Finally, Do No Harm

“First, do no harm.”

When that commandment proves false, does harm —in a world of consequences and interconnections, there is no unitive through a negative injunction, only failure through failing step number one — even its aspiration evaporates. Yet, maleficence reduction has value.

What about a less G*D-like order and more human-reachable goal of going for, “First, do the least harm?

Here, too, we run up against our nature. No, not original sin or baked-in evil, our ability to take sufficient data into account. What seems so common-sensical today is, in tomorrow’s frame, quite nonsensical. Even an agreement on a modicum of justice leaves far too many outside its protection. It leaves a store of virus a place of incubation from which to arise again (not unlike the Confederate “Lost Cause” Defense).

Is there any tool left if moderate progressive good work requires a field empty or depleted of harm before it can propagate?

There is much to be said for a professional ethic such as a Hippocratic Oath that recognizes its limits. Applying such to a community unable to agree upon limits is a setup for failure. For example, we don’t even understand parental responses to a firstborn, a middle child, a last-born, or any additional gradations between.

It may well be that attempts to corral harm must necessarily come no higher than second place, and may well lay much lower. If “harm” is what sets the stage, it implies something like original sin is the correct model that must be guarded. In which case, failure to contain harm is not only the expected result but will impinge upon any other goal.

I suspect that turning such a paradigm on its head, “First, do good,” will be as unachievable, and a moderate desire to bring “all the good one can” will be measured and found wanting. Since we prefer not to live with or without such doctrinal approaches to life, we are all the more reliant upon a living, flowing mercy beyond definition and codification. Blessings on sharing such.

Yes, Sir!

six tons or sixteen
the result is the same
older poorer
gussied up in their finery
another day deeper in

their very persistence
argues nothing changes
city hall
must not be challenged
kept its impudence inviolable

the company store
brooks no competitor
pervasive in granularity
restrictive of options

so generous it tab
putting all in its debt
three bags full
for one in return

live to fight another day
with diminished returns
hungrier weaker
only now seeing beyond
order’s mirage


Prophecy is a critical function in a transition from a current stuck spot to a next best constellation of relationships—human-to-(non)human and human-to-human. A business consultant may speak of vision and mission statements or a life coach of expectations and manifestation. Beyond a societal or individual economy, there is that which moves back toward Indigenous stories of creation and proper respect or honor. Beyond, in another direction, is an interaction with Dreamtime and resolution.

Prophecy is a comprehensive action echoing past fulfillments of prior or implicit prophecy and a recognition of what is yet unfulfilled. It needs a gathering of courage to begin living as though it has been present for generations.

Prophecy is a bubbling, a fomenting and fermenting work of what is most life-giving, life-receiving, to trust. Some might traditionally think of this as faith. Unfortunately, faith is too static a word that also too fragile. Rather than use other synonyms that orient faith backward: Belief. Trust. It is a helpful exercise to begin using the process of prophecy to replace our reflexive use of “faith.”

Prophecy is more difficult in times of ease. Only the strongest and clearest prophet can speak during a “good” time. They are the only ones able to see the danger of being stuck in the most abundant and bountiful Eden. In difficult days, it is required to check what prophecy is given attention, for there are both harmful and healthful prophecies, and there will be plenty of same dressed in one conspiracy theory or another. A difference is whether they ask resignation through a return to a good-old day or engagement in moving from today’s difficulty toward a significantly varied future built on the investment of a life-unto-death in a tomorrow released from a reactive response to today.

For now, practice using “prophecy” instead of “faith,” “belief,” or “trust,” and prophesy what you need to hear and share.


corn sprouts
but not deeply

after an afternoon of summer pruning
a grapefruit ale immediately refreshes

soon a relaxation edges on in
before knowing it repose arrives

as patterns near meaning
such responses elicit riddles

how is a summer’s day
when did you last hear a bell toll

roused again thoughts are trimmed
to keep quick from shading deep


“Leaders use their authority to accuse.” This general statement is a condensation of a sentence I read about particular leaders. At question is whether such a generalization can stand on its own, given our desire to have a hero tucked away in a leadership position who will, one day, take up our cause and shepherd it into being the cause for all.

