Traveling to a New America – Reno, Nevada

Reno, Nevada - Traveling to a New AmericaElizabeth and I were in Reno, Nevada, this past weekend, promoting my books and talking to people about their feelings about America.

Reno, Nevada  Traveling to a New AmericaIt was hot, but beautiful along the Truckee River which flows through the middle of town.

“What’s your take on America at this time?” is the question we ask over and over again as we meet people.

We posted one of our interviews with a lovely young couple, Valarie and Adrian, and you can view it on our Facebook Page.

What did others talk about?

They talked about restoring a sense of community and caring, which seems to have been lost to a great extent in America and the world at large, with people and nations isolating themselves, and retreating into smaller, well-worn identities.

The deepest need at this time seems to be for all of us to somehow grow into a more all-embracing state of life, where we recognize ourselves in others, and work to bring out the best in our world.

It’s difficult, as we are now seeing.  How do we really bridge the gaps that are separating us?

Humanity seems at a crossroads.  We can destroy ourselves, as attested to daily by the rise and proliferation of nuclear warheads pointed at nations all around the world; or we can embark upon a totally new phase in our development, a transformation at the very roots of what it means to be a human being.

There is no going back.  That way, inevitably, only lies suffering.

The revolution the world is heading for and pining for can never come to fruition without a corresponding spiritual transformation, one that breaks down the old walls of our limited perception and re-connects all of our lives to the life of all of humanity and to the cosmos itself – a revolution and transformation that creates a real sense of community.

Maybe We Need A New ReligionSometime ago, I came across an article about a ten-year-old boy, who, after continuing to watch reports on television about the wars raging in the Mideast between Jews, Muslims, and Christians, remarked:  “Maybe we need a new religion.”

The truth, to a very great extent, is that our mainline religions, for all their talk of love and brotherhood and peace, are separating us, are killing us – all in allegiance to God.

Where is God in all of this?  Certainly not in people.  If God were in people, we would not go on murdering and slaughtering each other.  To kill God is the deepest sin, so say our religions.  Yet we go on with the wars.  Therefore God is not in people.

We need a new kind of identity.  We need to find God, or the highest spiritual reality, within people, each and every one of us, and protect and nourish that reality.

We need a new kind of religion.

Where is it to be found?  Here and there.  It issues forth from the hearts of people everywhere, but, as yet, is given no widely tangible expression.

In Buddhism, this identity finds its highest expression in the Lotus Sutra.

The Lotus Sutra is a fantastical story.  Near the end of his life, Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha, having assembled his disciples upon a mountaintop, proclaims that in all the years that he has been preaching, he has not yet revealed the truth, and is now about to expound it.

At that time, a great Treasure Tower, half as large as the Earth itself, rises from the Earth, resplendent and bedecked with jewels; and from countless lands in the universe, myriads of Buddhas and great Bodhisattvas converge upon the Treasure Tower to hear Shakyamuni expound the Lotus Sutra.

The Buddha explains that, contrary to what people imagined, that he had first attained enlightenment under the bodhi tree when he was about thirty years of age, he had, in fact, become enlightened in the unimaginably remote past, and has ever since been in the world preaching the Law.

We are now in the world of eternity.  The Buddha is revealing the eternity of his own life.

Did this story really happen? Yes, it did; and then, again, it did not.

The significance of the Lotus Sutra is this:  The Treasure Tower, along with this fabulous Ceremony in the Air in all its splendor and magnificence, is a metaphor for the great enlightened emerging state of life of the Buddha, overflowing with life force, wisdom and compassion.  But it is also, without exception, our own life as well.

We are all Buddhas, unawakened to this fact.  We have that kind of magnificence buried within our own lives.  The Buddha’s mission was to awaken all people to this reality.

Amid all of the wreckage we see around us, the division, anger, despair and loss of hope; wars and threats of future catastrophic wars; walls being erected between human hearts; confusion and anxiety and fear – amid all of this, the Buddha is coming to America.

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Traveling to a New AmericaJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books that are opening the way to a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.  He has been practicing Buddhism for over forty years with the Soka Gakkai International, the largest Buddhist lay organization in the world now, with 12,000,000 members in 192 countries around the globe.

