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Trusting our Deeper Knowing: On Cataclysms, Contemplation, and Circles of Trust

On October 10-12, 2008, Marcy Jackson and I (supported by our colleagues, Rick Jackson and Ann New), led a Circle of Trust retreat at the Fetzer Institute for fifteen people from the worlds of big business, financial services and philanthropy — many of them closely tied to Wall Street and all of them devoted to the common good. Our retreat began just one day after the Dow Jones had fallen nearly 40 percent below its record high, set only a year earlier.

Pertinent Posts from the On Being Blog

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

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 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.

About the Image

"British summer." Greenwich Park overlooking Canary Wharf, one of London's major business and financial centers (UK).

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As long as political and/or economic systems stand between a human and her/his right to shelter,energy,food,water, and air the "crisis" will not abate. We must invoke these necessities for ourselves and we must show and help as many others as we can to have the same. We must realize that the world is one body much like the human body. If the people on one small elite part of the planet are happy and well cared for, they will be very comfortable until the rest of the planet dies. The whole planet must be equally cared for to avoid specific damage that will ultimately affect the whole body. We cannot wait for or rely on politics or economics to do it for us, we must act now.
I live in a yome(cross between a yurt and geodesic dome) with my family in a friends backyard. We do work trade in exchange for the space and small amount of electricity. We as a family of four use 7 gallons of water a day not including laundrymat and showers at the YMCA. We have a compost toilet. We are saving for land and paying off debt. We are going to build our home out of cob using the earthship(look it up) concept. This concept requires no energy input to stay warm in the winter or cool in the summer. Sometimes it seems like we will never reach our goals. I keep saying over and over to myself, "the master accomplishes the great, by a series of small task" lao tzu.

» What kind of wisdom and leadership are you looking for at this time, close to your life? Where are you finding it? *

The community at Gethsemane Episcopal Church in downtown Minneapolis is facing a problem that, I imagine, is not uncommon in these times. We, as a church, are not financially sustainable. We have a beautiful old church that requires upkeep and maintenance and our operating costs exceed our revenue by an uncomfortably large amount.

Yet, we are not without assets. We have a vibrant and growing community at a time when many religious communities in the area are shrinking. Despite our own financial woes, are able to organize and support a food and clothing shelf and provide assistance to those who have lost their apartments due to building foreclosure. Our building, though costly, has a gym and a stage that provide wonderful space for the community to use.

How can a church with such energy and spirit be failing? Our priest, an embodiment of the energy and spirit of the congregation, made it plain last week at the annual meeting: the old way of doing things is simply not working. Gethsemane cannot be content as a building and a location. It must be a community beyond the walls of our church. Simply put, what it means to be a church has to be redefined and reworked.

To provide that vision, he turned to the congregation. Our energy and ideas drive the remaking of Gethsemane. Our ideas have been small thus far: Taking advantage of social networking sites like Facebook and Ning to strengthen the community, work to make the church environmentally friendlier both in the health of the building and the behavior of our members, for example. These ideas alone will not save the church, but they are the start of a process that will change the way Gethsemane "does church."

As people look for guidance during these troubled times, I encourage them to start with themselves. In my own community, our financial problems are dire, but by unleashing the energy of the congregation and being open to the transformative power of that energy, we can ensure that, no matter the fate of our building, that Gethsemane survives.

Yes, we are in a time of moral and spiritual crisis. We are reaping the results of the exercise of our free will to make choices that are not in harmony with God's laws.

I have found all that I need to understand and deal with what is happening in the world today in the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda even though he left his body in 1952. The recent messages of Sri Daya Mata's (the leader of SRF and a direct disciple of Yogonanada)are a particularly hopeful, insightful and practical guide in these challenging times. The SRF website and the Winter 2008 issue of Self-Realization magazine contain these messages.

What has changed for me--deepening my conviction that the Kriya Yoga techniques that Yogananda brought to the West in 1920 are still a powerful way to transform my life and in doing so the lives of others so that our individual and societal choices will begin to harmonize more closely with the laws of God and to bring an end to much of the suffering in this world.

I think we've confused the "bottom line"--thinking it is money or "growth," possessions, "entertainment." The little "sustainable" community I grew up in kept going by knowing how much was "enough" respected that measure and there were no mega-rich living next door to homeless. Folks just tried to have enough, and any more was considered "gravy" to be shared with others.

My spiritual resources are varied and many. Right now I'm reading Satish Kumar who was a Jain Monk for part of his life. His belief is that homo sapiens are not the center of the universe. We have to get along with each other, critters, the earth herself. We have not been living like that for a long time and sadly much of the world has envied us and fashioned their lives after us.

I've pretty much stopped buying things I don't need. My radio is on its last legs and before I would have just trashed it and bought another cheap one at K-Mart. Now, I'm holding on to it. Sure, I have to hold onto the little antanea sometimes to get reception or move it around the room or just go without. I don't feel like I'm being deprived. I feel like I'm honoring the folks in that small town. My roots are producing a strange and wonderful fruit.

I think I might be a sort of leader right now. Living more simply.
Trying to determine for myself what the real sustainable and wholesome bottom lines are. Overcoming any "covenenting" of other people who still get a lot of stuff. Seeing clearly that that lifestyle, which is all it is, is not helpful. Just keep trying, seeing clearly. Leading myself onward through the fog!

Two years ago I left behind college for about the 4th or 5th time. Largely, because the Career Services Director walked into a classroom full of young and not-so-young adults and proceeded to proclaim that as he put it "entitlements mean nothing".

I've heard college-grads try to defend this bald-face lie, but I have not been persuaded that entitlements mean nothing. I personally believe that long before man set foot on the earth a God created hierarchies to which he assigned entitlements for the very purpose of maintaining order in His created world.

To be told by an entitled authority figure that entitlements mean nothing caused me to begin questioning not only this particular persons competency, but the veracity of things I was being lectured about. Why on earth wouldn't they?

I know for a fact that the only entitled authority with the power to evict someone physically from "their" home is a sheriff, but that still leaves the person occupying that office with the choice of whether or not he will do his job with compassion or relish for the people involved--and thus, to mitigate or inflict as far as he is able the pain of this kind of tragedy, is that not so?

Over the last 20 of my 50 years I have become something of a social scientist seeking to understand why so much of what I precieve to be negative has happened to me as the result of projected blame by entitled authorities,and how I could get rid of not only the bad feelings but the collateral damage done to my brand-name.

I have found my answer in leading a celebate and therefore for me, sober life. I have also been made a witness to the abitlity of my God(the word made flesh)to correct my false accusers in love and truth.

This would not have been possible without the help and discouragement of entitled FBI Agent Abe Alba who came to my then-residence to discourage me from standing up not only for Judge Alison Colgan's right to affirm that I did not sexually harass anyone and for my right to attempt to collect damages for the salacious lie promulgated by one of Delaware North Co. own employees namely Yosemite Concession Services Risk Manager John Huey.

By falsely accusing and firing me for harassment he denied me the means to acquire food,shelter,work,entertainment,clothing,and the means(EAP programs) for the supposed "need" to rehabilitate myself for the purpose of being eligibile for re-hire.

As a result of my "failure" to acknowledge any of FBI agent Alba's false allegations of extortion(I sent them copies of Judge Colgan's determination, but apparently nobody was "home" to listen/read it.)I have been witness to the "bad-mouthing" of America as Abu Ghraib abusers, Geneva Convention violators,the termination of millions of jobs(what do I need with millions of jobs where I was made a scapegoat by other lazy employees? Because its not what you know,it who you know-I only needed one job)by employers looking to make themselves look "good" to stock-holders and bds of directors, and the final irony the mortgage-foreclosure/homeless debacle of the last couple of years.

And unfortunately,at this point, it seems just to me.

I realized I will not stop being harassed and bullied until I remove myself from corporate involvement.

Group Relational Dynamics have had a way of turning people ugly in my presence(but then that's why the grade-school teacher found me such a tempting target of her own abuse, I suppose, because I was alone), so I'm keeping better company with my God these days or I'm battling the forces of evil in group settings.

That is just plain old herd dynamics 101.

My personal objective as the founder and sole staff to initiate One Global Ethics, Ogethics, is transferring a trans-religious exchange in the United States of America (USA) in the last decade to individuals, organizations, and communities. Since beginning to learn the English language, I have received a comprehensive self-training in ethics as a student, employee, and community member. I have earned a Master of Arts degree with emphasis on ethics; the different working experiences in the service, recreation, hospitality, retail, and fashion industries with different groups of people; and my personal involvement in community gathering as churches, libraries, and cultural events, all inspired me to continue an ongoing self-study research in ethical issues around the world.

The ethics industry is the future of an ethically complex world. Those who want to discover what is and how to do the right thing in an ethically complex world will be the practical leaders of this visionary utopia of building a better world in the middle of a chaotic, misunderstood, and grim panorama.

One Global Ethics, Ogethics, knows that money is not the final solution for the problems and crisis of the world. The contemporary reality of living and working to the brink of calamity has made Ogethics realize what works in terms of ethics. Thus, it has undertaken the ethical journey and mission of instilling in individuals, organizations, and communities human ethical values to help to create a new global social, legal, educational, economic, spiritual, political, and ethical order.

The ethics element has been considered essential in the interpretation of our relationships with others, the environment, and ourselves. Subjectively, the ethics industry goes inside individuals who want to be an unspoken expression of the human values, attitudes, and beliefs inspired by their inner code of ethics, making a difference that gives value to the corporate culture, oxygen-starved society (family, communities), and in the pursuit of a career for the human life.

Every day “reality” impacts who we are and how we are living our lives. Is the real world what makes our lives, or, do we work to shape that reality? Human consciousness and responsibility does not come from what is going on in the world, even though the real world is reflecting a lack of them today. These human ethical values come within each individual, regardless of any religious or non-religious setting. Happiness, freedom, and peace are not with us just because we have human rights, democracy, or a good job, but because they are inherent in our human dignity. This is a universal ethical principle which could help everyone to achieve those human ethical values that we can aspire to.

My educational service involves a need in individuals, organizations, and communities to create a new global order where the sole responsibility is on the human being. The strategy is to present Ogethics services to the churches in different denominations and communities. Public worships are a main place of people gathering together to listen a message. Under their approval and confidence I and my future staff will breathe ethics into their communities

Ogethics wants to project a human dynamics image that is not complicated by religious differences, philosophy, or any judgment at all. It is reflecting a different caliber of ethical training programs and of inspiration in every kind of people into ethics.

Why churches, if Ogethics is a non-religious organization? The fact is that religion itself does not make ethical people. However as Tenzin Gyatso, the Buddhist monk, the Dalai Lama (1999) said: “Religion has enormous potential to benefit humanity; properly employed, it can play a leading role in encouraging people to develop a sense of responsibility toward others and of the need to be ethically disciplined.”

Because human dynamics in churches are directly related with people’s beliefs, Ogethics’ strategy focuses on them. Understanding different beliefs and religious practices is the ethical point to make in the arena of churches. The humane process is doing the right thing, without obligating others to change their behaviors because we think we have the truth, or they are wrong in the appreciation and manifestation of their faith or spirituality.

Hence, Ogethics’ anticipated outcomes are to instill in them human ethical values all the congregations of people have in spite of differences of credo, cults, prayer, or denomination. Integrated as charitable non-profit organizations, churches and Ogethics can work together to the benefit of individuals, organizations, and communities.

What will be Ogethics enduring impact? It will help to create an ethical age.

I just listened to the podcast interview with Sharon Salzburg. In it, Sharon mentioned that she found herself paradoxically being more generous in these times of economic hardship. She specifically mentioned that she has become more purposeful and aware of smiling at people, even in New York City.

As Sharon said this, four recent memories sprang vividly to my awareness. Each was of an ordinary encounter with an associate, a clerk and passers-by. All occurred in the last few days or so. Each memory was of a fleeting moment of courtesy, kindness or uncharacteristic friendliness. Each was by itself perhaps unremarkable... A stranger, offering to walk my just-unloaded shopping cart back into the store... A clerk at the store, making eye contact, smiling and asking if I would like help carrying a bag of ice to the car... A stranger, filling their car at the adjacent pump, commenting on the glorious sky and weather that day... A business associate, inquiring about my daughter who has just left home to travel abroad.

Sharon's comment assembled each of these encounters into a larger picture of people, reaching out to each other in a time of worry and fear.

Suddenly, I am more joyful. Suddenly, I am encouraged. Suddenly, I am resolved be more positive and uplifting to all those I meet -- to pass on Sharon's wisdom and compassion.

I thank all the SOF team, and especially Sharon Salzburg, for helping me become a bit wiser and more compassionate!

Dear Krista,

First, thanks for your wonderful show. I listened to your Parker Palmer podcast earlier today--I happen to be currently reading his "The Courage to Teach"--and then listened to the radio broadcast this afternoon (on Chicago's WBEZ) of your Charles Darwin show.

To take your questions in order, I do think we are experiencing a spiritual and moral crisis, one that from a sociological perspective, and using some "sociological imagination," can be a godsend for our country and the world. I say "the world" because the world will depend heavily on our nation's becoming less militant and more caring.

A few years ago, 2006, when my younger son graduated from high school and went off to college, I moved from a house to an apartment, gave up owning a car--my new apartment is on a bus line--and thus have significantly reduced my "carbon footprint" and cost of living. A happy result is that I now can devote myself to writing, community service and, to some extent, politics. I campaigned hard for President Obama in the Indiana primary and in the general election.

