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Saturday, November 21, 2009


Written by: Rick Staggenborg, MD on Nov 7, 2009 7:15 AM PST

This essay is dedicated to Blackhawk Walters, a Native American storyteller, singer, writer and kickbox champion, who like me idolizes the real Billie Jack, a true champion of justice. We had a wonderful conversation about the Great Circle of Life and he shared with me a Native American story of creation. 

I cannot attempt to repeat it here, because it is understood that the story is to be told only by recognized keepers of the oral tradition. This seems to me to add to its validity. Let me just say that the Native Americans recognize that life arose in Africa, spread to Asia, then to North America and finally to Northern Europe, where the white man was fashioned out of the cold snow and could not tolerate exposure to the sacred sun as long as the other races. Perhaps this explains why it has taken so long for those who identify with the granfaloon of the “white” man are taking so long to begin to become enlightened as a people.

I came to church last week expecting as usual to be enlightened and to share our congregation’s joy at what our pastor Mary Sue had learned from others and wanted to share with us. I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by a member offering us strings of green and white yarn, the colors of Woodrow Wilson, my high school alma mater in Portland,  Since the theme running through our pastor's sermons has been that we are all one connected through the Holy Spirit, I took one of each expecting that the lesson would be to join them in some way.

When our pastor told us to tie them in knots, I looked at my strings and began to tie them together to honor my mother, who brought me in to this world in pain, despite having given birth to six children before me and knowing full well what she would have to endure. I tied a second knot in the joined strings to honor my father, who gave her the seed of my paternal lineage.

Next, I made a knot for the older sister who took me in, knowing that my mother was already overwhelmed with the five children she was raising, along with caring for the needs of my father. Then I tied a knot for her daughter, a constant source of delight for me, as I helped raise her when her father deserted her and my sister.

Next came a knot for the brother who died of an overdose for which I feel responsible, having abandoned my duty to always let him know of my love for him. Instead, I had judged him for failing to live up to my expectations. I had forgotten that he had already told me how much it hurt him that I always focused on his failings and never gave him credit for trying, in part because of his respect and love for me. 

I thought that I had been trying to make him a better person, when the truth was that I was judgmental because I was jealous.  He was one of those easy talking boys so full of false bravado and charm that girls naturally gravitated toward him when he was younger. II should have grateful to have been able to learn from my brother how to put aside my self-doubts and just enjoy the company of others but instead condemned him for presenting a false front. 

Little did I know that I too hid my real self, so cleverly that I did not even recognize me. It took me a long time to live down my shame and forgive myself. I never forget this when I am tempted to judge another man for his anger, and it has helped me in my work as a psychiatrist. Now that I realize better how our lives are connected the pain I felt after his death has made me that much more empathetic for others I recognize my duty to help.

Next came my other sister, who had danced a jig and laughed when she told me that “the nigger is dead,” after Martin Luther King was murdered. She was an unhappy and rebellious girl then, but has since forgotten how ignorant she was and how she had rejected  until later in life my mother’s teaching to love and respect all men and women. I tied a knot for her son, who I babysat almost every week, trying to teach him not to give in to anger as a toddler and young boy. I then tied a knot for his father, a loving alcoholic like his own father.

Next, I tied a knot for my brother who represented our family in the Hell of the Vietnam War and was almost destroyed by it. He went because of his love and respect for our father, who had rescued him after his birth father abandoned my five oldest brothers and sisters. I followed this with a knot for my wonderful sister-in-law, who saved him by staying by his side after he shot himself in an attempt to escape the Hell he lived through after his experience of watching his comrades die and killing for a country and a cause for which he did not believe in, and to protect the others who shared in his misery and fear. 

I followed this with a knot for his beautiful daughter, another for his always smiling son who constantly shares in the happiness of his beautiful mother and their brother, who seemed to me to suffer worst from the emotional neglect of his depressed and tormented father. Then came knots for the children the younger son had rescued from his alcoholic, abused wife, the women who bore these beautiful girls, and for the twin daughters they produced together and who finally released his father from the prison that Vietnam had created within him.

Next, I tied a knot for the brother who was rejected by my father in anger for reasons I have never understood, despite this brother’s pride in having taken over his business when my father was dropped by a stroke at the young age of 49. This rift  had led to much pain in  family reeling from my father's illness. I followed this by tying knots for my brother's loving wife and for his two loving daughters, his son, and their spouses and children, each of whom had touched my life and enriched it in wonderful ways.

