Friday, October 27, 2017

My “Katydid”

“My life is blessed.  I have held my children’s children.” (Jeremy Taylor)

Like Tevye, in the musical,  Fiddler on the Roof,  I find myself thinking this morning about how “swiftly flow the years, one season following another.” (Sunrise, Sunset) “Is this the little girl I carried?” he wonders, and then asks, “When did she get to be a beauty?  I don’t remember growing older.  When did she?” 

It seems like only yesterday that I first held “Katydid” in my arms, watched her take her first steps, celebrated her birthdays, helped her capture lightning bugs in the back yard and catch toads in the flowerbeds around the house.  She loved to climb trees, too.  Maybe that’s why I began calling my granddaughter Katie, “Katydid!”

All of a sudden, Katydid was a college student.  “How can this be?” I remember thinking at the time, and then,  by the time I got that reality down, Katydid graduated and went off a’traveling around this great big world of ours.   

Her adventurous spirit took her to many places and her Grandad followed her every step of the way with awe and wonder.  Then she went to France to teach for a year.  That is when something new happened.  It happened in Paris, that city of romantic fame.  Katie met Liam and Liam (who is from the United Kingdom and was also teaching in France that year) met Katie. 

On Sunday, Katie and Liam will be wed.  Grandad will officiate.  How swiftly flow the years!  When did she get to be a beauty?  I don’t remember growing older?  When did she?

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Psychological Projection

The human story in the Bible begins with psychological projections:  Adam (Every Man) says, “The woman you gave me made me do it!”  Eve (Mother of all Living) says, “It wasn’t me, it was the serpent who urged me to do it.”  Placing blame on another for one’s own actions, thoughts and  feelings has gone on for a long, long time.  This malady seems to be inherent in our psychological make-up.  Therefore, we can logically project it all on God for making us this way in the first place!  Note that Adam is very precise in placing the blame—“The woman YOU gave me.”

From early childhood we have this propensity to project the blame on to someone else rather than ourselves.  “Johnny started it.”  “Sarah made me do it.”  “It wasn’t my fault.”  Even in adulthood we continue to cast blame on others for everything in us that we do not want to own.  This shadow self exists in all of us.  We refuse to face this darkness  (responsibility, mistakes, behavior, failures, thoughts and feelings) within ourselves and automatically project them outwardly on others around us. We do this individually as Adam and Eve, and we do it collectively as communities and nations.  

If there is a lazy streak in me I sure don’t want to admit it and I don’t want you to know it.  Therefore, I’ll cast this  “laziness shadow” (what I don’t want to face in myself) on somebody else or some other group that I don’t like: “those people are born lazy!”  What have I done?  I have made this other group the carrier of my projection (my shadow). 

After tweeting many derogatory, uncivil, and callous remarks, Mr. Trump was asked if he shouldn’t be more civil.  He, in turn, accused the “fake” press of making him “more uncivil than I am.”  “We cannot stand the sight of our dark side,” writes Charles B. Hanna, "so we repress it, push it under, thinking we have thereby disposed of it.  But we have not.  We have simply pushed it into a place where it both has us in its grip and automatically projects itself on the person or the nation we do not like…”  We (Adam and Eve) were born with this malady.   While Mr. Trump blames the press for his uncivil comments, I think I’ll just blame God for mine. That way I won’t have to examine myself and face my own shadow.

Goosenecks State Park, Utah

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

"Yes, We Can"

Do human beings have a divine origin?  I’ve always believed so, in spite of all our rough edges.  Those edges are mighty ugly and mean, even evil sometimes, but deep down inside we have the potential of becoming more fully human.  We have the mental and spiritual capacity to “make” a better world for ourselves and for future generations.  Yet, observing our present dilemmas, I sometimes think with Oscar Wilde, that, “God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.” 

