Monday, October 3, 2011

Check Out Troy's New Blog

Troy's been writing over at WholenessEthics.org, the blog for Troy's relationship-based approach to ethics for everyday living, and for news about his new book. Meet up with us over there!

—Maryann

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

First Book!

Hello to all the Friends of Troy,

I know it's been quite some time since you've heard from us. While Troy has not updated this blog since his last commutation application was denied by Michigan's governor almost a year ago, he has been hard at work on a book, advance copies of which are now available for purchase!

It's called "Stepping Up: Wholeness Ethics for Prisoners and Those Who Care About Them" and is published by my imprint, The Whole Way Press. The book will also soon be available at Amazon.com. Whether you know someone in prison or are seeking wholeness yourself, we think you'll find this book valuable.

This has truly been a labor of love. As many of you know, Troy has been teaching an ethics class at his prison, Kinross Correctional Facility, for several years. But he has been doing more than simply teaching about existing ethical systems. The Kinross Ethics Project is based on an ethical system for everyday living that Troy has developed himself from years of self-education and seeking. I'll let the back-of-book blurb speak for itself:

"Men and women in prison are seen by society as problems and burdens. This book begins with a different premise: that you can be a solution, not only in the world but in your own life as well. It's about a way of living called wholeness ethics and it's based on the simple truth that we find our own wholeness only in right relationship with the world.

"From the perspective of his 30 years behind bars, author Troy Chapman offers a roadmap for living this truth and moving toward soundness, well-being and the realization of one's larger purpose. Distilling experience to four essential relationships - with yourself, others, the transcendent and nature - Chapman shows how to consider each in the light of ethical thinking and restore wholeness to each one.

"With down-to-earth examples and language, compassion and good humor, this book will help you 'step up' to your true purpose, transform your life and your relationships, and help create a better world in the process."
We have also created a new blog to accompany the book: The Wholeness Ethics Blog. Bookmark us there for posts about the practice of wholeness ethics!

Troy and I are infinitely grateful to all of you who have been such wonderful friends to us. Without you, this book would not have been possible.

Peace,
Maryann

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Troy Chapman author page
Stepping Up book page

Monday, September 20, 2010

My Last Freedom

by Troy Chapman

Well, as Maryann has already posted, our bid for commutation has been denied by both the Michigan Parole Board and the governor. As I’ve spent the past few days pondering this decision I keep coming back to a few things.

We don’t know why this decision was made instead of a more positive one. Perhaps we’ll find that out eventually. Whatever we may find out I’m fairly certain that I’ve done all that I can in the matter. There’s some comfort in this because I know I have done my part. On the other hand, there’s some frustration in it as well because I’m not sure what’s required of me at this point. Needless to say, it’s a sad time.

I have, throughout the process, been thinking about Scott Chandler and his family. Whatever the past 26 years have been for me, he hasn’t had them at all, nor has his family had them with him due to my actions. I think also about my own family, who were hurt as well by my actions.

Last night in the ethics group, we talked about the central premise of the group: that we should at all times do only what increases wholeness in ourselves and in the world. We talked about what that means and I spoke of how my crime tore up the wholeness of so many people. During this conversation, another of the central ideas of my life came up — that is what Viktor Frankl, Nazi death camp survivor, called “man’s last freedom.” He said we can’t always determine what happens to us in life or what our circumstances are but we can always choose how we will respond to those circumstances.

This outcome of continued incarceration is certainly not what I would have chosen if I had a choice. But I didn’t. What I do have a choice in is how I respond to it now. And so my question is, with all things being as they are, what response will increase wholeness in myself and in the world?

I don’t know the answer yet, but I think part of it is simply asking the question. If I can do nothing else or know nothing else, I know this: Turning my mind and spirit to this question rather than to the million other places it wants to run like water right now is in itself a wholistic act.

So I have my question. I think it’s not just the question for this situation but the question for all of life: What response will increase wholeness? I will continue asking it as I process and adjust to this.

I’ve said before but not for awhile how much all of you who call yourselves my friends mean to both Maryann and me. Your support and encouragement mean more than we can tell you.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Troy's Commutation Application Denied

Note from Maryann:

I'm extremely sad to announce that Troy's commutation application was denied by the Michigan Parole Board and Governor Jennifer Granholm last week. You can see a little more information at our Friends of Troy blog.

I have a new essay from Troy that I got a week or two ago; I'll be posting that soon.

