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The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry

Ellen Williams mentioned this Wendell Berry poem as one of her favorites — read and listen to the poem again, and share it with others.

Pertinent Posts from the On Being Blog

Obama's statement that "some are to blame, but all are responsible" sounds a bit familiar.

The former first lady talks about the responsibility of being raised in a privileged society.

An essay on frugality's new trendiness and old roots in Christian teaching.

James Wright's poem on the terror of hospital bills and refocusing on what we really value.

A search for stories about the relationship between children and grandparents revealed words of wisdom for current economic times.

Looking to a Jewish tradition found in Deuteronomy of absolving loans as a solution to current debts.

A panel discussion with three smart people exploring the moral and ethical aspects of the economic downturn.

Kate lends insight into the current economic crisis through her family history.

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"Walking to the Sky" — a 100-foot sculpture by Jonathan Borofsky that was originally installed at Rockefeller Center in 2004 before being moved to the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas a year later.

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My sister lost her job in Aug '08. My husband and I have been paying her bills for the last 2 months, until she finds employment. My spiritual crisis revolves around the fact that her daughter and husband refuse to help her because they think we will become enablers, that she is not living her life the way she should, etc. (and they don't like her current boyfriend.) My sister has always worked and been generous to others. I was raised as was my niece, to help, forgive and love those in need. I am so blown away by my nieces smugness, lack of forgiveness and callousness that it's making me critical of her and I find I don't want to have anything to do wi her. I realize one has to be careful of how much to help but what is our moral responsibility to a family member who lives alone and would lose her house wi/out our support, which we can afford to give at this point. Her daughter is in a financial situation to help but refuses...my sister has a broken washer and cranky heater...keeps her house at 62 degrees to save money.
I'm struggling to love my niece and her husband. They strike me as morally bankrupt because money is central to their values.
I seek wisdom from talking wi friends, my husband, prayer, worship at church (which hasn't been very helpful), and listening to your show.
Helping the less fortunate is not different for me or my husband. The struggle is always "how much is enough".
So here I am castigating my niece for her lack of compassion and I am having a hard time being compassionate toward her.

The adage that nothing is easy or free comes to mind when I reflect on the current economic situation. I see this time as more of a moral and spiritual opportunity for our country than a crisis. The crisis occurred as we spent our children's future for our own satisfaction and enjoyment. I do not mean, personally, but collectively we spent as if we could not get enough of anything and everything. What was even worse was the stress and anxiety that accompanied that greedy and gluttonous era. The social standard said not only could you be happy with a place to live, but everyone needed a house and often a big house that had all the bells and whistles. We craved name brand clothing, purses, cars, all in the name of vanity and keeping up or ahead of the Jones'. Personally, I am a little relieved to see that era of competitiveness and stretching to keep up passe. The pressure to acquire for the sake of saying one had such and such or bought it at such and such is not only gone, but now out of style. We can now focus on what we are grateful for and I do not mean a Coach purse. I mean family, the familiarity of home and the comfort it brings to be with those we care most about, friends, work and good health. I truly believe that we are being given the chance to appreciate the really best things in life before it is too late.

We need to maximize this moral opportunity by getting to know our neighbors and in doing so join together to take responsibility for our country. We can do this by talking to one another and discussing how to solve our problems and how to build a better future for our children. My personal commitment toward this end is in my role in overseeing an educational community program, I am inviting others to collaborate and seek answers to our collective problems together. We will start with facilitating a book discussion program aimed at bringing together community leaders to look at how we work together to solve our economic, environmental and human problems. The book we have chosen is Tom Friedman's 'Hot, Flat and Crowded, Why We Need a Green Revolution Now."

I am not a pollyanna. I realize many people are out of work and they are in a real survival mode. but, as a country, I also believe we have been fat and sassy for too long. Each of us needs to think and act in survival mode. We need to find that entrepreneurial spirit that brought many of our ancestors to this country. That spirit lives in each of us, the will to work hard, find solutions, help our neighbors and collectively do the best thing for the greater good is in our DNA. It might need some dusting off, but it is there. There is no time like a fall in an ice cold river to bring us to our senses, force us to really examine our lives, our values and then get to work on solutions that serve all of us.

I consider it to be a continuation of immorality. It is an economic crisis, but I don't expect this society to become self critical. I am afraid it will be exactly that "challenging, edifying, cross-cultural conversation" on very superficial "New Age" level after which everyone (feeling so good about him/herself) will proceed to further destruction of world. I have a problem with Rabbi Herschel's words which ignore the victims and almost equate victims and perpetrators. I don't believe that anything truly significant can be achieved without "truth and reconciliation" process, and I don't expect this society of hypocrites to be able to go through a similar process.
This downturn isn't a surprise for me, multicultural, multilingual and yes, "multidegreed" (including one in history), so it doesn't affect me spiritually or intellectually, even though it will affect me economically. I, a Pascallian agnostic, am guided by the wisdom of my late parents and some of my friends, genuinely religious, and I not looking at the moment for leadership, most certainly not "New Age, psychobabbling." I enjoyed the conversation with Palmer Parker, but I find his statement about victimization of whistle blowers in American institutions incomplete - countless individuals' lives have
been totally destroyed, but it was done by very concrete individuals and not by some abstract institutions (as repulsive as they are). There seems to be preoccupation with wealthy "victims" of the downturn who went from being multi-billionaires to just mono-billionaires, but the real question still remains the victimization of whistle blowers. We can't just state "Oh, there were victims, now let's talk about our poor perpetrators who have lost money."
Sorry, storyteling is not my specialty.

Daily I pray in a multi-denominational meditation group to be, "led from unreal to real". It's only within the last few months, during this economic "crisis" that I understand, on many levels, the value of the prayer.

What's going on in the economy feels like a correction, the boomerang of Karma heading back to us. Enduring this correction is itself a meditation, a practice. As in meditation, I try to bring my thought back to whatever mantra I'm working on in the moment, often this is hard, but ultimately soothing. I limit my sources of news, I read the paper and log onto only one news source.

Through the course of my day I try, to the best of my ability, to steer clear of negative, overly dramatic economic moaning. This too is not easy; like gossip, economic commiserating is oddly comforting, a strange guilty pleasure, a seduction, walking away from it is lonely.

Thank you for the podcast...my battery's low, I need to cut myself off.

Corporate America has a long history of violence against those who are less able to defend themselves. The tobacco industry has conducted a holocaust that has sickened and killed more non-smokers that the death toll of the Nazi concentration camps and about ten times as many children whom these predators converted into smokers. Nestles took only a few weeks to murder one million infants with its aggressive marketing of infat formula in third world countries. Cokecola hires death squads that mutilate to death suspected union organizers in Columbia. I have met former prisoners who say that they worked for a mafia because they prefer a less violent and less dishonest employer than large corporations. The business community has always been a predatory Frankenstein monster whose displays of counterfeit conscience are but a public relations exercise in mass communications. They compete and destroy.
Some of their physical violence including their violence against children is more vicious than sexual exploitation and beating. In particular, by combining junk food with the junk culture of video games and the likes of MTV, they have made people so fat and ugly as to break the spirit so that it is easire to control people and harvest more wealth from them by selling them more.
They have filled the world with the ugliest culture this planet has ever witnessed, with their pop music that we are all forced to hear in every public place. Thi legacy of commercial enterprise is junk food for the body, junk science for the mind and junk culture for the spirit.
When a school yard bulley punches someone in the face he does so to mark his victim with a black eye. That black eye is the bulley's public trophy which his victim must wear as a banner of humiliation that tells the world he is a whipping boy and a loser who is less fit to survive, in invitation for otjher bullies to gloat over. It is a label that is designed to rape the victim for the world to see. Corporate America does th same thing when it sells soft drinks full of high fructose corn syrup and McDonalds to children and places them before video games and makes them so spectacularly fat and ugly. The obesity they bear is a form of sexual violence because it makes their bodies repulsive and it is also a banner of humiliation similar to the black eye the bulley inflcts.
But it does not stop with junk food for the body. Commercial music is designed to humiliate a public that from childhood is forced to make it their own, from the vicious racism of assigning the black community rap or minstrel show hip hop music and costumes designed to make them look and sound more primitive than human to country Western soft rock that is drooled in baby talk lyrics.
Sports are designed to brainwash the public with the belief that the world must be separated into winners and losers so that the destruction corporations inflict in their shark like behaviour will be accepted.
But the most inportant corporate crime is not just its violence. It is its fradulence. Dante's Divine Comedy presents Inferno as a place where those who earned their place are there because they blame others for theirchoices. "The customer choose to smoke and we only provide the service they want" is the kind of excuse we hear today. Dante's Inferno places the fadulent at the bottom of Hell and the junk culture industry pretending that pop songs are equal to classical music much in the manner of a 6 year old child scribbling on paper and pretending to be equal to DaVinci and Raphael and cowering behind "Beauty ix in the eye of the beholder>" is the fraud Dante had in mind. The greatest violence big busness has done is to feed people junk culture for the spirit as Hardee's feeds its junk food to the body.

The current economic crisis is a balance point where we are being forced to see ourselves through a clear lens and make adjustments to what we value in the world. I am in my late 50's and have always struggled with acquisition of material things as the value proposition we stand foor as a people. To me, the greatest value is found in helping others who seek aid, not through grandiose gestures, but in small, anonymous, almost imperceptible ways. I have tried to live this principle all along, although at times I struggle with what is most helpful long-term. Sometimes, allowing the person who seeks help to work their way through their issue, knowing that you're rooting for them, is the best answer. At other times, brainstorming solutions with them is best. And at others, merely touching someone's hand while they share their burden lets them know you care.

Having said all this, I too was caught up in appearances. As the child of a narcissistic alcoholic mother and absent father, I worked way too hard for much longer than was sensible to look good -- I imagine for the ultimate goal of acceptance, approval and being good enough. That period was very costly -- financially and emotionally. Sadly, there was no focus on one's inner life in my family of origin, so it took many decades of reading, thinking and brutal self honesty to come to understand that all outer trappings - clothes, toys, cars, homes - had limited value. If there is any silver lining here, it is that I learned this painful lesson gradually before our current economic crisis. So my lifestyle is modest and my use of money as an exchange medium is deliberate.

My adaptive coping mechanism today has less to do with spending differently -- that change already occurred. It has more to do with staying grounded when waves of fear of the unknown pound my internal shores.

1. Knowing that I am not alone in this brings some comfort.
2. I tell myself that I will find a way through this, even if I can't see where the road leads past the bend.
3. I tell myself that I don't have know everything to be safe. I was nearly still-born and started at a precarious 4 lbs -- I didn't know everything then but managed to survive and thrive.
4. I put a limit on the time I spend in fear or worry -- time, like money, has value. If I fritter it away non-productively, then I've done the equivalent of charging an extravagant purchase on a time-based credit card.
5. I try to remain present in the moment, to do what needs to be done for myself, to act responsively toward others.
6. I get strength from keeping expectations realistic, seeking opportunities to lend encouragement to others, and savoring small joys.

None of us know what is in store. We will manage whatever comes with grace by staying present, grounded and responsive to the needs of others and ourselves. Our job is to find that balance point every day.

Because most of us individually, our leadership and our society in general accepted and participated in a multi-year consumer based false economy, most of us individually, our leadership and our society are all at fault. While the impact on almost everyone appears to be serious, each of us needs to view this as an opportunity to get ourselves back to reality and form a basis for our proper personal and society re-development.

Twenty-two years ago I started the Uncommon Individual Foundation www.uif.org with the idea that the most important way for me to benefit my fellow man was to "Give Forward" by using mentoring to assist individuals in developing and pursuing a proper personally defined life objective. We are now develping www.mentorsphere.com in a way to enable individuals and organizations to activte and implement this process.

While we believe education is important, we are focusing on encouraging and assisting in the process of activation and implementation. Activation and implementation are the most complicated and difficult components of becoming and getting to where one needs to be in life.

I am inspired by many, including Krista and Athena who provide the wisdom that encourages proper passion and leadership in this effort. I am finding that leadership comes from the acceptance by many of the importance of our mission and objectives.