By living frugally, I don't need to earn a living and have returned to college myself to gain an education degree. I plan to be a middle school substitute teacher. Having done a lot of acting in community theater in the last 15 years, I am comfortable around young people and find middle-school children to be delightful and interesting and not at all frightening. I think my services will be in great demand!

My life so far has been far more varied and fascinating than I'll attempt to relate here in detail But here's a "for instance"--as an ad agency creative director (Chicago, New York, Philadelphia,) I once helped create and produce a TV campaign for McDonld's. In 2006, going through tough times during my son Fred's senior year of high school, I cleaned restrooms, washed pots and pans and took out the trash at a local McDonald's. Talk about "I've seen both sides now!"

Thanks to "Speaking of Faith," NPR, the BBC, the CBC, the Internet and a vast personal library, not to mention my college classes, I'm getting an adequate supply of wisdom and leadership. At the age of 64, I hope to provide a little wisdom and leadership for others!

Yours, R. E. Roderick

I was raised a Missouri Synod Lutheran, graduated from Valparaiso University (which, thankfully, liberalized my religious ideas), eventually became an active Episcopalian, until I decided that I could no longer vow a Christian oath. I see all religions as informing my understanding of the Universe and my role in it. And I absolutely ache for what fundamentalists have done to corrupt all religions and the actions of their followers. Beliefs that advocate hate, suppression of thought, secrecy, death to sinners and nonbelievers, and unequality are gangs in my view, not religions.

With all that as background, I think financial crises do have the potential to elevate conservative values as "right" and other values (say of a Buddhist point of view) as foolhardy. Lutherans, for example, are very, very big on identifying "the right way" to live your life, make, save, invest, tithe and spend your money. Those who follow are good Christians; those who don't are in trouble spiritually as well as fiscally.

So when I see the debates in Congress about whether to spend or stop spending, I see the positions taken as so much more than political. It is part of one's spiritual beliefs -- whether giving more and living smaller, worrying as much about the planet as the purse -- or jumping into the fiscal bunker -- will inform one's rhetoric.

These are indeed trying times. In the last few months I’ve seen savings dissipate and real estate value decline. Skilled and talented workers have lost their jobs; hardworking, bill-paying citizens have lost their homes. Frugal retirees have lost their life savings. And everyone hears and knows that it will get a lot worse before it gets better.
What sustains me through these days of uncertainty is my spiritual path which has at its core three main virtues: gratitude, humility, and acceptance of the will of God. In addition, this path, called Sukyo Mahikari (universal laws + true light;, gives me a sense of what spiritual economics might be.
First, let me explain how the three main virtues are helping me. Clearly, gratitude for all things, even those I consider “bad,” helps me to look beyond the immediate effects of this downturn to see what benefit might come from it all. I certainly am more cautious of my spending; I was able to finally follow through on giving to charities on behalf of my family at Christmas – something I have been planning to do for years. And I am deepening my appreciation of what I do have – my job, my home, my family and friends, and my faith. On a larger scale, I am grateful that the economic trends that had widened the gap between the haves and have-nots may be narrowing and we, as a global community, might be re-examining our values.
The stunning and radical shifts and turnabouts of the economy are humbling to us all, I imagine. Occasionally I read about some clear-thinking expert who had been warning us of the bursting of the various bubbles, but I didn’t hear the call and I couldn’t understand the complexity of the situation. As I stretch to understand the house of cards my economic future has been built on, I am left to experience mostly “shock and awe.” Yet, these changes are useful reminders of how little we do control in our lives beyond our own actions and reactions.
Finally, as I move forward, I am confronted with the challenge of acceptance. I have followed my financial advisor’s advice. I have made tentative plans to soften the bump from future falls.
Yet, I know that the only real preparation is my faith in staying tuned in with God’s will in my life, as it has carried me forward to this point of a sense of abundance even in the face of loss. My faith allows me an abiding belief that as I ride on God’s will, I will maintain my gratitude for whatever comes and be clear that I may not understand all the consequences for myself or the world around me. Ultimately, I will end up right here: firm, solid, and at peace.
In holding fast to the guidance of spiritual economics, I am also focused on the 4 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repair and in so doing, living more firmly within my means. As I look at my workplace, I also recognize the need for greater interdependency between labor and management – an occasion for humility as we appreciate our mutual strengths and support each other in our weaknesses.
These times are indeed trying, but they present such an amazing opportunity to all of us for learning and growing into an even greater nation, a more compassionate world. We can hold fast to enduring guidance for a better future.

Even amidst all this despair and heartache and hardship, I have to say the economic crisis is a good thing. I believe this because this unusual crisis has forced or allowed (depending on your perception) us to look at the world in new ways.

A few weeks back Starbucks announced that it would only brew decaffeinated coffee on-demand after noon. Previously the company brewed fresh coffee every half-hour. It takes about 4 minutes to brew a pot of coffee. By only brewing decaffeinated coffee when requested, the company expects to save $400 million dollars within the next 6 months.

Some people heard this and despaired over another example of how our economy is collapsing. I read this and was outraged! I was outraged at the waste of resources literally going down the drain everyday, just for the luxury of saving potential customers four minutes. And that waste reminded me of other prepared food companies who waste untold tons of foods by throwing out what is not sold. It’s true there are great organizations like Second Harvest but, I’d hazard, they do not capture even one-half the food that’s prepared but never sold.

Another example of our changed perspective is the loosening of standards regarding what is advertised. I read that more broadcasters are allowing ads from “hard” liquor companies where before, when more money was available, those types of advertisers were refused on “moral” grounds.

These two examples remind me that the word crisis is translated in Chinese by two characters meaning “dangerous opportunity”. The economic crisis puts us at a point of “dangerous opportunity”. If we do not adapt, if we do not change, we will find ourselves clinging to ideals and processes that are no longer viable and in effect, going down with a sinking ship.

On the other hand, we can use this unusual time to choose things that bring us into better harmony with our planet by being more conservative about our use of resources. We can stop brewing decaffeinated coffee when there is no demand for it. We can grow some vegetables rather than purchasing veggies that have traveled hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles to reach our plates. And, we can also use this opportunity to re-evaluate things we would never have considered when money flowed copiously.

Here are three choices we might now make.

1) Legalize (and thereby regulate and tax) prostitution. I am a woman and do not endorse the exploitation of women under any circumstances. Rather than penalizing the practice, let’s legalize it and put in safety nets so the women (and men) are made as safe as possible and we are in a better position to prevent the exploitation of children through prostitution.

2) Legalize (and thereby regulate and tax) marijuana. Just that one thing opens a world of ecologically-sound and renewable products like hemp-based papers, fabrics and furniture. If the resistance to marijuana were about preventing access mind-altering substances, then we should ban a whole list of ingestibles including chocolate, cheese, sugar, coffee and alcohol.

3) Publicly and regularly recommend that people eat less meat, not stop eating meat, just reduce our consumption of this extremely resource-intensive product. The meat industry will surely cry “foul!” but the health of the country will improve and we will save money through having better health.

These are frightening times. Very few people like change and right now, things are changing quickly and dramatically. But within these changes are opportunities for us to make better choices, choices that evolve our spirits and our world.

Quote: Again and again over the years you’re pushed to a brink that challenges you to either rise to the occasion or else surrender to demoralizing chaos…Seeded inside each of these personal turning points is the crux of the evolving global apocalypse: You get to choose whether you’ll adjust by taking a path that keeps you aligned with the values of the dying world or else a path that helps you resonate with what’s being born. In effect, you get to vote, with your entire life for which aspect of the apocalypse you want to predominate. -Rob Brezny

I have been working on my essay for a couple of weeks. Your topic is timely. Thank you.

Benevolent Despites: Take a Time Out
Essay by Maria Rella

As I ponder the media headlines, “Class Warfare” and “Greed Is Good” I wonder if we have a generation of citizens who have forgotten their roots. Our country has evolved as a result of past philanthropic financiers such as John Rockefellers, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, Eli Lilly, J. Paul Getty, and our present day benefactors Bill & Melinda Gates, Paul Newman and Ophrah Winfrey. Are they capitalists? Yes. Do they have interest in growing large institutions that are based on capitalistic ideas? Yes. Is that so wrong? No. The endowments of philanthropic champions may not directly provide funds to the poor on the street, but their foundations create fundamental long-term investment in our country by providing on-going programs that support public health projects, education and cultural programs that enrich and benefit our children past and present.

The contention that there is class warfare between Main Street and Wall Street is not useful and is a sidetrack to the larger issues. Are we to denigrate the attributes of the affluent who have contributed to nonprofit foundations; their talent, expertise and creative ideas--the same attributes that have made their businesses so profitable and provide a basis to our economic vitality?

What I believe, is that we need to take a deep breath and reflect back on the essential foundation of ethics that made our country robust. As a grandchild of Italian immigrants, I cannot forget the core values that my mother a widow, instilled in her children – by action and words to her children. You may be familiar with these adages from your childhood, if your parents lived during the great depression - pay your debts, your name is your word, character and reputation, work smart, enjoy a good debate, respect your elders and take care of them; listen to their stories, help children in need especially those who do not have both parents, and be true to yourself.

I believe the technocrats involved in the greed of the mortgage and bank debacle did not contemplate the repercussions of their actions. Yes, they violated our trust and we have all been personally impacted by their actions. Citizens are moving through the stages of grief as described by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book "On Death and Dying". Our leaders and the populist have been in “denial” for sometime. Those affected with financial ruin are in stages of “anger, depression and sadness”. Our legislators continue to “bargain” for a plan that will repair the damages.

We have the ability to be resilient and live successfully in the new economy. CEO’s must not violate the periphery by exceeding their rightful share. Remember the words of Abraham Lincoln, “I don’t believe in a law to prevent a man from getting rich…But we do wish to allow the humblest man an equal chance to get rich with everybody else.” It will take time for us to heal and for confidence to reemerge. I believe we must move beyond the anger and progress to the next stage of positive solutions so innovations can develop. Remember and convey to your grandchildren how the large gas guzzling vehicles and over valued investments were examples of the self-absorption of the first half of the 21st century. Your story will continue recounting the lessons learned and the resilience of the citizens who reshaped a renewed recovery.

I think this is very much a moral and spiritual crisis of our culture. The legitimate, defining, American values of freedom and individual success, among others, have brought more wealth and freedom to more people than any other society in human history. However, the valid affrimation of the importance of these values for partial human fulfillment and dignity has degnerated into an invalid affirmation of unabashed greed, materialism, and selfishness. At some point in time, these values insidiously crept into our consciousness as the definition of success in America, to the neglect of spiritual values, and they seem to be, unfortunaetely, affirmed everywhere you look in our society--school, work, sports, television, the seemingly utter removal of the notion that faith and ethics should influence how people participate in the economy. Jesus said "what profiteth it a man to gain the world and lose his soul?" I think that in their daily efforts to gain the world and wealth, Americans, have been daily chipping away at their souls and in the process, America might be losing her soul.

This sounds grave, but I look to the Bible and the promises of God for hope and assurance. There is always infinite hope in repentance--returning to the living God with all your heart and soul.
Psalm 130, verses 7-8, says "O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with him is plenteous redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities." I think America again needs to recognize the true breadth and depth of the spiritual foundation of her greatness. True and lasting human well-being flows only from obedience to God, our Creator. Sin is the indignation of man, not obedience.

this is a comment on Krista's pronounciation of 'buddism' and 'budda'. it is 'bu-dh-dh-ism' and 'bu-dh-dh-a'. there is no equivalent sound or letter in english. it is close to the 'th' sound in 'ma-th-ematics'. i would suggest better talk to a person knowing sanskrit or hindi language to get the sound right. as lot of people including me listen to your program on sundays, it will help all. again this is my lil request. thanks, vinot

I see Hebrews taking over America because their faith is success obsessed. The Hebrew faith of Judaism, based on the flat Earth, Earth centered Universe, egocentric, ethnocentric way of life, as having a major impact on this downturn and it's effects. The faith is Jewish, the tribe is Hebrew, the politics are global Zionism, and the nation state is Israel. I say Hebrew because money is about personal possession by a body, an ethnic group, a tribe.

Hebrews are 100% of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Hebrews run 75% of the member Fed Banks. Hebrews run the World Bank, International Bank of Settlements, and International Monetary Fund. Hebrews have their own concentration camp in Israel. Israel takes more money than any nation in the world, per capita, from America.

Israel is a failed state that is subsidized by America, provoking wars and attacks such as the attack of September 11th, all based on faith. Israel has no declare borders, no constitution, a right of return for all Jews, and no definition of what or who a Jew is. The Israeli view is "we'll know one when we see one", on a case by case basis. This provokes holy wars based on faith. The Israeli Zionist Hebrew war is sixty years old but it is really two thousand years old as many wars are. War is always about money, never faith. Politicians use religion, use faith, to wage wars for money. Faith is behind the eyes. Politics and money is outside the eyes.

The Pentagon was attacked and New York City was attacked on September 11th, 2001. New York City is the largest Hebrew city in the world and the epicenter of the global financial crisis. The cause of the attack is social injustice, caused by the Israelis who invade, kill, steal, and lie in the Hebrew state of Israel in the name of a faith. America supports Israel. The enemies of Israel attacked America, the source of financing.