Rufus Jones in his book, New Eyes for Invisibles, records an old legend of Creation which tells “how all the tiny seeds of life came up before God and He let them choose what they would like to be.  One wanted fins so that he could swim the seas.  Most of the surface of the world was water and he wanted to be in it.  Another one wanted wings, for there was even more air than water and he wanted to be in the air.  A third wanted a powerful mouth and swift feet, so that he could catch and eat plenty of food.  God made him a lion.  One tiny seed came near being overlooked, he was so quiet.  ‘Well, little fellow,’ God said, ‘what would you like to be?’  ‘I don’t  want fins,’ this tiny seed said.  ‘And I don’t want wings, nor crushing weapons in my mouth, like the lion.  Just let me be made in your image.  Then I can make the things I need for the water and the air and the earth.’  So God made man in His own image.”

If you don’t get the gist of it the first time, read it again.  


“Man is the only creature who refuses to be what he is.” (Albert Camus)

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Many Serve to Keep Us Free

Two or three days ago, a Facebook friend (a veteran) posted words written by her friend,  Robert Hale (a veteran).  I (a veteran) think Robert makes an important statement.  I remember and personally experienced a time when being in military service was not seen as very honorable (Vietnam era).  The pendulum has swung—as pendulums are supposed to do, but we must not allow it to get stuck.  Contrary to the popular mantra, our freedoms have been won and sustained, not by our military, but, as Robert rightly says, by teachers, politicians, and factory workers, who also serve.    

“We've created the illusion that military service is nobler, more honorable, than the other forms of service people are engaged in every day. Everything has become about owing the military for our freedom, it is right to render gratitude but to say these are our heroes, exclusively, is to under appreciate the buttresses of strength and patriotic service rendered by our teachers, judges, politicians, engineers, homemakers, and all other Americans who go about their lives doing the right thing. As a military veteran I am not so full of myself and my experience as to believe I am better than any other fellow citizen. I chose one way to serve, others choose other vocations but the expression is the same. Don't put us any higher on a pedestal than you do the teachers and nurses and civil rights workers... we may have earned your gratitude, but so have countless others.” (Robert Hale)

Monday, October 23, 2017

Our Destiny

Jesus quoted from the Book of Deuteronomy more than any other book of the Old Testament. The book was written and then hidden away in the temple. I don’t know why.  Hilkiah found it there in 621 BC.  It was a great find, because it created a new spiritual awakening among the Jewish people. The book reviewed the way God had led His people in the past, especially their deliverance from bondage (slavery in Egypt), their wilderness wanderings and the life and death of their leader Moses.  The people were instructed to write this story on their doorposts and on their gates so that they might never forget it.  The author of  Deuteronomy put it this way, “He hath brought us out that He might bring us in.” 

This story of the Exodus and the wilderness journey to the Promised Land is a parable of our human life—“the going out and the coming in.”  I believe that we have come out from God and if that is so, then there is real significance in the saying:  “He brought us out that He might bring us in.” Something came to be with our arrival on the world scene that wasn’t there before.  We are human beings.  We are, at the very least, potential spiritual beings. I do not accept the prevailing idea that our kind of life can be explained by a natural biological origin.  It doesn’t matter whether we were created on the fifth or sixth day by some divine fiat, or are the result of a mutation in the long process of evolution.   What matters is that we are here now—with intelligence, creativity and spiritual capacity, and that we were made for fellowship with the “Love at the heart of all things” from whom we have come.  “He hath brought us out that He might bring us in.”  Let us write this on our doorposts and on our gates, lest we forget from whence we have come and all that we are yet meant to be.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

"This Little Light of Mine"

I know that my rants and ravings in recent months may seem to some as more political than religious, more partisan than unbiased, more critical than complimentary, and more judgmental and disparaging than charitable.  Shouldn’t I (as a Christian) be more charitable and less critical? Dare I make judgments or criticize?  Doesn’t my ranting go against the teachings of the One I claim as Master of my life?  Did he not say:  judge not,…love one another…be gentle, and turn the other cheek? Indeed, these are some of his teachings, but there is much more to the Judeo-Christian faith than this and of much greater importance.    Embedded in the whole fabric of the Judeo-Christian faith is “the overthrow of the existing order.”  Our world is organized in a selfish way completely contrary to God’s way.  People of faith are to be a light penetrating this darkness; a word of justice penetrating all unjust social arrangements; a word of judgment against whatever undermines the “fulfillment of humanity.”  With “this little light of mine” I am attempting, in my small way, to penetrate the present darkness, while it is day.  

