The Sunday Paper, February 26: Is It Time For a Reset?

I’VE BEEN THINKING

I love this advice from one of the smartest minds on the planet.

You can get out of a black hole, Hawking wrote, but you must look up. Be curious and don’t give up.

Hawking was speaking about the black hole of depression, but this advice can be applied to anyone who feels hopeless and scared, whether that be about their own lives or about the state of our country.

Look up. Be curious. Don’t give into the black hole.

I’ve always been a curious person, but there have been times in my life when I couldn’t see the stars that Hawking talks about. I could only see my feet, and they weren’t moving.

Every day, each of us is faced with the possibility of resetting our lives. Refocusing. Reimagining. Rebooting. Every day, we can decide to change our outlook, our words, our tone, and our attitude. Every day offers us the opportunity to redirect our eyes upward, along with our hopes.

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This week, President Trump will give his first address to a joint session of Congress. It will be his first real moment to address the American people and their representatives and outline his vision and agenda for the days ahead.

Trump’s audience will be one that is divided, but awake. It is made up of some who feel hopeful, and others who feel hopeless.

Many have given up hope that he will ever say anything that will speak to their hearts and their minds. They are in a dark hole. Others are holding their breath and hoping he might surprise them.

This is more than just a potential reset moment for the president. It’s also more than just a reset for the Democrats, who voted on a new party chair on Saturday. This can be a reset moment for all of us, regardless of who we voted for, or whether we voted at all. (By the way, if you are one of those who didn’t vote at all, please reset your opinion about that, as our nation needs all of us to be engaged in its future.)

So going into this week, each of us can decide how we approach the president’s speech by thinking about our own openness and curiosity. As Krista Tippett told me during our recent Architects of Change conversation, we have a choice in life: listen and be surprised, or close ourselves off and have our minds already made up. Each of us must decide whether we choose to dig in, or give up. I’m not counting on the latter, though, because everywhere I look I see engagement. I can feel it.

My brother Timmy wondered to me this week whether the war motivated our parents’ generation to get so involved, since it showed them what it was like to be attacked and to see people lose their lives for their principles.

Perhaps, he said, Trump is like the war for our kids and for others. He has gotten them to think about what they are willing to stand up for and fight for. He has gotten us all to think about our principles, our values, and what we are willing to do and say when we feel attacked.

As the president gets ready to stand up and speak out about what he values — what he is willing to fight for —perhaps it’s a moment for each of us to think about what we are willing to fight for. Will we fight for equal rights? Will we fight for the safety and security of our country? Will we fight for a free press? (Trump’s decision on Friday to block major news outlets from The White House is unfortunately showing us yet again that he doesn’t like the press.)

This is a moment for each of us to think about own principles and about how we would address a divided nation.

Do we have what it takes to unify the union — be it the union in our own homes and in our own lives? Are we willing to be curious about opinions that are different from our own? Are we willing to have conversations that surprise us and make us reset the way we think?

For us to go from divided to united, all of us are going to have to take our eyes off the ground and redirect them to the stars. It’s the only way to get out of a black hole.

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Every week here at The Sunday Paper, we honor individuals who use their voices, their hearts, and their minds to Move Humanity Forward.

This week, we honor Tim Robbins as our Architect of Change of the Week. You may best know Tim as a film director and Academy Award-winning actor who starred in “The Shawshank Redemption,” one of the greatest films of all time. But he is also the artistic director of The Actors’ Gang Prison Project, a program that teaches theater and improv techniques to incarcerated persons so that they can explore their emotions without violence.

On Oscar Sunday, we wanted to shine a light on someone in the arts community who is using his talent, his time and his wisdom to change the lives of others and help prisoners “reset” the way they approach the world.

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1. We give our students a road back to themselves. Prison and whatever led them to prison is not and never is the whole of the person. The work we do reminds them that there is more to them than the single act that has defined them for the past years. There is humanity in everyone and the prison system is simply not built to remind the incarcerated of their humanity.

