PO Box 56
Hammondsport, New York 14840
A GIFT FOR YOU
Be sure to include your address when making donations, and I'll send you a personally-inscribed copy of my poem,
"The Remembrance" is an address to humanity — to the human race, and the human spirit — a poem about friendship that some have found suitable for framing.
Response to Ground Mail
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if in doubt.
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FOR DEMOCRACY is a serious effort to put forward
a pragmatic alternative to the self-defeating,
self-destructive policies of the Bush administration
in the "War On Terror." A draft geared toward
Midterm Election issues was published on 10.3.06. Look
for an updated version early in 2007.
||Poetry readings — classes and workshops
in movement meditation and wellness topics —
speaking engagements on politics, public affairs and personal
Please call for schedule.
THE PRINCELY CRICKET
SUPPORT THIS WORK
your gift makes a difference
Michael Butler at home in New York State, May 2004
at 85th and broadway, amid mad daystreaming
she speaks of the hills of nicaragua
where she stood just hours ago
she speaks of faces she has seen
a bond embraced
among people who say, "presente!"
for the naming of the disappeared,
"they are here!"
the schoolteacher, farmer,
whose lives were broken
witnesses to possibility,
for crimes of belief,
casualty of greater disbelief
we stood on a street corner
in the canyon of centuries, at 85th and broadway
where daybluelightshine heals familiar eyes
and when my fingers touched her nape
and our bellies grew quiet together
open to the power of the hills
the trouble of these times
Michael Butler studied theater, wrote poetry and performed music while a student at SUNY/Buffalo 1973-1977. An involvement with an eco-village intentional community led to an extended sojourn in wilderness solitude, then many adventures hitchhiking across America. He explored diverse spiritual paths, including hundreds of days of fasting and giving up nearly all possessions. After working as a taxi driver, a disastrous turn of events led to a 12-month ordeal of homelessness in New York City beginning in 1981. But then he worked his way up from dishwasher to become the manager of a natural foods restaurant on Broadway, manager of a NYC health food store, and manager of a natural healing center and yoga institute. As a self-taught carpenter and small contractor, he was hired again several years later to renovate some of the same businesses he had managed. He became an exercise and meditation teacher, the Editor of a professional journal, and the Associate of a Medical Center in Manhattan. As a former Certified Trager® Practitioner and Authorized Trager® Mentastics® Leader, he worked therapeutically (i.e. by physician prescription, often on-premises in medical institution) with victims of stroke, injuries, Parkinson's disease, AIDS-related complex, and with athletes, opera singers, movie stars and others seeking peak performance conditioning. He has taught seminars at hospitals, universities, churches and many other places. As a NYS Certified Home Health Aide working in the field of Traumatic Brain Injury, he successfully fought through four court hearings to create an innovative Care Manager position.
THE INSTITUTE FOR OPTIMAL PSYCHOPHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT, a school he founded with ten faculty members, was the culmination of his holistic health career in NYC during the 1980s. More info.
Among other accomplishments, in 1993 he mobilized a broad-based community-wide movement in Buffalo in support of the WORLD INTERCULTURAL CONFERENCE FOR MIDDLE EAST PEACE, the prototype for SYNTHESIS PEACE CONFERENCES. More info.
He has published magazine articles, performed with dance companies and theatrical groups, given poetry readings, coordinated art installations, produced a CD, created an annual music festival, and founded an organization to promote traditional old-time fiddle music.
In 2004 he emerged as a powerful voice in the campaign of Ralph Nader for President of the United States. As media spokesperson on the five-week "Rolling Thunder" tour through Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota, he mobilized volunteers, organized rallies, gave speeches to high school and college students, spoke out at peace demonstrations, raised funds, conducted interviews, and made many radio and TV appearances. His joint press conference in Rapid City, South Dakota with American Indian leader Russell Means, to announce Means' endorsement of Ralph Nader for President, drew national attention. He delivered sharp criticism of both George Bush and John Kerry, speaking out against the war in Iraq, against the Patriot Act, and against corporate domination of the American government. He advocated strongly for a living wage, health care for all, and the rights of family farmers and small business owners. He became involved with local issues around the Great Plains, such as the development of wind power and other alternative energy sources. He talked about the injustice of federal laws and state guidelines that supersede local community values on behalf of corrupt business interests, and about international trade agreements that favor large corporations at the expense of workers' rights, environmental conditions, and basic living standards for many of the world's people.