America subsidizes Israeli Hebrews and ignores the plight of the refugees of the sixty year old crime against humanity in Israel, also known as occupied Palestine. This is all due to too many people chasing too few jobs, too little money, and the same people wanting the same land. This is all based on faith, that Hebrews and Arabs have claims to this land, based on faith. There is a clash between social justice, faith, and money.

The Hebrews are clearly winning this war but there is blow back, unintended consequences, such as Israel's financial and military support being attacked in America.

This is all based on faith, the faith that one group, one tribe, the Hebrews, should rule the world. All tribes believe this. Hebrews are the best at accomplishing this with education.

Hebrews send eighty per cent of their children to college because the rightly believe and have faith this will lead to a better economic life. We all want to be better off. Sixty eight per cent of Hebrew children graduate from college. No other group is this high. This gives Hebrews access to money, power, and fame which they use to benefit Hebrews and promote their faith. This can be seen when Hebrews refuse to use the BC and AD regarding the Christian calendar, yet use the Christian dates. The use of the BCE and CE degrade and insult Christians. If Hebrews want to use this dating system they should use the correct labels instead of slurring the labels to show bias and insult. This is no surprise. All tribes seek to do this. All tribes want their own faith based nation where all other way of life are excluded and their way is the only politically correct way. To my knowledge only Hebrews have a faith based, exclusive nation state, that is struggling to succeed as a failed state and can not stand on it's own two feet, financially.

The struggle of the Hebrews, Arabs, and English, the struggle of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims, the struggle of the Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans, are always about money and economy. Which faith will dominate the empire? Which faith should the empire choose to favor as it picks winners and losers in Egypt, Rome, Germany, Israel, and America?

Ever since the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as the official faith, the Hebrews have been following the money to promote their faith as THE FAITH. The story that Jesus was a Jew is utterly false but allowed to persist. Too bad the Old Testament is based on flat Earth, Earth centered, obsolete beliefs that "my tribe" is THE ONE AND ONLY sacred tribe at the center of the Universe. That faith is dead. The Earth is round, not flat. The books, The Old Testament, Koran, New Testament, Iliad, Mahabharata, remain to haunt us as the tribes all gather around their sacred books to proclaim they have the right to all the money and all the world. Then there is war. The war is always for the money.

The Western struggle for money is wound deeply in the Old Testament, New Testament, and Koran. All these books have nuggets of truth wrapped in faith, seeking more money. How much is enough? Too much is not enough. Only all of it is enough.

What I would like is a show defining how much is enough? How much food, shelter, and clothing is enough? How much war and war budgeting is enough? How much faith is enough? What is the minimum people should have globally, before we have a Bernard Madeoff? Should people still have faith in a book based on a flat Earth, at the center of the Universe, as all tribes falsely believed, based on faith, two thousand years ago?

The current down turn will be survived. Companies go bankrupt and out of business. What worries me is false documents survive bankruptcies, based on faith. Should people have faith in bankrupt companies or bankrupt Federal Reserve Notes that are worth nothing? Should we have faith in bankrupt faiths, bankrupt books, that are obsolete and do not work outside the tribe?

Why does faith, the full faith and credit of America, have to do with our money? Our money is bankrupt. We have no real money. All we have left is faith and that changes everyday so the stock market must wildly gyrate to reflect our gaining and losing faith in fake paper money. Should science and business be based on faith? That is scary. Faith is too personal. I don't want to have faith in food. I want food. I prefer science and repeatable experiments to people who have faith the Earth is flat, at the center of the Universe, and some invisible deity promised someone a holy land in Palestine three thousand years ago. Where is the proof? Show me. Prove it. Otherwise keep the faith silent, behind the eyes.

Faith and money have a lot to do with business. I personally prefer some collateral for loans besides faith. This economy is readjusting because collateral values have changed and people are walking away from promises they had faith in but proved to be too expensive. Where is the collateral regarding faith? Business is about facts and cash flow. Faith is about invisible deities and taking over the world as a Hebrew, Arab, or Englishman. What can we do when economies collapse because they were based on faith instead of sound scientific business principles and collateral?

Faith belongs behind the eyes, in silence. Outside the eyes people need experiments, facts, and reality we all agree on to meet our needs. Faith trumps reality behind the eyes. Reality trumps faith outside the eyes. The moral and spiritual aspects of this down turn are all based on groups struggling to take more rewards, awards, and media time than their numbers in the population justify. The group that exceeds all others at doing this is the Hebrews. How can the Hebrews fix this problem their book and their group largely caused? If it's broke, fix it. Will they? Can they? I don't know. What do you think? What does history tell us will happen?

I doubt if this commentary will ever see the light of day because it is not politically correct, embracing the zeitgeist of the times. Truth is often like that, in any tribe, over all times. You don't find a miracle, you live one. Protect yourself. No one else can or will. The harder and smarter we work the luckier we get. We'll all work it out one way or another.

Sorry this got so long. I just got on a roll and couldn't stop. I think the financial system works great. I think it is faith that has the flaws and has no place outside the eyes. Politics and political flaws is what we are seeing, not financial flaws. The Federal Reserve has failed us, Greenspan and Bernanke have failed us. The Fed should be abolished.

The wisdom I am looking for is to let banks and failed businesses have the consequences of their actions so the system can reallocate wealth properly instead of having government pick winners and losers. Wilderness always serves me with wise advice. There are predator and prey cycles. Stocks are not investments. Common stocks are dangerous unsecured speculations. I have beaten the Dow, S&P, Nasdaq, Warren Buffet, and John Bogle. I am happy with that. I feel sorry for people who have been wiped out listening to advice to "buy and hold". Protect yourself. No one else can or will. Faith needs no protection behind the eyes. Money and life outside the eyes does need to be protected. Good luck to us all.

Jack Goldman
St. Paul, MN

I am finding much comfort and practical tools from the 5 simple strategies of the Virtues Project and the writings of Linda Kavelin Popov, namely, A Pace of Grace...

I am taking time to spend intentional time in nature, with my soul, and with my close family whom I trust. I am honoring my spirit by doing an art activity or writing every day. I am looking to honor the stillness and the movement of ideas within me! I know there is a teachable moment every day, and that I need to make time to reflect, and to fill my cup, as I continue to give and to share with others.

I believe that the economic crisis is a reflection of our inner spiritual ciris. One that will need much caring and recovering.

Looking to listen to/or read "Speaking on Faith' every week! Thank you for the inspirational books and authors you suggest.
Best regards,
Delaram Hakiman-adyani
Portland, OR

Below are my thoughts in the form of a commentary. This crisis is the opportunity to rethink the fundamentals of the economy... should it be based on greed or the broader good?...

I applaud President Obama's pragmatic and honest approach to jump starting our economy, but he is also missing a bigger opportunity. I have no doubt we can get this economy on track and growing again. But is that good enough? No. We have an opportunity and an obligation to remake the economic system even better.

The fundamentals of our old economy pushed us to extremes in search of profit. Yet we know that extremes do not work in the long term. Communism, the extreme form of government intervention, doesn't work. And we're learning the hard way that unchecked capitalism doesn't work either. With a single purpose - that of profit above all else - 'all else' gets brushed to the side. Yet 'all else' is what makes up the real world and our quality of life.

Let's examine one simple, yet fundamental change: Short term profit for shareholders, versus long-term benefit for stakeholders.

Examples... Target's 4th quarter earnings were down 41%, but they we're still profitable, then laid off600 workers in Minneapolis alone. Caterpillar completes sixth consecutive year of record sales and revenues with 2008, but in anticipation of a recession, cuts 20,000 jobs. So the shareholder's future profit may increase a fraction, but it's a disaster for the overall economy. And because corporations aren't designed to serve the broader economy/society, the shareholder's profit will now drop with the rest of the economy.

This is all due to a fundamental singularity of corporate purpose: to earn and distribute taxable business earnings to shareholders.

Yet by considering stakeholders (such as employees, local communities and the environment) and not just shareholders in its incorporation, actions would inherently lean towards stronger, sustainable growth.

For too long, citizens have been asked to abide by civic responsibilities, while corporations have been given a pass. It's time to demand corporate citizenry as well. Not with self-policing bodies, but with one simple change in the incorporation articles. We - the people - hold the rights to incorporation for every corporate charter, and we can revoke them as well.

Imagine if even national banks had dual and equal purpose: to make a profit for shareholders and to strengthen local communities where their branches are located? How different might American look today?

In this great experiment of a nation, why would we rebuild our economy in the image of the false idol economy of 2005? This is our opportunity to reinvent and improve. Let's be truly bold and one day look back at this time in our history with pride that citizens took control over our battered economy and fixed it ourselves.

Jim Cousins

I think poverty is the inability or unwillingness to be generous to others.

Several weeks ago I went with twelve other men to Benton,KY with our chainsaws to work with Mennonite Disaster Service cleaning up properties for mostly elderly people who had been affected by the recent ice storm. I was asked by a local person why we were doing this.
Why did we come all the way from Pennsylvania to help them? I responded that back home our economy is not doing well either. In fact, several of the Amish men in my group were presently out of work because the construction industry is not doing well. And their companies were not expecting a bailout so why not use the time to go give someone else a "bailout"? What better stimulus is there than to help a neighbor in need, even if they are 816 miles away? To me, seeing the joy on an elderly person's face and hearing their story about the ice storm was ample reward. And hearing twelve chainsaws in a backyard is stimulus enough for me!

Ms Tippett,

I enjoy your show on Sunday mornings here in Indianapolis. Your discussions cover subjects found no where else on radio, and link them with literature and philosophy new and old.

The only bone I have to pick with you is, right in the middle of the discussion you shoehorn, "Where is God in all this?", into the moot.

Occam's Razor asks us to seek the simplest answer to a problem. Doctors look for horses, not zebras, when they hear hoofbeats in diagnosis. I invite you to start with what can be repeated and used first before jumping to postulating large powerful invisible Beings that control our fates.

Thank you for letting me vent, Jeff Flowers

Earlier this week I attended a Theology on Tap program. The presentation was based on the relationship between biology snd religion (Science/Faith). Evolution was surely part of this and then the impact on the environment.

It was pointed out that change will have to occur as conditions are effected by the financial crisis and global warming. Significant here was the recognition that our lifestyles will inevitably have to be impacted. I was struck with a fundamental question that I find most perplexing. What within us encourages us to believe that we are entitled to this lifestyle? What about us suggests that we should expect that having our 'needs' met is not enough and that we deserve most or all of our 'wants'? We do so without ever thinking about the impact this may have on others.

This particular financial crisis owes its origins to those "experts" who put their "faith" in individual greed to generate capital but forgot that such initiative also requires oversight from the community (i.e. government) to keep it from destroying the market itself. Booms and busts have occurred regularly in capitalistic societies over the course of several centuries. The hubris of these "experts" meant that they thought that the laws of capital no longer applied.

Yes, capitalism harnesses and maximizes the creative and personal efforts of individuals but it is essentially amoral. People, however, require moral and ethical rules of operation when they live in communities so that they don't destroy each other either through physical or through fiscal violence.

Capitalism is a market system where survival of the fittest is the rule. It operates consistently to be as efficient as possible until it has maximized production etc. at which point demand may fall off and it can't continue. It doesn't matter what the sphere of expansion. The market will always move toward maximum efficency and profits unless it is reined in by the moral rules imposed by the community or by its own natural collapse/fall back. These community rules may govern labor or trade but they impose responsibility on the market that doesn't exist otherwise.

The regulations put into effect after the Great Depression kept the market in check, and more moral than before that crisis, for nearly 80 years. When Republicans argued that these rules crippled the marketplace they ignored both history and ethics in favor of the wild west, survivial-of-the-fittest type of market. And to quote Bible: when you sow the wind, you reap the whirlwind, and all those Bible quoting Republicans either forgot those lessons or never really knew, understood or believed in them.

The cause of this mess lies in intellectual hubris: all these smart money men who couldn't see the forest for the money trees and who all thought that regulations were somehow outdated, that it was the market that posited the morality. Those who loaned money to people who couldn't carry the mortgages (you only needed simple arithmetic to know the ones who couldn't) did so because they could make money by shifting the risk to someone else and the lack of regulation made that easy to do. Those who took the easy loans kept thinking they could always sell when the crunch came. (They too were irresponsible.) Both parties did what was the smart, market efficient thing to do. It was a "no brainer." It was also a "no oversighter."

All financial crises are felt primarily as emotional and psychological crises for individuals. The ethics and morals of it operate on the level of community and at the moment business has destroyed the trust (as well as the capital) necessary for them to do their work.

I have been arguing with a libertarian friend about the lack of basic morality of unregulated business and markets for more than eight years. I suspect that he believes me now. My present problem is that I did not follow my own instincts with respect to retirement savings and I am having a difficult time forgiving myself for that. Cassandra saw what was going to happen to Troy but no one else believed her and even she didn't leave before the city was destroyed.

Some people find solace in religion during a time of economic loss. Personally, I think a lot of religion's "solace" is a kind of projection of one's best internalized parent that people then believe "forgives" them or offers them "love."

I think that sorrow is a part of the human condition. Trying to escape it through some Big Daddy in the sky just doesn't do it for me. In my mind that's just another escape from responsibility. I remain angry with myself for not acting on my own instincts and although I am active politically I have a jaundiced view of how courageous Congress can be to restore the market.

