Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hurricane Gustav

Whenever nature explodes into an aberrational fury, we quickly reestablish awe for her power and acknowledge our respect, not only for her seemingly indiscriminate manifestation of the elements, but for a force we cannot truly understand or appreciate.

Those who live in a hurricane's path know that it’s coming and they’d better get away. Our friends, our common communities in the parishes of Louisiana and in the city of New Orleans understand the trepidation all to well for hurricane Katrina is fresh in their minds and pocketbooks.

It is difficult for the rest of us to empathetically put ourselves in the shoes of those who live and love there. It is difficult, if not impossible, to feel the knowing fear of nature’s force as you flee to seemingly safer ground and take with you the worries that all you left behind will be taken by an ill wind known well to so many.

In all things, we can find beauty, if we look for it. In all things we can find the lessons of life and the consequences of choice, but never when we are running for our lives. The looking and the infinite lessons whenever their realizations come must not diminish our compassion for those who cannot see it until their weather becomes a gentle climate.

My immediate suggestion is to use our collective power of dissipation and send the wind to calmer places. It can be done, if we believe it so. Join me.

Friday, August 29, 2008


My thoughts today come from another. They are attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, who apparently wrote them to her circle of friends. This is apparently National Friendship week and her words are being circulated over the Internet. I liked what I read, I trust you will too.


"Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.

To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.

Anger is only one letter short of danger. If someone betrays you once, it's his fault; if he betrays you twice, it's your fault.

Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.
He who looses money, looses much; he who loses a friend, loses much more; he, who loses faith, loses all.

Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.
Learn from the mistakes of others. You can't live long enough to make them all yourself.

Friends, you and me, You brought another friend and then there were three. We started our group, our circle of friends and like that circle, there is no beginning or end. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is mystery. Today is a gift."

So are these words.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Former President Bill Clinton, when speaking at the Democratic Convention in Denver to endorse and support Barack Obama, focused some of his thoughts on one of his -Clinton's- altruistic passions, the treatment of AIDS. He spoke briefly of the problem, not only in America, but in particular in the 24 sub-Saharan African nations. He didn't say it this way, but it is one of the greatest medical emergencies and moral dilemmas of the modern era.

Seventy percent of the world's 34 plus million people infected with H-I-V live in that area.

Seventy percent!

And eight new people are infected every minute.

Not too long ago, five multinational drug companies agreed to cut the prices they charge African nations for anti-AIDS drugs. But the treatment of AIDS-suppressing drugs still might cost two-thousand dollars a year for one patient, four times the average income in many of those countries.

The moral dilemma for humanity is why have we ignored Africa and the AIDS epidemic for such a long time and let it fester to genocidal proportions. Why are we not, as human beings, seeing this as a pandemic emergency? If we look at it only as governments, as drug companies, a dispassionate venue emerges. If we look at it as fellow human beings, then the suffering, the pathos, the inhumanity of it all is shocking and shameful that we let it happen.

I wonder if greed or to be nicer, the profit margin, has anything to do with it.

I wonder if race has anything to do with it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Spirituality versus Dogma

Being spiritual is acknowledging a loving presence as part of our being and knowing it is in harmonic resonance with all things. Its essence is unconditional love. It is the expression of the All That Is as us.

Religions are the process, the belief systems, the collective and the community by which we choose to express individual spirituality.

In my view many religions have forgotten spirituality and what they think they do remember of it they confuse with dogma.

The word dogma comes from the Greek and its root meaning is "opinion". Its' root word "Dokein" means, "to seem good". So when people say religious dogma, they are really saying, "religious opinion that seems good". To me, "seeming good" and a knowing awareness derived through a direct spiritual experience of the divine is not the same.

Centuries of non-spiritual ritual and adherence to man-made rules have seen religions give more credence to doctrine, than to truth. Even the early Christians were cautioned about dogma in the Gospel of Mark - Chapter 7 - Verse 7. "...In vein do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men".

To some religious authorities a truth or revelation that may result from an improvisational action like prayer or mediation or a profound experience is discouraged and discounted.

