Monday, September 19, 2016

Making Violence Obsolete: Anastasia’s Personal Back Story, Part I


“Making Violence Obsolete,” as a movement, being birthed today, has a history. I’d like to begin sharing some of it with you now. 

Here is how I think to begin -- 

Prelude

Every good idea has a beginning; a starting point of significance to someone. Those of us who are able to take ideas and turn them into movements for social change start off with a vision; a mental image that, somehow, speaks pointedly enough to others to attract their support and engagement. Then, somehow, behind this motion, by necessity, lies that someone with enough passion to see the effort through the hard times and seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Apparently I am such a person though I am still not quite used to this idea of myself; a visionary who has the ability and the necessary resilience to create such a movement. Nonetheless, the New Horizons Small “Zones of Peace” Project, which has its formally recognized tenth anniversary this month, appears to now be on its way to launching a movement. 

Imagine that!

The movement is titled the “Making Violence Obsolete” project. It has, at this time as I write, every indication, presently, of becoming a movement. It will be “informally” launched in Frederick, Maryland on Saturday, October 1. Its effectiveness, however, for becoming a change agent in our local community, for which it is being designed, lies far beyond any humble efforts or dreams on my part.

Still, imagine this wonderful opportunity granted me! Who could have known that a woman, me, struggling to deal with blindness and recovery from that ordeal (1998 – 2006) could have had a broad enough vision to bring even this introduction about? I am pledged to do my best with it!

Needless to say I am excited about what is transpiring as I move this project foreward into a heightened level of activity, with the generous and loving support of many. For forty years the foundations of what is now being birthed, city-wide, have been developing quietly, more or less, within me and as a focal point for my loyal students and supporters. Now it seems as if the time of my grandest vison has come about, as my ideas and conscientious efforts, backed up and supported by countless others, moves forward into a broadening public arena such as is happening now. 

Thus, no matter what may be observable to others, on Saturday, October 1, as I take my place as the Executive Director of the New Horizons Support Network, Inc. to introduce our two new project tracks: 1. The “Making Violence Obsolete” community-wide effort and 2. The Counterculture Community Development Experiment, I will be taking a moment out to pause in silence, as the program begins, to give thanks. At that moment I will know that this time and place is infused with a sense of sacredness for me for all that has gone before this day --- and --- the hopes and dreams, shared with many – for which we are yearning for from here forth.

If you can plan to attend, I sure wish you would!

Part II of “Making Violence Obsolete: Anastasia’s Personal Back Story” will give you a brief synopsis of how this all began for me. 

I am alerting you in advance that the whole of my story is at its core – a love story!

More to come.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The World In Chaos


One month ago today my several months long semi-sabbatical/vacation ended. I had imagined I would then be ready to return to “business as usual.” But it was not to be. My scant few blogs of August affirmed that truth. July, with only one blog titled, “These Turbulent Times Have Left Me Speechless,” at least explained most of the “why.” 

In terms of public self-expression, the chaos I felt inside of me inhibited me as I dealt with my eye crisis which is somewhat still ongoing. And, indeed my inner world seemed to be merely a reflection of the chaos I was viewing in the world outside myself.
The world on tilt!

So now it turns out that I have spent more than two months being somewhat of a cave dweller, mostly just sitting and watching the natural world around me, filled, nonetheless, joyfully with the abundance of summer, especially when one adds in the hummingbirds --while most of my energy has gone into healing from trauma and emotional exhaustion.

Along with this, often I feel myself in shock with what I view that the man-made world beyond has created;  people scared and upset, Trump-brand politics generating near-daily volatility, polarization, controversy and more upset and fear, hurricanes, earthquakes, terrorism, citizen-police violence from every corner.  Maybe later I will see this turbulence as transformation – evolution in motion perhaps. Today the experience does not feel uplifting.

While I have been dealing with a death in my family with the near six month near-death crisis once again of my right eye; almost resurrected and then again no more, the world around me is in chaos. For my part, I have needed to turn inward, almost no blogs and no Possible Society In Motion Radio Shows.  My radio show has been a particularly hard transition for me without Jack Slattery, my co-host of three and one-half years. 