Presidential Campaign Representative Michael Butler
with American Indian Leader Russell Means
after Joint Press Conference Giving Means' Endorsement to
Ralph Nader for President
Rapid City, South Dakota, October 2004
Give of your Self
give of your full, free Self
to love others as you would have them love you,
as you would have them give of their Selves to you.
Love without conditions,
because to ask of others
to be false to themselves,
that they should be as they are not
for your own sake,
is the worst sin of selfishness.
Share the things that you have,
they were gifts first given to you;
and they do not last,
but only the treasures of the soul
There is a time for communication,
and a time for distance;
a time for gathering together,
and a time for letting solitude be.
There is a time for revolution,
and a time for silence
in the face of insurmountable oppression;
And when the time for revolution comes,
it cannot succeed
without the right man or woman
to voice its principles.
There is a time for waiting,
when it is better to yield
and preserve life, holding back
until the flower of freedom blooms;
And there is a time for dying,
when it is better to stand firm
against all consequences,
Better to be sacrificed
with a dream still intact close to your heart,
than to betray the foundation on which you stand.
Notes From The Director's Page
Originally begun in 1991 by Michael Butler as he worked to develop the first Synthesis Peace Conference — an ambitious, innovative, grassroots problem-solving approach toward Middle East Peace, adaptable for use in many global trouble spots — Synthesis Institute is the umbrella organization dedicated to sponsor and administrate a wide range of projects.
Your donations now will help to fuel the process of obtaining tax-deductible charitable status as a nonprofit educational organization, including unanimous consensus decision-making structures in the Governing Board, working committees and subcommittees to the greatest extent possible.
You'll be rewarded with the knowledge that your gift is strengthening the possibility for a clear, alternative vision to show a way through these times of darkness in the world... for voices of freedom and reason to be heard above the confusion... and for the work of many hands to make a real difference for good in the lives of many.
by Michael Butler
Some links take you to external sites.
In The Right Spirit: The True 'Way Forward' In Iraq [1.20.07]
It Is Time For A National Spotlight On The Media [12.21.06]
Toward A New Patriotic Consensus: Beyond The Iraq Study Group Report [12.12.06]
Riding The Wave of Change: Beyond Midterm Elections 2006 [11.14.06]
Midterm Elections 2006: Can Democrats Sober Up George Bush And The Republican Party? [10.23.06]
The Need For Immediate Change In U.S. Policy On Iraq [10.23.06]
The Campaign For Democracy: An Alternative Strategy To The War On Terror [10.3.06]
As The Dust Settles And The Smoke Clears In Lebanon [8.15.06]
Election 2006 and the Iraq Fiasco: Leadership, Not One-Upmanship, Will Bring America Home [8.12.06]
In Maryland, Kevin Zeese Takes On The Power Brokers [10.10.05]
The Turning Tide: From Cindy Sheehan's Encampment In Crawford To The Woolsey Hearing In Congress [9.21.05]
Why Ralph Nader Was The Logical Choice In 2004 [10.10.05]
Michael Butler Visiting A Wind Turbine
At Lincoln, Nebraska, October 2004
"Religious Leaders Propose A Way To End The War In Iraq"Sampling Of Articles On Politics And Social Change
Synthesis Institute Overview
Bio in Brief
Give Of Your Self
Tiananmen Square, June 1989
"My New Year's Revolutions
Conference On Global Living
Middle East Peace Objectives
Five Articles About:
A National Spotlight On The Media
Issues Before And After Midterm Elections
Campaigning For Ralph Nader In 2004
Buried somewhere in my files from last year — not too deeply submerged, but far enough down the list that I don't expect to return to working on it anytime soon — is the rough draft of an article, "I Voted For Al Gore In 2000."
As a former spokesperson for Ralph Nader's 2004 Presidential Campaign, there's something of an ironic chuckle in that soundbite, for me.
The subject of Gore's defeat in Election 2000 leads me inevitably into a discussion of Nader; and my choice to support Nader over Kerry in 2004 propels the train of thought toward larger concerns of ballot access, the rights of third parties and independent candidates, comprehensive election reform and the continuing evolution of American democracy.
In passing, I don't mind fighting battles to defend Nader's legacy. That doesn't mean I'm oblivious to his flaws and weaknesses: he's not particularly skilled as a politician, assuredly. The American people never understood Ralph Nader; but equally true is that neither Nader nor anyone in his circle of advisers ever understood the American voter.
