Those who believe that peace can be defended, and that attack is justified on its behalf, cannot perceive it lies within them. How could they know? Could they accept forgiveness side by side with the belief that murder takes some forms by which their peace is saved? Would they be willing to accept the fact their savage purpose is directed against themselves? – ACIM Chapter 23 The War Against Yourself III.5
Are you looking for a visionary thinker advising that you will never solve the problem of prejudice by attacking it? Is your organization willing to implement positive initiatives based on the realization that attack never brings a peaceful outcome? If so, please consider me in your search for a Communications Coordinator, or perhaps better, Communications Facilitator.
Prejudice can loosely be defined as the failure to recognize the full value of an individual. It can be based on a huge range of irrational judgements, from the skin color, to sexual orientation, to age, to shirt color; the list goes on and on. I don’t think it’s an understatement to say this is the greatest problem the planet faces and it’s certainly no understatement to say we’ve been highly unsuccessful in solving it.
I’m hoping that the City of Edmonton might be willing to look at a different approach, one that speaks of our collective union rather than emphasizing our differences. My optimism is partially fueled by the city’s six identified leadership competencies. Courage encourages “listening with openness” and that’s what I hope you will do in reading this rather long piece. Inclusive means that “we seek out different points of view” and I sincerely hope you mean that, because that’s just what I offer. My greatest hope comes from your identification of Creative Innovators as those who look “for different ways to address complex problems. We understand risks, but push boundaries to create better services that help us be more relevant, efficient and effective.”
Hire me and you will get that “different point of view” recommending “different ways to address complex problems.” Someone who believes to “understand risks” is almost an oxymoron but believes you can intelligently “push boundaries…to be more relevant, efficient and effective.”
If not, you might be cautious about who you choose to fill this position despite their impeccable credentials. In his National Post article, “How woke can you go? In 2021, the answer was ‘very’ apparently”, Jonathan Kay notes how the Conseil Scolaire Catholique Providence, a body that oversees French schools in southwest Ontario, publicly burning 30 “racist” children’s books and, “using the ashes to fertilize a tree (in a bid to “bury the ashes of racism”). “The outcry was intense,” says Kay, “and the school board admitted that the whole 1930s-style book-bonfire thing had been a mistake.” The article contains numerous other examples.
The question to ask here is, “How can so many truly sincere individuals and organizations take actions to address an issue that, in many cases, actually lead to the opposite?”
I believe I can answer that question.
My journey, like yours, has been a search for peace in a world gone mad. My paisley shirts, bell-bottom trousers and long hair of the 60s have long since given way to a brush cut that hides my bald spot and comfortable overalls that eliminate a belt cutting into my expanding belly. But significantly, my clothes sport my design of an embroidered heart with a happy face inside a sun at its center. I still believe in love and wear my heart on my sleeve.
I have years of experience working in communications for The University of Calgary, as a weekly and daily reporter in Nanaimo and former production editor the the Gateway. I have experience working with diverse racialized groups as a community support worker in Prince George and and as a janitor in homeless shelters for Edmonton’s Mustard Seed organization. In my 10 years of international teaching, I worked in multi-ethnic/cultural environments in Libya, Mongolia, Saudi Arabia, Norway, the UAE and Japan.
Returning to Canada in 2012, I relocated to Prince George, BC and launched my WordPress website to highlight my creative abilities in writing, photography, art, music and video production. I use my website and blog to promote my work and ideas. My music video set to my song, Brand New Song, is a musical call to making this a better world, while also referencing drug use as one of the bigger challenges we face.
That’s me on the surface. Dig deeper and you will find someone who’s spent years practicing Transcendental Meditation and completed the advanced training to be a Sidha, which the TM organization claims is the basic unit of world peace. Although no longer an active practitioner, I still admire many of the concepts taught. One that applies to racism is the idea that, “Problems can’t be solved on the level of the problem.” I believe the ignorance and fear that lies at the heart of prejudice is not alleviated by fighting it, but rather by introducing a new element: the light of love that will foster the knowledge of our unity.
Only love can end racism, and anti-racism, too, by changing the hearts and minds that see the world amiss and not through implementing changes to the external world. Why? Because the outer world we see is a reflection of the inner world in our mind.
We have strayed so far from this fundamental understanding that those who should be counseling peace through introspection have, instead, adopted the self-defeating position of righteous anger couched in the preconditioned demand for justice before peace. You see it everywhere: No justice. No peace. But what exactly does that ensure, except that neither condition will ever be met?
