Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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What always outlasts war

As a U.S. military brat in the 1960s, my first friends were German families.

Then I married another brat who’d also spent part of his childhood in Germany and we began returning there as often as we could.

I realized that if I wanted to understand this culture I love so much (as I struggled to relearn its language), I needed to understand more about Germany’s experience during the war.

Never could I have imagined how quickly that intention would take me straight to Hitler’s living room. Within a week, I received a copy of British writer Angela Lambert’s biography of Eva Braun. Then a combination of unexpected circumstances led to my owning the portrait of Braun that unwound the sequence of events in my novel, The Munich Girl.

A major turning point in the story’s development occurred when I discovered, while researching the Trials at Nuremberg, that an action of Eva Braun’s in the last week of her life saved the lives of about 35,000 Allied prisoners of war. Two members of my mother’s family were likely among them.

This led me to new levels in the unfolding book’s story, spurred by the idea that the reality of situations is always deeper and more complex than things may appear on the surface.

I was also struck by how the power of real friendships, no matter the circumstances around them, can have beneficial effects in many lives, effects that can linger on generations later.

The question people asked me from the beginning is one they still ask: “Why Eva Braun? Why THIS woman?” Of course, lots of people feel strongly that she deserves no time or attention at all.

The story’s goal has never been to try to exonerate or “redeem” her, or how she is perceived. She’s an excellent motif for examining how people, especially women, suppress our own lives, and what forces and factors lead us to do that.

She also offers a way to look at the reality that human beings are complex. She clearly had a conscience, and acted on it, and, like most of us, tried to make good choices — choices to serve good — when she could. She also made choices that served neither herself nor others very well.

Do we negate or devalue the contributions that someone makes because they also do things that are misguided, ill-advised, or even personally destructive?

Do we not all share this same complexity in experience? And how might that help us to gain new understandings about compassion and forgiveness? These are themes I wanted to explore.

The novel’s timeline alternates between the period of the war and 50 years after the end of it. That later time frame was an important juncture for humanity, I feel, one that invites us to look again, and more deeply, at what remains unrecognized and unresolved, and perhaps overlooked, in that immense, human-initiated catastrophe that was the second world war.

The year 1995 is also already “historical” in fiction’s terms, because it’s from about that point that technology of the virtual world began asserting itself, rendering a very different human experience in our world today. To the extent that this material advancement isn’t matched by the development of inner-life values, deepening awareness about our world and its history, and willingness to investigate and face truth, I believe we continue to experience — even prolong — pain, chaos, and suffering.

One revelation I encountered in my research was that much of what had been written about Eva Braun was often incomplete, frequently inaccurate — and sometimes, the details of an entirely different person’s life. Yet these things have been widely circulated and accepted as truth.

This made me wonder: how much of the truth do we miss because we approach finding it with ingrained, inherited — often blindly imitative — assumptions? In other words, how much do our biases trip us up before we even get started?

And, how much of our unwillingness to investigate truth for ourselves blinds us to reality?

We live in a time of bigger cycles revealing bigger truths. On the most human level, how might compassionate, united perspective, and a willingness to begin with unity assist our progression through this?

How might we be guided by what always outlasts war — the legacies of love?

Find more about The Munich Girl at: http://smarturl.it/qkttw4


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To forgive the very world

Photo courtesy of N. Augusta Vincent.

 

After both of my parents had died, I put off sorting through the boxes of their belongings that had accumulated like small mountains in our house.

Then I woke one day with the urge to explore them.

I was plunged into stirred-up memories and stored-up feelings.

As if whispered into my thoughts, an idea I’d encountered years ago in the work of psychologist Erik Blumenthal reminded:

“The person who comes to understand his parents can forgive the world.”

Photo courtesy D. Kirkup Designs / https://www.etsy.com/shop/DKirkupDesigns.

The writer, who grew up Jewish in Nazi Germany, knew firsthand how painful experience often makes forgiveness seem impossible.

Yet he emphasized two needs that he believed eventually call to each of us: to become more understanding, beyond our rigid “certainties”, and to accept the freedom that forgiveness bestows.

