Monday, December 29, 2014

Vision

Why do some protests, no matter how large they grow, fail to be a catalyst for change, while others actually become a catalyst for change? The answer is Vision and collective intent.
A protest that is purely focused on being against something but has no vision of something better that can rally masses to focus on a collective intent, will not be sustainable. The impact will be much less because resistance absorbs much of the created energy. The focus is what already exists so all the energy goes toward what exists. Nothing new is being created. If nothing new is created - no vision of what should be - all that will remain when the protests are done is what already exists.
One of the greatest examples of a protest with an amazing vision is our own American Revolution. The colonies grew weary of the diversion of their growing wealth to the mother country - Britain. Great Britain, and most of the world, was then ruled by monarchies. Britain was a powerful empire. The odds of winning a war against this empire were zero.
One document changed the odds - the Declaration of Independence. It provided the colonists with a shared vision and intent. They focused on creating something totally new. The colonists began to fight for something instead of against something. Against all odds, we became a nation founded on the vision of this document - a document whose vision remains elusive in its fulfillment for all. We need to focus on the vision and continue to march toward its fulfillment.
Martin Luther King was a master at providing a vision. His "I have a Dream" speech captivated the hearts of millions in its eloquence and ability to create a shared vision. With that vision, millions had the stamina to chisel away at the injustices that prevented that vision from being reality.
If we want change - large or small - we first need a vision of what can be - what should be. Protesting alone will not succeed. That vision needs mass appeal in order to gain traction. We have to walk toward that vision as if no one is going to stop us. When there is resistance, we have to focus on the vision and not the resistance. March past it. The vision has to be something that lifts the masses.
As we enter into a new year, lets work on our vision. Choose something right in front of you and see it, believe it, feel it the way is should be. Walk in the light of knowing that it will be. See the resistance as a simple test of your commitment. Walk past it.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Just One Gift....

The years roll by. Sometimes it's all a blur and then there are memories etched in our mind.
Christmas is full of memories. To the young I say - treasure them - build them.
Once I asked Aunt Dorothy about her childhood memories of Christmas. One that stood out was at her Grandma Flemming's large Victorian home in Pittsburgh. It was 1933/4 - several years before my mother was born. She would have been about 9 years old and my Uncle John was just a few years older.  Despite the difficulties of the depression, the family was doing ok. They lived on the Southside of Oil City where my Grandparents had a little neighborhood grocery store. She and Uncle John walked to the Saturday afternoon show at the Latonia every week. They loved the cartoons and movies!
She described a very formal Christmas gathering at Grandma Flemming's house. While my grandparents were modestly successful, the Flemmings were part of the Steel Dynasty of Pittsburgh at that time. They had a huge Christmas tree, she said, that was nearly 2 stories tall. The children were gathered and each received one gift. Her gift was a Mickey Mouse watch. It was probably one of the first Mickey Mouse watches made.
Somewhere in my readings or watching historic programs I recall a statement that FDR may have influenced the kind of Christmas we now know. He was cited as having encouraged people to purchase one gift for loved ones during the depression as an economic stimulus. Prior to this, the tradition was to give home made Christmas gifts.  When I learned this, Aunt Dorothy's story came to mind. They received just one gift and the time was about right for having been inspired by FDR.
Above that, what is striking is that one gift - just one gift - can have meaning that transcends years and years. More than 60 years had passed when Aunt Dorothy told me that story. I believe, at the time, she was the last soul alive from that day in 1933 or 1934. She loved the cartoons and movies of the time. Now, years later, I hear a story about President Roosevelt and remember the story Aunt Dorothy told me about a Mickey Mouse watch she got for Christmas. So many stories of life are interconnected. A day - a memory - can bring us closer.
Let this day be one memory - one gift. It only takes one gift to transcend decades.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Joy of Furry Friends