History is filled with stories of inspired individuals, mystics, and saints, who have come in conflict with authority over an inner knowing versus a system of rigid principles. Galileo, Meister Eckhart, Thomas Aquinas, Kabir, and Thoreau are examples to name a few. A direct communication with the divine cannot be proven; it can only be experienced. Personal enlightenment, however it may be expressed, will always disempower dogma and render mystics unacceptable to most religious authorities.

A prime example in recent history was the conflict between the Vatican and Dominican scholar, Dr. Matthew Fox. His enlightenment led him to preach and teach creation spirituality, a positive view of humankind’s inter-relationship with God, rather than the Catholic Church’s dogma of redemption spirituality; a view whereby human beings are born sinful. Fox was first silenced by the Vatican and eventually left the Dominican Order.

The Divine within each person, in the fullness of knowing, assimilates life experience as appreciation. All life, no matter where or how you find it, expresses the Divine, first through experience, then appreciation, and finally revelation.

Is not the creation and birth, a revelation that God is not discouraged with humanity as Tagore suggests? Are not the transformation of a seed to a flower, a caterpillar to a butterfly, or the uniqueness of each snowflake, revelations that belie scientific explanations? There is no explaining a revelation; there is only the aware experiential appreciation of it as it is processed through the spirit, mind, and body as an unexplainable joy.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


There are many reasons to get involved in this year’s elections and the reasons have nothing to do with politics or propositions or personalities. The reasons are citizen warriors, ordinary people with names.

All were killed in action. Today they are tearful memories for some and just names to others, but they were the living truths of honor, duty and democracy.

Andrew Allard and Amaziah Fassett, killed in action -- Revolutionary war.

Mike Quinn, in a gray uniform. Philip Kearney, in blue -- killed in action, the civil war.

Emery Pike and John Pruett -- killed in action, world war one.

Robert Mccard and Joseph Merrell -- killed in action, world war two.

Darwin Kyle and Herbert Littleton -- killed in action, Korean war.

William Banfield and William Houston -- killed in action, Vietnam.

Marie Rossi and Damon Kanuha - killed in action, the gulf war.

In Iraq to date there are 4,145 confirmed dead by the Department of Defense. Two of their names are: James Hale and Tracy Lynn Alger.

In Afghanistan, to date 576 Americans have been killed in action. Two of their names are: Sergio Abad and Kevin Akins.

No more need be said.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Thoughts on Aging

A few years ago Jeanne Calment of Arles, France turned 121. At that time she was the oldest woman in the world where her age could be documented by reliable records. She has long since passed, but her philosophy is worth remembering.

The day she turned 121 there was a big birthday bash at city hall. A cake with ten dozen candles, plus one. 121 roses and a city medal. She didn’t make a speech, but the mayor did and half way through his remarks, she shouted: “has he finished yet?” You can do that at 121. She also told reporters that she has only one wrinkle and she’s sitting on it.

She said her secret to long life was olive oil and port wine. She gave up cigarettes at 120, only because she couldn’t see clearly enough to light up. At 85 she took up fencing lessons, at one hundred she was still riding a bike, and before moving to a retirement home at 110 she lived alone.

It was Longfellow who 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.”

Jeanne Calmet said:

“I’m afraid of nothing, I don’t complain.”
“I dream, I think, I never get bored.”
“Life will last as long as it lasts and I hope to die laughing.”

I like that wisdom.

And for my friend Bob, who's liking retirement, this addendum.

Everyday is Saturday
© 2008 Rolland G. Smith

There comes a time in all our lives
When busy days are changed in name.
It’s only then, if we survive,
We stage the play and play the game.

All Sundays past were day’s for rest
And little things that needed done,
But there were always chores we left
To watch the game or ski the run.

Most Mondays of our working life
Were one’s we wished would never come.
And then came Tuesday’s weekly strife
That lead to Wednesday’s hump when done.

With Thursday came the week’s relief
Knowing Friday was THE next day.
But Thursday night oft’ gave some grief
With Friday morn, “some hell to pay”.

But now is when the times have changed
Our job is done and we retire.
The days of week are then renamed
To fill our wishes and desire.