In the midst of all this, solitude seemed to be my greatest comfort. Yet solitude has not entirely been my path. Rather rich, rewarding, ever deepening relationships have also surrounded me during this time. I am nurturing these almost daily in spite of the challenges. In the latter regard, you could say that I am living “my truth;” building small “zones of peace” around me as I do my best to manage a world inside of me and outside in chaos.

I often feel as if I am in shock. Certainly I feel traumatized. I think many folks, if not most would say they feel similarly. The presidential election campaign, all of its own, is enough to conjure up this.

But today I decided to “try again” to come out of my silence and peek out from the cave within which I have ensconced myself. Fortunately for me my cave always has sunshine and green trees, flowers growing and herbs aplenty enveloping it.  That has helped me not have the feel of a writer’s block. Just a blank inside myself that came of looking outside into our world so tilted that I have been almost speechless.

Still, as I suggested earlier, at this time of my “feeling” of speechlessness and as if I have been doing nothing, I have actually been doing what I advise others to also do; building my small “zones of peace.” And, indeed I have many more than one.  So as I write this it comes to my attention that while I was “doing” nothing, everything got done.  

To see what I mean, check out the birthing of New Horizons next exciting project, the Counterculture Community Experiment and its associated programs on “Making Violence Obsolete.” 

Oh my goodness, leave it to an over-achiever to not even “see” what she is achieving. That’s how one gets to the “over” part!


A small "zone of peace"
can be anywhere.



Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Back From Vacation…


Not all of it fun by any means as an emergency eye surgery took up much of my time and most of my physical and emotional energy these past few months.  So I did a lot of struggling to climb the mountains of my soul while I have also been taking a time-out, wrestling with myself to adjust to the possibility of possibly being blind again.

The saga is not over yet. When I know the next immediate outcome – and – am ready to speak of it, I will update all of you loyal readers of my blogs about the situation. For now I am just beginning to have enough ease to make a beginning to get back to my normal routines; personal and professional.

Still I was far from idle these past two months, since just after July 4th when I declared a sabbatical for myself. Consequently in the midst of my time of ordeal, challenge and retreat, I managed, with the collaboration of my New Horizons Board of Directors, to birth our VERY exciting next project.

By way of catching up, you with me and me with you, take a look at what we have been creating. 

So here I am, now again, ready, maybe a bit slower than usual, to reach out to all of you, starting to write here once more. 

Look forward, as usual, to my having many stories to share; some about my philosophies of living and facing life and its many tests and adventures, others more directly or indirectly related to New Horizons, the non-profit organization I founded and presently direct.

To get us back, once more, in the swing of things, here is a sampling of what I/we have been creating by "order of the board" while I was on my “time off,” ho ho!

Not bad, eh, for a "productive" sick leave. Ho ho. The creative process helped keep me sane and hopeful during my time out. So celebrate what came of it with me, if you don't mind.

Thanks!

(It may not surprise you that with this mode of a time-out for me that I was also running one of my earlier entrepreneurial enterprises part of the time that I was in labor with my son.  Please know, however, that I am now a long way from THAT level of work compulsion.)

Have a nice Labor Day weekend.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Appeal of “Stronger Together” --


--- broke through my fear, despair and confusion.

I'd been in a slump for months; emotionally exhausted/burned out, a distressing place I'd not experienced before that I can remember.

First off an eye emergency crisis broke out for me in late March. (Last week, after five months with that crisis, surgery started to move the situation onto a healing path that I hope will mark improvement.) Also, during this same time I had gotten myself into a pattern of overworking; somewhat survival-driven which is unlike my norm. 

But overshadowing these, by the time the Democratic National Convention came full circle, I was realizing that for months I'd been functioning under a dark cloud of massive fear and despair. Never before had I ever viewed my privilege of being American-born this way.

Donald Trump was the source!

Previously, America had always been "the home of the free and the brave" for me. Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty and the words of Emma Lazarus, 
"Give me your tired, your poor,Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” 
had been emblazoned on my heart and soul. The America I loved had been the port of salvation, welcoming my immigrant grandparents to its shores, the protecting haven that made a safe, new home for them as they fled their European oppressors.

But over the past months of this year, as the presidential election campaign revved up, I felt this haven being torn apart.

In the depths of my psyche I began to fear a new Hitler, personified by Donald Trump, coming to power in the United States; the potential for increasing divisiveness, hatred and racism barking at our doors. As Donald Trump's favoritism soared, I was growing more and frightened to the very core of my being.