Pets are so wonderful! They each have their own special little personalities. Each time one enters my life I think there will never be another to top this one. And then the next is just as wonderful in their own unique way.
Molly Mutt Paws is the one with the biggest heart and is the most sensitive. Together we worked through her fears and I didn't learn the likely source of them for years. When she started limping, an x-ray revealed she had pellets in her legs. She had been terribly afraid of children. Perhaps some youngsters.... With lots of love, she has shed her fears. She likes to have responsibilities and assumes them easily. She loves having lessons - sit, stay, up, down, walk slowly, one step.... She is the welcome wagon and the reliable signal of things out of sort like a broken water pipe in the night. The one thing she has never overcome from her young days as a stray is want of food. If it is in her range, she will eat it - whether it's good for her on not. Oddly, however, she often stands back if the cat, Mr. Jeepers, jumps ahead of her at her dish and steals a few bites. She's also respectful of Timid Tobey Sheltie's dish - even draining her own water bowl first, shying away from his unless hers remains empty too long. Her favorite toy is a deflated basketball but she loves stuffed animals too.
Little Timid Tobey is a happy little guy when the situation is familiar and routine. He was about a year old when he came to me and nothing seemed familiar or routine to him. Last summer he discovered his favorite place in the world - Pennwood! When we camp there, he is exuberant and confident - even chasing a bear about 20 times his size! He can guard a tree for hours making sure the squirrel stays in it. In a house full of people, he hides. In the woods, he wants to explore and is very reluctant to leave at the end of the weekend. He's grown into a willingness to learn and learns best by watching his hero Molly. He too has a big heart with a playful spirit. True to his breed, he tends to like to keep track of me. It took time but he learned to trust me and if he's on a leash he willingly follows, even into a room full of people that he'd never venture into alone. Tobey loves his cat friend, Mr. Jeepers. He prefers live friends over toys.
When Jeepers adopted the front porch as home, Tobey was first to actually touch him - nose to nose. It took weeks before I could get close to Jeepers but he kept showing up. He seemed only half tame and yet seemed just as determined to become part of the family. His first night in the house was most remarkable as he and Tobey acted like they were long lost friends - playing and teasing each other  with a gentle trust. Jeepers likes to escape sometimes and Tobey is quick to greet him upon return - knocking him down as if to say "Where have you been!" Jeepers just rolls over - "ok, ok." I still marvel that a cat I thought only half tame adapted so well inside. He will find one of the chairs and lay in a kingly half sleep and sometimes jump on the bed wanting a little attention but otherwise he is very respectful and independent. He seems mostly content with life. Sometimes he snuggles up next to Molly or Tobey. Once in a while he wants to be picked up and fussed with a bit but he's let me know he is NOT a lap kitty. Now I know if he talks to me, it's one of two reasons - he's hungry or he wants some attention. If he talks to me and I ignore him, he'll get under foot to make his point known.  He likes short hugs and fussing - and belly rubs when he lets you know by rolling over when you walk by.
I'm thankful for these furry friends and the joy in learning to understand them.


Friday, December 19, 2014

Your Dream....

What's your dream?
Often we become mired in the muck of life. There are realities and obligations. At moments we are lucky enough to live out a dream. Few of us live our dreams for long. Often we are waiting for the dream opportunity to land in front of us.
All of my life I have been a dreamer. I recall very early days when someone would say "I'm bored", and I would be stunned. I would respond, "we could do xx" or "let's do xx" and they would be "bored". Life is full of options and opportunities. How can we be bored?
As a dreamer, I tend to think a lot. If this happens, I can do that. If that happens, I can do this. Looking back I realize I've actually lived a lot of dreams. Some dreams lived out the way I thought they would or better than I thought they would. Some dreams didn't. But I lived them out. I lived them.
Still I dream. There are so many things I could be doing. So many things I would love to do. I dream. I even dream about how my end days might be. If this, then how could it be? If that, then how could it be? I dream.
Our possibilities are endless. As long as we live - as long as we dream - there is something.
For me, the dream is to touch a life somehow. If in all my days, I can touch a life and offer something that will pay forward, I will be living a dream.  To touch the life right in front of me, this moment, in this place, in this time and forever more - that is a dream.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Which Side are You?

What has become of the people who were assigned to perform our "enhanced interrogations'?
Can we really expect people to torture another human being for weeks - months - shoot food up their rectums, march them around naked with a hood, tie them up in "uncomfortable" positions, water board them, allow one to die of hyperthermia - and then go home and tuck the kids in and live a normal life? Do we really think that hardening someone enough to do these sorts of things has no effect on THEM? And shouldn't we question the psychological stability of people who approved this?
What has happened to our American psyche? Who have we become? Do we want to be known as being just as barbaric as those who attack us? Are we as blood thirsty as our enemies?
We know that mass murderers first learned to harden themselves to any empathy with their victims. Often they learned to torture helpless animals before escalating to torturing and killing humans. Now we tasked our own CIA people to torture humans. How is that going to turn out? Would you like to be alone with one of these agents? Would you like your son or daughter to marry one of them? Who wouldn't they be willing to torture if someone told them it was "necessary" or if they just decided on their own that it was "necessary"?
In war after war we see our soldiers return with terrible post traumatic stress. Their lives and the lives of those who love them are forever changed. And we keep sending them off expecting them to return and resume a normal life unaffected.
What has happened to our American psyche? Who have we become? War has become a normal state of affairs. And now we justify torture?
The same people who justify war and torture want us to be known as a "Christian" nation. Whoa! There is something very wrong here!!! We have a whole bunch of things backassward. Where is our basic intelligence? Where are our basic morals?
If we become hardened to war, hardened to torture as our cultural norm, we are doomed as a society. It won't matter what name we give it. America is turning about as anti-Christ as can be imagined. 
I remember well the feelings on the day and post 911. I am a veteran and served at the Survival School Headquarters where we trained people to survive being a POW. I heard many first hand stories of those held in captivity and treated brutally. This is not something I want sanctioned as an American way of doing things. It's not the country I proudly served.
It's deeply disturbing that many Anti-Christ activities are being promoted under a Christian banner. Millions of Americans are falling for it. Could you - would you - perpetrate torture on another human being? If you find yourself saying yes, please seek help. Our world needs you to be well. We won't get well until we have a world of people who understand why this is not the right thing to do.
We cannot kill one another off to get to that place of healing. We cannot torture one another to get to that place of healing. We have to heal one another. That is what Jesus taught.
If it is not about healing - if it is not about compassion - if it is not based in love - it is Anti-Christ.
Which side are you?


