We recently went through the American holiday of Labor Day. It is one of the older American holidays dating back to 1882. It was organized and supported by a large labor union from that era named the Knights of Labor. Labor Day is unique, compared to other holidays, because it doesn't celebrate something grand happening or a grand or important person as many other holidays do. Our first President George Washington is celebrated on President's Day. The Fourth of July celebrates the signing of the Declaration Of Independence. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus. Most holidays celebrate something huge. Labor Day, however, celebrates something very common, the working class. It celebrates averageness, most people work. It's an average thing to be part of the labor force. Labor Day celebrates a majority of the people I know. It's universal.
The holiday itself was the idea of an Irish American cabinet maker named Peter McGuire. He was a unionist. He belonged to the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners. It was his idea to set aside a work day when unionist would march, in mass, down the streets of New York City and make their presence and cause known. He thought that instead of going to work, as usual, on a specific Monday laborers could congregate in this way instead. Taking off a traditional work day was an important part of the statement and this is why Labor Day always falls on a Monday.
10,000 workers showed up for that first Labor Day march in New York City that day in 1882 and many of them did so knowing they were putting their jobs in jeopardy because of it. Most likely some of those marchers lost their jobs because they did this. The labor movement, at that time, was very new and was not embraced favorably by those with the power and the money, the factory owners and the business people of the time.
A number of years later, on June 28 1894, President Grover Cleveland, who was actually a strong foe of organized labor, signed the official law that created Labor Day as a national holiday. Earlier that same year President Cleveland had to call in federal troops to bust a railway strike. This strike had started with the Pullman company but had spread to most of the trains in the United States and thus had halted mail delivery. Without mail delivery a national crisis was ensuing. President Cleveland is quoted as saying, "If it takes the entire army and navy of the United States to deliver a postal card in Chicago, that card will be delivered." This early labor strike was a big deal at the time.
Even though President Cleveland was not happy with organized labor, organized labor with it's labor unions and their ability to strike had become the average thing, the common thing. It was the people. There was lots of pressure from the people to create this holiday and politicians eventually have to please the people.
According to experts, the labor movement in US dates back to 1837 and is tied to the completion of the Erie Canal. Upon completion there was a population exodus to what was then considered "the West." The city of Detroit began to build up. Very soon, Detroit's population had swollen to 10,000 people. These 10,000 were working very hard to build their new city. The carpenters and journey men were some of the first to unionize and strike. In 1837 there was a strike by the carpenters of Detroit. The demands of the carpenters were they wanted only 10 hour work days and $.20 per hour pay. The scale of things has changed but the fundamental principles remain the same – shorter work days and more pay.
The labor movement has been a huge struggle. Unions and organized labor have made great strides and changed the social fabric of our society. The goal of all unions and the labor movement is to make working something that is not exploitive. We need to remember that a lot of working, and most factor work at that time, was very exploitive. People worked under terrible conditions, often times very dangerous conditions. Young children worked for very little money. It was not a good situation.
This shift away from inhuman, exploitive conditions to more healthy and mutually beneficial situations is what the Labor Day holiday is all about. Labor Day celebrates a shift in perception – a miracle. I believe it is important to remember this because we tend to forget the underlying foundation of things. We think Labor Day is simply the end of the summer so we're celebrating one last chance to have a day off, a picnic, or go on a Labor Day trip. Yes, this three day weekend does mark the end of the summer but I want to remember what the holiday is truly about. We're celebrating the idea of union – of the strength of union. This is what labor unions found out. If people joined together around a common goal they had much more power. They had more clout. People joining together could get all kinds of things done. They could change and heal. They could not by themselves separately, however, when acting in union they could.
I found some pictures I wanted to share with you. The first is a group of Woolworth waitresses who had a sit down strike for more pay in 1937. They went into work and they would not wait on any customers. They would sit there and do each other's hair and do their nails. They sang, danced and joked around. They would not wait on customers. Finally management gave them the $.05 an hour pay hike that they were striking for. [see picture above]
The next picture shows auto workers in Flint, Michigan who were also staging a sit down strike for better working conditions and more pay. (This picture is not available.) They too were successful. Again this is 1937.
These pictures give us a deceptively peaceful picture of the labor movement but we all know how the labor movement was frequently not peaceful. There was a lot of violence and even death associated with the labor movement.
