The Optimism of Uncertainty

Every January for the past several years I’ve joined activists in front of the White House to protest the indefinite detention of 40 Muslim men at the Guantanamo Bay detention center.  This year, January 11 marked the 18th anniversary of the prison’s opening. I took the train to Washington in January with a mixture ofContinue reading “The Optimism of Uncertainty”

Time Out

I’ve written almost nothing on this blog since the inauguration of Donald Trump. Partly I think it’s because I’ve been so outwardly focused – fixated on the daily, minute-by-minute news of the disturbing, twisted, often absurd machinations of this new administration that I haven’t taken the time to stop and think much. When I have,Continue reading “Time Out”

On Staying Hopeful

Last week was tough. Not just because many of us were returning to work after a holiday break, but for anyone who works in social justice advocacy, the air is thick with fear, apprehension, lingering shock and disappointment. What will this new administration bring?  So far, the signs are ominous. I was reading through newsContinue reading “On Staying Hopeful”

No Expectations

There’s a classic zen story that goes like this: A young man approached a great master and asked to become his student. The student asked the master: “How long will it take me to become a master?” “15 years,” replied the master. “So long?” asked the young man, looking disappointed. The master reconsidered. “Well, inContinue reading “No Expectations”

On “The Habits of Highly Cynical People”

Rebecca Solnit has a powerful essay in the May issue of Harper’s that gets at something I’ve been thinking about for a while. In “The Habits of Highly Cynical People,” Solnit writes about what she calls “naive cynicism” — a pervasive cultural tendency to predict the worst, as if somehow that will protect us orContinue reading “On “The Habits of Highly Cynical People””

Love and Activism

A few years ago I was on a nonprofit leadership training retreat, when everyone had to go around the circle and declare their “purpose.” This was the sort of exercise I dreaded, so I scrambled to come up with something plausible I could say that wouldn’t be too embarrassing. Then I heard one of theContinue reading “Love and Activism”

Some Simple Career Advice

I sometimes hear from recent college graduates struggling to start their careers. They want to know how they can get into human rights work, or journalism, or some combination of the two, and they think that because I’ve done both I’ll have the answer. I don’t, of course. Career paths are rarely linear, and bothContinue reading “Some Simple Career Advice”

Bernie Sanders, the Optimist

One of the most common criticisms I hear of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is that he’s too angry. Americans are famous for being upbeat and optimistic. We’re raised to believe in “the American Dream” in which anyone can rise up from poverty to be a huge success. Anger –- particularly about the reality that lotsContinue reading “Bernie Sanders, the Optimist”

The Happy Lawyer?

The other night I attended a training session at the New York City Bar Association called “Happiness for Lawyers: Mindfulness and Emotional Skills to Improve Our Professional Life (and Make us Happier).” As I was leaving, the security guard remarked that all the participants walking out of the room had a smile on their face. “That’sContinue reading “The Happy Lawyer?”

A Hole in the World

I came across Portia Nelson’s wonderful “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters” recently and wanted to share it here. It encapsulates perfectly the challenging and often painstaking process of changing our most entrenched and destructive patterns of mind.   “There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk” Chapter 1 I walk down the street. There is a deep holeContinue reading “A Hole in the World”