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The means to an end

During WW2 the British held some very high level POW's that they knew had significant information. They placed them in a very nice country manor, made them comfortable and allowed them to interact with one another. They provided their prisoners with information about the war. And they monitored them closely.
These Nazi prisoners talked to each other. They talked about things they knew. The British heard it all. That information paid off. That information was significant. There was no torture. There were no interrogations. They made these prisoners comfortable and let them be. They knew they were prisoners. They knew they were watched. It was most natural, over the course of time, that they would talk to each other. And they did.
The end does not justify the means. And the means does not guarantee an end. There are long term consequences for the things we do. There is a path that has a better end. "Do unto others..."
If we adopt a culture of no limits, we will experience a pain of no limits.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Need to put on the little pants...

The spiritual teacher Pema Chödrön recently came to my attention, most likely because there was a lesson I needed to hear. She talked about how certain things hook us - give us an emotional charge - and we have a difficult time letting them go. That emotional charge can be anger, outrage, or just simply that it captures and contains us - hooks us into a thought or action pattern that is not constructive.
What strikes me as I ponder the idea of being hooked by something is the internal process - the feeling of pleasure in "sticking it to" someone. It's the sense that someone's pants are too big and I should show them either that their pants aren't so big or I have big pants too. Hooked.
Once I get the hook out of my mouth, I don't think my pants are so big. And it's not a problem that they think they have big pants. It's their pants. If they want big pants, they will discover some day that the big pants require a big belt. But I better worry about my big pants needing a belt if I don't get a grip.
We all see what we are ready to see. Quite often we need to suffer before our spirits can awaken. OR we can stop - stop - silence - listen. We can awaken our spirit and understand that biting the hook creates something that is not necessary or productive to our growing. And that suffering is an opportunity - a beginning - a launching point. Be at peace, in love and with great anticipation.
Little pants allow greater mobility and less room for hooks to catch.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Only Love can do that...

When asked which of the ten commandments were most important, Jesus answered, "Love God above all else and Love your neighbor as yourself." If we follow these, he said, all others will fall in place.
Everything he taught revolved around our understanding love of God and loving our neighbor. He taught concepts far from Jewish tradition - that God was universal. He taught that God was present and no one was excluded from God. His life was an example of giving hope and healing to all.
Somewhere in the re-counting of his message, exclusion was added back in. Followers found many ways to divide us into God and Godless people. Renewal of the ideal of being "God's chosen people" gave authority to act on God's behalf to punish those not displaying the same beliefs.
The separation causes great barriers to following the two commandments. If God is separate and choosing some over others, the entire mission of Jesus falls apart. How can we love in a way that God does not?
If God chooses some above others, if God saves some and not others, how can we possibly love unconditionally ourselves?
The only possible conclusion is that we have some of it right and some of it wrong. So, which part is it that we have wrong?
It's pretty easy to understand, yet very hard to do, the love your neighbor as yourself part. We are supposed to put ourselves in their shoes. We're supposed to approach our interactions with them with compassion. We're supposed to help each other in all ways imaginable. We need to see that with a long term vision.
But how can we do this if someone is Godless - not right with God? Therein lies the problem. Where is God? Who is God? What is God?
We have to stop viewing God as a separate being with a big beard living somewhere in the sky pulling strings and pointing a finger. God is everywhere. God is everyone. God is everything.
God lives in love - universal love. A love that does no harm - a love that generates more - a love that creates more.
Talk of love as the creator - the creator in us is God.
How can the maker of a bomb, the murderer, the greedy, the criminal be seen in this light? Somewhere in their lives they stopped believing in love. Somewhere in their lives, someone needs to re-awaken it. Only love can do that. Our job is to have faith that it is already there because God is everywhere, in everyone, always and forever.
It does not matter how you name it. It does not matter if you believe it. The power of love is a universal truth.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

What's the rioting about?

