On Sunday, June 12, 2022 Rev. Tony Ponticello gave a talk for the Community Miracles Center's Sunday Gathering. A lightly edited transcription of the talk is presented here.
Hello everybody. Thank you again for joining us. I'm Reverend Tony Ponticello and I am happy to be here. I want to also thank all of you who are watching the video on one of our video platforms. I'm actually putting all of my videos not only on YouTube, but also now on BitChute and on Rumble, because I have embraced new technology. So, you can listen and watch Rev. Tony on multiple platforms.
Title of my talk today: "People — Don't You Love 'Em?" Well, I do. That may be a rhetorical question, but as I've said, it's usually good to answer rhetorical questions. Yeah, I do love people. So — people are out and about. It's summertime. People are busy doing the summer things that maybe they haven't been able to do for the last few years. I certainly know it's affecting our attendance here, and I know some of our regulars are out and about. Rev. Peter's in Europe traveling, a trip he had wanted to take that got delayed for two plus years. Rev. Vincent is out playing softball because this year they can have their full softball season. They play on Sundays and he's there. I know Rev. Rudy is out performing music. He's got more concerts and gigs. That's opened up again after two years of not happening all that much. It is actually something to celebrate, people being out and about, and it's a good thing.
It got derailed last year in 2021. It got outright taken away in 2020, but we are emerging from all the shelter-in-place and all the pandemic mitigation strategies, little by little. People are starting to get the message. They're feeling comfortable. More and more of them are out doing the things they love to do in the summer. They're playing. The pandemic does seem to be winding down. As I talked about last week, there is a statistics website that I follow. It's called the Worldometer, or maybe the "World-O-meter." I'm not quite sure how to pronounce it. I look at that from time to time for the statistics on the Covid-19 pandemic, and now for over a week, the number of people making their transition from Covid-19 — for the past week and a half — is at an all-time low. It is now lower than it was when the pandemic first started in March of 2020.
Many times you don't hear that reported, but I do want to say that if you look up the statistics, fewer and fewer people are passing, making their transition, because of having Covid-19 than have during the entire course of the pandemic. That's a good thing. As I said, people are traveling.
I also heard from Rev. Rudy, who owns a hotel in San Francisco, that his hotel had the best month that it has had in two plus years since the pandemic started. So people are traveling, people are coming to San Francisco, people are staying in Rudy's hotel. So "Yea, Rev. Rudy!" His hotel survived, and that's a good thing.
Last week, with Rev. Dusa Althea, I was celebrating my birthday, and so we went on a little trip ourselves. I wouldn't call it a vacation, but we were gone for three days, two nights. We went to Santa Cruz, a little beach city that is a couple of hours south of San Francisco. It's a place that we like to go. We love it there. We were able to get a room that was right on the beach. We actually went to the beach one of the days and just laid in the sand listening to the surf. The beach is a great equalizer. I love the beach. Everybody goes to the beach. All genders go to the beach. All racial diversity goes to the beach; all ages go to the beach. It's a real melting pot of people relaxing, enjoying themselves and having a good time.
There's something intuitive about going to the beach. I think people intuitively feel that it's very healing, and it's very healthy to go to the beach. I mean, you've got the water, you've got the waves, and you got the sun. We know that the sun triggers Vitamin D production. Vitamin D is very healing. Then there's the whole theory about the water and negative ions. Negative ions, I believe, are oxygen molecules with an extra electron attached to them, and that happens where water and moisture are churning. Of course, the water and the waves are churning. It's also been documented that negative ions produced by the water and the waves have a healing effect on human beings. So, it is a really good thing to go to the beach and people seem to intuitively know that.
I also think it's very interesting that the beach is also where you are publicly allowed to wear minimal clothes. One place where people can take off a lot of their clothes and expose a lot of their skin in a socially acceptable manner is the beach. With all the different diversity and ages, it's a real fun thing to do. It's very healing — very healing to our body images to be able to be ourselves, take off some of our clothes, and just be there with everybody else minimally dressed. The beach that you actually go to out there in the world looks a lot different than the beaches that you see in movies and television. People have a whole lot more diversity about their appearance than you see represented in movies. If you haven't been to the beach in a while, go to the beach. It's great. You'll feel good about yourself.
