Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years Eve Day

Twas the day before New Years

And all over the world

The people were hoping

That love would unfurl.


As I sat in my chair

And wondered out loud

Could this be the time

When peace is avowed?


I looked at the headlines

And watched some TV.

It didn’t seem likely

I’m sure you’ll agree.


When out from the spirit

There came a great thought

If we change what we think

Could we change what we wrought?


The answer that came, was

The truth I am sure.

For beginnings and ends

Are often obscure.


So beware what you think

In life at this time.

Creation is simple

If thought is sublime.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mandela's Mandela

Each day there are disturbing events in our daily global struggle to find the peace and security we all seek.

I read something the other day about fear that seemed to resonate with a profound truth.

Maybe you’ll think so too.

Quote:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are born to make manifest the glory....that is within us. Its not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And, as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Nelson Mandela.....from his 1994 Inaugural speech.

I would like to think we can take these words and move them into the action of love and the belief of blessings and create the year 2011.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Frilly Gifts - A Limerick

Women know men can be lead.
Lingerie to make some blush red.
Others however,
Often endeavor
To peek before clothing is shed.

This surely is no passing fad
For men have always been glad
Of what women wear
And choose to share
That in public is often forbade.

I wonder where all this began
Was it Follies Bergere - CanCan?
Who added the lace?
A spice to the chase,
To catch us whenever we ran.

Some guys will try to fight back.
But smarts and cunning they lack.
They get an old book
From cranny and nook
Or play cards, perhaps some blackjack

They go to their shop and their tools
Believing that they’re not the fools.
They hammer a nail
Or fill up a pail
And try to make up some new rules.

Me thinks we should say were we stand.
To prove that our heads not in sand.
If put on the spot
Admit it or not
Victoria Secret is grand.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Early Press

It’s that time between Christmas and New Years when the mind can wander with impunity about thoughts from history or personal past experiences or expectations for the future. I’m thinking of a story I read a long time ago about Jefferson and Hamilton when our country was in its childhood.

Mistrust between the Press and authority has been around a long time.

The Federalists, led by Alexander Hamilton controlled their own newspaper. It was called the Gazette of the United States

So Thomas Jefferson, who was an anti-federalist, wanted a newspaper to express his views. Not only that, Jefferson knew whom he wanted for an editor. It was a guy named Philip Freneau, a writer known as the “poet of the revolution.”

There was one problem. Freneau did not want the job.

Jefferson persisted and when he offered Freneau a no-show government job, plus access to all foreign intelligence reports and a lucrative contract to print government documents, Freneau agreed to run Jefferson’s newspaper.

George Washington was president at the time and Jefferson was Sect. Of State and through his newspaper he criticized and editorially jabbed at Washington.

Old George would bitterly complain to his cabinet about that “rascal Freneau.” But Jefferson insisted he had no recollection of being told that his clerk for foreign languages ran a newspaper in his spare time.

When Jefferson became President, he took control. He spoke only to his own editors. Opponents and other reporters knew only what they read in the Jefferson controlled newspaper.

It did not matter that Jefferson was the author of our Bill of Rights. Freedom of the Press seemed to be a child forgotten by a busy President.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Blizzard

We have a blizzard in the East.

Whenever nature explodes in 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 understand or appreciate.

In her harshness, there is beauty.

Eastern village in winters grasp
Delighting all who choose to know
What pleasure comes from steady cold
And sifted, blizzard driven snow.

Drifted diamond dunes of white
Cover street and tree and trail
With crystal sparks from nature's heart,
A blanket ode to season frail.

Long shadows cast by breaking dawn
Create the grays upon the bright
From standing buildings tall and straight
Peeking, poking through the white.

Cold, early hurried people trudge,
With crunchy steps on blowing way,
Their rhythmic puffs of huffing breath
Will vanish with the warmth - someday.

In all things, we can find beauty, if we look for it. The looking, however, must not diminish our compassion for those who cannot see it until their weather becomes a gentle climate.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone.

rgs

Friday, December 24, 2010

Twas The Night Before...

By Clement Moore

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Away At Christmas

There are many folks today who cannot for one reason or another be home for Christmas. Those serving in the military are certainly the one's who we think about this time of year. We have empathy with the emptiness their families are experiencing.

This is for all who are away from home this Christmas. It is a poem I wrote entitled, "Away Again."



I am away this Christmas,
but I will send my heart
to ring each bell you hear
when reason keeps us part.

I can’t be with you now
to sit there by the fire
and hold your hand in mine
and fill my heart’s desire.

When you awake my love
You’ll feel my Christmas touch.
Know it is my message -
I love you very much.

I can’t be home this year
to hear the season sing
nor be with you to smile
at every little thing.

I can’t be home this Christmas
to decorate the tree
So hang a stocking too
from heart at hearth for me?

When morning comes at dawn,
with every breath I take
I'll hear your sweetened laugh
to take away my ache.

I can’t be home this Christmas,
if only it weren’t so.
Hear my special Christmas wish -
never again to go.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Legends

Primitive Christianity regarded the birth of Jesus as a significant moment. It was important in the understanding of his personhood and the biblical stories of the events as told by Matthew and Luke in the new testament. It is also interesting to note that Jesus' birth was not observed by the church until the 4th century and then it was chosen to counter some pagan festivals.

Santa Claus has quite a history. An ancient Teutonic festival had a person called, "the old man of the woods" dancing around a burning log; a log that came to be known as the Yule log. The old man was characterized as having a red-nose, a white beard, and being a jolly old boozer who danced around the fire proposing toasts.

When Roman missionaries began to Christianize the lands to their north that Teutonic festival blended with the celebration of Christmas. The old man of the woods got a new name and became "Kriss Kringle.

Enter Nicholas, a 4th century bishop, noted for his kindness and gifts. He became Saint Nicholas and blended with Kriss Kringle. Eventually Dutch settlers brought his legend to the new world, but dialects distorted the Dutch name Sint Nicholas to Sinterclaas that in turn became Santa Claus.

It was a Washington Irving story in 1809 that probably helped the legend develop even further. He had a jolly Saint Nicholas, smoking a pipe, flying through the air in a wagon dropping presents down the chimneys.

Several years later, in 1822, Clement C. Moore, wrote the poem "The Night Before Christmas". The wagon became a sleigh and reindeer pulled it through the sky.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

In Memorium

Today is sadly special.

On this day December 21st 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was blown out of the sky over Lockerbie, Scotland. 270 people were murdered by a terrorist bomb.

