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Most of us have felt the unconditional love of an animal… that deep bond that seems to go beyond our human connections. We talk to our dogs and to our cats and sometimes we connect with them more deeply than with anyone else. They love us… and we love them.

You can feel that connection again and again by giving your love to every animal — those we call our pets, wild animals, and those who suffer on farms and in factory farms. Make Vegan and cruelty-free choices to align with your true love for animals.

Expand your circle of compassion and the love will come back to you a thousand times.

Visit for ideas on everyday choices that can help build a better world.


An excerpt from the documentary “King in Chicago”. Interviews with activists who worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the 1966 Chicago Freedom Movement.

I especially like the advice that Nonviolence requires that each of us recognize our own contribution to the problem.  We must in a sense first point the finger at ourselves and remove our investment in the problem so that we may instead be part of the solution.

All one,

🙂 m

I recently read a chapter in Ira Chernus’ American Nonviolence in which he discusses the contributions of author Henry David Thoreau to the Nonviolence movement. I was surprised to learn that ironically, while people tend to count Thoreau among the heroes of Nonviolence, he “never actually embraced the principle of Nonviolence” (54). He supported violent revolutionary acts such as John Brown’s assault on Harper’s Ferry.

Neither did Thoreau have confidence in the efforts of social justice activists. Thoreau saw social justice activists, at least those working to change policy and institutions, as wasting their time – he thought it was more important to change “individual souls” rather than social institutions: he wrote, “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root” (52).

While I disagree with Thoreau’s confidence in violent activism, I agree with him that the success of the current revolution lies in the hearts of the people. He urged reformers to look within themselves and change themselves rather than trying to change others. I would expand his argument to include that we should still try to educate people in order to spread awareness (otherwise social change will wither on the vine) – but reminding people of their own values and showing them how to live their lives aligned with those values is hardly “changing” people; it’s waking them (I think Thoreau would agree – as I’ll explain below).

Thoreau did recognize that individuals were the building blocks of society and of societal institutions and that “one [person] expressing [their] own opinion amounted to the re-origination of many of the institutions of society” (53). What he finds to be of utmost interest and importance is waking each individual to follow their own conscience — even when this means breaking unjust laws.

His philosophy of commitment to conscience led to his own short stay (one night) in jail for refusing to pay taxes which supported the unjust U.S. war against Mexico and a government (the U.S.) that supported slavery. This experience led to his writing the infamous “Civil Disobedience” which in turn influenced Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, and countless Nonviolence activists. This contribution to Nonviolence theory is why Thoreau is still exalted as a Nonviolence theorist.

Thoreau’s way of thinking moves beyond the thinking of Thomas Hobbes, who believed that any government was better than no government. Hobbes believed that because people were innately selfish and brutish, we must transfer our right to self-rule (and even violence) to the state. Hobbes believed the government is a necessary evil. To Hobbes, there is no such thing as an unjust law because right and wrong is determined by the law.

Thoreau on the other hand, sees justice as our primary loyalty, not laws. He foresaw a day when this adherence to conscience by masses of individuals would lead to the obsolescence of the state — what Thoreau called a “glorious State.” Rather than looking to the state for guidance and punishment, each would look to themselves and their own good conscience for what is morally right. Through personal awakening, personal responsibility, and a shared commitment to our interconnected world, the state would wither and become unnecessary.

We will be held responsible for the future we build. And future generations will celebrate or suffer because of us.  It’s up to each of us to live our conscience no matter how difficult that may be. As Thoreau put it, “Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around.”

All one,

🙂 m

Chernus, Ira. 2004. “Henry David Thoreau.” 45-55 in American Nonviolence: The History of an Idea. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Alright, we usually don’t delve into the philosophical… but here’s something from Jean Jacques Rousseau that is worthy of exploring.

I’ll try to keep it simple – think of it as a Cliffs Notes on Rousseau’s take on “the origins of inequality” and how we can all be supportive of one another through a “social contract.” It’s loooooong, but really is worth the read if you’re into strategizing on how to change the world (like we are!).

This summary comes from my listening to an audio lecture series by Professor Dennis Dalton (Dalton, Dennis. 1998. Power Over People: Classical and Modern Political Theory: Rousseau. Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company Limited Partnership).