Now everyday is Saturday
No matter what and when the day
Yes, everyday is Saturday
Enjoy it, be it, Saturday.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Count to a Trillion? Impossible!

Some numbers for thought, if we can think that far.

The United States National Debt Clock as of August 20th 2008 is $9,610,188,550,946.94. The estimated population of our country is 304,572,762 so the per person share of this debt is $31,553.01 and our National Debt continues to increase an average of $1.85 billion a day.

For most of us it's difficult to fathom what a trillion dollars really is.

Sure it's a million millions, or a thousand billions, but beyond that it is hard to understand what a trillion is except to say that's a lot of money.

If we look at it another way the understanding of the amount becomes mind boggling.

If someone started counting seconds, like one...two....three, the moment that Jesus Christ was born that person would be up to just over sixty five billion seconds now.

That is six point five percent of trillion.

It takes thirty one thousand seven hundred years to count to a trillion seconds.

That is three hundred and seventeen centuries and we are only in the very beginning of the 21st century. Somebody, maybe Congress, ought to count a lot faster for as of today we are just over 9 and a half trillion dollars in debt.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Conflicts: Then and Now

The beginning of the Russian/Georgia conflict of 2008 reminds me of the Falklands Conflict in 1982

Back then there was a 39 year old scrap dealer by the name of Constantine Davidoff, an Argentinean, who wishes today he could take back an innocent action.

Davidoff heard about three abandoned whaling stations on the British owned Georgia islands. It was a chance to make some salvage money with scrap parts. In December of 81, Davidoff, and seven crewmen, got permission from the British to inspect the stations. In March he started salvage operations. His Argentinian salvage men raised a blue and white Argentine flag over the salvage operations.

The flag was spotted by a group of British researchers camped about 5 miles away. They got their British dander up about an Argentinian flag flying on British territory and got on their radio and called London.

Word spread and in the British Falkland Islands 800 miles to the west, a group of patriotic islanders broke into the Argentinean National Airlines office in Port Stanley, put up the British flag and wrote, on the wall '"Tit for tat".

More words were exchanged. Argentina complained. The British Government protested and said that the Davidoff crew landed illegally. They didn't, but distance and time and inter-department bureaucracy, didn't get permits to the right people at the right time.

Argentina said the Davidoff Salvage crew had a right to be there. Britain responded by sending in an Ice Patrol Boat. Argentina then sent a navy ship to protect the crew from forcible removal. More meetings were held between the British and Argentina. Words became angry. Ownership rights were stated and demanded and days later the Argentinians invaded and the Falkland’s war began. You know the rest.

Something different happened in Georgia, but the result is the same. Georgia has always wanted to regain control of South Ossetia. South Ossetia does not want to be part of Georgia, they are happy being aligned with Russia as it was when they were part of the old Soviet Union.

The fighting apparently began when some South Ossetia militiamen fired across the border at Georgian troops. This escalated to a Georgian invasion, and then Russia sent in reinforcements to expel the Georgian troops; fighting continued and people on both sides died. The super-powers got involved, exchanged words, demands, edicts and threats and here we go again.

Ill-thought out, if not stupid actions lead to armed conflict and then ego centered certainties amplified old and new emotions into a global pissing match and people died. You'd think that humankind would have learned that lesson by now on the graves of the innocent.

Leadership and Courtesy

Most leaders, managers, bosses do not intend to be inconsiderate. They are often removed, protected, and uninformed about the potential effect of their decisions.

A case in point came a number of years ago when President Clinton visited California. Before the President left Los Angeles he had a top hair stylist come on board Air Force One to cut his hair. The problem was not the haircut, but the fact it was done on the presidential plane parked at LAX. Two heavily used runways had to be closed, at a busy time, because anywhere the President is, a protective security zone must be established.

I don't know how many travelers missed their connections because of the hour long haircut, or how much revenue was lost by the airlines through delays, but it must have been sizable.

The message then is courtesy. Not only from the top, but from those who guide and inform to the top. The misuse of power, however innocent, can only continue when those who serve the top don't speak up out of fear of telling the boss he or she is wrong.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Have you ever tried to empty yourself of thought? It’s not easy to do since thoughts move through what we call our mind at an astounding rate.