The plane originated in Frankfort, Germany and had one stop in London before heading out across the North Atlantic taking many home for the holidays.

In the twenty two years since this tragedy most people have forgotten it for new tragedies, new pain, new terrors have replaced the Lockerbie incident.

I remember it vividly, not only because I reported on the crash during the nightly news for weeks, but because of one act of sympathy that will always stand out in my heart.

Shortly after the crash there was a large bouquet of red roses sent to Lockerbie officials. There was a note pinned to the flowers. It said, “To the little girl in the red dress who made my life so enjoyable from Frankfort to London. You didn’t deserve this”.

What disappoints me is that political considerations between Great Britain and Libya forced the release of the convicted mastermind of these murders and he is now living somewhere in the Middle East, presumably Libya. He allegedly had months to live and was released from a Scottish prison on humanitarian grounds. That was last year. He is apparently still alive.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Customs at Christmas

Some thoughts today and for the next several days on the customs and stories of Christmas.

In England, it is still common to hear someone say that the cock crows for Christmas. Legend has it that the roosters crowing would frighten away the bad spirits from the holy season.

Other superstitions are wonderful in their imagery. One is that bees can sing at Christmas and sheep walk in procession to commemorate the visit of the angel to the shepherds.

In Canada, there is the story of an Indian creeping through the woods on Christmas, watching to see the deer kneel and look up to the Great Spirit.

At one time in the German Alps it was believed that cattle had the gift of language on Christmas, but it was a sin to eavesdrop.

In Poland the story is told that on Christmas the heavens are opened and the scene of Jacob's ladder is re-enacted, but only the saints could see it.

In Scandinavian countries. Goodwill is the order of the season. Old quarrels are balanced by forgiveness and feuds are forgotten. In each household family members place their shoes in a row to symbolize that during the year the family will live together in peace and harmony.

Let us visualize all the shoes of the world in a row this year.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sleigh Ride

Danbury, Connecticut was my birth city. I can't say hometown since I didn't spend much time there as an infant. My photographer friend, Sheila Ryan DeBold, was also born there and lived there many years after I was long gone. Sheila and I collaborated on a book called: "Encore - The Poetry of Nature. Her photographs and my poetry. To me it was a match made perfect.

One day we were discussing memories of Danbury and Sheila mentioned a winter experience when she was a child. I loved the story and "Sleigh Ride" was the result.

Sleigh Ride

A weathered barn in withered red,
stands clear with in memory,
and every time it starts to snow
old thoughts return to Danbury.

It was a barn like no other,
mystic, magic, somehow serene
With tack and harness set in place,
yet something else that can't be seen.

An inner warmth, an eminence,
an aura shine you cannot view,
perhaps the light of keeper's soul
the one who mends and tends unto.

This heart of his and equine heat
oft' stays the cold of winter's sting
and keeps the frost from off the bells
that trim the reins and give the ring.

In boarded stall, the horses sense
the quiet fall of downy flake.
They paw the straw and perk an ear
and gently give their heads a shake.

Across the way, past field white,
'top harvest chaff and stubble hay,
children question with excitement,
"Sir, are you hitching up the sleigh?"

The words were quick with pure delight,
"The team is set to trot the snow",
said the smiling friendly neighbor,
a child too, who wants to go.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Wonderful Life

Christmas energy is a warm uplifting inner glow that affirms the value of good will and how sacred life is.

It's no wonder that this time of year, the Jimmy Stewart film It's a Wonderful Life, continues to capture our hearts with the simple truth that every life counts. I watched it again the other night.

In the tale, Clarence, an angel trying to earn his wings, shows George Bailey that it is the living of life that is wonderful, not that every moment is pure and without pain or that every dream comes true. It is a poignant story of how we are all connected to the universal sufferings and celebrations of life.

The truth of life and the spirit of Christmas are one in the same. You feel it in the little things we give to each other: a smile, a hug, a handshake, a kind remark, and even in the gifts we give to strangers. These are tough times for a lot of newer people so remember the food bank, toys for tots, the Salvation Army and Gifts For Grown-ups and www. CMMB.org.

The Christmas spirit and a wonderful life happen when we choose to give what we seek.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Africa's HIV/AIDS problem

Some thoughts on one of the greatest medical emergencies and moral dilemmas of the modern era.

It’s HIV/AIDS infection.

22.5 million of the 40 milion people worldwide infected with HIV live in sub-Saharan Africa.

Only one percent of those who need anti-aids drugs get them. There are organizations that do everything they can to help. One of them is CMMB, the Catholic Medical Mission Board. They and their partners have been teaching and administering medicines and medical equipment to several African countries for years.

In the rural areas of Kisimu, ten years ago 40% of the population was HIV positive, today because of CMMB's efforts that percentage is down to 18.

But already there are 11 million orphans.

The moral dilemma for the industrialized nations is why have we ignored Africa and the AIDS epidemic for such a long time and let it fester to genocidal proportions. Why aren't we seeing this as a pandemic emergency?

If we look at the problem from the level of the problem it seems insurmountable. If we see it only as governments, or as it being far away, or as it being not my problem, 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 race has anything to do with it?

Want to help? Contribute to CMMB. WWW.CMMB.org.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ellis Island

Ellis Island in New York Harbor; if you haven’t been there, you should. It is a place that is energized with the resonant memory of the past.

It’s an exhilarating experience standing in what is now the Ellis Island museum. When I was there a couple of years ago, I felt the courageous spirits of our immigrant ancestors and a profound respect for their courage to embrace change. So many moved step by step through the great hall on their way to freedom.

Amid the din of other people's soft conversations. I walked the path and steps that 18-million immigrants followed. I felt their hearts as I sensed their pride at what they personally accomplished, and at what this country has become because of them and what we still can be.

These ghosts of greatness linger there, not because they came through that portal of liberty so many years ago, but because they stay to stand watch. Their presence is everywhere, in old photographs, in hundred year old scribbled messages to loved ones on a passage wall, and in the descendants, who visit here and keep it hallowed ground.

Ellis island reminds us that it does not matter how or where or when potential greatness comes to this land, it only matters what one does with the manifesting dreams of freedom, opportunity and responsibility.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Mike Dolas











Mike Dolas died the other day. He was one day shy of his 98th birthday. Not many people today know of him unless they are familiar with the illustrative art world and the great artists who lived and created there.

Mike Dolas was in the ilk of illustrators like Normal Rockwell and J.C. Leyendecker. All were great illustrators from the 1920’s to the 1960’s and beyond. Look at the historic covers of the Saturday Evening Post, Colliers, Life and other magazine periodicals and you will see the magnificent artistic creations of Mike Dolas.

