Monthly Archives: December 2019

An Attack on One is an Attack on All

After a series of cowardly and terrible acts against Jewish communities in New York, London and elsewhere over this past Hanukkah, I was reminded of this historic photograph. It was taken by Rachel Posner, the wife of Rabbi Akiva Posner, in 1932 at their home in Kiel, Germany. It was only a month before Hitler came to power.
As fascism sadly made significant gains around the world this past year, defiance to social hatred, brutality and dehumanization, whether organized or not, is something that we must not take for granted. From the Amazon to the streets of Beirut, ordinary people have taken courageous stands against repression, often placing their very bodies on the line. But solidarity is the most important of values we have today. So even though there are those who will use these attacks as a tactic of divide and conquer, or who will resort to xenophobia and vilification of the ‘other’ to gain political points, the truth is that an attack on one is an attack on all.
Regardless of our faith or the absence of one, each of us has a menorah to place in our front windows. It makes no difference if the flags of hate loom larger than our emblem of defiance to them. After all, it might be a flickering candle of desperate hope. A light for the way out, for people you might not even know or ever meet.
Kenn Orphan   December 2019

Remembering Ram Dass

“We are all just walking each other home.” – Ram Dass, Richard Alpert (April 6, 1931 – December 22, 2019)

When I think of the marvelous life of Ram Dass I can think of so many gems of simple, yet extraordinary insight, wisdom and compassion. He is being dismissively referred to as a “New Age guru,” and he would probably laugh about that. But his life work was far more than being a guru. He worked with the dying and instilled a needed dignity and compassion to this field. And his teachings helped to enliven my spiritual life at a time when I was walking in a parched desert. A time when I felt there was no one to walk me home. He is part of the reason I entered into hospice care work.

In truth, there are so many quotes that I thought of, like “In most of our human relationships, we spend much of our time reassuring one another that our costumes of identity are on straight.” What a great understanding of the ego and theatre that defines our societal transactions. Or “Treat everyone you meet like God in drag.” I love that one especially since it isn’t merely about God in disguise, but God in drag. How fabulous is that?

And when he said “religions are founded by what mystics say when they come back; but what the mystics say is not the same as what happened to them,” my disillusioned eyes were opened. Religion is humanity’s very imperfect explanation of the transcendent. Then there was this: “We’re here to awaken from the illusion of separateness.” That one perfectly describes our existential situation, especially in a time where dehumanization is rife and nature has been reduced to a commodity or rendered a barcode.

But the above quote sums things up the best to me, because it isn’t just about our own path. Our path intersects with everyone elses path. And our task is not one of leader or guide, but one of companion, in solidarity.

“When you go out into the woods, and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree.

The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying ‘You are too this, or I’m too this.’ That judgment mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.” – Ram Dass


भगवान की गति.

Rest in peace, Baba.