Peace,
Maryann 

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Balancing Act















by Troy Chapman

Prison is a place of imbalance, so living holistically here is a matter of striving always to maintain your balance.

It’s almost a cliché to say that people get assaulted or stabbed here for two-dollar debts or misplaced words and it’s a cliché because it’s true. This is one aspect of the imbalance I was talking about in my last post — the granting of too much importance to relatively unimportant things.

This afflicts staff as well as prisoners. I’ve seen men and women come to work here and literally give themselves heart attacks by waging various wars with prisoners and other staff. While one staff person, seeing someone standing in a doorway (a minor violation) will saunter by and say, “Don’t loiter too long there,” another will begin screaming, take the prisoner’s ID and write a ticket. If the prisoner gets angry and they argue, the staff person will come and tear up his cell in a shakedown or send him to the hole in handcuffs for “threatening behavior.” It’s an unbalanced response to someone stopping in a doorway, but it happens routinely here.

We often internalize these things, worrying obsessively about a look someone gave us or the fact that someone didn’t speak to us when we spoke to them. Or about which officer will be working and whether we’ll have to tiptoe around to avoid a ticket.

These are all imbalances. They’re magnified and concentrated here but I think the same general thing happens outside of prison. Indeed, these imbalances are the result of people being imbalanced, so we see them everywhere.

But I’m curious about framing our problems this way — as imbalances — because it changes the nature of “solutions.” It’s a lot easier, for instance, to begin balancing my thought processes than to “stop worrying.” For me, it’s a virtue to wonder if something I said hurt someone’s feelings, so I don’t want to “get rid” of this habit (even if I could, which I can’t). But after a certain point this virtue becomes a vice. The point at which it does is the same point at which it becomes imbalanced and we’re obsessing about it.

One of the images we’ve used in the Ethics Project for a long time to illustrate well-being is a wheel with our various relationships balanced around the outside rim. There are a couple of ways to create imbalance. One is to pay lopsided attention to relationships — to spend hours a day with a parent and five minutes with a child, for instance. Another way to throw things out of balance, however, is to move the hub of the wheel. This to me represents stepping away from our true center — of the truth or of our own values (which ideally ought to be the same thing).

There are infinite ways to “move the hub.” Religious people who think it’s more important to convert you than to actually relate with you are people with an off-center hub. As are those who believe control of the world outside themselves is important and ultimately good. We’ve all, at one point or another, thought that revenge was more important than forgiveness, that being right was more important than being loving, that proving something to someone was more important than respecting them.

I get my hub off-center pretty much every day but, as a friend pointed out to me once, balance is actually a matter of constantly moving away from and then returning to the center. Our body doesn’t rigidly grab hold of the center of balance and cling to it. Rather, we are constantly swaying minutely around the center. Translated into spiritual and psychological terms, this means I don’t have to be perfect, I simply need to be conscious — to develop the habit of living in reference to the truth and good and keep my eye on these true centers as a traveler watches a landmark. I need to remember what’s important. But with the world screaming at us on full volume and our own impulses tugging at us from every side, this isn’t always as easy as it sounds. It’s a balancing act akin to riding a unicycle on stilts.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Caution: Mind Pits Ahead

by Troy Chapman

I walk up to the hot water dispenser looking forward to a good, hot cup of coffee. There’s someone there but that’s no problem, I can wait. Then, as I stand there with my empty cup the man proceeds to fill his very large mug to the brim. He then dumps it out and fills it again. When he finally walks off and I check the water, it’s cold, as I knew it would be. As I watch this scene my own temperature rises as the water temperature drops.

Then I take a breath and see myself standing on a trail in the woods. I’ve stopped, and I’m looking down at what I know to be a deep pit despite the fact that it’s been cleverly covered with grass and branches. It’s a trap and I’m smiling because I saw it before I stepped in it.

I walk away from the water dispenser and my mind has already returned to the piece of writing I’m working on. I don’t give another thought to the water-hog. I’ve just avoided a mind pit.

Mind pits come in an endless variety of disguises, but they all have this in common: they have the capacity to drop your level ofconsciousness down to pit-bottom level and trap it there. These holes are everywhere: something as small as a sink full of hair left in the community bathroom after someone shaved that drives you crazy or as serious as rising crime that threatens your life and/or your quality of life. Theft, cruelty, stupidity, games people play, violence, and fear are some others. We know we’ve fallen into a mind pit when we find our consciousness being consumed by what we hate and fear rather than by what we love or hope for.