I met Mike Dolas a few times and was invited to various lunches and dinners at the famed Lotos Club in New York to converse with Mr. Dolas about his remarkable career and frankly to just listen to his stories.

I once asked him why he did not sign his illustrations and his answer was, “What for?”

He could paint an illustration portrait better than a photograph.

In his later years Mike Dolas was a little hard of hearing and sometimes disoriented, but his memory of the art world was intact and his admirers were legion.

Take a moment and check out Mike Dolas on the Internet. You will be amazed at the talent that is now back in the heavens of creativity. He will be missed. The eternal light is now brighter.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Hanukkah

A few years ago on a peaceful street in a small Pennsylvania town the spirit of the holiday season was ripped from its bucolic revelry.

The homes on Water Lily Way in Newtown were few, only eighteen, but they were festooned with colorful decorations of lights and garland and blinking wishes of peace on earth.

One house was different. The Markovitz family was Jewish and placed a lighted menorah in the window. It was one of those years when Christmas and Hanukkah come together on the calendar.

About three O’clock one morning, while the Markovitz family slept, someone smashed their front window and frame and the menorah was destroyed.

Neighbors who heard the commotion rushed to help. The police were called and the Markovitz’s memories of relatives lost at Auschwitz surfaced once again with the shock of how could this happen here.

The collective human morality of what is right always responds with positive individual action. One Neighbor rallied the other 18 families and besides helping the Markovitz family fix their window, they all contributed emotionally to fixing the Markovitz spirit damaged by hate, prejudice, cruelty and cowardice.

Less than 24 hours after the incident, the Markovitz family came home from dinner at a relative’s home. It was Dark. All the Christmas lights on the street were lit and blazing in a cacophony of color, but there in the window of every home along with the Christmas lights was an illuminated menorah.

Happy Hanukkah.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The "I Am" presence

Every once in awhile we should ask ourselves, Why I am me?

I often ask myself this question and with every asking there comes a different answer based upon my experience and growth in that moment of the asking.

Why I am me? One answer for me is to participate in this time and space, in this place with infinite choices and live in the moment with the nearly six billion other souls. We have come to experience life together. What a concept!

In each generation, perhaps in each lifetime, special souls are born to help us find, accomplish, complete, and create new paths to the Source that give understandable meaning, knowledge and an elegant grace to life.

Sometimes those souls will manifest in science and philosophy – Einstein and Epictetus; sometimes in literature – Dostoevsky and Miller; sometimes in leadership – Churchill and Lincoln; sometimes in music –Beethoven and Berlin; or art and architecture – Michelangelo and Wright and sometimes in belief systems: Moses, Christ, Buddha, Confucius, Mohammad, Krishna, Gandhi, and thousands of others like them who in silence serve and served The Source and who taught by example that the way to The Source was through positive deeds of choice and unconditional love.

If we look at history we find greatness and charismatic leadership in all fields of creative endeavor. We can go to any country in ancient or modern times and find individual greatness that influenced nationalistic culture and global history and we can find individual dictatorial greed and cruelty. In some spiritual disciplines they call the latter, "misdirected good."

The Balinese of Indonesia have a perfect saying: “Bhuta ia, dewa ia”, Man is a demon, man is a god. Both true.”

“Why I am me?” begs different questions. "Why am I so fortunate and what do I need to learn from the experience?
"

It makes me think. What about you?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Prophesy?

In some disciplines they say that on one’s birthday there is the gift of prophesy. I don’t know if that’s true, but I will offer some mindful speculations for the future.

My thoughts all lead to a positive outcome, but the process may be conflicting and catastrophic for what is considered the norm. So be it.

Logic, meditation and a long time interest in the environment tells me that weather anomalies will continue to plague the planet. Our home planet has experienced unusual climate phenomena in recent times and I think it will continue. I think the earth is sentient. She was called Gaia in ancient times and she is sending humanity a message that we need to change or she will change us for us. I am disappointed that our global leadership ignores the signs.

I see the good of the world’s religions embracing their benevolence instead of their dogma of elitisms. Conditions within the Catholic Church will lessen the constriction on condoms. It will take longer for women priests, and married priests.

Radical Islam, like radical Christianity will eventually embrace tolerance instead of Jihad and Crusade. The great teachings of Mohammad, blessed be his name, and those of Jesus, blessed be his name, will manifest as living truths of choice. Belief is and always has been an individual choice and cannot be dictated by religious or secular edict.

It is time to stop wasting limited and valuable resources on things of destruction. Let us use the radiance of certain elements like Uranium, Plutonium and Cobalt for medical research not for arsenals that would destroy the world.

Intellect is a commodity too and it is being wasted on the emotions of hate, greed, conquest, and control. Intellect and its building blocks of thought can create a world without fear, without hunger and without conflict.

What is truly amazing about this is that it takes so very few of us to think the same thing for it to happen.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pearl Harbor


Some thoughts today on the 69th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

There was a time, over dinner many years ago, that an older friend of mine, a retired naval officer, a graduate of Annapolis and now a successful businessman wanted to talk to one of my sons about attending Annapolis. My friend apparently had both political and military connections and my son had grades sufficient for an application and appointment.

My friend was a good man, a survivor of Pearl Harbor, but he had a powerful hatred for the Japanese. He hated them so much that he took every opportunity in business, in public, and in private to say so. He was a big time successful contractor who built office and factory buildings, but he used no products from Japan.

During our dinner conversation I told him, I hoped he would understand, but he could not talk to my son, unless he could let go of his long-standing hatred of the Japanese. I didn’t want a seventeen year old (at that time) influenced by such a long festering hate.

When you hate you create a bond as powerful as love and it won’t release you from your pain until you consciously let it go. The great teachings of the world suggest that hatred will eventually destroy the hater.

My friend apparently thought about our discussion for several weeks. One day he called to tell me he was going to visit Pearl Harbor…on his way to Japan.

He asked, when he got back could talk to my son. I said “yes”.

As an afterword, my son was not interested in a naval career and went on to be successful in another venue and my friend was able to release a constricting hatred that held him in a cocoon of anger for decades.

As it is with so many acquaintances with which we are blessed in life, I have lost track of my friend and hope that if he is still alive, he passed yesterday’s anniversary of the attack with a peace that only forgiveness can engender.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Carnegie Hall # 3

If you are a reader of this blog, you know that I was invited by composer Tim Janis to incorporate my holiday poetry into his magnificent concert of many talented performers and orchestras and choral groups at Carnegie Hall last Thursday.

