Author Archives: Paul Moore

About Paul Moore

I like to watch the spaces between the things that other people see, the overflowing gaps and the chock-full emptiness.

The Nature of the Sacred

There is a rumor going around that the current School District administration is out to break the teacher’s union. Union officials have been marginalized in their negotiations with the administration and accused of not having the employees’ best interest at heart.

A petition for decertification of the United Steelworker’s Union was filed last month in reference to Local 9424-3. The union hall 890 in Bayard is of “Salt of the Earth” fame is the site from which the strike against the Empire Zinc Company was launched in 1950, and is home to its successor, Local 9424-3.

The rise of unions in our country came on the heels of the industrialization of our economy in the 1800’s, in response to abusive management practices. They have been a voice for justice in the workplace over the years. But they have also overstepped their boundaries more than once. Jimmy Hoffa, Teamster’s union boss, was accused of numerous crimes and disappeared in 1975 to go live with Elvis somewhere, I suppose.

Are unions a thing of the past? Have laws replaced their function? Has the management environment of business in the United States risen to embrace equality, fairness and respect? Are unions a sacred cow that must be slaughtered for the good of the people or are they still the guides and marshals of the search for the holy grail of true justice in the workplace?

I’m sure the answer to that one cannot be given categorically, and neither can it be given about most sacred cows. If the cow stands in the way of the sacred for you it has become an idol, and one must follow the Buddhist admonition, “When you meet the Buddha on the road, slay him.” If, on the other hand, the cow is an icon of things beyond it that still draw you into the heart of the divine then it serves a great purpose, perhaps the greatest on earth.

Unions and sacred cows are always penultimate.

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Small Step, Big Hope

El Gallo Pinto Restaurant sold me some fine menudo the other day. The owner, Mr. Ortiz, was in the dining hall as I waited for my take-out order. We got to talking—it’s hard not to end up talking to Mr. Ortiz. The restaurant was celebrating it’s one-year anniversary and it was applying for a liquor license. I saw in yesterday’s paper that the town granted it to him, opening the path to final paperwork with the state and a new chapter in the history of this fine little eatery. In Silver City the eatery business offers stiff competition—we have some of the best restaurants in the southwest—but El Gallo Pinto is not just your run-of-the-mill Mexican restaurant. For starters, they serve a mean menudo con patitas.

The little place illustrates an anomaly in our economy. Food service establishments and micro-breweries are not going the way of Walmart. Small, family owned businesses are making people a living in this sector. The big boys, Anheuser Busch and Chili’s have their niche, but it’s not this one, and more and more people are demanding a more personalized encounter with food and adult beverages. This is a small step, but it gives me big hope. If the small-scale economy could diversify in other ways as well there could be a more realistic future for the middle class again.

I would like to hope that the movement shows another, deeper trend. I would hope that we’re getting fed up with efficiency, tired of uniformity, and bored with quantity. Maybe we’re finding the strength to throw off the yoke of the tyranny of the bottom line, and reach for greater but less efficient goods.

Maybe we are realizing that we have sold our souls and need them back!

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The Town of Silver City is the second municipality in the state to outlaw single-use plastic grocery bags. The Town Council voted unanimously on the ordinance which will go into effect January 1, 2015. 7,400 reusable grocery bags will be given away in October in anticipation of the ban. I will often tell a clerk at the store, as I take my goods back out of the bag, that there are too many of these things floating around in the oceans starving sea turtles who eat them thinking they are jelly fish. That is far away from a town in the mountains, but anyone can see scores of these things torn and shredded yet somehow clinging to an oak bush in the prairie and causing a sight-blight none of us enjoys.

But there is a deeper issue. The Town of Silver City has an Office of Sustainability that is spearheading this effort. Sustainability requires a long-term view, one that looks beyond the immediate convenience of something and asks the harder questions. Navaho wisdom tells people that true leaders think seven generations ahead. Ancient Irish wisdom tells us to look beyond the 9th wave on the ocean. The Chinese will pickle an egg they don’t expect to actually eat for years. I just bought a (captive bred) tortoise for my wife for her birthday that she expects to leave to her grandchildren. Sustainability asks just how long a given action can be sustained at the current level of activity, and considers the implications of the answers.

Wisdom is always known by its context. The greater the context held in awareness the greater the wisdom. What, then, is the greatest context to be considered? I can think of nothing greater than the Great Unity that underlies all reality, that transcends time and space, where all is at rest and all is at peace. Even as we live in our you-me world of distinctions and dualities, if we can keep an awareness of that great unity we will always know that we are members one of another, and that what happens to me happens to you and happens to all of creation. Then we may truly address the question of sustainability.

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Where two or three are gathered…

I almost never repost, but this blog is worth it. It reminds me of Jesus’ words cited in the title.

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Over the Labor Day weekend my wife and I took our maiden voyage with a camper trailer. The trailer was not maiden, it is a borrowed “Casita,” but camper camping was new to us. We had the weekend to figure out how to work pumps and dumps, levels and levers. We had a blast.

We camped in the wilderness, out on the back side of the Burros mountains south and west of Silver City. At 5200 feet the vegetation is low chaparral and prairie, and we could see to the Chiricahuas in Arizona. The sunsets were spectacular—the inspiration behind so many New Mexico paintings of layers of mountains of faded shades of grey outlined in orange. And we were entirely alone.

But that word, used in that way, has a very narrow meaning. We never felt lonely. We had the mountains behind us, the bear-grass and chaparral, the quail and doves and other birds, our dogs, and the company of billions of stars each night. What we did not have were other people.

Perhaps loneliness is the unmet need for the company of other people; solitude is the satisfaction of a much broader sense of company.

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Hands Tied

Obama is claiming underfunding as justification for more presidential power in the immigration issue. It’s not clear to me how he will use that power, but I find the back-and-forth on Capitol Hill interesting and distressing. While ICE runs amok with our neighbors to the south who are fleeing for their lives, our decision-makers banter back and forth about homeland security and humanitarianism, tea party-style heavy-handedness and infinite bureaucracy. They puff up and strut like so many banty roosters all crowing from their corner of the chicken yard, while the guinea hens, fleeing from the fox in the neighbor’s hen-house, sneak in around the corners hoping not to be noticed while they snatch a bite or two.

I would think that the farmer is looking on with amusement and dismay while he collects guinea eggs.

I think they’ve tied their own hands.

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I visited recently with the president and VP for Student Affairs of Western New Mexico University. We were discussing ways that the United Campus Ministry could be involved in the lives of students of the University to their benefit, especially spiritual. The president indicated that there were some clergy in town with whom he would rather not work. His interest is in developing and strengthening the spirituality of the students as a vital part of who they are as people, and he did not think some of the clergy in town did this. Theirs, he said, was a religious agenda, not a spiritual one.

He is a perceptive man. How many people have told you that they were spiritual and not religious? The religious community has created the question, having forgotten for too long the difference between spirituality and religion. We can all perform religious actions without spiritual depth behind them, and the hypocrisy of it taints the name of religion and sends these people to find spirituality elsewhere.

Spirituality is essential to being human. It is part of our make-up. Religion is one way that spirituality is expressed. To the degree that a religion does not express spirituality in a healthy, life-giving way it betrays its purpose and violates its people. To the degree that a religious tradition enhances, enriches and enlarges a person’s spirituality it grounds human living in the divine ground of our being and transforms the world for good.

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