It's hard to understand why a group of people would riot and destroy their own neighborhoods. It's painful to me to see that kind of anger. Certainly it cannot be about one single event or a single verdict.
We can all look back at times we exploded in anger about something. Observers may have felt we over reacted. In hindsight, we may see that we did as well. Our reaction was caused by a build up of frustration - a series of events. Quite likely our reaction created more problems rather than solving them.
Throughout this country and throughout the world, there are pockets of anger bubbling over into violence. These are symptoms of much deeper issues. If we focus on the symptoms alone, we can never solve the problem. We need to look beyond. That is hard work and requires our suspending judgement long enough to understand.
Our temptation is to dismiss the other person. Our temptation is to pass judgement on their anger and expression of it. Our temptation is to place full responsibility on them. They need to fix themselves.
The truth is that one person's suffering - one person's anger - one person's pain affects us all. We are connected. When that one person's suffering, anger and pain grows to a hundred, a thousand, a million, it will pour over onto more of us. If our response is equal anger and judgement, we help contribute to the growth of the suffering, anger and pain.
Outrage, judgement and dismissal of someone else is an easy path. It pushes responsibility to the other person for all the work needed to change. We don't have to do a thing.
In reality, the pain or suffering of others affects us all. We pay a price. The larger it grows, the bigger the price. If it affects all of us, we are best to participate in the solution.
If we truly believe we have better answers - we know a better path - we need to take responsibility for helping others to see it too. That requires love and compassion. It requires actually trying to understand the source of the other person's pain and actually helping them overcome it.  When we do this, we will grow and overcome our own issues.
If we could all make a commitment to doing this on just a small level, we can begin to change the world. It begins with us.
It starts with training our spirit and minds to seek the connection we all share. It starts with understanding that the pain and suffering of another is our own pain as well. It requires patience and a long term commitment with no expectation of immediate gratification. That's a tall order and it's not easy.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Life of Ethics

Yesterday I caught part of a BBC radio interview with Sir Nicholas Winton who saved over 600 Jewish children from certain death during Hitler's occupation.  If you are not familiar with his story, it's easy to find documentaries and interviews that are well worth watching. While this story is remarkable, the interviewer pointed out Sir Winton's lifetime of service to many charitable causes. And then he asked about religious belief. Sir Winton was born to Jewish parents but became a Christian in his early life, was baptized and described himself as a devoted follower. He became disillusioned with religion as he described realizing that both sides of the war were praying to the same god for victory. The interviewer then recounted the long list of lifetime service and asked, "If faith was not your motivation, what drove you to such levels of service?" Sir Winton answered with one word, "Ethics".
With prodding, he explained. If we would simply be driven by ethics, doing the right things, the world would be a better place, wouldn't it? Just simple love, compassion and doing the right things.
For those who have become disillusioned with religion, Sir Winton's explanation is as plain and simple as it can be. We watch righteous, religious leaders justify abandonment of love and compassion with an odd belief that god has some mysterious ethical standard that supersedes it.
And beyond religion, the lack of ethics has permeated our world in every corner. We live in a world that is driven by greed. In the US productivity is a huge focus - getting the most from the least. Meanwhile, we applaud those at the top for accumulating wealth and demonize the struggling masses in fear that they may "get something for nothing." How is a football player's effort worth millions and a teacher's effort worth thousands? How is a CEO's efforts worth thousands of times what the front line worker makes? What is the ethical answer?
Does anyone ask "what is the right thing to do?"
Living by ethics is very simple. "Do unto others what you would have others do unto you?"
Shed judgement. Look squarely at the facts and act on what is in front of you at the moment.
Sometimes it seems we have been taught to look for excuses not to do the right thing. If I feed that hungry cat that keeps showing up on the front porch, he will keep coming expecting food. True. And then he will return the favor by ridding your home of rodents and he will love you.
Feed people. Give them shelter. Do the right thing. Shed judgement. Shed expectation.
An interesting part of Sir Winton's story is that he did not try to follow the hundreds of children to see how their lives had gone. When asked about it, he said that he trusted that the many adopted homes were well vetted and his mother had ensured all was well. Indeed, you will see if you seek the reunion documentary, the stories are overwhelmingly positive. Sir Winton knew he had done the right thing and needed no validation.
When we know we are doing the right thing - the ethical thing - there is no need for validation.
I believe this is the most deeply spiritual path. It is driven from our deepest core and the deepest understanding of connection to all things. All other paths are false, no matter how you dress them.

  

Sunday, November 16, 2014

God said so...