The following information on Carnegie Hall was taken from the internet and is as accurate as I can determine.

“If you are a classical musician, opera singer, jazz performer, or pop group, you may have grown up dreaming of one day performing at the world famous Carnegie Hall.

For over a hundred years, Carnegie Hall has been a status symbol of the highest echelons of musical taste and appreciation.

Carnegie Hall bears the name of Andrew Carnegie, who originally had it built to house the Oratorio Society of New York and the New York Symphony Society.

Carnegie, who was famous for his philanthropy, served on the boards of both organizations. The great hall opened its doors on May 5, 1891 and featured the famous composer Peter Tchaikovsky conducting his musical works.

Quite a prestigious beginning for a music hall. Over the years, many famous performers have appeared at Carnegie Hall, such as Duke Ellington, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Yo-Yo Ma and the Beatles! (Everyone I talked to during the concert rehearsal and the evening performance was thrilled to be in this Hall of performing history. Everyone was performing here for the first time.)

Carnegie Hall houses three concert halls and a museum. The Main Hall seats 2,804 people and is five levels. (We were in the Main Hall and it was packed—what a thrill!)


The late classical violinist, Isaac Stern, once said about the acoustics "It takes what you do and makes it larger than life.” (It’s true. When I first heard my voice come back to me through the hall’s speaker system...bouncing off the four story balconies...I was awed.)

The love that Isaac Stern had for Carnegie Hall is evident as you'll see that the Main Hall is now called the Isaac Stern Auditorium.

Believe it or not, Carnegie Hall was slated for demolition in 1960, but due to the efforts of Stern, it was saved and eventually purchased by the City of New York for $5 million.”

The performer age of the Janis concert ranged from nine, yes nine, to …ah….ah….me. I think I was the oldest performer there. As of today the sixth I will not yet be 70, but I am finishing the sixties. You figure it out ☺.

Don’t you love the riddles you can solve? I had a great time. Thank you Tim.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Animals

We took our recently acquired puppy to an emergency care vets the other day to check out a breathing problem. All was OK. The visit gave us peace of mind.

The whole process reminded me of just how attached we become to our pets. A man came into the emergency care facility with a covered birdcage. His parakeet was lying at the bottom of the cage, breathing, but immobile. It had a tumor. It was dying.

The guy was devastated, so was his wife and family. Apparently they'd had the bird for a while and everyone in the family was attached. I understand that kind of attachment and so do my memories of long ago pets.

The vet confirmed that the bird was terminal. Papers were signed and the bird was put down. The guy left with tears In his eyes trying to comfort his wife on the cell phone.

Anima, the root word for animal, means soul or spirit. Animals are truly part of our souls and spirits. The strong emotional attachment to pets confirms it.

I think people’s attachment comes from the unconditionality of the pets love for us the alleged owners. Actually I don't think we have ownership. I think we have dominion, and a responsibility to care for the animal, but never domination. It’s a consideration forgotten by many.

I think one of the best accolades to a pet came years ago from actor Jimmy Stewart. He wrote a poem about his dog Beau.

"Beau"

By Jimmy Stewart

He never came to me when I would call
Unless I had a tennis ball,
Or he felt like it,
But mostly he didn't come at all.

When he was young
He never learned to heel
Or sit or stay,
He did things his way.

Discipline was not his bag
But when you were with him things didn't drag.
He'd dig up a rosebush just to spite me,
And when I'd grab him, he'd turn and bite me.

He bit lots of folks from day to day,
The delivery boy was his favourite prey.
The gasman wouldn't read our meter,
He said we owned a real man-eater.

He set the house on fire
But the story's long to tell.
Suffice it to say that he survived
And the house survived as well.

On the evening walks, and Gloria took him,
He was always first out the door.
The Old One and I brought up the rear
Because our bones were sore.

He would charge up the street with Mom hanging on,
What a beautiful pair they were!
And if it was still light and the tourists were out,
They created a bit of a stir.

But every once in a while, he would stop in his tracks
And with a frown on his face look around.
It was just to make sure that the Old One was there
And would follow him where he was bound.

We are early-to-bedders at our house--
I guess I'm the first to retire.
And as I'd leave the room he'd look at me
And get up from his place by the fire.

He knew where the tennis balls were upstairs,
And I'd give him one for a while.
He would push it under the bed with his nose
And I'd fish it out with a smile.

And before very long
He'd tire of the ball
And be asleep in his corner
In no time at all.

And there were nights when I'd feel him
Climb upon our bed
And lie between us,
And I'd pat his head.

And there were nights when I'd feel this stare
And I'd wake up and he'd be sitting there
And I reach out my hand and stroke his hair.
And sometimes I'd feel him sigh
And I think I know the reason why.

He would wake up at night
And he would have this fear
Of the dark, of life, of lots of things,
And he'd be glad to have me near.

And now he's dead.
And there are nights when I think I feel him
Climb upon our bed and lie between us,
And I pat his head.

And there are nights when I think
I feel that stare
And I reach out my hand to stroke his hair,
But he's not there.

Oh, how I wish that wasn't so,
I'll always love a dog named Beau.










Thursday, December 2, 2010

Carnegie Hall

As promised, here is my script for the Carnegie Hall concert tonight at the Tim Janis - American Christmas Carol concert.

I will welcome everybody to the concert and introduce Tim. Then throughout the two and half hour concert I will read the following poems. I am delighted for the experience and indebted to Tim for the invitation. To see who's performing check back to Monday's post.

Smith Script:

The village greens of the world have long been the center of gatherings and celebrations. And so it is today especially on the village green's within our hearts.


Village Green

© 2010 Rolland G. Smith

It’s snowing on the village green

Where drifts of white are clearly seen.

And trees are lit with colors bright

For magic sleighs to see at night.


Small children play and run around

And toss the snow that’s on the ground.

Their rosy cheeks and mittens white

Announcing soon its Christmas night.


Some carolers stroll ‘long the green

To sing the songs of season’s scene

For it’s a special time of year

Of good will hopes and Christmas cheer.


Yet sleighs and songs are symbols for

A lasting gift of time before.

Where birth and breath did crown a king

And angels taught the earth to sing.


But on the green the glee runs free

With children laughing round the tree.

They know not yet the gifts of God,

But time will change their mind’s fa├žade.


Perhaps their laughs and hopes are one

To hold all joy beyond the sun.

Where sleighs and trees are metaphor

For peace on earth forevermore.