Dec 14, 2008

Dear Ms. Christy:
I am a retired teacher and literary scholar and would like to make a few comments.
Since Minoan times, all the deeper virtues or spiritual insights that your many guests have spoken about have been with us all along. The ideas that our culture and its systems undergo cycles of expansion (hubris) and then compression (sorrow), as well as the ideas of death and rebirth, the struggles between individual and communal values, and most of the other ideas we deem either Western or Christian have been with us for over four thousand years, meaning that our culture and its peoples have been imbued with these values for a very long time, and yet with almost every new season, we find ourselves shocked by the turning of the wheel. I have listened to your show for about two years and am both cheered and fortified by the comments and observations of your guests, and by implication, by you and your involvement with them. However, directing us to our traditional responses of inward turning and renewed collective values may be fortifying and reassuring, but perhaps some finger pointing and criticizing may be good for the soul, as well.
Our current economic downturn is not an isolated event, as your guest, Mr. Palmer notes. Economics is the bottom line of any culture (excuse the cliché) and the entire culture is effected when the economy goes south. Looking inward to deeper values is an appropriate response, but I should like to make a few observations about the American psyche, in the meantime, as regards our economic situation.
I believe Mr. Palmer is correct in saying that our recent economic bubble was a form of self-deception, a kind of blind hubris or eating of our young (as in the myth of Kronos, perhaps, as well as for pigs). The recent housing bubble is symptomatic of the systemic changes on Wall Street, deregulation and innovative financial instruments, whose effects and abuses no one was willing to calculate despite the cautious nature of most economists. Over-expanding greed, seemingly, is the cause of our current calamity. But as financial markets regroup, a deeper problem becomes evident, a festering one, namely, the loss of good jobs in America. After all, if the American working class is unable to earn a decent living, how can a consumer driven economy, populated mostly by the working classes, thrive?
Mr. Palmer suggested that the materialistic, consumer driven economy should be looked at more seriously. I agree, but this is a long term solution.
More immediate is the problems American car manufactures are having as indicative of our current reality. Manufacturing in America is quietly dying and with it manufacturing jobs, for today most manufacturing is done overseas. In my neighborhood, South Florida, its obvious that 65% of the vehicles on the roads are imports. That is, GM, Ford and Chrysler appear to have only 35% of the American car market, approximately 12% each. This is mind boggling, and the consequences of these companies collapsing, even with the help of congress, appears very real as many fiscal Republicans are arguing in congress today, as well as the devastation to all the jobs connected to suppliers and dealers, as argued by the Democrats. Why, one has to ask, were American car manufactures unwilling to give the public what it wanted to buy? Why were the CEO’s unwilling to produce compact, quality cars instead of large, fuel consuming vehicles when the trend in consumer buying habits, as early as the 1960’s, has been in the opposite direction. For example, GM’s newest line of vehicles was the Hummer. The Hummer is a beautiful vehicle, but the reality is that most people are driving small, fuel efficient cars, and therefore most of the profits from sales would be with these smaller cars. Was the American image of large and powerful more important to the car CEO’s than the reality on the street? Or are the CEO and the managerial class of American car companies as well as other manufacturers so international minded that the collapse of our manufacturing sector is of no consequence as long as they can manage big business in whatever country it resides, China, India or Central America, were labor is cheap and profits are high? Here are two obvious points of concern, even to those of us who are more use to problems in literary studies.
Of course, your program does not deal with the psychology, if not the hubris, of the American business class, but as we are now learning all over again, these and other concerns, including religious perspectives, are all connected.
Sincerely yours,
Eugene M. Arnone

As a follower of a spirituality outlined in A Course in Miracles, I have come to see my perception of the outer world as illusion (as it is in many religions). It is illusion because the world does not offer salvation. Indeed, it is usually from the world that we need to be saved. The current economic crisis reminds me of these spiritual lessons:

1) My success blinds and distracts me into thinking that I can handle everything myself, because I am getting recognition and have financial resources sufficient to meet my needs. I am content and feel that life is good, thanks to my own efforts. When these artificial props are kicked out from under me, I am given the opportunity to look for something more spiritually founded, more authentic, more sustaining.

2) The problem is never "them." I am not a victim. This is a bit hard for me in that I have seen the inevitability of the coming correction. Retiring on January 1, 2009, I was planning at that time to liquidate all stock and other risk-based investments and place them into safe tax-free bonds to help fund my retirement (modest though they be). My timing was off by only a few months, but now my resources have been halved and the basis for my retirement rather shaky. I do indeed believe that the crisis was caused by greed and lack of morality or regulation, but assigning the blame is not a worthwhile exercise. Nor is it necessary to dwell on articulating my own culpability. The spiritual lesson for me, at this point, is to look within and not to try to criminalize someone else. But it's hard. I do blame myself for not realizing the crunch would come before the end of the Bush administration, and I do blame others. Herein lie my spiritual lessons. They have been imposed upon me rather precipitously, but they are, nevertheless, a good thing.

3) The greatest illusion of all is the belief that there is something wrong, that things are not as they should be. A Course in Miracles claims no monopoly on truth, calling itself only one of thousands of paths to God. But it does claim to be a short cut. The basis of that short cut is that its learning process takes place in the world around us, not in fleeing the world, denying it, trying to convert or control or fix it, or hiding from it. As illusion, the world never makes sense, because it reflects our own dysfunction, fear, guilt, and insecurity. The solution is not to try to make the world work better, even the economic system (spiritually speaking). The goal is to see between all of my brothers and sisters and myself no separation, only commonality in our divine origin. So the greediest most shallow most irresponsible predatory lender or illicit purveyor of worthless derivitives is my brother. If I can see him innocent and free of the illusory values (and condemnation) of the world, if I can see that he is still as God created him, loved, and unchanged, then I can understand that same thing about myself, and know that I, too, never left God's embrace, hard as I may have tried. In this way, the Course calls all of my brothers my saviors, because as I see them, I see myself. This is NOT the way the world works. It IS the way forgiveness works. Forgiveness is the main tool the Course uses for our awakening.

4) My biggest lesson may be in trusting that I am and will be adequately cared for (through the grace of God), regardless of my financial circumstances. There is no correlation between one and the other. At a time of financial loss, I get to be reminded of this important lesson. I never have more than two choices: To move toward love and forgiveness and trust and joy, or to act in ways that take me away from them. I see the choice as getting closer to my true identity or getting more into my ego and into illustion. Times of upheaval such as we are experiencing now, are ideal opportunities for spiritual growth and learning, since they make the choice very clear to me. Now all I need to do is make it.

Robert Ferre

What I am doing that is different, is being willing to listen and understand this crisis in America from various points of views and from all walks of life. My approach is to understand first, then communicate in a way that is enlightening and/or encouraging.

We can be quick to be negative or hopeless. But how can we progress with regressive energy? I believe that creative, encouraging and conscious dialog will help us climb out of our current condition in America.

Listening, then building a progressive conversation from there does help, and will help. If we can learn to do this as Americans in struggling times, we will be able to see brighter days I believe.

I am finding leadership in the creative ideas we have as people, and in the solutions we intelligently craft when we can fully understand our situations here in America.

I hardly ever took notes in college, but just now, listening to Prabhu Guptara, Martin Marty, Rachel Naomi Remen, and Ester Sternberg I have been taking notes, underlining, and marveling at the richness of these conversations. They have engaged me deeply.

I have much to ponder and only one thing to contribute now: Life lived in community, nor just with acquaintances,friends, or family, but in an accountable community of respected companions is the matrix in which we live out the answers to Dr. Remen's three questions: What can be trusted? What sustains me? What do I really need in order to live?

Thank you, thank you, thank you for the great service you are providing to so many people. The Rev Dr. Steve Crowson

As a holistic nurse and director or clinical working in a community hospital in Atlantic City, New Jersey, I am seeing first hand the impact this current situation is having on my colleages, our patients, area employers such as casinos, our hospital and health care in general. Our organization, AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center is financially strong as they were wise enough to invest during the boom economic years and have good reserves, however, many of our staff members are being affected because their significant others are getting laid off, some of them of course are on the verge of losing their homes, etc. Moreover, as the number of people losing their jobs increases they will also loose their health benefits and that will put a strain in our already taxed health care system. Our hospital already provides an increased amount of services to the uninsured in our community and gets reimbursed by Charity Care - which the program itself seems to be on the verge of collapse. We are preparing ourselves to see an increase patient population and doing more with less. This of course can add more stress to already stressed out health care providers.

So when I look for inspiration during these tough times, I am reminded on Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing - Nightingale channeled her work to support hospital reforms and the need for educated, centered and grounded nurses who could provide better management of the hispital environment. She was not afraid to speak her truth to those in powerful positions. She saw beyond roles and addressed inequities in the system whenever it threatened the well being of her patients or those in lesser circumstances. I am sure she had her fair share of friends, enemies and friendnemies. Fast forward 100 years later and we find ourselves in our present circumstances.

The economic, political, and health care crisis that we are currently experiencing is once again a call to action. It is an opportunity for us to understand the realities around us and to rally together to do something radically different. Before us is the possibility of using this current crisis as an opportunity to unite, collaborate and to empower ourselves, and others, to actually get our health care system to work. Embracing an uncertain future, we need to support leaders, who are inspired, courageous and effective. We need to renew the energy of our healthcare workers who are burnt out and apathetic in our hospitals and clinical practices. If we point them to an inner compass that renews their passion, there is hope for real solutions and inspired creativity. All that we need is already there, in the currency of our collective, and it only needs to be tapped into.

Nightingale was able to transform the health care delivery of her era and beyond by looking at the healing process from a whole person perspective. She also saw nursing as sacred work; she believed that every person who is drawn to ease the pain and suffering of another is an instrument of genuine healing, regardless of whether they are a healthcare professional or not. So Nightingale's vision is generic, applicable to everyone, regardless of his or her occupation or profession.

In today's highly specialized health care, we are often tempted to compartmentalize our lives, putting our professional interests in one corner and our spiritual concerns in another. Nightingale’s spiritual vision and her professional identity were seamlessly combined. As she put it, "My work is my must." Nightingale exemplifies a degree of courage and fearlessness that is rare in any era. She shows that it is possible to honor our spiritual vision and integrate it with the highest standards of nursing practice - to "walk our talk." By her example, she invites each of us to find our meaning and purpose - our own "must.”

Andrew Harvey an internationally renowned religious scholar and teacher states that when the deepest and most grounded spiritual vision is married to a practical and pragmatic drive to transform all existing political, economic, social institutions, and I will add health care, a sacred force - the power of wisdom and love in action - is born. This force he defines as Sacred Activism.

Nurse theorist, Jean Watson in her Theory of Human Caring asserts that caring is a science and transpersonal caring relationships are foundational to our work. She defines caring as a moral ideal, rather than an action, that is necessary for the preservation of humanity. She explains how caring, as an ideal, benefits the person as well as the healthcare provider. She believes healthcare provides must cultivate sensitivity to self and others through self reflection, awareness and spiritual practice by cultivating lovingkindness, developing authentic caring relationships, being fully present, attending to basic needs with caring consciousness, engaging in the artistry of caring-healing practices, and ministering to the spiritual needs of the person by maintaining human dignity and nurturing the soul.

Amid the challenges we face in our nation, indeed the world - - it is easy to be overwhelmed by a sense of futility and hopelessness. As a nurse, and a recent cancer patient, I challenge us to embrace this radical way of looking at these challenges – not as health care reform, but health care transformation from the inside out in the form of personal transformation and empowerment through an encounter and special attention to the heart - for "sacred" and "heart" reflect a common meaning – it can generate the hope, courage, and vision required for our troubled times. We need to be connected to a vision of action that is inspiring, hopeful and rooted in deep spiritual wisdom and compassion.

To thrive in the current healthcare culture, we must create environments that redefine health, foster personal connection, and celebrate human potentiality. These environments must reflect and sustain the values and behaviors that are congruent with caring and healing.

It is my believe that this transformational process is not esoteric, but is entirely organic. This sacred activism is counteractive to the naysayer and do-nothings who are part of our problems. It is important to realize that this message is not a matter of philosophy, but of survival.

And so in the words of Nightingale, ‘So never lose an opportunity of urging a practical beginning, however small, for it is wonderful how often in such matters the mustard-seed germinates and roots itself.” Thank you.

I definitely consider this a moral crisis of America's mindless consumerism and abandoning ethical and moral values for get-rich schemes. My strongest spiritual resource is this green earth and the web of life, and the movement of this country to encourage consumption that can't be sustained has outraged me for years.
The values I bring that keep me steady in this time are several. First, I have lived in third world countries, and am trained as an anthropologist. I know that it is possible to live with very little, but I also know that the consumption of America is directly linked to how little these people have. In the US, I have lived in poor rural areas, and similarly know how to live with very little. I have practiced voluntary simplicity for years and participate very little in the consumption economy.
Second, I am the director of a non-profit organization, and our little grassroots program has been hard-hit by this downturn. Foundations have cut grants and donations usual at this time of year haven't materialized. I have worked for several months to find additional resources, cut non-essentials, and cover payroll. I finally had to layoff staff, but I began with myself. I am paid for one day a week, and volunteer 3 or 4 other days. I cut the days of my admin assist. next and the program manager will be next since I consider the program the priority of the organization. I hope that we'll be able to survive the next year but I hope my own dedication lets other staff know that I value their work and will try to find the funds to keep them working.
I found the reflections of your panel very interesting, and I thank you for providing this way of thinking about the crisis. As a Buddhist, I see this as a way of moving another step away from materialism, and it brings my attachments into sharp focus.
Like many others, I hope that our new President can really help this country re-orient. I have learned to value the many strengths of the people around me, especially those who hold on to hope for their many different reasons. Some are young, and have the hope of innocence. Some are older and have learned to have something to hold to. I try to listen to them all.