Power Over People: Rousseau is a lecture series examination of Jean Jacques Rousseau’s works The Discourse on the Origins of Inequality and his subsequent Social Contract. Professor Dalton categorizes Rousseau as an Idealist (sharing company with Plato, Marx, and Thoreau) who would ask, “What kind of society is best? How do we get there?” contrasting him to the Realists (like Machiavelli and Hobbes) who instead ask, “How do people act? What will become of society because of the ways people act?” The Idealist has an optimistic view of human nature and the future of humanity. Rousseau challenged Machiavelli’s dour view of human nature and his claim that there was no relationship between morality and politics – in fact, Rousseau would argue that morality and politics are inextricably linked.

Rousseau strongly criticized modern society as corrupt, but thought we had vast potential for improvement, albeit trapped in a contemporary system. Dalton emphasizes that Rousseau was not simply a utopian thinker hoping for a brave new world; he had a plan (as do the other Idealists) to reach that better world – that plan was through EDUCATION. He believed strongly in the effectiveness of education (unlike the “realists”). He wrote of a “right” kind of education that teaches values and sees itself intimately connected to creating moral citizens who in turn see themselves as part of a community rather than a system building competition and control (reminds us of our project “A Life Connected”).

Rousseau saw three stages in our evolution toward the ideal society (what he called the “civil society” or the “civil state.” These three stages are: the past, the present, and the future:

The first stage is the “Past”: Dalton points out that many dismiss Rousseau as a “back to nature theorist.” But Rousseau didn’t want to go “back to nature;” he wanted to move forward to a civil society based upon what he imagined the ideal human to be before being corrupted by modern society. He identified two primary instincts or motivations. The first was that of self-preservation. The second was the “natural repugnance of seeing any sentient being… perish or suffer… as long natural man did not resist the inner impulse of compassion he would never harm another man or sentient being except in the legitimate instance of self defense.” This second instinct or motivation is key to Rousseau’s philosophy – it highlights his belief that humans have an instinct of compassion; that people are by nature generous, merciful, and humane.

The second stage in our evolution toward the ideal society is “Modernity”. Rousseau believes that modernity has corrupted us. This he attributes to our “vast cities, rampant commercialism, and the institution of private property” – all causing us to become alienated and isolated from one another. When we are disconnected from one another, it becomes easy to deny one another. But following Rousseau’s thought this insensitivity defies our deepest humanity. “For modern man, his fellow man can be killed with impunity underneath his very window; he needs only to place his hands over his ears and argue with himself (a little) in order to prevent nature, that innate nature to help another that cries out from within him that identifies with the man being tortured and killed.”

He sees private property as one of the first causes of the separation that now exists: “The first person who, having enclosed a plot of land, took it into his head to say this is mine and found people simple enough to believe him was the true founder of civil society. What crimes, wars, murders, what miseries and horrors would the human race have been spared, had someone pulled up the stakes or filled in the ditch and cried out to his fellow men: ‘Do not listen to this imposter. You are lost if you forget that the fruits of the earth belong to all and the earth to no one.’”

The third stage in our societal evolution is the “Civil State.” Rousseau envisioned a future of social justice, freedom, and equality by establishing a civil state through a new “social contract.” This social contract is something that would be taught (via the education system) and accepted by the larger community. This would happen through something he called “the general will” – a consensus of community spirit in which we all work for the good of others and of all.

Professor Dalton summarizes Rousseau’s philosophy of the general will when he says, “We need to define ourselves not in terms of things but in terms of relationships with others.” Rousseau saw the future with a new kind of freedom – a freedom that isn’t about acting however we want for our own selfish wants, but a freedom to help one another. Freedom isn’t about acting as we wish, he says, but instead adhering to a shared morality that includes a sense of responsibility. Dalton poetically calls this “the freedom to act as we *should* act,” liberating ourselves from the illusion of separateness. Dalton also points out that Rousseau echoed something Plato had hoped for – the creation of a society so unified that “just as a single person loses a limb the whole body suffers, so in this state we want to create a society that if one soul is lost, so too the entire society would suffer.”

Rousseau’s vision was that of undeniable interconnection.

🙂 m


A teacher and friend offered me Eknath Easwaran’s book “Meditation” to read and add to my Nonviolence tool belt some lessons on training the mind for difficult times…

I kept getting distracted by Easwaran’s metaphors when he writes of animals as if they were ours to train and to bring to submission. He used an elephant metaphor saying it was important to train an elephant to carry a staff with her trunk to keep her from doing what would come natural to an elephant — to eat the fruit she passes through the market place.


“Untrained horses can break away and run where they will, here and there, perhaps leading us to destruction… But trained horses – horse lovers know the delight of this – respond to even a light touch of the reins.”

