Monday, June 30, 2008


Some thoughts tonight on fear of the number thirteen and the great seal of the United States.

We just passed a Friday the 13th and we just passed an anniversary of sorts. On June 20th, 1782 congress officially proclaimed and sanctioned the great seal.

There are some esoteric surprises about this symbol and the number 13 is purposely prominent.
Take out a dollar bill. Look at the back side. In the two circles you will find both the front and reverse side of the great seal.

Look at the eagle. In the left talon he holds 13 arrows. In the right talon, an olive branch. On it, 13 leaves and 13 berries. The ribbon in the eagles beak contains the Latin phrase "E Pluribus Unum". Count the letters. Thirteen!

The other side of the seal show an unfinished pyramid. Count the steps. Thirteen. The inscription "Annuit Coeptis: also contains thirteen letters.

Given the great success of this country, perhaps thirteen is not unlucky by its nature.
Perhaps it responds to the energy we give it. Like so many things, our response to something or someone, is directly related to the quality of our input.

Being positive or negative is a choice.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Some thoughts on leadership.

With the third Presidential election in the new millennium only a few months away perhaps it is time to assess whether our leaders and would be leaders in politics and even the leader in ourselves, measure to its simple definition.

Leadership is the ability to enthuse, to create, to accomplish goals for the good of the country, the organization, or the business. Inspired leadership is accomplishments for the greater good. Political leaders like to think they are inspired, but too often, "the greater good," is replaced with partisanship.

Some people strive to be leaders, some are promoted to it, some are elected to it and some have it thrust upon them. There is gentle leadership, ego leadership, benevolent leadership, partisan leadership, inspiring leadership. Whichever one is chosen, by any individual, true leadership is still based on character and character is the outward quality of one's inner being.

Character is a visible piece of the heart that others see when action, inspiration and difficult choices are required.

In these times of political rhetoric of constant change, of interdependency and minute interconnections, where truly the out-breath of one is the in-breath of another, leaders, in all their forms, need to look for and then act for the greater good.

Anything less diminishes character and keeps leaders and the country from the potential of greatness.

Peeping Tom

Some thoughts today on Voyeurism.

There are many things we don’t understand, and then there are some things that belie common sense and common decency. Why, for instance, do we seem to have an endless need to be voyeurs into other people lives, and sometimes even after they are dead.

All too often the tabloids get a hold of a sordid story and publish the alleged assignations and private life of some celebrity. Love affairs, romantic trysts, who loved whom. Who cares. Voyeur is a French name for a Peeping Tom. Can writing about it or reading about it in tabloid or book be less perverse than peeping?

It is the memory of personal good and public grace left behind by the icons of society that should be remembered, not their private choices that may be altered by gossip or greed. Do we see ourselves as better by peering into the prurient human failings of those we celebrate? Let the sins or faults, endemic to all of us, be forever buried with our bones. Remember only the good someone does for that will honor life, not defile it.

May the understanding of personal choices be acknowledged by the eternal Source of unconditional love and not vilified by those who are rudely nosy.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Smell The Roses

Some thoughts today on transformation.

I saw something the other day you don’t see very often. I watched a well dressed man stop abruptly, as if held by some invisible force. He was in a hurry, given his stride and determined pace, yet when he passed a public garden of blossoming roses the man suddenly stopped, put down his briefcase, and turned to face the beauty that bloomed there.

There were probably sixty rose bushes each with eight to ten blossoms festooning the prickly stems. It was a magnificent site. The plethora of color, in the softness of the morning light, stopped this busy man in his hurried quest. He stood there surveying the garden patch, spending a moment at each bush. His gaze stopped at a particularly full bush of bright golden yellow blossoms. He reached down, not to pick, but gently touched or better yet caressed this gift of nature. He kept his hand there for a long moment as he once again glanced at the entire patch of extraordinary color.

I thought how fortunate I was to be reminded, in such a tender private way, that no matter the urgency of an appointment, or how focused we are in our thoughts, when nature chooses to embrace us with her beauty and we choose to see it, that moment transforms our thoughts into a passion and we respond with awe. Thank you Sir for the reminder to take time and smell the roses.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Pioneering Flight!

Johnny Miller died the other day. He was 102.

He was born just two years after the Wright Brothers flew their historic flight.

Miller had an extraordinary life in aviation. He learned to fly by teaching himself in a World War One Jenny and was proficient in Gyroplanes and many other aircraft culminating as a captain for Eastern Airlines flying jets.

Even though he reached the century mark two years ago, Johnny Miller stayed as active as he could. A couple of years ago, when I was interviewing him for a documentary called Gyroplane Refrain, I offered to help him bring his Bonanza out of the hanger, but he said, “No, I’ll do it” and then at nearly one hundred he flew it to two perfect touch and go's.