At the Core of the Recent Financial Collapse
By Sampson Iruoha

Mankind have for several millennia gravitated towards recognizing only what gives earthly pleasure and gain, and they have increasingly made their every decision based on the potential for the attainment of these.

But there is something that is lost to that person who so binds himself through his limited and base desiring. What has eluded a great portion of mankind, but which always can be discovered by anyone through earnest exertion and objective observation, is the fact that our desires, i.e., those stirrings which rise from deep within us, contribute to what develops for us to experience and live through on earth. With these inner stirrings we determine what we experience in our lives. They are like magnetic energy-forms which pull together our earthly conditions according to their (the forms) nature.

When our goals become so narrow that we are concerned only with earthly wishes and desires, the opportunities for our experiencing of happiness get correspondingly narrower. The emotions of envy, greed, anger, fear and anxiety grow in size and in magnetic strength. We express more of these as we encounter various conditions on earth, because it becomes increasingly more difficult for us to find those very narrowly-defined conditions for our happiness. These conditions become even scarcer as the gaze of men on earth becomes even narrower and their goals more earthly in nature, and thus, more limited and rigid.

The surroundings which form around us as a result of the energy-forms we generate come together in ways that encourage feelings of envy, greed, anger, fear, anxiety, superficiality, conceit, narrow-mindedness, and many other related base attributes and emotions. All of this has the effect of keeping man’s gaze low, away from the enlightening and ennobling currents from above, from the Spiritual World through which light flows to us, because these base emotions and attributes are dissimilar to what is light.

If the guidance from above, which comes to us through our Inner Voice, and which leads along a natural, upbuilding path, is heeded, what is built on earth by men would always have beneficial effects to all. Destruction and despair, however, come as fruit to whomever builds differently, that is, whoever cannot recognise and heed natural Law and thereby abstain from causing harm (consciously or unconsciously). The desire for earthly wealth, comfort, power and influence, keeps our perception low and cuts us off from what will truly help us upwards spiritually and also materially.

The amassment of wealth, as a means of ensuring security and of achieving life’s purpose, has become a major preoccupation of many a person, rich or poor, young or old, without regard to nation, race or culture, so that everything else, including the cultivation of good qualities, which alone could lead to ennobled earthly institutions, has been left to deteriorate.

A powerful wave now courses through Creation, dislodging whatever is not built on a sound foundation, as is everything that has not been built under the right guidance. The recent financial collapse, shake-up or transformation is only an indication of this happening. It will affect people to the degree that they are bound to the collapsing structure. Only that person who is able to heed its rousing call can navigate well through the ensuing debris.

The economic breakdown is a metaphor for our cultures spiritual breakdown. Many of us have been expecting it. We have been preparing by living very simply, building community, getting out of debt, saving money, and becoming as self-sufficient as possible. My life/home is a model of this. I am 56 and plan to retire from directing a school for 20 years in April 09. I could continue to work, but I feel a need to change my role in the world. My finances are safe. I may return to foreign service (Peace Corps), work in energy conservation, on an Indian Reservation or work in Southern States in the schools. Or? The idea is to be of use. I am healthy now, but death waits. So my question is "What can I do to help?" There is much to do. And I have many skills. My plan is still nebulous, but all will become clear. I can wait for the Voice, the sudden opportunity. Already one good job offer has emerged. Next year I will be doing something exciting and helpful. Like Parker Palmer, I try to stay out of the fear turf. I have gratitude for my situation. All will become clear.

The spiritual crises is the fading of CONTENTMENT. Many forces in our culture work together to reshape contentment and toss it aside.

Some years ago, I set a level of retirement savings that I would need to live a frugal, but giving lifestyle. Since that time , my savings have surpassed my original goal. Rather than reach for even more, I began to tithe the surplus assets to charity. Now the tithing combined with the market slump have taken me back to my original contentment level of savings. At first I was distressed by this loss of virtual savings, but now I look back on the giving over the past years and see that the money given was the best investment! It has lost no value.

This time of stress is a normal part of my Christian spiritual journey. Stress is a refining process. Scripture is clear on that issue.

You are "looking for practical resources for individual and communal evaluation and renewal, moving forward from this crisis". But what do you offer those who lived evenly and moderately along the way, who are not experiencing economic crisis, buy who are instead celebrating and reaping rewards after years of hard work, saving for the future, giving to others, and contributing to society? It seems that all minds and hands are now turned to economic bailouts or spiritual and moral lessons. What a shame that there is little or no attention "left over" for reinforcing the positive behaviors and rewarding those who have exhibited them.

I bring a kindred and keen energy to this crisis, personally. In a failing economy where things are so uncertain, I have an optimism that will remain, even in the darkest of times. My soul's strength will not allow me to be negative when we need innovation, ideas and leadership to get us out of this crisis. Practicing Yoga every morning, I am empowered each day to have positive energy - I go about my day with stability and direction. I believe we need this during these trying times.

My spirituality, loving myself and the world around me, encourages me each day to seek answers and language that will help people smile and/or feel that hope surrounds us. From this, I understand that we want help and hope. Therefor my positive and peaceful energy is welcomed wherever I am.

I see people gravitating towards this peaceful and positive energy. Conversations that develop with me or around me encourage others to listen, to want to learn, and to gravitate to words that are opposite of dark and negative.

With this understanding, we will empower one another and help one another escape or avoid creating situations or the energy involved in this crisis in America.

I consider myself a Change Agent. In the previous words, I am a Change Agent in the sense that I am helping others see that there is hope in the depths of crisis and it can be used to brighten our days and our paths in life.

First let me say this is the first time I've listened to your program and it won't be the last. I was driving and I've become a huge NPR fan. I was so immersed in Parker's conversation with you that I pulled over to the side of the road to write down your program name and time. I drove around in the car, down to the bluffs in Santa Monica listening. The mix between the cold wind, both your warm hearts, the economic implosive and the magnificent explosion of colors across the sunset helped me really feel my aliveness. Not the rote, automatic movements that so many of us have fallen into. You ask how do we get to a place like we are, both financially and spiritually/morally? Little by little, we learn how to turn off others around us, then we turn off ourselves. Or does it begin that we learn to slowly turn off ourselves and then it becomes habitual to turn off others. Walk by people in need because we don't have time or the inclination to be in the now of our lives. In our race to the finish line of who has the most stuff, we inevitably lose the race...the human race. And here we are. And like Parker, I think this devastating downturn may just be the bottom that we need to feel in order to begin to rebuild ourselves as a person, people, nation and world. How easy it is to forget we are human with all our darknesses and our light and that we can determine which path we decide to follow. The good news is that turnaround can happen in an instant. Piaget spoke to humans needing 10's of thousands of experiences for a real change within the organism to occur. A real structural change, not just a cosmetic change. The difference between accommodation and assimilation. Now is the time for that real structural change. I also loved the concept that an inner life cannot be turned on and off or just on by enormous amounts of data digesting. But clearly, creating an environment that allows and supports the study of one's innards as being as important if not more than one's outards, opens the doors for inquiry and meaningful searching. I also recall the question Parker posed of why no one spoke up if they had or more solidly that they knew of the divisive programs in the financial markets. The answers were fear (of being known as a whistle blower) and of course, greed. And then begs the question, how much is enough. When does someone say when. That a society is not known by how well its most wealthy and successful achieve but how that society treats the least fortunate members. As a doctor of psychological, a clinician for many years, I might suggest that we are so disconnected from our true selves that we cannot connect to those who are not akin to us even in our false selves. We need to return to ourselves. We push away those parts of ourselves in others we fear the most. We may give money, but not our time. And clearly, what is more precious than time. Once spent, it cannot be reclaimed. Though we all have hearts that beat in our chest this is most certainly a matter that is driven straight from the heart. Our spiritual heart. I suggest that many are not afraid of telling but more afraid of being known. Of being revealed. Of realizing that in spite of a vast fortune, there is no where anyone can go to get away from the world. People can no longer pretend the rest of the world does not exist. We are all globally connected. Their existence is our existence. There is no where to go to get away. Away is always with us. We have to change the way we live, from the inside out and then from the outside as well. We all rise and fall together. Tomorrow depends upon today. Now more than ever. Thank you for your show. I needed to listen. We all need to be reminded. And we are all the reminders as well.

Crisis is questioning everything you though you knew and could believe in, trust in, and losing yourself for years in the aloofness of questioning with only receiving half truths or total lies from others. Fear follows you night and day, tracking your every step. Waiting for you to make that fatal, final one last mistake. Then all is lost. Your choice is of life or death by your own method, or the comforts of living on the streets and about to turn 60.
I saw it coming, this so called recent new great depression way back at the end of 2005. I saw people with nothing but greed, bouncing on a lonely new person who had relocated to the attractive area of southwestern Utah. The pretense of being sweet and friendly is how they did it, practiced at hiding a truth and knowing exactly what you need to hear, taught from the confines of a religious cult, it's the business end of their church.
From the first minute I stopped my RV to camp and have a look around, they worked me to the point they destroyed my life and stole nearly every possession I had ever gathered and worked to pay for. They kept me and any one like me isolated and trapped, with no way out after the beginning of 2006.
I am empowered once again, and tomorrow will be a better day, forgive? Forget? Remember! And live better today!

I work in the mortgage industry. Last June, I left my position as the head of sales and marketing for a grouping of default-related divisions at one of the largest Title insurance companies in America, and started a company to help mortgage lenders and servicers work through their growing inventories of foreclosed properties. I have a front row seat to what I feel is one of the defining moments in the history of the United States.

To borrow from Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg address, "...our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure." I believe that we are now engaged in another "civil" war.

That civil war that Lincoln referenced in June of 1865 was both an ideological conflict, as well as a horribly deadly affair - a moment in history that forever shaped our young nation. With no less sweeping influence, the current "economic downturn" brings to bear a similarly urgent ideological conflict, with the potential for similar casualties.

I do not speak of the death and carnage of human flesh that men and boys experienced at places like Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Manassas. That great conflict produced almost 213,000 combat casualties and approximately 625,000 total loss of life. I speak of an avalanche of homes lost, businesses ruined, and lives that will be forever changed.

It was announced recently that 10.3% of all mortgages in the US were delinquent in November of 2008. Those delinquencies translate to over $1 TRILLION in mortgage debt that is now past-due. In this age of spin-doctored headlines and politicized prognostications, it’s easy to become numb to these staggering numbers. Let me help you put into perspective exactly how much $1 TRILLION really is.

Picture a stack of 100 one-dollar bills – the kind that are banded and stored in a bank teller’s cash register. Each stack of bills is approximately ½ inch thick and has a value of $100, of course. How much is $1 MILLION dollars? Picture a stack of $1 bills 417 feet high. That’s taller than a 40-story building. That’s how much $1 MILLION is.

OK, so how much is $1 BILLION? Imagine a picture of the earth from approximately 79 miles high - a picture like many we've seen transmitted from orbiting spacecraft. Imagine a stack of $1 bills extending so high that the one-millionth bill on the stack is right outside the spacecraft’s window. That’s how much $1 BILLION is.

OK, so how much is $1 TRILLION? Imagine (if it is even possible) a stack of $1 bills extending upward 79,000 miles from the surface of the earth. The one-trillionth bill on the stack would be about 1/3 of the way to the moon. That’s how much $1 TRILLION is.

(Note: At the time of my writing this, our national debt stands at $10.6 trillion dollars. Our stack of $1 bills to equal the amount of our national debt would extend from earth to the moon, back to the earth, back to the moon , and halfway back toward the earth.)

Some Pollyanna pundits point to the recent slowing of foreclosures filings as the beginning of a recovery. They laud the effectiveness of the strategy of modifying loan terms for troubled borrowers as a way to avoid foreclosure and reverse the economic decline. What they fail to focus on is the fact that foreclosure moratoriums are now in-place in many states. This will only delay the inevitable. They also don't point to the fact that approximately 50% of loans that were modifed out of foreclosure in the first half of 2008 are now again delinquent just 6 months later.

American homeowners will collectively lose more than $2 trillion in home value by the end of 2008, according to a report released today. 11.7 million Americans now owe more on their mortgage balances than their homes are worth. At the April 2008 meeting of an industry association focused on foreclosed real estate, a guest economist pointed out that we have built 4.1 million new residential structures since 2006, but created only 2.2 million new households.

The dirty little secret that nobody wants to address head-on is that there are two constants at play today, just as they have been forever -- 1) the cold hard law of supply and demand is still in effect; and 2) lenders will always want to be re-paid, WITH INTEREST. Those immutable laws seem to have been forgotten by, or worse yet never taught to our current generation.

In a head-long rush toward prosperity since emerging from The Great Depression, we Americans have put aside the basic value of honest pay for an honest day's work. Fueled by greed, we set forth each day to get more stuff. We have ignored the needs of the needy around us. In fact, their very presence has only served to fuel our drive to never find ourselves in such a state of poverty and want. We take pride in our great accomplishments, evidenced by the trappings of success. We have strayed from our recognition an Eternal Supreme Being, from whom all we have is derived. The result has been a widening gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots" in America today.