2. I think it was Fyodor Dostoevsky who said, “the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” If we give any credence to this quote, the way we treat people in our prison systems is not a good reflection of our culture. … So much human potential has been locked away and disregarded and at the same time, we have moved further and further away from any commitment to rehabilitation. Our system has lost the belief that incarceration should lead to reformation for the incarcerated.

3. It takes tremendous courage to get in touch with emotions that are suppressed or hidden and come to understand how those emotions are connected to our actions. Only then can we take personal responsibility for our own emotions and work towards transforming ourselves into sentient human beings. If an incarcerated man or women can make those discoveries in a prison environment, then what is preventing me from making those discoveries about myself?

HOW YOU CAN HELP: Click here to learn more about how you can help Tim’s efforts with The Actors’ Gang Prison Project.

TUNE IN: Be sure to also watch The Actors’ Gang’s Facebook Live from California’s Avenal State Prison on Wednesday, March 1. 


 

SOMETHING TO CHECK OUT
A Roadmap to Having Better Conversations

One person who has excellent advice on how we can “reset” the way we engage with one another is Krista Tippett. (You can watch our Architects of Change conversation from this week here.) Through her Civil Conversations Project, she offers an excellent roadmap for us all called Better Conversations: A Starter Guide. Below is an excerpt.

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SOMETHING TO REFLECT UPON
How To Be Happy With Being Alone

My friend Angie Johnsey also does incredible work teaching people how to “reset” their thoughts and their minds. Starting next week, I’ll share with you how she’s helping me work through my New Year’s resolutions, which were all about making positive mental change.

This week, I wanted to share Angie’s excellent perspective on how to be happy with being alone. We all need connection and community, but we also need ways to feel content and at peace when we are by ourselves.

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SOMETHING TO WATCH THIS WEEK
My Favorite Oscar-Nominated Films of 2017

The Oscars are experiencing a reset of their own this year. The Academy has been heavily criticized for the lack of racial diversity in its nominations, but tonight, seven minority actors are nominated, including a record six black actors. That’s certainly something to celebrate.

I look forward to the Oscars and hold a party in my home every year. Below are just a few of the films that I’ll be rooting for tonight.

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Hidden Figures

Nominated for Best Picture, this film tells the incredible true story of three brilliant African-American women who worked at NASA and served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit.
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Captain Fantastic

Viggo Mortenson is nominated for his role as Ben Cash, a father who raised his six children off the grid and is suddenly forced to enter the “real world,” challenging his idea of what it means to be a parent.

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Directed by Ava Duvernay and nominated for Best Documentary, this Netflix film takes an in-depth look at the prison system in the United States and how it reveals the nation’s history of racial inequality.
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Also nominated for Best Documentary, “Life, Animated” is the inspirational story of Owen Suskind, a young man who was unable to speak as a child until he and his family discovered a unique way to communicate by immersing themselves in the world of classic Disney animated films.

YOUR SUNDAY SPACE

 

This week, we share this lovely photo sent to us from Sister Ann McGovern. Ann ministers at Mercy By the Sea in Madison, CT, and says that she enjoys her Sundays sitting in this spot by the water.

We want to see where you spend your Sundays reading The Sunday Paper. Email your photos to info@mariashriver.com.

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WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Taglines say a lot about your purpose and passion as a publication. They tell your readers what you are committed to providing them each week.

In light of The Washington Post adding a bold new tagline to its paper this week, we thought we could ask your opinion on ours here at The Sunday Paper.

“Moving Humanity Forward.” Does that resonate with you? Do you have a better idea?

You are part of a growing community of people who are responding to what we are putting out into the universe, so we want you to weigh in here. Which of the taglines below do you like best? Write to us at info@mariashriver.com and let us know.

1) Moving Humanity Forward

2) The Paper of Record For People Who Want to Move Humanity Forward

3) Reflections on the Week That Was. Wisdom for the Week Ahead.

4) Passionate. Purposeful. Powerful. The Perfect Sunday Read.

5) A Paper in Pursuit of the Common Good


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