Christmas is a lyrical time of year. Children learn rhymes and poems and lines from songs and they remember forever. It is a time of anticipation and one of hopes and wishes.

This poem is called:


Christmas Time

© 2010 Rolland G. Smith


Christmas time surprises as it jumps out from the cold

To warm the late December days with frankincense and gold.

It heralds in with music, in the silent of the night,

And when it wakes the child within my memories are all bright.


Happy thoughts are set to play within the festive light

And brighten up the shortened days with friends who reunite.

Chums of old and pals of new, all wishing Christmas cheer,

With drifting sparks from glowing logs to warm the midnight clear.


It’s wrapping hearts in holly green and Rudolph red with bow

And standing ‘neath a hanging sprig of kissing mistletoe.

Dancing dreams of sugarplums and minted candy cane

Bring visions of a Christmas tree and a circling tooting train.


There’s spruce to cut and wreaths to make in circles and in sprays

That decorate the doors and hearths on merry Noel days.

There are lights to string, and wood to bring, and ornaments to make

For packages beneath the tree, as snow begins to flake.

.

We hark to hear the angles sing with distant family near

And love to hear a child say the names of eight reindeer.

Layered thoughts of Christmas past and shiny ones today

Remind us of a stable birth where shepherds knelt to pray.


There are jingle bells and icicles and packages to tie

With ribbons tight and wrappings bright of sleighs up in the sky,

There’s hugs galore and candy more and kids with favorite toys

And shirts and socks and building blocks for little girls and boys.


There are cards and calls and carols and candles fill the room

And tins of sugar cookies shine by red poinsettia bloom.

Christmas time indeed surprises in a special wondrous way

In winter and forever it’s a favorite holiday.


Manger Child

© 2010 Rolland G. Smith

O manger child of Christmas morn,

Archangels bowed when you were born.

The holy light from Cherubim

Graced your spirit in Bethlehem.


O manger child, please grace our heart

That sees your stable birth impart

A sacred truth for all to share,

Love is the answer and the prayer.

Amen, my child. Amen my Lord,

Hear harmony in Christmas chord

From bells and voices of the young

With songs of heart in carols sung.


O Sing my child your song of light

That we may see all mornings bright.

Especially this season of

The Christmas spirit as above.


We sing, we sing what joy does bring

From breaking dawn to evening

We sing along with choral throng

And chapel chimes ‘til evensong.


O mystic child upon this day

Your love is heard in pull of sleigh,

In ringing bells, and white snowdrift

And presents wrapped as Christmas gift.


Your gift to us, to all of us

From child’s heart harmonious.

A simple truth we can redeem,

Love is the gift. The gift supreme.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Silence of Being

Tis the first of December today and it begins a time of silence. Nature has already put itself to sleep for the next few months. People seem to stay indoors more giving the impression of a neighborhood silence. The local kids don't play outdoors as much. It's cold and they've got their video games to occupy their interests.

The ancients acknowledged this time of year as a period of silence and inactivity. They created festivals to liven up the times. The length of days were approaching the shortest day of the year. Most of their events were pagan in nature and that may be one of the reasons religions celebrated the Christ's birth in December in order to counter the pagan rituals. Just thinking!

But back to the power of silence.

There are places of extreme quiet, where silence and nothing are one and you cannot tell them apart. Places where only nature speaks and her sound is deafening when no other audible intrusion is near.

One place is on a silent river. Where portions neither ripple nor descend through noisy cataracts, but carry liquid volumes in the stillness of deep flows and where it is far enough away from man’s modern concoctions that the only thing you think you hear are your own thoughts, but they aren’t.

If you’ve never been to such a place and find yourself in it, there will come wonderment, a revelation, a spiritual attunement, a surprise appreciation of the empathetic knowledge that only stillness engenders in a singular moment of time. Some people seek such a place this time of year because the general silence of hibernation begins with the dimming of the light.

I find my silent place in nature; any time of year.

The first time I found such silence was on the Green River in Utah as I rafted in a quiet eddy pool and found myself in involuntary prayer with nature whose sacristy I entered and then sustained by the choice of benevolent thought.

The second time was at night alone at the edge of a lake in the Allagash wilderness of Maine. The stars have a noticeable brilliance when civilization is far away. They also have a sound that man rarely hears for we occupy a space of things and doing in the Cosmos of life.

The third I experience often for I live nearby. It is on the Wallkill River in New York. When my Kayak drifts on the silent surface I embrace the Oneness and silence of All That Is.

I know that science has learned much from the music of the spheres in the vast cacophony of the heavens. I know that religions promote silence to reach the unreachable. I know that the frigid stillness of winter creates a cocoon where sound will not enter because of density.

What I didn’t know until I experienced it was the joy that silence gives the listener and that robust laughter needs no sound and God needs no dogma. The thoughts you think are yours, but aren’t, are God’s. He talks to all of us in the stillness and silence.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas Memories

So now we begin the season of seasons. Christmas is often mixed in with Chanukah and Kwanza and a few lesser known celebrations, but predominantly this time of year in the west is known as the Christmas season and more so in recent years as the Holiday season. The holiday season is an accommodation to merchants who want to include everybody in the festive celebrations.

For those of us who celebrate Christ's birth, symbolically or otherwise, it is a joyous time of year. Excitement and reverence permeates the festive and sacred atmosphere. Children take in the energy and send it out exponentially. Their expectations and joy influences all of us. Religions promulgate the sacred and all of us benefit.

It too is a time to look back on childhoods that were much different from today’s children. Times then were simple. Families seemed more important and gatherings special. You never knew which of the older folks would not be there the next year. There were always some who hands were missing at the Christmas table grace. Gifts and cards were not always bought, but made with thought and care.

My Dad was not rich in bank accounts, but he was in craftsmanship. When I was eight years old my main gift at Christmas, besides the proverbial socks and necessities and a knitted sweater from my grandmother, was a table model radio and record player.

It became my nightstand next to my bunk bed. It was bright red with cartoon decals on either side of the six-inch fabric covered speaker in the center of the front panel. On top, a door lifted up. Inside was a record turntable. Underneath the electronics were slotted cubby holes to hold the 78-RPM records I had amassed as a kid.

I had several of the Uncle Don series and Rusty in Orchestraville and some others I can’t remember.

My Dad had spent nights building the cabinet and the radio and the record player. He knew electronics and could do those things with capacitors, resistors and tubes. He put them all together and it worked. I loved it.

