Newsletter

Only Love

Posted by on Aug 14, 2019 in newsletter | 0 comments

“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.”
 
“Time is cluttered with the wreckage of communities that surrendered to hatred and violence. For the salvation of our nation and the salvation of [hu]mankind, we must follow another way. This does not mean we abandon our righteous efforts. With every ounce of energy we must continue to rid this nation of the incubus of segregation. But we shall not in the process relinquish our privilege and our obligation to love. While abhorring segregation, we shall love the segregationist. This is the only way to create the beloved community”

~Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love
 
How do I respond to the hatred and violence that continues to manifest in our society? What do I do to combat the cruel treatment of immigrants that persists on our southern border and in communities around the country? How do I reply to the seeds of brutality and intolerance recklessly watered by the words and actions of others, including by the President of these United States?
 
First I need to acknowledge the grief and trauma experienced by so many who have found themselves facing this violence head on. My love goes out to the families torn apart by deportations, incarceration, gun violence, and hate crimes. At the same time I need to work to transform the violence and suffering within myself and dig deep to find empathy for the oppressors and aggressors, recognizing their humanity while calling out their wicked actions as inhumane and unacceptable.

 

For sanity, support, and guidance, I need to reach out and stay connected to the beloved community that Dr. King preached about and dedicated his life to build. When I am caught by the illusion that I am just a small individual self, I am paralyzed into believing that I am helpless and that my actions are ineffective. But when I remember that I am part of the continuation of peace and healing that flow from so many great spiritual ancestors including Dr. King, Thich Nhat Hanh, Jesus, Mary, Buddha, and countless Grandmothers and Grandfathers, and that I am deeply connected to the Great Mystery of life, I have the energy to move forward and continue building this legacy of love.
 
Music helps open the door of my heart to connect with others and do this work of building beloved community. I am so grateful to have been given the gift of music by my parents and ancestors. I pray that I may use it in service of the transformative love that is so necessary for our collective survival. I continue to offer my humble contribution to peace and healing, to sing and to love, and I invite you to join with me in this beloved community of song. I pray that your gifts of service may be nourished and strengthened and that together our love can overcome hatred and ignorance.
 
Just this, only love,
Joe

P.S. If you are looking for ways to help those immigrant families who were recently targeted by ICE in Mississippi, I am making a donation to the Mississippi Immigrants’ Rights Alliance. Please join me in supporting this or the many other organizations working for social justice for immigrants.

Be Kind

Posted by on May 1, 2019 in newsletter | 0 comments

“Use your mind to be kind, be smart-use your heart, intend to be a friend, then do it all over again…”
 
These wise words came out of a collaboration between myself and 4th graders at Wines Elementary School in Ann Arbor a couple of years ago. The song we wrote has a simple but important message that is so needed in our world today: be kind. While many people in positions of leadership in this country, namely our current President, model divisiveness, hateful speech, and bullying behavior, these young people remind us of the importance of kindness, respect, and friendship.
 
I was honored to be part of this collaboration and to invite many friends to help the song grow into a single and a music video. Big thanks to Brian Woodring, Charlie Steen, Jamie Rusling, Chris Good, John Driscoll, Alice Sun, and of course to the students, teachers, and parents at Wines Elementary School for helping bring this vision of kindness to the world. Please enjoy and share!
 
Yours in kindness,

Joe

A Glimpse of Spring

Posted by on Feb 11, 2019 in newsletter | 0 comments

We just saw a few glimpses of spring here in Michigan, where the early February temperatures increased, the sun shone, and the snow melted. Now we are back to cold, snow, and ice, and I am challenged to look more deeply at the reality of this season in order to see the hope of spring in the frozen resting.
 
Winter can feel so barren and desolate, terrifying really. It reminds me how vulnerable I am as a human being, and how much I depend upon others for warmth, food, clothing, transportation, and community. What a blessing it is to be alive and to have the support I need to survive another winter. I reflect on the many people in our society and in our world who do not have adequate resources, the ones who are cold, hungry, alone, scared.
 
How can I share my privileges of comfort with those in need?
 
It feels that we are also continuing to experience a frozen political “winter” in this country in which many of our elected leaders, namely the one who currently holds the title of President, appeal to our worst natures, exploiting fear, anger, racism, sexism, and xenophobia as a way to gain power and control over others. They point to immigrants, migrants, and refugees and tell us to fear them, and that the only way to avoid our fear is to build a wall to keep them out of our country. How do we find hope in such hostility?
 
I recognize this fear, this deep insecurity. It is as old as this country itself. It has driven colonization and domination of the land and of Indigenous, African, and many other communities of people for centuries. I make the conscious choice to look beyond this fear and to not allow it to dictate my actions. I strive, imperfectly, to take each step in a kind of love that has the power to transform, just as our Mother Earth is able to bring forth new life and beautiful blossoms from the depths of her frozen womb. I practice to sing each note in awareness of my deep interconnections with others, this sacred interdependence in which I know that, no matter our culture or country of origin, we are all related.
 
In this way I can see immigrants, migrants, and refugees as my brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts, and uncles – as my relatives. In fact many of my ancestors were immigrants themselves. And many immigrants and migrants from the Americas are Indigenous to this land. And many Americans have blood relatives on both sides of the border. I do not want to build walls around our relatives. Rather I want to welcome them home and help give them the safety and security for which all humans strive.
 
The awareness of interconnection brings me back to a serenity that helps me transform and transcend the fear that is being promoted, so that I may somehow be available to reach out to my relatives in need, to be one more glimpse of spring in the winter.
 
The season of awakening is already among us, right here and now! When we are present with our interconnectedness, especially with those whom our society deems as “other,” we can touch that hope of new life and growth, of transforming love, and allow it to help us see the reality of our interbeing.
 
May we live in such a way that helps us to recognize relatives among strangers and spring in the depths of winter,
 
Joe