July 13, 2023


Visionary Landscape of Humanity's Potential, A Conversation With Chris Barbera

Hosted by

Joel David Lesses
Visionary Landscape of Humanity's Potential, A Conversation With Chris Barbera
Unraveling Religion
Visionary Landscape of Humanity's Potential, A Conversation With Chris Barbera

Jul 13 2023 | 00:44:10


Show Notes

Dusted off as one of Unraveling Religion's original episodes back in 2008, Activist and Poet Chris Barbera joins Joel for a talk exploring the landscape of our collective sorrows and how to address them.

The terrain covers the root response to suffering found in exploring spirituality. The question of 'work' and how work is defined was answered. Chris begins with his own expressed spiritual development and biography, culminating with a deep awakening in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. The realization placed for Chris the understanding of the inequality of systems of power against many of its marginalized citizens, mainly due to the drive to consume and commoditize, an unexamined priorities, in our nation and world.

These power structures have sought to accumulate wealth and power, and in the talk Chris and Joel also explore the validities of all the world's religions. Chris came to realize G-d is not an idea but a living Reality. Through the talk, Chris and Joel discuss how these systems criminalize the poor. Also examined were ways to alleviate suffering, guided by various spiritual doctrines, and searching 'where does G-d fit into all of this?' The differences of science and religion, and how the ancient cultures made no distinction between the two.

A profound examination of humankind's direction, hope, and potential outcome.

Biography of Chris Barbera:

Chris Barbera has lived in the backs of empty churches and intentional communities and worked on various social justice movements and has, for many years, administered an educational nonprofit, Jesus the Liberator Seminary of Religious Justice, which focuses upon developing a “Prison  Theology” with people incarcerated. He currently lives intentionally at the interfaith nonprofit, Network of Religious Communities. In short, he has lived and worked with poor people at the intersection of grassroots justice movements, spiritually lived ideas and experiences in relation with institutional structures, traditions, and nonprofit efforts, as well as at the intersection of poetry and theology. All is all in all rooted and wind.
View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:00 Welcome. Speaker 1 00:00:01 Thank you. Uh, thank you for having me. Oh, Speaker 0 00:00:03 You're very welcome. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and Chris, on the way over here, I had asked Chris to write a, a biography, and I was just wondering, Chris, if you could share that with us. Speaker 1 00:00:13 Just wanted to put, uh, a short clip together. My story is connected to an ongoing spiritual evolution, which gives me a place to begin to articulate my inner vision and meaning and direction and work. My primary transformative experience came out of an extended vision quest, which took me across America, listening to the stories of the people in the land, including the reservations, and which culminated in the ghetto in California. When I experienced the sacrificial love and humility of poor and oppressed people, I awakened to a higher reality and became more sensitized to the inhumanity of systems of power and wealth, the ways of the world. Since then, I have worked within the creative spirit of non-violence, which is a breath of freedom. Speaker 0 00:01:01 I mean, the, the writing, it speaks for itself, but, uh, it draws us to, um, the topic at hand, which, uh, well, there are many things in the, in, in the prose piece you have there, but, uh, the first thing that comes to my mind is work. What, what is work? What is work to you? What, what does work mean to you? Speaker 1 00:01:22 Well, karma Yoga is, uh, uh, work, uh, the work, uh, service, service to humanity, uh, out of love and service to humanity, and especially those who, uh, who have been, uh, beaten down, uh, those who are poor and dispossessed, and to, uh, attempt to be a voice and to, uh, give people access. Uh, and just to, to humanize, get back to the, the humility of creation and, uh, the search for knowledge and the service and love to our, our brothers and sisters, and to, you know, try to do away with things which are a hindrance to that, you know, systems right now, I find myself doing, uh, a lot of work with, uh, people in prison, uh, and the prisons themselves are really, uh, horrible places, uh, systems of great violence and oppression, uh, by being, you know, going there. So, I mean, that, that's one, you know, uh, one way we can explore. And, uh, I've tried to do some work with the peace movement and try to end the war, you know, the present war in, in Afghanistan and Iraq. And, Speaker 0 00:02:42 But, uh, I felt like you wanted to say a little bit more about, uh, some of the work that you were doing with, with individuals who are in prison. Speaker 1 00:02:51 