Monday, April 30, 2012

The Vatican: Dogma v's Dialogue

Sister Simone Campbell, head of the Catholic social justice group NETWORK, appeared on several television programs regarding the recent Vatican report that reprimanded Catholic nuns for failing to speak out on “issues of crucial importance.”

Her group NETWORK was heavily criticized in the Vatican report.

Sister Campbell, who is also a lawyer, said “we’re a political organization. We don’t even have formal ties with Rome. Many of our members are Catholic sisters and priests, but we have 18,000 people across the country who are activists. But the Vatican named us. It’s not a faith fight; it’s a political fight.”

Sister Campbell went on to say, “What the bishops are criticizing is the engagement in culture. We come from a democratic culture. We follow the rule of Saint Benedict from the 500 A.D., where Benedict says, "When you’re making a decision, listen to every member of the community, and the truth will emerge."

She added that the Vatican comes out of a European experience and a culture of monarchy where the monarchy is always right with no room for a plurality of thought.

“The United States’ she said, “has an amazing pluralism that is really our gift, because it creates a vibrant diverse society. And I think that vibrant society is running headlong into the culture of monarchy at this point.

History is filled with stories of inspired individuals, mystics, and saints, who have come in conflict with authority over an inner dictate versus a system of rigid principles.  Galileo, Meister Eckhart, Thomas Aquinas, Kabir, and Thoreau are examples, to name a few. following one's inner faith, however it may be expressed, either as activism or mystical meditation, will always disempower dogma and render service activists unacceptable to most religious authorities.

A prime example today was the conflict between the Vatican and Dominican scholar, Dr. Matthew Fox.  His enlightenment and verbal activism led him to preach creation spirituality, a positive view of humankind's inter-relationship with God, rather than the Catholic church dogma of redemption spirituality, a view whereby human beings are born sinful.  Fox was silenced by the Vatican and has since left the order is now an Episcopalian scholar.

Within the Catholic church dogma has apparently no room for dialogue.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Rumors and Lies

Some thoughts on political rumor and innuendo.

I've received dozens of blatantly false emails purporting to be true in order to discredit, smear and maligned the opposition candidate. The false accusations have attacked both Barrack Obama and now Mitt Romney.

What is disappointing to me is that many people forward these pieces of junk to their litany of email friends without checking the facts, without any thought of the harm they are doing and the false witness they are spreading.

I won’t repeat then new and even the old allegations because even if there were a shred of truth in them, some investigative reporter would have checked it out long ago. Rumor and innuendo, however they are spread, always belie the truth with a fetid falsity of illusion's fiction.

Back during the Franklin Roosevelt administration some of his opponents spread rumors that his democrats plundered the gold in Fort Knox to pull the country out of the depression.

In 1953, President Eisenhower was pressured to have the gold counted. When the last bar was tabulated, it was short of what was supposed to be there. Ten dollars short.

Just to even up the books, Mrs. Georgia Clark, the long time treasurer of the United States, sent the government a personal check for ten dollars to cover the missing funds.
The rumor went away. In this time of resurging election rhetoric how many more rumors would go away if all of us did more checking and less gossip?

Thursday, April 26, 2012


April is poetry month.

President John F. Kenned talked about poetry at the dedication of the Robert Frost Library. He said:

“When power leads man towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitation. When power narrows the areas of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. For art establishes the basic human truth which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment.”

I would add to that…

Poetry precipitates emotion into words.

Poetry embraces the perceived pain of life and breaks it down into soft images of understanding and it takes the joy of life and transcends it into a sustaining ecstasy of imagination.

It amplifies the tiny specks of grace from the minutia of things beautiful and allows us to be it, if only for the moment of appreciation.

Poetry clarifies and sometimes condemns. It magnifies the inner magic of feelings and encourages the soul to rejoice in the shared awareness of another’s insight and makes it our own.

Poetry laughs and cries and brings the sensual into an undulating body of words and it holds sometimes forever, an emotion long past, a desire forgotten, a wish remembered or a splendor that’s vanished in the illusion of time.

Poetry is a link to the Divine within each of us and to the demons of our imagination. It allows introspection without pity and effacement without fear of obscurity.

It is intellect and spirit wedded in the sacredness of creation. I believe it is agape love at the purest verbal level.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


I had dinner last night with good friends. We have been close for over thirty years and continue to enjoy each other's company. Driving home reminded me of a poem I wrote about their teahouse. A structure they built just to enjoy the solitude of any moment. It's just a short step from their home in the mountains. 

In the spring and summer when the windows of the tiny teahouse are open you can hear the water ripple from a near-by stream as it rambles over rock and rill. Everyone who visits the teahouse takes away a little piece of peace that stays with them forever.

