Investing in Peace
An estimated 54% of the US Federal Budget is devoted to military spending. If you heard Monday's Presidential debate, you know that at least one of the two major party candidates wants to increase military spending by another $2 trillion. To put this all in perspective, the "2009 U.S. military budget accounts for approximately 40% of global arms spending. The 2012 budget is 6-7 times larger than the $106 billion of the military budget of China and is more than the next twenty largest military spenders combined" (Wikipedia). We can only guess what will happen to these numbers with a defense budget increase.
This month, to honor the birth of two of the world's great peacemakers, Mahatma Gandhi (Oct 2) and St. Francis of Assisi (Oct 4), I want to offer a simple proposal that can help bring peace to the world: How about divesting from war and investing in peace?
It's a pretty simple proposal, really. The IRS allows you to donate up to 50% of your adjusted gross income to charities that qualify as 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations By doing that, you take money that you would otherwise pay in federal income tax and redirect it towards the charities of your choice. Can it work? If you can reduce your net income sufficiently through these deductions, you will pay no federal income tax. This is an entirely legal means of reinvesting your income in things that matter to you, that benefit your community, and that help create Heaven on Earth. If you have concerns about not paying for needed services such as road maintenance, just consider that for every gallon of gasoline you buy, the government collects 50 cents in excise taxes that fund these types of services.
To set up your own plan for investing in peace, please consult a qualified accountant. It may take some resourcefulness and careful budgeting, but this path to peace is legal, ethical, and attainable.
The following is a guest editorial from Mr. Positive, my close friend and fellow blogger:
There is nothing Mr. Positive loves more than impressive feats (except, perhaps, talking about himself in the third person). Today, I want to tell you about an impressive feat involving impressive feet. Those feet belong to Keith Levasseur, who ran the entire Baltimore Marathon in flip-flops. What makes them especially impressive is that they somehow managed to carry Keith to a 29th place finish--out of more than 3000 runners who competed in the marathon. He ran the 26 mile course in just under 2hours and 47 minutes.
Keith, let me just say: You're awesome, dude! I can't even get from my hotel to the beach in flip-flops without some skin irritation. Here's wishing your impressive feet a speedy recovery, my friend. May you avoid that painful redness and chafing in the crack between your thumb-toe and your index-toe. And if anyone deserves an endorsement deal from Dr. Scholl's, you're the man!
The Sound of Illumination
My good friend, Mike Paluda, asked me to record a video of the Gayatri Mantra. This oldest of Hindu mantras is said to carry the sound of illumination. The Sanskrit words invoke the power of the Sun deity, Savitri, to open us up to the unity of all creation.
The very recitation of these Sanskrit words is supposed to create the experience of enlightenment within our body, mind, and spirit: OM BHUR BHUVA SUVAHA TAT SAVITUR VARENYAM BHARGO DEVASYA DHIMAHI DHIYO YONAHA PRACHODAYAT.
There are many translations of the Mantra. Here is one of the simplest: "O Divine mother, our hearts are filled with darkness. Please make this darkness distant from us and promote illumination within us."
Below, you will find two versions of the mantra. The words are the same; only the melodies differ. The melody you choose for chanting the mantra is a matter of personal preference. In either case, it's just as potent.
When you do chant this mantra, please let me know what you experience. How does it make you feel? Do you notice any changes when you chant it over a period of several days or weeks?
The Three Hands of Saint Francis
Today is the birthday of one of my most beloved dudes, St. Francis of Assisi. In honor of this special day, I would like to draw your attention to the image on the right, which appears among the many frescoes in the Basilica of St. Francis. Here, you can see that the great saint has three hands!
I first came across this unusual image while visiting Assisi in 2003. As I contemplated it, I heard the following words, as if St. Francis himself were speaking directly to me, "If you offer your two hands in service to the Lord, He will provide you with a third." The significance of this statement is that giving away your gifts to others in the spirit of selfless service causes these gifts to multiply.
In his 2011 book, Flourish, psychologist Martin Seligman observes, "We scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested." He recounts the tale of a childhood friend whose mother would tell him, whenever he was in a bad mood, to go out and help someone. If there is a single incontrovertible fact in spiritual life, it is that those who act for the benefit of others reap the greatest benefit for themselves. When we give away something of value, we open ourselves to the flow of even greater gifts. It is as if we transform oursleves into a conduit through which these gifts flow freely into the world. In the words of St. Francis, we become an "instrument of peace."
The famous Prayer of St. Francis concludes with the following words: For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen. To honor this wise teacher, let's give away something of ourselves, beginning with a simple act of kindness or forgiveness. In doing so, we follow his simple prescription for turning hate into love, doubt into faith, despair into hope, darkness into light, and sadness into joy. Happy Birthday, Saint Francis!
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