Mover of Sunbeams

James Hilgendorf is a writer, speaker, poet, and filmmaker. His books cover a wide range of subjects – religion, politics, economics, science, social issues, the future of America. A highly-acclaimed filmmaker, his travel films and documentaries have been seen around the world. He is a long-time member of the SGI, or Soka Gakkai International, the largest Buddhist lay organization in the world now, with 12,000,000 members in 192 countries and territories around the globe – a movement of people of all backgrounds working for peace, education, and culture, grounded upon the fundamental premise that the life of the individual, and, indeed, of all of life is deserving of the highest respect.

Time of Destruction, Time of Rebuilding

James Hilgendorf is a writer, speaker, poet, and filmmaker. His books cover a wide range of subjects – religion, politics, economics, science, social issues, the future of America. A highly-acclaimed filmmaker, his travel films and documentaries have been seen around the world. He is a long-time member of the SGI, or Soka Gakkai International, the largest Buddhist lay organization in the world now, with 12,000,000 members in 192 countries and territories around the globe – a movement of people of all backgrounds working for peace, education, and culture, grounded upon the fundamental premise that the life of the individual, and, indeed, of all of life is deserving of the highest respect.

The Continuing Call – “Come Out!”

I wrote before about one of the great, though perhaps not so well known, heroines from our American past – Abby Kelley Foster .

She was a great fighter for civil rights and an end to slavery, and for women’s voting rights, during the Civil War period and beyond.

What she is most remembered for is her advocacy of “come-outerism”, a belief that abolitionists were morally bound to leave churches that did not fully, openly, and absolutely condemn slavery. There could be no middle ground on this moral issue.

As in Abby’s day, we now live in a morally confusing time. We have a Republican Congress and Party, along with a great number of our American Christian churches and their congregations, who support a President who denigrates African-Americans, Mexicans, other nations and nationalities; who aspires to deprive millions of Americans of their health care; who verifiedly lies obsessively daily through his tweets and words; who supports a Congress secretly lusting to abolish Social Security for tens of millions of our elder citizens; who has been caught on tape expressing his low regard for women; who is trying daily to destroy the credibility of our system of justice, of our courts, of our newspapers and media; who would tear apart hundreds of thousands of children – “Dreamers”- from their families; who takes no responbility at all for his abominable response, denial and handling of the deadly coronavirus pandemic that has now taken almost 200,000 of our citizens lives…and the list goes on.

It’s time to call out again: All of you who support and are thus complicit in the actions and words of this immoral President, it’s time to “Come Out” of your association with the Republican Party, the United States Republican Senators, and any church or pastor or religion that continues to support such a depraved President.

Especially for those with a so-called religious affiliation, the Evangelicals and others.

The quality of a person’s religion, at its deepest level, reveals itself in behavior. If you lend your support to a President who, in his words and actions, exemplifies, time and time again, the basest and most reprehensible of human behaviors, make no mistake about it, you – and your religion – are complicit in that behavior, and are to be judged accordingly.

It is Judgment Day. Your Judgment.

Where do you stand?

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James Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books.

Who I Am – A Tale of Identity

James Hilgendorf is a writer, speaker, poet, and filmmaker. His books cover a wide range of subjects – religion, politics, economics, science, social issues, the future of America. A highly-acclaimed filmmaker, his travel films and documentaries have been seen around the world. He is a long-time member of the SGI, or Soka Gakkai International, the largest Buddhist lay organization in the world now, with 12,000,000 members in 192 countries and territories around the globe – a movement of people of all backgrounds working for peace, education, and culture, grounded upon the fundamental premise that the life of the individual, and, indeed, of all of life is deserving of the highest respect.

A Few Notes on Happiness

What is happiness?

Ask a thousand people, and you’ll probably get a thousand different shades of answers.

Happiness for many means the dream job, or perhaps the freedom to have no job at all; the dream boy or girl friend; a lot of money in the bank; vacations to exciting places, perfect health, and the list goes on.  Yet I have known many people who have attained these, and still find their happiness incomplete – or, in many cases, even complicated because of the attainment of their desires.

One core problem is that we are looking for the answer to our happiness outside ourselves.  The great German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once wrote: “It is difficult to find happiness within oneself, but it is impossible to find it anywhere else.”