History is a master teacher. As we look backwards, we have the opportunity to learn from those who came before and make necessary course corections in our lives and in our society. Over and over, through eons of time, great civilizations have succombed to the Pride Cycle and crumbled to dust. Each one of those peoples were supremely confident in their abilities, knowledge, power, and wealth. They started out humble and hard-working, recognizing their puny power in the face of nature, and bound to a strong belief in a Diety. Their characteristics of hard work, honesty, mercy, charity, and duty to their God translated into prosperity and wealth. However, with prosperity came greed and envy, with a resulting separation between the rich and the poor. Ultimately, the great civilizations collapsed in corruption and conflict as the "house of cards" came tumbling down.

I do not presume to argue that American society will crumble to dust. I am more hopeful than that. I do, however, believe that a humbling of America is coming. With arrogance and greed, we have wielded our global financial, military, and governmental powers for decades, with the goal of prosperity at all cost. We have strayed from our belief in a Supreme Being, from striving to produce an honest day's pay for an honest day's work, and from our duties to take care of the needy around us.

The fundamental ideological conflict that we - that I must confront in the current economic downturn is this: how much is enough? How many cars do I really need? How many flat screen TVs do I really need? How many square feet in my home do I really need? I must reflect on and challenge my motivations for my labors.

To guide my quest, I do not look to the media or elected officials for wisdom and direction. I find myself all too often cynically evaluating the hidden agendas of those talking heads. Rather, I find myself taking more time for introspection, reading, and personal religious discipline. In the process, I have found that opportunities for service to others abound.

In the current raging economic battle, with growing cries of anguish and pain all around us, I suspect that we may all find a source of solace in taking opportunities to focus our attention away from our personal fortunes, finding opportunities to reduce and simplify our lives, and giving service to those in greater need. If we would all take a moment to seriously refect on how much we truly NEED, distinguishing that from what we WANT, we would find a wealth of resources that could be directed at those who are TRULY in need.

I am a self-employed optometrist in rural Minnesota. I have always personally struggled with the moral and spiritual decisions related to being a Christian, a health care provider, and a businessperson at the same time. The economic crisis has made this struggle even harder. Jesus and the Bible teach us to help our neighbor and do what we can for them. As a doctor, I'm able to help a lot. However, as a businessperson, I need to charge for my services and products as well. I have patients who need glasses for themselves or their children... but can't afford them, with our current economic crisis. Like many in our country, they have "fallen between the cracks" of our health insurance system. I have a program set up with our local Lions Club to help in paying for glasses - but even then, I wind up donating my services. I have to draw the line somewhere - but it's very difficult. To make my struggles even more difficult, I live and practice in a very small town (population 2200) - so I see my patients every day, and in situations outside the office. Sending patients to collection or small claims court is difficult and can have extensive repercussions. However, writing off unpaid bills affects me, and my family.

I remember once when I was young, I came home after school and baked a cake for dinner, to surprise my mother, who worked a full-time job as a Clinic Manager before her "second shift" as Mom.

We had run out of eggs, which I didn't discover until after I emptied the cake mix into the bowl. Then I remembered the stories my mom and aunts used to tell about growing up in the rural, segregated South. Though Jim Crow Blacks suffered severe institutional oppression, their communities were strong, and neighbors were always helping one another out. "People we come over to ask for a cup of sugar or a loaf of bread," they would wistfulyl recount "And if you had it, you gave it."

So I went across the street to Mrs. Jesse, our retired neighbor across the street who kept and eye on my brother and I for those few hours between 3 and 6pm when we were left to our own devices. A gentle grandmother in her 60s, I was sure she'd have some eggs, and fondly recall this tradition of sharing.

And she did. I got my two eggs and baked a cake. When I presented the cake to my mother, I proudly told her of my efforts and resourcefulness. The glow on her face from good deeds quickly faded when I got to the part about borrowing the eggs.

She called my father to the kitchen, and together the scolded me about going around the neighborhood "begging for food."

"But I thought that's what you guys did in the olden days?" and pleaded.

"That was a long time ago." My mother retorted.

I have only once in my life knocked on a neighbor's door to borrow eggs, or anything else, ever again. It appears that in today's culture, "strong" communities are those where estranged neighbors live on 'islands' of manincured, McMansions in gated exurbs, and have no "need" for one another; where sharing is an act of last resort for the truly destitute, not a practice of healthy community builing.

I find that I am living much the same way I was living before this financial crisis, though I should explain this a little. I am a Romanian-born American citizen, and I have been in the US since I was 8 years old. I was raised by a single mother, who was 45 when she and I immigrated to the US, who not only struggled to make ends meet in a language she hardly spoke initially, but also to live a bigger story (touching on Rachel Naomi Remen's interview), that is, to practice as a licensed pharmacist, as she had for 23 years in Romania. She currently runs a moderately successful practice as a homeopathic pharmacist. I attended a small, private, all-girls' high school in Connecticut, received a BA in English from Yale and an MA from Johns Hopkins. I reconnected with my father while I was in college and have a good relationship with him, found great mentors and colleagues in all three of the aforementioned institutions. My childhood was marked particularly by the kindness of my second grade teacher (my first teacher in the US), who took my mother and me under her care during our private financial crisis, investing more than would generally be expected of any teacher: paying for my piano lessons, making visits to the apartment she had found for my mother and me when we weren't home -- she had arranged to have her own key -- and stocking the fridge, laying out new school clothes on my bed every September for a number of years. One December, my mother and I arrived home to find a decorated Christmas tree, with gifts underneath. Needless to say, her family is my family, and to this day my mother still spends every holiday with them, as do I, when I happen to be able to make it home.

This lengthy introduction was meant merely to illustrate that I have lived something like the American Dream (my mother, even more so). The genuine one. We are an American "Success Story." And yet, my college years, and particularly the year I spent in the writing program at Johns Hopkins were marked by a lot of anxiety and intermittent bouts with depression. Not unusual, one might say; one's twenties are tough years of confusion, self-doubt and self-discovery. I took leaves of absence. I traveled abroad. I returned. A critical unease with my life in the US continued to mount, until, sometime around 2003, I felt that if I didn't leave the US, I would face some kind of irrevocable death of the soul. There was no logical explanation for my return to Romania, the country both of my parents had fought hard to leave not long before the fall of Communism. Two things made that return (and departure) vitally necessary: the realization that the institution that was generously funding my education in poetry was able to do so partly because of heavy financial investment in national defense (I opposed the war and felt helpless in my complicity), and the nervous breakdown of a close friend, which forced me to consider the fact that the majority of the talented, creative people in my life were on various forms of anti-depressive, anti-psychotic, anti-anxiety, anti-- you get the point -- medication. I realize now how subjectively my own self-preservation mechanisms were integrating the symbolic events around me to make me feel that if I didn't leave, find some alternate path to the one I was on, I would literally die. This is the stuff of spiritual crisis, of extensive self-evaluation, but most importantly, intuitive action toward some possibility of "living life well," or, at least, better than I had been to that point. I didn't understand what was driving me away and what I thought I'd find in Romania, though, in retrospect, I see an obvious search for a different kind of independence, which I found in the pursuit of a creative engagement with filmmaking. But it could have been theater, or another collaborative art form. Romania was a good backdrop because it was both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time, allowing for a unique exploration of who I was and from where I'd come.

Now to bring things to the present. I live in Los Angeles, where I work in the film industry, an industry defined by uncertainty, risk, dreams and largely egotistical ambitions. For the non-union filmmaker, there is no health insurance (I have not had any formal health insurance since I left Johns Hopkins). Paying work comes unexpectedly, or not at all. Rewarding work is sporadic, but great communities are possible as a result. I have worked for and with people I admire. There is a tenuous sense of meaning in all this -- tenuous, but meaning nonetheless, and I can honestly say that during the past five years I have had the fullest, most enriching experiences of my life, though I was broke or badly bent the majority of the time. I only mean to say that I am no stranger to the uncertainty that is gripping so many people right now -- and I say this with neither self-pity nor self-righteousness. I only have myself to look after, and I have chosen this way of life (though, choice and necessity are terms both open to debate). I am sorry for people who are finding themselves entirely unprepared for this painful -- but absolutely necessary -- period of adjustment. I wish that we could all have been raised with the gentle wisdom of Parker Palmer's father. I am looking for ways to apply my own experiences to an effort to help. I find wisdom and leadership in people around me, the American producer who encouraged me while we were working together in Romania to come to Los Angeles and pursue my dream, who then financed my first effort in filmmaking; my wonderful boss, the chef and radio host Evan Kleiman, who is a natural community-builder, whose restaurant serves as a surrogate family for everyone employed there, as well as its loyal customers (her decision to provide an "economic crisis discount" for all customers was a generous and inspiring gesture); the insightful guests on this radio show -- perhaps one thing I am doing now that I did not do before is to contribute to the show. Not to do so, in light of pervasive budget cuts seems almost reprehensible. I find leadership in the likes of Lewis Hyde (who defends the value of the artist in a market economy) and other academics, writers, artists, for whom their work is a form of activism aimed at protecting the integrity and vitality of culture. It is an exciting time to be alive, almost overwhelmingly exciting.

I don't know how useful I have been here -- I don't think this is exactly the kind of response you were seeking -- but I have been finding the show so heartening and had to respond to a very personal need to voice these thoughts. Thank you, whomever you are who has taken the time to read them.

Oana Sanziana Marian

P.S. I include a photo of my mother and me, in Romania, and some time later.

A congregant suggested I send you a story/sermon I gave at a Yom Kippur family service in October at Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, NY. The economic crisis was really spiraling out of control at this point and I wanted to highlight the effect this hysteria was having on our children. "Debbie," in the story below, is a 4th-grader who believes that the entire economic downturn is her fault.

Here is the text of the sermon and thank you for your consideration,

Rabbi Dan Sklar
Westchester Reform Temple

------

Debbie was too afraid to tell anyone at first. She knew that look that grown-ups get when something is really serious. And it’s not to be confused with the look of mild annoyance. The look of mild annoyance signals to every kid that there’s still a certain amount of wiggle room. "Knock it off!" is usually a good indicator that it’s time to stop but this was a look beyond "knock it off" or "cut it out." It was a look beyond, "I’m only going to ask you once." It was even a look beyond, "Deborah Judith Kandor!" The three names used in their longest form could only mean trouble. No, this was a look that Debbie had never seen before. It was something between frustration and nausea but that’s to say nothing of the abject terror that lingered just under the surface.

People were afraid and Debbie was afraid because she knew that something she had done had caused the climate of fear that had descended upon their town. Now she couldn’t pin it on any one act she had committed, but it seemed that the unfortunate combination of several acts had caused this downturn.

And now the High Holy Days were here and there was nowhere to hide. Debbie was desperate this Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. She kept her head in her prayerbook and she didn’t even join in the singing when her favorite song came and went. Debbie’s parents noticed that something wasn’t quite right, in fact they noticed several days ago, but they thought that seeing her temple friends and hearing familiar words and music would snap her right out of her funk. But something about this service just seemed to make Debbie even more uncomfortable and distracted.

On the car ride home, Debbie didn’t make a peep- she didn’t even respond to the many annoyances her little brother had cooked up for her. The kicking of the leg, the Indian rope burn, the inner eyelid trick- nothing seemed to provoke a response and finally her little brother gave up, turning his attention to the action figure wedged between the seat buckles.

When it came time to break the fast at the Kandor household later that evening, Debbie showed a distinct lack of interest in any of her favorite brunch-time foods, including her mother’s world famous cheese blintzes. Her parents couldn’t stand it any longer. Her mother sighed, “Debbie, you’ve been moping about for days on end. To look at you, you’d think the world had run out of chocolate milk.” Her father put his hands on her shoulders, “Debbie, what in the world is the matter?”

Without missing a beat, she said with desperation, “It IS the world that’s the matter.” Debbie looked up at her father, she looked at her mother and she knew that she couldn’t hold it all inside for one minute longer, she blurted out, “It’s all my fault! Everybody’s upset and it’s all my fault!”

“Debbie, what in blazes are you talking about?”

“I blew bubbles in the house!”

“You blew bubbles in the house?”

“I blew bubbles in the house and my clothes are too clean!”

Now her parents were truly perplexed.

“Debbie, why would bubbles and your clothes make anyone upset?”

“I blew bubbles in the house and my collars are too white. I heard it from the man on TV.”

Suddenly their daughter’s shameful secret dawned on them and for the first time in weeks, Debbie’s parents cracked a smile and the smile became a grin and the grin became uproarious laughter. And Debbie knew at once that they weren’t laughing at her and that she wasn’t to blame.

Her parents realized that with CNN, MSNBC and Fox News running almost 24/7 in the house for the past three weeks, the height of the economic crisis, Debbie had internalized their fears and had drawn conclusions from the bits and pieces she heard on the news as only a 4th grader can.