Well, before you had asked about forgiveness, uh, you know, we approach, uh, without judgment, you know, if a, if a person does something like murder another human being, to approach that person with love rather than judgment, you know, and that offers a space for, uh, uh, forgiveness. Uh, and it's, I believe it's a, it's a, it's a more of a discipline to, to, um, when somebody is on that level, you know, of cruelty to, to say something like that. Or if somebody does something to you to not have a kneejerk reaction and, and, and do to them. Uh, so it's a discipline and, um, you, I mean, I, I, we feel that that's the foundation, that mercy is the first connection, uh, compassionate understanding of another human being, regardless of what they did, uh, the circumstance that they're in presently at the moment. Sure. Being responsible for your actions. I, I, I feel that, uh, in order to be responsible, uh, to allow somebody to take responsibility for their action, right? I, I think punishment, punishment doesn't allow a person to be responsible. It just, when you, when you slap a child, or when you, when you treat a child, when you treat another human being with punishment, I don't believe that, uh, you're giving them the opportunity to be accountable for the things they've done in the past. Speaker 0 00:04:18 I was wondering, Chris, if we could talk a little bit about the methods of, uh, the, the methods that you use to achieve the work that you do. Speaker 1 00:04:27 I, I dobel I believe in nonviolence. I don't believe in violent, uh, solutions. So I think that's one of the foundations. Uh, and in order to get there, there's certain, you know, it's a, it's a skill that needs to be learned, like any other skill and a discipline, uh, like any other discipline. Speaker 0 00:04:51 How did you come to this place of, of, uh, utilizing non-violence as a, as an effective means of communication and expression? Well, Speaker 1 00:04:59 Through experience seeing, uh, uh, violence itself, uh, any kind of violence, uh, uh, of, uh, or systematic poverty or, or warfare or prisons and consumerism and, and depleting the earth of its resources, uh, those are all forms of violence. And I don't see how our present path is gonna, uh, it seems that we're on a path of destruction. And from my perspective, in order to, to get off that path of destruction, it's like getting off the wheel. You know, the wheel's going and you step off the wheel, right? Um, so stepping, so there's a certain amount of emancipation, or, or what you would say, uh, detachment, emancipate yourself from that, which would destroy you or emancipate yourself from that, which would do you harm, right? So, I, I, I think that there's a, a certain, uh, emancipation that needs to a, a certain detachment that has to detaching from violence. Speaker 0 00:06:05 It really begins with our own observation of our own dark nature, our own, the, the hatred that resides within each human being must be recognized and addressed in order to let it go and free it, uh, let it go someplace, uh, where it, it doesn't do any harm. Speaker 1 00:06:23 Yeah. I think that's, uh, I mean, with the, uh, for instance, with, uh, uh, uh, blaming terrorism, like pointing the finger, the terrorist, the terrorist, the terrorist, uh, the criminal, the criminal, the criminal. You know, I think there's a, you're absolving yourself. Uh, I mean, it's, we, we, we, there are tendencies within humanity, within ourselves, which, uh, uh, lead to, to violence or destruction or greed or selfishness or, or all these other things, ignorance, these forms of ignorance right there, those things are within us. And to pretend that we are pure of those things, I think is a great damage. You know, so I, I, I do agree that there, we do have to be aware of like that aspect of our nature, but I also believe that there is a, a, another side of our nature, which is, is more, uh, compassionate and, and, and loving and, and searching for truth or more free to be free human beings. Speaker 1 00:07:22 I think that's also part of our, our nature, to not give your energy to, to the one, and to give your energy to the, the more positive one. That that's what I try to practice. And then when I see it in myself, I try to work in it in myself. And then when I see it manifested in other forms, I try to encourage positive movements within other people or, or organizations or, and, and try to disconnect from those, uh, negative aspects. You, you had spoken about reli. This shows about religion, and that's one of the, one of the themes of, from different scriptures of liberation, you know, liberating ourselves from, uh, different, uh, bondages of those forms of ignorance and darkness and greed, and selfishness, and vanity, and violence and hatred, and all those things are, are forms of bondage. Yes. Yes. And so the, the liberation is to, to see it and then to not participate in and to, to, uh, evolve beyond it. Speaker 1 00:08:29 Yeah. So I, I think that, but the, the work then, from your original question about work, uh, the work then is to like, try to create, uh, positive