Early in the pandemic, very early, they closed the beaches, which actually now seems kind of counterintuitive, considering how healing the beaches are and how outdoors it all is. They should have encouraged people to go to the beach instead of told people that they could not go to the beach. But a lot of the things I think that we did, that the government did, and the health departments did, actually had a lot of negative consequences. I've spoken a lot about this over the past two plus years. I think it's very healing for us to come together. It's very healing for us to join, and the beach is a great place to do it.
Remember obesity is one of the big comorbidity factors for Covid-19. You might think they would be encouraging people to get out there, to exercise, and go to the beach or go to the gym, instead of closing the beaches and the gyms. A lot of people, it's been documented, gained considerable weight during the pandemic. There's a movement that one leader is promoting. It's called "Lose the Covid-20," which means lose the 20 pounds that you gained during Covid when you stayed at home without a whole lot to do and ate a lot more than you usually do. So, lose the Covid-20.
A Course in Miracles says this. "Sickness is a retreat from others and a shutting off of joining. It becomes a door that closes on a separate self and keeps it isolated and alone. — Sickness is isolation." (OrEd.WkBk.137.1-2) If sickness is isolation, the way to deal with sickness shouldn't really be more isolation, should it? I mean, let's at least question that. Whatever — people are less isolating now. They're out and about and they're doing things. That's very healing and that's very healthy. I just want to give witness to it. Witnessing is an important thing. Witnessing of healing is an important thing. One of the things I've learned by being the Coach of the Healing Team for these last five plus years is that it's very easy for people to put items on the prayer/healing list. It's easy for some people to acknowledge that they have a problem, and it's easy for some people to acknowledge that they need help So, they put their name and their consideration on the healing list.
Then, when the consideration clears up, and they have a healing, I encourage them to let us know so I can share that with my Healing Team, because the Healing Team loves to hear those things. But it's very hard to get the people to witness, to say, "Oh yeah. We were praying for that and it cleared up, and I'm doing great now." It's something to think about. I think witnessing is important. I think witnessing completes a circuit, and it's important to complete that circuit. So a little of what I'm doing today is witnessing that we've had a healing in our society, in our culture. We went through two years of a scary time, a restricted time, an isolated time, and things are opening up now. People are doing things and traveling.
I read that last week the United States dropped the restriction that people coming into the country would need a negative Covid test within 24 hours of boarding a plane that takes them into the United States. They dropped that. You don't need to prove a negative Covid test within 24 hours of coming into the United States anymore. Again, less isolation, less restrictions. Things are healing. People are traveling. People are moving around and doing things. While that's not great for Sunday Gathering attendance, it is great for society and it is great for healing. I think it's important for us to acknowledge our healings as the healings happen. It gives us confidence and strength for the next time we have a challenge that we need healing from. Perhaps it gives other people around us, and relating to us strength with their own healing challenges. Ramp up your ability to acknowledge healing, to witness.
I live right near a big, inner city park. It's not a tourist type of park. It's a park that the local residents of the city go to. It's named Dolores Park. It's the park that is seen pictured on the Sunday program (on the front cover of this *Miracles Monthly*), and you see all the people in the park. That was yesterday. I took that picture. Yesterday when I was walking by the park, it was a sunny, warm day. Yes, people were out, all over in the park — again, a great equalizer, kind of like the beach. All different kinds of people: different racial representations, different genders, and different ages. It was so good to see.
I remembered two years ago, Dolores Park had painted circles and you could only sit within your circle with your family pod. Then there was a certain number of feet distance from where the other painted circles were. People in one circle group couldn't go over into the other circle group. It was a depressing thing to see. I know there were reasons why this was all done, but what I'm acknowledging is this doesn't exist anymore. Everybody is sitting in the park together having a good time healing, because they're letting go of their isolation.
A Course in Miracles says, "Your brothers are everywhere. You do not have to seek far for salvation." (OrEd.Tx.9.38) I think simply intermingling with our brothers, sisters, and others is very healing. It's actually salvation. A Course in Miracles is sometimes described as salvation through relationships, and I think that's an accurate description of the A Course in Miracles process. A Course in Miracles is telling us to connect, to join, and to not isolate. Rejoice with our sisters, brothers, and others. That's what I see happening. I think it's great because as I said, I love people. Don't we all love people?