This year and next, he is traveling to towns and cities all across America, meeting people and giving talks, under the banner of “Traveling to a New America”.  To follow his journey, visit his Facebook Page.


Traveling to a New America – People Along the Way – Reno, Nevada

Traveling to a New America – People Along the Way
Valarie and Adrian.  Reno, Nevada.
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Reno, Nevada  Traveling to a New AmericaValerie and Adrian, what’s your take on America at this time?

Adrian:

“It’s kind of hard to tell.  After the elections, opinions are so shifted to one direction, it’s very difficult to guage what the next move is going to be for America. For example, after the G-8 summit that Trump had, whether we’re going to be in the Paris accords, we don’t know.  So it’s very unknown I think.

Valarie:

“I think it’s an unfortunate time for America, not a breaking point, but I think this is the most divided America’s been, politically, socially, economically, and I don’t know what it’s going to take to sort of reach across to the other side and communicate and sort of regain common ground.  I don’t know what it’s going to take.”

If you had a vision of a greater America, what would it look like?

Adrian:

“Just a community of people that can work together and talk together, as opposed to being scared of the outsider, the other side.”

Valarie:

“I think people need to care more about a community and being part of that community, and what that means for individual roles.  I feel that America right now is becoming very individualized.  Like, what can benefit me more than what can benefit us as a greater country, as a community and a society.  So I think a step toward improvement would be a focus on how to create community, and I think the basis for that is caring for one another.”

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Traveling to a New AmericaJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books that are opening the way to a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.  This year and next, he is traveling to towns and cities all across America, meeting people and giving talks, under the banner of “Traveling to a New America“.

To arrange talks, contact the author.

Youth – Dream Big

DREAM BIG

Power invests in the self.

As long as you navigate the circumference, who you are and who you dream to be remain unexpressed.

The center of the circle is at the center.

Handbook for Youth in a Muddied AgeUnleashing this self requires courage and boldness.  It requires faith.  We are here to unleash the genius and power of our universe.

It requires not one cent.

You need no one to help you.

Everything is within your life, waiting to be summoned and expressed.

Who are you?

You are the impassioned dream within your heart.

No one can chart the course for you.

You are the only one who knows the way.

You are as big as the universe.  The universe is your ally.

Recognize who you are.

Dream big.  Let the dream come forth.
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Traveling to a New AmericaJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books that are opening the way to a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.  This year and next, he is traveling to towns and cities all across America, meeting people and giving talks, under the banner of “Traveling to a New America.”

To arrange talks, contact the author.

Death, the Door, Here in America.

DEATH, THE DOOR

The smell of death wafts upon the winds of the world.

Death is at the heart of the world’s wounds.

Life & Death: A Buddhist PerspectiveWe can go our merry way, smartphones and superbowls, the stock market gyrating up and down, our eyes glued to our fluctuating fortunes, black Fridays bodies pushing and shoving into the crowded stores looking for bargains on lawnmowers, dog food, dresses, shoes, tree tinsel, light bulbs, giant television sets where you sit back and thumb through eight hundred, ninety-three channels of entertainment, something to knock your socks off while you have a beer and hot dogs and chips and fill up the weekend with booze and dances and sleep to the limit to ward off the coming days of the week on the job – but in back of it all, sleeping and gnawing on the bone in the back of everything, is a darkness and a death – death, which is there struggling to give meaning to it all, but unrecognized, unacceptable, unnoticed, unbelievable, unreal, and unwanted – death, the door, which is closed now, but will open at some time, inviting us all in.

We know it is coming, but we shut it out.  Death, as we deny and obfuscate it here in America.
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Traveling to a New AmericaJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books that are opening the way to a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.  This year and next he is traveling to towns and cities all across America, meeting people and giving talks, under the banner of “Traveling to a New America.

To arrange talks, contact the author.

The Withdrawal of Hope.

North Korea will soon be poised to send atomic bombs to the mainland United States.