There is a sense, here, of Leadership being a proactive state. Leaders gather information from experts and their gut. Such gathered data is enacted through public mechanisms of policy, treasure, and enforcement. If only my good heart had these resources! Could Heaven on Earth be far behind? Obviously, not.

Were we to tar all leaders with this brush, we would not be able to look back and be grateful that helpful decisions were sometimes made. 

In stories like those about Jesus, we can see both religious and governmental leaders working in cahoots to accuse both one and many. Eventually, this led directly to the death of one and many. This is not what the storytellers desired to have been the outcome. They claim Jesus would have been a different leader than Herod or Pilate – both of whom are portrayed as sympathizing with Baptizer John or Prophet Jesus. In both cases, they put their leadership in the service of the loudest accusers. Their accumulated moral injury could do no other.

I tend to agree with the opening accusation of this jotting. Unfortunately, I also tend to agree with this reformulation – “Storytellers use their authority to accuse.”

We each carry an authority of some weight. Leaders, Storytellers, and each one of us needs the old button, “Question Authority.” Note: this button need not generically accuse all leaders and storytellers or leave everything at loose ends by calling everything into question, but asks if there is a better option than decision-making through accusation, counter-accusation, or acceding to accusation.


In days of heightened awareness of injury accumulate through generations of a false narrative to justify decisions based on “race,” I am still hearing the beneficiaries of cultural injustice asking those harmed by it, “What should I do to help?” Similarly, there are attempts to posit one overarching panacea or another that will resolve, at little cost, matters of relief, reparation, and recovery.

In days of long ago, we took tests to see what occupation we were suited for (Capitalism does need its laborers) and direct our educational arc accordingly. Such instruments required a specific outcome to justify their construction and application. While not remembering what course those tests laid out for me, I am confident that they didn’t even come close to what has occurred. As a category of a meaningful life and the measure of wealth, “occupation” does not rise more than knee-high for me.

Asking advice about which way to be helpful has a significant difficulty – it seldom accords with our energy, gifts, or values. We are far more likely to find a helpful response to an unsettling circumstance when it arises from within rather than directed from without.

Rather than put ourselves in a cog’s position on some universal machine or solution, we might reflect and engage with a statement followed by a question. “I am thinking (or feeling) that I can offer ______. Do you know a place or person where I can begin to practice and see where to grow from there?”

From a structural point of view, there will be no single “solution” to racism. Remember “Reconstruction” after the slave-based Civil War within the US. Even learning a lesson or two from that effort won’t materially enhance a variant today. There are too many aspects to the problems we have brought upon ourselves, individually and collectively, with concepts of “inherent superiority” and “race” for us to easily move to larger “self-evident truths.”

To grow in the image of one another invites variation and wholeness, not one path and the division it builds as we wonder and wander together. Removing one more layer of racism will require many different gifts that come together as a variant of getting to a proverbial moon – “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.” (John F. Kennedy, Moon Speech, September 12, 1962)

This choice of addressing supremacy and racism will not be easy. A first step might be a variant on another Kennedy quote: Ask not what you can do for a cause, but volunteer the gifts you already have.


PS to Dave – this was written before our last thread.

100° F

thank goodness for thermodynamics
on a 100° (Fahrenheit) day
English Black Iced-Tea
from a well-insulated travel tumbler 
slips cooly over teeth and tongue
focusing its attention
as it slows to turn downward
in diminishing degrees
to rest and radiate
its reminder
soon enough all will be frozen
and it is far more difficult
to reverse that process
Huzzah! Hot Bang!
so I wait a bit
before another sip
as I regulate the weather
through my Super-Power
in weather such as this
I’m a human heatsink
may those down-weather
appreciate this task
as I give thanks
for folks up-weather
who did their tea-drinking best
to have it be only 100° F here

in the midst of back-patting
the air conditioner kicked in
putting much more heat
into the already heat
than my little cooler
could ever match

look out neighbors
I'm passing on more
than I received
many times this blesses
but not this time
prepare for a low-grade fever


Last week I started a bit of flap by advocating for a personnel directory within a business I am associated with. It became clear – there won’t soon be a change of policy. It came down to restricting contact information to protect women who had experienced stalkers or other sexual harassment – a very high value. For me, an equally high value is open communication channels within an institution that tends toward the hierarchical. So far, we have not found a balance between individual and systemic “rights.” In some ways, the “rights” lens keeps us from managing difficult situations. This places decisions within the limits of an either/or choice.

