My mind is open. My heart is wide. My love is fierce. My commitment is deep.

--Karen Sella

On Abuse of Human Freedom

I asked that div­ina­tion tool, The I Ching (The Book of Changes) what to do in the wake of last week’s shock­ing elec­tion results. It told me first to keep still (Hexa­gram 52. Kên | Keep­ing Still, Moun­tain) for awhile, with move­ment in the sec­ond line, sug­gest­ing there is an unstop­pable tra­jec­to­ry to the sit­u­a­tion, that leads to inevitable repair (Hexa­gram 18. Ku | Work on What Has Been Spoiled [Decay]. For those who are not famil­iar with the I Ching, you just need to know that this is a very old source, with cen­turies of schol­ar­ly com­men­tary based in Taoist and Con­fu­cian tra­di­tions. I have turned to it over the years to stim­u­late reflec­tion with­in the qui­et­ing influ­ence of an ancient, his­tor­i­cal­ly tran­scen­dent ora­cle. I throw the coins and through a process of numer­i­cal syn­chronic­i­ty find a deep­er wisdom.

Among the many help­ful phras­es in this read­ing was this one:

What has been spoiled through human fault can be made good again through human work.  It is not immutable fate…that has caused [the cur­rent] state of cor­rup­tion, but rather the abuse of human freedom.”

There is much more for those of you famil­iar with the text and inter­est­ed to pur­sue the whole read­ing.  But what a phrase!  “The abuse of human free­dom.”  I had been lack­ing words for my feel­ings of pol­lu­tion and cor­rup­tion the night of the elec­tion, an offense so deep it took my breath away.

The read­ing — at least as I inter­pret it — is rather straight­for­ward: first, calm your heart. Don’t let you mind race too far ahead. Sec­ond, rec­og­nize the larg­er arc of his­to­ry in this sit­u­a­tion and don’t think you can bar­gain things back­ward into the past. It’s here and it’s real — and it’s mov­ing. Third, eval­u­ate — “Suc­cess depends on prop­er delib­er­a­tion” — because “We must first know the caus­es of cor­rup­tion before we can do away with them.” Final­ly, act — “We must not recoil from work and danger…but must take hold energetically.”


Sure­ly, that abuse first and fore­most reflects the under­ly­ing ter­ror at the gasp­ing death of priv­i­leged, white male pow­er. Of course there are many fac­tors, espe­cial­ly eco­nom­ic ones, but in an almost arche­typ­al way, the fem­i­nine has been reduced, denied, accused, dis­tort­ed and attacked. Could we have seen this being played out any more clear­ly? From the gen­der of the can­di­dates them­selves to con­trol over wom­en’s bod­ies, to the flinch­ing, ego­cen­tric, male pro­tec­tion of “our wives and daugh­ters,” to denial that the earth itself is in trou­ble, to any­thing that might over­whelm a need to con­trol the oth­ers — immi­gra­tion, crime, “inner cities,” you name it — the abuse has been one long sex­ist and racist reac­tion to the pos­si­ble depri­va­tion of the white male birthright called “being in charge.” 

This is why, to me, a process of “heal­ing,” per se, might not work so very well. After all, heal­ing, too, by its very nature is nur­tur­ing, and is there­fore sub­ject to dis­cred­it­ing as a threat. Heal­ing may work in some places and at some times, but I per­son­al­ly don’t believe one heals an abuse of free­dom so much as one awak­ens from it, par­tic­u­lar­ly, as at present, when the abuse seems to be a nar­cis­sis­tic, vio­lent, insu­lat­ed form of thought dis­tor­tion that reach­es all the way to our spir­i­tu­al selves. You aren’t going to be able to just “talk that through,” at least not very eas­i­ly. But then again you’re also not going to just beat it into sub­mis­sion, as many hope. The horse called “alt-right ide­ol­o­gy” has left the barn, at least for the next four years.

So the big ques­tion is how does that awak­en­ing from abuse actu­al­ly occur so that we can sup­port and engen­der a world that is for peo­ple through our own lead­er­ship work? What actu­al­ly com­pels us to see through our sit­u­a­tions with such clar­i­ty that we active­ly begin to choose to use our free­dom more respon­si­bly and inclusively? 

This may sound like a strange answer, but I believe from one van­tage point — my own — what will help us move for­ward is to begin to acknowl­edge the cow­ardice we cur­rent­ly are express­ing in front of the world. I don’t mean to shame or guilt-trip — I think we’ll get to that nat­u­ral­ly with­out any par­tic­u­lar push from blog­gers like me. But cow­ardice! Yes, in the form of accept­ing the abuse so that we the­o­ret­i­cal­ly will remain safe while leav­ing oth­ers behind; cow­ardice in the form of our dither­ing and con­fu­sion about whether we’re sup­posed to accept author­i­tar­i­an rule or rail against it; cow­ardice in the form of run­ning away from the real prob­lems of the real world of which we are all part. 