There are those in the Eastern regions of our world who are seemingly able in meditation to empty their minds at will and then embrace the collective font of awareness and become enlightened if just for a short time of personal experience.

I’ve tried it dozens of times and only get as far as leveling the pile of thoughts to just the brim of my mind. I’ve tried to dump or release all the mental images and clogging stuff that overflowed in that moment, and just when I thought I could shove all of it down a mental drain and become empty, everything I thought I forgot welled up from the past: people, events, promises, responsibilities, actions and fears, popped into the crucible of thought and filled the mind again.

There goes enlightenment, I think to myself. See, another thought!

And then, as I try to empty the new thoughts that poured in, I have another thought. I realize that emptying is a futile process and that emptiness of mind or emptying the mind is an illusion that disguises the fact that we are already enlightened. We just have to remember that we are.

My logic is that if All That Is created us to experience the All-Self through the duality of existence as us, then we are already enlightened by virtue of being part of All That Is. We just have to remember we live with a cluttered creative mind, not within it. My suggestion then is for us to experience ourselves in the grandest vision we can imagine and see what happens to the world.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Olympic Determination

Robert Garrett was probably as surprised as anyone that his name would go down in the Olympic history book.

He was captain of the Princeton running team and back in 1896 when the modern day Olympic games were born, Garrett was urged to participate. One of his professors, William Sloane, was one of the games' organizers. When the king of Greece finally agreed to host the games, Professor Sloane asked Garrett to attend.

At that time the entries were unlimited and not really "national" in the sense of representing each nation's best athletes. Garrett probably decided to go because his professor asked him and his Mother could afford it. She not only paid for him to travel to Athens, but also for three of his classmates.

Garrett was a runner, but he always wanted to throw the discus. He even asked a local blacksmith to make one so he could practice. The Smithy did so, but it was based on a 2nd century description and ended up weighing 20-pounds. Much too heavy to throw.

On a sightseeing tour in Athens Garrett saw an old discus and picked it up. It was light. It weighed less than 5 pounds. He decided to enter the discus event just for fun.

The first time he threw it, he was so bad the stadium crowd roared with laughter. With each throw he got better and managed to qualify for the finals.

He competed with several Greeks who had been practicing all winter, but on his last throw he made a distance of 95 feet, 7 and a half inches and won a laurel wreath, the equivalent of a gold medal.

Friday, August 8, 2008


A tragedy the magnitude of 9/11, the continuing wars and subsequent deaths of our young in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the economic hardship of high prices can force a tolerant democracy into a society of contentious non-compromising ideologues.

Uncompromising passionate certainties, wherever you find them, in politics, in business, in our neighborhoods and even in our families, are always dangerous. If we find ourselves heading that way, we might want to rethink our position for cemented thought always hardens into a shape that may not fit the future.

Our founding fathers demonstrated that all opinions are to be valued for their contribution to the whole, and by majority vote incorporated into the greater good, even though their singular intrinsic value may be suspect.

Shared ideals are the essence of collective growth, for they are not only the building blocks of freedom and liberty, they nurture hopes and wishes and encourage individuals to let go of demeaning and constraining beliefs and when that is done the value left is reason.

Despite our internal penchant for prejudice, profiling and pandering to our fears, America is still the haven for the oppressed, for the dreamer, for the builder, the scholar, the poet, the artist, and the idealist, even the mystic, for all know America is the place where the manifestation of great thoughts sustains the precious opportunities of freedom.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Atomic Bomb - Hiroshima

Yesterday was the 63rd anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.

The Japanese have a word "Mokusatsu." It is comprised of two characters. Moku, meaning "to kill" and Satsu, meaning, "with silence". Mokusatsu has two meanings depending on how it is used. It can mean to "refrain from comment" or it can mean "to ignore".

Toward the end of the war, the allies issued the Potsdam ultimatum to Japan which said, "surrender or be crushed."

Japan apparently was ready to capitulate, but wanted more time to discuss it internally.