And then, too, Hillary had not been an enviable choice either for the highest leadership position in the land. Many a grudge did I carry regarding her, especially for her denigration of other women, personified most deliberately in the fall of Monica Lewinsky, by virtue or lack thereof, in Lewinsky’s involvement with Bill Clinton. Not unlike that of Camille Cosby, another woman in similar circumstances that I have had difficulty respecting.

Terrorist attacks, police brutality of African-American men and then the retaliation against the police rounded off my fear and despair.

There seemed no place to turn; the demise of America as I knew it was coming. And just as with my eye crisis I felt helpless to affect circumstances while a darkness I'd never known before swept over each day, worsening them as they proceeded forward toward their culmination in the coming November election; a zenith of that darkness and perhaps the apex of a growing deterioration of the America I loved!

Certainly a worsening of circumstances was in the offing as I viewed them.

But then came the Democratic National Convention, following on the heels of Donald Trump’s doom and gloom views of America at the Republican National Convention.  And, at last, I saw daylight in the midst! 

Hillary’s campaign slogan, “Stronger Together,” reinforced a belief I had long held, as in – “It takes a village.” The people of America had been “stronger together” for centuries and we would be still.

Even under the faux leadership of such as Donald Trump this nation of “compassionate warriors” cannot be defeated. We can pull together for that which democracy has stood since it’s official beginnings, “Love trumps hate.”

The Appeal of “Stronger Together” and it’s congruence with what I viewed in the demeanor of speakers at the Democratic National Convention had broken through my fear, despair and confusion.

Once again, though now a registered Independent, I would vote Democrat and feel good about my choice!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

These Turbulent Times Have Left Me Speechless


“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.”  
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.
For me this is a season to be quiet in public as I watch and wait and spend my days, privately, trying to put gentleness first in my life; next to my ceaseless quest for Divine Guidance, amidst tumultuous days that I am trying to see simply as Divine Chaos.  

But serenity and gentleness do not come easily, probably not to anyone else either, these days.

On my end, my way up came when I finally embraced the astrological symbolism of Mars being retrograde; a planetary pattern I had not knowingly encountered previously. Maybe it brought the recent upset into my life. 

What I read of Mars Retrograde corresponded, time wise, almost exactly to a heavy onslaught of turbulence entering my life. Then escalating into high drive by the time another eye crisis almost completely upended the joy I was experiencing in my new found visual clarity.   

It has been one upheaval after another since.  Until I read about Mars retrograde straightening itself out, as my daily astrology report informed me that it would, I wondered if I wasn’t heading full force into my own demise. “Just a matter of days,” I told myself, as I fearfully awaited the doom of my personal, final earthquake.

Then, upon reading of Mars retrograde, I took another look and began to consider that the upheaval I was experiencing might not be anything personal. In fact, perhaps most people, at least the sensitive ones, might have also been aware of the ground rocking beneath them in that same time frame. Now it is a week or so since Mars made its direction change – and – I’ve got to admit I see all kinds of changes occurring toward the positive in my life, personally; the sheer quantity of little shifts quite striking. 

But then there is Baton Rouge and Minnesota and Dallas – and – the presidential campaigns, heading into high gear, as the RNC and DNC conventions get set to start. And, again I am called to realize how chaotic life is these days and helpless I am, or almost so, up against mass upheaval.

All of this comes to a crescendo in my limited purview of the world, alongside the realization that I am now just about one week before my birthday; a day for me and everyone else best suited to giving honor to the sacredness of one’s life. So I think, as I haven’t had much to say anyway this past month as I dealt with one personal upheaval after another, especially my eye crisis, it is time for me to officially take a vacation from blogging, which I have apparently been doing unofficially.  And give myself time to regroup.

With this in mind, I hope to be reminded, once again, as I rest and rejuvenate and heal from my recent eye crisis, of the one thing I can do, remembering one of Helen Keller’s favorite sayings originating with her friend, Everett Edward Hale –
I am only one, 
But still I am one. 
I cannot do everything, 
But still I can do something; 
And because I cannot do everything, 
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
Look to hear more from me around mid-August or so, unless I am moved to pen a word or two before hand when I will again know the “something that I can do” in this sea of turbulence where I am fairly powerless but not entirely.