Our Congress is mulling, over and over, a Republican healthcare bill that would strip healthcare of tens of millions of our own citizens – all without the slightest regard for their welfare, and replace it with nothing, just bare greed.

Our President and our country draws back from the world at large, into a tighter and tighter self-inscribed cocoon, trying to shut out the presence of the “other”.

President Trump is absorbed in his boudoir and mirror, searching to see if there is any crack yet in the facade of his own image of self-perfection.

The Buddha & The Dream of AmericaMeanwhile, down on the streets, on the dark streets and mean streets and main streets, hope is leaking from the street lights, it is darkening down, fear and foreboding rising.

I spoke to one young man a few days ago, and his biggest fear is of war, of nuclear annihilation.  “Perhaps that’s what we need”, he says, “calamity and destruction to wake us up.”

You can feel the anxiety.  Where are we headed?  Where is America headed?

There is a law that rules, that says if you retreat into self-centeredness, you will suffer.

The universe loves expansiveness, the stars and galaxies themselves are expanding exponentially.  Love is the movement of seeing yourself in others.

Nuclear weapons are on our doorstep.  Will we change, or not?

There is a way through.  The Buddha is struggling to emerge.  The biggest, most overwhelming change the world has ever seen is struggling within the core of the world’s heart.

We are one with that heart, each and every one of us.  Can we change ourselves?  It is of the utmost import.

The nuclear warheads, the forces of evil and destruction, appear now for all of us to see.  They would not appear if there were not an opposing force and revelation coming to birth and fruition.

It is time for a new vision of ourselves.  It is time for a new dream of America.  It is time for a new religion for the world.

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Traveling to a New AmericaJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books that are opening the way to a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for America.  This year and next, he is traveling to towns and cities all across America, meeting people and giving talks, under the banner of “Traveling to a New America

To arrange talks, contact the author.

Health Care Bill – Heart Surgery Needed

Republicans in the United States Senate have been desperately trying to pass a health care bill that will blatantly throw tens of millions of people out of any kind of health care coverage at all.  The bottom line is they would like to see all of us sink or swim, according to our ability to pay.  No help.  No support.

And, most telling of all, no heart.

The chilling fact is that, as a nation, we have come to a point where our government, and those in real power, do not care at all for the welfare of the people they govern.  Money and power are the sole determinants and goals of legislation.  The fact that such a bill has been patched together, and political muscle employed to get it passed, is astounding in and of itself.

Yes, we can lament over the rise of this Republican Party and Donald Trump, but, at the same time, they are serving all of us as a mirror of the existential state of the country.  Many of us are being forced to take a good hard look at where we are at – not just as a country, but as individuals.

Who are we?  Democrats, Republicans?  Christians, Muslims, Jews?  Southerner, Northerner.  Liberal, conservative?  Black, white, brown?  Are these the names and tags we go by?

Then something is missing.

It is the all-encompassing heart.

We have come to a point – not just in America, but worldwide – where a new order is taking shape, hardly to be seen, barely to even be hoped for.  We are moving beyond all of our age-old labels into a new identity.

We do not yet know who we are.  We are the gods we have worshiped upon altars for millennia.  We are humanity.  We are one – each and every one of us – with the vast universe we observe in the skies.  Our future is to grow a heart as vast and all-encompassing as that universe.

The disorder, division and anger we see emerging in our country and around the world is the shell of our own ignorance cracking and a new life struggling to be born.

This is what we are seeing in our national life at this time.  The divisions have been there all along, and now we have to go beyond these divisions.

The democratic revolution the world is heading for and pining for can never come to fruition without a corresponding spiritual revolution, one that breaks down the old walls of our limited perception and re-connects all of our lives to each other, to the life of all of humanity, and to the cosmos itself.

We are in the midst of such a revolution.

A new world is being born, a new America, and a new American experience.

Here, now, in America.

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Traveling to a New AmericaJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books that are opening the way to a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.  This year and next, he is traveling to towns and cities all across America, meeting people and giving talks, under the banner of “Traveling to a New America.

Follow his journey on Facebook.

To arrange talks, contact the author.