People, don't you love 'em? I love 'em. I noticed that as I continue on with my practice of A Course in Miracles, that I see everybody as a very, very, dear friend. I feel love for the people that I meet and for the people that I see. That resonates in an A Course in Miracles teaching, that says, "I will recognize in everyone my dearest Friend." (OrEd.WkBk.60.4) I feel that. I've moved tremendously in that direction over the many years of my study and practice of A Course in Miracles.
As I said, this week Rev. Dusa Althea and I went to Santa Cruz, and we stayed at a very nice hotel that is right on the beach, or it's right over the beach. You've got a great view, you've got a balcony and you can watch everybody on the beach. You can watch all the people playing beach volleyball. We'd been there before. This was actually our third time at this hotel, but I haven't been there in a year. I was only there for a couple of days then, and I remember connecting with a few of the staff, talking to them when I was there before. One woman in particular helped me with my first reservation. I remember her name was Jessica. I remember when I actually arrived there the first time, going over and saying "Hi" and thanking Jessica for helping me with my reservation by describing the rooms to me. I remember chatting with Jessica and a few of the other people there, but it wasn't like I had a huge extended connection with the staff.
This week when I was there — they serve coffee through an office window in the morning — I was getting my coffee and talking with the young man who was pouring my coffee. All of a sudden this other man came out of the office in the back and he said to me, "I wanted to introduce myself." He continued, "I'm the manager here. My name is Eric. You're Rev. Tony, aren't you?" I said, "Yeah," and I thought it was surprising that he knew who I was because I wasn't wearing my minister's collar at the time. Then he said, "Well, I really just want to thank you for coming, and coming back. You've made quite an impression here upon people." And I thought, "Really? What did I do?" I don't remember his exact words, but he said something like, "We don't get a lot of people like you here." I guess he meant in my profession. They don't get a lot of ministers there. Then he said, "But we really cater to everybody, and we're just really glad to have you and we're really glad for your repeat business. And thank you so much. I just wanted to come out and say hello."
I thought this was just so incredibly sweet and so wonderfully healing that he did that. Then I realized, that's something I do with people too. I do my best to connect and make people smile. That's something I know a lot of A Course in Miracles people do. We go out of our way to connect, because we love people. People, don't you love 'em? I love 'em. They're so wonderful. When you have little things like that sweet, little, holy encounter I had with the manager Eric it's so nice. Later, I saw the woman Jessica, again. The next day when I went for coffee, somebody again called me Rev. Tony. It was just wonderful, so wonderful to connect with people in these very simple ways. It's very, very healing.
There were very few people wearing masks in Santa Cruz. I would say, with the adults, I saw less than 10% of the people wearing masks. I loved that, and I've talked about this before. I love to see people full face. I love to get all that visual communication. There was one exception to this, and that's when we went out late at night to a pizza restaurant named "Pizza My Heart" that is frequented by college students. There's a big university in Santa Cruz, U.C. Santa Cruz, which is the University of California at Santa Cruz. This late night spot, which sells big pieces of fresh pizza by the slice, was frequented by a lot of the students from U.C. Santa Cruz. It was interesting because a lot of the students still are wearing masks. At least, when they come into the restaurant they're wearing masks, and when they're waiting in line to order their big pieces of pizza, they're wearing masks. When they get to their table, they take their masks off to eat and drink.
But I wondered about this. I would say 50% of the students who walked into that restaurant had masks on, and I just thought that was so interesting because very few of the adults had masks on, but the younger generation had masks on. I just contrasted this to my own experience when I was in college. When I was at Cornell University and of that age, we were way riskier than the adults. I mean, that was college kids back then. We were living on the edge. Now of course, sometimes that backfired and we ended up with drug, sex, and relationship problems C and trauma. But I do think there's a tremendous benefit with living with less fear. I was also listening to bits and pieces of the conversations from the students that I could pick up. I felt that they were way more subdued, more cautious.