I would spend hours after I was supposed to be asleep listening to distant radio stations. I had the volume turned low. I would tune in WWVA in Wheeling, West Virginia, WOWO in Fort Wayne, Indiana and KDKA in Pittsburgh. It was exciting for a nine year old.

I do not wish to go back to those days and times. I do wish some of the ethics and integrity and reverence common at that time had been sustained within our social structure. But then those things are not endemic to the social structure. They are strictly traits of personal character.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Carnegie Hall

You’ve heard the expression question of “how do you get to Carnegie Hall?” and the comic, yet also practical answer is practice.

This coming Thursday on December 2nd I have been invited by composer, musician, conductor, musical bon vivant, Tim Janis to host his Christmas concert at Carnegie Hall presented by the Little Sisters of the Poor.

I will read three of my Christmas/Holiday poems. They will be interspersed throughout the musical concert of very talented performers and equally talented choral groups.

Here’s the Playbill:

PRESENTED BY THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE POOR

TIM JANIS: THE AMERICAN CHRISTMAS CAROL

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 8 PM

Tickets from $40 - $60

The Program

Tim Janis
Chandler Lutz, Donald Braswell, Jim Cole, Sarah Darling, Wendy McPike, Emily Bear, Eli Mattson, Lynn Witty, and Hollie Steel, Vocalists
Jimmy Nichols, Music Director
Andy Hire and Kevin Cooper, Conductors
With Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
Three Crosses Band
Rolland Smith, Host

Works by Tim Janis and Andrew J. Wight

I will share with you the poems I will read on Thursday.

If any New Yorkers would like to attend….hope to see you there.

rgs

Friday, November 26, 2010

More Greece Please

Turkey is a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for many Americans. It is a carry over from the pilgrims and their original feast of Thanksgiving when the native bird was plentiful in the wild.

So why do we call it Turkey? There is a reason and as happens so many times, the all-American bird got its name somewhat by mistake.

The tale begins with the British Empire which had stretched itself into Africa during the sixteen hundreds. Along with diamonds the British exported a wild eatable bird back to England, but in order to get the shipment to the British Isles the cargo was routed through Turkey and supposedly that is how the big bird got its name.

When the sharp eyed settlers spotted a similar winged bird strutting through the American colonies, they called it...Turkey.

Scientists who study these sort of things tell us the bird that lives in Africa, that was imported to Europe by way of Turkey, is not the same bird that is native to America.

Actually we probably ought to call our bird " Meleagris". that's what the turkey is known as in scientific jargon, and that comes from the Greek. In fact, one of the earliest mentions of the Meleagris comes from Aristotle. Just think, if the bird had first been exported from his country we could be sitting down to a Greece dinner with all the trimmings.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

To all a very Happy Thanksgiving.

RGS

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Giving of Thanks

Here it is the day before Thanksgiving in the United States. My friends in Canada celebrate it on another date.

Our Thanksgiving is similar to the August Moon Festival in China, Tet Trung Tru in Vietnam, Succoth in Judaism, Kwanzaa in Africa, Pongal in India and Chusok in Korea and Emtedankfest in Germany. The list goes on, but in essence the purpose remains the same, to thank God for a harvest of food and thought.

Giving thanks should never be relegated to a single day or a passing expression of gratitude. Giving thanks should be an ongoing every moment expression of appreciation.

Giving thanks should be a continuous expression of our lives for we as experiential souls in the density of life have truly been given so much for which we forget, deny, or explain away as something else.

It is amazing to me that the majority of us cannot see the abundance through the maze and fog of always wanting more. In my experience the All That Is provides for everything we need, but will not alter our free will choice to experience lack and deprivation.

Don’t ask me how that can be. I have no idea. I suspect that God experiences life through us as us.

Obviously our divinity is not omniscient or omnipotent, but it is on the edge of creation and understanding because there is a little bit of the Divine in each of us.

The Divine is always in a state of unconditional love. Intrinsic in that state is constant appreciation. It seems to me we have forgotten appreciation and in our human arrogance of self we have ignored what we know deep within our souls.

In the United States, in particular, we forget to give thanks for clean and clear water, for the purity of a breath of fresh air, abundant food, the freedoms and liberty we enjoy and the right to worship as we please; The latter includes the personal responsibility to say thank you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Angels

I rode the subway again the other day when I was in New York City for a recording session.

In one particular train car there was a guy seated and playing his guitar with gloves on. Granted it did create a unique muted sound as he picked out singular notes to match the tonality of his words and sang a song I did not recognize.

The train weaved and rumbled through a couple of stops and he continued to sing. Finally he finished his song and took his hat off and looked around the crowded train car for anyone to show a monitory appreciation. No one did.

As he played I watched the other people in the subway car. Some were reading, some were writing, some were sleeping and some just stared into empty space seemingly oblivious to this man’s public creativity and performance. Everyone ignored him. Nobody applauded. Nobody said anything and the guy looked surprised as he got off the next stop. He was probably headed to another car and a more receptive audience.

He wasn’t very good at either singing or playing the guitar with gloves on. But without inhibitions and with complete confidence in himself he played and sang and hoped for some remuneration.

I wondered then and still do today if this guy might have been an angel placed there for me to appreciate and acknowledge with a small token of his performance. I couldn’t understand his words and the din within the moving train was overwhelming.

I'd like to think that angels move in and out of our purview with offered lessons of love and tolerance. It’s one of the reasons why I keep a few folded dollars in my pocket to toss into baskets or hats or place in the hand of some seeker who seems to need it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Reincarnation?

The waning seconds of golden sunset had just passed the other night. It was glorious and comforting and escorted with a powerful wind as the light and wind passed into the west for others to experience. Everything was flushed in the gilded gold of sunset if for just a moment or two.

There is something about the setting sun that reminds me of being finite and infinite at the same time. My body is finite. My spirit is infinite. It is my spirit that animates my body and when it is done with what it came here to do it will relinquish the flesh and let my body return to the metaphorical dust of creation.

We have endings and continuations and beginnings within each moment of our existence.

Whenever I forget about the impermanence of things I look to nature for a reminder. Days come and go with each one renewed in the light of All That Is. Seasons come and go, yet each returns afresh, exuberant in the youthful expression of snow, color and growth and the budding green and birth of spring.

Why is that not true for all us souls of humankind? The only reason we are here in this density is to perfect our souls for the glory of God through the experience of choice.

Could we not return time and time again continuously perfecting our choices for Him? Incarnation after incarnation? Why not!

Each of the world's dogmas embraces, or did at one time, some kind of rebirth equation. The inequities of a single lifetime belie the belief of just one.