Forerunners of the Great American Dream: Helen Keller

Helen KellerBorn on June 27, 1880, in Tuscumbia, Alabama, Helen Keller was a normal child, until, at age 19 months, she contracted an illness which left her both blind and deaf for the rest of her life.

After several terrible, lonely years, she met her lifelong teacher, Anne Sullivan, who, through immense patience, guided Helen and taught her to communicate with the outside world through language.

Despite enormous handicaps, Helen Keller went on to become one of the most admired women of her century.  She published 12 books, and encouraged audiences around the world.  She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and, in 1999, was listed in Gallup’s Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century.

Handbook for Youth in a Muddied AgeHere are some of the things she has to say to you:

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet.  Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

“Be of good cheer.  Do not think of today’s failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow.  You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles.  Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost.”

“Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness.  It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.”

“For, after all, every one who wishes to gain true knowledge must climb the Hill of Difficulty alone, and since there is no royal road to the summit, I must zigzag it in my own way.  I slip back many times, I fall, I stand still, I run against the edge of hidden obstacles, I lose my temper and find it again and keep it better, I trudge on, I gain a little, I feel encouraged, I get more eager and climb higher and begin to see the widening horizon.  Every struggle is a victory.  One more effort and I reach the luminous cloud, the blue depths of the sky, the uplands of my desire.”

“I rejoice to live in such a splendidly disturbing time!”

“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight and no vision.”

“Security is mostly a superstition.  It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.  Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.  Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”

“A happy life consists not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships.”

“What I’m looking for is not out there, it is in me.”
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Traveling to a New AmericaJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books that are opening the way to a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.  This year and next, he is traveling to towns and cities all across America, meeting people and giving talks, under the banner of “Traveling to a New America”.

Follow his journey on Facebook.

To arrange talks, contact the author.

Black and White

Nelson MandelaNelson Mandela survived twenty-seven years in a jail cell.

Have you spent even one day and night in jail?  Twenty-seven years was truly an eternity.

The incomprehensible thing is how he managed to maintain his humanity amid this desert of timelessness.

He wielded a heavy hammer for years in the hot blazing South African sun cracking limestone blocks.  Those blocks were apartheid, ruled over by a white minority, given meaning and legitimacy by the Christian Church.

After twenty-seven years of cracking limestone blocks, the rock of apartheid itself cracked, and the tide turned.  Mandela himself became President of his country.

On the very day he was sworn into office, Mandela invited his jail keeper to the ceremonies.  Such was the magnanimity of his heart, such was his love of the people.  He embraced even his enemies.

A New Myth for America BuddhismRosa Parks, a simple, black woman, refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man.  She was tired.  She was tired physically, and she was tired spiritually of the degradation of herself and her people.  She refused to move; and a movement was born.  From this one woman’s courage, thousands followed.  A crack appeared in the edifice of white power and legitimacy.

Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream; and streams of similar pent-up, previously obstructed dreams broke loose and flowed into his dream; and his dream became a mighty raging river which cracked the dam of racism and hatred and filled the future with innumerable dreams where they had not been possible before.

These were only three, but many followed.  They were black, and the world was white.

Where would we all be without these courageous black brothers and sisters?  What kind of people would we still be?

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Traveling to a New AmericaJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books that are opening the way to a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.  This year and next, he is traveling to towns and cities all across America, meeting people and giving talks, under the banner of “Traveling to a New America“.

To arrange talks, contact the author.

Traveling to a New America – People Along the Way – Hayward, California

Traveling to a New America – People Along the Way
Corey.  Hayward, California.
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Traveling to a New America - Hayward, CaliforniaCorey, what’s your take on America at this time?

“Personally, I think the country is unstable.  There’s not a lot of leadership in terms of right side, left side, Democrats, Republicans.  It’s scary, having two daughters, 21 and 14.  I think my 21 year old is more able to develop her own understanding of how America is going.   The 14 year old I think is concerned, worried, as myself.  I don’t know how to personally answer the question other than to say that I’m concerned, I’m frightened. I think racism still exists.  I think poverty, homelessness, there’s no cure for that at this point.”

What’s going to change all the division in this country?