The thing that is inspiring me today is this idea of union and that we can actually accomplish so much more when we unite together. We already are united at a very foundational level. A Course In Miracles always tells us this. There is actually no separation between any of us. However in this world, where separation seems to be such a concrete thing, it usually takes some kind of movement, a strong energy and certainly a firm shared decision to act together – to act as one. It takes just as much of a decision to do this now as it ever has. ACIM tells us this:
"It should especially be noted that God has only one Son. If all His creations are His Sons, every one must be an integral part of the whole Sonship. The Sonship in its Oneness transcends the sum of its parts. However, this is obscured as long as any of its parts is missing. That is why the conflict cannot ultimately be resolved until all the parts of the Sonship have returned." (T-2.VII.6.1-5)
This quotation has a very interesting idea for me. It's the idea that the whole is always greater than the sum of the parts. There is always something that is gained when we join that all the individuals doing on their own couldn't accomplish. Even if all these individuals were working at maximum efficiency something more positive happens when we join together, when we come together and form a union.
When we join together at the Community Miracles Center, when we come together to share these ideas, healing happens that is greater than what would happen from the same individuals saying the same prayers and thinking the same thoughts in their own apartments. There is a synergy. There is a qualitative shift that happens in the joining that is more than the quantitative sum of everyone doing the similar work on their own. A Course In Miracles tells us: "Those who have joined their brothers have detached themselves from their belief that their identity lies in the ego" (T-21.IV.3.4)
There is something gained when we join with our brothers and sisters. We are detaching ourselves from the idea that our identity is in our ego, in our idea of separation. We can do all the spiritual work that we want to do but if we are doing it in the energy that we are separate and identified with our egos it's not going to heal the separation. It's not going to have the desired healing effect.
All those people in the unions could have written all the letters that they wrote and not gone to work all the days that they didn't go to work, but because they did it in union, in mass – because they did it from a united frame of mind – they were able to create gigantic changes in the culture, in our society. A Course In Miracles absolutely cautions us about thinking we can do this healing work on our own.
"It is impossible to remember God in secret and alone. For remembering Him means you are not alone, and are willing to remember it. ... The lonely journey fails because it has excluded what it would find." (T-14.X.10.1-2.7)
I know many spiritual people who are still trying to do the lonely journey. They are still trying to do it on their own. They've read the books. They have the meditation techniques. They have the spiritual practices and they have the prayers. They have all the videos and the audio recordings and they are trying to do it on their own. However, so much more is gained, so much more is possible, with simple acts of joining.
I certainly know this is so for me. I gain so much more from just a few people gathering together, sharing a few A Course In Miracles ideas than I could ever gain reading volumes and volumes of enlightened spiritual books. I can have one little moment of connecting with somebody and then the separation ends. This saves me hundreds of hours of reading.
A Course In Miracles tells us in the Manual For Teachers about the different stages that a teacher of God goes through. One of these stages is named, "A period of settling down."
"... a period of settling down .... Yet when he is ready to go on, he goes with mighty companions beside him. Now he rests a while, and gathers them before going on. He will not go on from here alone." (M-4.I.A.6.1.11-13)
We are gathering in those "mighty companions." I've always thought this is what we do here at the Community Miracles Center. This is what we do any time we truly connect with spiritual people – we're affirming our mighty companions. What I understand from A Course In Miracles is that we absolutely need these mighty companions. Healing and salvation is not a task that we can accomplish on our own. We are the spiritual union that is going to manifest vast changes in the world. We join together; we unionize. We figure out what our principles are. We figure out what it is that we want to have happen in our minds and then see reflected in the world. We join together around these principles and then we stand up for them, in whatever way we are guided to, in order to create the significant changes in our society and in civilization.
I was listening to Rev. Larry's Jesus' Course In Miracles recordings and something that was read by Rev. Larry was interesting to me because the wording was just different enough from what is in the regular ACIM blue book that it hit my mind in a different way and caused me to understand a passage that I've read hundreds of times before but didn't truly understand. Here it is:
"You have asked lately how the mind could ever have made the ego. This is a perfectly reasonable question; in fact, the best question you could ask. There is, however, no point in giving an historical answer because the past does not matter in human terms, and history would not exist if the same errors were not being repeated in the present" (JCIM pg.30)
In the blue book they do not use the word "historical" and that word communicated something different to me this time.