“So let me get this straight, you blew bubbles in the house and that caused the housing bubble?”

“Pretty much.”

“And your clothes are too clean, so that makes you a white collar criminal?”

“I guess so.”

“And you think you’re to blame for the nation’s woes? How exactly did you arrive at all of this?”

“I know because my stuffed animals told me so.”

“Your stuffed animals told you that you caused the economic downturn?” Debbie’s parents were having a hard time keeping it together at this point.

“Yes, the rest of the animals told on Teddie.”

“Oh? And what did Teddie have to say?”

“He didn’t say anything at all. It all started because Teddie Bear was Stern.”

“The Bear was Stern. OK, we are turning the cable news off for the rest of the year.”

And with that, Debbie’s parents explained to her that the world of high-finance generally did not respond to the bubble-blowing, stuffed animals and laundry cycles of the Kandor family.

Perhaps Debbie's parents themselves learned the most important lesson. They realized on Yom Kippur day, that the stressors and uncertainties they had been facing were not lost on the children. Indeed, the children could make some creative connections and start to feel responsible for something so far removed from the world of children.

They even saved some of the famous blintzes from the break-fast for the perfect midnight snack.

And as the years passed, Debbie never forgot that summer of ’08, the year of bubbles in the house and white collars. The year of “stay-cations” and expensive gasoline.

The year that the Kandor family realized that the single greatest asset they possessed was the Kandor family.

We are not in a crisis. We are in a transformation. The crisis is of the ego, not of the society. The Old Testament and New Testament are books the inform Americans to always strive and never arrive. We have no goal posts. When you don't know where you are going you will never get there. Where are the goal posts?

What race and gender quota is the right one? Everyone knows the wrong quota, get rid of the white Christian male. Rejoice in electing and appointing people based on race, gender, corporation, and nation state, not merit. That is the source of the financial crisis.

The financial crisis could have been avoided by listening to our parents. It is a bad idea to charge interest rates that are a crime against humanity. It is a bad idea to give unqualified people houses at interest rates they can not pay with no money down. The crime was perpetrated by brokers, in New York City, who desires unlimited money.

How good is good enough? Where are the goal posts. What does America want? My definition is simple. Everyone should have 100 square feet of safe personal space. Everyone should have two gallons of drinking water per day. Everyone should have 2500 calories of whole, healthy, unprocessed food per day. Everyone should have three changes of clean, durable, functional clothing. Everyone should have 228,000 btu's of fuel per day (two gallons of gasoline). Everyone should have five friends that love and respect them and tell the whole transparent truth. Everyone should have simple, cheap, basic health care (not unlimited exotic health care). That gives us a floor to share with people. I also believe no human is worth over one million dollars a year, thirty million dollars in thirty years.

I am a college graduate, former teacher, home builder. I have a family. I had cancer. I took a trip around the world. I built a nature retreat near the Canadian border in Minnesota. I have studied history, I have thought a lot about the world "situation". I have enjoyed the oxymoron of your show, speaking of faith. That is like "studying spirituality". True faith is silent and practiced, not spoken. I do love and appreciate your scenic overlooks of faith and spirituality. It's educational and refreshing.

The Buddhists don't speak about loving kindness or spirituality. Buddhists practice loving kindness. The crisis in all tribes, all groups, most lives, is there is no goal posts. There is no definition of when the war will end. The war becomes globalism. We will get our races all mixed together (except for my tribe of course) and then mix all the races of the world. For what? Where are the goal posts? There is a difference between colonization, invasion, and social justice. America was an escape from evil empires. Now America is the evil empire.

Groups want unlimited permanent war. Groups are excited by the Old Testament and New Testament, permanently exciting the ego. That is not what individuals want. Individuals want the feeling of being fully alive in calming the ego. Individuals want to calm the fears and desires.

What the tribes want, global domination, and what the individuals want, are not in harmony. Tribes want permanent free employees, slaves, soldiers, weapons, for the war. The individuals want to go home and play with their kids and be in love, being human beings. The human doings and human beings excite each other to keep the war going.

America has been in a crisis since 1492. Before that Europe was the crisis. Before that Iraq, Mesopotamia, was the crisis. The cure for complexity is simplicity. The cure for war is peace. The cure for crisis is going back to basics. That is what fundamentalism is trying to do. People are turning backwards, to fundamental simplicity. Society, the machines, automation, internet, television, cell phones, sports stadiums, are too complex to operate.

I have my off the grid nature retreat on a wilderness lake. I visit with no electricity, using wood heat, propane lights, an outhouse, and experience wilderness basics. I love it. I can not solve the world's problems. I can, but they will crucify me when I suggest the cures. I am simplifying my life. I am not participating is solving the problems of the world because the groups want wars and want problems. The race gender quota people want permanent invisible goal posts to sustain permanent race gender wars. I don't want that. The people of Israel want to be persecuted and engage in behaviors that insure and guarantee their persecution. I don't want that.

The wisdom I am looking for is to have less currency debasement, less income taxes, less public debt, less government meddling, and less dead beat subsidies for racists and terrorists in the Middle East who want to provoke wars for profits. I want less government. I want government to stop selling my children into debt slavery. A ten trillion dollar public debt is a financial crime against humanity. Subsidizing the guys who imploded our economy in New York City is criminal. They should be jailed, not bailed out. Do you think Bernie Madoff will stay in New York City or flee to Israel? He will flee. How can I protect myself and my children from unlimited government and investment corruption? How can an economy have faith in fake paper money that always destroys the lives of people who use it?

I find all my wisdom in nature. I find NO wisdom in groups. What do groups promote? Social injustice? Yes. Pensions? Yes. War? Yes. Groups hate and despise wisdom, gold money, and freedom. Groups are shepherds that want to fleece, milk, and devour all the world.

Religions are corrupted because they are used by groups to support the automated mechanized slaughter of human beings in the name of Yahweh, Jesus, and Allah. Spirituality comes from wilderness and nature. Religion comes from armies and governments. When the Roman Empire could not defeat Christianity it adopted it after a three hundred year war. Religions are used and abused by groups to invade, kill, steal, and lie about it.

Obama is not Jesus the Christ or Buddha. Obama is a government bureaucrat, just like Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, all from East Coast ivy league schools.

All government employees and politicians agree on invading, killing, stealing, and lying about it. What they disagree and argue about is where to invade, who to kill, how to kill them, what to steal, how much to steal, who to steal from, what lies to tell, and who gets the loot. The war in Iraq is a shameful culmination of unlimited fears and desires. We need a financial collapse to wipe out the currency elite and replace them with people who are more frugal and less fixated on taking over the world and forcing our way on all people. We need to go back to the basics like our elders suggest we do.

Colonialism, globalism, our "way of life" forced on all people. Nothing has changed in 2,000 years. I have simply given up. Why sanction the evil doers with voting. Obama will change nothing. The system will change Obama. Obama will change nothing. We don't need to change drivers. We have a car problem, not a driver problem.

There are four sources of permanent social injustice in our culture. Unlimited currency debasement (printing fake money and fake credit), unlimited income taxes with declining benefits, unlimited public debt to cross fund all budgets, and unlimited, unconditional subsidies to Israel are our four sources of permanent social injustice. Until these four change, from collapse, depression, hyper inflation, or voting, nothing will change.

By the way, I bought a bicycle, quit the YMCA, cook simpler foods, but I am still living way beyond my means. It's shameful but that's life in America.

I would like to see Bush, Cheney, and their ilk tried for war crimes, spend 24 hours in jail, and pay a fine of one dollar. They would both feel better about that and so would I. They are directly responsible, along with about fifty others, for the tragic failure of leadership and mess we are in. Congress is also implicit for lack of over sight. Americans are such spineless chumps, particularly the spoiled baby boomers. Neither Clinton (Monica Lewinsky) or Bush (Iraq) were up to the task of being presidential. Both are evil liars. It's all good. We need a crisis to harden the country back up again.

You don't find a miracle, you life one. Protect yourself. No one else can or will. The harder and smarter you work the luckier you will get. Good luck to us all. We are going to need it.

Jack Goldman
St. Paul, MN

I think the economic crisis is both reflected in our moral and spiritual well being. We have been told to spend spend to help the economy and yes many have done the duty they were told to. I think the me and my generation of the 1980's have come home to roost. We have been far removed from financial and spiritual responsibility over the last 2 decades. We are a shadow of the people that have come before us. Easy money quick fixes and shallow theology have helped us to be at this point in our economic,political bankrupcy. I hear nothing from the Christian churches to have given us any real souce of helping us become responsible stewarts of our financial blessings. I hear prosperity theology preached "give to God and you will be blessed" Many have been turned on by this naive belief and will soon find out the real truths of LIFE>
Family offers me the strength to face the uncertain future. I was born in the depression and have enjoyed the financial benefits of these 50 years of what was called "prosperty" good times we named them.
My wife and I have always lived somewhat "close to our chest" comparted to the extravegant life style of our friends. We will continue to be conscience of our spending and responsibilty to our country and envirenment. We will hope that our national leaders will set a good course to follow. That is one of my greatest hopes that we can now have responsible leadership and direction from oour elected officals. I really think it will come from our individual neighborhoods in seeking to right the ship that has been in a run away mode for too long.

Thanks for the conversation with Parker Palmer.

Mr. Palmer identified two emotions that motivated those who were involved in the real estate bubbble/mortgage securitization scheme to led to the implosion of the credit markets:

(1) Fear (especially potential whistle blowers who suspected something was wrong), and

(2) Greed

But Mr. Palmer overlooked a third psychological factor that has been around long enough to qualify as one of the Western world's seven deadly sins:

(3) Pride

Knowing quite a few of the finance professionals in the banking and investment world, I can confidently say that many were stunned that their assessment of the risks in residential real estate proved to be so flawed, or that they completely misjudged the pervasive effects of real estate investments. These men and women graduated in the top of their class from some of America's most prestigious business schools... their annual compensation for years had confirmed that they were, in Tom Wolfe's famous phrase, "masters of the universe"... their ascent in the corporate and social worlds was a previously unbroken path. How could they have been so wrong? Simpel: as Proverbs says, "pride goeth before a fall."

Ironically, the same sin of pride now tempts those who would fix things. Politicians, bureaucrats, journalists, and just plain old angry people can easily be blinded by the same old fashioned error... believing in your own infallibility. As a result, I have practically no doubt that the cure for the credit crisis will be every bit as bad as the disease.

Finally, I want to add that I believe Mr. Palmer did not reflect enough on the culpability of the victims (unwise mortgage holders), who were also driven by the same emotion as the perpetrators: greed (as in wanting a bigger or better house than they could afford), and pride (like the pros, the simple homeowners unwisely ignored all the warning signs in the belief that they were too smart to fail).

We can find the perpetrators of the credit crisis by looking in the mirror.

Thank you for your broadcast, "Repossessing Virtue" with Parker Palmer. The economic crisis has not hit our home in terms of job layoffs, but we are very sensitive to the possibility in the near future. As a Christian, I have trusted in a virtuous God who is far above the economic crisis, but who will also allow the wages of sin to run its course. And since He causes the rain to fall on all his people, we are very aware that we are in this together. What I am doing differently is something that I did not plan, but that has come about as a natural response to the inability to trust the things we have taken for granted (job, paycheck, home, friends) and that is to spend more time with my siblings and their families. I am finding we are gathering more than we have in the past six years. We talk about the economy and what we will do if any of us were to lose our job. We talk about buying land and planting crops, things our parents knew about that we never thought we’d be considering. What we are considering is self-sufficiency, but we are talking about community not individualism which is what has brought us to our breaking point as a society. We are preparing ourselves for the worst. I like what Parker Palmer says about our predicament – how “society’s greatness is not to be measured by how well the strongest in its midst can do but by how well it takes care of the weakest in its midst.” We have a renewed interest in the “weakest” and what it will take to sustain them or lift them out, because we see now that we ourselves are one employer away from joining them. ________________________________________

In the introduction to your episode. you spoke of "we" whose avarice and greed got us into this mess. There are plenty of us that do not belong to that "we." My family has always lived within our means. We have forgone many of the latest electronic crazes and stayed at home on vacations. We paid cash for our cars which we chose for their reliability and high gas mileage at a time when SUV's were the status vehicle. We saved even though interest rates were so low that we weren't making much. Our daughter is a freshman in college who will graduate with minimal debt. We will have our modest house paid off in just a few years. All this on a couple of public school teachers' salaries.

With all the emphasis on "repossessing virtue," I feel like the kid in the class who tries to do what is right and gets punished anyway because the rest of the class misbehaves.

