Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Let Me Feel



In a world where information quickly enters our mind and then leaves our consciousness, and a civilization in which people are often detached from their emotions, it can be hard to know how to respond to tragedy. A Faceb**k status or Twitter update often times give reference or details to the particular event, but rarely holds much weight, and is often quickly forgotten as the newest piece of information is uploaded.

This reality hit me last week, as I was briefly watching the evening news at a friend's house. The broadcaster quickly read off one headline to the next, not leaving any room for impact or digestion of the events. What stood out to me amongst the national headlines was the story of a 6 year old boy who was hit by a car and killed as he, his mother and younger sister were crossing the street. The reporter simply brought it to the viewers attention for only about a 15 seconds before listing off the next piece of news. I stopped. Physically, emotionally. I think i even held my breath for a moment. How could we have become so calloused to this kind of news? As if this mother's loss was just a 'headline', 'a piece of public information'. In that moment I thought of the mother of this young boy. I thought of the driver that hit him. I thought of the little sister. These people's lives will be forever impacted by this traumatic event, and yet it only gets a 15 second timeframe on the evening news. It just seemed so wrong to me.

Today this hit me again, as I read the Faceb**k updates and the local online news piece detailing the death of a young man I was once very close to. Early in the morning on the 31st December (around 12.30am PST), a 23 year old man was driving under the influence of alcohol and crashed into the car of another young man, my friend Brox, who was only 20 yrs old. Reports say that Brox died at the scene, and the other driver, Travis, was taken to hospital where he also died. I was stunned. In shock. As my eyes raced down the webpage reading the details of the crash, they began to fill with tears. "No! No! No!", my heart screamed. I went back to FB and scanned through my newsfeed again… reading the posts from my friends who are grieving, from the pastor who is writing the words for Brox's memorial service, from other friends offering comfort and sharing stories of how Brox had impacted their lives. I, too, wrote a FB status update sending my thoughts and love  in memory of both these young boys and my condolences to their families and friends into cyberspace. Then I turned off the computer. I needed to grieve. To let it come. To think back on the memories I shared with Brox - his smile, his laughter, the way he always looked for the silverlining. And then I picked up my guitar and began to play. The video below is what came…. Part of me wishes I was tech-savvy enough to separate the audio from the video so people wouldn't have to see my messy hair, my tear-stained cheeks, etc. That part of me wishes my strumming was better and that I didn't sing out of pitch. But that's something I've learned about grief - it's not always 'put-together', perfect or polished. It's usually messy, raw and unedited. And I'm learning to be vulnerable, to let people see the raw, messy me, and to let grief come. To let the tears flow down my cheeks, the anger rise up in my blood, and the questions of "why?" and "how?" surface in my mind. I don't have the answers to these questions, of course. But sometimes it's about being honest enough with ourselves to just ask without needing an answer. Sometimes it's about letting our emotions 'get the better of us'. Sometimes it's about recognizing that Brox's life was worth me singing an out-of-tune, poor rhythm, messy, raw song in order to grieve. 

So it's not perfect, but it's purposed.

For Brox, for his legacy, his family and friends… and for each of us that needs to let ourselves grieve.


video


Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Letter to the President

Are your children or the children you know really protected in America? Are their rights being advocated for? Children are being sold and traded every day, and what's to say that their "right to protection" isn't being further violated? Did you know the United States government has not ratified the Convention of the Rights of the Child? It is only one of three nations (the others being Somalia and South Sudan) that have not ratified this document into legislation, even though it was signed by former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Madeline Albright, in 1995. That's almost 20 years ago! Here's my appeal to President Obama. What about yours?

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Dear Mr President Barak Obama,

After the shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school on December 14, 2012, you were seen in media footage around the world standing with children to implore Congress to enact a ban on the sale of military-style assault weapons and to institute background checks for all gun buyers. While there has been great controversy over this, it was clear that you were displaying a message to advocate for the protection of children.  

I am writing to urge you to ratify the United Nation's Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC or CROC here in Australia). As a U.S. citizen, it appals me that we are one of three nations (the others being Somalia and South Sudan) that have not ratified this Convention, even after it was signed by former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Madeline Albright in 1995. Of any campaign to protect children that should be presented and established in the United States, surely the UNCRC would be of top priority.

Born and raised in the United States, my parents instilled in me a strong sense of American pride and patriotism. I knew what human rights were, I sang the National Anthem at my high school sporting events, and even worked as a page for the House of Representatives at the Washington State Capitol when I was 13 years old. It was astonishing to find out at the age of 24, while living in Australia, that the United States had in fact, not ratified the Convention of the Rights of the Child, and thus the rights I believed to have growing up were actually not protected by any national measure. Sure I could “stand up for my rights” when I was younger, but because of no government accountability, those rights could easily have been abused and neglected.

My work in Australia as a social worker has given me the opportunity to advocate for the rights of children by facilitating a program in primary schools that educates children to know their rights, builds self-esteem, and instils in them a strong sense of community involvement. Each week, we have them read a different right (from various UN documents including CEDAW, CROC, CERD, etc) and they are each provided with text from the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child in child friendly language, in order to provided them better understanding at their academic level. Over the course of the eight-week program, the students are also provided the opportunity to create a community event of their own, enlisting their personal skills, advocating for an issue or topic they care about, and engaging with community at a local level. Thankfully these children live in a nation that has made the rights of children a priority and has ratified CROC (The Australian government ratified the Convention in December 1990 and it became binding on Australia in January 1991. – www.childrights.org.au).

