On Sunday August 7, 2011, Rev. Tony Ponticello addressed the congregation at the Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. What follows is a lightly edited transcription of that lecture.
Good morning everybody. Thanks for being here. I want to talk about a special hate relationship today. It’s the special hate relationship that almost all of us have with the government. This was a great week to be triggered by the government. I was definitely triggered by the government this week. There has been a debate that has been going on for some time about raising the United States debt ceiling. There was a lot of thought that said we needed to do this. There was thought that said it would be a disaster if we did not do it. On Monday, August 1, the House of Representatives did vote to raise the debt ceiling, after a lot of controversy. On Tuesday the Senate approved it. It was then sent to President Obama who signed it into law. This was done quickly, because it was on Tuesday that the U.S. would have defaulted in paying the interest on our debt which would have caused a financial Armageddon, or so many people thought. All of this was done at the last minute and, apparently, financial Armageddon was avoiding – or maybe only delayed.
I looked up “Armageddon.” It’s a Hebrew, Biblical term. Armageddon is a symbolic mountain where the last battle before the end of times will be fought. We avoided that. We’re not at the last battle – yet. I think almost everybody in this country bought into this political drama to some extent. Many, many people were concerned. People got excited about it, nervous about it, polarized about it, in one way or another. Just about everybody that I knew, or talked to, had an opinion about it. Most people I know were unhappy about the debt ceiling problem in one way or another, because the one institution that we just love to hate is the government. We usually don’t think very much good about the government. We have a lot of grievances with the government. I have a lot of grievances with the government.
A Course In Miracles talks a lot about holding grievances. “The ego’s plan for salvation centers around holding grievances. It maintains that if someone else spoke or acted differently, if some external circumstance or event were changed, you would be saved. Thus the source of salvation is constantly perceived as outside yourself.” (OrEd.WkBk.71.2)
We have grievances not just with individual people, but we have grievances about the world we live in, certainly the government, and other big institutions. We have grievances about the church and organized religion. Sometimes we have grievances held against the world itself, physical reality, life – grievances about bodies growing old. We have all kinds of grievances. “If things were just different!” If some external situation or event were different we would be happy. We would be saved. In this instance being saved translates as being happy. If things were different, if the government was different, we would be happy.
I have many grievances. I became aware of one this week as I was talking to somebody about my college experience which was between 1970 and 1974 – that’s back a few years. I went to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. I thought the institute of Cornell University greatly abused the undergraduates who went there. I smashed right into that grievance. I hadn’t thought about that grievance in maybe a decade. It was right there for me as soon as it got triggered in my mind.
We have grievances against so many things. We have grievances against big business. My father had a huge grievance against big business which he always called “the big shots.” My father frequently rallied against “the big shots.” I never knew who these “big shots” were, I only knew my father didn’t think he was one of them. A lot of people have grievances against big business.
Let’s think about the Fortune 500 companies for a few minutes. Only 15 women run one of the Fortune 500 companies. That means 485 of the Fortune 500 companies are run by men. Since only 15 of the Fortune 500 companies are run by women, that means only 3% of the Fortune 500 companies are run by women. People have big grievances about that. Women have big grievances about that. Why is there this glass ceiling that women can’t rise above? Women do so well in so many other areas now, but in this high level business arena it seems like women still aren’t truly accepted.
I did a little research today about Fortune 500 companies. This is obviously Fortune magazine’s yearly list of the 500 largest companies in the United States, companies that take in the most money, have the most revenue. This isn’t a list of the 500 that have the greatest amount of profit. It’s the 500 that take in the most amount of revenue. (Rev. Tony calls out to the assembled congregation.) Anybody know what the number one company is in the United States – the company that takes in the largest amount of revenue? (“Microsoft” “Apple” “Walmart”) It is Walmart! Yes, Walmart tops the list with 422 billion dollars of income a year. It’s way ahead of whoever is in second place, which is Exxon Mobil, with 355 billion. The 500th company at the bottom of this list is a company named Seaboard. Seaboard is a grain and agricultural product, multinational company. Seaboard takes in 4.4 billion dollars a year. The Fortune 500 companies range between 422 billion dollars in income to 4.4 billion dollars in income. Again, only 15 of those companies are run by women.