 In the meantime, I will be doing my best to be serene and gentle up here in the mountains. And, hope to return with a filled reservoir within from which I can, again, speak out on the many reasons and experiences I’ve had that tell me that we MUST make it a a top priority– that we get used to talking to one another – and -- just keep talking to one another to get our societal problems resolved or on the way to solved, no matter what; African American, Native American, Hispanic, Asian and white, Muslim, Christian and Jew etc. etc.!

Without our politicians!!!  They are no where near showing us how to come together at this time. Just talk, talk, talk. I'm ready for action! How about you?

See you in September, if not a bit before.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Anastasia’s Back Story On -- (Part II of II)


The Middle East Crisis In My Backyard: 
How Communities Come Apart and How They Heal

Contact: Anastasia at cell: 240.409.5347, email: SuperSleuthDSW@aol.com

Translated into my more modern Jewish American ways these traditions of the shtetl were set, deeply rooted in me, in a value system that carried its way into what I considered to be a life well lived, personally, and as a part of the greater whole of humanity; a manner of living that makes “thinking globally and acting locally” simply a broadened perspective and an imperative born of shtetl life.

In this paradigm forgiveness and reconciliation are viewed as fundamental to the well-lived life; trumping all other endeavors. But the matter transcends merely being at peace with oneself, ones family and friends or neighbor, the greater world around us and with the Divine. The very process of living by these values demands relentless self-analysis, determination and rigorous discipline. Contained within the endeavor lie the many gifts of alchemy; the transformation of our humanity; the evolutionary process of converting the lead within each of us into gold; individually and collectively.

The effort to live by these values, day-by-day, calling up introspection and an ongoing accountability, is an essential part of charity/social justice that begins at home, especially with oneself. The culmination, as I have learned, is the passing forward of these principles to the next generations by living them. In this way the very essence of tikkun olam, the Jewish notion of world repair, comes alive, as it once did in shtetl life on a much smaller scale.

One need only read the text of Jewish High Holiday rituals and prayers to see the principles of forgiveness, reconciliation and, above all, tsdokeh embodied throughout; not just in words uttered during these holy days, but as precepts to be lived during the course of the year as an essential way of being.  What is transformed on the personal level in the application of these ideologies affects, not only the individual, but also the family. What is transformed in the family ripples outward into the community and beyond. This is how it should naturally be, I believe.

The unexpected ways in which these traditional values of my Jewish heritage came to the fore for me and how I came to have them reinforced at a critical time in my life, by simply, and not simply at all, walking myself through a fire of personal challenge, I have come to call the “Jewish/Muslim Controversy” in my backyard that gave me the title for this book, The Middle East Crisis In My Backyard: How Communities Come Apart And How They Heal.

The experience changed my life, both personally and professionally. I hope it will inspire yours.

This book, beyond all else, is a gift to my children and my children’s children. I want them to  know of the yearnings of my heart in a detailed way that only memoir can offer -- and -- how these were formed through the interactional by-play of my personal relationships, those of my community and myself. In this special way I want them to also learn how practically significant, sacred and spiritually awakening my journey has been.

From my effort I want my children to know and live by values that shaped me that I most revere; many of them rooted in the culture of the shtetl. I trust these to be a pathway to the higher levels of human development, family and community well-being and world peace; again tikkun olam.

Not that I believe that the old ways of the shtetl should be embraced, wholesale, but that, as with other traditional cultures in the process of dying out or already having died out, there are things to learn from a heritage, such as this, that can help us live more whole-heartedly and beautifully in our contemporary lives than we could ever dream up on our own, even by plowing through all the knowledge presently archived on the internet.

To read about an ancient or traditional culture is not the same as knowing it in one’s heart and soul. This soulfulness must be preserved, if at all possible. And we, of the generations that can still convey remnants of the shtetl way of life through direct contact, albeit it  second hand, are carriers, perhaps the last, of a great cultural knowledge, wisdom and experience that must be honored, if humanity is to now grow beyond itself.