forms, uh, to see, see those negative forms, and then to, to create, uh, uh, positive forms. Um, and one of the things I'm working on is, um, with this organization, uh, called Jesus the Liberator Seminary, in which we, we offer theology courses, uh, for people in prison. And so it's, um, it's a positive education. It's not indoctrination into a a, a particular denomination or, or way of thinking. It's just a, a platform we use. And it, and it tries to, to tap into, uh, to, to see another human being, to, to reach to another human being, to listen to them, to, to validate their experience, you know, their feelings, whatever they may feeling to say that God is, uh, within you, or however you define that word, God, uh, that, that love, that life force is within you. Speaker 1 00:09:34 And, uh, we're just here to try to help you to bring it out process of bringing out that life force, uh, that creative life force is a, is a, is a way of healing. And so it is a, a rehabilitation. Uh, the problem with the prisons is there's no, uh, rehabilitation. It, it's basically a, a dungeon. Uh, people are thrown there, they're discarded. And, and there's also, uh, a lot of policy things that could be done, uh, as far as decriminalizing, uh, drugs, for instance, uh, making drug addiction a health issue rather than a crime issue, or the same, uh, with mental health. Uh, a lot of people in prison are either mentally ill or, uh, uh, drug addicts or Sure. Or, and, and that treating people like that as a criminal rather than, uh, trying to help them as a address, it as a root, uh, concern of health. Speaker 1 00:10:29 Right. And public safety and health, uh, I think would empty half the prisons, and that would then reduce the tax burden, uh, upon, you know, but, uh, the prisons themselves, like the, uh, military in this country, our, our two big industries. And, and when, when a culture and a nation has two of their biggest industries on war and prisons, then that really speaks to the priorities, uh, o of where this culture is going. Again, there there's more positive aspects of, uh, there's a lot of beautiful people in, in this country, and the rehabilitation that that process of rehabilitation and healing, uh, within, within the prison system is, is one form of work, a service, service to others. You know, we offer free education, and it, and it, it tends to be a more, uh, uh, and again, back to religion, there's a, it's a karma yoga, yes. Speaker 1 00:11:24 That a practice of service, but it's also a jina, uh, yoga, which is the path of knowledge. So we are using knowledge as a, in a service of, of, of poor people, right. Uh, and it can also be, uh, our rajas, uh, contemplative knowledge. Um, so there, there are forms of, uh, uh, the forms of meditation that when we clarify the mind or what's called mental afflictions, you know, when people become aware of, uh, what theologically is called a sin or sociologically is called a, a crime, you know, whether a sin or a crime, when we become aware of, like, I think the Greeks called it a, a, a mistake, or, or, or other people have called it disharmony. Yes. So I mean, it, it, whatever word you choose to use, semantics when something is, is outta balance. Uh, and the process of putting things back into balance is we have a, a, a conscious decision to go to do this or to do that. We do. So it, it may in time write itself, but I do believe that we human beings have the, a conscious choice to do this or to do that. So Speaker 0 00:12:32 That's also true. Speaker 1 00:12:33 It is what we do with our time and energy that matters. Speaker 0 00:12:35 I was wondering if you could speak a little bit about your own, um, how your, your prose piece here in your, um, vision quest and awakening, uh, tie into your religious, uh, practices. Speaker 1 00:12:49 Okay. Um, uh, well, I grew up, uh, in Buffalo, uh, you know, working class Catholic. So I grew up in, within the, the Christian and specifically Catholic way of understanding religion. Um, and I would go to church, you know, you know, my mother, she took us to church on a, you know, a devotional, you know, regular schedule. And, um, I put myself into it, you know, and, and I believe that this was the path, you know, that, you know, this, this, this art, this, this thing of whatever, God, you know, whatever ultimate meaning and this higher truth, you know, I thought, well, this is the pathway to get there. And then, um, as I grew older, you know, from a childhood to, you know, a teenager, I start to, you know, look at it a little deeper, you know, and say, you know, uh, where, where's the love? Speaker 1 00:13:47 You know, what, I, I wanna feel it. I wanna really experience, they are intellectually discussing something. But there was a disconnect between the intellectual articulation of it and the, the, the feeling of the feeling of being connected. And then also this thing of like, um, having just one path. Like for instance, I read in, I read in the, the, the New Testament that Jesus said in my father's house, there are many mansions, right? So I understood that as like, there