I marveled then at his youthful spirit and I wonder what makes some of us old at fifty and some of us young beyond ninety.

Health, I’m sure, has a lot to do with it, and I suspect the inner attributes of a youthful demeanor: enthusiasm, attitude and the joy of adventure are part of it. And perhaps pride in still being able to make perfect landings.

It was Longfellow who once wrote:

“for age is an opportunity no less than youth itself, though in another dress. And as the evening twilight fades away, the sky is fitted with stars, invisible by day”.

Reportedly Johnny Miller's last words were: "I guess my flying days are over". No, Johnny, I think they have just begun. Your spiritual flight has made the Eternal Light much brighter. Requiescat In Pace.


Some thoughts today on listening.

Listening is difficult for most people. We have somehow erroneously learned that the one who asserts, spouts or comments first is more likely to make a point, win an argument, or impress someone with alleged wit or wisdom.

Accurate and truthful communication requires clarity and simplicity and it requires listening. It means stopping to hear with a receptive mind and then processing what you heard. It’s an unfortunate condition that most people only hear what they want to hear because they don’t listen. How many of us, while looking like we are listening, are inwardly thinking of what we are going to say?

Competition in our culture puts a premium on self-expression. What we lack in knowledge, we sometimes make up for by talking fast, shouting or arguing.

Good listening is a virtue and a courtesy. It helps us to connect to the inner truth of a person. When that happens, serious conversations can go deeper. Arguments over meaningless accusations end and issues are more clearly understood and verbal conflict is reduced.

Maybe if we do it, it would spread to the television talk and interview shows. What a concept --- LISTENING instead of interrupting!

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Solitary Hike

Some thoughts tonight on a solitary hike up a steep mountain trail. It wasn't just hard walking, it was climbing and clinging and grabbing as I ascended a difficult nearly verticle path.

It was an intermittent misty and rainy day with a cool ambiance that more refreshed than chilled. Fog drifted up the climbing ledges in gossamer wafts of white and gray as the rain coated and washed the ascending trail into a slippery challange. Granite boulders, some the size of houses, festooned the path as I crawled, slid and climbed through rocky cuts, tiny cave like openings and up and down in crude rocky cuts and chimney climbs.

I loved the purity of the climb. The rain kept all other hikers, but one, from the slippery rocks and pine needle puddles and so it was just nature and me. Pristine and primal with occasional surprising vistas of the cliffs and lake below bursting through framed granite and conifer sculptures.

It was renewing and inspiring and an experience filled with fragrant ceremony for the eastern mountain laurel was in full bloom. Each pink and white blossom celebrated, not only with the mist of the day, but with seeming appreciation of just being the beauty it was.

I met a weasel who acknowledged my encroachment upon his home and path and a tiny wild finch who stayed much longer than expected singing on a branch not more than two feet away from my still and silent watch.

It was a glorious day.

When I got home and read the newspaper headlines I wondered, what are we doing to ourselves?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Some thoughts today on the week of middle America rain.
Flooding and destruction brings out numerous emotions in people.
There is understandable fear. Predictable panic. Tears. And the silent sorrow as the living wait for word of a missing loved one or for a body to mourn. People have died, some swept away by raging waters.
There are the questions of why and blame. Weeping with anger at God or circumstance, when the bottom of your heart and home is gone, is only a momentary relief.
Feeling compassion and comfort through the actions of others provides a greater comfort.
We watched the images of loss. We watched the rescues, the outstretched hands of help, and even hugs of understanding for those in shock and disbelief.
We saw horror and heroes.
We saw confusion and complaints.
But in this natural tragedy, we continue to see the greater gift of America. Visual and generous examples of community, cooperation and concern for others. What a gift.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Flag Day

Some thoughts on Flag Day.

It is this coming Saturday.

There was a time in our history when our flag was empty of experience. It had the symbolism of a United people and the expectation of greatness, but we were a young country and as yet had little collective history.

The United States wasn’t even a year old when Continental Congress adopted the design on June 14th, 1777. But now as we celebrate Flag Day this week, we remember that our flag is much more than red and white cloth stripes and symbolic stars in blue.

It’s everything that’s ever happened to this country and everything we’ve ever done. It’s victory and defeat. It’s protests and pageantry. It’s honor with humility and shame with remorse. It’s living and dying for principle.

Above all our flag is the waving symbol for all the world to see of our passion for liberty, our sustaining belief in the democratic ideal, our willingness to spend life and treasure for freedom for all.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hot and Hotter

I thought I’d try something today to get a little relief from the heat. I wrote a paragraph in the freeze of last winter to describe the cold. I looked it up and re-read it to see if I could feel a little cooler. Here it is from wintertime.