Furthermore, it seems clear that a lot of the guys who got us into this mess still believe their own PR and some, especially the Republicans in Congress, are still peddling this junk. Unbelievable! Now that's something to laugh about, and maybe gallows humor is the only kind left.

The current world crisis is fundamentally a spiritual crisis. Our default mode is that we are human beings who sometimes have spiritual experiences when the reality is that we are spiritual beings who sometimes have human experiences. OK, your understanding of reality is 180 degrees upside down and backwards, now go out there and have a nice life. We shape our lives by the stories we tell each other about the way the world is. These stories go by such names as history, religion/theology, economics,etc., but they are all just made up stories. The map is not the territory. We confuse our story about how things are with reality, and they are often very different. Even science is a story, but a much more reliable one because there is a real committment to verification and consensus. Even there, however, there are fads and fallacies that are accepted as fact, honest mistakes, political manipulation, and a great deal more fraud than many scientists would like to admit.
We need better stories, stories that more closely match reality, whatever that may be. We have tools and strategies for determining the truth, or at least a more likely, more useful story, but our old stories and our fear gets in the way. We do have some new stories, and a few very old stories that just need to be dusted off and rehabbed a little. However, tinkering with tax policy or messing with an already messed up money supply will not work. We mostly don't even know what money is--Jacob Needleman has addressed this topic on your excellent broadcast.
No punk-ass terrorist can bring this mighty nation to its knees, but the unholy alliance known as the military industrial complex surely will. And just may blow the rest of the world to hell in the process. Not some radical crackpot, none other than Five Star General and Supreme Allied Commander in World War II, later President Dwight David Eisenhower warned us. In his farewell address to the nation in 1961(!) Ike said that "the military industrial complex represented a threat to democracy that exists and will persist." We couldn't believe that the same people who had, at that time in living memory of many, saved the world from the Nazi scourge and the same people who were producing a flood of glittering consumer goods could possibly be any kind of threat at all. We the People did not act at that time and today Ike's "iron triangle" of top military leaders, so-called defense contractors, and Washington politicians have morphed into an "iron rectangle" that has boxed us in with a sophisticated apparatus of a mass media controlled by major corporations, populated by talking heads who drift from academia to the corporate world and back, foundations and well funded think tanks that produce a steady stream of white papers and policy and strategy, and a stealth PR industry that has ballooned into a multibillion dollar monster to sell the lies and fake news that keep the People distracted and deluded. Weapons of Mass Distraction, as it were. Add in the Christian Right and we are in real trouble. Those poor, misguided souls believe that the essential precondition for the Second Coming of Jesus is nuclear war with the Arabs and the Russians. It's equally to know that many fundamentalist muslims believe something similaronly they are pulling for the return of the Caliphate, the religiously rulers of Mohammed's time.
Things are actually much worse than they appear, bad as that may be. The United States of America has abandonned its foundations in the rule of law and has gone the way of empire, where power and the status quo are all that counts. George W. Bush, Dick Chaney, and a host of flunkies inside and outside the government should be prosecuted for crimes against the People (Rep. Elizabeth Holzman of Watergate "fame" drew up a legal brief detailing at least five Articles of Impeachment, now languishing in the dustbin of history.) We must not forget that the obscenity of our war against the people of Iraq to secure the oil has been distorted into a noble cause, the search for democracy and helping the Iraqi people achieve peace. Can't happen, not as long as we pursue the primarily military strategy based on a corrupt vision of the once noble idea of America as a nation defined by the Constitution and the rule of law.
When the Massachusetts Supreme Court, with the stroke of a pen, abolished slavery so long ago, they did not bow down before the vast wealth and entrenched political power of the slave trade. They said that slavery was an abomination and must not be allowed to exist, and it was gone, just like that.
Today we are well on the way to a corporate faschist nightmare enforced by ways and means unknown to past despots. Our peril is real and immediate, but we are not in danger from the terrorists or the Liberals or the Conservatives or the homosexuals or the bogeyman. Our greatest threat lies in the Hall of Congress and the corporate boardrooms, and even these, culpable though they may be, are not at the root of our difficulties. It is the False Evidence Appearng Real, the fear that guides our civic order. From the bogus war on drugs to the idea that we can put a fence around our country, guards, gun, and gates will not work for the sustainafuture we need. Never have and never will.
The dialog you good people are engaged in is much more effective for addressing our economic disorder than the criminal, futile, puerile floundering that the moguls of finance and the princes of power in Washington are currently about.
God(dess) bless you. I'll write again when I can. As you might imagine, I have looked into these questions a lot for a long time. I think I may at least have a few possible directions to go in the inquiry, if no final answers. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

My wife and I created a community-building service called Front Porch Forum ( and already one-third of Vermont's largest city subscribes.

During this economic downturn, Front Porch Forum is seeing signs of hope as people turn toward investing more in community and personal relationships with those around them. This is a good move individually, as well as for our region. A recent study ( found a "significant correlation between community-citizen engagement and the economic growth."

An example... One can take a second job working at WalMart, invest the income in a mutual fund, and hope that the principal is still there in a few months. Or, one can spend those hours instead volunteering on community projects with neighbors (rebuilding a playground, forming a neighborhood watch, etc.)... investing that time and energy into your home place.

Some recent vignettes from FPF...

"Hi folks - With all this talk about bike theft, thought it would be a good time to share with you that my bike, which I reported stolen about a month ago, was spotted by a friend and successfully returned to me! I'd also like to share how super supportive this community was in response -- I received over 10 offers to borrow or keep spare bikes. I feel very, very, fortunate to live here, and appreciate the ways we work together. Thanks to everyone!"

"Hi Neighbors - Did you forget to make plans for Thanksgiving? Plans fall through? Looking at a boring/lonely turkey sandwich? Have a friend in such a situation? Please consider joining us. We have a few (1-3) extra seats at our cozy table, a big turkey, lots of other yummy dishes, and a lot of friendship to share. Kids welcome.

Please join us in celebrating this season of blessings and renewal…give me a call or email..."

"I did get a lot of responses offering help [from my Front Porch Forum posting]. Many people offered to take the dog in until the owner was found, others offered to help put up notices in the neighborhood and others gave support by offering food and such to help me while I looked for the owner. Using the front porch forum really brought the community together for a small little dog, that I truly fell in love with in just over 24 hours. Thanks."

I do regard this as a spiritual / moral crisis. In this country we kill 3-4,000 plus human beings each business day. Look what happened to the Confederacy, which promoted slavery. Look what happened to the Nazi's, who promoted racial discrimination and killing. Our country supports, now more and more legally, this killing of human beings. So what will happen to us as a result? We are seeing what will happen.

I guess I am finding all of this talk about virtue and morals a bit arrogant and maybe middle and upper middle class of us. Our concentration on our loses and how they are affecting us. Funny what I am seeing is lots of anger out there. Driving, people are driving so crazy and without concern to others. I think those who did not have are now feeling anger in that there is now money for the middle class to recover when there was not money for the poor ever. Here we are worried about ourselves, me included. So what am I doing. Trying to work a bit more. Not looking at my portfolio I still have one, I think? Knowing that I will be okay I have lived more simple anyway. Back to rice and pasta away from Boca Burger and the such. Working with my kids on more simplicity for ourselves and others. This has not been easy. Letting go of cable and the land line. Spending more time with friends and taking walks and talking more honestly about money and how to live. I no longer charge a fee for my yoga classes but it is by donation so all can come. My belief is people leave from nothing to $20.00 it all works out. I do not teach yoga for money I do other things for that.
Leadership I am looking for is one who will not cave into big corporations and continue with the gluttony of capitalism. One who will not bail out companies that are unwilling to change. Big cars have been a thing of the past for years. Time to make something that works for a new country of people. Time to work on wind energy and solar energy. Start at the White House! Time to stop the wars. It has been a big part of our economy for decades. We kill others so we can live better. Mr. Obama has some of what I am looking for he has to be brave and not cave in. There is great hope for leadership that will bring us closer to a new world and new way of life. Work with people on letting go of the fear. We will be better then we were if we can just let go of what was and prayer for a future that will truly benefit all on this planet. The new Global world is a new challenge and we can meet it but in a new paradigm that has yet to unfold. We need to allow it to unfold.
Thank you for reading this and allowing me to vent and say some of what has been on my mind now for a couple of years. And more since October of 2008. Blessing! May Peace Prevail on Earth, Dove

I am a college student about to graduate. Today it's safe to be a college student, but it's not so safe to graduate. What happens after graduation is unpredictable and unreliable because of the financial crisis.

The economists say the financial crisis is larger than they thought, but at the same time it's smaller too: it's just one part of an ever larger "future" crisis. The problems looming for my generation have grown from hurdles into mountains before my eyes: the severe ecological limitations of oil, water, and food; the wracked social security system and my parents that it might not be providing for; the tensing political and economic climate - Sometime I feel like I'm in over my head, and the anxiety gets to me.

These problems have really provoked me, and have got me thinking about many of the assumptions I was raised with. I've realized the inviability of many of the intrinsic doctrines of our epoch. I've begun to consider the possibility that the facade of our material society is just that, a facade, and can itself collapse; maybe Man will not always be progressing, and even that our material progression has caused us to loose sight of the importance of intellectual and spiritual progression; that science may not provide all of our solutions, and that it certainly does not answer the questions of suffering and death.

In fact, I've come to see these myths as the reason for the current crisis - an intellectual and spiritual weakness has caused the financial crisis. We've come to rely on material society and the explanations if offers to ease our struggles and solve our problems, and so we've been able to neglect the more important questions and problems of life.

And as the financial crisis exposes these suspect myths, perhaps we can gain the benefit of it. Let's hope it will inspire a deeper awakening among our population, a return to what is important. Even if things regress far beyond our anticipation, it aught not perturb us if we have a profound understanding of life - death is inevitable, and at the individual level our future is in the hands of fate, whether that be ease or struggle.

My religion, Islam, teaches me what's important: God, family, and community. It teaches me to hold my material possessions in my hand, and not my heart, so if they're taken away from me I won't be affected. It teaches me to count my wins and my losses as one, both important facets to a far more important journey.

Yes, I'm graduating, but no, I won't let anxiety get to me. In times of struggle, there is work to be done, people to be helped. I'll remember what's important, and I'll make do.

Our capitalist culture is in a moral crisis because the limited resources of this planet cannot sustain the demands of the growing populations. The Iraq war was immoral and pointed out our inability to militarily exploit third world nations for their resources and maintain our consumption levels at home. China and India's exploding materialistic populations have exposed the Western nation's wasteful and exploitive economic lifestyles. We can either go to war and bomb each other into the stone age or address the main flaw in capitalism, "the Tragedy of the Commons". The collective 'economically rational' behavior of exponentially growing populations will lead to a collapse of the commonwealth. Any solution to this global crisis will require discipline, whether by the individual or by governments. We must all become scientists and economists. Reason and rationality must prevail over faith and belief. We know the physical limitations of our planet and the consequences of not following the laws of nature. Wishing these truths away is paramount to insanity.
Our family is not changing its behavior except to do what we have been doing more so. We live close to the land in a rural area of the midwest. We do not see immoral behavior in our community. We see rational behavior that doesn't make sense when everyone does the same thing on a collective level. Our government is immoral when it does not provide the leadership we need in this global crisis. We think that Obama is trying to correct the course of a ship that may already be up on the rocks. That's the problem, we may have already passed the Malthusean tipping point and Nature will take over in rebalancing the ecosystem. And God help us when Nature takes over. " Hell hath know fury like a Woman Scorned."
On a personal note I find "Speaking of Faith" somewhat naive and simplistic in a world where 90% of the population can barely feed the adults or provide shelter for chlidren. I would like to see more of your interviews with government officials in those countries where our future already exists. Go to China, India, Indonesia, Somalia, Pakistan, and find the scientists, economists, mathematicians, and policy planners and ask them what the Truth is. The West is not reality, our thinkers have luxuries that only the richest of the Third World can dream of, interview the real world. And throw away the Bible, Koran, etc, and reelevate Reason to its proper place as the basis for solving our collective moral and spiritual problems.

Just east of St Louis here, this Sunday morning there was a shooting at a Baptist church, killing at least one. Can't say what the killer's motives were, but I've certainly been angry - enraged, in fact - at God in my 51 years of existence. When I was enraged at God (1981), I was suicidal yet "crazy" enough to not want to commit suicide: God would undoubtedly send me straight to hell was my "crazy" notion.

One thing that's helped me is meditation. I don't know why it works so I "just do it." It helps me find acceptance of things I don't like including violence. It also helps me to accept that there will always be religion that the fragile and desperate turn to for help. Buddhism emphasizes the practices of meditation & compassion because, I think, when we meditate we are confronted with our selves, what we think & feel which isn't always pleasant to see. Thus the practice of compassion for our warts & farts, if you will.

It is my wish that churches would come closer to recognizing what science has seen, and find compassion for themselves if their faith doesn't match up. The outward trappings of religion can enrage someone who finds his/herself caught in it. "The truth shall set you free" Jesus is supposed to have said and it is time to practice the truths of honesty with compassion about the organizations built around Jesus.

