We Here Now (A Continuing Series)

Learning To See The World Whole

San Francisco Botanical Garden

Sit still and do nothing. Easy, eh? Maybe, or maybe not. Meditation turns out to be one of the most challenging of human activities. Our internal weather — our thoughts and feelings — perpetually obscures our ability to see clearly who and where we are. And we seldom linger long enough to actually see what we’re looking at. The three-step process that follows cultivates panoramic awareness that enables us to notice the broader context and meaning that tunnel vision filters out. It builds on widely practiced mindfulness meditation techniques but is a step beyond…


Gazing Deeply Instead Of Glancing Or Grasping

Tenderloin peacock

Have you ever paused long enough while looking at something — say a street, a tree, a building or a face — to notice all that surrounds it? What do you see?

In our grab-and-go, warp speed world we post-moderns manage to achieve the seemingly impossible — to be obsessed and distracted at the same time. Our eyes fixate on our strobe-light cell phone screens, fastened to one fleeting image then another without ever really absorbing any of it. We swipe through channels of narrowed perception, eliminating the crucial peripheral vision that conveys their essential context and meaning. …


Forgetting my script, I face my audience and become one of them

I seldom remember my dreams. They usually vanish the moment I awake. But late last night, about an hour before dawn, I awoke from the most vivid and astonishing dream I’ve had in years. In it I was an accomplished actor who one day made my way to the theater where I was scheduled to perform, only to realize on my arrival that I had forgotten every word of my role in my solo play. Mortified, I summoned whatever presence of mind remained in me to admit to…


An Elder’s Lifelong Double Vision Finally Finds Its Focus in Learning to Gaze Instead of Grasping for Clarity

From my earliest memories I recall seeing two moons at once. When I was just six years old the optometrist prescribed glasses for me to correct my newly discovered near-sightedness.

“How long will I have to wear these?” I asked my mother, feeling like I’d just been thrown in jail.

“For the rest of your life,” she pronounced with a grimly pleased finality, condemning me to the same life sentence she had served behind glasses. Only many years later did I discover that my myopia may have been due less to genetics than to the blurring effects of panic as…


Learning to Gaze Instead of Glancing or Grasping

Ours is a “grab-and-go” society. When it’s time to eat we catch a bite at the takeout, dash to the nearest bench and rivet our attention on our cellphone while distractedly downing our lunch. We may think we’re efficiently multi-tasking but in truth we’re scarcely half-tasking, wasting our valuable time and dividing the attention we think we’re saving.

We approach grand views in much the same preoccupied fashion. Some years ago my partner and I stopped to take in Bixby Bridge, the iconic image of Big Sur on California’s central coast highway. During the twenty minutes we spent in a…


A Conservative Host And Progressive Guest Cross The Chasm

Following up on my October 26, 2020 column in Newsweek calling for a “new federalism” and pragmatic problem-solving, I recently appeared as a guest on a series of radio and TV interviews on the same themes. The most intriguing of them was hosted by a veteran conservative talk show host by the name of John Loeffler. He can be a fierce debater from the right and has blasted liberals for the past 30+ years on stations and networks from New York to Denver and everywhere in between. As a lifelong progressive, I initially balked at what I feared could become…


Hope is not enough. Cultivate confidence.

“Everything you’ve ever wanted lives just on the other side of fear.”

Eva Cassidy, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”

The past several years have held us captive in a collective nightmare. We’ve been confronted by the darkest dimensions of the human psyche — fear, greed, rage and despair. We’ve been challenged as never before by the feeling of walls closing in, options closing down, dread that all that we value is dying. This is not a hallucination. It’s backed by indisputable scientific evidence. …


With both sides questioning the legitimacy of the other’s authority, it’s time for a trial separation that makes room for each to experiment with their own approaches to the challenges the country faces

Self-styled militia members at Michigan Statehouse

As we approach the national witching hour, right-wing militia groups are threatening violence at the polls and afterwards. “Civil war” has become the meme of the moment, wielded like a flaming sword of divine retribution, as if its mere threat would cause enemies to capitulate. Many Trumpists warn that if their leader is defeated they will refuse to accept the results. From legal challenges to vigilante violence they vow implacable resistance. Minus the violence, many Democrats pledge total noncooperation with a renewed Trump regime. What happens if neither accepts the legitimacy of the other’s authority?

Whichever party ends up in…


Withdrawing Our Consent To Be Ruled By An Illegitimate Regime And Choosing To Govern in Partnership With One Another

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government.

Franklin, Jefferson and co-conspirators editing the Declaration of Independence, June 1776

It’s right there in the Declaration of Independence, the founding document of the American republic: democratic governments derive the legitimacy of their rule solely from the consent of…

Mark Sommer

Mark Sommer is an award-winning print and broadcast journalist based in Northern California.

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