What I found most interesting was a comment that suggested my concern for community conversation was received as being against women’s protection and thus revealed a privileged position.

I don’t think there is any question that I carry both conscious and unconscious privilege wherever I go. The obvious ones are being white and male. They are well-attested. This leads me to wonder about my accusations of privilege directed toward others.

I can account for at least three different faces of privilege that may call that popular term into question. Its current use is as a variant on original sin supposedly residing within each of us. Looked at more carefully, it is not so much a matter of privilege qua privilege, but the contesting of one right against another. The result is that whoever gets the blame of “privilege” in first has the advantage. It cannot be countered in the same conversation wherein it arose.

In some areas, I have particularly “activated privilege” I can wield to my benefit as well as intentionally use for another’s benefit. This is quite conscious and keeps privilege alive as a category deemed helpful when so used. There are, of course, still some unconscious uses of it in the simple act of helping.

In other areas, I have “envious privilege” and will raise it to foster and resist the ways I see others applying their privilege against my “right.” To recognize another’s privilege is to give up what opportunity I have to simply raise questions or take a more direct action. I have to work through my reactive nature before finding a helpful act to clarify the issue beyond using “privilege” as a privileged word.

In yet other areas, the mystery of “humbled privilege” addresses the wrinkles of life without the support of this claim of authority. In a moment, a larger perspective is opened to reveal a spacious, longer-termed educational tack available in the storms of life. As long as I engage privilege as a point of judgment, I am constrained to its boundaries.

No matter how I schematize Privilege, may my original privilege find the mercy it needs to get unstuck from its beneficial blindness.


A nap
is well in order
too many long days
too many short nights
not only in order
nigh unto necessary
- - - - - - -
staggers are already here
soon overcome
no overcoming in sight
now I lay me down
perchance to dream
without refreshment
- - - - - - -
defenses down
eyes closed
ears alert
for another who
who calls out warning
without hope of hearing
- - - - - - -
I’m hearing one
like a medical diagnosis
cries are everywhere
now that we know
I cannot sleep
for now I know
- - - - - - -
all cries in one
one cry in all
in time and out
in finally hearing
another cry
I know my own

Moral Inclusion

I saw a reference to “moral inclusion,” but it was vague enough that I am free to see where such might lead. Usually, I would investigate an intriguing phrase before riffing on it. In this case, I’m presuming to be in a pretest phase, to be followed by further inquiry and another test to see how solidly it has lodged in my vocabulary and behavior.

Generally, I am averse to morals of any kind – they tend toward particulars of social control that reveal a point of social stuckness only dislodgeable by an earthquake called a revolution. Morals are aphorisms, well-phrased nuggets that pose as a cosmic or final answer, stopping further inquiry. Without regard to contextual circumstances, morals attempt to set out eternally valid limits within human relationships. By the time a moral is elucidated, it has carved out a huge chunk of life and set it aside from further consideration. Morals are generally exclusive.

When viewed through the above lens, “moral inclusion” approaches a paradox or oxymoron. These techniques have the value of calling attention to a tension that cannot be quickly resolved by an answer but calls for a series of responses.

I currently view “moral inclusion” as a way to set one moral code alongside a different moral code to see where such a conversation might go. It would seem to have some connection with the creative silence of a Religious Society of Friends meeting awaiting a resolution of the fallacy of an excluded middle or a clarification that the current circumstance is better resolved with one or the other habitual construction.

“Moral inclusion” seems to invite in more than is avoided by a system of morality. “Moral inclusion” might be considered an essential component in redeeming theological tautologies.