What we are currently experiencing in America is the culmination of twenty years of greed and materialism run rampant-- in all industries, and in our personal lives. Too long the attitude, "What's in it for me?" has prevailed. I live on the edge of obscurity, yet, write every day, with the hope that one day any one of my original screenplays will find the savvy producer who understands that "less is more", that "great films" can be small in elements or concept, but big in heart and the human element, and integrity of the story... Great films are born of great screenplays, and one needn't be a "brand" name (writer, producer, or star) to be the only ones creating the blue prints for "the classics of tomorrow". Perhaps a "shift in consciousness" in Hollywood, and elsewhere, is called for-- one that comes from seeing and listening to our world in new ways-- and also in the discovery that the very mysteries we find so exciting, are part of all of us. We can feel the tension between civilization and nature, because we humans have created it.

The economic crisis has only made us all more aware of our humanness, that we are not Gods, no matter how grand our lifestyles. Now we become more selective, more open to finding new ways to thrive, despite the economy, and without funding sources. Many of us are unemployed, but despite this economic downturn, we can rely on our imagination, and our American dexterity at problem solving-- if we choose to explore what is really important and necessary in our lives, if we choose to really live, without "things", and without the attitude of "entitlement". This has led to the inflated worth of everything, including ourselves as a society.

With a "fresh outlook" and new-found consciousness, we can overcome just about anything. Let me share this simple wisdom, something I wrote when all seemed lost:

How do we reaffirm, above all else, that life is good, and of itself, the greatest pleasure?
And if at times, it is surprisingly violent and sad, and we do not have the clarity of vision,
each day, to see the beauty of life, inconstant as it is, alternating with sorrow and joy, then we miss the most profound meaning in our lives; and much of life's beauty, simplicity, and intricacy escapes us entirely.

This is what I mean when I say: "It begins with a shift in consciousness..."

All things are possible. Find happiness in people, not things. Find wealth in sharing food, words of wisdom, poetry, and art. We all have stories in us-- sit under the full moon and share stories with others. Make time for family and friends. Laugh, and be content in knowing you are making the world a better place.

Barbara Rosson Davis
Mother, Poet, Screenwriter,

I teach Language Arts at a high school where over 70% of our students are economically disadvantaged. As the economic crisis has deepened, I have seen several of our students' parents lose their jobs. Some have lost their homes; some students depend on the school lunches and breakfasts for their main source of nourishment. When I look at these children, I question the value of what I teach. Does it really matter if they know how to make their pronouns and antecedents agree when they are not sure where they will sleep tonight? Will Shakespeare's beautiful words keep their stomachs from growling in the middle of the night? How do they concentrate on homework when they worry what will happen to their families?
Even so, I believe that everything happens for a reason - has a purpose in the bigger scheme of things. Since last August, my Honors American Literature class has been discussing the American Dream and tracing how it has changed over time. One of my first assignments was for the students to define the American Dream. Typically, the definitions mostly centered on money and fame - luxury SUVs, mansions, and notoriety. At first I was disappointed in the answers, but as the economy worsened I began to see the situation as an opportunity for all of us, me included, to realign our priorities.
What better time is there to re-examine the values on which the nation was founded and to evaluate their worth today? Through the great American writers both the students and I get to see how our ancestors weathered the tough times and what helped to keep their hopes and dreams alive. These pieces start conversations about our responsibility to our communities and society in general, how much is enough and can there ever be too much, and the difficulties of controlling desire in a materialistic nation.
I heard one of your guests say that "a crisis is a terrible thing to waste." I agree. People only grow through dealing with difficulties. I hope this economic crisis stimulates people all across the globe to have the same conversations that my classes are having. I am sure the economy will eventually get better; it always does. But while we are here, let's put it to good use to build stronger ties to our community and one another,teach our children that people, not things, matter, and remember that we, not our possessions, create our own happiness.

I’ve just listened to the full SOF program of the first week of March. It seemed that the capsules of reflection and (some) reconsideration contained therein all had value and merit. But, across the current spiritual landscape as a whole, I would vouch that two important features went almost fully unconsidered. Firstly, there is a new generational responsibility in play today, somewhat the complement of what Dr. Guroian spoke to. Those of us who have grown children for whom education was narrower than our own, but who now have the responsibility of raising and nurturing a new generation, surely need to “plug fill” some of the gaps that were left open in the race for graduation diplomas and degrees, M.B.A.s or otherwise. The current economic situation is – after all – largely the result of opportunism (here in the U.S. at least) by our own baby-boomer set. (Not leaving aside that much of the ongoing, global environmental degradation also has the same root.) As a second observation, it seems that the SOF series has not delved into the role that art can play in gathering and catalyzing enthusiasms, and in uplifting the spiritual aspects of life. From the website it appears that no professional visual or musical artist has featured at all – to date – in the ‘Repossessing Virtue’ series. Ms. Min, in today’s program, may have been able to go on to cover some perspectives on these topics, from her viewpoint as a writer, but presumably had no scope to do so. (She did, however, speak eloquently on one aspect of the generational aspects of social change; that involving perspectives from within a new immigrant family.) History reveals that visual art, including architecture, plus poetry and music, have, through millennia, spurred huge spiritual renewals and growth, even in times of hardship and pestilence which would lay society low in any region of the “developed world” today. Why was it – for example – that live poetry and music were featured in the recent Presidential inauguration, against the visual backdrop of one of the U.S.’ finest architectural gems? It was not simply to provide an aesthetic experience. Fundamentally I do not take it to be constructive to attempt a wholly generalized answer to the “who will we be for each other?” question. Perhaps this would have been better phrased as: who can I become for the betterment of my family and community. In any event, my own baby-boomer generation needs nowadays, when either approaching or in retirement, to get concentrating upon leaving a positive legacy that outlives us (and not simply be adding to piles of Chinese-produced possessions). For myself, I’m committing to transition to being a full time artist, as a member of a local arts center focused upon teaching as well as exhibitions.

Hi, Krista! I listen quite regularly, and like the variety of topics you explore. On the economic downturn: I noticed some weeks ago that on my days off (when I don't set the alarm), I was waking up with frightening dream images fairly often. I would be outdoors, usually with other people and doing something perfectly ordinary, like setting up a picnic. Then I'd look around at where we were, and we'd be maybe 50 feet from the edge of a cliff and hundreds of feet up! I'd wake up a bit frightened; I don't like heights. A few times, I've dreamed of standing on a cloud, looking down and wondering how I'd ever make it back safely to the ground.
I've spent some time with these dreams, and in my own mental/emotional language I seem to be sending myself messages of insecurity. Since I'm not in financial trouble, it may be that I'm paying too much attention to the bad news these days. It's hard to hear all the news and still reassure my subconscious that I'm doing okay, if I'm on a long-term personal spending freeze and not talking to others about this stuff. I don't have what most people would consider a lot, but I call it "prosperity on a shoestring." I've noticed, too, that talking about my situation and the ways I've learned to live on less for most of my life can make a difference in how often I have dreams that speak of insecurity, and the responses I get are warm exchanges that speak of our common problems and practical ways of dealing with them. I think it just helps to share more about our lives.
I talked to my daughter this evening (she & her family live out of state) and we talked of Unity Church and the wonderful Giveaway event that was held annually in Grand Rapids in the 1980s. She was going to ask her pastor if such an idea would fly in her area now. She's also suggested a church-wide occasional potluck, which would bring people from 3 services into contact. I love these ideas for bringing people into closer contact and community; I'll be eager for the updates.
Thank you for your show. I'll be listening for more insights.

I have always thought of economics in moral terms. Our income is quite modest and we have never invested because, morally, it felt wrong to support companies that were willfully destroying our natural resources or exploiting humans in far off countries for our personal gain. My hope is that we will become more aware of our own vulnerability and that of our planetary resources. For so long we, in this country, have focused solely on financial gains that we have lost touch with love and the everyday miracles that are right outside our windows. The other day I was taking a walk. The snow was melting rapidly and forming a temporary waterfall down a nearby hillside. I get to see this once a year and it was fantastic. These are the everyday miracles that we take for granted. We think we have to drive to Oregon to see a waterfall, but there it was, in my midwest town, on my walk. Today, appreciation and imagination have been replaced by instant gratification. And to what end? Children are given video games instead of bikes. They kill fake monsters on TV instead of making mudpies after a rain. Maybe this wave will take us back to something more basic. I am not immune. I too am being affected. It's stressful, but I am trying to put it into perspective. I have friends, family, food. I have love. Those things have always mattered to me. The question I have is, can we, as a society, be grateful again? Can we re-learn how to act as a community instead of acting individually? And when the economy recovers, will we retain the lessons? Or will we start the cycle over? Money has corrupted societies for thousands of years. Its handling always involves moral, conscious decision making. Not just now, because there's a crisis. But always.

I think we will never be getting back to 'normal'. After all, what is normal about so few having so much, while the rest live on ever decreasing resources.It is also becoming very obvious that those with way more than enough didn't get it because they work any harder or are any more 'deserving.And all the dissapearing jobs exposes the lie that the wealthy must keep their wealth because they 'create' most of the jobs.So when one looks out at the absurd wealth still enjoyed by a few it certainly does raise moral and spiritual questions.Not to mention issues of trust, like have we been duped? Not only by our business and financial institutions, but by our religions? Or have these instituions simply reached the point where they're not sustainable. I mean, how many times can one convince themselves that Jesus will return to save the rightous? Or some variation on that story. Humans are high maintenence creatures and if they're not paid enough to live on, they must be subsidized. Profits go down, share holders find themselves with incomes more like regular workers, and eventually, we all have enough, but not enough to horde.Money, like energy must be allowed to move and circulate. Look to the natural world for new models. Squirrels store enough for winter, not enough for generations and then make loans to be paid back with interest.And no, I don't think we'll go back to living in mud huts, unless those that have don't come out of denial soon and begin gently shifting the money supply downward so those of us living in poverty can start doing as much as we still can for ourselves and hiring our friends and neighbors to do what we can't. This is where ground zero community building starts. PS. I'm self-employed. I make about $6000 a year [six thousand] and I live in the country in rural northern WI.
The only welfare program I qualify for is food stamps and fuel assistence, even though I have no saveings. I do own my own home, which I have been building for 30 years. I've never had a building loan, or a credit card.I am the Poster Old Lady for what happens when you really do live with-in your means in this inflated economy.
We will learn to do far more with less, thru inovation, conservation,and cultivating a spirituality that is experiential in a very personal and practical way.

I moved to Stamford Ct in August of last year with my husband and two small children, because my husband had a job here. I left my dear friends, faith community and support system of "Mom" freinds, i.e my community. My husband was laid off in September. I sat in this house we rented with my toddler while my other son went to kindergarten. I knew no one, I had not really met anyone new, or felt very welcomed or comfortable with anyone yet. My friends and support system and sustaining lifeline of community, networking and familiar were either back in Brooklyn or on Cape Cod where the rest of our family lives.
I felt paralyzed, and kind of like I was living in the twilight zone.
Then I decided we were going to find a church.
"Christ the healer" appropriately named, an Episcopal church here in North Stamford.
I walked in the door, and knew immediately that this was where I needed to be.
The "body" as it were of people were and are welcoming, wonderful and offered hope in a time when I felt lost and lonely. I was looking for community, and support as we try to find our way through this labyrinth of life. I had found it. I immediately dove in. Prayer group for healing prayer, bible study, pancake suppers, lenten booklets, sewing banners. The essential quality of being in a community, involved and counted on as a "member of the body" is enriching and sustaning. The leg cannot move without the hip and so on....
The idea that we live in community is not treated as sacred, and it should be. We are here on this planet to support one another, watch out for our neighbor, care for eachother in crisis or not. There is no real point to being here unless we can help one another, is there? I hope I can instill in my children the values of kindness, consideration, love, and a belief that we can count on those we need in a time of crisis, just as we would be that person/those people to others in their need. I's not rocket science, actually rocket science is probably easier, it doesn't involve the complexities of human relationship and emotions.
Who we need to be for eachother is that person who says simply.
"How are you doing?" with a kind smile or a simple touch.
"What can I do?" "Can I do anything to help?"
Look in to each other's eyes, offer a kind word, tell people to remember to breathe. We will embody hope and understanding, living out community in action.
I know I will be cared for ultimately if things get any worse. I have loving family back on the Cape. We are the lucky ones. My husband still does not have a job, and we are trying to figure out what to do and where to go next. I can be that person to others in a similar situation- I was today as I spoke on the telephone to a brand new friend whose husband just got laid off. I told her, "one day at a time, don't worry this second about what you will do, and don't forget to breathe, you are not alone. Please come over."
The simplest of things are kindness, consideration, being loving and finding community. In a sense it is hospitality. Hospitality is what can sustain me at this moment. It happens to be in faith community, which is what it needs to be for me, especially now. But even when things are great I still say TBTG-Thanks be to God. My life by standards (in the world, even in America) is great and I count my blessings every day. My beautiful children, wonderful husband, warm bed and food to eat. It's all simple, ultimately.

Holy Interruptions and Transforming Initiatives

I am an ordained American Baptist minister, though I teach religion and philosophy in a liberal arts curriculum at Mars Hill College in Western North Carolina.

Your call to speak of our own responses to this economic crisis comes during the observance of Lent. Lent was not in my tradition growing up, yet its pull upon me in later life has an appropriate and even necessary correlation to Socrates’ high call to the examined life that renders life human.