Mahatma Gandhi said, “My politics is my religion, my religion my politics.”  So it is with me!  My religion is an empty thing if it does not speak words of judgement and seek to overthrow the existing order.  My politics is an empty thing if it does not bear the marks of my religious faith and commitment. 

The light goes on shining in the darkness
 and the darkness does not put it out."

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Democracy vs Theocracy

Our nation is characterized by a diversity of religious beliefs and practices as well as by many who profess no religion at all.  We are religiously pluralistic and have been since our beginning.  Catholics, Anglicans, Protestants, Orthodox Christians, Jews, and Atheists have lived here since colonial days.  Before we showed up, Native Americans had their own unique religious beliefs.  Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Latter Day Saints, Christian Scientists, Pentecostalism, Unitarianism, and Scientology emerged in the last century here in the US.  Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, and other world religions are also present in our American society.  Protestantism, historically dominant, is no longer the religious majority in our nation. 

Any citizen, of any religion, or with none at all, should be extremely grateful for the opportunity to live in this country where democracy (“government of the people, by the people, for the people”) exists and where freedom of religion and equality, and certain unalienable human rights can be exercised.  Imagine what it would be like if we were a Theocracy?  A theocracy is a government wherein we would be bound to accept the decisions made by religious leaders, perhaps Methodist, or Baptist, or Jewish, or Orthodox, or Hindu, or Buddhist.  We would be subjected to whatever those religious leaders decided were God’s rules.  (A close encounter with theocracy can be seen in the Supreme Court ruling concerning “Hobby Lobby”).  

Democracy, by its very definition, accepts all forms of diversity, including religious diversity (a government of the people, by the people, for the people—all the people, religious and non-religious).  In a democracy my religious point of view counts, but so does the view of another’s religious persuasion.  My view cannot curtail the other’s expression, nor can my view deny the other’s equal rights as a citizen. Whenever one religion attempts to decide what God’s rules are for all other persons we are moving toward a theocracy and away from a democracy.  I much prefer a democracy.

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Biblical Coating

The Bible (God, religion, etc) has been misused and abused in the past and continues to be manipulated today to fit or support whatever cause we want it to fit or support.  If we can co-opt Holy Writ to fit our particular stance, use it as a veneer for our cause, that cause becomes readily acceptable by those who revere the Book (God, religion, etc.).  Historical evidence from what is now known in our American history as the era of “Coolidge Prosperity” in the early decades of the twentieth century demonstrates this misuse, abuse, and manipulation of Holy Writ. The overarching idea in America at that time was simply this: whatever was good for business helped prosperity and prosperity was good for the country.

How was business and prosperity given its sacred veneer? It was supported by getting a helping hand from the Bible (just as the Bible has been used to support human slavery, the place of women in the world, and a host of other less than sacred ideas). The Metropolitan Casualty Insurance Company distributed a pamphlet on Moses, Persuader of Men.  The pamphlet suggested that, “Moses was one of the greatest salesmen and real-estate promoters that ever lived.”  He was a “Dominant, Fearless, and Successful Personality” engaged in one of “the most magnificent selling campaigns that history ever placed on its pages.”  The best-selling non-fiction book of the time, The Man Nobody Knows, written by Bruce Barton, announced Jesus not only as “the most popular dinner guest in Jerusalem,”  but also a great executive. “He picked up twelve men from the bottom ranks of business and forged them into an organization that conquered the world…Nowhere is there such a startling example of executive success as the way in which that organization was brought together.”  Jesus’ parables were “the most powerful advertisements of all time.”  In fact, Barton declared, Jesus was “the founder of modern business.”  This Gospel According to Bruce Barton made “business” the national religion of America.  Making “big money” was right and proper under all the law and the prophets. And behold, men like Carnegie, Ford, Rockefeller, and Mellon and all businessmen, for that matter, big and small, wore their halos and became the saints of the time. 