The Japanese issued a policy of "mokusatsu," in response to the Potsdam ultimatum with the refrain from comment meaning. That meaning, however, was mistranslated somewhere in the sending or receiving of it and it read to the allies, "the Japanese government ignores the Potsdam ultimatum." To recall the inaccurate translation would been an unthinkable loss of face for the Japanese.

A few days later the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. One word misinterpreted.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Prayer and Laughter

Every so often a report comes out in some magazine or another about prayer and whether it works or not.

There was one report I read awhile back that prayer didn’t do any good in an experiment on healing. There have been other studies that suggest just the opposite. One comes from Dr. Larry Dossey, the author of Healing Words. He defines prayer as a "benevolent concern for the well being of another", not necessarily attached to any dogma.

To some people a prayer is connected to a religion via a faith. To others prayer is a placebo that makes one feel a momentary good with no effect on the physical body. To those who believe they have been healed or helped by prayer no explanation is necessary, to those who don't believe, no explanation is possible. No matter what your position, most experts agree that one should not forsake traditional medicine in the quest to be cured by alternative means.

Laughter is also a healer. Laughter may be a way to balance the disease imbalance within the body. Laughter is a conduit through which the intellect slips behind the illusion of the ego and into the knowing dimensions of awareness.

Laughing may be a gift to those who want instant access to that awareness in order to better understand and accept the experience called life.

There is an interesting footnote to laughter. It's the same in any culture. Try laughing in a different language.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

It worked once, why not against Exxon/Mobile

Some thoughts on an action in history.

The Ireland of the 1870's was a troubled place. Poverty, anger, frustration were the crops tilled in the minds of oppressed peasants.

A home rule movement began and gained momentum under the leadership of Irish nationalist Charles Parnell.

At one point Parnell tried a tactic to prevent land price fixing and the cheating of peasants.
If a landlord evicted a tenant, the landlord would be ostracized, ignored. No one would work for him, and shop keepers would refused to serve him.

As with all tactics there has to be a first time it's tried. It happened to a young retired British captain, who was the manager of the Earl of Erne's estates in County Mayo.

Parnell got the tenants together and put the young captain in a position where he could not accept the peasants demands. Thus he was totally ignored. No laborers, no cooks, no maids, no services of any kind.

The tactic worked for 50 men under British guard had to be imported to harvest the Earls crops.

The captain and his family had to leave Ireland.

The captains name was Charles C. Boycott and ever since then his name became the action.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Over There Questions

I wonder if in that other place, the place where some believe we go after our life ends here, there is an awareness of what goes on in this earthly density? I wonder if those who have been wronged or falsely accused and died, or murdered, are angry at the wrong or at the ending of their life. Do the spirits of the former earthly living feel temporal emotions?

If there is a there, is there anger there or, at least, righteous indignation? Is there rage there or are those kinds of emotions left behind? Is there intellect and reasoning and a request for justice or is it no longer important? Is there a different kind of justice, an omniscience perhaps, where everything ever said or done is seen in a divine context and love is the only important emotion? Is it easy to forgive there, and is it a choice as it is here?

I don’t know if there will ever be answers, but I do have another question. If there is a there and I believe there is, can we listen to those who are there and will we hear their truth through our anger or sadness or pain?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Choices and Consequences

We all can acknowledge that there are mental, genetic or even social disorders that may stimulate some people to commit criminal and violent acts. We all understand and condemn the disturbances of life that drug abuse can cause, but understanding aberrational acts of violence or despondent terrorism because one didn't get what they want or got what they didn't want is different and difficult.

Recently there was a case in point. A man was fired from this job, got a gun, and killed his supervisor and several co-workers. These kind of stories happen all too often.

Destruction, either of property or the taking of lives or even disturbing another's personal peace because one is feeling bad, or hurt, or feeling unloved is unacceptable behavior in any society. The social admonition could be, "grow-up" or "get-a-life". The spiritual one is we each create the reality in our lives by our thoughts and choices. So change you mind and change you life.

We need to teach our children that it is wrong to use the aberrations of our society as an acceptable model for action and if and when they ever feel unappreciated or hurt or depressed and everyone does at one time or another, the solution comes from tolerance and trust and service to others. Just try feeling bad or unappreciated when you do something nice for another. It's impossible!
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