Surely the children who wrote letters to you about gun violence and school safety, and those children who appeared with you on television would like to know that their rights – the right to education, the right to feel safe, the right to equal access of services regardless of disabilities, the right to an identity, and the right to be alive – are actually protected on a national level. Without the ratification of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, those rights are not protected; and while efforts are being made to prohibit the use of assault weapons and bring safety to schools, are the children of the United States really safe and protected?


With Sincere Hope for America,


Lindsey Diacogiannis

-----------this letter was signed and posted on 27/02/13----------

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Why Meditate?

A few days ago I attended a Buddhist meditation course and when I posted it on f*cebook, several of my conservative Christian friends made comments like: "what has spurred you to seek such things as this?" and "I am so sad that you are seeking other religions. Buddhism will not fulfill your deep longings." While I don't blame my friends for having questions regarding this, I found it interesting because meditation has strong roots in Christianity; and why wouldn't someone want to discover more about how to overcome anger and attachment? 
Interestingly, I received an email from one of my spiritual mentors (from Axiom Monastic Community - http://christouraxiom.com/) who I will be skyping with later with week, only a few hours after coming home from this mediation course; he sent me an article all about contemplative prayer and meditation from a Christian perspective. The timing was perfect and the excerpt highlights some of the reasons I have chosen to pursue a more monastic journey with Jesus.

The article was an excerpt from James W. Goll's book, Wasted on Jesus, and starts by saying: 

 

The excerpt is 7 pages long, but this is just a snapshot of what he discusses, and why Christians are often times turned off by the words meditation, contemplation, etc. He goes on to explore the meanings of these words, along with reflection and muse. Furthermore, Goll gives strong distinctions between New Testament Christianity and New Age core beliefs. He also explains some of the reasons why the experiences of mystics and contemplatives have been misunderstood, as follows: 



I find this to be so true, and perhaps has part to do with why I have been misunderstood in my attempts to live contemplatively. 

James Goll has had a very influential part in my spiritual development, and I remember picking up Wasted on Jesus when I was about 17 years old, craving something more from Christianity, spirituality and my journey with God in this life. I don't think I finished the book in that attempt to read it, but God has a way of bringing things back into view, and in the last year since joining Axiom's global community, this book has once again been influential in my questioning, searching, and re-centreing with God. 


If you are interested in reading the entire excerpt, please don't hesitate to email me and I'd be happy to send it on (lindseylou31@gmail.com). 

in this journey of discovery with you, 

lindsey

Monday, 15 October 2012

Mondays with Merton - Happiness and Love

This week's musing from Merton is about love and happiness. I hope you find it as thought-provoking as I did.

"A happiness that is sought for ourselves alone can never be found: for a happiness that is diminished by being shared is not big enough to make us happy...[you might want to read that a couple more times; i know i did!]
True happiness is found in unselfish love, a love that increases in proportion as it is shared. There is no end to the sharing of love, and, therefore, the potential happiness of such love is without limit. Infinite sharing is the law of God's inner life. He has made the sharing of ourselves the law of our own being, so that it is in loving others that we best love ourselves. In disinterested activity we best fulfill our own capacities to act and to be. Yet there can never be happiness in complusion. It is not enough for love to be shared: it myst be shared freely. That is to say it must be given, not merely taken. Unselfish love that is poured out upon a selfish object does not bring prefect happiness: not because love requires a return or reward for loving, but because it rests in the happiness of the beloved. And if the one loved receives love selfishly, the love is not satisfied. He sees that his love has failed to make the beloved happy. It has not awakened his capacity for unselfish love."*


It's quite a facinating idea to me - this balance or tension found in happiness and love, where love that is unselfishly given mandates happiness, that love must also me unselfishly received. Thomas says it much more eliquently than I, and I definitely had to read it all again (a few times over) to allow it to really start to sink in. It definitly gets me thinking, and I hope it inspires you as well!

Cheers,

linds


*pg 19, No Man Is An Island, by Thomas Merton, circa 1955

Monday, 8 October 2012

Mondays with Merton - the start of something new

I've decided to try to write more regularly... and start  "Mondays with Merton", where I'll take an exceprt from Thomas Merton's book "No Man Is An Island", write about it, share my thoughts, and ask for feedback as well. I'd love this to be a bit of a discussion, so feel free to respond with your thoughts as well. Today, let's start with some words about freedom.

 The first three sentences is one of my favorite quotes:

"My free will consolidates and perfects its own autonomy by freely co-ordinating its action with the will of another. There is something in the very nature of my freedom that inclines me to love, to do good, to dedicate myself to others. I have an instinct that tells me that I am less free when I am living for myself alone. The reason for this is that I cannont be completely independent. Since I am not self-sufficiant I depend on someone else for my fulfillment. My freedom is not fully free when left to itself. It becomes so when it is brought into the right relation with the freedom of another."*

I found this so profound, especially the first time I read it. Growing up in a conservative Christian family in America, I was taught so much about freedom and independence, but mostly to the extend of patriotism. Freedom is so much more than patriotism. Some of the questions I've pondered over the years in regards to freedom include: What am I free from? And what I am free to? Freedom isn't just about exploring or excersing ones own "rights"... I think it is so true when Merton says " I have an instinct that tells me that I am less free when I am living for myself alone".
hmmm.... let's just chew on that for a bit.....

let me know what your thoughts are too, i'd love to share some dialogue about the excerpts I post.

Cheers from Oz,

Linds


*page 35, No Man Is An Island, Thomas Merton, circa 1955