The Bible (God, religion) is still misused and abused today.  When we hear an alleged Christian evangelist  say that the 2016 election was God acting “to stop the godless, atheistic progressive agenda from taking control of our country,” how can we possibly think Russia might have had something to do with it?

Grand Tetons

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Stay Awake, America!

An anxious friend wrote yesterday, “I imagine you've heard of the Chinese satellite that's supposed to come crashing down on us.  Then there's the volcano in Yellowstone that's supposed to wipe out the entire planet.  Too much gloom, despair, and agony!”  I knew nothing about either of these so-called pending disasters. I had not heard anything, or seen anything, or read anything about them, and I’m an avid news person. How could  I have missed this kind of “breaking news?”  The Chinese space station story appeared on Fox News on October 16 [“Fears of catastrophe as runaway Chinese space station hurtles toward earth”]. The same story “Kaboom!  China’s runaway Tiangong-1 space station will crash to Earth within months, Harvard University astrophysicist warns…Anyone unlucky enough to be standing beneath the 'out of control' satellite could be in BIG trouble because parts of it might fall to Earth” appeared on October 13 in The Sun (UK) and in the US edition of The Guardian.  (YouTube also provided video input on the subject).  Compare with the Popular Science piece, “Don’t Freak Out About the Chinese Space Station,” written by Mary Beth Griggs (Oct 16).

The Yellowstone supervolcano story was reported on Fox News on October 12.  Compare the Fox News report [“Yellowstone supervolcano could blow faster than thought, destroy all of mankind”] with the report in the NY Times (Oct 10) and the National Geographic and some of the “shock” will wear off.

Another friend shared a link yesterday on Facebook that also caught my attention: “Poll:  Half of Americans Believe Media is fabricating stories about President Trump.”  The poll finds “half the voters surveyed think the media make up stories about President Trump and his administration.”  This poll was conducted after Trump tweeted last week: “Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked.  Not fair to the public!”  I was relieved (somewhat) that a majority of those surveyed (51%) were opposed to the government taking away the broadcast licenses of news organizations.  On the other hand, I was shocked that half of those surveyed believe the “fake news” allegations continuously regurgitated by the president.  I shouldn’t be surprised since Fox News Channel is “the most-watched cable news network—2.2 million viewers during prime time!” Mr. Trump never seems to suggest that Fox News is fake news (maybe he owns stock in the company) and he still can’t bring himself to believe the 17 US Intelligence agencies, all of which report that Russia interfered in the US 2016 election process.  

Are we so gullible?  Have we forgotten Hitler’s modus operandi:  “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.  Make the lie big,” he said, “make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.”

My "Worry Beads" (Komboloi) are getting a workout!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

“A Lump in the Throat”

“Poetry is what gets lost in translation,” according to Robert Frost, and the same might be said of religious faith.   Religious faith gets lost in its translations, because like poetry, it has always been wrapped up in such.  How does one talk about the Christian faith for example, without dealing with its translations, which include the institutional church, the Bible, ethics, rituals, dogmas, etc?  Whenever I begin to talk with someone about my religious faith, I find myself having to contend with its myriad translations rather than its essence.  The heart of my belief gets smothered by the other person’s feelings, thoughts, and experiences with the translations:  the church, the Bible, traditions, etc.  These “translations” become the focal point rather than the “faith” itself—thus, faith, like poetry is what gets lost in translation.

Something very similar has happened in recent days with “patriotism,” which is also a kind and form of faith.  Patriotism, too, is getting lost in the various translations now attempting to define it.  One can hardly talk about the essence of patriotism without getting hung up in the translations—flag, national anthem, disrespect of veterans, etc.  These translations are not what patriotism is, just as the translations about religious faith are not what faith is, and the translations of poetry are not what poetry is—the essence of all three get lost in the translations.