Next came a knot for my paternal grandfather, who abused my father because of the anger from which he suffered as the result of enduring much worse abuse by his own father. My great-grandfather was a product of the German society of that time, the members of which raised their children through the harsh authoritarian methods that I believe led in part to two world wars.

I was ashamed to realize that I left out my maternal grandmother, who had lived with us for several years after she became old and alone. She had been abandoned by one husband and later widowed when her loving Irish husband died suddenly when my mother was six years old. The loss of her father caused my mother immense pain, which helped breed the compassion that she passed on to me and my siblings. I did not know my grandmother well enough to describe her role in the family dance, but I know that she loved me, my mother and our whole family.

I was running out of string at his point, and considered leaving out my paternal grandmother, who I had only met once. Then I remembered that she was a nurse who had helped many others through their pain and sometimes comforted them as they lay dying, as does my own wife. Even though she was absent for much of my father’s life, she had given him the strength and love to endure the abuse and neglect that he suffered from his father. 

He modeled his life from the clay of the love that he had received from his mother and the church in which he was raised.  He was taught his spiritual beliefs by men who so loved  their vision of God that they had foresworn the comfort of women to share their love of Christ. They believed he had done the same for the sake of mankind in freeing from Roman slavery those who believe in the power of collective compassion. The compelling message that Jesus taught  gave early Christians the strength to endure persecution and preserving his message of love. I then tied the ends of the string together, creating a ring that represented the circle of our family’s lives.

My father overcame an oppressive childhood to become a hero.  He saved my family from destruction, healing us from the wounds inflicted upon us and  teaching us to love and respect ourselves and others. He gave us the strength of character to grow up to be men and women who spread our love to each other and to the people  we met on life’s journey. 

I aspire to continue our family tradition of each child becoming stronger than their parents, becoming citizens who work to improve the world we share. I placed the ring on my finger so that I would not forget the experience that Mary Sue had gifted me out of her love for us, Christ, God and mankind. I silently thanked them all, and promised myself and God that I would not forget the vow I then made to pass on this gift.

I sat as the sermon ended and reflected that I would need two whole balls of yarn to represent all the men and women, girls and boys who had touched my life personally and made me the better for it. I thought about all my ancestors, reaching back to the origins of humans in Africa, and their descendants. All had influenced my life in some way, some more than others. All helped me lead to the point in the path of my life that that I found myself. 

At each step, I found had myself at a crossroads of many paths, leading somewhere toward an infinity of possible futures. At times I chose my path unwisely, and once I nearly became lost when I lost my map in the midst of the pain and confusion of severe depression. But when I remembered that I always carried the map my loving family, friends and ancestors had provided me, I knew that I would never be lost and stumble down that road again.

I reflected on the strangers throughout history who had influenced my destiny. Those heroes and villains had all led me to that perfect day when I realized that I would never be alone again. All had played a role in bringing us collectively to this point in history, where we are on the verge of collectively awakening and saving ourselves from self-destruction. 

In that moment, I said a silent prayer for the weakness of Cheney’s black heart and faithless, frightened and angry soul. Had he not become almost hopelessly lost and led this nation to the brink of soul death, we might never have awakened to our responsibility to ourselves, our children, and all those whom we love and who love us. My heart is open to forgiving Cheney, should he miraculously realize the error of his ways and become a force for good, not evil. I pray that he will become an ally in the War to Take Back America for the People, if only to save his own soul.

I am a realist, however. I know that he has made so many poor choices that he is unlikely to find his way back to the true path to enlightenment. Thank God that there are such stubborn, misanthropic and self-deceiving people in power in the world. Since most of us are more honest with ourselves and generally want to respect and love others, we will learn to work together for the brighter future at which we now find ourselves on the brink to which they have taken us.

After I said my prayer for Cheney, I took communion and rejoined myself with the figurative and literal body of Christ. that is our congregation and that of mankind. Walking away from the communion table, I left a five dollar bill on the shrine to honor the ancestors who had passed before us. I did not want the sacrifice of Lincoln to be unacknowledged. He freed the slaves from Africa. Now we must understand how he attempted to teach us to save ourselves from the dark angels of our own nature.