Spirituality and things of the spirit are often on my mind. And yet, I have less and less interest in religion beyond an intellectual curiosity about it's dogmatic purpose. Dig beneath the surface and soon we can uncover a political motivation for most any institution. If ultimately the "truth" of religious teaching leads to "because God said so" you should become quite skeptical that spirituality or spirit have anything to do with it.
Things of the spirit - spirituality - truth - are unquestionable. Not because God said so, but because it resonates as true always. That is the measure. We can call it whatever we want to call it.
For example, we know that when we smile a sincere smile - it is understood in any language and in any situation. Kindness - sincere expressions of kindness - are understood and resonate across all lines. These are spirit. These are spiritual truths.
If your religion teaches you that "truth" is something that does not have this universal resonance, it is not a spiritual or spirit driven teaching. It is that simple.
Creating a God that does not reside in truth is blasphemy. Watch the people who are burdened in dogma. They are driven by divide and destruction with great excuses for abandoning love and kindness. As they stretch to protect their teachings they create greater and greater falsehoods to defend them. This is what happens when you begin with a false premise. We watch them grow more bitter as their need for affirmation is left unsatisfied. They know no peace. They are invested in dogma not spirit.
Spirit and spiritual understanding is deeply personal. It is grounded deep within us. It is our inner voice telling us what to do. It is the connection we need to understand. It is the connection with everything and everyone around us. It is what binds us to all that ever was and all that will ever be. That connection is carried in our cells - our DNA - but it also transcends any physical entity. It is our source. It is part of everything.
Those of you who are animal lovers, like me, can feel it as we connect with our pets. They say, express, teach us - something that is beyond language. It resonates. We feel it. It is pure. There is no dogma associated with their connection to us. It is spirit and spiritual. They love. They connect.
We need to understand spirit and spirituality in that way. Love and connect without judgement.
Shed the religious dogma. Find truth - universal truth. Everything else leads us down a path of destruction even if someone tries to mask it as "God said so."



Saturday, November 15, 2014

Be the one....

The holidays are around the corner and there will be events, greetings, shopping, and family gatherings. And sadly, there will be grumbling.
Lines will grow longer at many stores and frustrations will grow. We need to develop some strategies to lighten up. I've pictured standing in a long line with people getting impatient and suddenly breaking into song or some crazy entertainment plan. Create a positive distraction.
If I really want to avoid the lines, I will find a way. I've been known to do my Christmas shopping in the middle of the night. That was before on line shopping made it really easy to avoid stores all together. Another great tactic is to shop at small local stores who will be very happy to see you and are less likely to be overcrowded with irritable people.

Meanwhile, the drumbeat of "War on Christmas" grows louder. We Americans are a stressful lot. 
Even holidays can create conflicts that get people riled up.
Last week I noticed our company made cards available to send out. They say "Happy Holidays". Would some say they have violated Christmas? Probably. Why would a company want a Happy Holidays greeting instead of Merry Christmas?
They do it for the same reason I tell my Jewish friends Happy Chanukah. My greeting is for them not for me. My Chinese friends celebrate New Year at a different time. When it's their new year, I tell them happy new year - not for me, but for them. In turn, they often tell me Merry Christmas or happy new year in recognition of my holiday. It's not a war. It's a simple recognition. Being respectful.
As much as you feel about your celebrations, others feel the same level of connection to theirs. If we can simply be respectful of one another, none of us has to suffer.
If you are in a room full of Christians and say Happy Chanukah, it's going to sound pretty strange to most of them. It's not their holiday. Likewise, saying Merry Christmas to a room full of Muslim people will sound pretty strange to them. It's not their holiday. You might say if the majority are xxx, then go with the majority. Ok - do you want to be the one feeling left out?
If we want to spread a message of love and joy, let it be a language that resonates with the intended audience. That's all it is.
We're becoming more of a global society with people from many different cultural backgrounds working together and living in the same community. Recognizing one another and our differences can make our lives richer. It should not hurt us to know and respect that some don't share our beliefs or traditions. If we make an effort to understand and respect theirs, they will be much more likely to try to understand and respect ours.