Even if we gain what we are seeking, if we are not already happy and strong inside, our happiness can shift and even disappear in an instant.  The boyfriend can run away with another girl.  The investment stocks we hold can crash.  Our health can take a turn for the worse.  Then where are we?  Where is our happiness?

Happiness is not normally what people would look for or expect.  It is something beyond the foul and fair weather we experience day to day.

It is an invincible state of life.

There is a short quote from Henri Bergson, the great French philosopher, Nobel Prize Laureate, and author of “Creative Evolution”, which I love.  It goes:

“The universe is a machine for the making of Gods.”

If we but look at it in its proper perspective, Life, in all its manifestations, in all of its ups and downs, is trying to build an indefinable something in our lives.

It is a state of life, of joy.

Friedrich Nietzsche, the great German philosopher, once described this as ‘Amor fati” – love of one’s fate.  Nietzsche wrote:

“My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity.  Not merely bear what is necessary, but love it.”

Joseph Campbell, the great writer and mythologist, once commented on this:

“Nietzsche was the one who did the job for me.  At a certain moment in his life, the idea came to him of what he called “the love of your fate”.  Whatever your fate is, whatever the hell happens, you say, “This is what I need.”  It may look like a wreck, but go at it as though it were an opportunity, a challenge.  If you bring love to that moment – not discouragement – you will find the strength is there.  Any disaster you can survive is an improvement in your character, your stature, and your life.  What a privilege!  This is when the spontaneity of your own nature will have a chance to flow.

“Then when looking back at your life, you will see that the moments which seemed to be great failures followed by wreckage were the incidents that shaped the life you have now.  You’ll see that this is really true.  Nothing can happen to you that is not positive.  Even though it looks and feels at the moment like a negative crisis, it is not.  The crisis throws you back, and when you are required to exhibit strength, it comes.”

These insights into happiness resonate with the thoughts of many philosophers and writers throughout history.

Freedom is to live with a sense of joy, no matter what the circumstance. It is confidence in the power of one’s own life to surmount anything, to turn even the most bitter trials and situations to benefit and growth and limitless development. It is to be fearless in the face of life’s trials.

In Buddhism, this indefatigable life-state is called “Buddha”, and the practice of chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, or the title of the Lotus Sutra, is the means of calling forth and developing this power and potential in one’s own life in order to meet and surmount the challenges of life, and to develop a life of happiness and true freedom.
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James Hilgendorf is a writer, speaker, poet, and filmmaker. His books cover a wide range of subjects – religion, politics, economics, science, social issues, the future of America. A highly-acclaimed filmmaker, his travel films and documentaries have been seen around the world. He is a long-time member of the SGI, or Soka Gakkai International, the largest Buddhist lay organization in the world now, with 12,000,000 members in 192 countries and territories around the globe – a movement of people of all backgrounds working for peace, education, and culture, grounded upon the fundamental premise that the life of the individual, and, indeed, of all of life is deserving of the highest respect.

Climate Change – A Spiritual Transformation Needed

I came across this quote from Gus Speth, Co-Chair of The Next System Project, an initiative of the Democracy Collaborative, which aims to find ways of addressing the systemic changes needed to overcome the challenges the United States faces now and in coming decades.

I used to think that top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that thirty years of good science could address these problems. I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation. And we scientists don’t know how to do that.”

Mr. Speth was previously Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and chair of the UN Development Group.  He also served as a senior adviser on environmental issues to Presidents Carter and Clinton, and was a past dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University.

It’s an interesting comment, and acknowledgment that the only real and lasting solution to the problems facing our planet today is a deep shift in our values and wisdom as individual human beings.  Without that individual transformation, nothing of great consequence will change.

How is that to be accomplished?  Speth says that science, with all its technological expertise, is powerless to provide a real answer.  A deep spiritual and cultural transformation is required, a change in peoples’ awareness and values, a moving away from an egocentric life to a life that encompasses the welfare and happiness of others; and this is a revolution that has never before taken place on a humanity-wide scale on this planet Earth.