I know people who have a very strong grievance against society. If only society would accept gay marriage. If only society would accept marriage equality these people would be happier. This is a grievance for a lot of people in our city of San Francisco. This is a grievance for a lot of people in our local community. They believe things would be better if marriage equality would happen. I know many of us New Age spiritual people feel that if only organized religion didn’t teach sin – if only we did away with the sin idea – things would be better. It’s organized religion that we have the grievance against because it teaches sin. Republicans definitely have a grievance against the Democrats because the Republicans think the Democrats spend too much money. If only the Democrats didn’t spend so much money the Republicans would be happy and, of course according to the Republicans, society would be better. Democrats have a grievance against Republicans. Democrats believe that the Republicans don’t care enough for the middle and working classes, don’t care enough for poor people. Democrats believe that the Republicans won’t provide basic services, a foundational safety net of services and programs, so that all people have a basic human level of existence. Democrats have a big grievance against the Republicans because of these things.
We all have these grievances, even us good A Course In Miracles students. We all could sit here and list all our grievances. I think we’re all still greatly influenced by them. ACIM says, “Each grievance you hold is a declaration and an assertion in which you believe that says, ‘If this were different, I would be saved.’ The change of mind that is necessary for salvation is thus demanded of everyone and everything except yourself.” (OrEd.WkBk.71.3) If only this “thing” was different we would be happy. If the Republicans were just different we would be happy. If the Democrats were different, if the government was different, if society was different, if religion was different – all of these things – if only they were different, then we would be happy.
A Course In Miracles talks about these institutions, these people that we have grievances against, especially the ones that we always seem to have grievances against. The Course calls these our “special hate relationships.” We know about special love relationships, but remember that we have special hate relationships too – people, and things that we can’t seem to think anything good about. These people and things continually offend us. The Course says “Be not afraid to look upon the special hate relationship, for freedom lies in looking at it. ... the special love relationship, in which the meaning of love is lost, is undertaken solely to offset the hate but not to let it go.” (OrEd.Tx.16.30) We need to look at our special hate relationships. The ego does not want us to look at them. The ego just wants to find a few special love relationships to offset them. We feel that if we find the special love relationships then the hate won’t bother us and we won’t have to look at it. However, the Course really wants us to look at the special hate relationships we have.
I love living in liberal San Francisco. Isn’t it great? What a great place to live. There’s so much diversity and acceptance here. I often think, “It’s so much more wonderful here than in the ultra conservative Midwest. That has to be an awful place to live with it’s prejudiced and social conservative values. I live in the most liberal city in the world, San Francisco, California. Nancy Pelosi is my representative. I have a special love relationship with the urban cultural diversity that we have here. It’s so much better than that small, rural, upstate New York town of Canastota that I grew up in with its population of just 5,000 people. We used to travel 30 minutes to go to the movies in the nearby city of Syracuse, but otherwise there was no culture in Canastota. I love it here in San Francisco because I would hate it there in Canastota.
This is why we have special love relationships. We do it with people. I love this person because this person is so much better than that jerk who I dated a couple of years ago. He was really bad, but my new beau is wonderful. The special love relationship just off sets the special hate relationship. However, remember that A Course In Miracles wants us to look at the special hate relationship. We may have a special hate relationship with big government Democrats, but we don’t look at it because we now have a special love relationship with small government Republicans. We spend our time thinking about how much we love small government Republicans instead of big government Democrats.
Let’s look at this past week. We all had a special hate relationship going on with the government this past week. Nobody seemed to like anybody. Even after the deal was made nobody liked anybody. It was supposed to prevent financial Armageddon but the Dow still went down 788 points this week. Could it have been worse. I suppose it could have been worse. It still wasn’t very good. Standard and Poor, a big rating agency, downgraded the United States as an institution to sell debt. Our debt instruments have been downgraded from a AAA rating (the highest) to a AA+ rating. That happened. People seem to be very upset about this, but isn’t AA+ still real good?