As I unpacked my parents’ things, I gained a deeper view of what they had faced and the weight of the efforts and decisions they made. When they met, they were two people in their 20s entering a cross-cultural marriage at a time when no one knew what the next day would bring, who would live or die, or even what language everyone would be speaking, depending on the outcome of the biggest war the world had known.

A bird’s-eye view of the German town where I lived with my military family.

I can now see, and appreciate even more fully, that whatever their circumstances, troubles, and significant mistakes or missteps, they made a place for me in this world, and stuck with that commitment.

I’m reminded of words of Rumi’s:

“When you eventually see through the veils to how things really are, you will keep saying again and again, this is certainly not like we thought it was.”

As I uncovered a broader view of my parents’ lives, I could see that most of my own resistance to forgiveness was forged at a stage when the imprint of my parents’ perceived omnipotence led me to believe that they were always in charge, in the know, in control of all situations.

I now share with them the certainty that that was never true, and the humbling realization that, whatever the hurts, it is not, indeed, as I thought it was.

It’s been observed that many people hold back from forgiveness because they believe it might go against the grain of justice, might excuse a wrong or deny its occurrence.

But when we find a willingness to see beyond our own view about any situation, especially the actions and choices of others, it disarms that tendency our perception has to keep us wedded to beliefs that not only make us feel bad, but impede our healing and progress, too.

Adapted from Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details.


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Seed of Reality, Tree of Life

Photo: N. Augusta Vincent

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

From the seed of reality religion has grown into a tree which has put forth leaves and branches, blossoms and fruit. After a time this tree has fallen into a condition of decay. The leaves and blossoms have withered and perished; the tree has become stricken and fruitless. It is not reasonable that man should hold to the old tree, claiming that its life forces are undiminished, its fruit unequaled, its existence eternal.

The seed of reality must be sown again in human hearts in order that a new tree may grow therefrom and new divine fruits refresh the world. By this means the nations and peoples now divergent in religion will be brought into unity, imitations will be forsaken, and a universal brotherhood in reality itself will be established.

~ ‘Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace

Artwork: Tobey A. Ring

Even though we find a defective branch or leaf upon this tree of humanity or an imperfect blossom, it, nevertheless, belongs to this tree and not to another.

Therefore, it is our duty to protect and cultivate this tree until it reaches perfection. If we examine its fruit and find it imperfect, we must strive to make it perfect.

There are souls in the human world who are ignorant; we must make them knowing. Some growing upon the tree are weak and ailing; we must assist them toward health and recovery. If they are as infants in development, we must minister to them until they attain maturity.

We should never detest and shun them as objectionable and unworthy. We must treat them with honor, respect and kindness; for God has created them and not Satan. They are not manifestations of the wrath of God but evidences of His divine favor. God, the Creator, has endowed them with physical, mental and spiritual qualities that they may seek to know and do His will; therefore, they are not objects of His wrath and condemnation.

In brief, all humanity must be looked upon with love, kindness and respect; for what we behold in them are none other than the signs and traces of God Himself. All are evidences of God; therefore, how shall we be justified in debasing and belittling them, uttering anathema and preventing them from drawing near unto His mercy? This is ignorance and injustice, displeasing to God; for in His sight all are His servants.”

 ~ Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 230


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Making room for the new, and the good

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

“Taz,” courtesy of Jon Ring.

 

When you suffer because of discrimination, there’s always an urge to speak out. But even if you spend a thousand years speaking out, your suffering won’t be relieved.

Only through deep understanding and liberation from ignorance can you be liberated from your suffering.

When you break through to the truth, compassion springs up like a stream of water. With that compassion, you can embrace even the people who have persecuted you.

When you’re motivated by desire to help those who are victims of ignorance, only then are you free from your suffering and feelings of violation. 

Don’t wait for things to change around you. You have to practice liberating yourself. Then you will be equipped with the power of compassion and understanding, the only kind of power that can help transform an environment full of injustice and discrimination.

You have to become such a person — one who can embody tolerance, understanding, and compassion. You transform yourself into an instrument for social change and change in the collective consciousness of mankind.