We live fettered by ancient stories of who we are, of how we fit into the world and universe around us.  Needed is a philosophy and revolution that re-directs the power and focus back to the people, unleashing a universal compassion that directs its energy first and foremost to the welfare and happiness of the people.  Not corporate profit, not unlimited gross national product, not militarism and the proliferation of tanks and planes and nuclear weapons, not the stock market, not nationalism, but people first and foremost.

This is the real crisis facing us now.  Are we to grow into a new state of life, a new human dimension, or will we hurtle helplessly toward destruction of the planet Earth itself.

The real dream of America is waiting fulfillment.  It has been covered over by what Speth calls the root causes of all our national predicaments – selfishness, greed and apathy.  It is an eternal dream, a revelation originating from the deepest core dream of life itself.  It is the heart of the universe struggling to fruition and bloom.

It will unfold here.  The time is ripe.

Amid all the divisiveness, the chaos and corruption and shattering of old rotting dreams and identities, a new breed is emerging.  You see them appearing everywhere, faces of young men and women, living the most ordinary of lives in the most ordinary of settings, yet carrying within them new songs and new visions of life upon this Earth.

It is all here and now, nowhere else.

The Buddha is emerging in America.

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James Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books.

Civil War – A Spiritual Crossroads

In 1851, Harriet Beecher Stowe was living with her husband on the campus of Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, when she began writing “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, the book that would become instrumental in galvanizing public opinion around the slavery issue just prior to the outbreak of the Civil War.

She wrote:

“Up to this year, I have always felt that I had no particular call to meddle with this subject. But I feel now that the time is come when even a woman or a child who can speak a word for freedom and humanity is bound to speak.”

And speak she did. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” documented in passionate and heart-rending detail the tragic breakup of black Kentucky families sold down the river to slavery. Almost overnight, the characters of Uncle Tom, Little Eva, and the villainous Simon Legree became household words. In its first year, the book sold an unprecedented 300,000 copies in the United States and the book also became an international sensation.

In 1862, after the start of the Civil War, she traveled to Washington, D.C. where she met President Abraham Lincoln who reportedly greeted her by saying, “so you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.”

Although she was only one woman, her courage and passion stirred the moral conscience of an entire nation.

But the deep conflicts and causes of the Civil War that Harriet Beecher Stowe lived through have never been completely resolved. Once again we find ourselves living through a time of immense disruptions, once again exposing the troubled, tangled roots of our American past.

A black man – George Floyd – is murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis, and this man’s death serves as a spark to ignite a vast field of protests and soul-searching that reverberates around the world.

We hear talk of police reform and societal change, but these are patchwork surface remedies. What is emerging now is the real underlying turmoil of a Civil War that has always smouldered in the deepest structures of the American psyche.

Who are we?

This is the struggle we are witnessing on the street corners of America – a battle that surfaces and resonates around the world because our struggle here in America is at the core of the world’s problem – Who are we?

Not black or white or brown, or Asian, American, Iranian, Russian or African; not Jewish or Christian or Muslim, or any of the thousands of other surface identities that we tag ourselves with and have hung onto for untold millennia ever since the first sun of the first day dawned on humankind.

We are at a spiritual crossroads. We are facing a spiritual crisis that can only be resolved on the battlefield of the individual human heart.

All over the world, the old parochial identities are breaking down, and a new identity is struggling for expression – an identity as large as the Earth, as all-encompassing as the boundless universe itself. We are one humanity, each of us a universe unto ourselves, boundless in our potential.

In reaction, everywhere our diminuitive selves, the smaller identities recoil, intense resistance rising up against being dragged out into a broader, expansive world of light.

This is the world’s Civil War that is now being fought out on the battlefields of the American continent and soul, this struggle echoing out upon the plains and mountains and valleys of the world.

Bring it to the fore. Uncover the rot, sweep away the shards and debris of an old world. Make way for the new.

Celebrate.

The Buddha is emerging in America.

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James Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books, including “Traveling to a New America”

Order your own digital e-book or paperback copy of “Traveling to a New America” now from your favorite online bookseller.

All of his books are available through bookstores and from online booksellers in paperback or digital format.

Other titles include:
A New Myth for America
Forever Here
Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age.
& Others.

America Reborn

James Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books.

Abby Kelley Foster & “Come-Outerism” – High Noon for Republicans & Evangelicals

James Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books.

The Black Death, Coronavirus & The Renaissance of America

James Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books.