“This day is a draining, shivering cold. There is a frigid thunk to the wind chimes on the porch, not the usual resonate ring of atoms in easy motion. The chime sound is tight, quick and solid as if it is too hard and too stiff for even the ring to move beyond its source. Everything has stillness about it except the wind and it too shivers as it seeks the elusive warmth of icy friction”.

I read it twice this afternoon and it didn’t help.

Stay cool.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Black and White

There is a tendency for some in our society to lump people into groups, cultures, and races, and even religions and then judge them only because of their color and their religion

If you take time to see individual accomplishments, great or small, collective lumping, under the banner of different or regional prejudice, appears foolish.

Every time you turn on a light think of Lewis Latimer. He improved the electric lamp.

Norbert Rillieau was special. He helped revolutionize sugar refining.

Andrew Beard invented the automatic coupler for railroad cars.

Garrett Morgan patented the automatic traffic light back in the early 19-hundreds.

The treatment of glaucoma and arthritis was advanced by chemist Percy Julian.

All of these individuals worked for the good of all mankind. They all just happen to be black.

I've seen the trash that permeates the Internet under the guise of truth. Do not take my word for it, but do your own diligence and before you judge or pass the lies on, check it out for yourself. It is not difficult. It just takes a little time, a little effort and a little common sense.

Friday, June 6, 2008


It is an anniversary today. A terrible remembrance of sacrifice and courage. It is D-day, June 6th, the storming of the beaches in Normandy, France in an operation called "Overlord". I was there on the June 6, 1999 anniversary with six veterans who had not been back since they fought and crawled on those beaches in 1944.

“Lest we forget.”
© 1999 Rolland G. Smith

It was the day and the month the warriors returned
To the place where many died, the dawn the beaches burned.
The hard of then, now softened by the passage of the years.
It freed again the feelings that surfaced with the tears.

The mind and step would falter returning to the scene
Their bodies now are different. The beaches now pristine.
So many came to witness the warriors return
And wondered if their courage was something they could learn.

Valor comes in time of need, for courage is within
When tyranny oppresses it rises once again.
Old warriors we thank you, for life and limb you gave
To hold the sacred honor of the free and the brave.

You came from planes and gliders and from the ships at sea
And moved across the beaches to free French Normandy.
You now return to see, the place of battle fears
The combat dead now hold you and wipe away your tears.

The world too rejoices in thanks for how you fought
It weeps for lives that lost and too for lessons taught.
And if there is a legacy, besides long rows of white,
Let it be a world call, never the need to fight.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Cancer Diagnosis

Some more thoughts on the entrapment of Cancer.

A wonderful friend of mine recently told me of cancer in her family and asked I not tell anyone. I understand and respect that request and I would also offer another way to think about it to all who go through the announcement of Cancer. Cancer affects all of us. It is a disease that seems to be the common denominator of all of us these days. I share some experiential truths in dealing with this insidious disease that have worked for me and my family.

Illness always gives new meaning to each life. Granted, what I am suggesting may not work for all, but for some it will help. First of all, talk about your feelings and fears. Ask the tough questions to the doctors and then hear and hear and hear the answers and do not hold back your fears to the one diagnosed and especially let them talk about their fears, and worries and things they want to say. Yes, it is tough, and it is freeing in the long run.

If the diagnosis is terminal, even though it's couched in possibilities, talk about that too. Denial is detrimental to the understanding of life and for its closure. Have truth in all conversation, for it is the pathway to internal peace for those who are dealing with the possible ending of their lives. Saying what is true does not mean giving up the fight, it means fighting what you know with knowledge and understanding. Honesty starts the physical and spiritual healing process.

Rejoice when you can. Laugh when you can, dance when you can and know that it’s OK to cry.


If it's a child it so much harder, but be honest.
If it's a spouse it is equally so, but be open and share worries and fears and listen.
If it's a parent, be strong, be truthful, and listen and listen some more
If it's you, listen only to your heart. It will tell you where you are and what you need to do.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

People Watching

I sat a mall lunch table recently and watched the passersby. There were young mothers and their babies in a stroller usually two by two. There were old folks with canes who kept to the aisle sides for they walked more slowly than the rest. There were several groups of youngsters. Boys and girls together most in their early teens and others a little older, but they all walked and looked and shopped in packs like wolves all the while playing, running, and teasing one another.

The energy of the little walkers was wonderful to watch. The little one’s, the toddlers to the seven year types. Their energy was astounding and infectious. One little girl, not only kept up with her fast paced Mother, she twirled and leaped and danced as she kept stride.

I’d forgotten how educational it is to watch people. Most of us don’t have the time to spend to do that anymore. If you watch long enough, you see yourself at every age you can remember and at every age you can imagine.

If we ever need an example of our oneness and our interconnectedness to each other, go to a mall. Just sit and watch.
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