Ilene Proctor Proudly Presents #50 in the Great Mind Series
The Most “ blatantly relevant” Author in America. Famed Nationally Syndicated Journalist and Peace Journalism Pioneer "
Courage Grows Strong at the Wound by Robert C. Koehler
Published by Xenos Press, with a foreword by Marianne Williamson
When: Sunday, October 16, 2011
Where: Jan and Jerry Manpearl 939 San Vicente Blvd
Santa Monica, CA. 90402
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Courage Grows Strong at the Wound by Robert C. Koehler
Published by Xenos Press, with a foreword by Marianne Williamson
The book fuses 140 short essays, which originally ran as syndicated columns — or prayers disguised as op-eds — into several narratives, which range from the intensely personal to the acutely political. The essays bleed grief and joy. I began writing them about a year after my wife died of cancer. They wander the terrain of a lost man trying to single-parent a teenage daughter. They move to 9/11 and its aftermath, the war on terror. Along the way they pause at Osco checkout lines, neighborhood yard sales, the miracle of a newborn in my arms and many other places. The book is about the quest for both inner and outer peace, the urgency of both, and the fragile future we are giving birth to.
“Koehler’s points are made with a combination of journalistic acumen and spiritual precision. He takes you by the brain and will not let you go to sleep, will not let you shut down, will not let you look away – and yet, in the same essay – will not let you lose hope, and will not let you stop believing in the spirit of goodness that lies within us.” – from the foreword, by Marianne Williamson
Comments about Courage:
"So much you articulate is so familiar to me but has been without words for so long. I wonder how many of us there are? Lots, I bet. May your heart touch millions through your book. It is very healing." — J.B.
"So I am on the train with tears in my eyes picturing you running to find Alison with fuchsia hair. Maybe reading your book on the train will require large sunglasses." — R.W.
"By the way, I’m truly loving your book. Ripped through Part 1, blubbering a lot, highlighting much, and recently began Part II. I’m enjoying getting to see your innate wacky sense of humor. It’s a wonderful book." — L.G.
"I am using this book as a daily reader for inspiration, challenge, comfort and all the other dimensions you have offered us. Thanks for giving us hope and encouragement!" — C.S.
About Bob Koehler: I’ve been a Chicago journalist for over 30 years and consider myself a peace journalist. Since 1999, I’ve written a nationally syndicated column or Tribune Media Services. This column, which I have described as “part political brawl, part secular prayer,” can be found at commonwonders.com. I’ve been called lots of things over the course of my career, but my favorite is this: blatantly relevant.
Here are the most recent articles!
The old order and the old integrity slowly collapse, but the statues remain, and the words. How odd they sound:
“The founder of the University of Chicago, John D. Rockefeller, on December 13, 1910, made provision for the erection of this chapel and thus defined its purpose: As the spirit of religion should penetrate and control the university, so that building which represents religion ought to be the central and dominant feature of the university group. Thus it will be proclaimed that the university is dominated by the spirit of religion. All its departments are inspired by religious feeling, and all its work is directed to the highest ends.”
The woo-woo nuttiness of it all defies the imagination, beginning with the idea of a course in “Nuclear Ethics and Nuclear Warfare” at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
Does that mean no nuclear weapons should ever be used to promote sexual harassment?
A decade later. The abyss keeps deepening, the wars keep squandering our blood and treasure beyond all logic except the logic of violence.
What ended on Sept. 11, 2001, it sometimes seems, was human evolution.
Suddenly, an irreparable schism opened between those in power and the rest of humankind, and a decision fell into place that war for profit would never end — and there was nothing to be done about it, as the corporate media conveyed to the world with a knowing shrug. What fell into place was armed insanity as perpetual background noise, and any reach toward global community, understanding and forgiveness went on permanent hold.
What entitlement! I hit the gas, power off to my destination. No one asks me whether the trip is serious or banal, necessary or foolish, conscious or impulsive. I just go, ripping up the miles as though they were daydreams. The engine purrs. My name is Everyman, and I have the power of gods.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not addicted or anything. I can get off oil whenever I want to. On the other hand, I may be willing to sacrifice 740,000 acres of pristine boreal forest in Northern Canada — part of one of the largest intact ecosystems left on the planet — along with, oh, 166 million birds, and all the remaining caribou in Alberta, before I do. Tough call.
“Then there is the issue of how the Afghans will be able to pay for their greatly enlarged police and military, which by some estimates will require $10 billion a year to sustain come 2014 — 10 times the Afghan government’s annual tax revenues.”
Of all the ironic absurdities and preposterous twists in the war on — I mean the war to promote — terror, this quote from the New York Times back in April, which I came upon as I was researching something called the Strategic Partnership Declaration between the United States and Afghanistan, felt the most like a mugging.
As crashing economies and austerity measures slap ever more ferociously at the lives of the vulnerable and disenfranchised, the Western world, with all its hidden poverty and institutional racism, may continue to convulse.