Though it was my first foray into the political field, and I had no real access to the higher echelons of decision-making, I honestly made an attempt to bring my instinctive awareness of political strategy directly to Nader's top-level staff — to suggest a conscious effort by the campaign to affect public perception of the candidate's strengths and weaknesses, and likewise toward President Bush. I have to say I did not observe anything in Nader's tactics that indicated serious recognition of this fundamental principle. But this does not diminish my respect for the message he sought to carry, and his truly magnificent willingness to confront the stupendous structural obstacles to independent thought and action built into the American political edifice.
Having said all this, the fact remains: I voted for Al Gore in 2000, because I thought he was the best candidate in view. More precisely (as my article-in-progress takes pains to elaborate), there was one key and critical issue that outweighed all others, and on which my vote was cast:
Earth In The Balance.
Leaving all political considerations aside, the title of Al Gore's book expressed a symbolism then that is no less consequential to the present moment — indeed, more urgent than ever, because we see in front of us every day more evidence that the balance has been tipped.
Long before 2000, this was already a clear and present danger, for me. As early as 1991, I had written a cold, sober appraisal of profound biosphere decay, summarized in the judgment, "My planet is dying." It seemed incredible to believe that our society and our species were not even heading in the right direction to correct past transgressions. "How long," I wondered out loud, before burgeoning toxicity, the shredding of the ozone layer, the poisoning of our oceans, the decimation of genetic diversity, and the tilting of delicate climate influences creates an irreversible scenario, so that no amount of frantic scrambling to undo past misdeeds can rescue us from the consequences of long-established, culturally-ingrained, misguided priorities?
Even with all that has happened since, including the spiraling disintegration of the very fabric of civilization being precipitated by the hubristic leadership of George Bush — how can one individual's lack of pattern recognition skills be so deadly to an entire planet? — the prospect of continuing environmental degradation still presents a dire necessity for action that is greater and more meaningful to humankind than any localized struggle.
If the house burns down, it won't matter what the inhabitants were fighting about.
There is much that can be done — not only at governmental levels, to regulate industries, set standards and encourage targeted growth, but also through individual lifestyle and consumer choices.
Creating public awareness and building a movement to support a comprehensive approach to environmental regeneration is the goal of my proposal for "A Conference On Global Living."
Brief outline: a festival of poetry begins the event with a call to popular imagination, framing the issues in the language of the heart, rather than technical jargon. Speakers, panel discussions, a Town Meeting and other interactive opportunities complete the problem-solving conference format.
A poetic celebration of our "sense of place" and individual belongingness to Earth is augmented by a satellite view of human interaction with the physical surface of the globe, introducing the concept of "socioregion" to describe the pattern of trade routes and habitation clusters that indicate geo-economic zones.
From this perspective, we can see how problems that, like watersheds and weather cycles, do not observe boundaries imposed by ownership and political jurisdiction are exacerbated by a fragmenting of popular will; and how the responsibilities of planetary citizenship give global meaning to all our local actions.
Spotlighting the conflicts and complementarities between economic interests and environmental concerns provides greater understanding of the problems, and shows the source of immediate as well as long-term solutions.
Beyond the goals of this (proposed) conference, I believe that ultimately, investment in ecologically-minded real estate development can facilitate conscious community redesign, integrating lifestyle, architecture and environmental sustainability, to improve quality of life while eliminating energy-utilization and waste-management drawbacks.
One of the greatest human beings of the 20th Century, geodesic dome inventor Buckminster Fuller, used to describe this process — transcending difficulties and advancing a situation to the next level by embracing heightened organizational efficiency and superior technology — as "revolution by design and invention."
So I guess these are my "New Year's Revolutions."
I'd like to invite anyone who thinks these are good ideas to consider joining with me, or contributing to the cause.
Obviously, I didn't just spin this off the top of my head — I've had the "Conference On Global Living" in my sights for a while. But the call is beginning to go out now, for the first time, to get this off the ground in 2007.
And as the year unfolds, I want to return to a project that I initiated during the 1980s, the "Institute For Optimal Psychophysical Development." This was a school with ten faculty members that I drew together, remarkably without preconception, in an astonishingly short time. Some of the instructors were successful, established authors, lecturers, and teachers with their own institutes; others were less experienced or had never taught any kind of class before; and nearly all of them were good friends of mine, whom I had sponsored, co-taught, exchanged skills or worked with during my years as an holistic health professional in Manhattan.