I believe he meant no harm by these metaphors, but as I’ve moved along the Nonviolence path, metaphors like these now strike me as hurtful, oppressive, and domineering.

There’s a low budget classic movie from the early 1970s called “Billy Jack.” The opening sequence is of locals rounding up wild horses to haul them off to slaughter to make a few bucks. The wild horses are beautiful and graceful… and the human greed and bravado causing their panic and stampede are in stark violent contrast. The scene seems to go on way too long… uncomfortably long. I would like to think if this movie were shot again today, they wouldn’t be allowed to cause for our “entertainment” this kind of brutality — horses slipping on the rocky surface of the desert high cliffs, stumbling, falling, confused, and in utter terror.

I think of the “horses and elephants” Easwaran invites us to “train.” A metaphor that would be more meaningful to me and less violent to me would be to let the elephant be what an elephant is meant to be — kind, loving, free, peaceful, and strong. And allow the horses to be set free to be elegant, graceful, and wise. It reminds me that our minds are not wild and obstinate by nature, but are actually innately peaceful and creative.

Our challenge then is to FREE the mind, not to train it — to allow it to be in its natural state rather than pushing it to unnatural states.

Of course, we’ve gone so far now — marinating our brains in everything unnatural, violent, and disconnected — that it’s difficult to know which way nature lies. Still, it’s interesting for me to think that “training” the mind is really an act of liberating the mind, setting it free. It’s not confining, it’s freeing. It’s not controlling; it’s reminding. It’s not taking it places it doesn’t want to go; it’s just trying to set it free… to arrive home.

I believe Easwaran and I are talking about the same process and the same goals, but the metaphor changes things for me. It reminds me of when we speak to folks about living A Life Connected. It’s not that we’re asking people to change. Rather, we are offering them the tools to be who they truly are — compassionate, caring, connected individuals.

All one,

🙂 m

This article doesn’t require you be Christian to understand its relevance.  But our Christian friends and/or fans of Jesus might especially enjoy the lesson on the historical Jesus.

I thought it would be fun to offer a little clarification on what is arguably the most misused and abused reference to Nonviolence – Jesus’ teaching to “turn the other cheek.”  Pick a politician (Christian or not), pick a self-proclaimed revolutionary, pick even a weekend activist and you’ve probably heard them say something like, “I’m all for peace and Nonviolence, but if somebody threatens me or my family, I’m not going to TURN THE OTHER CHEEK!”

What they’re really saying is, “… I’m not going to DO NOTHING! I’m not going to IGNORE IT!”  But that is NOT what Jesus was saying.  This is so vitally important to understanding Nonviolence, what it is, its power, and its superiority over violence, not just morally, but strategically.

Author Walter Wink does a wonderful job of explaining this.  Here is a link to the more detailed text and/or you might learn more about Walter Wink and his work here.

But here’s an abbreviate explanation.  It involves history (not an interpretation of the Bible), and I know how painful history can be to some of us 🙂 but read on – it’s a fascinating take on the true meaning of “turn the other cheek.”

First, let’s refresh our memory of the Bible passage:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” —Matthew 5:38-42, NIV

Here’s the history (sorry if it hurts… it’s actually pretty interesting)…

Note that Jesus said the RIGHT cheek.  This is key.  In Jesus time and place in history, the left hand was used for “unclean” purposes (I won’t go into the details… but you can probably guess some of them — imagine a time with no soap and limited water).  You wouldn’t use your left hand to purchase food, shake someone’s hand, OR even strike someone.  It would be a shameful act to use your left hand for these things.

Also, if you were to strike someone, you would use your BACKHAND to assert dominance and authority.  If you instead used your fist or slapped with an open hand, this would mean the person you were striking was your equal (or even your superior!).

OK, did you follow that?  It might help to get a partner and act this out (don’t really slap them!).  Try pretend striking them while 1. not using your left hand and 2. using your backhand to assert your dominance.  You’d be using your RIGHT hand, backhanding your inferior and striking them on their RIGHT cheek.

Aha!  “If someone strikes you on the RIGHT cheek, turn to him the other also.”

Try it.  Now, only the LEFT cheek is exposed.  In order to strike your inferior on their LEFT cheek you have to either use your right forehand or punch them (this would make them your equal) OR use your left backhand (this would shame you in public).

Jesus’ call to “turn to him also the other” or as is often quipped “turn the other cheek” is NOT a call to simply ignore the insult.  It is telling us to DEMAND EQUALITY!  Stand up to your oppressor!  Don’t take insults and attacks lying down!