When I was younger, if I was at a late night place at about 11:00 p.m. at night, we'd be kind of crazy, loud, and bold — and I think kind of happier. So I did notice that the younger generation is more fearful than my generation was. I felt a little sad for them. We've done that. We've instilled a large amount of fear and caution into this younger generation. I wonder what the long-term societal implications of that are. Why do 50% of young people — who really are less affected by the Covid virus — why are 50% of them still defending themselves against that? A Course in Miracles wants us to challenge the idea of defense. We have a lesson. "If I defend myself, I am attacked." (OrEd.WkBk.135) In that lesson it says, "You operate from the belief you must protect yourself from what is happening, because it must contain what threatens you. — For no one walks the world in armature, but must have terror striking at his heart." (OrEd.WkBk.135.2-3)
That defensive stand by this younger generation, to feel that they need even now to wear masks to that great of extent, that means they have terror striking at their heart. They might not admit that, but we, as A Course in Miracles students, should be able to see that, and that's a challenge. That's a healing challenge for us, because as the Course says, "The only thing that is required for a healing is a lack of fear. The fearful are not healed and cannot heal." (OrEd.Tx.27.45) We don't want to be breeding a generation of people who are afraid. They're not going to be healed, and they're not going to be able to heal. They're not inherently as happy as they could be, and as they should be.
A Course in Miracles is a very happy, spiritual path. It's, in my mind, the happiest spiritual path there is. The Course says, "To heal is to make happy. I have told you before to think how many opportunities you have to gladden yourselves and how many you have refused. This is exactly the same as telling you that you have refused to heal yourselves." (OrEd.Tx.5.1) To heal is to make ourselves happy. To heal is to gladden ourselves. There's more gladdening going on because people are traveling and doing things. People are out and about, sitting in the park, going to the beach, and that's a great thing.
The Community Miracles Center's office is on Union Street, which is a neighborhood in San Francisco that's a very heterosexual neighborhood. Some people who don't live in San Francisco think that the entire city's gay. It's not true. So the Union Street neighborhood is a very straight neighborhood, and there are a number of bars there that cater to young people. Late at night this past weekend, on these hot, summer nights, there were a lot of young people out. There were a lot of scantily clad, young, nubile women out doing the thing that young women do. And I thought it was just great. It was people being alive and having fun, and I truly enjoyed seeing it. That may be a political, incorrect thing to say, but I enjoy seeing people living life and having fun.
One of my fun things to do when I'm in Santa Cruz is sitting on the beach as I watch people play volleyball.Most of them are teenage, young 20s, men and women. And the young women, they're in these skimpy little bikinis. They're fun to watch. The young guys are fun to watch too, and they frequently take their shirts off, and they are very fit, and they're great to look at too. I love to look at all those young bodies. For some reason, the young guys think long, baggy shorts are the thing to wear. I don't quite understand that. I always wondered about the skimpy, little bikinis on the women who play beach volleyball. Then this past time that we had the Summer Olympics, they've now added beach volleyball as an official Olympic competition. The female Olympic athletes wore those same skimpy bikinis. Apparently, that's the professional attire for women for beach volleyball. Kind of an interesting thing.
And I like it. I'm a guy. I think it's fun; I think it's healthy. It's life happening. As my sister Sara frequently says, "You can't stop Mother Nature." The human mating ritual is ultimately very life affirming. It's popular right now to reinforce gender fluidity, that it's up to a person themselves to decide whether they're a man or a woman. It's a big discussion going on in society right now. I think it is an interesting discussion, and frequently, biology trumps all of that. Nubile females playing volleyball in skimpy bikinis, and nubile young men, if you can say "nubile" for young men, with their shirts off and strutting their stuff — it's all really fun to watch because it's life, and it's healthy.
I am very grateful A Course in Miracles has allowed me to watch beach volleyball and declare that I like it. I don't have to feel guilty about any of it, because people, you got to love 'em. I love 'em. I love watching them. I love young and old, black and white, brown and yellow, male and female, and all the variations in between. It's a great time right now. There's a great healing that has happened. I am witnessing it. I prayed for two years that we heal through the pandemic. We healed, and we continue to heal. I'm giving witness for it. And I love seeing my sisters, brothers, and others out there in the world living and having a good time. Okay. That's my talk for today. Thank you very much. ♥
Rev. Tony Ponticello is CMC's 20 minister. He currently (07.03.22) serves on the CMC's Executive Minister and is President of CMC's Board of Directors. He was ordained by the CMC on Oct. 17, 1997.
Rev. Tony Ponticello
c/o Community Miracles Center
San Francisco, CA 94147
This article appeared in the June 2022 (Vol. 36 No. 4) issue of Miracles Monthly. Miracles Monthly is published by Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. CMC is supported solely by people just like you who: become CMC Supporting Members, Give Donations and Purchase Books and Products through us.