are many pathways in order to understand. So I, I began to explore, you know, different sensibilities and even the articulation of God as a, a father or God as a mother, you know, or to personalize it. And then looking at God as an impersonal, uh, sense, or a force, but the way different religions or denominations, uh, or, or pathways experienced it. But then I wanted to, uh, but that was under the roof of my mother, you know, and, and in a larger way under the roof of the, the mother church. Speaker 1 00:14:53 Yeah. So in order for me to be, uh, independent, to be a free spirit, to be, to think for myself, and to have my own conscience, I had to, to break away, uh, from the tradition that I grew up in. Uh, and I, and so I went out into the world, you know, 18 and that, and, uh, and went and, and, and, and sought after, uh, experience mm-hmm. <affirmative> and to understand, you know, uh, you know, really these, these basic questions of who am I, you know, and, and, you know, what is my purpose kind of thing. And to really explore these on a, a deeper level, and to, to really get to the crux of the matter and to, to, to push the issue until I, I got some status, some answer, right? You know? And that, you know, and I, I always had this, uh, you know, I grew up under the House of America too mm-hmm. Speaker 1 00:15:51 <affirmative>, I grew up under the house of my family, under the house of my church, and I also grew under the house of my nation. Right. And so I had to come to terms with all those, those different houses that I was born into, right. And to understand them for what they are. So I, I felt the need to explore, um, uh, just like I explored, what is this thing of God, I had to explore what is this thing of America, right? And what is this thing of, of me <laugh>, you know? So I had to ask all these other questions of like, and to really search them and to, to, uh, put some effort, you know? Cause I think it's a lot about intention, you know, what is the intention of the heart? Um, but to, to go back to the question then, uh, um, I saw, uh, for instance, uh, different forms of Catholicism in New Orleans, you know, where the, you had African, uh, sensibilities in Caribbean sensibilities and, and forms of belief systems and really culture and, and, and, and the way people relate to one another. Speaker 1 00:17:00 Uh, and also in, um, in the desert in New Mexico and Arizona, uh, there was Catholicism in the, the indigenous forums, uh, the, the, uh, of the Native American people who, who synthesized. So I saw Catholicism synthesized with African and Indian, uh, uh, culture and society within the, within the, the, within that, uh, the, the, the house of the, the Catholic church. And that expanded my, my sense of, uh, it was beyond the European, and that, that then it gets into the history of, of colonialism and, and, uh, and what, what brought, you know, uh, religion here, you know? Uh, but I mean, my feeling is just, uh, that we're all people, right? And that religion, you know, could be, you know, it could be the opiate of the masses, and it could be a, a, a clut, uh, a a crutch, you know? And many, many people use it for that way. Speaker 1 00:18:03 You know, they, it's, um, but the positive aspect of religion is that it's a, it's a, it's a form of knowledge. It's a way of under, of articulating and understanding the world around us, you know, which has been, uh, time tested Yes. You know, and has undergone reformations. And, uh, within every religion has gone through different periods of like cleansing and re-articulation. And, uh, uh, Dr. Martin Luther King, for instance, uh, would, would articulate, um, in that tradition of, of Cesar Chavez and Dorothy Day, uh, of, of connecting, uh, religion with justice and, and justice with the social order, right? You know, that the moral, the moral law has to square with the, uh, the laws of society. And so that the, the, the, this, this moving towards justice and couching it in a, a theological language, you know, that's, uh, expanding it. And, and Gandhi would do the same thing with, uh, with the caste system in India, uh, and, and bringing the, what he called the harigen, the, the children of Hari, the Hari Krishna, and, yeah. Speaker 1 00:19:17 And the Hari. But he connected the Hari, the Hoens with, uh, the poor and the oppressed, the, the lowest caste order. And so he allowed the entrance of the temple, um, uh, and ba eno, bfe and others. Uh, but that was a, and I, and I contemplate that too, of that, uh, of a rural society. And then there's, there's, uh, things here in the United States about, um, uh, I've connected with, uh, some, some of the migrant farm workers, and there's been pilgrimages across New York state. Uh, and, uh, uh, I believe that the, the, the migrant farm workers, primarily from Mexico and Guatemala, are closer to the earth. Uh, they, they, they are people of the earth, you know? Um, and, and the one thing you taught me about, uh, Adam and Adamah, oh, yeah. You know, that, that man, that humanity and the earth are the same root, Speaker 0 00:20:15 Um, man and clay