Robert Frost tries to get at the heart of what poetry really is by saying, “A poem begins as a lump in the throat…” and this applies as well to religious faith.  It, too, starts with a lump in the throat at the sight of a burning bush, a flock of geese flying overhead, a bud bursting forth into flower, or some other mystic experience in which one senses a “Love at the heart of all things” or Something or Someone beyond oneself.  Patriotism, too, begins with a lump in the throat as one ponders the American dream, “holding these truths to be self-evident: that all men (girls, boys, all people—not just here, but everywhere) are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain  unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  We have to get back to the “lump in the throat” and never let either poetry, religious faith, or patriotism be defined or get lost in the translations.

Stone Mountain, GA

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Letting Go

In the 13th chapter of the Gospel According to Luke, Jesus told his disciples this parable:  ‘A man had a fig-tree growing in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it, but found none.  So, he said to the vine-dresser, “Look here!  For the last three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig-tree without finding any.  Cut it down.  Why should it go on using up the soil?”  But he replied, “Leave it, sir, this one year while I dig around it and manure it.  And if it bears next season, well and good; if not, you shall have it down.”’

In April 2016 I wrote about my “sick” dogwood tree in the front lawn. “Shall I leave the dogwood tree one more year?  Why not?  Who knows, it just might get well if given proper care and attention.  Then, again, it may not.  We are often in a hurry to cut off a relationship gone sour, or a dogwood tree that has become sick.  Perhaps waiting and giving it (a relationship or a tree) a chance, it will bring about healing and health.”

Unfortunately the dogwood tree, infected by a blight, continued to deteriorate.  There wasn’t much I could do to bring it back to health.  A week ago I had the dogwood tree cut down!  Next spring will not be the same without its blossoms.  Now I must plant another laurel shrub to fill the gap the dogwood tree has left along the fence row.  Sometimes patient waiting doesn’t pay off.  Sometimes we just have to let things go.

“Letting go” is hard to do, whether it be letting go of a tree, a relationship, or a dream.  I suppose we all ask at one time or another, “Do I let go or do I hold on?”  Sometimes our heart wants to hold on, even when our mind says let go.  Ann Landers once wrote, “Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength.  However, there are times when it takes more strength to know when to let go and then do it.”  


Monday, October 16, 2017

Worry Beads

“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” (1960-1962) I witnessed an amazing phenomena on the Island of Crete.  I saw grown Greek men playing with beads as they sat sipping their coffee in tavernas along the streets in towns and villages all across the island. Never had I seen anything like it before.  Some of the men played with great flourish, flipping the beads and making them click against one another.  At first, I thought these beads were some kind of rosary or prayer rope, but then I learned that they had no religious purpose at all.  They were called worry beads and back then, used only by men.  The komboloi is a string of amber beads manipulated with one or two hands and used to pass the time, or just to keep your hands busy—it is a matter of worrying beads.  

In 1998, on the island of Nafplion, the Evangelinos’ family established the first and only Komboloi Museum in the world with the goal of spreading the knowledge and history of the traditional Greek komboloi.

My worry beads are now over fifty-five years old (and if they could speak, they could tell you a story of a lot of worries that have come and gone).  The amber beads have colored with age and the string is a bit frayed, but still, on occasion, I’ll take them out of my desk drawer and practice my “worrying” skills.  

Komboloi can be purchased online if you’d like to give the beads a whirl, a click, or a flip.  It is a good way of letting go of stress and worries.  I think I’m going to pull my old worry beads out of the desk drawer this morning and practice a bit.  Maybe it will help me deal with my frustrations with politics, religion, and all the other “stressors” I deal with every day.  

Sunday, October 15, 2017

New Beginnings

My solo trip ended yesterday when I arrived home safe and sound after five days on the road again.  Odysseus (my adventurous RV) carried me nearly 1,900 miles across western Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia.  The fall scenery was spectacular.  My visit with my grandson Austin at his college, with Mark and Norva in their peaceful valley home in West Virginia, and with Bill and Patience in Paducah, Kentucky were special moments.  I return home with a deep sense of gratitude for the gift of grandchildren and special long-time friends.