Mind pits are doubly deceptive because we generally think that railing against what we hate and fear is evidence of our enlightenment. The greater our outrage at some injustice or stupidity, the more superior we feel. This is because we’ve misidentified the object of the game, as if we’re playing Monopoly and think the point is to get around the board as many times as possible.

Many of us get it into our heads that we’re here to fight evil, injustice and stupidity wherever we encounter it. The truth is that the moment we begin to fight these things they’ve already won, because the real object of the game isn’t to fight evil but to keep our mind from being trapped by it. Life isn’t a battlefield, it’s a winding path with lots of these mind pits littering the way.

The bait over each pit is our strong desire to solve or at least be free of problems, aggravations and in justices. We fall (or jump) into these pits again and again thinking we’re dealing with whatever problem we’ve encountered, but once we’re in the pit with the problem, every move we make only perpetuates and makes it stronger. As Einstein said, no problem can be solved by the same level of consciousness that created it.

The problems and issues we’re talking about here — rudeness, stupidity, violence, cruelty, etc. — are all created by bottom-of-the-pit consciousness. Thus, if we really want to solve the problem or improve our situation in any way we must recognize that it can’t be done from the bottom of the pit.

This doesn’t mean we can never get angry, annoyed and so on. Those are passing energies; we’re talking about a habitual way of responding to the world. Consciousness has a tendency to slip into grooves and that’s what we’re talking about here — the general groove of our consciousness. Is your groove anger, worry, anxiety, despair? Then you’re probably falling into mind pits pretty regularly. Or is your groove hopefulness, joy and a sense of connection? Then you’ve probably learned to avoid them (or at least to carry a grappling hook with you in your travels).

Neither does it mean that we can’t respond to and deal with issues. This isn’t about ignoring things and floating around on a pink cloud. It’s about responding from a level of consciousness that reflects who we’re trying to be.

If I can just remember that higher consciousness is really the only remedy for all the evil and dysfunction I see around me in this world, I’ll keep my eyes open for these many mind pits that try to drag me down to lower levels. Every time I avoid a mind pit I avoid becoming what I think I’m fighting. I’ll be able to put into practice Paul’s advice to keep your mind on things above and not on things below.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sensational Shallowness and the Ongoing Conversation

by Troy Chapman

This week, two more guys from my floor go to the hole (i.e., segregation).

One man cheats another out of two bags of coffee.

Another is angry at his cellmate for making noise. Angry words are exchanged. Physical violence is averted but non-physical violence hangs in the silence between them as it hung in the nasty words spoken earlier.

Another man is sure there are rats and snitches plying their trade with impunity. The threat of violence lingers in his words as he talks about this possibility. Others think about the possibility of false accusations and start to monitor their own actions; they begin lashing out verbally at these unidentified traitors to send a message: “It’s not me.”

There are many ways to lose our lives, but to have them eaten up by meaningless manufactured dramas and false causes like these must be one of the most tragic. As serious as these examples sound, they are the prison version of 24-hour cable news coverage of Tiger Woods’ sex life or the political fights between liberals and conservatives. The prison version is magnified, but they’re really the same thing: pointless things occupying our consciousness as if they were life and death matters. Indeed, once we believe they are life and death matters, we turn them into exactly that. (And I use the word “occupy” in the military sense of seizing and possessing.)

Yet there’s an epidemic of this kind of dying in our culture. I understand it, as I am constantly being sucked into it here and am called to extricate myself again and again.

If we care about integrity, this is a skill we all must keep sharply honed — the ability to recognize sensational shallowness and maintain our depth. There’s some force in our culture that sucks us toward shallowness and makes us think that the most meaningless of things are of paramount importance. Since integrity is based on connection, this force is completely disintegrative.

Just being aware of the constant pull of this in our lives is a step toward freedom from it. Another is getting into what we in the Kinross Ethics Project call “the ongoing conversation.” The ongoing conversation is a lifestyle of dialog within ourselves, with others, and with life about living meaningfully. This kind of conversation runs counter to our culture so we have to constantly find creative ways to stay engaged in it, especially with those who are not consciously trying to do it. The most creative way I’ve found to do this is to keep the ongoing conversation question-based, that is, more about asking the right questions than finding or selling the right answers. Sometimes the right question is as simple as “Is this (whatever it might be) making my life more meaningful?” If it isn’t then we’re being sucked into the shallows again. Time to swim back toward the deeper waters.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Principle of Interconnection

by Troy Chapman

One of the principles of the Ethics Project I run at Kinross Correctional Facility is the Principle of Interconnection. Simply stated, this principle states that all things are connected on both the physical and metaphysical levels.