There is no point in giving us an historical answer. There's no point in answering the question, "How did we make the ego?" as if we did it in the past – as if we did it historically. It doesn't help anything because we are doing the same thing now. There is a point in asking, "How are we making the ego now?" If we get some insight into this answer then we can stop doing it now. Historically, it's irrelevant. The past doesn't really exist anyway. I've read similar words in the blue book but I must have needed to hear it a different way for a higher level of understanding to come. I used to interpret this passage as meaning that there was no answer to the question. What I get now is, "Yes" there is an answer to the question however the answer is useless because we're doing the same thing now. What we need to focus in on is how are we doing this now. How are we making the ego now?
One way I see is we don't embrace union. Even though we have all kinds of demonstrations all through our history and all through our present world dream that union and joining is a very powerful, healing thing we still don't embrace the idea for ourselves. We have a national holiday celebrating the importance of union but we still tend to not want to do it. We tend to isolate and to indulge in the idea that we can do it by ourselves. We find all kinds of good reasons not to join. We find reasons that seem to come from the outside world. We tell ourselves, "I'd go Sunday but this other thing is happening in my life and I can't do it." Or "I'd take a class, but I can't do it right now." "I'd go to that study group but there's my job and I'm tired at night." We find all kinds of reasons. "I'd go, but my wife doesn't like it when I go." A Course In Miracles cautions us about this type of thinking.
"As peace extends from deep inside yourself to embrace all the Sonship and give it rest, it will encounter many obstacles. Some of them you will try to impose. Others will seem to arise from elsewhere; from your brothers, and from various aspects of the world outside." (T-19.IV.1.1-2)
The obstacles that arise which seem to prevent us from finding the peace, manifesting the healing and creating the real world seem to come from all over. Sometimes we do identify them as coming from within our own minds but sometimes they seem to come from the outside world. "I really would like to do this but it bothers the people I live with so I can't. I would do it but there's this to consider."
I witness this thinking frequently, not just with spiritual growth, but associated with all kinds of things. I see it a lot with relationships. I frequently shows up in that arena. People talk, they give a lot of lip service to the idea that they want to be in relationship however they create all kinds of obstacles about why they are not. Many of the obstacles seem to come from the outside world. The most frequent obstacle is they just can't find anybody who they like. They would be in relationship if they could find somebody they liked who wanted to be in relationship with them. "Of course I want to be in relationship! I have all this love to give." They can't find anybody who wants to receive their love. This thinking always amuses me especially when I hear it from people who live here in San Francisco. San Francisco is a huge metropolitan area with about seven million people and we have the internet now that makes it so easy to find people who share similar attitudes. We can find so many people now. We didn't have all this access and connection before. Yet, many people still believe it reasonable to say, "There's nobody to connect with." I also find it amusing that people join dating service and some of these services connect clients to people who live in other parts of the country. Hey, if you have to fly 3,000 mile to find somebody to make love to you're in deep sh-t! This is not a good thing! There are people all over. Our brothers and sisters are everywhere. We don't have to look far for salvation. (see: T-9.VII.1.4-5)
There's seven million people in the San Francisco Bay Area. Come on! The question should actually be, "Why am I rejecting everybody?" "Why does everybody seem inappropriate to me?" That's a good question to ask. What is it about my mind? What is it about me? Why am I so judgmental? Maybe, I actually do not want to be in a relationship. Maybe I would just like a few casual friends. Perhaps I'm not guided to be in a romantic relationship right now. These might be much more accurate and empowering statements. Look out on the street. There are people everywhere. However, we have to join. We have to recognize the synergistic power of union. In joining and union are strength and healing. We resist this. We think there are other reasons and we don't identify our own resistance.
I've frequently heard A Course In Miracles called a "self study course." There were some prominent teachers early on who called ACIM a "self study" course. This is also amusing to me. These words never appear in the Course. Nowhere does the Course call itself a "self study" course. Why do we call it that? I keep reading about the importance of joining with our brothers and sisters. It would only make sense that we would naturally join others and that is the common experience for students of ACIM. Once we start studying ACIM we usually want to find others who study it and join with them. Study groups form spontaneously everywhere because people want to talk to other people about this discipline. I know that was my experience. This is what happens naturally. Yet, there are some teachers who say that we should not be doing this because we foster wrong ideas about the Course and we end up distracting ourselves from truly taking the teaching in. Some think these groups then become more social than spiritual and make it even harder to remember the true purpose of the Course. Some think that this is the problem with the Community Miracles Center. The social benefit of the joining and mere friendship take precedence over the academy purity of teaching the Course theology.