 ~ Thich Nhat Hanh, Answers from the Heart: Practical Responses To Life’s Burning Questions

No matter how it seems out there, humanity IS evolving from war-like competitiveness to peaceful and loving connectedness and CO-existence.

… the chaos we are experiencing in the outer world is nothing more than our own resistance to freedom and peace.

And notice that the deeper “resistance to change” digs in its heels, the more irrational it becomes.

~ Christine DeLorey

I do believe in simplicity. It is astonishing as well as sad, how many trivial affairs even the wisest thinks he must attend to in a day; how singular an affair he thinks he must omit.

When the mathematician would solve a difficult problem, he first frees the equation of all incumbrances, and reduces it to its simplest terms. So simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real. Probe the earth to see where your main roots run.

~ Henry David Thoreau

Your life situation may be full of problems — most life situations are — but find out if you have any problem at this moment.

Not tomorrow or in ten minutes, but now. Do you have a problem now?

When you are full of problems, there is no room for anything new to enter, no room for a solution.

So whenever you can, make some room, create some space, so that you find the life underneath your life situation.

~ Eckhart Tolle

 


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Living in an eternal kind of way

 

How does coming to understand who it is we are created to be change the way we see ourselves, each other, and our world?

Perhaps this understanding welcomes in a new way of thinking and perceiving that flows out of love and attraction toward the latent spiritual gifts in myself and others that are waiting to be revealed.

Do I remember that I can always choose this love and attraction over the kind of near-instinctual reactions that arise from a fear that’s rooted in the mind’s preoccupation with mortality and physical survival? That crippling fear has kept humanity, human thinking, and our greatest possibilities entrapped for eons.

I’m not going to survive physically forever, nor is anyone else. I wonder why that aspect of life receives so very much attention? Might it be that some believe that’s all there is? All that we are here for?

12694774_1101434059887387_3146455513196508987_oVery possibly, however, we may have the chance to begin living in an eternal kind of way as we invite and employ what lasts forever – those gifts and qualities within us that await discovery, like gems in a mine. The ones that we uncover during presence, and awareness.

“Only our spiritual nature can look beyond outward appearances, first impressions and personality flaws to see `all the virtues of the world of humanity latent within’ ourselves and each other,” I’m reminded. It’s this core part of my self that has the capacity to “perceive honor and nobility in every human being”, including this one who looks back from the mirror each day.

For the first time, the realization of human oneness, in reality, is within our grasp. And each of us is invited to discover our unique, true identity as a soul, as well as our unique purpose, and our unique way of solving problems as a part of what is one reality, whatever kinds of separations we  may dream up or imagine.

“Happy are those who spend their days in gaining knowledge, in discovering the secrets of nature, and in penetrating the subtleties of pure truth,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has reminded in a book called Some Answered Questions. WTOEimage.php

Happy indeed.

 

Excerpted from With Thine Own Eyes: Why Imitate the Past When We Can Investigate Reality?

More information: http://www.amazon.com/With-Thine-Own-Eyes-Investigate-ebook/dp/B00I1JPC7I/ref=pd_sim_kstore_11?ie=UTF8&refRID=0TQC490J7FVBRTJWM70H

Print version at: http://www.bahairesources.com/with-thine-own-eyes.html

 

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In a Light-infused season

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Claude Monet, The Road in front of Saint-Siméon Farm in Winter, 1867.

 

O PEOPLES of the world! The Sun of Truth hath risen to illumine the whole earth, and to spiritualize the community of man. Laudable are the results and the fruits thereof, abundant the holy evidences deriving from this grace.

This is mercy unalloyed and purest bounty; it is light for the world and all its peoples; it is harmony and fellowship, and love and solidarity; indeed it is compassion and unity, and the end of foreignness; it is the being at one, in complete dignity and freedom, with all on earth.

~ ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha  944080_1103095966369547_7004980646450369999_n

 

There are two kinds of light.

There is the visible light of the sun, by whose aid we can discern the beauties of the world around us—without this we could see nothing.

Nevertheless, though it is the function of this light to make things visible to us, it cannot give us the power to see them or to understand what their various charms may be, for this light has no intelligence, no consciousness.