But how does a shtetl-influenced Wandering Jew such as I had become, by the time of the tale I’m about to tell, make the transition from anti-Semitic Jew, which I had also become, to being once more a “good Jew.”?  This is my tale of how I made the shift and how in effecting it I validated the profound words and thinking of my dear friend, Rabbi Edwin Friedman –

“There is an intrinsic relationship between our capacity to put families together (groups or other organizational systems) and our ability to put ourselves together.”

(Marcia) Anastasia Rosen-Jones
Passover Eve, April 22, 2016

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Anastasia’s Back Story On -- (Part I of II)


The Middle East Crisis (In My Backyard: 
How Communities Come Apart and How They Heal

Contact: Anastasia at cell: 240.409.5347, email: SuperSleuthDSW@aol.com

The words tikkun olam, Hebrew for world repair and/or variations on this theme, have come to symbolize a certain philosophy of contemporary Jews. For many of us born around or after World War II these words have become a statement of our pledge that, not only shall we never forget what Hitler exacted of our people but our intention to build, out of this devastation, a world where things such as this would never occur again.

As I am of this generation of Jewish Americans, heavily marked by the persecution suffered by parents and grandparents who fled the oppression of the Czar in Eastern Europe and, in my case, a stepmother who was a German Holocaust survivor, the promise and the pledge of these words have been easily embraced. After all, in our homes we grew up with the stain of these tragedies affecting those closest to us. Thus we too were heavily impacted. As a result social justice and activism come naturally to us as an essential part of daily life. In fact social justice is an intrinsic facet of our heritage, especially that of Eastern Europe.

However, not having heard too much, directly, of the ordeals lived through by my grandparents or my stepmother who I called Mom, those in my family to immigrate to the United States, most of what I know of these trials came to me through the accounts of others more distant; most often from oral and written accounts of people outside my family. In retrospect I see now that the members of my family, rather than telling authentic stories of the difficulties of their lives in the “old country” generally masked their personal experiences of a negative vein with cover stories offered of a more palatable fare, before life in the United States. 

Seldom did they reveal their personal or even collective difficulties. An outward focus on present day life in the United States was the norm. Although on occasion my Mom would share a tale or two from her life in Shanghai, China after fleeing Hitler. Among these was that she and her first husband had fled there in 1939 where they remained until the Liberation in 1946.  By then she had divorced him, justifying her decision on his being unwilling to work in Shanghai where they lived in a refugee camp and knew even doctors to hire themselves out as bicycle messengers.

Even with limited knowledge of what our family members endured, many of us grew up with sensitivity to our elders and the personal wounds they harbored. As young adults, especially in the era of the sixties and seventies up against civil rights, women’s rights and Viet Nam, this understanding could easily find expression in social and political activism.

No doubt it is this inborn activism that prompts my writing of this book. An equal, if not stronger influence on me, also shaping the intent of this book, is that from my biological mother I inherited a natural affinity for shtetl life; its customs and philosophies. The traditional shtetl, long gone from modern life, was originally a small Jewish town or village which existed in Eastern Europe before the Holocaust. Shtetl life was typically communal in spirit and carried its own culture in terms of having a language, Yiddish, and traditions, based primarily on the teachings of the Talmud, a central text of Rabbinic Judaism. 

Tsdokeh, a word often used to imply charity, but more accurately denoting social justice, was one of the most important tenets of the cultural values of the Jewish shtetl; the benevolence of good deeds being the “central mechanism by which (the) community” functioned. So supremely important was this value that “good deeds” were seen as basic to being a good Jew.

The Broadway musical, Fiddler On The Roof, depicts a slice of this way of life; a vivid picture of communal life, fraught with interpersonal complexities, yet filled, too, with loyalties, love and laughter, song and celebration.  Tsdokeh underlies all of this.

Yet these distinctive cultures were, not only distinct from other mainstream Eastern Europeans, but were sometimes also poles apart from one another.  One example of this is that there were both Chasidic and non-Chasidic shtetls that often disparaged one another based on their differences. The shtetl of my heritage was definitively Orthodox but non-Chasidic with the Chasids often arousing superstition, even seen as harbingers of evil.

Translated into my more modern Jewish American ways these traditions of the shtetl were set, deeply rooted in me, in a value system that carried its way into what I considered to be a life well lived, personally, and as a part of the greater whole of humanity; a manner of living that makes “thinking globally and acting locally” simply a broadened perspective and an imperative born of shtetl life. 

To be continued.