are, are very much, uh, intertwined as that's what we are in a sense. Speaker 1 00:20:22 Right? Right. And the, the, a lot of the, this debate over immigrants, you know, a lot of the migrant workers, the farm workers are people of the collective conscious of the clay. They are the ones who are providing our food for us. And yet, there is a, there is an aspect of this culture that wants to punish. And I still think we, we have to do some work on, uh, racism. You know, we, there are still some people within this culture that are tied into racial consciousness, right. And haven't, are still in bondage to, to racism. And I think that plays into the immigrant and also to the, you know, this war on terrorism or whatever it's called, you know, this, this endless war and this attack upon immigrants. And most of the prisons are people of color. So I think racism is, is a, a big, uh, bondage that we need to be liberated from. Speaker 0 00:21:21 I'm just wondering if you could talk a little bit about how, uh, the, the whole notion of understanding love and forgiveness as they interweave how they play into, um, what we're talking about here. Speaker 1 00:21:34 Well, to, to see another person as a human being, to understand another human being and, and to love them without judgment. Yeah. I, I think our love has increased when we, we begin to understand another person. Yeah. You know, I mean, we can love somebody, but we can love them deeper and deeper. The more we understand them. Speaker 0 00:21:55 The contextual framework from which different people operate, meaning different cultures, have different ways. Values, Speaker 1 00:22:03 Right. Which, which should be a strength, different traditions, different cultures, different religions, different ways of being, should be an interwoven strength. Speaker 0 00:22:13 You've done many different types of work. And in getting back to the prose piece, I just wanted to ask you, when you set off, what were you looking for? Speaker 1 00:22:23 Well, and I don't even know if I was thinking in those terms in, in a sense of like an objective, you know, an objective to be obtained, the, to, to seek after something that you treasure. Uh, there some, uh, some sense of, uh, uh, uh, I'm born into this world, right. You know, <laugh> and, and, and, and what's going on here? And, and I want to know, I want to feel like alive. I wanna know I'm alive. Right. You know? Uh, and so that was the, the impetus that was the intention to, to feel alive and to know, to have a knowledge of, of my life. And I think that that process of like self-discovery, uh, should be done when you're younger, uh, should be, we should give opportunities for people to, uh, explore things like that when they're younger. Uh, and then when you reach a certain age, uh, you see that you, you go and find a gift, and then you bring that gift back for others to, to share. Speaker 1 00:23:32 So there, there's, uh, there, there may be, it may seem like, um, this time of self exploratory is like a, a selfish endeavor. Uh, and on one level it is. But once you have experienced that process, yes. Then you begin to share what you have discovered. And, and with others, we all have to go to school, right? <laugh>, I mean, we don't even have a choice with that. Uh, but, but the, I think the, this, uh, more self-discovery is a different kind of schooling. Uh, it's, uh, it's a different experience that you, you go out into the, into the world and you're kind of education or, or awareness of, of the world. Uh, but then the way that I've discovered that was through service to service to others. Uh, and that's where, when, when I, when I served others, I, I felt, um, compassion, I felt, uh, uh, a deeper sense of, of being alive, you know, of fulfillment. Speaker 1 00:24:37 Yeah. Of, uh, to just, just to seek after knowledge, uh, just for its own sake, or art for art's sake, or knowledge for knowledge sake, or whatever it may be. Just, uh, uh, just endless speculations upon the mysteries of creation. Yeah. You know? But I mean, that knowledge is only made real, uh, when it, when it's shared with, with other people, or when you help another person or you, uh, you, you putting it in action, you experience. Yeah. You action and you experience, uh, suffering. When you, when you, when you feel suffering and you, you transform suffering into, into joy. Right. Uh, that, that's, uh, that's a, uh, well, what's the word? It, it's, it's, you don't get paid money for that, but it, it's, uh, it's, um, it feels like life. But we also, I, I feel that, uh, this sense of, uh, community, uh, is, um, we need to, uh, well, it, it's hard because, uh, the United States is, uh, is, well, I guess any nation really is a, a collection of communities. Speaker 1 00:25:53 Uh, but it's, it's unique and it's, I don't know if we have a national, like in, in times past, there has been a, a, a local deity, or like a, a a, a national God, so to say, or there has been like a, a way, uh, a custom or a tradition, which was shared by all the people in the community, unfortunately, that, that the thing that binds