In regard to the financial fiasco that involves General Motors....I think it's disgusting that this corporation has the American government's dollars at it's disposal when for decades, an arrogant upper crust of management have taken advantage of HUGE profit sharing, bonuses and selfish pay outs. I have executives and assembly line workers in my family. Getting together at Christmas has always been interesting in this respect. I recall one year when my cousin, who is an executive sat at one end of the table admitting to getting 6 weeks off paid vacation over the holiday plus a $140,000.00 bonus(!) while my 2 assembly line working relatives sat at the other end of the table talking about their 3 weeks off and $2,500 bonus. Well, to me, both seemed rather exhorbient! Then all the benefits, health care and union-defended "rights" etc....I think the Government should give the money to Toyota that they might buy out General Motors and run the company like it should have been run from the begining. I have a cousin who works for Toyota. There is no union. They are paid sound, not extravagant salaries- across the board, recieve reasonable benefits and perks, but are also ecologically compliant and very efficiently run. I am angry that General Motors continues to pollute the environment in it's production facilities (ever been to Zugg Island, Michigan?) and to create vehicles that are completely out of touch with the ecological and economical crises we face today- as a nation and a planet. When I think of this blatant slap in the face to the American public, I wish the money grubbing, arrogant people running that company would wake up to their conscience's call and do some repenting.

Articles by the Master —, through Benjamin Creme
The stage is set, by the Master —, through Benjamin Creme
The collapse of the world's financial markets provides a window of opportunity for Maitreya to step forward into public view. (484 words)
http://www.simedia.org/new/the_Master/stage-is-set.html

________________________________________
Letters to the Editor
Star sign
A reader from Germany reports talking to Maitreya in the guise of a woman, who said that just before Maitreya gives His first public interview, a bright star in the heavens will be visible to everyone. (587 words)
http://www.simedia.org/new/letters/star-sign.html
________________________________________
Social/Economic/Political perspectives
The future economy - a compilation
A selection of quotes from Maitreya, Benjamin Creme's Master, and Benjamin Creme describing the fall of financial empires and the need for reordering priorities in keeping with the spiritual basis of life. (4941 words)
http://www.simedia.org/new/soc-econ-pol/future-economy.html

I feel this is truly a moral crisis manifesting itself in the form of economics to wake this nation up. This nation is paying the price for it walking on true Christian and decency values like not torturing people, not caring for the poor, promoting racism and other things.

My firm belief in God is what is keeping me going even though I lost my job over a year ago. I know times will get better but I must fight for justice in all things. As a nation, we have to start living by the U.S. Constitution and treating people via the golden rule and our economy will get better. With Obama as President, it will be a good start.

For me the major moral issue in all this, is that although we do not have enough jobs, there is so much work to be done. Children to be cared for, housing to be repaired or built, and a variety of other human needs to be addressed (dare we even consider to 20 some thousand children around the world who die each day from preventable causes?). We have become a constantly expanding economy and culture that does not often enough consider what is really needed to sustain and support life itself. We don't need another SUV, flatscreen, or cell phone, but those are the jobs we have created and pay for, to more securely line the pockets of the very rich. Sooner or later those chickens will come home to roost in a more profound cataclysm than an economic downturn. Like George Bush experienced in Iraq the other day, the people who have guided our ways better be ready to duck.

PROFITS FALL AND PROPHETS RISE
“Markets are good servants, but bad masters.” Keynesian saying/Sukhamoy Chakravarty
Luke 12:48: “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.”

Never has the discrepancy between “profits” and “prophets” been so great. It is generally acknowledged we are in the most serious economic slump since the Great Depression and there is no end in sight. “Profits” are down, not only in Detroit, but around the world, including in our retirement funds. It is easy to assign blame, depending upon your perspective. While the left proclaims the “greed” of the “haves” as the culprit, those on the right believe it must be the fault of liberal bureaucrats. Others would counter it was the “greed” of those who dreamed of mansions on a starter-house budget that is to blame, or those who seduced them into loans they could not repay. Deregulation in monitoring new financial instruments was also cited. Incompetence and sheer stupidity are not to be discounted, even among “masters of the universe.” I think that probably all these analyses contain some kernel of truth.

However, this economic crisis raises an even more basic question: “How much do we deserve?” (coincidentally the title of my Skinner House book of the same title). Our nation has been on a drunken orgy of getting and spending – consumerism run amok, especially for the affluent among us. We may have become the “greediest generation” of haves alongside the “neediest generation” of have-nots, both at home and abroad. While welfare roles have been cut in half over the past dozen years, poverty has ballooned to over 37 million – not taking into account the past several months. And there are those who say poverty, based on a 1965 “market basket” measure, is grossly underestimated. There are 47 million people without health insurance (a growing figure); food stamp use is up, soup kitchens are busier than ever, etc. etc. etc. Meanwhile I would be bemused if I weren’t so angry at CEO multi-millionaires who are willing to sacrifice their salaries and bonuses after they bankrupted their companies and came with hat in hand to the government, which Ronald Reagan told us was the problem. Have they no clue? (Evidently not in a company jet – or even in a hybrid car.)

Barack Obama has been chastised for his “spread the wealth” comment to Joe the Plumber. Francis Bacon said money is like manure, of very little use until it is spread around. Fair distribution is not only an ethical imperative, but it is an economic imperative to drive the economy (70% of which is consumer spending).

Profits are falling; but are prophets rising? Based on a personal experience, perhaps slowly. At a ministers’ meeting I was moaning about my diminishing retirement funds. A colleague serving a congregation in an impoverished inner city reminded me that, despite everything, she and I would be OK, but the people around the church she served were hurting desperately. I had been gently reminded about justice. It is time to reflect and act on the proposition that we are all in this together. And if income and wealth gaps continue to grow, we will continue to have economic instability as well as economic injustice. How about a “bailout” of those who have not benefitted from the unbridled greed of our society; how about a “bailout” for the common good?

This economic situation is both a moral and spiritual crisis. But that is what is necessary for change to occur. And we certainly need change. There are many dilemmas facing our society at this time: financial devastation, health care accessibility, child neglect and abuse, corruption in the educational system, accessibility of mental health services, student loan and credit card debt, housing affordability, breakdown of the family by geographical distance, deinstitutionalization of psychiatric patients, etc. Personally, I am beginning to feel that finally I am not alone in my surrefing. Since 2001, my divorce left me financially and emotionally devastated and a single parent. In my distress, I felt alone and hopeless for a long time. Somehow, I didn't give up. My children were depending on me. It was up to me to find a way to survive. So this meek, shy, and unaggressive individual became a fighter. In my mind, I decided that my children were going to have the opportunity they deserved to be educated adults. I was determined to make a college education available to them any way that I could. And I have done that thanks to student loans and financial aid. I have some concern for my children's distress in the process of paying back the loans when they graduate, but I do not regret my choice to encourage them to incur such debt. Whatever the future holds, they will be better equipped to handle it with the advanced education. I doubt that my financial situation will ever recover in my lifetime. As a single woman with a B.S. degree, I currently earn $14.50/hour. My credit is poor. My physical health is limiting my ability to excel and increase my income. My hope and faith is in my children and myself to keep on keeping on. And now my hope is restored in the government with our new president who appears to be sincere and dedicated to improving life for suffering Americans.

Having abandoned business as a career move, I have been terribly disappointed in the course of business over the last 20 years. As a society, I was blaming the depression era generation of taking for themselves and selling off our businesses to the highest bidder rather than make a place for the next generations. I am disappointed in the me generation of baby boomers who have let the greedy rise to the top. I have watched business do nothing more than take away from the workers for the greed of stock options. A handful of people have taken away from a few generations to enjoy their material insatiability.

There has been no insight or entrepreneurship in business for quite awhile. It is a matter of taking away from the business and the workers for the sake of stock options for the few at the top. Nothing is being created. It has been moved off shore. Responsibility has been legally maneuvered to protect those who should be held responsible. Government has no idea how to protect the worker or stimulate business in America. While everyone has lined their pockets with these outrages bonuses and perk, no one bothered to ask who will buy their product when no one can afford it.

I decided to do what I enjoy and took a low paying job as a wine representative. I have had no benefits, nothing paid into social security, no retirement, etc. My last employer took over 10,000.00 from me with no regard to the ethics. I did this to be able to go back to college and finish my bachelor's degree, Gen. Studies, Social nd Behavioral Sciences. I have since enrolled in a Graduate Program in Education for my teaching credentials in Special Education. I did this with an altruistic purpose of teaching the next generation that ethics and responsibility are good and should be expected. I did this to care for a generation of students all too marginalized by our society. It is my dream to raise a special education student who can lead. And a lot more who can earn a living in this society.

Our society is in crisis. There is next to nothing in the medias' to support our families. The family paradigm is failing in this culture. The very source of comfort and strength in most other cultures is being abandoned and we are spiritually bankrupt as a whole. I am so hopeful that Obama's rhetoric and talking of the right answers is met by a starving society and champions who will take us to a place that turns around this out of control, selfish definition of living in America to a more responsible place. There are so many good people in this world and in this society and they are not heard or powerful enough to keep the greed and selfishness from taking over, it seems.

I have a deep abiding love and respect for God. All peoples' God. I grew up with the values of my Grandparents, those who were adults and raising children through the depression. I am not guiltless in living the values of the past few decades, but I have drawn a line and see the need and importance of preparing a way for the next generations rather than piling so much debt upon them with little opportunity to make a good life. We have little moral or ethical meaning in this life right now as a society. I fear the baby boomer generation will be loathed for its greed rather than its ideals of peace and love and happiness beyond the individual. Goc bless us, everyone.

WE ARE ONE. WE ALL ARE ONE. Division, as perpetrated in this money-centered world, is COMPLETELY ILLUSIONARY. We are in the painful difficulties which we are now experiencing, simply because we have been
believing in, and functioning exclusively with, COMPETITION. I was born in 1933, and what I saw, at the beginning of my life, I am seeing all over again: A republican administration presiding over a major stock market crash, followed by a depression, which was worked through by a Democratic President. Same thing, all over again, TODAY. The stock market inculcates "More And More Money Into Fewer Fewer Hands." When the aristocracy did that in France, 200 years ago, they lost their heads for it. Hopefully, we will Unite Peacefully under President Obama, and begin to replace the old idiocy of destructive, violent competition with another old idea: COOPERATION. The founders of this nation made certain that we print on all of our money "IN GOD WE TRUST." Thay also made certain that we obtained complete freedom of religion. We have the privilege of worshiping The One God in any way we choose. We are all the children of the ONE GOD, as the founders Absolutely Knew. This is NOT a doctrinal or theological statement of religion. It is a statement of Philosphical, even Scientific, TRUTH. When we begin to treat each other as Brothers and Sisters, knowing ourselves as Children Of The One God, we will begin to get beyond the pain and suffering which we have brought upon ourselves, and create a life here on this Blessed Mother Earth worthy of our Exalted Status as God's Chidren.
WE ARE ONE.

I think it is a spiritual crisis in the sense that we have, over time, come to trust in an economic system (and the economists and policy makers who interpret it for us) to "save" us. By "save" I mean that we trust that capitalism can assure us of economic progress that will, in turn, meet our need for 1) security 2) personal growth 3) rest 4) meaning. This is a form of idolatry and that is why I conclude that it is a spiritual problem.

As a follower of Jesus I am seeking, in this time, to identify the "false presence of the kingdom of God" and name how this false kingdom manifests itself. My hope is to simultaneously find evidence of the true kingdom. For example, I believe that God created us to enjoy meaningful work, to enjoy community, to live in peace with our neighbor, etc. Unfortunately the MEANS by which we seek these ends are corrupted by an economic system that has come to promise all (or most) of these things but in a way that perverts them. So, we seek security in retirement funds for which we expect returns that are not sustainable over time. Work has become a means to consume rather than a way to fulfill our desire to exercise God-given gifts. And we trade true community building for entertainment experiences in groups of people with whom we need not develop long-term relationships.

Capitalism has favored and enabled these practices--these means that (as Jacques Ellul reminds us) allow us to move ahead at amazing speed (progress!) towards...nothing. In this time I am seeking the wisdom of theologians and brothers and sisters in many faiths who are showing us how to (among other things) 1) live in genuine community, 2) provide mutual support and security and 3) engage in work that finds its own reward each day.

This is a time to engage in symbolic acts (that point to the true ENDS of our yearnings) and tell alternative narratives that will lead us from our silent desperation towards hope.

Courage and renewal north Texas

To “Speaking of Faith”:

I have listened to inspiring episodes of “Speaking of Faith” in the past, and would currently be exploring the website in depth; however, because of the close margin of my personal finances, and the uncertain future of employment prospects, I have not yet purchased a “sound card” for my new “used” computer.

I believe your efforts to “(explore) the spiritual and moral aspects of the economic downturn” and “(look) for practical resources for individual and communal evaluation and renewal” will bring to the surface important observations and practical wisdom. I hope you are alerting as many people as possible to your project.

I am making use of the opportunity to comment on the above themes by sharing the feature essay of the “Current Educational Materials Outreach Package” of The Interfaith Peacebuilding and Community Revitalization (IPCR) Initiative. (The essay is titled “The 1000Communities2 Proposal: Creating a Multiplier Effect of a Positive Nature”.) I am the founder and outreach coordinator of The IPCR Initiative.