The Teahouse of the Summer Sun
© 2012 Rolland G. Smith

Beyond the thought of standing still
And wondering what’s held within.
A teahouse blessed by heaven’s trill
Allows the prayerful to begin.

Young trees stand sentry to this place
To grace love’s presence everywhere.
Especially in shadowed lace
When setting sun releases care.

The teahouse is a place of proof
for souls who’ve gone and those who stay.
It blends beneath its raftered roof
A place to think and one to pray.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Whispering Tulips

Good Morning,

Another wonderful lesson from nature. It is amazing what she says to us if we but listen this day after Earth Day.

Tulips Talk
© 2012 Rolland G. Smith

Earthday brings poetic thoughts of
Many things I've seen yet shoved
Aside this week waiting spring.
With colored grace that flowers bring.
A single Tulip near my porch
Ascends alone as crimson torch
To be the one by teaching all
That it sustained long past the fall.
I read its thoughts within the red
And vowed to spread the message said:
It matters not where you abide
As long as you subside your pride
And be your light upon the earth
As blessed within God’s love and mirth.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Prayer Flags

I have a three-acre meadow that sits about five stories below my house. I often write about mowing the meadow, but this post is about what's in the meadow. 

My house sits on a ridge and commands a grand view of the meadow far below. A pond is the lower border of the sloping meadow grasses.

In the upper part of the meadow, as you can see in the picture, there is a large protruding rock about five feet long and three feet wide at its center.

Years ago, I knew there was nothing I could do to remove the rock, so I hired a rock cutter to drill three eight inch deep holes in the rock and in them I placed three metal pipes. One was eighteen feet long, another sixteen feet and the third fourteen feet. On each pole I tie Buddhist prayer flags and let them fly in the wind for a couple of years.

I have always loved the idea of the Buddhist prayer flags. They are very gossamer silk-like tiny square flags of brilliant primary colors. There is a prayer imprinted on the flag. The prayer comes from the Indian Buddhist Sutras. They bless the surrounding countryside and promote peace, compassion, strength and wisdom

The idea, as I understand it, is that when the wind blows tiny fibers of the flag fly off on the wind and carry the prayer and blessing to all those in the path of the wind. The tiny fibers do fly off for I do have to replace the flags every few years. I just did hence the brilliant colors.

I hope just writing about the flags and showing you a picture that the prayer embraces you on the ethereal wind of cyberspace. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Ted Nugent

Ted Nugent!

Ted Nugent! If you are listening and supporting him and his alter ego Glen Beck you may be a closet bigot. His recent inflammatory political comments against President Obama and others have earned him an appointment with the Secret Service.

This guy and all those like him are provocateurs. They say things to stir up the latent prejudices inherent in the human mind.

Since narrow-minded people are unable to contain their hatreds they encourage others to join them; it validates their prejudice. History is filled with megalomaniacs who only see an ideology of their own making and eliminate any opposition. 

Nugent hides behind the legitimacy of the NRA. He lurks in the shadows of extreme conservatism.  He keeps his ego active in subpar and mindless television shows. Homer Simpson twice endorsed him for president. What does that tell you?

Thirty years ago Nugent was consider a heavy metal rock star. Today he is a braggart, a bigot, a bore and a subject for the Secret Service to watch.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dick Clark

When people become icons of their persona their individuality dims and the desire to be what people think you are surfaces as the norm. I think that happened to Dick Clark as he entered old age. Dick Clark died yesterday at the age of 82. The reports say it was a massive heart attack. In his later years Clark did everything he could to maintain the youthful image of his Bandstand days.

Clark has been billed as America's oldest teenager. He certainly worked hard to keep that image through the years and successfully parlayed that moniker into a long-standing career as a host and producer of successful television programs.

American Bandstand was his first and certainly the longest lasting.

If you are of a certain age today and someone mentions, "dance party," Dick Clark's name flashes on the mind screen of memory. There were others, of course, like Wink Martindale and Rolland Smith (did I mention that I once hosted a television dance party programfortunately that's forgotten by all, but me,) but Clark was the national headliner.

Many of us who watched him host New Years Eve television celebrations in recent years were saddened at his performances and tried to understand why he couldn't let go of the iconic persona and retire. He did suffer the effects of what is called a mild stroke in 1994.

Perhaps his attempt at youthful immortality is a lesson for all of us.

Requiescat in Pace Dick Clark you are now forever youthful and you shared your earthly enthusiasm of that with so many that you are respectfully remembered with youthful memories.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Government stealing

By Associated Press

"WASHINGTON — The main figure in a General Services Administration spending scandal took trips to Hawaii, Napa Valley and the South Pacific islands, all after the agency’s inspector general warned top officials about the excesses.
A timeline released by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Tuesday shows that GSA executive Jeffrey Neely took five trips totaling 44 days, including a 17-day trip to Hawaii, Guam and Saipan that he and his wife planned as a birthday celebration."
What is it about being an employee of the federal government that let’s some people think they can use their Government credit card for personal purchases?