Nonviolence is a brilliant way to end the violence.  Retaliating in violence to a “superior” may have in Jesus’ day resulted in death or at least an escalation to the violence.  But, Jesus was a brilliant Nonviolent strategist.  A simple turn of the head refused the insult, demanded equality and justice, and ended the violence.  This is active Nonviolence.

I also included in the Bible passage above, “And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”  Wink also gives us the historical significance of these – again, as you may have guessed, these are strategic Nonviolent actions, not acquiescence.

By offering also your cloak you would be reduced to nakedness.  But in Jesus’ time, the nakedness would be an embarrassment to the viewer, not the naked.  You would again claim justice by exposing yourself (literally) but also your oppressor.

And “walking the extra mile” – in Jesus’ time, Roman soldiers could under Roman law demand that inhabitants of occupied territories carry their equipment for them – up to one mile.  However, they were not to require someone to carry the equipment for more than one mile – if they did, the soldier himself would be subject to punishment.  So, “going that extra mile” isn’t about bending over backwards and bowing to an oppressor, it again goes above and beyond to Nonviolently reclaim justice.  It will take strength and it may take suffering, but Nonviolence can, if waged strategically, overcome violence and oppression.  It requires a refusal to be humiliated.

So, you see, this passage is a Nonviolence primer, NOT an excuse to do nothing in the face of wrong.  Whether you consider yourself Christian, or hold to another religion, or choose no religion at all, the power of Nonviolence is powerful, effective, and available to you.

The misuse of this simple phrase has been used to disregard Nonviolence, escalate violence, and cause unspeakable pain and suffering.  It’s well past time we set the record straight.  “Turning the other cheek” is NOT passivity.  It is powerful.  It is the weapon of the strong.

This is Nonviolence.

It was fun for me to discover this little but important history lesson.  And it’s entertaining to show to others.  I hope you’ll see the lesson as fun and will share it, too.

All one,

🙂 matt

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Gandhi said it and corporations and politicians co-opted it and sucked the life out of it.  But make it real and you’ll change the world.

You’re part of a NEW social movement built on compassion and personal responsibility.  Social change comes from the people UP, not from the top down.  The state of the world isn’t something being done TO us; it is being done BY us.

Each of our choices in the past built the world we live in today.  And each of our choices from this moment forward will build the world we live in tomorrow.  We will build a world reflective of our values when our everyday choices are aligned with those values.

So, c’mon!  Join the land of the living.  Be part of the solution simply by living your life completely and connectedly.

This is from our A Life Connected brochure:

How To Live A Life Connected.

You were born with values that connect you to humanity and to the world in which you live — values of justice, kindness, and compassion. Reconnect to who you truly are. Put your compassion into action and make our world a better place.

1. Connect with yourself. Become re-aware of your moral values.

2. Connect with others. Become aware of how your everyday choices impact other people, the planet, and animals.

3. Connect your choices to your values. If your choices are truly aligned with your values, stay on that path and find even more connections. If your choices are unaligned, make new, better, and more connected choices.

Thank you for all that you do!

All one,

🙂 m

There’s no real word for Active Nonviolence. Nonviolence is one of those “non” words — a “not” word. But it is much more than not-violence. It is active, creative, courageous, sometimes complicated, often difficult, organized, and driven.

It’s difficult to describe, build, or recognize something that doesn’t have a name. Did the word smiths purposefully write Nonviolence out of our language and therefore out of our understanding?

Even Gandhi struggled with what to call the Nonviolent fight for India’s independence. He announced a contest to find the best word to describe the new powerful movement. Satyagraha, roughly translated from Sanskrit to mean “Truth-Force,” won the contest. But the word Satyagraha hasn’t entirely caught on… it doesn’t really roll off the tongue.

In his book, Nonviolence: 25 Lessons From The History of a Dangerous Idea (meaning “dangerous” to the status quo) Mark Kurlansky asks what if “war” was a non-word? What if the only word for war was “nonpeace?” When we would talk about waging nonpeace, our natural question would be, “Why? Why don’t we want peace?” Nonpeace seems abnormal and impotent. It’s a non-word afterall.

Kurlansky’s book goes on to explore historical examples of Nonviolence, question some of the reasons people support violence, and delve into the “25 Lessons” — all of which are summarized at the end of the book. Here are some “lessons” we found particularly interesting:

  • Practitioners of Nonviolence are seen as enemies of the state.
  • Once a state takes over a religion, the religion loses its Nonviolent teachings.
  • A rebel can be defanged (made less threatening to the status quo) and can be co-opted by making them into a saint after death.
  • Wars do not have to be sold to the general public if they can be carried out by an all-volunteer professional military.
  • A conflict between a violent and a Nonviolent force is a moral argument. If the violent side can provoke the Nonviolent side into violence, the violent side has won.
  • Violence does not resolve. It always leads to more violence.