In any case, however you view the holiday season, it's yours. Let's greet each other with warmth and sincerity.  Let's be cheerful and respectful. Let's promote peace on earth - during this and all seasons. Be the one who brings a smile in those long lines.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Passing the torch

Some of us are growing closer to our 60's and seeing the end of our careers as we have known them. Younger, brighter, faster, smarter people are rising behind us. How do we navigate our way in this new land?
We have a unique opportunity to become their mentors and champions. The greatest thing we have to offer is our hindsight. They are rising. We can help them rise a little farther.
I am thrilled today to see the rising stars around me having opportunities that I only hoped to have a decade or more ago. What can I offer? I can be their champion. I can herald them forward and ensure they have the connections they need to move forward and upward. I can caution them and tell them about the mistakes I made in hopes that they can avoid those same mistakes. I can give them greater historical reference than I had. I can try to help position them for greater success.
I have put my heart and soul into many endeavors, then watched them flounder in my absence.  This time, I want to leave a group of talented people behind who will achieve more than I ever dreamed. I want to see them 10 years or 20 years from now and be WOW'ed by their success and achievements. I want to feel I left them well positioned to soar.
Maybe - just maybe - this time I get it right. And if I have truly gotten it right, they will do the same 20 years from now. If each of those people can sponsor and champion an equal number of people and those people sponsor and champion an equal number of people....
In my remaining years, my deepest desire is to leave something that grows and thrives and serves the community well. If I have learned one great lesson, it is not about what we can do ourselves but more about what we can inspire others to continue. Our best gift is to pass a brightly burning torch that can be passed again growing brighter.

Jeepers version of Cat and Mouse

Lately Jeepers must be feeling bored and has developed a new game. In this new game, I am the cat trying to catch the mouse and he is the mouse. If he is in the house, he dashes to escape to the outside. If I am outside going in, he dashes to enter before I close the door (not realizing he is around to dash the door.)
He likes to tease me when he is outside - coming just so close and being quite chatty - but evading me if I try to capture him. The other night I tried to get him in for the night and he ran into the garage so I closed the door and chased him around in the garage. All the while he is making little cat sounds that can be interpreted as - "Ha - catch me if you can." I finally gave up and left him in the garage for the night. At least, I thought, he was safe. And in the morning, he was quite happy to run straight into the house.
Now there may be another explanation for his behavior. He is very observant of the routines of Tobey and Molly Mutt Paws. He's even developed a taste for dog food which Tobey is having a difficult time understanding when Jeepers takes over his dish at dinner time. He watches as they go out each time and seems to want to follow along. He may be expressing dismay that they have a privilege he has not enjoyed. Oddly, when he escapes, he even returns to the same whistle I use to call the dogs.
I'll keep analyzing and try to determine what's going on. For now, I'm feeling like the cat having a hard time catching the mouse. Not real good at this game and he is.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Understanding requires context

One of the most troubling things in this world - particularly in the US - is the lack of civility. We seem to be polarized and driven by extremism. We don't know how to really talk to one another about difficult issues. Too often we resort to name calling. Let's try to be civil.
It's not just a problem on the right or on the left. It's becoming a cultural problem. On both sides of the isle I see people calling one another idiots for expressing a viewpoint. While I may radically disagree with a person's perspective, I pray to learn to be civil in my response to it. It is not easy.
There are so many sources for information and so many variations of media coming at us every day. Many have learned that they need to evoke an emotional response to get our attention. They seek to push our buttons - "Can you believe..." It's a sound bite... a headline... with no context. Far too often we bite. We respond and look no further. We react and make no effort to understand the opposing viewpoint.
This is why we get no where. This is why we fail to solve big issues. We are shouters and have lost our ears.
While we may be able to provide a headline for events of our lives, the headline is not the whole story. There will be 20 other people who were part of or witness to that story who have 20 different points of view. Some will be quite similar and some will be radically different. It's about perspective and a greater context that somehow ties into the whole.
We must build compassion for - capacity for - an ear for - the opposing view. Not a shut down response or a "you're an idiot" response but an honest review of the logic behind the argument.
It may be totally illogical to us. It may be based on crazy assumptions. But if we fail to listen and carefully, civilly break the logic and assumptions down into their parts, all we will do is call one another idiots.
Often we face huge projects that appear to be overwhelming. If we break those projects into parts and tackle the tasks one by one, they become manageable. The individual parts are the context.
The next time you see a headline, don't react until you gain some perspective on the context. We can only truly make a difference if we begin to understand one another. Understanding requires context.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Just see us...

Some months ago someone I deeply respect asked to interview me about the "gay community" for a college class.  While I wanted to help and agreed, I felt I had little to offer.  He was searching to understand and define something that I could not myself define. I reached into my past and sought to describe times I felt part of a distinct community that included many gay and lesbian people but we were not distinctly separate and different. I'm not sure what he walked away with. I never heard how his "study" went and do not know who else he may have interviewed.
Today a friend posted this comedic view of a family trying to understand a "gay wedding" and it wakened my senses.

http://www.upworthy.com/homophobia-takes-a-one-two-punch-in-this-hilarious-clip?g=2&c=upw1

One day we will stop saying "gay wedding". It will just be a wedding.