It is the light of the intellect which gives us knowledge and understanding, and without this light the physical eyes would be useless. 12241461_10150706218954999_7988366078325665830_n

This light of the intellect is the highest light that exists, for it is born of the Light Divine.

The light of the intellect enables us to understand and realize all that exists, but it is only the Divine Light that can give us sight for the invisible things, and which enables us to see truths that will only be visible to the world thousands of years hence.

 

~ ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks

 


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Life’s generous invitations

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Photo: Saffron Moser

Spring flowers remind us to be happy.

It’s as though God treasured this invitation in each one, then spread them abundantly about the landscape to ensure we wouldn’t miss it.

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Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t. 

~ Steve Maraboli

IMG_1567

Painting: Judy Wright

 

Every day of your life is a page of your history. 

~ North African proverb

Life is lived forwards but understood backwards.

~ Congolese proverb

She who has not carried a load herself does not know how heavy it is.

~ Ugandan proverb


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The glorious leap awaiting us

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Image: EnochsVision.com

Humanity is on the verge of a spiritual evolutionary leap into a future where lasting global peace is not only possible but inevitable.

The human family is moving toward this stage of spiritual maturity through a dawning recognition of the oneness and interrelatedness in which it has been created, together with all of creation, and through the release of the gems of spiritual potential that await expression in every human heart.

As human beings, we’re held back in this process to the degree that we lack understanding about our true identity and purpose.

11800190_10155878221225385_4242285263363148219_nAll around us, we can see the ways in which this lack of understanding has reached a state of desperation that is reflected in disastrous consequences at every level of human relationship.

As souls gain awareness and understanding of our truest identity and purpose, humanity will come to understand that the forces at work in human life are impelling us away from a centuries-old preoccupation with survival and “fighting evil” towards our highest destiny: a creative, collaborative and potentially limitless building of the good, in which every individual has a part to play and every culture its unique contributions to make. WTOEimage.php

Explore these and related themes in With Thine Own Eyes: Why Imitate the Past When We Can Investigate Reality?

Learn more at:

http://www.amazon.com/With-Thine-Own-Eyes-Investigate-ebook/dp/B00I1JPC7I/ref=pd_sim_kstore_11?ie=UTF8&refRID=0TQC490J7FVBRTJWM70H

Print version at: http://www.bahairesources.com/with-thine-own-eyes.html


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Uncovering our inner diamonds

My thanks to Ron Tomanio for this Guest Post, from his Walking the Mystical Path with Practical Feet series:

Surviving Difficult and Painful Events – Unearthing the Diamonds Within

The Great Being saith: Regard man as mine rich in gems of inestimable value. ~  Baha’u’llah

Untitled1We see sparkling diamonds that have been cut and polished without giving a lot of thought to the difficult mining process that produced such beauty. Unearthing spiritual diamonds can also be a difficult process, but results in fully rounded wondrous qualities that have existed in a state of potentiality within us since the moment of our creation

            If we are fortunate, we have some friends who live lives of beauty every day. Sometimes we are privy to know the difficult and painful events that have shaped them, but more often we see, like the diamonds in a jewelry store, only the finished product.

             One such friend was Larry Akeley. Larry’s father was an engineer who had great expectations that his son would follow in his footsteps by pursuing an engineering degree. Larry tried, he really tried, but God did not endow him with that sort of mind. He dropped out of college and his father was furious. He told Larry, “You’re no son of mine!”

 Mirror Love             This comment crushed Larry and he spiraled downhill falling every way an individual can fall—drugs, nervous breakdown. and finally, homelessness that led him to live in the New-Hampshire woods in an abandoned cabin. The day came when he decided to choose quick suicide over slow suicide. His plan was to walk out of the woods to the main road turn right and meet up with other drug-users living in the woods and take an overdose. He stood at the crossroads and for reasons he didn’t understand, chose to turn left and away from taking his life, at least for the moment. He had no plan beyond putting one foot in front of the other.

An elderly woman stopped and offered him a ride. He was stunned, but he accepted. She offered to take him to her home where she gave him some of her son’s clothes and allowed him to use her shower. She gave him a hot meal and hope and they became lifelong friends.