One way we're all familiar with physical interconnection is the environment. The entire modern environmental or "green" movement is built on an awareness of this interconnection. In the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, we learned the hard lesson that no matter where we dump toxins in the environment they always find their way back to us. We couldn't see exactly how each thing was connected to something else but diseases and various other consequences of our actions assured us there was some connection.
We've learned a lot more about ecosystems since then but we still can't trace every connection. It's just too complex a system. In order to live in a balanced way with the environment, to be "green," we assume this connection even when we can't actually see it. We act as if dumping something "over there" is the same as dumping it in our own backyard — because in the long run it is.

Just as we've acknowledged interconnection in the physical environment we need now to acknowledge it in the metaphysical. Our thoughts, beliefs and mental energies, as well as other metaphysical things such as truth, beauty, goodness and integrity are all part of the same web in which the physical world exists. This is a whole other layer to the interconnected world.

Continuing the ecological metaphor, we can think of certain types of thought and action as harmful pollutants that we dump into the environment. We know what's harmful or helpful by asking what decreases or increases integrity and wholeness — that is, soundness, health and well being — in the world. This is the basis of holistic
ethical thinking.

If we accept the principle of interconnection, we know that dumping toxins into the metaphysical environment is every bit as self-destructive as dumping them into the physical environment. And, as in the physical environment, it may seem that we can get ahead personally by disregarding this truth — say, by making a profit from dumping industrial waste into a river — but this is an illusion. If I steal from you for example, it may seem that I come out ahead but in truth I have reduced integrity in the world and now have to live in that same world.

We may tell ourselves, "My little piece of litter or my little bit of pollution won't make any difference," but this is the thinking that has created the polluted world we live in. All other polluters are saying the same thing — my little bit won't matter. But of course it does matter.

Furthermore, by stealing from you I not only reduce your integrity and that of the community we share but, in order to do the deed, I have had to reduce my own integrity as well. It's as if I've carried toxic waste out to dump on your property but along the way I’ve spilled it in our community as well as all over myself. This spillover is unavoidable.

This is bad news if I’m dumping toxins but it’s actually quite good news if I decide to “go green” metaphysically. As a friend once told me, the hose that waters the garden always gets soaked. If I bring wholeness into the world with my thoughts, actions and life energy, I will inevitably be more whole and vice versa.

So the principle of interconnection stands not only as a warning to avoid harmfulness but also as an invitation to actively embrace helpfulness. We heal our own lives by becoming healers; we become fulfilled by contributing to the fulfillment of others; we find the way to freedom by guiding others to it.

So, what’s the take-away?

  • We all live in two environments, the physical and the metaphysical and all things are interconnected within and between these two environments.
  • Nonphysical pollution is as real and as toxic as physical pollution.
  • All metaphysical pollution (i.e., harmfulness) comes with spillover and always poisons the polluter first.
  • All helpfulness also comes with spillover and this spillover is the surest way to “get our share.” We should become vessels of what we desire for ourselves.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

How Do We Know What’s Right or Wrong?

by Troy Chapman

The other day, after I had been waiting in line for about 20 minutes to pick up my cholesterol medication, a man walked up and cut the line in front of me. He went to the window and engaged in a leisurely conversation with the nurse, asking her several questions until even she was annoyed, then went about his business as if the rest of us didn’t exist.

I felt wronged by his actions as I’m sure the 20 or so men in line behind me did. But was my feeling just that, a subjective reaction to the situation, or is there some objective basis to call what he did “wrong?”

Such questions appear in a continuous stream in our public and personal lives. Not only whether something is right or wrong, but why. What reasoning do we use to determine whether something is right or wrong, good or bad? And is this reasoning reasonable?

I began consciously thinking about such things 25 years ago when I was sentenced to 60 to 90 years in prison for killing a man in a bar fight. Obviously I knew what I did was wrong but this still left countless other questions open: Was my sentence right and good? Did my motives matter? Did what I did from there on out matter? Did I have any role to play in administering justice in my own case? Or was my role to be simply a passive receiver of whatever was decided by others? The answer to all these questions depends on what we believe justice is. In turn, this question is part of the larger question of what we believe makes things right and wrong, good and bad in general.