It’s a big story in the news today. Millions of dollars worth of purchases using Uncle Sam’s credit cards did not follow proper procedures.

I’m appalled. I’m angry. That’s my money and your money that some federal worker think it is their money simply because they are employed by the government. In my book that’s stealing, it’s embezzling and all who did it should be fired and prosecuted.

I suppose some federal employees think it’s OK to use the “company card” because many members of the House and Senate do the same thing with earmarked funds, better known as “pork barrel spending”. It’s really not much different than unauthorized spending. "Pork" spending has got to stop too.

Frankly, I’m tired of the waste and my lever in the voting booth will show it.

Monday, April 16, 2012

New York City

I had to be in New York City yesterday. I am in Manhattan for an overnight stay in order to work on a documentary project this morning.

Usually I come in this city of window stacks and cobbled cracks earlier in the morning and I am out by the evening rush hour. This time I came in at the evening rush hour and what a difference.

Just getting off the train and heading to the subway line I needed was an obstacle and an ordeal I had not anticipated. People, people everywhere. They moved in front of me, crossed sideways, diagonally and always rushing to bus or train or appointments. No one says excuse me. No one gives way. I hate to say it, but rudeness has become the rush hour norm.

At first I was mumbling and silently complaining and criticizing every encounter, but then I finally said to myself, relax, what you are seeing is finite life in action. Enjoy the experience and participate in it with joy and unconditional expectation.

It made the world of difference in my walking journey of several blocks. I finally enjoyed the languages I heard, two of which I could not recognize. I smiled at the stoppages, the red lights, the taxi's who tooted impatiently at all of us walking across the street.

I embraced all those who moved so close to me they interrupted my aura with a nudge or a jolt. It was humanity at its busiest. It was God in expression.

Spring's spring

There is something spiritual about the spring season.

It’s a celebrating renewal and rebirth for many religious communities and disciplines, and it's a regenerating time for all of nature.

I mowed my meadow for the first time this spring. Some of the old leaves from last fall are still embedded in the tan and matted grasses tinged with new green. The leaves are now a deep brown and black in color.

They are withered and drained of their nutrients in order to nurture renewed growth and new life from the seeding winter winds. The Lichen on the rocks and trees seemed a bit greener in its grayish demeanor. I know that Lichen florets grow more slowly than Pluto orbits the sun, but this day, only to my observation, there seemed a burst of colored growth in their crocheted stillness.

All over the three acre meadow there were fallen limbs and branches pruned by the cutting winter winds and the gusting breezes of spring. I stopped to push and drag them aside. At a pond I looked for signs of small fish, turtles, tadpoles, and water bugs, but I could only see an occasional gas bubble from the decaying leaves underneath the surface.

Besides the trickling stream that fills the pond most of the year, there is a side spring that drains its underground flow into the pond and there in the middle of the crystal spring was the bright green of growth; a patch of Watercress about the size of a barrel top.

It got an early start from the warmer spring waters surging from deep underground. In many ways we are like the watercress plant. We are warmed by deep spiritual waters from an inner Source and we grow despite the outward climate or birth conditions and our only nutrient is the unconditionality of love.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Trash and Treasure

Sometimes casual conversations provide an unexpected treasure.

A number of years ago I was a known public figure by virtue of being a local television anchorman in a large metropolitan market.

I was on the air delivering the news each weeknight at six o’clock and eleven O’clock and did so for many years.

On weekends, I would choose to get away to the mountains for relaxation in a reclusive environment. Sometimes my family would join me and other times I would go alone.

Late one Friday night after a newscast I drove alone to a mountain cabin, I stopped at a roadside tavern to pick up a six-pack of beer. I ordered the beer and said to the bartender I’d have a short one since I was only a few miles from my destination.

As he poured a small glass of draft with a creamy bead on it the guy next to me said, “I know who you are”. I introduced myself and said, “thank you for tuning in from time to time.”

He said, “You have an interesting job.” I agreed with him. Then he said, “I do too.”

“What do you do?” I asked.

“I’m a garbage man.” He replied. Before I could say anything, he continued. “ I see more wonders of nature hanging off the back of a garbage truck than most people see in a lifetime.”

I listened with wonder and attention as I sipped my beer.

He said, “You know, there is one spot in all these beautiful mountains where you can see seven mountain tops from one spot. Not very many people know where that is. I’ll show you sometime if you’d like?”

I said, “ I would.”

We never did connect again. I’m sorry we didn’t for I would like to have known this fellow a lot better.
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