Voices

Windows and Mirrors - After John Lewis - Florence Sprague - September 2020

"For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them."—Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist monk, poet, peace activist

After the death of John Lewis earlier this summer it felt important to write about his life and work, but everything I penned felt trite or repetitive. My words paled when compared to the eloquent words from those who knew him personally and eulogized him so powerfully at his memorial service. He worked tirelessly all of his life for civil rights growing from a young man who wanted change NOW and was willing to put his very life on the line to challenge bigoted laws, to a revered elder statesman still working with tenacity to keep the unmet goals in the public eye and on the agenda. May he rest in peace at last.

Windows and Mirrors - No Pain, No Gain -Florence Sprague - July 2020

“[What should you do?] Educate Yourself!” Ava Duvernay, PBS Newshour Special, June 5, 2020

You don’t really need me to tell you this. It is everywhere these days. It being discussion of inequities, disparities, misunderstandings, being ignored, or glossed over. But white people really must educate themselves and begin acting. Our collective future depends on it, as well as our souls.

Windows and Mirrors - Stir Crazy - Florence Sprague - May 2020

The young woman was quite literally sitting in the open window of her apartment, her legs and torso making an L that filled the window frame. This image accompanying the news report about the stay at home orders in many states triggered a thought. The image encapsulated the human need to move around in and interact with its environment, whether urban or rural; the need to socialize, to make choices. It also triggered the thought of the thousands (millions?) of incarcerated individuals for whom even sitting in the sun in a window frame is an unattainable pleasure for years at a time.

Windows and Mirrors - Seek Joy -Florence Sprague- March 2020

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”  Rabindranath Tagore-Bengali poet, philosopher, polymath 1913 Nobel Laureate in Literature.

Service. Such an ambiguous concept in today’s parlance. Being in service in the past meant not just paid employment to serve, but also a class categorization. Being in the service has a military connotation. More generally, even in respected jobs, there is an overtone of being subject to the demands of others—not always a pleasant position. A willingness to serve requires or reflects an attitude often not respected in today’s ME culture. Public service? Too often scorned and denigrated, or distorted. Is service a contribution or a subordination?

Windows and Mirrors - The Burden of Being Black by Florence Sprague, February 2020

How do you express when something weighs heavily on your soul? Weighs heavily on your opportunities? Weighs heavily on your very existence?

In his searing memoir, Heavy, Kiese Laymon lays bare his experience of the immense burden of being black in the United States. Growing up, his mother surrounded him with an incessant drumbeat to be better than any white person could require him to be, by using perfect grammar, an expansive vocabulary and an extensive reading list. He did this while also living the life of a black boy in Mississippi seeking to develop a vocabulary of pride in blackness and solidarity with his peers. The immense toll that that these clashing stressors took on his psyche and his body often emerged in his weight. His life was heavy and so was his body. When as an adult he took control of his weight through diet and exercise, it became obsessive in the reverse.

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Windows and Mirrors - The Words of Someone Wiser by Florence Sprague - January 2020

“It takes two to speak the truth: one to speak and another to hear.” Henry David Thoreau

It is January and we enter a new year still burdened with old challenges. This month I turn most of my space over to someone far more eloquent than I, The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. The six principles of non-violence grace the wall surrounding the entry plaza of the King Cen-ter. Principle number 3 reads “Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice, not people.” That’s worth remembering.

One of Dr. King’s most well-known writings is his Letter from Birmingham Jail. He was imprisoned for participating in nonviolent demonstrations against segregation and wrote this in response to the public expressions of concern about such demonstrations by a group of white Southern religious leaders who urged caution. Here are some of Dr. King’s words in that Letter to ponder as we enter the new decade.

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Windows and Mirrors - Education - Chicken or Egg? by Florence Sprague, October 2019

“Progress of the world depends almost entirely upon education.” — George Eastman

I have always been a strong believer in and supporter of education and public schools. At times I have felt like the schools were expected to “solve” societal challenges that people didn’t want to deal with more broadly, bussing being a prime example. We don’t know how to address segregation and racial inequality so we put it all on the schools.

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Windows and Mirrors - Beyond Stereo by Florence Sprague, September 2019

True ignorance is not the absence of knowledge, but the refusal to acquire it. —Karl Popper, Austrian-British philosopher (1902-1994)

My father loved music. Consequently, he often explored new technologies for playing it at home. We had stereo, then eight track tapes, then surround sound, with not just two, but four speakers amongst which you could sit. (A quick internet search shows that you can still get surround sound, with even more speakers today.)

It could be interesting to think about surround ideas, listening to a whole circle of ideas and opinions. The quote above appeals to me, but it does raise some serious questions. If I like this quote, who do I think is refusing to acquire knowledge? Is it the other person who disagrees with me, or is it me?

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Windows and Mirrors - Best or Worse? by Florence Sprague, July 2019

Do not compare their worst to your best. I do not recall where I first heard that statement; I only recall thinking that it belonged in a Windows and Mirrors piece. As I look forward to the Better Angels workshop in September (see the description on page 2 of the July 2019 Voter), this seems an appropriate time to ponder it further.

On the surface this may not seem like a diversity topic. It is not about race, religion, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation,
ability/disability, health, citizenship status, or, well, anything in particular. Except that it is about all of them.

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Windows and Mirrors - What Do You Need to Be Healthy by Florence Sprague, May 2019

Employer-funded, high deductibles, Obamacare, the ACA, pre-existing conditions, mandates, freedom to choose, high premiums, privacy, single payer, etc., etc. The debate over how to pay for healthcare has been tearing this country apart for years. The topic is a minefield of assumptions, misinformation, fears, and loaded language and seems to defy resolution.

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