Perhaps these are issues to think about however, I find that it is only through joining that these principles sink into my mind. If I don't join then I merely focus on my little, pet ideas which I have most likely already accepted. I don't open myself up to the different ideas that others would expose me to. It's always very interesting for me to hear how other people interpret A Course In Miracles and to follow their thinking as they relate to different passages. When I open myself up to this process it changes me and heals me. I grow so much more than I would from just reading it on my own. My own ego is very exploitive. I need this union to stop that exploitation. I need a strong labor union movement with my study of ACIM or my ego exploits my spiritual labor. I can't do it on my own.
Think for a moment, what if the waitresses at Woolworth's had sat down one at a time and not joined together? They could have sat down for they same amount of total hours but if they hadn't done it in unison it would not have made any difference at all. The random sitters would have been fired. The other waitresses would have remained working while the one was sitting and customers would have gotten their tuna sandwiches and milk shakes and the sitting all would have been useless. The sitting only had power because they all sat down together. The sitting down wouldn't have made any sense if they had done it separately.
The same principles apply to our spiritual study. We can spend the same amount of time in prayer, study, reading – but if we're not doing it from a joining it's not going to have the same effect.
We have so many demonstration that union is powerful. Think of the 12 Step programs. Look at the 12th step itself, "Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs." The 12th step is bringing the healing to other people – to join and unionize your healing. If a person doesn't do the 12th step he or she has not completed the program and his or her healing is not complete. Talk to people in 12 Step programs and they will tell you how very important that last step is. It completes the program and ensures the growth and healing will continue. It keeps one's own sobriety alive by bringing the message to other people. Without joining and union it doesn't work.
I participate in a Mental Health discipline named "Recovery Inc." (www.recovery-inc.org ). We study a particular method for maintaining our mental health. The method could be taught and practiced individually and separately but an important part of the mental health process taught is weekly joining together in groups to reinforce the method in our minds. Some people believe that once they learn the mental health method they could do it on their own. However, I have been involved with this organization for about 25 years and I have seen that the ones who eventually try to do it on their own without the support of the group have substantially more relapses and debilitating mental problems. They may know the technique and method but the method in isolation doesn't work the same way. I, myself, have fallen into this same trap of trying to do it on my own only to fall back into my mental health problems when I least expected them.
There is always something about the whole, coming together in union, being qualitatively greater than the quantitative sum of its parts. You can't dissect the process up and benefit the same from the individual parts. You have to have the union.
Even the whole message of A Course In Miracles itself is greater than the sum of its parts. "The Kingdom of Heaven is you. What else but you did the Creator create, and what else but you is His Kingdom? This is the whole message of the Atonement; a message which in its totality transcends the sum of its parts." (T-4.III.1.4-6)
You can take all the wonderful, little, spiritual, intellectual "gems" that are in A Course In Miracles and know them all, but if you don't have the union of the whole teaching then you don't get the message and you don't experience the healing. The totality of the teaching is greater than the sum of its parts.
Let us keep that in mind. Let us let the Labor Day celebration be a reminder of the strength and the critical importance of union. "Yes" it is the end of the summer. "Yes" we generally do no "labor" on this day and many fun activities are frequently planned. However, let's keep in mind what is actually being celebrated. We're celebrating something that is universal. It's average. It's not a grand event that took place and we aren't acknowledging the life of an important historical personage. We're celebrating something that all average people do. We labor. What laborers found out, is that when they joined together in unions they had the power to end the exploitation which they had been suffering under for many, many years.
We are all exploited by our egos, by that belief in separation. However, we do have the power to come together in union. Let's us form an A Course In Miracles union. Together we can act and transcend the exploitation of our egos and we can manifest the real world of love and healing. Thanks for reading this.
Love, Rev. Tony ♥
c/o Community Miracles Center
2269 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
This article appeared in the October 6, 2006 (No. 17) issue of CMC Ezine. CMC Ezine 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.