Reflections on Rohingya and the Burden of Connection  

Feb. 5th, 2018

Right now, at this very moment, as I sip tea at my desk, having eaten a healthy dinner and spent time working on music in a comfortable home, in a safe neighborhood, in what is still - at least theoretically - a free country, an extremely poor Muslim minority people known as the Rohingya are being systematically and brutally targeted and killed or driven out by military forces in the predominantly Buddhist country of Myanmar, halfway around the world. It is being described as ethnic cleansing; another of the seemingly endless examples within our species of hate and violence being inflicted, primarily as a result of differences in race and religion. So much for my pleasant stereotypes about Buddhists. 

At least 6700 men, women and children were killed in the initial attacks that began in August of 2017, with another 650,000 being forced to leave and travel by foot to neighboring Bangladesh when their villages were burned. At this point nearly a million people are refugees in makeshift camps along the border of Bangladesh, as well as in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, in what is considered a humanitarian crisis of major proportions. These people, who already had nothing, are struggling to survive in over-crowded camps, with extremely limited access to clean water, food, or sanitation - let alone shelter, clothing, medicine, etc. – things most of us take for granted. 

I would not have even known about the Rohingya people and the crisis they are facing, were it not for an ad from one of the major aid organizations that popped up in my Facebook news feed, causing me to dig deeper.  This comes on the heels of news of 20 million people facing starvation in in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria in 2017 due to regional conflicts and civil war, the loss of livestock and disappearing water and food resources. And let us not forget the ongoing misery in Syria, thanks to Bashar Al-Assad and his forces. These events are only a fraction of the extreme suffering that takes place throughout our world on an ongoing basis. It is no wonder so many close their hearts and minds to this reality, in order to continue to function. If we open ourselves to what our fellow human beings are facing, by the millions, the feeling we experience is one of helplessness and despair for the sheer magnitude of it all. Close your eyes, right now, and imagine holding a young child in your arms as he or she is dying, never having had a chance to live. 

Yet if we are to ever move toward a true Christ-consciousness, a consciousness of not only being our brother’s keeper, but of recognizing that our own lives are inextricably bound to the lives of all, we must somehow develop the capacity to keep our hearts and minds truly open, not just to the abundant beauty and good in the world, but to the rampant suffering, both seen and unseen. And we must learn to look beyond race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and other characteristics of the individual that separate us or allow us to falsely believe that someone else’s suffering is not our concern. How else can we evolve to that next level of existence, in which we finally create a just, peaceful, and sustainable way of being in the world? And if that isn’t the goal, then truly – what is? 

Of course no one of us can solve all the world’s problems, or attend to the needs of all who suffer, whether we think of those in our own communities or geographically a “world away”. And just as we acknowledge the existence of this suffering, we must also acknowledge and celebrate the amazing number of people, all around us and in every corner of the world, who reach out, giving of themselves so generously - even heroically - in order to help others. But until each one of us who is able is also willing to create our own form of healing ministry and spend some time walking through the darkness alongside those who so desperately need our help, whether we do that through prayer or financial giving or volunteer work or non-violent activism, or arts that heal or enlighten, or some combination of these, we deprive ourselves and others of the chance to know our true identity as the living expression of that divine creative energy and intelligence, that love which dwells within and connects us all. In the search for life's meaning, maybe this is the ultimate destination. Just a thought.

This is a song I wrote for a progressive event some years back, but it still encompasses some of these ideas, as well as a remembrance of the foundation of our own country's democracy, established of, by and FOR THE PEOPLE.

NYC's bold action is a victory for us all  

Sunday, Jan. 14th, 2018

Some of you may have heard by now that on Jan. 10th, 2018, NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio announced that the city is divesting all of its pension funds from the oil and gas industry. This is a huge victory in the fight against climate change, and against the ongoing devastation throughout this country and around the world caused by a warming planet. 

Mayor DeBlasio also announced a plan to sue five of the major oil and gas companies; Chevron, Shell, ExxonMobil, BP and ConocoPhillips, for knowing the scientific facts of climate change and it’s increasing risks to people, property and planet, and willfully denying and obfuscating those facts for decades so that they could continue to reap major profits at the expense of us all. 

Someone who’s been prominent for years among that pack of industry polluters and deniers is Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil and current Secretary of State. And while he now acknowledges the truth about climate change, he is also working within an administration that is continuing the trend of denial by removing all mention of climate change from government websites, gutting funding for science, the EPA, clean energy initiatives, emergency response agencies and infrastructure, and common-sense regulations intended to protect our communities. These actions put all of us, our children, and our future at risk so that a few can continue to squeeze profit from the misery. I don’t know about you, but I’m not okay with that. It’s time to fight back. Thank you, Mayor DeBlasio, for doing the right thing. I pray many more will follow in your tracks.

Rex Tillerson, this song is for you - and for all those within the fossil fuel industry who deny or ignore the facts, putting corporate profit above people and planet.

*One lyrical correction: I referenced a "billionaire businessman" in the 2nd verse, but apparently Mr. Tillerson's net financial worth is only $325 million. My bad! But it did flow a whole lot better than "multimillionaire"...

Confessions of an Earth Mama, Volume 1  

Sat., Jan 6th, 2018

Hmmm... where to begin? First, let me introduce myself. My name is Susan Shann. I’m a performing songwriter, a spiritual seeker, a progressive thinker. I believe, as both modern or so-called “new thought” spiritual teachings and the metaphysical sciences seem to affirm, that we truly are all one, connected energetically with each other and with the magnificent creation entrusted to our care. I call myself an Earth Mama because I am a child of nature, a child of the most high, a descendant of ALL who’ve gone before me, offspring of the Sacred Mother herself, that divine feminine and creative force of the world in which we live. 

Although raised “loosely” Presbyterian, I do not adhere to any one set of religious beliefs. Yet my faith in a divine intelligence that passes all understanding, and in the power of love, is absolute. While this love may often seem to exist in our world as unexpressed potential, I have witnessed how it also, in an instant, can break through the seemingly mundane and ordinary aspects of each day with all it’s glorious brilliance intact, as if the wonder and mystery of the ages was right there before me, within me, surrounding me. I’ve experienced how love can change a person’s life, bring healing and hope, restore balance, offer peace where before there was only unrest. I’ve written many a song about these phenomena, and will no doubt write many more. 

I begin this journal, to share with my brothers and sisters of all cultures and religions, wherever you may be, because I believe our world needs us now like never before to stand together, to lift each other up, to speak out about what needs to change within our individual and collective societies, to resist oppression and discrimination in every form, to be a voice for change and for the healing we so desperately need. To my Earth Mama sisters, may we each find new ways to bring forth the strength, caring and nurturing that is unique to our identities as women. I’m honored to share this journey with you all.

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  1. Earth Mama