As I left church, I continued to reflect on this lesson. The string kept slipping from my finger, so I twisted it and made two circles, a Mobius strip that I placed on my finger. It came to me that this resembled the double helix of the DNA that enabled life to continue through the generations, joining us to our ancestors all the way back to the beginnings of humanity in Africa, where the Garden of Eden had existed before climate change caused desertification. 

This had forced men and women to wander throughout the world, separating because of scarcity and the war. engendered by competition for limited resources. The first humans became isolated from each other, dividing into tribes and beginning to consider themselves separate from each other. They had misunderstood the clues that God’s messengers, the angels who watch over us, had told us in the days that all men listened for their voices. 

We must learn to consider the revealed knowledge that billions of us believe God has given to the prophets of all the great religions throughout time and space. We are all one people with a common ancestry and a connection to God if we believe that God exists. 

Whether or not we believe God exists, we are all connected to each other in a bond that can be strained but not broken. When all of us understand that, we will again become a family of man and save ourselves from the Armageddon that was foreseen thousands of year ago, when the consequences of unchecked selfishness became clear to all who cared to open their minds.

In the immortal words of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band:

I was standing by my window,
on one cold and cloudy day
when I saw that hearse come rolling
for to carry my mother away.

Will the circle be unbroken
by and by, Lord, by and by?
There’s a better home a-waiting
in the sky, Lord, in the sky.

I said to that undertaker:
“Undertaker, please drive slow,
for this lady you are carrying,
Lord, I hate to see her go.”
Will the circle be unbroken
by and by, Lord, by and by?
There’s a better home a-waiting
in the sky, Lord, in the sky.

Oh, I followed close behind her.
Tried to hold up and be brave,
but I could not hide my sorrow
when they laid her in the grave.

Will the circle be unbroken
by and by, Lord, by and by?
There’s a better home a-waiting
in the sky, Lord, in the sky

I went back home, my home was lonesome.
Missed my mother, she was gone.
All of my brothers, sisters crying,
what a home so sad and lone.

Will the circle be unbroken
by and by, Lord, by and by?
There’s a better home a-waiting
in the sky, Lord, in the sky.

We sang the songs of childhood.
Hymns of faith that made us strong.
Ones that mother Maybelle taught us.
Hear the angels sing along.

Will the circle be unbroken
by and by, lord, by and by?
There’s a better home a-waiting
in the sky, lord, in the sky.

Will the circle be unbroken
by and by, Lord, by and by?
There’s a better home a-waiting
in the sky, lord, in the sky.

If you don’t believe that you are going to Heaven, then work with us to bring Heaven to Earth. If you don’t believe, you cannot see how. Believing is seeing, believe you me.

From the land of Lincoln and Barak Obama, where the winds of change blew forcefully on the anniversary of the Haymarket massacre:

Rick Staggenborg, MD
Chicago, Illinois


  1. i believe there is no more important action than that to remove the control of corporate america from the reins of government. this step is intrinsically linked to the peaceful future of our planet. no country on the planet acts as paranoid as america, as is reflected in its military might and this is the sole reason that the starting point to universal peace must begin with americans demanding through the democratic process a government for the people and solely for the benefit of the people before anything else. The first act of this government must be to abolish weapons manufacture and laws that make the making of weapons an illegal act. The second act of this government must be to declare peace with all nations and declare that america will never attack or declare war upon another sovereign country. It is incredibly easy to ensure corporate america has nothing to do with government by simply taking donations away from the political process, this would also allow for a more fair and just political process. Religion must have no place in government or decision making and must be left to the sole discretion of the individual as to which (if any) they choose and must only be allowed to influence people with respect to enlightenment and values of said religion (as long as those values are truth and peaceful). Corporate profits must be regulated to ensure modesty and fair distribution of wealth for work. I sincerely believe the majority of people would find no problems with any of the above and so the task is to dismantle the disproportionate power the minority have, such a simple sentence but one that no doubt will be hard to achieve given the power that minority holds. Peace is attainable because we the people have the power in reality not the other way around as we have been led to believe. Peace and prosperity to all.

  2. Thank you, Barry. You have eloquently summarized the essential message of the book. The rest is simply a guideline for how to free all people from the threat of worldwide fascism, environmental destruction and mass starvation and disease.

    The key to doing this is to free ourselves from preconceptions about the nature of our present and past realities and to understand the potential to create a new reality together.


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