Carl Sandburg ends his poem “Falltime” with this line: “Is there something finished? And some new beginning on the way?”  Yes, my solo road trip may be finished, but there are some new “beginnings” on the way. My wife and granddaughter have been busy sewing a wedding dress while I’ve been away, preparing for Katie and Liam’s wedding day at the end of this month—a new beginning.  Excitement will fill the days ahead as we anticipate and prepare for this special moment in time.  

Autumn seems to ask with Sandburg, “Is there something finished?  And some new beginning on the way?”  These questions seem to speak to me this morning of our human journey—and the journey itself gives answers to the questions.  Yes, there are “finished” things—there are “endings” to the various chapters of life (childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, middle age, etc.) but always coming are the “new beginnings.”  The “Hymn of Promise” speaks to me of this wondrous mystery.

In the bulb there is a flower, in the seed, an apple tree;
in cocoons a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,
unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody;
there’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.
From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery,

unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

Snowdonia, Wales

Friday, October 13, 2017

A Different Path

I’m now on my way home after enjoying a day and a half with my friend Bill in Paducah, Kentucky, a brief visit with my friend Mark in West Virginia.  It didn’t make much sense to retrace the same roads by which I traveled to Paducah, so I am returning home another way.  This morning I left Paducah and traveled southeast on I-24 to Nashville, TN, and then I-40 across Tennessee to I-81 into Virginia.  Tomorrow I’ll continue on I-81 and eventually reach home in the late afternoon.

As I drove through Tennessee today I realized that I could have retraced my path because the return trip would be seen and felt differently than it was the first time. Heraclitus was right when he said, “No man ever steps into the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”  I could have retraced my journey—through Kentucky and West Virginia. I would not have found it the same as it was the first time around.  The foliage in West Virginia is probably more colorful now than it was a few days ago, and I would probably see things I didn’t see on the original trip. It would also be different because I’m not the same fellow who drove those highways a few days ago.  I’ve gained some new insights, some new thoughts, some new feelings while visiting my friends—I’m not the same person I was a few days ago.   

The most important reason for going from one place to another is to see what’s in between and to be changed and to grow from the experience.  I could have gone home the way I had come—but I chose to take a different path and have enjoyed it so far.  

Thursday, October 12, 2017

On The Road

Early this morning, while still a bit dark,  I left my friend Mark’s home traveling some very narrow West Virginia Mountain roads.  For the first few miles the road was empty of cars or trucks, but there was traffic of another kind.  I must have seen at least 30 deer in the road, along side the road, jumping across the road, or just gawking at me for being on the road and intruding into their space.  

I love traveling through the eastern mountains at any time of the day or year, but particularly in the early morning and in autumn.  To see the wisps of the mist (fog) in the crevices of the multi-colored hills is a real treat.  It almost makes one think that the clouds in the sky of yesterday have descended overnight to nestle, rest and sleep among the hills.  This sight always reminds me of my college years in West Virginia.  The gift of connection with relatives and friends is not the only gift given to the wanderer—for on the road, the wanderer is also given the gift of remembrance.

After a very long day on the road, I arrived in Paducah, Kentucky, to visit my friend Bill for a day or so.  Bill has a nice little space behind his studio reserved just for Odysseus and me—though he did say that the same space is also where he sets the garbage cans for pick up every Friday morning.  

Tired, though I was from the long drive of the day, I enjoyed a wonderful pasta dinner prepared by Bill—and of course, it only took a moment and a sip of wine for the two of us to pick up our conversation from where we left it the last time we were together.  I am grateful for the gift of friends while on the road, and while it is day.

The Wanderer

There is a “tonic” that helps with everything and anything that may ail you—or at least the tonic works for me—and that is to be on the road a’traveling. My first stop today was to visit and have lunch with my grandson, Austin, at his college in western Maryland.  I had promised a “visit and lunch” last year, but we were never able to make it happen.  I was determined to make it happen this year (after all, Austin isn’t going to be in college much longer!)