Besides the approximately 1000 word essay (below), there are two other recently created essays describing “1000Communities2” ("1000CommunitiesSquared") proposal, which I'd like to mention also (both of which are somewhat over 3000 words). The titles are “A Greater Force than the Challenges We Are Now Facing” and “Transitioning from Less Solution-Oriented Employment to More Solution-Oriented Employment”. Both of these essays can be accessed on the homepage of The IPCR Initiative (www.ipcri.net)(see the section "Highlights from The IPCR Community Journal"), or through a google search on the titles.

[The following are two excerpts from the essay “A Greater Force than the Challenges We Are Now Facing”.

1) "However, public discourse of this nature will consistently fail to provide sufficient understanding of how to build up 'confidence' as long as it cannot or will not identify enough of the 'whole picture' to properly serve the needs of the problem solving process. For true confidence is never really built up by merely convincing a majority of the people involved that they believe the markets are based on sound and practical principles; true confidence is built up because people believe that the efforts of everyone working together is a greater force than the challenges they are facing. In accordance with this point of view, confidence is dissipating rather than being built up—particularly in the United States—because our public discourse does not honestly and truthfully identify enough of the actual challenges we are now facing for all of us—collectively—to know that our efforts will be enough to overcome them."

2) “Everyone is involved when it comes to determining the markets which supply the ‘ways of earning a living’. All of us have important responsibilities associated with resolving a significant number of very serious challenges in the months and years ahead. Communities of people can deliberately create countless 'ways of earning a living' which contribute to the peacebuilding, community revitalization, and ecological sustainability efforts necessary to overcome the challenges of our times. We—collectively—can become a greater force than the challenges we are now facing.”]

Thank you for your good work.

The “1000Communities2”("1000CommunitiesSquared")Proposal:
Creating a Multiplier Effect of a Positive Nature

Introduction

In 1984, the non-profit organization Chattanooga Venture [Chattanooga, Tennessee (USA)] organized a Community Visioning Initiative that attracted more than 1,700 participants, and produced 40 community goals—which resulted in the implementation of 223 projects and programs, the creation of 1,300 permanent jobs, and a total financial investment of 793 million dollars. (For source references, see p. 9 of the “1000Communities2” proposal)

Many Difficult Challenges Ahead

We now live in very complex and challenging times. More and more people, in more and more parts of the world, are coming to the conclusion that all of us have important responsibilities associated with resolving a significant number of very serious challenges, which include (but are not limited to):

a) global warming and reducing carbon emissions
b) peak oil and reducing dependence on petroleum based products
c) global inequities and the tragic cycles of malnutrition, disease, and death
d) an increasing world population requiring more resources when many resources are becoming more scarce (with a special emphasis on the increasing number of people who are consuming resources and ecological services indiscriminately)
e) cultures of greed, corruption, and overindulgence have caused a crises of confidence in financial markets, and are in many ways slowing the restructuring of investment priorities needed to respond to the challenges listed here (and other challenges)
f) there still seems to be a majority of people on the planet who do not have a clear understanding, well-grounded in personal experience, of which basic elements of community life and cultural traditions lead to mutually beneficial understandings, which lead to cycles of violence—and why it is so important for people to achieve clarity on this subject.

The “1000Communities2” Proposal

One suggestion which could assist in bringing many solutions to light at the local community level is a 161 page proposal by this writer titled “1000Communities2” (“1000CommunitiesSquared”).

The “1000Communities2” proposal advocates organizing and implementing Community Visioning Initiatives in 1000 communities (communities—or segments of rural areas, towns, or cities—with populations of 50,000 or less) around the world

1. which are time-intensive, lasting even as much as 1½ years (18 months), so as to give as much importance to developing a close-knit community as it does to
a) accumulating and integrating the knowledge and skill sets necessary for the highest percentage of people to act wisely in response to challenges identified as priority challenges
b) helping people to deliberately channel their time, energy, and money into the creation of “ways of earning a living” which are directly related to resolving high priority challenges
c) assisting with outreach, partnership formation, and development of service capacity for a significant number of already existing (or forming) organizations, businesses, institutions, and government agencies
d) helping to build a high level of consensus for specific action plans, which will help inspire additional support from people, businesses, organizations, institutions, and government agencies with significant resources

2. which expand on the concept of “Community Teaching and Learning Centers” (created by the “Teachers Without Borders” organization) so that such local community points of entry function as information clearinghouses, meeting locations, educational centers for ongoing workshops (on a broad range of topics related to the Community Visioning Process, and building the local knowledge base), practice sites for developing “teacher-leaders”, a location for an ongoing “informal” “Community Journal”, a location for listing employment opportunities—and provide a means of responding quickly (by changing the emphasis of workshop content) to new urgencies as they arise

3. and which suggest—as a way of emphasizing the need for an exponential increase in compassion for our fellow human beings—that communities (with the resources to do so) enter into “sister community” relationships with communities in other countries where there has been well documented calls for assistance with basic human needs.

If even a few….

There are many important initiatives which are critical to overcoming the challenges of our times, but which are not quite “coming through the mist as much as they should be.” Community Visioning Initiatives can be very helpful in exactly these kinds of circumstances, as this community building tool encourages and facilitates the creation of a “constellation” of initiatives by which the best (in view of the participants in the community visioning initiatives) solutions to the most difficult (in the view of the participants in the community visioning initiatives) challenges can bubble up to the surface, be recognized as priorities, and therefore be brought forward as appropriate recipients of people’s time, energy, and money. Many people can realize the wisdom of deliberately focusing the way they spend their time, energy, and money. The result can be a deliberate increase in the “ways of earning a living” which are directly related to overcoming the challenges identified by residents as priority challenges. As the ancient Chinese proverb says: “Many hands make much work light.”

If even a few of these kind of Community Visioning Initiatives generated results similar to those achieved by the Chattanooga, Tennessee (USA) Visioning Initiative carried out in 1984 (“Vision 2000”)(see reference in first paragraph), people in all parts of the world—keenly attuned when it comes to resolving challenges which require urgent solutions at all levels of society— could be inspired to carry out similar Community Visioning Initiatives. And if many communities carried out similar initiatives, and also achieved significant results, our collective capacity to resolve the challenges of our times would surely begin to accumulate at an accelerating rate.

Even now, as you are reading this, truly inspiring contributions of genuine goodwill are being generated in a variety of ways—and in a variety of circumstances—by countless numbers of people in communities around the world. A combination of Community Visioning Initiatives, “Community Teaching and Learning Centers” and “sister community” relationships can bring to light the many truly inspiring contributions of genuine goodwill in your community and region, and contribute much to the building of “close-knit” communities of people… communities with a healthy appreciation for each others strengths, communities with a well-developed capacity to resolve even the most difficult challenges—and communities which demonstrate a high level of compassion for their fellow human beings.

[Note: In light of the urgent need to increase collaboration between diverse communities of people, anyone may access all IPCR documents (including the above mentioned 161 page “1000Communities2” proposal) for free, at the website of The Interfaith Peacebuilding and Community Revitalization (IPCR) Initiative (www.ipcri.net). With Kind Regards, Stefan Pasti, Founder and Outreach Coordinator The IPCR Initiative P.O. Box 163 Leesburg, Virginia 20178 (USA)].

Before I write anything else,I'd like to preface what I communicate by pointing out that the U.S. seems to be by and large a very religious society. I'd also like to communicate that because it is a religious society within each of the capitalistic families there are rules that the governing entities establish in an attempt to maintain command and control of their followers.

And, while there are rules that are emphasized and enforced, much of what has passed for internal governance appears to have been a kind of self-serving "policing". This hardly seems efficacious since those who govern/police themselves have proven time and again to often lack the discipline and objectivity necessary to say a firm "no" to the geniunely "bad" and a firm "yes" to the geniunely "good".

Having said all that, I was born into this culture and to the extent that I bought into the ethos of the recent past I have had to individuate myself and "work" my way out of that "lifestyle" and into embracing a wholly different kind of lifestyle that provides more of a balance of servicing not only others needs and cares, but also those of my own.

To the best of my current knowledge I was trained to be a "co-dependent" or a "self-less" giver who was to give little or no thought to what was truely important to me, but was instead prone to an over-emphasis on the needs of the other--be they Mother, Teacher, Employer,Other.

This inevitably led to a kind of spiritual burn-out and the adoption of a host of very unkind verbal games such as murmuring and complaining, judging people/blemish, worrying aka ain't it awful?, and control games.

To the extent that I am now able to control my environment(limited contact with large groups of people, no T.V.,limited radio, and a good dose of the KJV Bible) and get the rest and sleep that I need I find I feel far more confident in my spirit,body,and my mind. I am better able to balance the needs of myself and others without unconsciously engaging in the aforementioned verbal "games" that only seem to lead to distancing, anger, resentment,and eventual dissolutionment of relationships.

In listening to the speakers interviewed for your series "Repossessing Virtue" I am struck by certain recurring themes: one is the importance of trust - in ourselves, our relationships, and our institutions - and the consequences of its absence. I think our current crisis provides myriads of examples, not the least of which is currency itself. Without a general belief in the value of monetary currency, our economic system could not exist. We continue to cling to these beliefs because we have no alternative at the moment, but our faith in the institutions that have preached this value to us for as long as most of us can remember has been shaken to the core. In fact, the institutions themselves no longer believe in their own tenets. Thus, the inability of the credit system to right itself despite the zillions of dollars being poured into it.

Another recurring theme: the importance of community and the consequences of this loss as well. We have become so estranged from each other that we no longer believe (trust) that anyone will be there to help us when we fall. Strident voices and a world beset by violence have led us to fear each other on many levels. There it is again - a lack of trust. We point fingers. We identify "enemies". We can no longer talk to each other. We no longer believe in common humanity. Maybe we never really did.

For me, personally, I have coincidentally been on a year-long spiritual quest. I did not know this when I started out. But discovering your program and sampling the archives have led me to recognize that this is, in fact, where I am. Approximately a year and a half ago my husband and I sold our house 20 miles south of Boston along with everything in it. We paid off all of our debts, moved into an RV and set off to see America. I had worked for the state and became eligible for a (very) small pension - sufficient to pay for health insurance. My husband - already retired - receives social security and we had sufficient savings that we felt if we could minimize our expenses we would be able to travel until we figured out where we wanted to land. We did some research and learned that we could volunteer in state and national parks in exchange for camp space, often including utilities. This allowed us time off the road (saving gas and where-and-tear on our vehicle and our psyches) as well as keeping our living expenses low. We had been on RV excursions in the past and looked forward to re-experiencing this type of journey without the time limits enforced by working life.

The experience has been nothing short of a marvel. This is a huge country. There are so many people living in a myriad of circumstances. The strident voices and frantic pace of the East and West Coasts seems so irrelevant to the immense spaces in the middle of this amazing and beautiful land of ours. During the presidential campaign we were struck by how different urban areas are from rural areas, East and West Coast from the vast "center", north from south, east from west. We lived through sky-high gas prices and skyrocketing food prices. Through it all we were continually looking for the right place to land. We finally found it in Custer, South Dakota. A small town (1,800 people) with pretty old-fashioned values. It is located in the center of the breathtakingly beautiful Black Hills National Forest and is close enough to a reasonably good sized (60,000 people) urban area, Rapid City, that any amenities we need are reasonably accessible. Cost of living here is low enough for our meager income to accommodate us. We decided to put down roots. Then the financial crisis hit. I feel so fortunate that we were able to liquidate our savings and put it into a house here. We had already simplified our lives so it is no problem at this point to opt out of the consumerism that is plaguing our society. It has been fascinating to learn how little we really need to be comfortable. This area has so far been relatively insulated from the turmoil of other regions since the extreme highs and lows of some other markets (Las Vegas, Florida and California) have not been as pronounced here. Again, though, we have been struck by the hand-wringing, gloom and doom that has been evident in the national media. It seems that most people here are simply going on with their lives. The more that I learn about the Great Depression, the more it seems that that was also the case then - most people managed somehow to go on with their lives. I am really appreciative of my local community, though. The culture of helping each other is alive and well here.

In listening to your interview with Parker Palmer, I was particularly taken by his description of human longing for a connection with something outside of our own ego. I have come to realize that I have been very much in search of community. I am uncomfortable with religious groups since to me they seem more exclusionary than inclusionary. But I do believe in God and I am completed distressed by the violence in our world today and the inability of human beings to communicate with each other on the most basic levels. Just this morning I listened to Israel's leaders expressing their need to "punish" Hamas for breaking of the cease fire agreement. Contrast this with your segment featuring the Israeli woman and Palestinian man both of whom experienced extreme losses due to the conflict but still manage to find common ground on a very human level.