us together is consumption. Yeah. And, and that, that in itself doesn't seem to be, well, it's destructive. It's destroying, uh, you know, causing the greenhouse, you know? Uh, so, uh, one of the other methods is, uh, fasting. And, and that fasting is not just, uh, with, with, uh, abstaining from food. Uh, it's also abstaining from these other negative, uh, afflictions that we have, such as consumption and greed or this, this belief in, in self. What I mean, cuz cuz what what we're talking about of knowledge of self is different than, than being selfish, you know, to, to, to just pursue your own, to lust after, uh, your own rewards, regardless of anything around you is, uh, is encouraged and is a form of selfishness and Speaker 0 00:27:16 Runs contrary to, uh, the teaching from, from, uh, the bagua, even that says to, to relinquish the, the fruits of action, to relinquish the fruits of our work. Right. To do things of themselves, for themselves. Speaker 1 00:27:31 Right. Because when you, when you take the fruits of your action, it, it's in a sense, you're idolizing, you're freezing it in time, and you're not allowing the, the spirit to, to flow freely through. Right. Uh, and, and you may not see the seeds you planted. It's a, it's a, it's a natural law to, uh, that the person who plants the seed, the seed takes time to, to germinate, right. And to, to seek its roots in the dark soil. And then in time it will break the, the surface of the ground and then grow towards the sunlight. That whole process is not just born in an instant, but it, it, it, it takes, you know, a, a a continuum. And so the person who may have planted that seed in the ground, uh, may not be around in the time of the harvest. When, when, when the, the, the fruits of it. So Speaker 1 00:28:26 Joel may plant a seed with a radio show, and, and, and that seed may, uh, be taken up by a listener who will then, uh, take it and, and, and build upon it. Uh, and it's just like the, even in economics where you have a, when you build a house, uh, the, the person who, the mason who lays the, the cornerstone for the house, uh, has a different kind of skill than the carpenter. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> who puts the, the, the boarding up. And, and that, so every person has, uh, a so to see it just in individualistic terms, is, seems to me, contrary to the laws of nature, just like a, even the basics of life, a man and a woman, uh, uh, come together and create a child. Right. So from the very foundations of life, uh, there are two individuals who create one. Uh, and, and, and so this communal, uh, uh, this, this thing of selfishness is contrary to the laws of nature and to the laws and, and, and religion, to your question, when religion is, is, is, is is within nature like that, you know, uh, the spirit of life, you know, to be, to be active it with our, with our sense of justice, uh, uh, if, if we see, uh, uh, suffering, uh, uh, to try to, uh, uh, address it. Right. You know, and to Speaker 0 00:30:02 What are some practical ways that we can alleviate suffering? Speaker 1 00:30:06 Well, I, I, uh, become aware of who you are. I mean, the, Speaker 0 00:30:10 Seems the first step, right? Speaker 1 00:30:11 Well, I don't know if it's the first step, but I'm just the, uh, I'm just saying that to say like, what is your gift? You know, if, uh, uh, there are people who are, who are devotional, uh, like to feed, feed somebody who is hungry. If somebody's hungry, you give them a, a, a piece of food. And that's a form of, uh, alleviating suffering. Right. And then there's also, in that process of giving the food, there's, you are connecting emotionally with another human being. Cuz this sense of isolation or loneliness, uh, is, is, uh, is, is a form of violence. And, and, uh, when, when we feel disconnected or isolated or, or repressed or oppressed, uh, we want to lash out and, uh, generally speaking. So I think, uh, you know, uh, being compassionate, uh, and not seeing it as an act of charity, you know, it's not that you're bestowing some great gift upon another human being. You're, you're simply being human. You know? Right. It is a very human, it is very human to, to extend your, your love and compassion to another human being. And you can't put re that's not about rewards, and it's not about accolades. It's simply, uh, the very human thing to do. I think we've lost our, this sense of humanity that even like, uh, this to be charitable, you know, is somehow, you know, people are put on a pedestal because they're charitable. Well, it's, it shouldn't be that way. It it very natural. Speaker 0 00:31:45 Uh, but it should be, yeah. It reminds me of, um, there's actually, um, uh, the word, uh, akah, which is, uh, Hebrew for, um, charity, actually is derived from the root for righteousness. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> so that there's, um, charity has this, this, uh, um, bestow and bestowed where whereas, um, if if the, the act that is given is out of righteousness, then it, there's something that's more direct and more, um, obligatory that it's an obligation, it's an obligation to give. