Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Ideal

A tragedy the magnitude of 9/11, the continuing war and subsequent deaths of our young in Afghanistan, and the economic hardships of a recession and unemployment can force a tolerant democracy into becomming a society of contentious non-compromising ideologues.

Dangerously passionate certainties, wherever you find them, in politics, in business, in our neighborhoods and even in our families, are always constricting. 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.

Monday, July 30, 2012


I'm not sure it's the smartest thing to do in July, but I've spent the last few days visiting relatives in Florida. Fine food, good conversations and overall comfort has made the trip enjoyable.

One experience which I would do over and over again is Kayaking the Chassahowitzka river located about an hour north of Tampa. It is a spring fed river. The put in point is at Seven Sisters Spring and you can navigate to the Gulf if you choose to do so. Manatees and Dolphins live and play in the constant 72-degree water. The water is mirror clear and I could see schools of fish flashing by my Kayak as I paddled in and out of tiny tributaries on Haird Creek some of them no more than four feet wide.

Silence was the ambient sound along with the occasional call of birds and critters; just the dip of my paddle broke the overall peace.

I tasted the political climate of conservative Florida along with dollar beers at a local watering hole. A sign on the paint-peeling door of the shack-like establishment set the tone. "Smoking is permitted." The barmaid was bubbly, busy and friendly as I got introduced around to some of the regulars.

Some other observations about Florida.

The tap water never runs cold.
Most highways are straighter than Mitt Romney in a starched tuxedo.
People are ignorant of global politics or care less.
Nobody plays golf after ten in the morning accept northern idiots.
Fine Restaurants are few and far between, but when you find one its busy.
People my age live here because it's cheap, warm and comfortable.
Watch out for drivers than can't turn their necks to back up.

Would I come back in July? Yes.
Could I live here someday? Yes.
Did I enjoy myself? Yes.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Telling the Boss

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.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Declaration of War?

There are times in history when conflict prevails and then in time all seems to be fine.

Maybe before any country declares war we should pause and think and wait and wait some more.

Why? Every war in which the United States has found itself engaged has ended in victory or a stalemate, but in time we become friends. This is probably true for most war proclamations throughout history

Back in 1982 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.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Laughter at Home

I’m wondering that when friends get together in different cultures do they laugh and kid and tease as we do in our American culture? Is it the same in social Jewish, Islamic, and Asian cultures?

I wonder, if in the other cultures, when friends get together do they tell the stories of old laughs or new jokes or even the old personal funny experiences that most had heard before, but because of the raconteur it is asked to be told again and again?

I think laughter is the universal connector to the commonality of the human spirit.

 I wish we could talk about the serious issues of needed global cooperation within a spirit of humor or an allegorical story that engenders a smile from an opposing or concretized component.

Individual homes are the genesis and oasis of laughter when friends get together. My home this past weekend was a perfect example. The combination of ten people for a dinner party, most of whom did not know the other, was a perfect combination for cultural amalgamation.

I acknowledge that I am fortunate to know a diverse number of people, many of whom I call friends.

I also acknowledge that shared laughter is not always a catalyst for understanding or even an avenue of adjudication for complex issues.

Laughter is only the beginning of understanding. It is only the icebreaker of frozen thought and potentially the warmth of possibilities.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Dilemma of Juxtaposition

Are we not aware of what’s going on? Are the recent headlines not enough to let us pause and reflect? Are we only voyeurs of tragedy or can we learn from the experience?

The Aurora, Colorado tragedy is not only another wake up call for a collective discussion on the control of assault weapons, it is a profound sadness that innocent death is the determinant of that discussion.

The television news juxtaposition of the theatre shooter James Holmes bewildered appearance in a Denver area courtroom with his cartoon colored orange hair and the bulletin announcement that astronaut Sally Ride died of Pancreatic cancer at the age of 61 is a dichotomy of emotions and information.

Sally Ride, the first female space shuttle astronaut, passed after a long battle with cancer.

Twelve innocents passed hours before because of a deranged individual who could not see a future without a personal statement of indiscriminant slaughter.

Sally Ride’s life was an inspiration to millions of young girls to study science and engineering.

James Holmes’ life choices are not examples, but an omen of social omission where society has yet to learn to identify the behavioral aborations of a misfit.

Requiescat in Pace Sally Ride and thank you for the example of intellectual and physical courage.

Requiescat in Pace you twelve theatregoers. Hopefully your lives will precipitate a needed catalyst of thought.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Olympics

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, July 20, 2012

What to do?

It’s Friday and usually I like to do poetry on Friday, but I did that yesterday so now I am stuck.
Ah…what to do?

I could get political and condemn the Russians and Chinese for vetoing the Security Council Resolution to intervene in Syria.