There are several theories at work in our culture. Two of the most prominent of these are utilitarianism and libertarianism. Utilitarianism, articulated by English philosopher and legal reformer Jeremy Bentham, basically argues that maximizing happiness is the ultimate good and therefore the highest principle of morality. He referred to pleasure and happiness, and the avoidance of pain and suffering, as “utility.” If you want to know what is right and good simply ask what creates the most utility, i.e., the most pleasure and happiness and the least pain and suffering.

There are several objections to this thinking but chief among them is that it dismisses individual rights. According to Michael J. Sandel in his book Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?, “For the utilitarian, individuals matter, but only in the sense that each person’s preferences should be counted along with everyone else’s. But this means that the utilitarian logic, if consistently applied, could sanction ways of treating persons that violate what we think of as fundamental norms of decency and respect.” He goes on to give the example of throwing Christians to lions in ancient Rome and asks, “If enough Romans derive enough pleasure from the violent spectacle, are there any grounds on which a utilitarian can object?” We can ask the same thing about Sandel’s next example, the modern debate about torturing terrorists. If it increases the “utility” of the majority, what’s wrong with it?

In both cases utilitarians might argue that feeding Christians to lions or torturing terrorists may not in the long run increase the maximum happiness of the rest of us. It might coarsen habits and breed more violence in the streets of Rome, which over time could decrease happiness, for instance; or it might provide bad information from terrorists as well as subject our soldiers to harsher treatment, thus inflicting pain while not effectively increasing maximum happiness. In this way the logic of utilitarianism remains intact according to its defenders. But there would still be no consideration of individual rights. Indeed, utilitarianism is in this sense, very socialistic; it puts the happiness of the group over that of the individual. This fact makes it rather strange that some of its strongest proponents in America are on the political right. Dick Cheney, for example, in his support of torture, is advocating a complete disregard for the individual’s human rights in the interest of maximizing utility among the majority.

At any rate, this giving precedence to the happiness of the group over the rights of the individual is one of the primary objections to utilitarian thinking. On the other side of the spectrum is libertarianism, which like utilitarianism is also widespread in American culture. Libertarianism holds individual liberty up as the standard of what’s good and bad, right and wrong. In this way of thinking individuals have a fundamental right to liberty — the right, quoting Sandel again, to do whatever we want with what we own, provided we respect other people’s right to do the same.

Libertarianism emerged as an intellectual doctrine in opposition to the welfare state. In Friedrich A. Hayek’s book The Constitution of Liberty (1960) and Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom (1962), the basic tenets of the anti-government pro-market philosophy later adopted and popularized by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were presented. Their thinking is based on the logic that we own ourselves and can therefore dispense with our lives, labors, and even physical bodies in any way we please. The only moral check on this liberty is, as noted above, the equal right of others to do the same. “My rights end where yours begin.”

This view sounds good until we follow it to some of its logical conclusions. Then people on both sides of the political spectrum begin to abandon it. Conservatives who favor it in the economic sphere don’t like the fact that it supports abortion rights, the right to produce and disseminate pornography, the right to practice homosexuality and separation of church and state. Liberals who generally support these positions object to the social and economic Darwinism suggested by the logic of libertarianism.

Both of these philosophies would have counted my line-cutter wrong, but for different reasons. One would say he was wrong for violating my rights as an individual. The other would say he was wrong for violating the maximum happiness of the community. These are both correct but neither is the primary point. A third way of thinking would say he was wrong for violating integrity — first his own and then that of the community.

This way of thinking can be called holism and I believe it speaks to the weaknesses of both utilitarianism and libertarianism. The first of these holds happiness to be the highest principle of morality or the ultimate good. The second gives this high honor to individual liberty. In holism the highest principle of morality, the ultimate good, is neither happiness nor liberty but integrity.

Integrity is the soundness, well being, and health of a thing. Just as bridges have structural integrity, so too do communities and individuals. Further, just as the structural integrity of a bridge can be increased or decreased by certain actions (say, cutting out struts to save money) so too can the integrity of communities and individuals be increased or decreased by certain actions. Indeed, every action either increases or decreases integrity in oneself and in the world. This is the basic logic of holism.

Holists would argue that feeding Christians to lions or torturing terrorists is wrong on several fronts, but the most important reason it’s wrong is that it decreases the integrity of the person who does it as well as the integrity of the person against whom it is done. Why is this decrease or increase in integrity a better measuring stick than individual liberty or maximum happiness? Because the value of both happiness and liberty rests on the level of integrity in any given situation. In other words, liberty and happiness are both devalued when integrity is decreased.