This year, I experimented with a new ear to listen to the call of Lent. It has two chords. The first sounded during a course I teach on human nature. A challenge emerged after a week of studying Plato’s depiction of his mentor “The Apology of Socrates”, and of Glaucon’s more terrifying challenge to the human spirit to become vulnerable and visible in his story, “The Ring of Gyges.

“Lend me your cell phone batteries,” I asked, “for 24 hours. If that’s too threatening because of circumstances you cannot control, then lend me your iPod, your X-Box, your computer cable – whatever it is, and whatever it takes, to demonstrate how much reach the electronic, virtual culture has a reach into our individual and common lives.” (I am a participant too.) Right then, we watch together a segment of the first Matrix movie, the part that has the following quotes.

Morpheus: The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you're inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.

[Neo's eyes suddenly wander towards a woman in a red dress]

Morpheus: Were you listening to me, Neo? Or were you looking at the woman in the red dress?

Neo: I was...

Morpheus: [gestures with one hand] Look again.
[the woman in the red dress is now Agent Smith, pointing a gun at Neo's head; Neo ducks]

Morpheus: Freeze it.
[Everybody and everything besides Neo and Morpheus freezes in time]

Neo: This... this isn't the Matrix?

Morpheus: No. It is another training program designed to teach you one thing: if you are not one of us, you are one of them.

I emphasize from this quote that most of us (1) “are not ready to be unplugged,” and will (2) “fight to protect” an enslaving system, AND (3) one is either a plugged-in agent who can be anything … and dangerous, or one has unplugged and thus cannot be a deceiver.

This really gets the students thinking! Heck, it gets me thinking!

I ask the students to figure out where they are plugged in, living virtually, and not concretely. If it’s a cell phone (for many of my students 300-400 texts per day are not uncommon, a feat that must take hours each day), then offer the battery up for 24 hours. If it’s X-Box or anything else, go on a 24-hour fast from that. Write about your experiences, with the Matrix dialogue above sounding in your mind’s ear.

The papers turned in were astounding. “I didn’t realize how much I had sold out!” “I actually read – finished – a book for the first time in years.” “I feel like I am a prostitute; I can be bought. I have a price.” For someone who listened to music literally all day, came this Aha! moment: “I had never heard birds on campus before!”

These responses affected me deeply. What I unwittingly initiated was a spiritual practice – holy interruption. While our lives get interrupted by the unexpected time and again (for Mary, the visit of Gabriel; to us, the phone call in the middle of the night), what would happen if we “planned” interruptions? Could we “transubstantiate” or render these naturally occurring interruptions into sacramental, free-willed intentionality – freely willed choices to remove something through holy interruption?

With the above in mind, for Lent this year, here is my second chord: I have initiated Sundays interrupted by not eating solid food. In contrast to this interruption, I have begun an integration (“addition” is not the right word) of reading and learning more about hunger, with an eventual end to doing something more about hunger in my area.

This regular interruption/integration has led me further afield. An interrupting city bus ride instead of taking the car brings up fascinating conversations that would otherwise never happen. Sitting with students instead of work colleagues in the school cafeteria invites surprising and often in-depth conversations.

“Transforming initiatives” is a phrase by ethicist Glen Stassen. Instead of waiting for the sky to fall, the world to intervene or something to occur that stimulates a mere reaction, can one speak of pro-active initiatives that bring about conscious, transformational initiatives?

How does this work with the current economic crisis? Why not live “already on the edge,” remove more and more of the unnecessary, and integrate a transformed consciousness? While there’s a good chance that I will not be really seriously affected by this crisis, does that mean that I have a right to live above it? Can I not live “as if” it’s affecting me as much as it already affects my neighbor? Can I not remove key elements of my lifestyle, learn its transformational and interrupting power, and then live in accountable ways to the fact that most of the world already lives like that, and then donate my excess to those in more need?

Where’s the human nature here? Since I teach a course on human nature every year, I think of this a great deal. For me, the Sermon on the Mount, and the hard teachings of the recognized spiritual masters in the world’s faith traditions, are NOT impossible, but “difficult possibilities” for which we are capable, the more so that we are conscious and living an examined life. I do not think I could love my enemies as well if I am being merely reactive, for example. Joining this, the Confucian point of view demonstrates to me that our human nature is almost infinitely malleable; we are teachable and can adapt to almost any circumstance. These insights give me great hope that we can weather great trials, because we can initiate such trials – even if on a “trial basis” – before they become trying.

So I write about these reflections to you. Hope they help.

Marc Mullinax,
Associate Professor of Religion & Philosophy
Mars Hill College
Mars Hill, NC 28754

Daylight Savings Poem

These are the days we were warned of
When our jobs and self-worth face the knife,
Foreclosure knocks for the neighbor next door;
There is caution and worry at night.

On great times self-reliance
Is bought by you and me;
Ego obscures the Vision
Of Everything we see.

Hard time will cause Man to pause,
He fails or reaches out;
The helping hand that touches pain
Is what this Life's about.

Make no mistake, you were given a break
As far back as the womb;
The dash in the dates on your headstone
Represents time between birth and tomb.

Love and Compassion are free for the taking,
Restoring self-worth just when I think I'm breaking;
Myth is illusion, Only Love counts.
These convictions are formed as the evidence mounts.

Blessing are gifts that one does not deserve;
They are lost when I think they're my right.
I no more bring up the Sun in the morning
Than I cast out the shadows of night.

Hard times will level a fellow,
Ladies give heed to this, too;
Nothing but Love and Compassion
Saves me or satisfies you.

F.Greg Wright
5:55 a.m.
Falls Church, Va.

For the last eighteen years my husband and I have worked to raise my daughter in, what we have hoped to be, a holistic way. She learned her academics, strengthened her body and began her own spiritual path. When she applied to college last year, she choose a college that met her needs in a holistic way. This should not have been surprising given her past upbringing, but strictly academic schools or schools that emphasized athletics did not ring true in her search. She selected a school that has a spiritual grounding steeped in a tradition of community service and social action,with high academic standard and very competitive sports teams.

After 18 years of schooling my child full time, I turned to re-enter the work place as a professional fund raiser. The timing of my re-entry could not have been worse. What had been a large field of fund raising positions disappeared over night. Giving went the way of the market and yet demands of non-profits services that depended upon these gifts increased.

I had a choice to look for work that I would perform for the sole purpose to bring home a paycheck or to try to remain in the fund raising field to help non profits find their way through the mine fields of this depression/economic "reset". My search for a job, like my daughter's search for a college,needed to have a holistic dimension. Our souls need to be fed by our jobs, as well as our bodies, especially in this difficult economic climate.

I am in the process of opening up a fund raising consulting business that uses tools such as eBay and social e-networks that can help nonprofits through this economic storm. I am hoping this fund raising "reset" will help non profits enter the future economy ready to serve in a new way.







If God is on some mountaintop
Must I ascend the heights?
Do I need endure the heat of the desert
Or weather the cold of night?

I'm sure that I will lose close friends,
I will mourn the loss of pets;
Future fears are also fueled
By past acts we regret.

But if I make an effort
To look for God today
He leaves the lofty mountaintops
And leads me on my way.

God does not reside upon
Some distant mountain range;
He lives inside each molecule
Although that may sound strange.
He roams and reigns the Universe,
Owns the sky and the wind and the sea,
Of course He cares about this Soul
And live inside of me.

F.Greg Wright
Written 11-29-08/4:55 a.m.
Falls Church, Va.

Not "If" Do not seek and you won't find, Close the door on being kind; Hate the sinner but love your sins Or believe that the one with the most toys wins. Call people stupid to make you feel smart, Give from your wallet instead of your heart; Climb over friendships to get to your goal, Worship possessions and be in control. Stifle the urge to be Human, Treat yourself as Number One; Fail to love another And fail as a man, My son. F.Greg Wright Falls Church, Va.

At the end of 2006, my husband I retired early - at ages 59 and 57, respectively - so that we'd still be active enough to enjoy our new found freedom from the workplace. In 2007, we visited friends on the West Coast and traveled to airshows [where my husband took photos and I wrote articles for an aviation magazine]. My husband began taking classes at the local community college, working part time in the computer lab and doing volunteer work for NAMI [Nat'l Alliance on Mental Illness]. I focused on the novel I was writing and various community charity programs, such as Elizabeth House and the American Cancer Society's Road to Recovery. In 2008 I drove more than 1,600 miles for charities. In March of 2008, I started my self-publishing company, so that I could produce my novel and have control over its marketing and any future rights that might spin off of it. When the summer of 2008 rolled around, we bought kayaks and practically lived on the local reservoirs; making one trip to kayak on the Broadkill river in Delaware.

Then the "crash" came in October and we saw our comfortable retirement nest egg crack and begin to dribble away. Suddenly, we were faced with the real possibility that not only would we have to trim our spending drastically and live on a frugal budget, but we might have to return to work. Yeah! Right. Return to work with more people every day competing for what jobs still existed. Graying 60-year-olds competing with sharp "youngsters." Fortunately, the time my husband had spent at the computer lab and in class paid off. He had met people who encouraged him to take an adjunct teaching position - something he had always wanted to do; teach college students. Without a Masters degree he couldn't have applied right off the street. But, with the backing of his contacts and a strong work-experience background in the computer language he would be teaching, the school hired him. He's currently teaching an evening course this Spring Semester.

I took this opportunity to form a division within my publishing company that offers virtual assistant services. Though not as successful as my husband's teaching venture, I've had one customer and I've done one free service for a charitable organization. I have a couple potential customers who may call on me when their seasonal workload peaks. It's probably going to be harder for me until I build up a client base, but we seem to be doing alright. We've cut back, but we don't go hungry. We have clean clothes to wear and a roof over our heads. I never was one to chase after a new product or name brand. When asked what I wanted for Christmas, I only wanted to go to a local live theater and see a show. I am happy to get by with less. I treasure what I have and I give what I can to those who have so little. It's amazing how it is still possible to give in the face of scarcity. The hardship of the times has showed us what is really important - our health, our family and friends, strangers in need, a sunset, a quiet moment with a cup of coffee. Life sparkles more.

And in the face of hardship, another positive side about our autumn years seems to be our resilience. Neither of us has become depressed about where we are. We have faith in the advice of our financial advisers, each other and in the qualities within ourselves that keeps moving us forward. We both have a strong spiritual nature, too. Although from Jewish and Christian backgrounds, we follow our hearts. I rely on the Holy Spirit to keep me going in the right direction and for whacking me aside of the head when I venture off the path. Focusing on the present really helps, too. Worrying about an unknown future isn't worth the pain and suffering. When we've been confronted with an obstacle, we look for the best way to move beyond it; even if that leads to retreating to a simpler place and way of life.

When I think about the economic situation, one idea immediately comes to mind: groundlessness. I work in the arts, and I know many people who have taken pay cuts, and suffered job loss. It has been my intention to adopt an attitude of optimism, abundance, and prosperity, no matter what (keeping in mind the Buddhist slogan "Don't be swayed by external circumstances"), but I can also experience concern, anxiety, and the concept of groundlessness. However, I am grateful that my longstanding spiritual practices help me stay in the present, and provide solace. These practices include yoga and meditation, reading (I am re-reading passages from Jacob Needleman's "Money and the Meaning of Life", in order to gain perspective), and cultivating gratitude for what is already abundant in my life. Reaching out to others, in the spirit of community, is also very important at this time. Last year, I was in Ireland on business, and I enjoyed a spontaneous conversation with an elderly woman who had suffered a bad fall the night before. She was in discomfort, and yet when I asked how she was feeling, she said "It's the spirit that keeps you going!" I loved that response! For me, this woman's attitude is inspiration as I live my life these days. I am grateful to "Speaking of Faith" for the show's focus on the economy, and how people from various walks of life are coping......

On shaming:

I was startled to hear President Obama use the word “shameful” in upbraiding Wall Street executives who accepted $20 billion in bonuses last year, in some cases after their firms had received federal bailout funds. As the President told a gathering of reporters in the week after he took office, “it is shameful” that these executives were continuing to reward themselves as they had during the boom – or rather, bubble – years, even as they expected taxpayers to prop up their failing firms. Wall Street was going to have to repent, by showing “restrain,” “discipline,” and above all, “responsibility.” Sounding rather like a parent astounded by a display of adolescent selfishness, yet still hoping that an appeal to reason might get through, the President added, “They should know better.”

I was startled, I realize, because I’d learned to think of the practice of shaming as distasteful, primitive, a throw-back that could and should be engineered out of contemporary society whenever it cropped up. One of the issues I follow in my work in health care ethics is what happens after a patient is injured, whether this injury results from one person’s mistake or from a badly-designed system. I’ve learned to condemn those reflexive “blaming and shaming” habits in health care that may seek relief through scapegoating a resident or a nurse, rather than by facing a complex problem and, if necessary, beginning the hard, slow work of changing a damaged culture that cannot keep its most vulnerable members safe from harm. And I’ve learned that good doctors and nurses may feel ashamed of their mistakes: as physician Atul Gawande memorably wrote about a mistake he made as a surgical resident, “I was what was wrong.” This private shame, if coupled with public shaming practices, may mean that physicians and nurses carry their mistakes around with them for years, even decades, rather than figuring out where these incidents belong in their moral and professional lives.

I also realized that I’d learned to think of the practice of shaming as an anthropological and psychological curio. Honor and shame cultures were understood to be utterly different from justice cultures – and we were one of those justice cultures. Except, of course, when we, as a society, reverted to the rough justice of scapegoating. We should know better – but sometimes, shaming felt better.