I know I have lived before! It's more like an esoteric knowing rather than a cognitive or exoteric construction. Can I prove it? No! Do I know it? Yes!

For me, reincarnation provides a relief in understanding the injustices I see in the world.

Khalil Gibran once wrote that the murdered is not without participation in their murder. I find that difficult to fathom from the finite level, but understandable from a spiritual awareness.

So where does that leave me and my argument? In the wondrous dark again. It’s fun to think about though, isn’t it?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Annoyances

There are always some things in life that will offend. You have your items and I have mine

Here are a few of mine.

Joe Miller the republican candidate for Senator in Alaska was backed by Sara Palin and the Tea party to defeat the current republican Senator from Alaska Lisa Murkowski. Miller is (has been) challenging the write-in ballots that misspelled her name.

It’s not right, it’s not fair, it’s stealing the franchise from citizens who know for whom they voted, but did not have the right spelling of the name. But two days ago Murkowski was declared the winner. Bravo.

If I had a nickel for every time my first name has been misspelled we could all go out to dinner. Just so you know, my last name has rarely, if ever, been misspelled. Go figure!

Shame on Joe Miller and his campaign. It is unfortunate that in today’s political process, winning is more important than ethics. Maybe that’s why we have so much dissention and contention in Washington.

Here are some little annoyances, OK, they are really, really, little ones and a lot more mundane in the whole scheme of life, but they still annoy me.

I am annoyed at night drivers who wait until our cars are face to face before they dim their lights. If I can see their lights before we are head-on to each other, then they can see my lights long before they choose to dim theirs.

I am annoyed at benevolent police organizations or the PBA's that call at dinnertime asking for a donation. When I say I am giving to other law enforcements organizations they rudely hang up. I keep a list. They will never get any money out of me.

I am annoyed at cell phone talkers on the train or bus or in a restauraunt who think they have to shout into the phone for the people on the other side of their conversation to hear them.

I am annoyed at riders on trains, or people getting on elevators who do not wait for people getting off the conveyance before trying to get on.

I am annoyed at moms and dads who let their youngsters run around a restaurant or in a store without the parental discipline of restraint.

I am annoyed at grocery store lines when to pay for the groceries the person at the checkout register has to fill out a complete check. Why not fill it out, except for the amount, before you go to the store. You know you are going to write a check. To me it’s a courtesy to those in line behind you.

I am annoyed at me for being annoyed at these silly stupid things.

I’ll be better tomorrow.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Good Grief!

"And now, in an interview with ABC News' Barbara Walters, Sarah Palin "says she is seriously considering a run for the White House, and she believes she could beat President Obama in 2012."

The interview will run on Dec. 9 as part of Walters' "10 Most Fascinating People" of 2010.

I read this and I could not believe it.

She is a nice person, a good Mom, a fine spouse, a governor, a candidate for Veep. SHE IS NOT OF PRESIDENTIAL CALIBER. I am concerned that celebrity arrogance will catapult an unqualified into a candidacy that would deny a rightful recipient of the nomination and therefore deny America a leadership with discernment, intellect and experience.

GOOD GRIEF!


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I Was Gone!

When the election took place a couple of weeks ago I was out of the country. I did vote absentee, but I was gone and it took a little while before I read, heard and embraced the ramifications of the winners and losers.

Some thoughts on who won.

We won.

The American people, the citizens who by majority rule, comprise the policy and philosophy of this maturing republic won. The true winner is "We The People."

Once again we became the evidence of our beliefs and by public example demonstrated to the world and to ourselves that democracy is still a valid and effective process.

We live in a pragmatic world, often fearful, sometimes cruel and we the people are not perfect, but collectively we strive to live up to the founding ideals of democracy. We shout, we argue, we debate, we accuse and when the votes are counted we accept, we forgive, we get together and we live in diverse harmony until we do it again. That’s greatness, that’s America.

Congratulations!


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ted Kopple

I subscribe to a internet news blog called: Newsblues. It's a compendium of things happening in my chosen profession. This was in Monday's post. I thought you might like to see what a true journalist thinks of today's alleged story tellers.

New viewers, news readers and even those who only glance at the headlines can change this if we want too.

ON THE DEATH OF NEWS

"We live now in a cable news universe that celebrates the opinions of [Keith]Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity andBill O'Reilly," writes Ted Koppel in a Sunday op-ed piece for The Washington Post, "individuals who hold up the twin pillars of political partisanship and who are encouraged to do so by their parent organizations because their brand of analysis and commentary is highly profitable.

"The commercial success of both Fox News and MSNBC is a source of nonpartisan sadness for me. While I can appreciate the financial logic of drowning television viewers in a flood of opinions designed to confirm their own biases, the trend is not good for the republic. It is, though, the natural outcome of a growing sense of national entitlement. Daniel Patrick Moynihan's oft-quoted observation that 'everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts,' seems almost quaint in anenvironment that flaunts opinions as though they were facts.

"And so, among the many benefits we have come to believe the founding fathers intended for us, the latest is news we can choose. Beginning, perhaps, from the reasonable perspective that absolute objectivity is unattainable, Fox News and MSNBC no longer even attempt it. They show us the world not as it is, but as partisans (and loyal viewers) at either end of the political spectrum would like it to be. This is to journalism what Bernie Madoff was to investment: He told his customers what they wanted to hear, and by the time they learned the truth, their money was gone."

Monday, November 15, 2010

Peek-A-Boo

I have an IT friend who knows the ins and outs of the Internet.

There is a program that can determine who is looking at a blog and from where their look or surveillance originates.

Mr friend did it for me on my blog.

Guess who showed up as reading my posts from Kenya?

Homeland Security and the Justice Department.

Jeez, I hope they learned something. I hope they learned that not every citizen who travels to foreign ports needs to be scrutinized for anti-american behavior or seditious activity.

I hope they learned that fear based government departments will alway disintegrate into their own illusion. I hope they learned about trust, compassion, courtesy and especially common sense.

Keep reading G-men (and women). I wish you a fearless day. Every thought I have from this blog is open to parsing.

RGS



Friday, November 12, 2010

The Oneness of All

I was in New York City yesterday for a luncheon meeting with a friend of many years.

As I walked several blocks from the subway to a restaurant I looked at all people differently. New York City is peopled with many races; White, Black, Asian, Indian, Hispanic and all cultures and races in-between. New York has a large black population, but black are still a minority population in this city.