After an extended and very enjoyable lunch with Austin, I was on the road again, heading for my friend Mark’s home in “wild and wonderful West Virginia.”  The fall foliage is beautiful just now.  By late afternoon I had Odysseus (minature RV) parked in Mark’s driveway. We had a great visit together over dinner and on into the evening.

I am grateful for this day, for grandson Austin, and for my friends, Mark and Norva.  I am a happy wanderer—but a wanderer with purpose.  To connect with each other, whether grandson or friend, is one of the most important things we can do, both for ourselves and hopefully, for them.

Austin (R) & Nick (L) 2017

Austin (R) & Nick (L) "away back when..."

Monday, October 9, 2017


I don’t know why it is that religious groups (with good intentions) seem always to speak out on banning, forbidding, outlawing, and prohibiting things.  It seems to me that religion should speak more of encouragement than suppression, more of tolerance than intolerance, more of blessings than suppressions.  Be that as it may,  religious groups in the early 1800’s  considered alcohol (specifically drunkenness) a threat to the nation and pushed for Prohibition.  

The first temperance legislation occurred in Massachusetts in 1838, “Prohibiting the sale of spirits in less than 15-gallon quantities." Congress responded to these religious demands in 1920 by ratifying the 18th Amendment, prohibiting the manufacture, transportation and sale of intoxicating liquors (though not the consumption or private possession of such).  Prohibition was called “the noble experiment” by President Herbert Hoover, who wrote in 1928, “Our country has deliberately undertaken a great social and economic experiment, noble in motive and far-reaching in purpose.”  The New York World newspaper in 1931 took a different view:

Prohibition is an awful flop.
We like it.
It can’t stop what it’s meant to stop.
We like it.
It’s left a trail of graft and slime,
It’s filled our land with vice and crime,
It don’t prohibit worth a dime,
Nevertheless we’re for it. 

Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia
Prohibition didn’t stop what it was intended to stop.  Prohibition opened the door to bootlegging, gambling, prostitution,  gangs with “tommy guns”, Alphonse Capone, and the Mafia. Crime and disorder reached unprecedented levels  during the 1920’s—despite the fact that the Amendment was intended to do just the opposite.  Even Al Capone said, “Prohibition has made nothing but trouble,” and he made $60 million annually because of it!  

Prohibition is “the action of forbidding something, especially by law.”  Sometimes the “forbidding” creates “nothing but trouble.”

Sunday, October 8, 2017

What Do You See?

A friend told me the other day that he remembered something I said to him years ago and that had helped him in every situation in which he has found himself since.  I was eager to hear what it was I had said that he remembered and found so helpful.  He said I told him (nearly 45 years ago)   “worse things have happened than that which is happening now, and somehow we made it through, which is a sure sign that we can make it through the present dilemma no matter how difficult it may be.”  I don’t remember saying that, but he remembers.  We easily forget the words we have spoken, but the person to whom we spoke them may remember our words forever.  Be careful what you say. 

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know these “worse times” have, indeed, occurred in our lives and in the life of our nation and our world.  The simple exercise of “remembering” our own life journey or a casual glance at the history of our nation and the world will confirm this truth.  Worse times than that of our present time and circumstances have occurred, and we made it through.

It has to do with how we “see” things—the capacity to see a vision.  Each of us lives by some vision.  It may be a depressing vision (things are worse now than they have ever been).  It may be a limited vision (seeing only the present moment without being conscious of what has gone on before).  It may be a vision which sees everything falling to pieces or a vision which sees everything coming together.  Whatever the case, consciously or unconsciously, each of us live by some vision.  If it is a vision that sees nothing but disintegration and chaos, we will be fearful.  If it is a vision that can see that things have been worse and we made it through, then we will be filled with hope “that this, too, shall pass.” Hope is a form of faith and tends to produce what it sees.  Despair is a form of faith and tends to produce what it sees.  

“Worse things have happened than that which is happening now, and somehow we made it through, which is a sure sign that we can make it through the present dilemma no matter how difficult it may be.”  Our vision makes all the difference.  What do you see?  Do you see the world falling to pieces, or do you see the new possibilities growing out of the present moment? 