The riots that broke out in London over the weekend and spread throughout Great Britain, triggered by the controversial police killing of a 29-year-old man, have sent shockwaves in all directions. Who knew things were so unstable, that Britain’s struggling neighborhoods were just one incident away from such destructive lunacy?
When our lives are torn open, when the worst possible thing happens, what we have, finally, are our roses and our courage.
“I chose to stay in Oslo the entire week. It has felt like the most natural thing to do. I have never experienced any place any time in my life with such a complete absence of aggression. It feels like the city itself has gone into a peaceful place.”
“I saw people being shot. I tried to sit as quietly as possible. I was hiding behind some stones. I saw him once, just 20, 30 meters away from me. I thought ‘I’m terrified for my life,’” the young survivor said to a Reuters reporter. “I thought of all the people I love.”
And there’s the moment, in all its politics and horror: no more than this. Young adults — teenagers — being stalked and methodically murdered at their bucolic summer camp on Utoya Island in Norway. In God’s name, why?
Rupert Murdoch’s specialty has been the practice of journalism in cynical mockery of our thirst for knowledge.
Suddenly it’s clear to everyone.
Hacking a missing teenager’s cell phone? Deleting calls, interfering with the desperate search for her whereabouts? Tapping the phones of terrorist victims, dead soldiers? What kind of newsroom culture could possibly value the intimate tidbits of unbearable worry and sorrow thus obtained? What kind of organization would call it “news”?
Leon Panetta, on his first visit to Iraq as secretary of defense last weekend, reached for a Bush moment ten years too late.
“The reason you guys are here is because on 9/11 the United States got attacked,” he said to the assembled troops at Camp Victory in Baghdad, according to the Washington Post. “And 3,000 Americans — 3,000 not just Americans, 3,000 human beings, innocent human beings — got killed because of al-Qaida. And we’ve been fighting as a result of that.”
“We are a people who never made singing or dancing an unrespected way of knowing. All of the five-fingered ways of knowing remained open to us.”
For anyone trapped in Western consciousness, here’s some good news. The Earth has nearly completed a revolution around the sun since Woman Stands Shining, a.k.a., Pat McCabe, a Navajo writer and scholar, spoke those words at the 12th Language of Spirit Conference. That means the 13th annual conference — a dialogue “exploring the nature of reality,” among aboriginal scientists, scholars, healers and artists and their Western counterparts in a wide array of fields — is coming up soon.
“All the evidence shows that we are nearing the end of man’s tragic experiment in independence from God.”
Wow, I thought. They get it. And suddenly I felt a burst of solidarity with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The words are from one of their tracts, which was given to me because I have this passion for talking about God — a wild glee, almost, for stepping up to The Big Serious and wrestling theology with the neighborhood proselytizers.
What’s so funny about …?
Oh, let’s say, a Muslim guy walking through the airport, or the bride of Frankenstein … or saliva. It’s all there — and more! — at an exhibit called “What Makes Us Smile?” at Baltimore’s American Visionary Art Museum, which I saw with my daughter a few days ago. Even though the world is still caught in the jaws of hell, I decided to write about this raw celebration of humor because the tears of amazement and joy that flowed as I walked through it felt like my definition of peace.
There are twenty thousand nuclear weapons on the planet, a quarter of them ready for launch at a moment’s suicidal impulse, aimed at countries that stopped being enemies two decades ago. It’s six minutes to midnight. “Disarmament” has as much cachet in America’s corridors of power as “socialism.”
And the U.S. House, bless its evil heart, has just sliced the Achilles tendon of peace. It recently passed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011, which has many seriously worrisome provisions, two of which stand in stark, grinning contrast to one another.
I get so soul-sick of the war news because it’s a bad day that never changes. Over the weekend, NATO kills 14 people in an airstrike in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Ten of them are children. President Karzai cries, “No more!” A NATO spokesperson pats him on the head, regretfully shrugging that the alliance works hard to “limit” civilian casualties.
Oh sacred Earth . . .
Now that the end of the world didn’t happen, I can’t stop thinking about it. What chutzpah, what a diminished worldview, not simply to make such a prediction, but — even more incomprehensible, to my relentlessly self-questioning mind — to know you’ll be among the saved.
In 1011, a guy like Harold Camping would probably have been able to generate more panic than bemusement. A millennium later, with science taught in the public schools and all, we have a little more collective resistance to such thundering certainty leaping from highway billboards. I confess, however, to feeling a deep, reptilian tug last Friday morning, as I saw the sign — SAVE THIS DATE, MAY 21, 2011, CHRIST IS COMING — while driving through eastern Wisconsin. Yikes, that’s tomorrow.
Frank Ferrante, an overweight guy with deep spiritual wounds and an enormous sense of humor, thought he was signing onto a sort of vegan life fix: 42 days of raw foods, a shot of liquefied wheatgrass every morning, exercise, weigh-ins, holistic medical exams, weekly colonics, daily affirmations. And then all of a sudden he’d be thin and happy.