I realize that I have rambled on here somewhat so let me end with a suggestion. Once congress comes back in session and our new President is inaugurated, I am certain there will be calls for recriminations against those in the financial institutions (both public and private) who are perceived as having caused this crisis. It will be an opportunity for our illustrious elected officials to express their self-righteousness for the benefit of their angry constituencies. Instead of endless useless congressional hearings, I think a better solution would be to take a lesson from Africa and conduct "Truth and Reconcilation" sessions. Let those who feel victimized confront their perceived oppressors. Let those "oppressors" explain themselves. It was enlightening to hear Parker Palmer describe the financial leaders in his retreat group. They, too, are human beings with their own anxieties. Let them see the real consequences of their actions, greed and preoccupation with self. Let these hearings not only be completely public but allow for a wide range of testimonials - even if the process takes years to complete. In fact, a lengthy process might keep the whole concept in the public eye even after the economy begins to recover. We who are so fixated on instant gratification and short-term results need a lessen in patience. Perhaps, then, we might not be so prone to forget. Establish a commission to convene these hearings that will be charged in the end with recommendations for rebuilding trust in our institutions and proceeding from here. I think we all have to learn how to talk to each other again, how to recognize our similarities as human beings instead of fearing our differences.

Finally, I would just like to mention how much I appreciate your podcasts. They have become a necessary part of my week.

As someone who works in the field of philanthropy, I am asked every day about how charitable giving is affected by our current economic recession. It always heartens me to be able to say that, over the past 30 years, philanthropy has not declined during economic recessions. It has held steady or even increased -- this represents the hope and spirit of philanthropy. We realize that our communities and those in need suffer more during an economic downturn, and our response as community members is to give more.
The holiday season holds different meanings for different faiths, and giving is one of the only common virtues that unify these beliefs. Charitable giving is one of the obligations of a full life, according to the Quran. Charity is one of the six requisites of Buddhist discipline. Judaism has a long history of reinforcing charity; in fact, the Hebrew word for righteousness is the same as the Hebrew word for charity. Humanists view charity as an essential virtue. Christians view Christ's very life and teachings as a gift and sacrifice. And there are countless other examples.
Increasingly, the global community is seeking ways for diverse faiths to coexist in tolerance. I think that charitable giving does much more than allow us to coexist. It allows us to express our faith in common ways -- it is the best expression of the human soul. During the holiday season, we are constantly reminded of how wonderful it feels to give.
The essayist Stephen Fry writes that the three most beautiful words in the English language are not "I love you," but "please help me." They are words of hope that show that we can call on each other to care for each other.
Many Vermonters will be cold or hungry or living on the edge this winter. The economic crisis is already affecting people from all walks of life. Low- and middle-income Vermont families are finding it impossible to keep up with the growing costs of basic needs such as food, heat, shelter and transportation. At the end of November, more than 40,000 households had applied for fuel assistance, an increase of 25 percent from 2007. Food shelves are also struggling to meet the rising demand in their communities. Some have had a 25 percent increase in families visiting this year compared to last year, and the cost of food has risen 20 percent.
I hope that we will all consider giving a little more this year -- whether to a favorite charity or of our time. Our current economic downturn is an opportunity for us to act on the true spirit of caring that unites us all.
Peter Espenshade of Shelburne is vice president for community philanthropy for The Vermont Community Foundation

I view the financial crisis as a cultural/global symptom of the much larger problem of a genuine spiritual or moral vacuum within the larger culture/human family. To the extent that I was or am a part of that culture I have endeavored to individuate myself and through prayer,reading from the KJV Bible, and by attending "Church" services I have begun interacting with a manageable number of people who regularly populate that same culture. Hopefully, bringing the extent of my more "mature" understanding of spirituality or perhaps more appropriately its lack to those same people. I know that much of the discord within the human family is the result of people rushing. Rushing to even appear grown up, rushing to assume the mantle of maturity(often represented as being synonomous with the acquistion of material possessions). Rushing into relationships and careers without taking stock of themselves and the gifts they possess at any one time within their lives, so as to live those lives in purposeful and fulfilling ways. One of the major ways that I differ from many is that I have actually taken the time to stop-out of the culture to do this kind of self-examination. May I also say that this is not a one time event. This kind of introspection must occur througout life as we change.

In the swirl of events surrounding the collapse of global capital markets we are certainly in the middle of an epic time. It is one of those chaotic crisis/opportunity moments and in my view, a time that presents interesting insights into the interplay among morality, markets and the role of "faith" in investing. After all, when folks "invest" it is with a sort of belief in something intangible that will lead to a better future. The irony is that most investments have a disclaimer that says something like, "past results are no guarantee of future performance..." Faith is a little like that, without the disclaimer of course!

I come to these questions from a three-part perspective. I am trained as an engineer, scientist and finance person. I began my professional life as a chemical engineer in beer can manufacturing plants (I am not making this up!) Next I went to Wall Street for nearly twenty years, starting as a plain old stock broker, ending up as a portfolio manager specializing in "Value" investing with a mission related spin. As a large-cap value manager I was automatically given the "nun money," the accounts that had a moral spin because I was interested in how values integrated with investment and the "socially responsible investment movement." I was frequently introduced as "the only socialist on Wall Street." Now I run an organization that is often cited as the catalyst for the divestment movement that helped South Africans destroy apartheid.

The perspective of faith-based, institutional investors is pretty unique and arguably prophetic. The members of our organization, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (www.ICCR.org), issued their first formal resolutions against predatory lending in 1993. As investors and activist investors, we warned the companies we held in our investment portfolios over and over again about the risks inherent in insufficient underwriting standards and the folly of securitization of sub-prime debt. As these companies are all public and their proxy statements are filed with the SEC, this is all part of the public record.

So here we are having issued these warnings ever before the CFTC; 300 primarily Protestant, Catholic and Jewish faith organizations who were "right" about the risks of unsustainable market practices. We take little joy in "being right." The "I told you so moment" doesn't last. What we are asking ourselves now is what could we have done differently to get our voice heard more effectively? Not with a sense of "guilt," but rather a sense of urgency.

We would like the insights we've had, the learnings we've accumulated, and the real connection between faith and investment to be incorporated in some way into the policy making environment moving forward. We would also like the "people in the pews" whose personal investments and pension funds (and jobs, mortgages and security) to understand that the organizations that manage the endowments that support the mission of their various faith traditions really were speaking up as this storm was gathering.

There is a lot that could be done. The notion that "socially responsible investing" is a nice little boutique for progressives is shortsighted. The approach we are talking about is more ethically and analytically rigorous. There is a lot that can be "seen" by integrating social values into corporate and investor actions through the lens of faith. The best investors have the best foresight. They see what others don't. Prophecy, if you will.

By the way, I really love the show. Thank you all for the wonderful...thought provoking...inspirational stories you bring. I am the mother of a 20-year-old with Aspberger's Syndrome and your recent Autism show was a miracle. Truly. Thank you, Laura Berry.

I feel that what has happened is very disturbing. On the one hand we all wanted less goverment (regulation) in helping us manage our money, but how could we know what that meant. I expect greater minds than mind looking at the possible long term ramifications instead of the short term. We have become a nation wanting something now at the least possible cost with little regard to what that means to our people or the world. There appears to be too much greed, living for the short term instead of building a better world for the long term.

I am so thankful that there is hope in our incoming presidential leadership but I pray that every citizen will participate in the healing and change required. The upcoming months and years will very difficult for many of us.

I am concerened that the gap between the haves and have nots will widen further. Christian teachings say that we are all in this together but I don't see that lived out by many because more times than not I see people living for themselves.

I can do more and I have resoved to do more. I have never been part of something like this but I am starting now.

My family has been protected--by the hand of God alone, I think--from the current economic crisis. My husband has a good job, and mine has been solid so far as well. However, we live in an area of the country where things are about as bad as they can be for many people. Our county is one of the hardest hit in Southern California.

For almost a year now I've been trying to record one thing I'm thankful for each day. I'm a mom of two small children, and I write a blog called "Morning Thanks in Elmo's World." In November I contemplated a few of the questions above when one of my friends moved her family across the country to start over. I'm pasting the blog entry below.

Thank you for your time!

Sunday, November 16, 2008
Tomorrow morning my friend, her husband, and her children will board a plane and fly east. Over the course of the last couple weeks they have packed a moving truck, held a sale, and emptied their big, lovely home of just about everything. When I walked in on Saturday morning, the day of the sale, a lump rose in my throat. The hallway where my daughter had run circles with her daughters led to an empty living room. The play room where we'd sat and chatted while the kids played had no toys.

Now a full set of her bedroom furniture sits in my house, waiting to be assimilated into the guest room. We will go this week to pick up the rest--a leftover jug of dishwasher detergent, some of her pretty curtains, a set of pots and pans--all things she didn't sell, can't pack, and has to leave behind. I'm already preparing myself to go into that empty house and feel the space left by our missing friends.

The current financial crisis led them to make the move. My friend--God bless her--has a new job waiting for her on the East Coast. They'll make a new start. They're going to be okay.

We are watching an unprecedented number of people just up and disappear around us. Every day moving vans and trucks haul away lives and hopes, leaving behind hulking empty shells, houses where homes used to be.

A few days ago I was thinking about my 34th birthday. It'll be here on Wednesday. My grandpa on my dad's side, the grandpa I really never knew, was almost exactly the same age I am when he weathered the Great Depression. Born in 1898, Grandpa C. would have been somewhere around 31 on Black Tuesday. Three years later when he hit 34, the worst financial crisis in U.S. history would have been in full swing.

I've thought about him a lot this week, and Grandma C. too. I've always wished I had gotten a chance to know them, to really be able to see and remember their faces, but this week as my friend sold her belongings and prepared to walk away from her house, I wished I could sit down for coffee with Grandpa. I so want to hear what it was like the first time it happened. I want to know when he knew it really was that bad. I want to know what it was like to watch his friends walk away. I know he would have been able to tell me.

As strange as it seems, if this financial meltdown really is what none of us want to call it, then Grandpa and I share something I never had notion to imagine--this experience of watching the bottom fall out, of watching life shift and change in ways that are frightening. And sad.

Both my friend and her husband have told me that no matter what, they have always had enough. They both speak with an awed combination of wonder and faith when they see how God has provided for them even in the most difficult of circumstances. They have always had what they needed.

And that's the promise, I guess, and that's what I'm thankful for. Our God never pushes us beyond what we can handle. And there's always enough. God bless our friends. God bless my Grandpa and his friends all those years ago. God bless us all.

In my opinion, the current economic climate is caused by severe breeches of truth and a resulting lack of trust. It is the result of lack of regulation of greed, but the solution requires more than just better regulations - it requires a change of heart to recognize our interdependence. It demands “justice”, not only as a judgment of wrongdoing, but for the correction of unjust systems and imbalances. It requires turning to God in repentance of the violent injustices of humanity, armed with weapons, conceits, deceit and lies. It calls for the expression of compassionate grace.

As a result of the current economic climate I am now more careful than ever to both discern and speak the truth (clearly and with a caring heart),as best I can. As a citizen I can focus on being a better neighbor and encouraging others to focus on our common good. As a Realtor I can best help clients by neither succumbing to the prevailing downward spiral of pessimism nor portray an unrealistic optimism.

I find my source of wisdom in following the life, death and resurrection of Jesus - the way of the cross. I find truth telling in Jim Wallis’ 1981 book The Call to Conversion, in Brian McLaren’s Everything Must Change and Will and Lisa Samson’s Justice in the Burbs.

I find hope that God hears my prayers that the Spirit of Christmas may live in all of our hearts.

Rick Bonetti
www.SaratogaVoice.com

Clearly there is a crisis of interpersonal ethics in America where investment money and banking is concerned. Sadly, unethical conduct and behavior patterns seen in our political leadership and public officials, have reset the new low standards that everyone wrongly thought they could "justify" following.
Justification and mere tolerance are the warning signs of a troubled individual. Honesty, openness, and respect are the cornerstones of healthy cultures and nations.
Any national leader that allows the likes of Zimbabwe's Mugabe to retain power, and Israels aggression to go on, without outright vocal condemnation seems hypocritical, and lacking in the moral character, which alone... gives impetus to creative, active engagement and positive solution investigations.
Through my church we are shipping 40 foot containers, of used furniture and complete inventories of everyday household and personal effects, donated by congregation members for the refurbishing and furnishing/building of orphanages for damaged children's lives in Namibia,
I actively engage in the One cause, and assist with feeding local poor and needy people, and make donations to several causes where transparent NGO's have proven results.

At work with every client, I lead a team that emphasizes a caring and truthful manner in appreciating the business that each client brings us, taking on a helpful American attitude. This starts with a real greeting and a smile worthy of a neighbor, and not engaging in unnatural dialogue for the sole purpose of making extra sales opportunities,

The business attitude and words 'consumer beware' in this fiscal fiasco in particular, have leaked into every day life relationships and have come back to bit us all, we are all consumers trading commercially and inter-actively with one another in everyday life.

I pray for Obama's inspiration, good guidance and a wisdom that will lead to a greater sense of mutual trust and world peace.

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Host/Producer: Krista Tippett

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