If you want to really drive me crazy, make a reference to "gay life style". Picture the sketch above with people asking about how gay people live. We are not singing "gay hymns". I don't have a gay dog. I don't walk on a gay street. I don't shop at gay stores. I don't spend gay money.
I realize now in talking to my friend we both missed the whole point. Yes, I have experienced and still experience places and times where I feel more accepted and free to be me but I do not live in a separate community. My gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender friends are not living in an alternative community.
Back in the '80s I heard a story about an establishment in Franklin with a new manager. The new manager heard that lesbians liked to hang out there and they expressed concern. The worker opened the cash register and asked, "Can you pick out the lesbian money?'
Like everyone else we are part of a work community, a religious community, a volunteer community, a family community. We are a living, breathing, contributing part of many communities. There is no separate and subversive group that drives some commonalty in any way that divides us from humanity at large. We are more the same than we are different. And we are as different from one another as we are the same.
We do not seek to destroy freedom of religion. We seek the choice of inclusion. We do not seek to destroy freedom of speech. We seek the freedom to speak. We do not seek to destroy. We seek the right to build with you. We do not live separate from you. We are your sisters - your brothers - your family - your co-workers.
Just see us.
Judge us by "the content of our character" - how we love not the gender of whom we love.



Monday, October 13, 2014

That simple. That pure.

Where there is love, there is god. That's all. That simple. That pure.
Not a mystical far off unattainable being.
Love.
That's all. That simple. That pure.
Love is God. God is Love.
That's all. That simple. That pure.
Not a system of right or wrong or sin and salvation.
Love. That's all. That simple. That pure.
Call it peace. Call it harmony.
Call it acceptance. Call it submission.
It is love. It is god.
That's all. That simple. That pure.
No judgement. No need. No suffering.
That's all. That simple. That pure.
That pure. That simple. That's all.
Walk in it. Bask in it. Accept it.
Be in awe of it.
That's all.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Bogeyman isn't there.....

Today the Supreme Court did something very significant by deciding NOT to do something. For those not following the march toward marriage equality, this may be confusing.
The Supreme Court decided not to review cases decided by Federal Appeals Courts and in deciding not to review these cases, the stays on the decisions are now lifted. 
From USA today...
"Federal appeals courts already had struck down bans against gay marriage in five states — Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin — and those rulings will be allowed to stand. Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming are in the same judicial circuits, so they must abide by those appeals court rulings, too. Nineteen other states and the District of Columbia already permit same-sex marriage."
These same federal courts have jurisdiction over multiple states so while their ruling may have applied specifically to a ban in a particular case and a particular state, bans in other states are implicated. In refusing to review the cases, the Supreme Court seems to say that there was no legal issue or procedural error that justified their intervention. In all, the states impacted total 30 by present rulings that the Supreme Court has chosen not to review.
District court rulings in other regions are pending. Some presume that these are conservative courts and will rule against marriage equality.  But others, and I am one, feel that the justices will review the cases on merit. Other conservative districts have ruled against marriage bans based on merit and constitutional grounds. Now, the Supreme Court has made a statement. They found no reason to intervene based on legal issues or procedural issues. What legal ground could another district find that the others have not explored? What procedural issue could be discovered that no other has found?
http://www.freedomtomarry.org/states/ provides up to date information on what is happening.
Basically as I see it, the argument against marriage equality is that there is a bogeyman under the bed that certain people are sure God sees and certain God following people see under the bed. But once described and once scrutinized, the bogeyman disappears to all but the most imaginative God creative engineers.
I hope people stop imagining the bogeyman. He ain't there folks.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

"I'm nobody. Who are you?"

"I'm nobody. Who are you?" This was graffiti on a wall many years ago. Very profound, don't you think?
Within the billions of people on earth today, the billions upon billions who lived before and will live after us, we are tiny specks of sand. And yet we can become self absorbed and believe the world revolves around US. We get caught up in the drama of our lives. Sometimes we think we are insignificant and sometimes we think we are giants. The things happening around us can skew our realities - or what we think is reality.
I recall watching Phil Donahue at the peak of his career interviewing Kate Hepburn who had no idea who he was. She didn't watch TV. You could sense a great awkwardness as he felt very in tune with her and her work yet she had no sense of connection to him. He was just another guy asking her questions. He was not used to someone having no sense of him as a person or celebrity. He seemed very charmed by her but I wonder if he had ever interviewed a well known celebrity who did not know a thing about him. How did he feel? It was a wonderful interview but I still remember the imbalance.
We feel that imbalance at many times throughout our lives. It is the source of that awkwardness we feel in meeting someone new. A minute before we met them, we were nobody to them. We may well be nobody after meeting them. They were nobody to us and may be after meeting them.
At the end of our lives, we will likely ask - Did I make a difference? Did I matter? Did I do enough?
As I ponder that, I can become self absorbed for a moment. The answer is in me. If I begin to name all the people who influenced me, the list grows long. I have served well if I can be remembered in the same light as I remember them. I can also count the not so nice people who actually inspired me and influenced me to be better. They count too. And so, the not so nice and the nice, have inspired and influenced me.
I want to be remembered in the nice category but it's likely some will have been motivated and inspired when I was not so nice. They all motivated and inspired me, quite likely, in the ways they were motivated and inspired by many others. Then, it's logical to assume, so shall I.
I would rather error on the side of humility. "I'm nobody," but believe strongly that all of us are actually somebody. I believe in the butterfly effect as noted in Wikipedia "in which a small change at one place in a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state."
Yes, we are small specks of sand. But that small speck of sand, in just the right place, at the right moment in time, can change the course of many things.
Maybe even "I'm somebody. Who are you?" Let's be specks that do something that just might be magic in the end.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Connection fabric