The "seed-concept of an holistic university" was not so much a conscious creation as a discovery, as I looked at my handiwork after the fact and recognized the potential to develop programs for personal growth, spiritual and physical strengthening, training performing artists and holistic health professionals, and coaching the kind of mental fortitude needed by athletes who compete at the highest levels.
Its distinctive feature was the integration of conventional medical knowledge with intuitive mind/body wellness techniques — not surprising, perhaps, as I was then an Associate of a Medical Center directed by an holistic M.D., Ronald Hoffman, practicing an intuitive discipline founded by another physician, Milton Trager.
But at the threshhold of formally launching this enterprise, I was forced to a difficult, deliberate decision to stay my hand. Spontaneous, unplanned emergence had built an organization that felt like a team of ten horses pulling in ten different directions. Moreover, I had assigned myself a challenging teaching schedule, in addition to all the administrative duties and a full slate of outside commitments, including a new role as a founding Editor of the Trager Journal. I chose to limit myself to what I felt I could do well, and received an important lesson about the dangers of taking on too much responsibility.
My contracts with the faculty allowed nearly all the offerings in my Course Catalog to go forward, but only one was held under IOPD auspices. That was a series of classes I sponsored for a gifted choreographer-dancer, Roger Tolle, who went on to build a worldwide teaching career with that curriculum.
A decade later, I was reunited with another M.D., Patch Adams, whom I had known during the 1970s. Although I've not seen the movie about his vision of an alternative "hospital," I took the trouble later on to pay a visit to its intended site in West Virginia. Somewhat perplexed by what I found there, in 2003 I mailed Patch a copy of the original IOPD Course Catalog, and proposed collaboration.
Patch was sufficiently intrigued to respond with a phone call, and we discussed the idea. It was clear that we are on the same page. But while Patch has been out raising millions of dollars for elaborate facilities and equipment, practically nothing seemed to be happening in West Virginia except a special kind of inner healing being experienced by a small group residing in relative isolation on that idyllic piece of land. Worthwhile, yes; but offering little to the public.
The IOPD had no facilities, and needed none. I rented spaces at multiple locations around Manhattan, and used community-as-campus. It was all about hands-on healing, experiential learning and interpersonal communication. All it needed was to put the right idea together with the right people; and with minimal investment, it could be up and running virtually overnight, using the already-existing structures at Patch's West Virginia location. Or anywhere else, for that matter.
I have to say I still don't quite grasp his answer; but it seemed that he wished to continue on the same path as he had been following. My offer stands. I really mean that; and I hope it doesn't sound in any way disrespectful toward someone whose achievements, frankly, I cannot touch. But I'm determined to bring fruition to the seed-concept I planted 20 years ago: beginning this time with planning and foreknowledge of the objectives, to build a working, viable educational institution empowering human excellence.
I think 2007 will be a good year to get re-started. I'm putting it on my list of New Year's Revolutions!
If there's anyone reading this who thinks this is a good idea, I welcome both participation and support.
Finally, I have one more project that I'm eager to tackle this year. It is slightly more ambitious than either of these other two; but a great deal more preparatory work has already been invested. In fact, I spent two years of nearly full-time dedication toward this task, 1991-1993.
Admittedly, a lot of that effort was just thinking. It was a large idea to get my mind around; and very far from my experience at the time. There was reading and research involved. I wrote proposals, re-wrote the proposals, and re-wrote them again. And then, I promised myself that I would take one step every day toward my goal: one phone call, or one letter, or just working on one paragraph in a letter; but something.
And I knocked on doors. It's true that when I explained that I had a plan to help bring peace to the Middle East, some doors were abruptly closed in my face. I was laughed at. But I kept at it. One of the first people who understood what I was saying, who was excited and enthusiastic, was the former National President of the YWCA of Lebanon, more recently the founder of a Center For Mideast Studies in Buffalo, New York. This was a person experienced with international conferences, working with YWCA headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, for example. She had survived 20 years of civil war in Beirut; and her home village in South Lebanon, as she showed me in photographs, had been reduced to uninhabitable heaps of broken cinder blocks during the 1980s.
