst of all, he has called upon the rich to share-eth their wealth. That does it. He’s toast. Or, might it just be that he’s the Toast of the Town?

Clearly, I am prejudiced. He elected to use my name, though spelled with an i instead of an e, indicating to me that we’re on a similar wavelength. One where kindred souls pass  like ships in the night and give a simple nod of acknowledgment, a brief hand pump, and a casual “yes”!

In “Annie Hall,” the nervous and neurotic Woody Allen cannot bring himself to tell Annie that he loves her. Instead, he mumbles “I lerve you.” This, he believes, will be enough — for quite a while it is.

And though I am close to taking the leap, I need time to reflect. Like Woody, I tend to withhold a bit. But I’m close. Very close. Perhaps closer than I’ve ever been. For it’s an overwhelming task to resist a pope who lived his previous life, taking public transportation, and has both Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh joining forces against him. This alone is enough to get me past my resistance.  And I have this feeling, just a feeling mind you, but a pretty strong one, that I won’t ever regret it

The following imagery exercise gives us a way to let go and love freely even when it makes us uncomfortable, even when it’s our tendency to withhold: to lerve instead of to love.

                              Window of the Heart

Close your eyes, and look inside the window of your heart. See here what you have been guarding and withholding.

Open this window and tell whatever you find that you are setting it free to live and to love in this world. Do this and see what happens. Then open your eyes and return.

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Masters of Sex: Bill, Virginia and Me

Its rare and exciting when a TV series makes me blink. Masters of Sex” makes me blink every time, and I’m not alone.

Based on the book by Thomas Maier, this fictionalized albeit true to life series, describes the lives and work of William Masters and Virginia Johnson who for over a decade created and conducted the secret sexual research, which resulted in their land mark publication, “Human Sexual Response,” and later their marriage.

As Master’s secretary, then his research assistant, and eventually his associate and partner, Virginia Johnson,despite having no medical degree, in fact, no degree at all, became essential to the project and to Bill Masters himself. He was removed, scientific, and technical. She was engaged, dynamic, warm and human. He brought the credentials and the science.  She brought the personal skills and administrative ability. It was she who managed to get nurses, students and members of the community to shed their clothes and inhibitions, and to participate in what became the largest human sexuality study done in this country. While Alfred Kinsey sought to discover how many people were doing what, Masters and Johnson offered a graphic explanation of what happened when they did it.

Bill and Virginia were a team. A team that soon became personally involved in their own sexual research, with Johnson yielding to Master’s pressure to have sex with him as part of the study — something Bill Masters would not have dared to suggest today, and Virginia Johnson would have been empowered to refuse. Their participation turned into an affair.  And that’s what it remained for years. But when Johnson became involved with another man whom it looked like she would marry, Bill Masters finally chose to leave his wife and wed her.  For him, it was not love, but work that drove his life. And he knew the work wouldn’t be possible without her, and that her marriage would end her commitment both to it and to him.

Yet beyond the drama of both their work and their story, it was what Virginia Johnson told Thomas Maier, when he interviewed her while  she was in her eighties, living as Mary Masters, an old woman  in a nursing home, that caught my attention:

“I was so pleased that I could be anything any man wanted me to be,” she said. And she then went on to admit how she had lost herself by doing that.

Her words opened a window of memory to my own past life. The one where I, like Johnson, thought that being what a man wanted me to be was a valuable talent that might favorably change my world. But there were problems; the rewards were undependable, and adjustments were always in play. I smoked with smokers, drank with drinkers, rode the back of a sleek black motorcycle, became a blond. I dressed hipper. Wore shorter skirts and brighter colors. Then switched to pastels. I  spoke softly, agreed to support and defer. To be less funny. Less “smart.” Yet despite my best efforts to dissemble, I wasn’t as good at it as I thought. And not nearly as good as Virginia.

Not being oneself takes a lot of effort. It drains us and costs us dearly. And reclaiming what we’ve sacrificed is much harder than giving it away. But it’s worth every bit of work it may take — for who are we if we are not ourselves?

Virginia Johnson died this year. She was eighty-eight. Bill Masters died twelve years before. They had been divorced for 20 years, as long as they had been married (until he left her for a woman he had met 55 years before who fit his new life better it seemed). By then she realized the cost of  what she’d done, and the value of what she’d relinquished. Those of us who are still here have the chance to reflect and make a turn, a correction, a repair. I believe It’s worth a try. What could be more important?

Here’s an imagery exercise to preserve and protect your identity, your nature and your soul:

Face To Face

Close your eyes and breathe out one time.

See yourself before a mirror. See the mask you are wearing to make yourself more acceptable and attractive to others.. Remove this mask and see who you are beneath, inside and out. Smile at yourself. Accept yourself. Speak three words of love to yourself.

Know this is you. And celebrate your nature and your soul.

Then breathe out and open your eyes.

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