Jesus, in Matthew 6:33 said, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” That kingdom, I would argue, is one of peace and love.
Zen Buddhist priest angel Kyodo williams fosters this split mind thinking in her book, “Radical Dharma. Talking race, love and liberation.” The cover illustration visually expresses this mindset as it features a yellow fist at the center of an octagon with the eight trigrams of the I Ching. To me, liberation is not found in a closed fist, but in an open hand and a love so True it sees only Love and nothing else. The same fist image appears inside a yellow heart, in a popular sign titled, “Hate has no home here”, posted on an Edmonton lawn, which completely negates the textual message.
The real understanding is this: To be against hate is not the same as being for Love. A simple distinction but a difficult one for those who believe, insanely, that the anger and hurt they feel will be resolved through their expression in attack, instead of finding peace and healing in forgiveness and the true release it provides.
Inside, william’s states on page xxiii of her introduction, “It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that the discovery and assertion of Siddhartha Gautama, the historic Buddha – that every human being, irrespective of caste, race, creed or birth has within them the potential for waking up to the ultimate nature of reality – is one of the most radically life-altering propositions for human life on and in relationship to the planet. One that we need right now.”
But, wlliams argues on page xxii there are “inner and outer paths towards liberation” a position I reject. The waking up to the “ultimate nature of reality” that williams references is independent of external circumstance. It is the desire to deny this Truth that allows her to erroneously link love to justice on the same page:
“The terrains are expressed as dichotomies only because we have not completed our work, but we know in our bodies [bodies are not sentient and cannot know] we must one day abide there. Inner and outer. Personal and social. Love and justice. Liberation.”
To me, this is complete misunderstanding of the Buddha’s message. The outer perishable ends in time, while spirit is eternal.
In my continued search, I have studied the teachings of Eckhardt Tolle, Gangaji, Sri Ramana Maharshi, Jesus and many others. I have been particularly struck by the spiritual masterwork, A Course in Miracles, and two supporting volumes, Journey Beyond Words and The Other Voice.
If you choose to hire me for this position, the message I propose you communicate would have peace, unity and forgiveness at its heart. With the City’s support, and the involvement of other organizations also committed to ameliorating racism, I’d like to see the creation of a public awareness campaign aimed at healing those who hate or feel hurt, irrespective of the reason. At the core of this program would be the understanding that changing minds is found in inclusion and love, and not through attack and judgement.
Can you imagine a city with a coordinated, measurable program dedicated to a message of love and inclusion? I can, with billboards, posters, events and other initiatives based on positive ideas, like:
Maybe we all need to study genialology.
The world is healed by a mind that observes it with love.
Let’s allow love’s light to shine, rather than setting preconditions, which only serve to keep us in the dark.
How happy can you stand it?
This principle of inclusive love was taught by Jesus in The Sermon on the Mount starting at Matthew 5:43.
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
That you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”
A Sikhs for Humanity Edmonton pamphlet mirrors these concepts. “When, one stops labelling others as untouchables, low-caste, sinners or atheists, because then one realizes that no one can be labelled as sinner or virtuous; and don’t label others as wise or foolish. By this, one understands the religion of good deeds, by becoming unbiased, unattached and free of hatred, thus establishing loving and friendly relationships with everyone without any malice.”
The manifestation of a peaceful world is a passion for me. It continues in my daily spiritual practice; through my involvement as a member of the Edmonton Interfaith Centre and as part of an online group studying A Course in Miracles. I’ve also been a presenter at two World Religions Conferences in Prince George. I note that the WRC’s 2021 conference theme was Racism, so this is clearly a topic of current interest. I was disappointed to see the image used on the WRC website featured fists behind the words “Combatting RACISM”, which is again, in my opinion, the wrong image and the wrong approach.
My belief we are all connected is at the core of my approach to being alive and a common thread found in my creative work, whether it be in a work like Bombus Terrestris, a visual pun with a bee at the center representing our eternal Being; or in my Happy Face Series; or in my carved wood piece, Teach Only Love.