When I was in Nairobi, Kenya a couple of weeks ago Caucasian was not even a minority race. Caucasian was an anomaly and I felt the difference. It was not a negative feeling, but more of an observational and sensory one. Maybe it was just me, but I felt I stood out in the crowd so to speak. I was never fearful, only different.

The proportional difference between blacks and whites in New York City is far more than that of whites to blacks in Kenya. In Kenya it was possible for me to travel miles and hours and not see another white person.

In the one to one of health-care in Kenya we were all one. In the political discussions of what should and could be done is where the oneness diverges.

Yesterday in New York I watched all people more closely than I ever did before. I looked at black mothers and fathers on the subway with their kids and I did so with a new awareness and appreciation. I saw tenderness, concern, and caring. I knew it was always there, but I was not as aware of it as I was yesterday. I watched family interactions with admiration and with the distant memory of covering the civil rights movement in the sixties. Back then, as a young reporter, I attended services in Black churches and listened to a fiery preacher call for justice and righteousness in an affirmative chorus of “Amen’s.”

I have a wiser appreciation of human identity and dignity the older I get.

I think one has to experience being a minority before one can understand that minority and majority should mean nothing. The only things that are truly important in life anywhere are smiles, courtesy, dignity, tolerance, equality, opportunity and the unconditional acknowledgment of the sameness of being.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Kenyan Memories

It is Veterans Day. A sacred day in the history of America. I acknowledge that as I have in many blogs of the past, but today I beg an indulgence.

I've just returned from a profound experience in Kenya, Africa and I cannot dismiss my recent images. I’ve tried to let go of the images, but this post will be yet another one of memory, influence, and emotion from my experience. I was with the CMMB executive staff and members of the Board of Director’s visit to the lesser parts of life in Nairobi and rural Kenya.

CMMB’s global influence is extensive. Check out their website at www.CMMB.org.

The images are like an addiction that begs my return to them over and over again and it leaves me unsatisfied.

The real is worse. The images return at inopportune moments. Mostly when I’m dining. Often when I'm asleep and always when I see what I have.

How many of us have ever seen an open sewer sliding by our front door? How many of us would even tolerate that experience with our children, our loved ones, our parents our neighbors. We, in the experienced nations of the world would revolt, we would move en mass to cleaner places, to breathable air, to hopeful opportunities.

Why don’t the millions in the slums leave or a least try too? From my observation, and granted it is very limited observation, few have ever experienced a better life-style or have the money and therefore they remain in a condition they see as normal. I don’t know if that is true for all, but it seems to be for the many-few who rarely leave the slums.

Some do leave for daily jobs in the mercantile city and they return at the end of the day to a life different than what they observe in the “have-world.”

Where do I go with these thoughts? Nowhere! I leave them open, without conclusion for they are sores on the humanity of life. They are the raw wounds of incomplete compassion and they are the elegance of what all of us could be if we let go of the belief that being safe is having more and that stuff is suffocating and separations of culture, religions and geography is truly an illusion.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Reflections of Kenya



Now that I’ve had the time to unwind from my Kenya experience with CMMB, I am reflecting on what I’ve taken to heart from the trip.

I’ve written about the pathos and the passion of the experience through what I observed in the slums, but underneath the perceived sadness and poverty there is the awareness that there is another side of this visual despair.

It is the side that laughs, smiles, dances, and is joyful for the gifts of help, medicine, equipment and the medical care and compassion from strangers.

In my posts, I did not intend to leave out the positives and the joy of what I experienced in my visit to Kenya and its unsavory places. In all putrid places there is purity. In all slums there is solemnity. In all ignorance there is intelligence.

I don’t know what makes some people give and other’s take. I don’t know what triggers a professional person to give up a lucrative medical practice and volunteer to come to a remote region of the world and be of service to those in need. I don’t know what makes a clergy or a religious choose to minister care without reward to the sick, the poor, and to the infirm. I don’t know how any of them do it; it is not me. I could not do it with the joy that I observed in those that do.

CMMB has attracted a plethora of partners and giving souls to distribute the largess of generous donors in America. There are many in CMMB from the President and CEO to the country directors and the daily caregivers who labor without accolades or ribbons.

The people of the slums work hard too; they must do so to survive. They also smile, laugh and love. It is human nature to find joy in misery, to find humor in despair and to laugh at life. The difference from there to here is that they have to look for it, we don’t.

I bring back a new appreciation of simple things: clean and running water, electricity, grocery stores, sewers, paved streets, and available medical care. I will never again take these gifts for granted.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Kenya Experience



A good friend of mine has been following these posts and asked me in a private email did my experience in Kenya test my belief or faith and did I believe any differently now than I did before I left?

I sent this reply to her email, but I thought I’d share it with those of you who read this blog.

To wit:

Dear ............

I don’t believe that the All That Is tests us. We test ourselves by the experiences we choose in life in order to grow into our own divinity. I believe no soul is made to do anything or given any experience, terrible or pleasant, that was not designed in the spirit world by that soul for the purpose of glorifying God and advancing individual spiritual growth. All of this is done before entry into this world.

This thinking is inimical to the constricting dogmas of some religions, but in my experience and as I see it, it is a spiritual truth for me. It does not hinder the foundational truths of most religions and it allows me to understand and accept the tragedies and trials of this finite world.

There is not one path to God. All paths lead to God, even a path through the slums of Nairobi.

As I walked through the pathos, the poverty and the putrid odor of the slums I was immediately connected to the Divine. It reminded me that what I was seeing was with human eyes, not with the divinity within me.

Of course, my human awareness and emotion was sad, and I want to do everything I can to humanly help, but my spirit, the one that connects to the oneness of each of us, was in awe. Awe that these millions of spirits chose this condition in order to teach compassion to the world. What a gift.

(For those of you who choose not see the truth of this, that’s fine. It works for me. I will not debate the point.)

These souls were not forced into or inflicted with this life of deprivation by a dispassionate God. They, as spirits, participated in this life choice in order to spiritually grow, glorify the Divine within them and by example teach the rest of us that human compassion and the giving of substance is essential on our path to the Godhead.

The Almighty, the Source, the All That Is, and the omniscient Divinity known by so many names loves us unconditionally and knows that we chose to come into this density in order to advance more rapidly into the Divine Oneness that created us.

We have a loving divine creator, not a stern, demanding, commanding entity that tests our loyalty or gives a life of misery, pain and poverty.

My visit to the slums of Nairobi affirmed not only the grace of God, but also the love He has for his children by giving us free will, free experience and free choice.

Our time on this earth in poverty or depravation and power or privilege is nothing compared to the eternity in our true home.

 
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