Lion Killers

Posted: May 23, 2016 in Uncategorized
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It seemed like a scene out of bad cinema: A man jumps into the lions’ cage in a zoo and begins taunting them. The lions attack and do what they were made to do. In order to protect the now-mauled man, Zookeepers take down the lions.

Where does one begin?

First of all do lions really belong in captivity? The short answer is that no, they don’t, that living in an artificial habitat like most zoos provide drives them crazy, to despondency, to giving up their lionness. At the least lions and other wild animals should only be confined in large animal sanctuaries with lots of room to roam, feed and live as “natural” a life as possible.

Can you imagine what a treat it was, from the lion’s point of view, when an idiot jumped into their cage and drew their attention? Finally, a chance to get one of them who put us here. And he’s an idiot who shouts and waves his hands. That’s even better. Jump this dude. Show him his limits. He wants some lion? Then give him some.

But can you really imagine the deranged, half-witted motives of someone who would do that? Was he grandiose, thinking himself immune to lion prowess? Did he have to prove himself to, uh, his mommy, his big brother, his imaginary lover, himself? What could be worse and what I think is highly likely, is that this was suicide by lion. If he was rational, and we don’t know that he was, could he imagine any other consequence after jumping into the jaws of death?

And finally, the zookeepers. They got up in the morning and thought this was going to be an ordinary day in zoo paradise. It is their job to take care of and protect the animals. It is their job to protect patrons who come to look at them. They have protocols for handling life and death situations. It may mean protecting one of the humans from one of the non-humans.

But this was not a normal day at work. And if I was one of them instinct probably would have kicked in and I would be shooting whatever was going after one of my fellow homo sapiens. But should they have? It was fast and they had to act immediately. I’m in no place to judge but I wonder about distraction, drawing them away, tranquilizing them. All of these probably would have been too slow or ineffective to save the idiot human.

That leads to a larger question about humans and non-humans. Since humans created the zoo scenario in the first place and an idiot human chose to place himself in harm’s way, then why should lions be executed because of human foibles? The scales of justice are unbalanced from the beginning because we automatically favor the human over the non-human. Is there any question that under the circumstances the lions were innocent and the humans guilty?

Somewhere, sometime in a distant galaxy there is a zoo with humans in confinement. Curious creatures come and gawk and tap on the windows and make faces at them. The humans inside look sad and disinterested. Every so often the keepers slide some poorly prepared human food into their cells and expect them to be thankful. And then one day some ugly creature climbs over the barrier and drops in to visit the humans in their loneliness. The humans suddenly awaken. They look at one another and say, “Well, lookie here.” It didn’t take them a second to know what to do …

And then the zookeepers zapped the humans to death because they attacked the ugly thing that dropped into the cage where they had been imprisoned for their known lifetimes.

What fun! On the other side of the pond Lutterworth Press of Cambridge, England is releasing the 2nd edition of Liminal Reality and Transformational Power. As a part of the release they interviewed me for their blog. You may catch some spelling differences between British English and American English! To read the interview click here.

Liminal Reality Cover

As I passed under the overpass on my motorcycle I looked into the oncoming traffic and was uncertain what I was seeing. At first I thought it was some lawn care company moving equipment from one yard to another, but no.

The lead vehicle was a green riding lawn mower and a man drove it attentively through the traffic. He was wearing a ball cap and a colored T shirt. Close behind was a red wagon he was towing. And in the red wagon was a woman, riding along like she knew what she was doing. I was certain they were not simply riding it home from a very successful garage sale. Their belongings were piled up on mower and wagon as though on a long journey.

And where were they going? Of course, I could not know without asking or following. And I was headed the other direction. Is it rude to make a U turn, cruise up alongside a lawnmower/wagon couple and chat them up?

My only conclusion was that we get there in lots of different ways. If we can’t walk we ride a bike. If we can’t ride our scooter we drive a car. If the river stops and our canoe can’t go any farther we transfer to the train or bus. Or we hop on a riding lawn mower. It’s slower going, to be sure.

What circumstance led this couple to decide to travel in this way? Was this a way of life, something they have done for a long time? Or was this a one time remarkable exception to get to the new job or the funeral? Was it desperation? Or was it a very practical solution to a very concrete problem? Was this supreme innovation in the face of dire circumstance? Or was this some colossal dare with $100 riding on it?

Whatever the reasons I am peering back in time, back to a day when a young boy climbed onto the saddle of the riding lawn mower for the first time. Until then only his parents and older siblings were permitted to drive. But one day it was his turn and in a flurry of RPMs the green machine moved forward at his command. When he conspired with the neighbor girl to tie her wagon to the back for a ride it was high adventure and for that age even high romance. They beamed as they cruised the neighborhood and the other children stopped their games and watched them as they passed by, smiling and even waving. They made their own parade.

Somehow time passed as it always does and the children grew up and life happened and the big circle took them all the way back, back around to the old neighborhood. Whatever happened turned them toward one another with a look of amazement and remembrance: The mower and the wagon. Why not? What worked then could be the answer now.