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, do you see, do you see what I'm saying? Speaker 1 00:32:31 I think so. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. Well, I mean, I, I feel that we have to go to the places that are, uh, where people are, are, are suffering, uh, and to really, uh, uh, be a voice or, uh, that's one method. And then to directly connect, to provide basic needs for another human being that, uh, that people are well fed and with nutritious food, Speaker 0 00:33:01 Just fundamental human rights, Speaker 1 00:33:02 People are Yeah. Fundamental human rights of, uh, shelter and, and Speaker 0 00:33:07 Education, healthcare. Speaker 1 00:33:08 And there's also the dignity of a human being that this, uh, this form of poverty that we have, uh, in this nation is, uh, uh, uh, this sense of low self-esteem, degradation. Right. Uh, and that people fill up this need sometimes with, uh, consumerism to fill up their, their lack with external things. But that's a form of poverty also. Uh, so the riches that form of spiritual poverty of a deep form of spiritual poverty. Yeah. Which is the, the what we have to deal with in this nation, uh, because materially speaking, even with the crisis and talk of recession, all that, uh, we are still relatively well off. Speaker 0 00:33:55 We have abundance here, Speaker 1 00:33:56 There, it's a land of milk and honey, you know, and Speaker 0 00:33:58 It's not shared. Yeah. Speaker 1 00:33:59 And it's not shared. And so this sense of like hoarding or greed Yeah. Is, is, uh, I feel that very intimately of, uh, that, that feels very painful to me. That this, this greed of like, you were born into this world, and yet you are taking it upon yourself to, to hoard the riches of the world for yourself. And that's a form of sickness. That's a, that's a mental illness. That's a, uh, uh, we are very addicted culture and, and, and, and really sick, you know? Uh, and then when you tie that sickness into like, racism and, and criminalization of poor people, well then we have a lot of problems that we do. Yeah. You know, I, I don't know what people are afraid of that are holding onto their, they're hoarding onto their world. Uh, but it's a form of sickness. And I, and I believe it has to, so that's what a doctor, uh, a spiritual doctor, you know, genuine health is a, a, a spiritual healing. Yes. And rehabilitation. Speaker 0 00:35:02 Um, let me ask you a question, cuz it's a question that I have sometimes mm-hmm. <affirmative>, where does God fit into all this? Speaker 1 00:35:10 Well, I think God is real. You know, it's a, it's a, uh, when you love another person and, and, and you come to the truth of, I mean God, I don't believe God. That was my, uh, that was one thing I had to, uh, uh, understand that, that God is not some kind of idea or some kind of abstract notion, but is, is very present among us. It's a feeling, it's a feeling of complete being complete and being at peace with yourself. That's how I, under one way I understand this feeling of, uh, uh, of, of righteous without being righteous. You know, Speaker 0 00:35:45 Chris, I I wanted to, um, also talk a little bit, I know from speaking with you becoming a friend of yours and mm-hmm. <affirmative> you of mine, that, um, one thing we share is that the validity of all the world's religions mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and it's really, um, to get the, to the crux of the heart of, of, um, the expression of those religions is what mm-hmm. <affirmative> seems important here, but I wanted to know religions as structures. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, what are some of your favorite teachings from them, and how do you, how do you connect them? How do you connect those dots? Speaker 1 00:36:20 Um, yeah, that's good. Uh, well, also, I was thinking that, uh, this connection between science and religion, that a lot of people in the 21st century now are starting to explore, uh, uh, connections between science and religion. But a lot of the ancient, actually a lot of the ancient teachings didn't really make a distinction between science and religion, but it was more a way, a pathway of knowledge, a pathway of understanding. Um, but I, uh, I think the, some of the scriptures of India really speak to me, especially the, the disciplines, the various disciplines, the sense of interrelatedness of all creation in the, in the Judaic and the Muslim tradition. This, um, this, this strong sense of right and wrong within the Christian, this, this passion that Christ had. Uh, and maybe some of the zen, uh, like just, you know, just allowing, uh, uh, just, uh, being part of not forcing, you know, just doing and being direct about things. Um, Speaker 0 00:37:33 It seems, it seems like a kind of, uh, it's a little problematic though, right? Like, to to know how to act in the world. We want to be activists, we want to act, and yet at the same time, we need to know when to step back and say, no, not now. Speaker 1 00:37:49 Well, the, the, the wwe the do without doing. Yeah. Yeah. And