             Decades went by and Larry’s father developed dementia. His mother became the primary caregiver until she passed away. Then Larry helped take care of his father like the elderly lady took care of him years earlier. Toward the end of his father’s life the nursing home insisted on strapping his father to the bed at night because he would roll out of bed and hurt himself. Seeing his father restrained in this way bothered the soft-hearted Larry. His solution was to sleep at night on the floor next to his father’s bed and let his father fall on his soft, cushy belly. WTOEimage.php

Because he was willing to let his experience help mine his inner diamonds, Larry accessed the educational aspects of his difficult experience while avoiding its potentially destructive aspects. He let it break open his heart, developing facets of the qualities of love and forgiveness that he might not otherwise have acquired.

Larry’s own life came to its end just a few years later. The brilliance of his spiritual transcendence still shines brightly for those of us who knew him here, and love him still.

Ronald Tomanio is a co-author of With Thine Own Eyes: Why Imitate the Past, When We Can Investigate Reality? Find more information about the book at:

http://www.amazon.com/With-Thine-Own-Eyes-Investigate-ebook/dp/B00I1JPC7I/ref=pd_sim_kstore_11?ie=UTF8&refRID=0TQC490J7FVBRTJWM70H

Print version at: http://www.bahairesources.com/with-thine-own-eyes.html


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The cheeseburger that beat out prejudice

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Prior to his deployment to Korea in the early 1950s, a friend named Bernie was on his way home one steamy Southern day. Just 19, he’d grown up in the North and had just completed basic training down South. He was eager to get home to see his family before shipping out overseas.

Dressed in his stiff khakis, he was waiting at a bus depot in South Carolina on a day of triple-digit temperatures. His starched collar was tight around his neck, and as he entered the depot, he looked longingly at the air-conditioned waiting room on one side of the building.

Then he turned toward the cramped, stifling room marked “Colored”, went in and politely ordered a cheeseburger at its small counter.

IMG_0608The members of his family, like many African-Americans, had a wide range of skin colors because of a heritage of African, Native American, and European ancestry. The options this gave him as a light-skinned man were quickly brought to his attention when the man behind the counter leaned over to talk. The older man lowered his voice and told Bernie, “Now look, son, there’s no reason for you to get that nice uniform all messed up in here where it’s too hot to breathe. You’re serving your country; you deserve a break. Nobody here’s gonna know the difference if you go over there with the white folks and have your lunch where it’s cool. Go get comfortable before you take that long ride home,” he urged.

The roomful of people grew quiet as Bernie thanked the man, then told him, “I’m happy to stay right here.” His reply drew warm smiles, nods, and “God bless yous” from around the room. He was enjoying the first few bites of his lunch when two white police officers strode into the room. The lively chatter instantly ceased as the two made their way toward Bernie.

He braced himself for whatever might be coming, then was completely surprised by the placating tone of the officer who did all of the talking. “Now son, you’ve obviously made a mistake. We know you’re probably not familiar with the way we do things around here. There’s no reason for you to stay here where you surely don’t belong. You just take your lunch there and come on over next door where you can be cool and comfortable.”

When Bernie started to explain that he was happy to stay where he was, the man behind the counter gave him a warning look. So Bernie stopped talking.

Then the police officer continued, “Now, we sure don’t want any trouble here, son. You’d best come with us and be with your kind, where you belong.” The policeman’s tone had grown much sterner, Bernie noticed, echoing through the complete silence in the room. IMG_3155

The young soldier shrugged and rose to comply with the policeman’s request.The one who had done the talking stooped to lift Bernie’s duffel bag to his shoulder, and the other policeman carried Bernie’s plate and glass of milk carefully. Every set of eyes in the room was watching as the officers escorted the young black soldier as deferentially as if he were a visiting dignitary.

The most memorable moment came after the room’s double doors closed behind the three men. There was another beat of silence, and then the entire room broke into a chorus of delighted cheers and applause. Bernie, now a grandfather, says that he imagined that a great many of his ancestors were cheering right along with them.

312q7DGYsbL._SL110_Adapted from Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details

http://www.amazon.com/Life-First-Sight-Finding-Details-ebook/dp/B00B5MR9B0/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1385482351