I’m not certain how old this couple really was. They looked fifty to me. But I was in motion, passing the other way. Were they really ten? Or both? And when someone waved to them from the side of the road did they smile and wave back like so many years ago, king and queen of the road again, for even a moment?

 

Sure, go ahead. You can call me Dr. Liminal if you like. It wouldn’t be the first time!

Liminal Reality Cover ArtI am so pleased that Lutterworth Press in Cambridge, England offered to publish a second edition of my book Liminal Reality and Transformational Power. It is customary in second editions to not only clean up the original manuscript in terms of relevancy and content but to write an additional chapter. That I did. I have wanted to write something about Liminality and War for the longest time because I believe it is a key concept that could reframe much of the current conversation about war, its aftermath and the reassimilation of warriors. This was the perfect opportunity. That topic now occupies the last chapter of the new edition. The release of the book is in April but if you care to you may pre-order it here.

It never fails – something good can easily turn into something bad without much effort. In fact, the more good it is the worse the pain when it disappoints. So it is with the recent scandal of the Wounded Warriors Project.

The WWP has been the poster child for a clear and much needed  outreach to service men and women in all of their various needs – physical, social, emotional. They garnered strong support from generous benefactors and ordinary citizens. Well staffed, fiscally successful, and  programmatically developed, they became the envy of all other veterans organizations and admired by the public at large. Until recently, that is.

Now the truth about their lavish spending on extravagant events, travel and perks has been revealed. It’s not pretty. Much of the donor money was not spent on direct services. It was spent on high rolling executives and their lifestyles.

How sad is this? Such an important need! I think the one quote by a recent veteran who for a time worked for WWP broke my heart: “They were profiting off our wounds.”

It’s an easy downhill slide and other not-for-profits have preceded them on the path of shame. At first excess is explained as necessary for courting people with means. Next it is explained that you have to invest money to make money. And finally there is the argument from success: “Who else could have done this as well?”

The sad part is that WWP has done some very fine things. But these will be lost in the fog of unethical behavior. And even worse is how the scandal has reinforced an already existing skepticism about charitable organizations.

Corruption is a terrible thing and a terrible temptation. Unmonitored power just makes self-benefit too easy. It hurts everyone.

I think of the countless millions that the WWP has raised and spent on themselves and I think of the great contrast with our own All the Way Home program in which we strive to address the invisible wounds of war. We operate with the veritable crumbs from under the Wounded Warrior’s table and even so we try to do a lot with a little. It would be a blessing to have more to work with. But one thing I know: Whatever we become or realize I simply do not want to resemble in any form or degree that which has consumed the WWP. We are just meant to be more than that.

Sorry vets. Sorry donors and people of strong heart. The many are still true and filled with integrity regardless of the excess of the few.

Carrie Newcomer in Concert!

Posted: February 23, 2016 in Uncategorized
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Yes! Singer-Songwriter Carrie Newcomer will be in concert on Saturday, March 5, 7pm, at Broadway Christian Church, Columbia, Missouri. You may secure tickets at the church on weekdays during office hours, Sunday mornings, or online. Click the following link to download the full flyer which you may print and pass on. Come be a part of the moment!

Carrie-Concert-Flyer

It is sometimes trite to repeat the obvious. But sometimes the obvious hasn’t been so obvious. One of those obvious but often missed things is this: No one ever returns from war unchanged. However well prepared, however resilient, however well duty was performed, the soul of the warrior bears the scars that every human must when put in that situation. War exacts a severe toll for those who are sent and return. And returning in all respects – mind, relationships, spirit, vocation – is the last and difficult part of the journey, the long way home. Who could possibly understand? How can I fit in here? Is there a place for me in the world now?

All the Way Home is  a Mid-Missouri organization dedicated to assisting those warriors who carry the invisible wounds of war to come all the way home. It takes a community to do that, to bring those we sent back home. As a balm against the isolation we are creating ways for these veterans to gain access to one-on-one compassionate companions, small taking circle support and events like our March 4-5 retreat, Walking Home with our Combat Veterans.It will take place at the Cedar Creek Lodge and Retreat center just outside of Columbia, Missouri. The cost of the event for veterans – which includes room, board and program – is absolutely free.

This interactive and supportive retreat will address the core issues veterans face as they make the journey home. Our special guest presenters include the Rev. Dr. John Schluep and singer/songwriter Carrie Newcomer. We will provide relaxed and unhurried time to explore the struggles and tools for continuing adjustment and transformation.

As a capstone to the weekend Carrie Newcomer will be in concert on Saturday, March 5, 7pm, in the sanctuary of Broadway Christian Church, 2601 W. Broadway. The tickets are $12 and may be purchased online, the Broadway church office during office hours or at the door.

Please consider passing the news of the retreat to veterans you may know who are struggling. You may download the Retreat brochure. Veterans may register through the All the Way Home Webpage. And promote the concert to everyone you know. The public is cordially invited.