that is possible. But also I think what is also needed today, uh, the Native American and the African, and the indigenous forms of spirituality, uh, that was when, when, uh, traditions dance are more earth centered. You know, when we talk about, um, the, the, the planetary health and the crisis of global warming and, and, uh, the disconnect we have from the world and from the world of nature, I think a lot of the teachings of indigenous forms of spirituality, uh, particularly here, the Native American, uh, uh, in here in New York State, um, the ho shone people and the people of the longhouse, and having an equality between the men and women, and actually, uh, a matriarchal, uh, where the, the children are, are named after the, the mother. Uh, but having a, a very democratic ecological spirituality, having democracy, ecology, and spirituality come together Yeah. And have rituals. We also don't have a lot of rituals, and we need rituals. Uh, uh, these tap into primordial instincts, I think mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, but I think they're also healthy. So rituals that, that help us to preserve our relationship to the earth and to nature is particularly needed now, uh, in the face of, uh, nuclear weapons and depleted uranium and mass consumption and, uh, these kind of things. I think we really need to explore that. And I, and that's how I understand the connection between science and religion. Sure. Speaker 0 00:39:47 Um, wonderful. Um, yeah, I know that the, the Dalai Lama is, uh, set to, uh, study the interplay between scientific understanding, including, uh, quantum physics and meditation. And turning to that and bringing up the dialogue. I was just wondering if you could say a few words about, uh, the occurrences that, of Tibet and what's going on with Tibet. Speaker 1 00:40:20 I heard, uh, at the, um, last Saturday, the, um, five years of war, beginning of the sixth year in Iraq, uh, there was a, Speaker 1 00:40:35 A a a coming together of people, uh, throughout the nation. And here locally in Buffalo, there was some coming together. And there were two women from Tibet who, who came to that in solidarity. So I I, I mean, their, their, their solidarity was with nonviolence, right. That we were together because we are peaceful pe in their words, peace loving people. Uh, so peace loving people who came together. Uh, now, now I see the, um, whether it's the United States or whether it's China, um, I think that the, uh, you know, the, the United Nations has to be reformed, uh, because China, one of the things in Sudan, in Darfur, uh, apparently CH China, I haven't explored the issue, but the Security Council, of which China's one of the five members, um, but the United States has also, um, gone, has been the solo negative voice in certain things on the Security council also. So whether it's China or the United States, or U S s R, Britain, France, whatever, or any nation, for me, it's like this thing of empires, this, this lust after wealth and power. Speaker 0 00:42:01 Yeah. It's a kind of, uh, corporate neo feudalism. Speaker 1 00:42:04 Yes. And it, and that needs to be addressed. So I don't, I don't, I don't know if it's helpful to point fingers at China or, or, and not look at the United States or vice versa. I just, I try to look at it as, um, can we address the root cause of what is, what is compelling? These, this, uh, from my understanding, um, this accumulation of wealth and power, which many nations and empires have experienced, has been dependent upon some form of slavery or war. Right. So, to be a peace-loving per person, I have to emancipate from the root causes of war and slavery or, or war and slavery are methods towards the accumulation of wealth and power. And maybe some Eastern people would say, maybe that's an expression of ego or whatever. But I'm, I try to look at it like that. So I don't wanna put blame on anybody. Speaker 1 00:43:04 Or certainly the violence has to end, the violence has to end in Iraq, violence has to end in Tibet, violence has to end in Darfur. It has to end in our, in the, in the ghettos of America, the reservations. It has to end in the prison system. It has to end in consumer, you know, wherever there's violence, you know, where whatever the cause I mean, it has to be to, but to, to stand on a, uh, on moralistic grounds and to, to think that you're pure and that person needs to be redeemed. I think that's, um, uh, Dorothy Day had once said, she's, uh, don't call me a saint. I don't wanna be written off that easy <laugh>, you know, in other words, do the work yourself. Don't, don't put, don't say, oh, that person was a beautiful saint. Thank God for them. The, the, the important thing is to, to see their pathway. They opened up certain pathways, and then to take the work and build upon it. It's like the, the thing with the seed. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, this person planted a seed and now it is up to others to build upon that seed that was built. Speaker 0 00:44:07 Thank you, Chris. Speaker 1 00:44:08 Well, thank you for having me.

Other Episodes