“I don’t think it’s just about the economy getting better, in terms of jobs, jobs, jobs.  I can say it better like this, as a sports fan: It’s how it is with the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers.  There’s just two teams that are competing right now, and that’s how it is.  There’s two teams, the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers, and there’s no one else in the middle.  In the same way, it’s California and New York.  There’s no in between.  The other States really don’t matter it seems like.  Some people think Texas is a powerhouse also.  So the in-between is, where do you go?  Other states like Utah, Arizona, South Dakota, North Dakota, those type of states, it seems like they’re okay.  They might not see what I have to see every day, like dealing with poverty, like seeing homeless people, and no solutions.  Maybe there is a cure, maybe people should just migrate to other states.  Me, personally, I think people in America, like myself, should look at what’s going right in Canada.  I think that’s where people should start thinking about considering, like hey, maybe I should work there.  I don’t know enough about Canada other than that I know former President Obama and Canada’s prime minister Trudeau had a good relationship, and it seems they don’t have to deal with all these things we have to deal with every day in terms of poverty, homelessness, the violence.”

If you had a dream of a really great America, what would it look like?

“I think it would be just bipartisan, in terms of  Democrats and Republicans being able to have a shared accord so that everything’s not him versus her, but be just more “Do we have a solution”?  There needs to be more people who are just asking these type of questions.  America does not have the solution right now.  America is at its wits end.  There’s too much racism, too much police brutality, too much poverty, too much homelessness.”

What’s your dream?

“My dream has always been to own a hot-dog stand.  I still want to own a hot-dog stand, but not in California, not in New York, not in Texas.  Somewhere in the Caribbean.  I don’t have experience, I don’t have an investor, I don’t have any money, I don’t have a business plan to do that, but that’s my dream.”

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Traveling to a New AmericaJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books that are opening the way to a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.  This year and next, he is traveling to towns and cities all across America, meeting people and giving talks, under the banner of “Traveling to a New America“.

To arrange talks, contact the author.

Traveling to a New America – People Along the Way – San Jose

Traveling to a New America – People Along the Way
Bonnie.  San Jose, California.
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Traveling to a New America - San Jose, CaliforniaBonnie, what’s your take on America at this time?

“I’m very concerned that America is so divided between the two main parties – Republicans and Democrats.  I’ve never seen the country in this kind of disarray, even in the sixties and seventies.  So I’m worried, and I hurt for it.”

All this division in America, what’s going to change it?

“I’d like to give a really good answer, but I haven’t got one.  I don’t know.  I hope it isn’t war.  I don’t know what it’s going to be.  It could be war.  It could be something catastrophic, that turns us to understanding each other’s humanity and how we are one, looking at each other’s hearts, instead of looking at our political roles and bickering.”

If you had a vision of a great America, what would it look like?

“There would be kindness, less competition, less negativity, more love and compassion, far more equality. The political disarray is one thing, but then the gap between the haves and the have-nots is another huge divider.  I’m sixty-three.  I have children in their forties, and I see how hard they work, for so little, and it kills me.  It’s just wrong, and something’s got to change.

“I’m thinking more like socialism.  I’m thinking of my trips to Slovenia last year, where they’re just coming out of forty years since Tito took a hike, but I look at that country and money’s not as big a deal, and you don’t see mansions next to little dumps.  Most of the homes look about the same.  People are focused on different things.  It doesn’t mean it won’t change with time, but right now they seem to be in a sweet spot, and it looks like a nice place, and I’d like to see us more like that.

“I have a friend who’s working in a multi-national pharmaceutical in Switzerland, and I met with her and the workaholism from America is pretty rampant there, but in general Europeans are more like small shops, they don’t focus nearly as much on the things and the status and the money, as they do on the experiences and relationships.  That’s my take on it.”

What’s your dream?

“My dream is that, as a race, the human race, that we could come together in a more loving, kind way throughout the world.”
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Traveling to a New AmericaJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books that are opening the way to a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.  This year and next, he is traveling to towns and cities all across America, meeting people, giving talks, interviewing people, all under the banner of “Traveling to a New America“.

To arrange talks, contact the author.