We have to face our­selves and our soci­ety with courage, not escapism, in order to grow up into our poten­tials as full mem­bers of the human team, the whole, human, glob­al team. We have to be gen­uine­ly for that team — all of it. We must learn to shoul­der our respon­si­bil­i­ties togeth­er for the world and for one anoth­er and that is unques­tion­ably hard, awk­ward, emo­tion­al­ly inten­sive work that’s easy to get scared about and there­fore easy to give up on. But act­ing out of fear, while under­stand­able, is also the most ter­ri­ble, self-pro­tec­tive abuse of of our fun­da­men­tal free­dom. So, now, if we want that free­dom, it will require every­one’s lead­er­ship, pure and simple. 

In that regard, per­haps this is the very moment we’ve been wait­ing for.

November II

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  • Vincenza Mueller wrote:

    Thank you dear one.

  • Greet­ings Dan,

    Our paths have not crossed for a long time! I saw your blog “On Abuse of Human Free­dom” this morn­ing, and then had the joy and priv­i­lege of read­ing and absorb­ing your gen­er­ous gift of “The Raft of Self.” You are a stun­ning­ly gift­ed and tal­ent­ed writer — and fel­low human being! Thank you!

    Very best to you in all you do! Car­ole (and Dave) Schwinn

  • Vin­cen­za~

    Thank you in return!


  • Car­ole!

    So nice to hear from you! I’m hon­ored you took a moment to share your very kind com­ment. I looked at your love­ly web­site ( and bought your book, The Trans­for­ma­tive Work­place, which I’m excit­ed to read. I encour­age every­one stop­ping by here to access these pow­er­ful resources. 

    All the best to you and David in return!


  • Mary Allison wrote:

    I appre­ci­ate the hope­ful words and their depth. I am claw­ing out as much hope as I can with­in myself. Review­ing my own tra­jec­to­ry when faced with deep dis­ap­point­ment and bor­der­line despair to have some idea of my con­tin­u­um — how much I can real­ly con­trol, how much to accept and how much to reject. The where and when to reject gives me a lot to reflect on.

  • Mary~

    It is a very hard time. Every­body needs to give them­selves an oppor­tu­ni­ty to recov­er, get ground­ed, share the pain with friends, get active doing some­thing that will help them do the sort­ing you men­tioned. Yes­ter­day I sent off let­ters to my con­gress­peo­ple encour­ag­ing every­thing they can do to stop Steve Ban­non’s appoint­ment as “Chief Strate­gist.” It felt good to do it even if it has no impact at all. I’ve also been read­ing every­thing I can about why the elec­tion turned out as it did — I’ve learned a lot, and that’s helped. Final­ly, I’ve been access­ing read­ings and YouTube videos of MLK on non-vio­lent resis­tance and love. The videos, more than any­thing for me has been help­ful and restor­ing around what to reject and how.

    BTW, if you are read­ing this post on a desk­top rather than than the mobile ver­sion, you’ll see a epi­graph at the top by Karen Sel­la. If you click on her name it will take you to a Face­book post she wrote that is beau­ti­ful­ly done as a way to fos­ter “sort­ing out” for all of us.

    Stay in touch, Mary. Give me a call if you like, when­ev­er you like.


  • Byron Murray wrote:


    Damn! I thought. That morn­ing Sandy was phys­i­cal­ly and emo­tion­al­ly dis­traught. I had to leave town for a con­sult­ing job. I stayed focused on that which helped quite a bit. Try­ing to con­sid­er what went wrong with the world. What hap­pened to my coun­try and fel­low cit­i­zens? Sandy and I talked and texted a lot. We talked with friends and found out that we were not alone. And what your thoughts are giv­ing us is that. We are not alone and we will per­se­vere and the lead­er­ship need­ed will come from all of us and lead us into a bet­ter world. Thank you again Dan. You help keep us ground­ed and focused. byron

  • Byron~

    Great to hear from you, and I’m glad my thoughts were of help to you and Sandy. We’ll need to stay ground­ed and sup­port one anoth­er to get through this one!

    All the best

  • Hi Dan,

    Thank you for this. I so res­onate to your throw of the I Ching, your words and your energy. 

    My vision is that this is an oppor­tu­ni­ty for us to grow our­selves, trans­form the world as we address what has come to us.


  • Heal­ing may work in some places and at some times, but I per­son­al­ly don’t believe one heals an abuse of free­dom so much as one ***awak­ens from it, par­tic­u­lar­ly, as at present, when the abuse seems to be a nar­cis­sis­tic, vio­lent, insu­lat­ed form of thought dis­tor­tion that reach­es all the way to our spir­i­tu­al selves.” 

    Exact­ly Dan.

  • Hi Lyn­da~

    That’s a great vision. Yes, this has cer­tain­ly “come to us” and it is an oppor­tu­ni­ty of the most urgent kind! Thank you for stop­ping by!

    All the best

  • Hi Kate~

    Thank you. There is much more that I could say about the sen­tence you’ve high­light­ed. I’m pret­ty sure I’ll get that oppor­tu­ni­ty soon. I espe­cial­ly appre­ci­ate all your relat­ed posts on Facebook.

    All the best

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