And yet, I don’t think President Obama was scapegoating the Wall Streeters, indulging himself, and ourselves, in a little rough justice, a little dose of public humiliation to transfer our unruly emotions – including, perhaps, our guilty consciences – onto the fat cats. I think he was reclaiming what scholars of Jewish and Christian ethics refer to as the prophetic tradition, that bracing diagnostic practice that calls a society back to its moral self, sometimes by calling out its most flagrant transgressors, who were always those who broke covenant with the widow and the orphan, who ignored the stranger at the gate. The goal of this kind of shaming is not necessarily the conversion of the moral outliers, but a reminder to the rest of us that their behavior lies on the other side of a discernible line – no ethical “grey area” here – that divides right action from wrong action. They should know better. We do know better. We are responsible for using what we know to create that culture of “restrain,” “discipline,” and “responsibility” that will take care of the widow, the orphan, and the stranger, that will serve us all better – until, inevitably, flawed builders that we are, we have to repair it yet again.

Last Christmas in my choral society at Grace Church we sang O Magnum Mysterium. I know the latin text is about the incarnation of god in man.

But, in my mind last Fall the Magnum Mysterium as what seemed like the whole social order I knew my whole life and that my grandparents worked so hard for and spoke of was breaking down, and maybe lost to us forever. The data and metrics of rising poverty, infant mortality, bigotry and crime and forecast destitution are all there below the surface. It seemed like the apparent unwinding of a great mystery, a great social mystery never before achieved in human history from which my family and I were privileged to benefit our whole lives. Of course, I read too much history and carry it around with me.

Most of the Western Hemisphere or New World countries are terrible places of economic poverty, injustice and perhaps other kinds of poverty too. That is the experience in the entire new world outside of the 'Old Europe' our leaders are so quick to deride, except for Canada.

They certainly are not places where human potential can easily express or achieve, like happened here so easily in the last two centuries. Or, where higher forms of consciousness about justice and human rights and dignity of the individual spoken of by Socrates broke free from the tyranny of normal caste society, or rule by the strongest and most brutal, as in Callicles who had him executed for suggesting something that could upset the social order over which Callicles and his thugs ruled.

The great mystery was a momentary balance between centuries of evolving moral and ethical culture struggling in despotic kingdoms across the sea, and man's natural tendencies for tyranny and grabbing even here in the new world. Against that same struggle here at the founding of our republic, individual change agents fought to craft unique founding documents that started us on our way. They were a few enlightenment intellects with superb classical philosophy and theologically inspired educations of their day that few of us can muster, or at least while having a day job. Over two centuries many worked hard to spawn democratic institutions that did for a time create a society on the planet that had never expressed before. Although the ideas have been with us now for 2400 yrs, Callicles and his thugs worked hard to block them every step of the way, and they had once again advanced their game even here, even today. Warren Buffett said it well himself, in his comments about someone waging class warfare and winning in this round!

We did manage to push through at some points in our history and demonstrate an inspiration to the whole world for justice and democracy and also the benefits they bring for creative economic and cultural prosperity, even for a brief time in history.

During all those rehearsals and daily news reports of financial destruction, I couldn't help but see the delicate balance we'd achieved being brutally discarded by Callicles and his modern era licenses from Chicago Schools, or Ayn Rand. Ideological licenses so rapidly and rabidly pushed by clandestine powers that be for decades to advance their own material grip, and break down the counterbalancing democratic institutions that had served us all well.

I can only say, I am glad to have been here albeit briefly for this great moment in history. I am glad my grandparents don't see what is happening now, and more importantly don't have to live through anything like it again. My parents however,like everyone else in their generation may feel unprepared for hardships we haven't yet seen.

I'm beginning to see signals though that the knowledge we accumulated this time is more explicit than in failures of states and empires in times past. Because of our educations (a democratic institution starting as a one-roomed school, despised by Callicles) and skills together with a new form of consciousness we've attained in our generation, this great mystery won't have to go underground again for 2000 years until resurrected at the end of some unforeseen Dark Ages!

Just like the image of 100,000 proteins in a cell you spoke about with Dr. Nuland today, we are noisily working in chaos to ensure survival of the species, and something even better than mere survival!

I increasingly think it is up to us to choose to already be through our dark ages, the run-up to this mess perhaps, and emerge rapidly this time. It is up to us. The Magnum isn't such a Mysterium anymore! Why am I surprised?

The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Falmouth is one of the "green churches," on Cape Cod, in Massachusetts. It's a church with a long history of involvement with environmental issues. Many of the members are active in environmental groups, like the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society, and many are biologists or government workers who work in the scientific centers in Woods Hole.

A year ago, it was easy to be green on Cape Cod, and on the nearby islands of Nantucket and Marthas Vineyard. The region is beautiful and it has many defenders. However, the recession raises some difficult questions about environmental protection and social justice.
In religious groups, individuals are starting to address these questions and a new understanding of "environmental justice" is starting to develop. The goal is to protect biodiversity and the natural environment while respecting human rights and human needs.

The cost of living is very high on Cape Cod and on the islands.
Traditional industries, like commercial fishing and agriculture, have been declining for many decades and the region imports most of its food and fuel from the mainland. Many jobs on Cape Cod and the islands are seasonal or part-time, with few benefits. The local economy is heavily dependent on tourism. The area has a large population of retired persons who are past the age of sixty-five.

In some respects, the situation on Cape Cod and on the nearby islands is similar to the situation that exists on resort islands in the
Caribbean and in the Mediterranean. The region is attractive, and it receives thousands of visitors each year, but it's increasingly divided between the "haves" and the "have nots." Some of the natives
complain about "gentrification" and "eco-apartheid." Wealthy visitors arrive on their yachts or on private jets. For a few weeks each year, the wealthy live in multi-million dollar mansions on the coast. Meanwhile, many of the people who make the economy work - the mechanics, the restaurant workers, the nurses and the teachers, and others - struggle to find affordable housing. Young adults leave the region, to search for better opportunities in other areas.

In the future, Cape Cod and the nearby islands may become an exclusive, very protected area, only accessible to a few wealthy
people and their servants. Some environmentalists may welcome
this possibility. However, it's a future that excludes many of the
families that now live on the coast of Massachusetts.

In religious groups, people ask, "What kind of future do we want for Cape Cod and for the Massachusetts islands?" Different people are sustained by different faith traditions. The Unitarian Universalist churches in the area are unusual, because they make a special effort to bring Jews and Christians, Buddhists and Muslims, nature mystics and skeptical scientists, and others, into an interfaith conversation about community life and environmental justice. At the Unitarian Universalist church in Falmouth, a picture of planet Earth is displayed in the foyer. The words on the picture say, "We're all in this together."

I am in the privileged position of still having my job, an income, and a place to live. However, when I last looked, I had lost half of my life savings toward retirement which now seems very far away indeed despite the fact that I'm 61.

I may be in a minority, but I welcome this crisis. I believe that it may save us as a country. For 30 years I have watched with increasing alienation, frustration, and helpless rage as what I deemed fundamental values of a civilized society were systematically being dismantled, ridiculed, and perverted. Caring for one another, paying your fair share, protecting people's rights at work and to work, freedom of thought and action, public media that watched over the welfare of their constituents as politicians wouldn't...the civic life that promises safety and civility. What happened to personal, professional, and institutional ethics? I felt like a stranger in a strange land. Profit ruled everything.

Greed, conspicuous amassing and displaying of wealth became the values of our culture spouted and fostered by increasingly mindless and superficial mass media. It's what our children were asked to aspire to. "Education" was designed to make worker drones out of them, not to enrich their intellect and human spirit or give a sense of mutual civic responsibility.I have never been a believer in conspiracies, but there seemed a plan at work to foster mindlessness, poor reasoning ability, lack of curiosity about anything other than consumption in our children because it makes them less likely to recognize injustice and exploitation or to protest if they do sense something awry. The most honest protest against the status quo in the past few decades seems to me to have come from the world of rap and hip-hop, which has itself fallen victim to the very same excesses it once descried. The most powerful images of this past presidential election for me were the young people, so impassioned, so involved, yearning for something better than they had been offered and KNOWING it!

I was never prouder of my son than when he told me once that he lives simply because he doesn't need to surround himself with things to feel worthwhile. He has said, "I don't mind paying taxes. They bring me civilization." He has always preferred the life of the mind to the pursuit of profit. He is a historian and now a teacher. I wish I could put his message on a million billboards, in every boardroom, in every classroom.

My daughter, on the other hand, wants to become successful in the "conventional" sense and make money. She says it will give her the freedom to make documentary movies that can have a social impact. For her, having enough not to have to worry about it also means regaining a sense of safety and security she lost during the bitter financial battles of my divorce from her father. I do not fault her for wanting this because I have also taught her responsibility towards others and that money can be a means to a life as she would like to live it, but that comfort is not what gives a life meaning. And she too, like her brother, is a seeker for a meaningful life.

I believe that I have raised my children well. I do not worry about their spiritual well being, their intellectual curiosity, or their ability to engage with others and each other in a loving way.

As for the economic consequences of this crisis, I have only half-jokingly told my daughter that she is likely to be my retirement plan! She doesn't seem to mind.

Last week I received my contract for the next teaching year. I am a survivor of this time. Our private school marches on in spite of our down sizing.
I have been the survivor before. Years ago my daughter was struggling, barely living with ALL Luekemia. Children all around us at the hospital were dying. I was going to funerals for these once beautiful children. I would saying good by and return to my daughter and our little family.
Sometimes surviving can be harder than going. The guilt of it all. Why did my child live and another mom's child not? I am reminded of that humbling time all those years ago as I sign my contract and return to my work.

Below is how I experienced the current climate that has led to the economic ression/depression we are now in. I expressed my thoughts in an article [below]. Today I would add to the list, in addition to Ennorn et al, Bear Sterns, Merrill Lynch, AIG, and Lehman Brothers, otherwise what I wrote is as pertinent today as it was at its publication in 2007. Thank you for considering my thoughts relative to your radio project.


Ed Grippe


Dr. Edward J. Grippe
Norwalk Community College, CT
Published in Contempory PhilosophyVol. XXVIII No. 1 & 2, Fall 2007

1. In a recent New York Times article entitled “In Economics Departments, A Growing Will to Debate Fundamental Assumptions” , it was noted that a rising number of career economists have begun to specifically challenge “the profession’s most cherished ideas about not interfering in the economy” , and more generally they have called into question the neo-classical model which Milton Friedman helped to shape. The more radical among the challengers have been labeled ‘heterodox’, implying that there is an orthodox view of free markets and the irrefutable benefits derived from them. It will be my contention that the neo-classicalists illicitly appropriated Adam Smith’s notion of the “Invisible Hand” to legitimize corporate control of the economy through the intentional manipulation and subversion of the laws and regulations meant to promote the common good by containing market excesses and the collusion to benefit from this unrestrained behavior.

2. Adam Smith in his famous Wealth of Nations observed:

Each individual . . . neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it . . . . He intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for society that it was no part of his intention. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it.

A religious man, Smith saw the promotion of the interests of society as the invisible hand of a benevolent God acting through the world to maximize human happiness. For the mechanism of the invisible hand to work it must be assumed that God has created humans with a certain nature. A critical part of that nature is the personal pursuit of happiness through the acquiring of wealth. In the individual’s striving to become wealthier, involuntarily, the sum of total human happiness is increased via the organs of exchange and the division of labor. Smith further recognized that in practice the maximization of human happiness required a social structure of considerable complexity. In order for the invisible hand to work, property rights and the social mores of the culture—such as prohibitions against deception, theft, and corruption —must be recognized and honored.
The contemporary interpretation of the invisible hand, as Helen Joyce describes it, is that it is a process in which “the outcome to be explained is produced in a decentralized way, with no explicit agreements between acting agents.” (It is a process that is not intentional.) And “The agents’ aims are neither coordinated nor identical with the actual outcome which is a byproduct of those aims.” That is, it happens in an undirected free market, where, out of the twin concerns of self-interest and for self-improvement, the individual is forced to think about what other people want in order to attract their interest for and elicit their cooperation in his or her entrepreneurial project. As Smith put it:

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love.

3. This appeal to self-love as the engine of human happiness, in ethical terms, is labeled as Ethical Egoism. A normative theory (i.e., a theory about how we ought to behave), Ethical Egoism argues that we have no duty except to what is best for ourselves. James Rachels stresses that this ethical theory does not say that we are to promote our own interests as well as the interests of others. Rather the only ultimate, and hence moral, principle of conduct is self-interest. Of course this does not preclude cooperation with others. Rachels notes that:

It may very well be that in many instances your interests coincide with the interests of others, so that in helping yourself you will be aiding others willy-nilly. Or it may happen that aiding others is an effective means for the creating some benefit for yourself .

