We are in mourning.  Shock, grief and anger wash over us in waves.  For many, the media (old and new) has become the place we turn in order to deal with such an event.  In traditional societies, we would have physically gathered together as a community to process our pain.  This week, Occupy Cafe will attempt this virtually on behalf of its members, including founding steward Ben Roberts, who is a Newtown resident.

A friend wrote Ben an email saying that she hoped that "we can use this as a catalyst for new ways of making sense together."  We would especially like to hear from one or more people who have gone through something like this and come out the other side with their spirit intact.  Perhaps they even discovered some sense of mission and purpose that is their own form of "making sense" of something that seems to defy the very notion with its randomness.  

Join the online conversation by posting below.  Our Cafe Calls are complete for 2012 and will resume on Jan. 7, 2013..  Perhaps we might all contemplate this question:

How do we respond to this tragedy in ways that serve life?

Podcast for Monday's call available here

Image: memorial display on Church Hill road in Sandy Hook, CT

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thank you so much for this, Deborah...

I thought this one of the more rational and realistic perspectives so far -

Do We Have the Courage to Stop This ? in the NY times online, by Nicholas D Kristof

It has been on my mind today that we have an opportunity to show the world a different way of responding to horrific tragedies.  A friend shared this on facebook and I thought it would be appropriate to share here.  

"What do I do today?

Cry if you need to.

You can also laugh or smile; or do something that makes you feel good.  Don’t believe that you have to suffer, it doesn't help.

Your energy is much better expended through love.

Notice the love around you and notice the truth about the moment.  What you have, the gift of your life, the gift of being able to give.

Before a tragedy we are focused on the unimportant details - the outside appearance, the concern for what others think, the need to check things off the list.

But when there is a loss, we come back to love and the truth about our connectedness.

You may not “see” our connectedness – but you can feel it.

Yesterday I was hit with a tidal wave of sadness – like an energy moving through the air and into my body.  I needed to cry, move, talk – and I also needed to be quiet.

If you feel similarly, then you know.  You feel the connection.

Every choice we make has a ripple effect throughout the world, and the immense decision of one person sent a ripple through all of us.

So what do we do today, or I guess the question is, what kind of ripples do we send?  Anger and blame will not help.  Arguing and defending a point will not heal.

So keep it simple and love.  Smile, hug, celebrate your life and the lives of others.

Honor yourself, be kind and respectful to your children and loved ones, notice your choices and what you are putting out into the world.  What are you offering to this great connectedness we all feel?

And, of course, cry when you need to.  Your tears can be a reminder to be aware, kind, and connected.

Not just today, but tomorrow, and the next day, too.

This is your individual responsibility. This is how you take a stand.

This is our road to peace."

Cathy Cassani Adams

Her post is here:  http://www.chicagonow.com/self-aware-parent/2012/12/what-do-i-do-to... 

thank you, Elaine!

I felt that same way last night -

"a tidal wave of sadness – like an energy moving through the air and into my body.  I needed to cry, move, talk – and I also needed to be quiet. ... then you know.  You feel the connection."

I know how that feels, that is what I was feeling.  Thank you for sharing, Elaine.

Just to say -- as I watch the broadcast of the interfaith prayer service coming from Newtown -- that it seems clear that this is a wonderful town, with wonderful people, a strong place, enduring and surviving a remarkable test.  I am encouraged and inspired by the humanity and character and light of these people.  This service is a deep testimony to the will of human beings and this town -- that courage and honesty and kindness will prevail.      (as Barack now steps behind the podium.....)

 [I]t seems clear that [Newtown] is a wonderful town, with wonderful people, a strong place, enduring and surviving a remarkable test.  I am encouraged and inspired by the humanity and character and light of these people.

Yes, Bruce, and it is also perhaps hard to see that we are in fact totally ordinary in this.  That is, for all the sense of connection and community that we have here, before this happened we were also all isolated in our separate boxes, neighbors barely knowing neighbors, political factions bitterly fighting, suburban sprawl overwhelming the small town that once was mostly farms.

What people are so proud of here--what the world is admiring-- is no more or less that what is possible for almost all of us, save perhaps those living in war zones.  And I sense that this example has the potential to spread, to teach us something vital about the essential goodness of the human spirit, and to take that energy of love and release into healing action throughout the world.

How do we respond to this tragedy in ways that serve life?

Last night, President Obama framed our task as "doing everything we can to keep our children safe."  I think he missed the mark, although he came close.  That is about solving a problem.  It is focused on the past.  It is about trying to lesson our fears.  Understandable, of course.  And yet I sensed that even he recognized that this was not the truly powerful, LIFE AFFIRMING message he hoped to deliver.

Here's what I want to stand for: let us do everything we can to make sure that our children THRIVE.  What if the residents of Newtown dedicated themselves to that goal?  Could we make this a NEWtown?  A place that is a model for all humanity of how to serve one another fully, with open hearts?  A fractal of a world that works for all?

All the world's problems are here too, even though we live in the richest county of the richest state in the richest country on the planet.  And truth be told, despite all the many, many wonderful and true things you are hearing about this town, we haven't been doing a whole lot better to date than most other communities in changing course towards a truly socially just, environmentally sustainable and spiritually fulfilling way of life.  Despite many good and worthy efforts, we are still part of the problem, with our prison keeping poor people in solitary confinement and our tract housing taking over farmland and too many neighbors who don't know each other (yes!) and oil spills contaminating our aquifer and endless miles of driving and political divisions and mindless consumerism and too many people who can't afford food and an economy that doesn't work very well and falling housing values and a budget that is way short of what we need and taxes that feel too high and isolation and addiction and now violence as horrific as that of any war zone.