Everybody had an opinion about the U.S. debt. How many people truly know what the U.S. debt is? I didn’t know what the U.S. debt was. I knew it was big, but I didn’t quite understand the U.S. debt. Do you understand the U.S. debt? I did a little research about the U.S. debt as I like to do. I’d like to tell you what I have found out. The current U.S. debt is 14.6 trillion dollars. That’s the amount of money that the United States government owes to other people, other institutions, other business entities. That’s a lot of money. We owe them that money because they have bought Treasury securities, U.S. bonds, other debt instruments that are issued by the U.S. government. These people, institutions, entities buy these debt instruments and then we, the United States, have to pay that debt back with interest. People want to make interest. All of us do.We put money in the bank and we want to make interest. Institutions and other countries want to make interest. They want to make money so they buy U.S. debt. Then the United States pays them interest and then, eventually, the United States pays them back the debt. Except, that the U.S. is not truly able to pay back any of the debt. We can hardly pay the interest on the debt. Well, we do pay back the debt, but we have to borrow more to pay that debt back so it’s really just a transfer of the debt.
Nobody can fathom 14.6 trillion dollars. It’s too huge of a number for us to actually think about. That’s 14.6 and then an additional eleven zeros. Let’s break this down a little bit. There are currently 311 million people in the United States of America. 311 million U.S. citizens each owning their share of our 14.6 trillion dollar debt means that each person owes $47,000 to other people and institutions. $47,000 per person, that’s the U.S. debt. Did you know you owed $47,000? I didn’t. I thought I was debt free, but I’m not. By the virtue of merely being a U.S. citizen I owe $47,000. That’s huge! A family of five’s portion of the debt would be $235,000. Imagine if the U.S. government went to every family of five and said that it wanted to pay back the debt. “Please give us your $235,000 share.” It’s unfathomable. How can we owe that much money? How did we get into this much debt?
Before Tuesday, the debt ceiling was 14.3 trillion dollars and now it’s been raised. There’s some debate as to how much it has been raised because it’s calculated by a strange equation. What I found out was that by the year 2013 we could owe as much as 16.7 trillion dollars. That’s a lot of money.
We started having a debt ceiling back in 1919. We had plenty of debt before, it was just that congress hadn’t set a ceiling, a top amount, of how much debt the us government could have. The debt ceiling was 43 billion in 1919 and it has been rising steadily since. In 1981 it went over a trillion dollars. I remember when that happened. It was a big news story. The U.S.A. debt had gone over a trillion dollars!
Those are some of the numbers, but it gets weirder really fast. When you start looking closer at the U.S. debt it gets bizarre and weird. Do you know who owns most of the U.S. debt – a whopping 37%? The United States itself – or the Federal Reserve Bank – owns most of the U.S. debt. The Federal Reserve bank owns 5.4 trillion of the U.S. debt, or about 37%. We, through the Federal Reserve Bank, own more than a third of our own debt. How does that happen? How could that be? How do you do that? How do you borrow money from yourself? Let’s see. I don’t have enough money. I think I’ll borrow it from myself. I’ll just pay the interest to myself and hopefully, over time, I’ll eventually be able to pay back the principle. This is a good deal! I’ll borrow the money; I’ll pay the interest. So I will make money by borrowing money from myself! I don’t have to worry about when I need to pay back the principle because then I’ll just borrow more money from myself and I will be making more money all the while I’m doing this. This is great! Isn’t this what we call a “Ponzi Scheme?” This has got to fall apart at some point – any day now? It can’t keep going on forever.
We need a little money. We borrow it from ourselves. Now we have a little extra cash. What should we do with this extra cash? We want to make money on this extra cash while we have it. We should invest it in ourselves! Yes, because we pay a good interest return. This is unfathomable.
To be fair, other entities do own large amounts of our debt. Individual investors own about 1.5 trillion. The country of China owns about 900 billion of our debt. China bought it up. Must have looked like a good investment. Japan owns 877 billion. That’s almost as much as China. 706 billion is owned by government pension funds. Isn’t that just us owning our own debt again? The list goes on. Some state and local governments own U.S. debt – 522 billion dollars of debt is owned by state and local governments. That’s U.S. governments owning U.S. government debt – again! We hear about states being broke, but apparently some of them have enough cash to have it invested in U.S. debt. The United Kingdom owns some of our debt. Brazil owns some of our debt. Hong Kong, even Canada, owns a large quantity of the United States debt. This is weird. It’s just weird.