In fact, Ethical Egoism demands these sorts of cooperative actions. What the theory stresses, however, is that benefiting others is not what makes the actions right, what makes them right is that they are to one’s own advantage in the long run. We may choose to altruistically help others at our own expense. Human nature allows for this sort of liberality, but Ethical Egoism advises against unbridled altruism as an unwarranted sacrifice of personal integrity and a loss of autonomy. Also, the foolish pursuit of immediate pleasures that wealth can bring is equally discouraged by Ethical Egoism in favor of the acquiring of long-term benefits for oneself. Thus, the pursuit of wealth ought to be done with enlightened self-interest.
It is further argued that in this pursuit, one should follow certain rules such as (1) keeping promises (for example, fulfilling contractual agreements), (2) speaking the truth (avoiding deceptions in, say, advertising), and (3) acting in an honest fashion (rejecting the harms and resultant the loss of public confidence resulting from corruption and fraud). Of course, the following of these rules is not done out of a social responsibility borne of altruism, but from an Ethical Egoist’s understanding of the Golden Rule: “Do unto others” because if we do others will be more likely to “Do unto us”.

4. Milton Friedman, the famous advocate of the Capitalism and the free market system, in a 1970 New York Time Magazine article entitled “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase Profits,” embraces the Golden Rule according to Ethical Egoism. Arguing that only people, and not entities such as corporations, can have responsibilities, Friedman contends that in “a free-enterprise, private property system, a corporate executive is an employee of the owners of the business,” and as such, the executive must conduct the business in accordance to the employers’ desires. These employers, the stockholders, generally desire to make as much money as possible, within “the rules of society . . . embodied in law . . . and in ethical custom.” Decisions by the corporate executive that result in a transfer of stockholders’ investments away from the intended self-interested purpose of profit-making toward “social” purposes, such as community improvement projects, and the hiring of underqualified workers, almost always amounts to a non-consensual taxation of investors. Frowning on these corporate concerns for the social welfare as, at worst, “a suicidal impulse,” and at best, rationalizations and “hypocritical window-dressing” that approach fraud, Friedman chides the corporate leaders to discard the cloak of social responsibility even when it is used to promote a business’ bottom line. For despite the short-term kudos they may earn, the use of investors’ funds for allegedly worthy causes only “helps to strengthen the already too prevalent view that the pursuit of profits is wicked and immoral and must be curbed and controlled by external forces.” Friedman contends that socialism run by “the Iron fist of Government bureaucrats” looms, and with it the mismanagement and misappropriation of wealth that comes when, as Smith wrote, “kings and ministers . . . pretend to watch over the economy of private people, and to restrain their expense.”

Friedman, offering the contemporary interpretation of Adam Smith’s sentiments, states:
In an ideal free market resting on private property, no individual can coerce any other, all cooperation is voluntary, all parties to such cooperation benefit or they need not participate. There are no values, no “social” responsibilities in any sense other than the shared values and responsibilities of individuals. Society is a collection of individuals and of the various groups they voluntarily form.

Thus democratic liberty depends on a free market. Friedman argues that the great virtue of private competitive enterprise is that “it forces people to be responsible for their own actions and makes it difficult for them to ‘exploit’ other people for either selfish or unselfish purposes.” This, of course if true, is a boon for each person. The creation of a zone of free, autonomous action guarantees for each individual an economic liberty that has a positive and beneficial effect on one’s social and political interests. Free enterprise can be adequately exercised only by a free people. The invisible hand for human happiness manifests itself through the implementation of Ethical Egoism and not through altruistic social responsibility.

5. Nevertheless, I contend that there are serious flaws in this libertarian argument. I will concentrate on only one in this article: that of the claim, made by Friedman, that private competitive enterprise makes it difficult to exploit others.
Recall that Smith couched his view of human happiness in terms of divine benevolence. It was God’s creative act that made humans strive for happiness and believe that personal wealth would greatly aid in the procurement of said happiness. Smith also wrote his treatise as a counterbalance to the dominant economic theory of his time: Mercantilism. In those heavily planned and dictatorial societies dominated by the mercantile overseer, the notion of economic freedom of choice was both novel and revolutionary. With poverty endemic and wealth highly concentrated, Smith’s libertarianism could be and was viewed as a call for the reform the social conditions in the name of God. Thus it could be argued that The Wealth of Nations was a direct act of social responsibility on Smith’s part. (He didn’t go on a book tour or appear on 60 Minutes to increase sales and hence his residuals). Ironically, the publication of Smith’s masterwork on self-interest must be appreciated as largely an act of social altruism. As Robert L. Heilbroner writes:

Smith is not, as is commonly supposed, an apologist for the up-and-coming bourgeois; . . . he is an admirer of their work but suspicious of their motives, and mindful of the needs of the great labouring masses. But it is not his aim to espouse the interest of any class. He is concerned with the promoting of the wealth of the entire nation. . . . (After Smith) [w]e are in the modern [democratic] world, where the flow of goods and services consumed by everyone constitutes the ultimate aim and end of economic life .

If the purpose of The Wealth of Nations was to justify the struggle for wealth and the greed it spawns by transforming this selfish scrabble into the an egalitarian godsend for the common man, then Smith’s libertarianism also must be understood as humanitarianism.
But the contemporary notion of the invisible hand evident in Friedman’s writing comes out of a different historical setting. The contemporary era is largely devoid of appeals to a deity, especially in the arena of business. The metaphysical grounding that Smith depended upon to mount his challenge to the concentration and control of wealth in the hands of a few has been retired, and in its place stands a philosophical supposition about the nature of humankind derived from the notion that self-interest is rational. Yet in a world without grounding how can we discern the rational (when reason governs self-interest) from a mere rationale (the use of reasoning to advance one’s self-interest)?
With this question in mind, consider the following statement from Friedman.

In a free society, it is hard for “evil” people to do “evil,” especially since one man’s good is another’s evil.

This is the relativism that is at the heart of Ethical Egoism. If self-interest is the moral basis for capitalism, and if the standards of behavior ultimately reduce to one’s own act of judgment concerning right and wrong, it follows that an individual can never be unbiased about his or her perceived interest. How, then, can one get the perspective necessary to evaluate one’s own behavior to conform to the social “rules of the game?” Add to this relativism the claim by Friedman, previously quoted, that all associations are voluntary, and that, (and I quote again) “. . . no individual can coerce any other, . . . all parties to such cooperation benefit or they need not participate,” and we have a fatal contradiction. Either the individual’s radical freedom to join or leave associations, along with the moral relativism that Friedman espouses, provides no basis for cooperation in areas of social and political spheres (e.g., the keeping of contracts, truth-telling, and acting in an non-corrupting fashion), or there is a realm of cooperation that reaches beyond self-interest to a grounded and commonly held good.
Here is what is at stake. If the common good that would ground social responsibility cannot be found, or is outright denied, then cooperation is wholly contingent upon one’s perceived self-interest. In a competitive environment this seems natural and wholesome. For example, Corporation A is out to beat the competition, and Corporations B, C, and D are engaged in the same effort. To gain an edge, Corporation A attempts to make a product or provide a service that the consumer will find more valuable and/or at a lower cost than of the competitor’s. This is good. However, to gain a greater edge, Corporation A also attempts to that bribe government officials to win the bid for a lucrative project. At this point Friedman would argue that this action breaks the rules of the game. Corporation A is said to be a “bad apple,” one that doesn’t play be the rules and will be ostracized and otherwise penalized. So market forces work to check and balance itself, without appeal to an Adam Smith-style deistic guiding hand.
But suppose Corporation A is shrewd. Instead of offering a bribe, it lobbies the government to amend, add, or eliminate a law or policy—whatever serves them best—and that change gives them a now legal advantage over their competitors. But this might be seen as acting against the ethical custom of the society to which Friedman appeals (i.e., the constitutional exercise of equal voice, or the ability to have equal access to one’s representatives). But why should Friedman or anyone else be concerned with the ethical customs, even those embodied in the United States Constitution? After all, he claims that in a free market there is no need to participate in any association that is deemed to be not of benefit to one’s interest. And if there is no illegality involved, the free market system supports this refusal to participate on the grounds of self-interest alone. Friedman in his book Capitalism and Freedom concludes, “there is one and only one social responsibility of business—to use its resources and engage in activities designated to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game.”
But why stop there. In a world where there is no metaphysical or moral grounding other than self-interest, then laws may be seen as no more than encoded customs, or cultural rules of a game that served some long-ago interest, or the interest of some other individual or group that may be no longer viable in the contemporary world. These laws could be seen as relics of traditions past, holdovers that block the exercise of a free market and interfere with innovation (think: anti-cloning laws). This is indeed a troubling thought, for it undermines the main pillar of democracy: the rule of law and the related claims of objectivity and impartiality upon which it rest. With objectivity and impartiality in question what is taken to be enlightened self-interest now depends on the skill of persuasion or “spin”, and who controls the meaning of terms controls the meaning and scope of the societal rules by which we all play. It is a social system whereby ambitious egoism produces wealth that may or may not trickle down to the commoner, a system Adam Smith was opposed when it was in the guise of Mercantilism.
It gets more troubling. If meaning is up for grabs, this state of affairs will impact internal corporate relations as well. Remember that for an Ethical Egoist, the promotion of the corporate interest is contingent upon the egoist’s personal benefit. Friedman uses this to establish the linkage between corporate managers and their stockholders. As employers, the stockholders judge whether to keep or to fire the CEO on the basis of his or her performance, that is, whether the executive’s policies and practices promotes profits and long term corporate stability. This scrutiny by itself, however, does not prevent the manipulation of the business’ performance, and hence the stock prices by the corporate managers for their personal gain and to the detriment of the shareholders. The names of firms such as, Enron, Global Crossings, Adelphia, and Parmalac come to mind. Competition for corporate profits does not stop at the front doors of the business; it extends into the boardroom.
But the reader might say that the list just mentioned goes to show that the system works, and that the “bad apples,” even those in the boardroom, are eventually singled out and held accountable by society. This assumes that the term “accountability” has more than a relative, politicized meaning. But in a Friedman universe it cannot. Then, as John Wild writes in a different context, but apropos to out topic,

When thus defended, democracy is represented as a wholly negative doctrine, its aim being exhausted in the avoidance of tyranny. All common action and government are viewed as evil, though perhaps necessary in a minimal degree. From this point of view, cooperative action of any sort is regarded as undemocratic, and the function of government is reduced to that of removing all checks to individual action, no matter how capricious or even vicious this might be. Presented in this negativistic manner, democracy would seem hard to distinguish from anarchy; and modern experience, to say nothing of the experience of the ages, has shown that freedom, when thus identified with license, leads inevitably to the domination of those who are most greedy and self-assertive.

Unless there is a grounded common good to which one can be socially responsible, justice is reduced to mere manipulation of words, or to partisan coercion, or to force. Reason is reduced to rationales; truth becomes the exercise of rhetorical flourishes; and might makes right. In a world without grounding, there can be no “bad apples,” only winners and losers in a no-holds-barred power struggle to survive. This is the sort of world structure, where the interests of the commoner were swamped by those of the powerful, that Adam Smith worked to overturn. And this is a world against which our country’s founders, though efforts that could be rightly termed as socially responsible, sacrificed mightily so as to allow for this time, our time, where the notion of self-interest could be and ought to be extended beyond enlightened self-interest to a cosmopolitan concern for and identification with our fellow humans, both here and abroad. As Martin Luther King said in an effort to bridge the destructive self-interest of his time, “No one is free until we are all free.” And I contend that the “freedom” that Milton Friedman espouses is an equivocation on King’s sense of democratic freedom. In the hands of a Friedman capitalist this term is no more than a Machiavellian ruse by the powerful to control the economical environment and to subjugate the common “consumer” for their (the powerful’s) selfish benefit. Enron, Global Crossings, and the rest were not isolated bad apples but the obvious fruit from a tree infected by the virus of an unchecked Ethical Egoism, a worldview that, at bottom, is identical with license that ends, not in the benefit of most as Adam Smith envisioned, but in the subjugation of a society by those most greedy and unscrupulous.

1 New York Times, July 11, 2007, p. A17.

2 Ibid.

3 Adam Smith (1776/1904). An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Fifth edition, ed. Edwin Cannan. (London: Methuen and Co., Ltd)

4 Helen Joyce “Adam Smith and the Invisible Hand”. +Plus Magazine: Issue 14, March 2001.

5 Smith, Op Cit.

6 James Rachels (1999). The Elements of Moral Philosophy, Third Edition. (New York: McGraw Hill College), p. 84

7 Milton Friedman (1970). “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase Profits”. New York Time Magazine, September 13, 1970.

8 Ibid

9 Robert L. Heilbroner. (1986). The Worldly Philosophers, Six Edition. (New York: Simon and Schuster/Touchstone Books), p. 53.

10 Friedman, Op Cit.

11 Ibid.

12 Ibid.

13 Op Cit, Joyce.

14 John Wild. (1963)“Plato as an Enemy of Democracy: A Rejoinder” in Plato: Totalitarian or Democrat? Thomas Landon Thorson, ed. (Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc.), p.109.

I'm very excited about what is happening in these tough economic times. I welcome and celebrate the adversity. Out ancestors did some amazing things from which we have benefited and they did so under conditions which would be unthinkable to us today. We've no doubt become a generation with a generally week constitutions and these tough times will help to strengthen us.
I was in the automotive business and now I'm the real estate business; each tough industries today. Even though I no longer live the lifestyle I once had I feel more alive because I'm being challenged beyond belief. I'm learning things about myself and have a better sense of who I am. Although the benefits are intangible/abstract now, I know they will have more tangible benifits in the future. I am optimistic future generations will benefit from the adversity and challenges that will make us better and stronger. Not sure I would have been so optimistic otherwise.


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is the founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. His most recent book is A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life.

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