It can also be found in my writing. In, Assholes Another Theory, I offer an alternative to the beatings, imprisonment and reeducation camps proposed in Assholes A Theory, by Harvard educated philosophy professor, Aaron James, and supported in the documentary film of the same name by John Walker. (A film produced through the financial support of the National Film Board, The Documentary Channel, Canada Media Fund and the assistance of the government of Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Film and Television Production Fund, the Canadian Video or Film Production Tax Credit and Rogers Telefund,) This is just another example of how hatred and attack are advanced as a viable approach by many in positions of intellectual respect and authority. My message is the opposite: attacking those you believe are consumed with hatred is never justified, it simply compounds the problem instead of solving it.
Much closer to home, Calgary’s Mount Royal University, in January, 2022 fired tenured professor Frances Widdowson who, according to a CBC article “made headlines in 2020 for criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement and espousing the educational benefits of residential schools”. More than 6,000 people signed a petition to have her removed. In a statement explaining Widdowson’s release, MRU noted that while, “it is committed to fostering expression and free speech, and strives to be a model for allowing opposing viewpoints to coexist” that freedom “does not justify harassment or discrimination” which, it must be concluded, they judged Widdowson’s actions to be. Could one reasonably argue that MRU is harassing and discriminating against Widdowson?
My research on this subject led me to Peter Best’s review of Residential School “survivor” Tomson Highway’s book, “Permanent Astonishment” posted on website for The Frontier Centre for Public Policy, of which Widdowson is a Senior Fellow. Best says Highway has been criticized by “Indigenous and media elites for his apostacy in saying that some good things came out of residential schools.”
“Nine of the happiest years of my life were spent at that school…You may have heard stories from 7,000 witnesses that were negative. But what you haven’t heard are the 7,000 stories that were positive stories. There are very many successful people today that went to those schools and have brilliant careers and are very functional people like myself. I have a thriving international career, and it wouldn’t have happened without that school. You have to remember that I came from so far north and there were no schools there.”
Best calls the book a “work of transcendental, universalist power” and concludes one paragraph by saying the book “lifts the reader out of his getting and spending reality and takes him to a better place- the human soul-enriching world where the truth that all humanity is an interconnected whole is realized and felt.”
The last two paragraphs of Best’s review close on a hopeful note and one that I hope you will help me endorse through engaging me for the position you have advertised.
“The kind, tolerant, forgiving, forward-looking, and celebratory Permanent Astonishment shows not only a Way through the Indigenous-non-Indigenous imbroglio bedevilling Canada today, but it shows that a united, race-free Destination is possible.
Mr. Highway writes that he is dedicating his life to dismantling “that hateful, destructive two-gender structure that arrived on our continent in 1492.” But if the old social rigidities around sexuality and gender identification should be loosened, shouldn’t the old social, political, and legal rigidities around race in Canada be loosened as well? Shouldn’t “race” become equally irrelevant? Permanent Astonishment suggests an affirmative answer to that important question.”
Inspired by my January, 2022 application for the position of Anti-Racism Specialist with Norquest College, I requested a meeting in February with Mayor Sohi, to propose the creation of a city campaign to measure and improve the mood of Edmontonians (Confirmation # 422961701-001) but was unable to bring that meeting to fruition. For that meeting, I proposed:
I would like to meet the mayor to propose the development of an initiative to measure the degree of anger of the city’s residents. I see this initiative being delivered through an online survey (hopefully developed with the input of the city’s centres of higher learning and medical and spiritual leaders) that offers anonymity or counseling to those that might request it. It would be fascinating to try and measure the “mood” of a city and to make those findings available to the public. I’m not sure if this has ever been done before but I do know Edmonton has a history of municipal innovation.
Another part of this proposal is the delivery of a public awareness program based on the fact that ANGER IS NEVER JUSTIFIED and that peace is found in love and forgiveness that does not judge.
Currently, I envision just myself presenting my ideas but I might enlist the support of members of the spiritual community. The mayor is welcome to invite anyone.
Also, since that January application, I purchased and read a copy of Permanent Astonishment, which convinced me there is indeed another side to the question of residential schools. Highway does tell the story of one priest’s inappropriate sexual actions but also notes his most demeaning experience came at the hands of a fellow student.
To sum up this rather long narrative, it’s my contention that true forgiveness recognizes that we make mistakes. But such a realization needn’t take away from our recognition that we can do better. We can seek to improve living conditions and provide more economic opportunities for our Indigenous people. We can find ways to reduce racial tension and bias without condemning or attacking. And, finally, we can we find a way to help people realize that the acceptance of everyone, as they are, is what leads to a prosperous, peaceful, productive society.
I believe I can help create and deliver that and other similar messages and I hope we can meet to discuss that possibility.