We’re never going to pay this money off. It’s going to have to get written off the ledger at some point. About $50,000 per person – no one is ever going to pay that money off. Since we own 37% of this debt (or more) basically ourselves, couldn’t a truly creative, miracle minded C.P.A. figure out how to write this off the books with no pain to anyone? That would be one way to drastically lower the Federal debt. This is all just insanity. Everyone is polarized. Everyone was polarized this week but when you really look at the issues it’s nuts. We have very strong opinions about something that doesn’t even appear to make sense. I know some people have trouble managing their own money. Don’t worry about it. Look at what we are being modeled by the U.S. government. The U.S. government can’t manage it’s own money. Most of us are probably doing better than the U.S. government is.
The government couldn’t agree on raising the U.S. debt ceiling. Many people got upset but, it’s so confusing. It’s so abstract. It’s weird, insane. I know when I’m confronted with making an insane decision, when I don’t understand things, usually the best guidance I get is, “Don’t do anything.” It’s usually best to do nothing if the whole situation is nuts. That’s exactly what the Tea Party wanted us to do – nothing. Then I thought, “Oh my God! I understand the Tea Party position. Will I have to move out of liberal San Francisco now?” (laughter) “This is really scary. Am I turning into a Republican? Am I going over to the ‘dark side?’” I don’t know what’s happening.
How can I be mad at any of this. My point is how can I be upset with anybody in the government over what happened this week when it’s all so absolutely crazy. My salvation, my happiness can not have anything to do with any of this. My happiness can not have anything to do with a totally insane situation. A Course In Miracles tells us the world is totally insane and that we should never underestimate the extent of its insanity. We all got to see the extent of the world’s insanity this past week over this debate.
Our salvation has nothing to do with the debt situation. A Course In Miracles says, “My salvation comes from me. – All temptation is nothing more than some form of the basic temptation not to believe the idea for today. Salvation seems to come from anywhere except from you. – The seeming ‘cost’ of accepting today’s idea is this: it means that nothing outside yourself can save you; nothing outside yourself can give you peace. But it also means that nothing outside yourself can hurt you or disturb your peace or upset you in any way.” (OrEd.WkBk.70.1-2) Nothing outside of ourselves can really hurt us. Nothing outside of us can really upset us. Nothing outside of us can actually disturb our peace. The government can’t do it. The Tea Party people can’t do it. The financial situation can’t do it. If the United States of America did go into default – the entire world would go into default. It’s not just this country. It’s an insane situation. It’s all going to fall apart at some point. But that still doesn’t mean that it is something that we have to feel upset about because nothing has the power to disturb our peace unless we give it that power to do so. We always have the power to maintain our peace of mind if we understand that it is our mind, it’s our decision, it’s our perception, and we can choose. We can choose peaceful, joyful perceptions of whatever it is that is happening in our mind, because peace, and joy, and life, and love, and oneness are inherent in our mind. They are always there for us to choose.
We need to look at these special hate relationships. We need to look at them because I believe that when we look at them we’ll see how crazy it all is. We’ll see just how nutty it all is. We will be able to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. If we look at the special hate relationships that we have anywhere, with people, with institutions, with any of those things in our lives, we’ll see that when we get right down to it we’re upset about something that’s is actually unreasonable and probably really stupid too. There’s no reason to be so married to the rhetoric that our mind produces about the situation. There’s a tremendous amount of rhetoric going on in this financial debate. Everyone suddenly had an opinion about something that very few people understood. I don’t understand it even now and I’ve tried. Somebody has got to explain to me how we borrow money from ourselves when we’re broke. Somebody tell me how we make money from borrowing money from ourselves. I still don’t quite get it. We’re trying to generate money from nothing.
If we look at all of our special hate relationships I believe we will see that it all is truly nutty. It’s all really crazy. We can actually let it all go. There is no reason for us to have those special hate opinions, entrenched grievances, that we have about anybody or anything. These opinions are just ruining our own peace of mind. They are only ruining our own being able to dwell and live in the light. They are ruining our own ability to be in the ocean of love that is true about the world. It’s time to let the special hate go. It’s time to understand that we are unlimited, abundant beings. We are beings of love, and joy, and peace. We need to let our special grievances go. We need to forgive our special hate relationships, even those with the government. No, especially those with the government.
That’s my talk for today. Thank you. (applause) ♥
c/o Community Miracles Center
2269 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
This article appeared in the August 2011 (Vol. 25 No. 6) 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.