How much of this could we change?  We're not that big a place, although of course we are interconnected and interdependent with the rest of the planet.  So we would ask the rest of you to help us too.  Not with money.  We're rich enough that we should be a net giver of that scarce commodity.  But with your love and your wisdom and your insight and your moral and spiritual support.  Truth be told, I'd wager we could do pretty well on our own.  But the NEWtown I imagine wouldn't want to be isolated and independent. No--we would delight in staying firmly held for as long as possible in the global empathic embrace that now surrounds us. We would stay in love and carry our pain openly.  Our fear would not control us, not because we have banished it by doing everything we can to try keep ourselves "safe," but because we have chosen to take risks and to embrace life, in all its glory and its fragility.

And we would give back to you.  You seem inspired by us, although we still feel pretty ordinary for the most part.  So what we are showing you is that ordinary IS extraordinary.  That is the fundamental truth of who we all are as human beings.  We are good, kind, caring, brilliant, daring, compassionate, inspired.  How deeply could we continue to live into that?  Now there is a task worthy of dedicating ourselves to, in honor of those dear and precious children who have fallen in our midst.  Rather than putting all our energy into keeping the thousands of children who remain in our arms safe from pain and even death, what if we gave them the most beautiful world our hearts tell us is possible?  And what if people the whole world over learned--not just by watching but by helping us-- that this is possible for their children too?

My wife has been trying to get me to listen to this song since the Summer...

If we only have love
Then tomorrow will dawn
And the days of our years
Will rise on that morn
If we only have love
To embrace without fears
We will kiss with our eyes
We will sleep without tears
If we only have love
With our arms open wide
Then the young and the old
Will stand at our side
If we only have love
Love that's falling like rain
Then the parched desert earth
Will grow green again
If we only have love
For the hymn that we shout
For the song that we sing
Then we'll have a way out
If we only have love
We can reach those in pain
We can heal all our wounds
We can use our own names
If we only have love
We can melt all the guns
And then give the new world
To our daughters and sons
If we only have love
Then Jerusalem stands
And then death has no shadow
There are no foreign lands
If we only have love
We will never bow down
We'll be tall as the pines
Neither heroes nor clowns
If we only have love
Then we'll only be men
And we'll drink from the Grail
To be born once again
Then with nothing at all
But the little we are
We'll have conquered all time
All space, the sun, and the stars.

From Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris

Watch a UU choir sing it here.

<iframe width="420" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/m4GKFKxFmpU" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Thank you for these insights, Ben.  That is a thought that my own heart wishes to embrace, as a parent, as a community member, as a citizen of this planet -

"Here's what I want to stand for: let us do everything we can to make sure that our children THRIVE.  What if (we) dedicated (our)selves to that goal?  Could we make this a NEW (world)?  A (planet) that is a model (of how) all (of) humanity (can) serve one another fully, with open hearts.  A fractal of a world that works for all."  As your Fractal card so well "relates" - "History and Context - Go Deeper - Seeing the Forest, Seeing the Trees, - Iteration - Subgroup and Whole Group - Whole System in the Room".  A fractal is not a part but a wholeness, seen on many levels.

Continuing to process the events within my own self, with a passion of grief that sometimes feels like depression and hopelessness, that change isn't possible; but yet, knows in its heart, that this event serves the purposes of a world that works for every human being emerging even NOW.

Deb

Good morning, Ben -- and anyone --

Yes, I am feeling all of this.  I just read through all the messages in this thread.  Ben, you and I have been pushing against these kinds of questions for a long time, and really, doing everything we can, and maybe sometimes pushing too hard, or breaking boundaries or sound protocols.  But we do know -- that something does have to change -- within ourselves -- within our culture. 

I thought about your comment last night

Yes, Bruce, and it is also perhaps hard to see that we are in fact totally ordinary in this.  That is, for all the sense of connection and community that we have here, before this happened we were also all isolated in our separate boxes, neighbors barely knowing neighbors, political factions bitterly fighting, suburban sprawl overwhelming the small town that once was mostly farms.

What people are so proud of here--what the world is admiring-- is no more or less that what is possible for almost all of us, save perhaps those living in war zones.  And I sense that this example has the potential to spread, to teach us something vital about the essential goodness of the human spirit, and to take that energy of love and release into healing action throughout the world.

Maybe it is simply true that we have to deal with issues "one at a time" -- and that visionary/holistic new ideas are a long ways ahead of the curve.  I wonder if in some sense -- these shootings are somehow a reflection of an underlying frustration or rage with a society that IS so divided, and can't seem to stand on simple common basic goodness -- that our congress goes on for years defending its right to remain paralyzed in the face of human tragedy...

I've heard it said that Occupy was a cry -- like an emergency brake on a train -- saying STOP.  Maybe events like this, too -- maybe connected very indirectly -- or maybe more directly than we know -- reflect something powerful and primal rising up throughout culture -- that says "being paralyzed over fiscal cliff" is inexcusable, and disgraceful -- and comes at horrific cost that the culturally insulated never realize.

So, lately I've been hanging out with "Conscious Evolution" and the "birth2012" activities around here (Santa Barbara, southern California).  "Our crisis is a birth".  Well, maybe.  We hope so.

I like the "fractal" theme you introduce.  It's a model for the interconnected wholeness that so many of us feel must somehow rise through and around us.  Maybe it starts with the conversations you have been supporting and doing all you can to bring into the world...

There's a lot of power from innocence in your vision Ben.  Please know I am inspired by this and what you shared at the end of our call today.  Knowing this-- in innocence, having this illuminated... it needs no bow before a 'social second-guessing' (thinking) that might want to mold it with polite humility.  Innocence carries a privileged truth... and your sword.

Ben,

What an awesome entry!  You have my support, my prayers and I share your same aspirations for our community and for the communities across the country. HOw do we make this a MOVEMENT??

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