As I got better at explaining my idea, and my proposals and correspondence showed insight and expertise, more people listened, and more became involved. A Presbyterian minister offered meeting space in his church. A Professor of Judaic Studies gave time, advice and guidance. Religious, interfaith, community leaders, heads of organizations, peace activists and others attended meetings, and ultimately gave their commitment to help bring my plan about. A prominent Western New York politician gave me a ringing endorsement, affirming the distinction I could bring to the region by hosting the preliminary events there. Local Buffalo-area PBS executives opened their doors, and offered to broadcast the programming that I was developing.
I had not neglected the need to secure funding for this venture; but those to whom I appealed could not provide help, and did not know where I might apply. For good reason, I think I felt I had something to prove, and could not expect to get financial backing until I showed the viability of my intentions.
But I made the mistake of asking others for participation, without asking them, or even alerting them to my needs for support. I did all this when I was so broke that I could not afford to ride a city bus — so that I walked to the meeting places, and to the libraries where I composed my documents on public access computers, nine and a half miles each way. It was a nightmarish time, in some respects.
It was at the very moment when I appeared to have achieved ultimate success that I reached a breaking point. I had a team on board, a talented group of professional people ready to put their minds and hearts into my proposal. In our discussions, we estimated it would take another whole year to bring about the first phase of my three-stage plan leading to an international event. I knew then that I could not sustain the drive. I did not have a secure foundation to my personal life — a way to eat, or even a place to live that I could depend on. Ultimately, I had to follow another path, for the sake of sheer survival.
I did not think that life would take me in such a wide arc, so far away from these goals for so long. But one career led to another, and then another. Different residences, and different towns, mostly scattered along the New York-Pennsylvania border areas of upstate New York.
Stepping out on a national stage as a representative of the Nader campaign in 2004 showed me what I'm capable of, and gave me the confidence to know that I can succeed, even in things that no one else believes in.
So I'm bringing back my proposal for a "World Intercultural Conference For Middle East Peace," and putting it on my list of New Year's Revolutions for 2007. I don't expect to make it happen, of course. I will consider my work a success if all I'm able to do is talk about my ideas, to get people thinking, and maybe, just maybe, to get something moving.
Bono and Geldof, are you listening? Give me an hour, that's all. Well, two if we're having fun. But if you don't think I've got something substantive here, then I'll fold my tents, maybe learn a good lesson. But I think you'll agree, and maybe many others will, that there's something we can do — I mean We, the People — something that HAS to come from the grassroots, because governments can't fix the problem.
Yes, governments have to do their part — both to lead and follow the popular consensus. Israelis and Palestinians need a political settlement to secure their national identities. But look, if passing laws, drawing boundaries, and filling up bureaucratic drawers with red tape was all it took to govern change, then, for example, the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 would have completely solved the problems of race relations in the United States. Obviously, there's more. Conflict is culturally ingrained, and manifest in society on many levels. That's what my proposal is geared to address, specifically between Israelis and Palestinians. It begins with the people, and only as a final consequence aims its impact toward the professional political class: if possible, or at least intending to try, to hold ALL the governments of the Middle East accountable to the interests of ALL the people of the region.
I know, that's a mouthful. Let's look at it carefully; maybe I'll back off a bit from that statement. But it's there. And I think it's valid. The power comes from what I called in 1991 "the new internationalization of television;" and there's a whole lot more there now than there was 16 years ago.
I'm not going to try to map out a complete outline right here. But let me give you a kernel. There are a few different parts, and they happen at different locations, at different times. The centerpiece uses the Banner of Peace created by Russian artist-scientist-archaeologist-lawyer Nicholas Roerich — the Banner that was adopted by the Organization of American States in a ceremony presided over by Franklin D. Roosevelt, for which Roerich was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize — as the basis to design a kind of representative congress of the people of many nations. The people, that is, NOT politicians; and with a place for ALL the voices, none excluded.
Simple, yet elegant. A different way of framing the question. A different approach, something not tried before, and maybe capable of getting a different result than anything before.
Incidentally, I believe there are lots of positive examples we can learn from in Northern Ireland, that can enrich this approach. But I won't talk at all about the possible applications of this way of thinking toward the simmering tensions in India-Pakistan, or the two Koreas, or even the hope for some ultimate reconciliation process in Iraq, because it just seems too far off.
I am also not going to make any attempt to lay out a comprehensive solution to the problem of homelessness; or to build my merchandising empire as the Wal-Mart of Zen.
Heck, there's always NEXT YEAR!
Synthesis Institute's Office View, New York State
All text and images on this site © Copyright 2006-2007 Michael Butler
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