But transformation isn’t a technical fix. What Frank learned — and what we learn as well as we travel the journey with him in a powerful, intensely honest documentary called May I Be Frank — is that transformation turns you inside out.
When President Obama, summing up the killing of Osama bin Laden, said, “Justice has been done,” the problem wasn’t simply that he misspoke — justice, after all, can only emerge at the end of an impartial judicial proceeding — but that, in so misspeaking, he hit the emotional bull’s-eye.
“Justice has been done.”
We got him, America! Oh yeah, sweet! Who can’t feel the pop of satisfaction in those words? “He should have said, ‘Retaliation has been accomplished,’” Marjorie Cohn pointed out recently at Common Dreams, and that’s true, of course, but the president wasn’t summoning the dry, sober rule of law. He was evoking, just as George W. Bush did before him, the Wild West, America’s deepest font of mythology, where justice, you know, comes from the muzzle of a revolver. As with Geronimo, so with Osama: Wanted Dead or Alive.
Perhaps the eeriest thing about Osama bin Laden’s death is how little it means.
Yeah, I know: “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” The raid on the devil’s compound outside Abbottabad, Pakistan this week apparently kick-started our patriotic fervor, which had been languishing over the course of a pretty bad decade of military quagmire and economic collapse. Killing Osama — turning him, as the New York Times put it, into “a tall, bearded man with a bloodied face and a bullet in his head” — brought back a rush of national purpose and glory.
How do values enter politics?
The Bolivian national legislature, pressured by a movement of indigenous people and small farmers, may be about to birth a stunning global precedent in the creation of an environmentally sane future: establishing legal rights for Mother Earth.
“Within 10 seconds the fire that wiped out the city came after us at full speed. Everyone was naked. Bodies were swelling up. Some people were so deformed I couldn’t tell if they were male or female. People died screaming, ‘Please give me water!’
“There was nothing to eat, not even garbage, in the burned down city.”
The Arab Spring — which indeed is a global spring — is a struggle, an upheaval, for fundamental justice and humanity. That’s the problem.
We —the Washington Consensus, the post-colonial West, the world’s military and economic overlords — have no more enthusiasm for this awakening, this cry for genuine democracy and equitable distribution of resources, than the tottering autocrats of the Middle East, most of whom (exception: Muammar Gaddafi) are our allies.
Whatever the strategic — and humanitarian — considerations behind NATO/U.S. intervention in Libya, a larger force utterly indifferent to both, and seldom sufficiently newsworthy to merit mention, unites tyrant and rescuer and keeps the world tangled in an endless cycle of hellish violence far beyond the scope of the conflict that generates it.
I’m talking about the global arms trade, for which wars large and small, whatever their cause, whatever their “legitimacy,” are necessities without which the goods would not move. They’re also more than that, but not the sort of thing we salute or honor with granite statuary.
As the Tomahawk missiles, our million dollar babies, rained down on Gaddafi’s army and who knows what else these past couple weeks, I couldn’t help but feel the clenched American fist protruding over global events again.
Yeah, we’re back, world. How tragic that bellicose Republicans, in their indiscriminate hatred of Obama, have had to excuse themselves from the celebration, but still, Libya ain’t Egypt, and America is in its groove again, unwavering in its commitment to freedom. No hedged bets, no sir, not this time, not when freedom’s prelude is bombs, invasion and war.
“There’s something about creating beauty that reaches people and that in the end gives us hope that things can change. . . . It shifts the consciousness of a neighborhood.”
Sometimes people really mean what they say.
An extraordinary documentary, “Concrete, Steel and Paint,” takes us on a journey of transformation — and it goes the long way, the honest way, through the shoals of anger and mistrust that separate social opposites. The film is about prisoners in a maximum security facility outside Philadelphia. It’s also about crime victims, women and men damaged — driven, in some cases, to the edge of “why go on living?” — by the murder of a loved one, by sexual assault, by some deep violation.
The crowds keep swelling, as though awareness, determination – humanity itself – were rising up from the earth. Einstein observed that we can never solve problems at the same level of thinking that created them. I hear the resonance of a new moral intelligence asserting itself, on the streets of the Middle East, in the United States and around the world.
“You can kill a man,” said Medgar Evers, “but you can’t kill an idea.”
On one weekend in February of 2003, an estimated 10 million people in 60 countries took to the streets to protest the looming Iraq war. Never before in history had there been such massive, public opposition to a war before it began. But the war began anyway and the people — their numbers misreported in much of the media by a factor of ten, their opposition seemingly irrelevant — went away.
Are they back now?
“Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.” — Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Egyptians lock arms, a dictator tumbles. Let’s think about this, shall we? How could such a thing have happened? I ask this knowing the hard part is just beginning. The hard part is always just beginning.
It was just a routine murder.
Last June, police accosted a young man at an Internet café in the city of Alexandria. He had just filmed their drug deal, or he simply refused to show them his ID. Whatever the provocation — accounts vary — they slammed his head against the table, dragged him outside as he screamed, beat him viciously for 20 minutes. That was that. You can pick up the body later.