What do you see?  The tree or the Eiffel Tower?

Saturday, October 7, 2017


Yesterday I wrote that the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1919 and that was a MISTAKE.  It was not simply a typo—it was a mistake.  The Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918—one year before my mother was born, not one day after she was born.  What constitutes a mistake?  A “mistake” (noun) is “an action or judgment that is misguided or wrong,” an error, fault, inaccuracy, omission, slip, blunder, miscalculation, boo-boo.  When used as a verb, a mistake is simply  “to be wrong!”    I was wrong and inaccurate when I wrote that the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1919—and because of that boo-boo I shall probably always remember with great accuracy that the Armistice was signed in 1918.  Sometimes we learn from our mistakes, but not always.  

There is nothing wrong with making mistakes, but (as someone has written) we should try not to respond to them with encores.  George Bernard Shaw said it this way, “Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.”  To err is human.  Andy Rooney spoke of the “50-50-90 rule: anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there’s a 90% probability you’ll get it wrong.”  

When I retrace my journey of life, I become fully aware of how “mistaken” I have been about so many things along the way.  I’ve been wrong so many times.  I’ve goofed-up, miscalculated, slipped-up, blundered, and made many a boo-boo.  I am somewhat comforted by Dr. Seuss who wrote, “There are no mistakes in life—only lessons,” but somewhat disturbed by the fact that at times I didn’t catch on to the lesson.

We all make mistakes, but there are some who are unwilling to admit such blunders.  Some have a need to be right even when they are wrong.  This, too, is human, I suppose, but without confessing our mistakes, we never learn anything new.  The mistakes of the past unheeded, make for the same mistakes to be repeated.  Sometimes that is the price of the need to be right even when we are wrong.

Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

Friday, October 6, 2017

Triumphant Hate

My brother and his wife dropped by for a visit this week.  We’ve talked non-stop of family memories, school friends and neighbors of long ago, politics, social issues, travel experiences, and our own concerns, opinions,  and issues.  It has been special time, a special visit with John and Reola.

Our mother was born in the year 1919.  Reading Frederick Lewis Allen’s Only Yesterday for the umpteenth time (an account of what happened in the US between the years 1919-1929—the first ten years of our mother’s life), has been fascinating. 

On November 11, 1919 (our mother was born on November 10th) the Armistice ending World War I was signed.  Americans celebrated that day, some posting signs on their shops and stores which read “Closed for the Kaiser’s Funeral,”  Over 155 tons of ticker tape and torn paper were dropped from the windows along New York’s Fifth Avenue. The mood of the American people was mixed.  For some it was a “pious thanksgiving,” but for many others it was a time of “triumphant hate.”  Crowds gathered all across the nation to burn the Kaiser in effigy, or to carry a coffin (made of cardboard boxes) down the street, shouting that the Kaiser was within it, “resting in pieces.”  Over two million soldiers were still in Europe and in the trenches on that Armistice day, making ready for the march into Germany.  As the lights were turned back on, and American cities became “white” again, the new era of peace began—but it was a peace that seemed to embrace the “triumphant hate” more than it did the “pious thanksgiving.”

This “triumphant hate” grew out of many things. The influenza epidemic was just ending in 1919.  That epidemic took more American lives than the war itself.   Thousands of Americans went about in fear, with white cloth masks over their faces. Even after the Armistice was signed, the war casualty lists continued.  Mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters, read those lists day after day, in fearful apprehension that their son or brother’s name might yet appear even though the war was over.  There was a deep resentment about America being engaged and entangled in the affairs of the world—and most Americans simply wanted to be free of those connections for fear of getting entangled again.  Americans didn’t care about what happened elsewhere in the world.  There was a strong emphasis on “America First!”  This “triumphant hate” permeated the whole of American society during the decade recorded by Allen in Only YesterdayIn some ways, I sense a “triumphant hate” directing our current journey as a nation.  Does history repeat itself?  

Our mother (center) with siblings circa 1928