It doesn’t matter to the Russians and to the Chinese that thousands of innocent people are dying because they ( Russia and China )  have political interest with the Assad regime. If there is a karmic responsibility for countries then Russia and China you are in deep kimchi. It’s not my judgment, it’s your own. What you sow so also you reap.

I could also go to the gentler side of thoughts today and talk about the sunflower plants along the garden perimeter. There are nine plants that are nearly five feet tall. The tiniest plant, only about three feet tall already has a yellow flower to adorn its head. The rest, the big guys, are still working on it.

The old adage that the tiniest birds sing the prettiest songs seems to correlate into the tiniest plants have the prettiest flowers.

Never mind…poetry it is. This comes from a 2009 photograph from my Canadian photographer friend Claude Charlebois. It is a single tree on a dark landscape bathed in the only sunlight beams around. 

This is what I wrote when I saw the photo.

The Voice
© 2009 Rolland G. Smith

I heard a voice the other day
It simply said, “I love my trees.”
The sky had clouds in swirled gray
With beams of light that bent my knees.

I listened more to what was said:
“My trees are friends and teachers too
They are the key and spirit thread
To prove that life will all renew.

Tell all of those who wish to know
The love and light of Source Supreme,
The lesson from my trees will show
The Truth is clearer than your dream."

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Age of Light

The Age of Light
© 2012 Rolland G. Smith

I am the now among the light,
But daily play in planet’s night
Where souls oft gasp a wonder’s breath
When learning light is never death.

But we all dwell in moment’s time
For matter needs its finite rhyme,
Yet when we shed our form and thought
The mind can never be distraught.

There is a balance ‘tween the two
In order for the spirit true
To keep the Logos and the soul
From being separate from the whole.

How does that fit with dogma’s trick
Where many souls now see as slick?
It doesn’t fit so do not try;
A freeing mind lets spirit fly.

Not all the words of old are wrong
But light creates a different song.
Old tunes have truth as new ones do
But only one brings what is new.

Aquarius we call this age
Where knowing beings set the stage
For all of us to be the play
In lighted garments all array.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Jeanne Calment

Fifteen 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.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dry and Drought

Our farmer friends in the midwest and elsewhere are the prime recipients of the hot and drought conditions moving across the plains. Those of us who have never farmed or ranched cannot know the wrenching pain of losing a season's crop. Years ago, in another drought, I tried to image that loss and I emphathetically wrote Season of the Dry. Here is a portion of it as it appeared in my book "Encore - The Poetry of Nature".

Season of the Dry

“They’ll die some more today,” he said, hitching up his overalls.
The dry steals life, leaf by leaf, when green bows to beige.
“Does the green go where it’s wet?” he wondered,
“Is heaven wet and green?
Maybe it will rain today,” he thought,
and shook his head in disbelief at the season of the dry.

He stepped out on the porch and looked upon the field:
weakened stalks of corn, in amber tilting wilt,
a bending supplication to the sun.
A momentary tear welled within his eye,
but passed just as quickly in the scorching dry.

“I’ll be with the corn,” he said, moving down the path.
Sarah watched him go, slowly, reverent, to the corn,
like walking to a coffin respectful of the dead.

She knew his heart was saddened, his step told her that.
Each seed, each kernel, a part of him, a planted child,
no given name, but Corn, yet nurtured, and loved,
even as the end came creeping in the season of the dry.

He moved, stepping gently, tender, softly between the rows,
his hands on either side, outstretched in touch,
feeling for the green of life suckled deep within each stalk
protecting root and source
from the searing, barren crust.

“The rain must come,” he said, “to end the season of the dry.”
Then he stood in middle field, surrounded by a leafy wail.
Each plant had spots and withered wrinkles,
long below their time,
each holding to an expectation and reservoir of hope,
waiting for the irrigation that nature’s spirit springs
upon a season of the dry. When all that’s left is trust.

It might have been the heat or maybe something else,
but soon the farmer’s weathered heart
became the mendicant, pleading to a sentient earth,
“Let the water flow.
I know there is some moisture here, some hiding healing rain,
so needed in this parching scorch in the season of the dry.”

Corn and weed cannot compete,” he thought,
“weakness saps their strength.
They find a way to die together, in the season of the dry.”

Standing there, his waist above the waste, he sobbed.
No one could see his tears, nor his heaving sigh.
“Farmers aren’t supposed to cry,” he thought,
“just sow and reap, not weep.

If it doesn’t rain tomorrow, I’ll have to plow them under, deep,
underneath the dry.”

Later, coming home, he stopped, to find a masking smile.
“Sarah needn’t know,” he thought, only that he’d paid respects
to the corn he’d hoped to grow, before it went to ground.
She watched him through the screen and opening the door,
she smiled faintly in return, as she kissed him on the cheek
and wiped away a telling streak from the season of the dry.

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