Thanks for stopping by.  And thank you for all that you do.

🙂 matt

Martin Luther King, Jr. believed (paraphrased here) that if we don’t have something in our lives worth dying for, life is not worth living. That’s a pretty powerful statement… and in the world of social justice activism, you’ll often come across someone who says they’re willing to give their lives for a cause.

But we’re not asking you all to give your lives.  We’re asking you to LIVE your lives.  It is so much more powerful to LIVE FOR something.  This is the power of Proactive Nonviolence and the call of – to do your part to proactively build a better world.

Integrity. This is one of the “tools” you’ll need to succeed with Nonviolence.  Integrity means following your heart and doing the right thing regardless of social pressures, of who’s around you, of what you’ve been told, and regardless of what you may have been doing your entire life.  It’s connecting with a core value inside you — justice driven by compassion — and living with integrity in your everyday choices in what you think, what you say, and what you do.  It’s being who you really are wherever you are.

Each of our choices in the past helped build the world we live in today.  And each of our choices, from this moment forward, will help build the world of tomorrow.  There is a way to build a better world – a world driven by the innate goodness of people and their shared values of justice, kindness, and compassion for other people, for the planet, and for animals.

Live your values, change the world.  It’s that simple.

I often talk with social justice activists who feel overwhelmed. They try to feel excited at the possibilities, but find themselves crumbling to a halt, depressed, restless and at times feeling hopeless.

Some of us feel on edge, overly anxious and quick to anger. Our eating habits might be irregular — eating too little or too much. We can’t sleep or we can’t stop sleeping. What’s going on?

We may be suffering from a form of Post Traumatic Stress Reaction also known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Many social justice activists have seen things a person should never have to see. We may experience first hand or through videos and extensive reading the images of war, famine, violent attacks, death and atrocities to people, to the planet and to helpless animals.

These images become burned in our minds and can haunt us in our nightmares and in daytime flashbacks.

Some sufferers of PTSD overcome their symptoms/reactions within months of experiencing the trauma. But what about those of us who by the very nature of our work continue to put ourselves in the middle of the horror? What will happen to us when we continue to see and deal with these horrors day in and day out for years?

These very real and lucid memories can be emotionally crippling and result in a host of reactions in our attempt to manage the pain. We can be blind-sided by depression, anxiety, anger, sleeplessness, nightmares, memory loss, restlessness, jumpiness, fear and amplified emotions. And some of us may try to cope in unhealthy ways.

One of the more disturbing and harmful coping mechanisms can be a form of avoidance. The intrusive thoughts and resulting depression, anxiety and/or anger become so distressing that we try to avoid contact with everything and everyone who might trigger the ill feeling. We may withdraw from our activist friends, we may get less involved, we may threaten and destroy relationships all in an unconscious and sometimes conscious attempt to end the pain.

What can we do?

  • First, recognize the symptoms in yourself and in your friends and fellow social justice activists. Be supportive of yourself and of each other.
  • Know that your reactions are not at all abnormal. Caring people have open hearts and open minds — those open hearts and open minds can be easily hurt. The very definition of compassion means “to suffer with.”
  • Seek the help of a counselor, a healthcare professional, a spiritual advisor, a mentor, a family member, a close friend and/or a support group of your fellow activists.
  • Take time to look at the sky, to meditate, to breathe, to laugh, to find the joy in life.
  • Turn off your television and tune out the violence. Much of the media is designed to keep the public hyper-aroused, anxious and consuming. Tune out the violence and make room for Nonviolence.
  • “Shut off” with your friends. You may have friends that deal with the same tough issues. When you’re together recognize that together you already “get it.” You don’t have to convince each other of anything. Help each other find the positive, look for the good, get creative and build on the joy of having a friend who understands.
  • Read a good book. Listen to music. Take a walk.

And, maybe most importantly, recognize that you have awakened. You are doing your best to no longer be a part of the cycle of pain. You are part of what is right in this world. Join with others in that joyful awakening and invite others to join us not in painful awareness, but in joyful activism — knowing that from this day forward we are going to make the world a better place for all.

Consider visiting the PTSD link at

All one,
🙂 matt