We see this all around us in our time. America is one of the freest nations on earth and is deeply devoted to maximizing pleasure, yet as integrity is decreased in more and more areas, both pleasure and liberty become not only not beneficial but also harmful and toxic.

Liberty and happiness depend upon integrity for their value the way an arm depends upon the body for its value. Just as we count our lives to be worth more than an individual limb (because what good is a limb without life?) we should also count integrity to be more valuable than liberty or happiness, and for this reason it is a better measure of what is good and bad or right and wrong.

So, in future installments we’ll look at the role of integrity in our lives and at the idea of using it as a measure of what’s good and bad, right and wrong. We’ll look at the broader idea of holism and its application in our personal as well as our social lives.

Until then, happy new year and many blessings to all of you.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Belonging Where We Are


by Troy Chapman


Do you belong in the life you’re living? Do you feel that you belong? These may seem like odd questions but I think many of us often do not feel a sense of belonging where we are. If I’m not careful, I can easily lose this sense here in prison, where the place is designed to be somebody else’s world.


But this isn’t unique to prison. Belongingness isn’t something that’s nurtured in commercial culture. For one thing, it’s often easily misunderstood for fitting in and conforming. But these are by no means the same things. Indeed, the level of fitting in and conforming seen in any group of people is an inverse indicator of the level of genuine belonging. People who feel a genuine sense of belonging feel free to engage in self expression. Where the sense of belonging is absent, people feel pushed more toward the extremes of conformity and rebellion, the latter of which is often mistaken for self-expression, but is really just reverse conformity.


So what is belonging if it’s not fitting in?


It seems to me there are different answers to this question. Belonging is in part a sense of “rightness,” right now. When I’m belonging, things may not be perfect but I feel that my life is happening right now, as opposed to feeling I’m in some strange waiting room, tapping my foot, waiting for my life to begin.


There’s also belonging to our own time and place. I have at times felt like I should have been born a century ago — that I belong to a different time and place. This might seem harmless enough, but I’ve realized it brings on a sense of not belonging where I am and not respecting my life by being present in my time and culture as it is. So another part of belonging is feeling like we are living not only here but now.


Right next to this is a sense that our station in life is right, as well. This doesn’t mean locking ourselves into our current station forever, but simply acknowledging that it’s not some cosmic error that we are a bus driver, teacher, cop, nurse, stay-at-home mom, prisoner/writer and so on. We may well belong somewhere else in the future, but right now, in this moment, we belong where we are. To embrace this is to give ourselves fully to our own lives — i.e., to belong to our own lives.


The same can be said about our chronological ages. Our culture works incessantly to tell us it’s infinitely preferable to be 20 years old with perfect bodies and all our choices still laid out before us. If that sounds crazy, that’s because it is. But we often feel that this head of gray hair, this bad eyesight, the aches in our joints are an accident of some sort and we spend endless resources of time, money and mental energy trying to correct them. But again, these changes are no mistake. Whether we are young, middle-aged or old, we are precisely where we’re supposed to be.


Another aspect of belonging is having a sense that our take on life is necessary and legitimate. One of the things we teach in our weekly ethics group here is that each of us sits on a slightly different location around the wheel of life. As a result, we all see things from a slightly different perspective and every perspective is necessary for humankind to know the “truth.” Thus to delegitimize, or allow someone to delegitimize, another’s perspective is an act of violence to the truth. So too is giving up our own perspective and adopting someone else’s. We should never apologize for nor be ashamed of our truth but rather we should give ourselves to it and belong to it as it belongs to us. (And owning our truth in this way means not holding fast to it as a rigid and unchanging thing, but being in dialogue with it, being open to its unfolding and evolution.)


And I guess this is the last thing I’ll say about belonging for now: it’s something we have to choose to do. Others can invite us to belong, they can make a place for us, but they can’t give us a sense of belonging, which means of course that they can’t take it away, either. They can and will try to displace us in various ways and for various reasons but when we decide that we belong where we are, there’s not really much anyone can do about it.


It does take an effort — again and again — to claim and maintain belonging, but the alternative is to live our lives always in the wrong time, the wrong place, the wrong age and so on. It is to be refugees in our own lives and that’s a lot more work than the effort demanded to belong.