Have you ever considered the intricate connections that are interwoven throughout the events of your life? In every moment, at every turn, whether we are aware of it or not, one thing leads to another and another and another. Nothing is independent or isolated. Nothing.
Pick one event in your life and try to eliminate it without impacting all the things connected to it. You cannot. When I look back, even at the most trying events, I can see connections that I would not like to loose. I learned something I needed to learn. I met someone I needed to meet. Those events launched something greater that I would not choose to give up.
Some say "everything happens for a reason". That statement has always troubled me because it implies that some greater force is orchestrating the events of our life in ways beyond our control. For many the idea that a wiser benevolent force is guiding all these things is comforting. I'm troubled to understand our personal responsibility in this context.
It seems to me that we are a great deal more responsible for the reason everything happens and for discovering the reason beyond the happening. We are the weavers of the fabric of our lives and we must learn that every strand has significance.
Is there a greater force? Yes. It's the connection. The strands of my life are not separate from yours. A thread has little strength and can easily be broken. Woven together - they have great strength. The more we understand that concept, the greater our strength. We can imagine this as strands of events in our life - interwoven with strands of events in other lives - interwoven in strands of events of the past and the future.
If I could talk to my younger self in times of trouble or in times of great decision - I would stress this. Everything that happens right now is tied to both yesterday and tomorrow. Choose connection. Choose to see the potential for strength and growth. Be connected now.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Maybe we are complex magnets....

The oddest things can happen sometimes. It's interesting to imagine why.
Some years ago I was traveling alone returning from deep in the hills of western Kentucky. I wanted to get home so I was pushing into the night and began to feel sleepy. As I entered Ohio near midnight, I stopped at a roadside rest to take a walk and decide if I should keep moving or find a room. After a few minutes of pacing around, I heard a deep male voice call my name. I halted. Wondered if I was hallucinating, and I heard my name again. I looked to the sky. Then I looked around to see a friend from work standing 10 yards away.
He, too, was pushing and hoping to stay awake another 2 or 3 hours to get home from another direction. Our paths converged at just that moment and that place. After that, I had no trouble staying awake to drive home - all the while marveling that I would would chance meet a fellow worker with the same goal at the same moment, on the same path, yet coming from different places.
What does it mean? Is it purely coincidence - law of chance?
Some would say God intervened. Others might say our own energies just converged and acted like magnets. Others would say it was just chance - big odds - but statistics show....
We had no personal connection. And I would guess we have no great shared spiritual beliefs. We knew each other from work but didn't share any projects of significance. Neither of us knew the other was on the road. Shortly after that, he moved on to another job so I never had a chance to ask if our running into each other that night helped keep him awake and driving on as it did me. I'm guessing it did.
I tend to believe in some mystical force that plays a role in our existence. And I tend to think we are the larger players in that mystical force. If two people (or more) are seeking the same thing at the same time, I do believe they create a connective energy that is more than the individual alone can create. It's kind of like what happens when you have two magnets. A certain distance apart - nothing happens. The each have energy - positive and negative - but apart from one another, nothing is noticeable.  Bring those magnets close to one another and something noticeable happens - they repel each other or attract each other. I believe we are all connected somehow to all things in just that way. We either create an energy that pushes away or an energy that pulls together.
It's just a simple law - a simple truth.

Monday, September 8, 2014

My Musical Trail

Oddly, I don't think I've written here about making primitive instruments and how that came to be. A few years ago it captured my imagination and my interest is growing as are my skills. It's interesting to try to understand why it is such a passion.
It really has to start with my Dad. I grew up around tools and he wasn't afraid to teach me how to use them. He was building an addition onto the tiny house we lived in and I was riding my tricycle around the frames of the new room. It was fascinating to watch the rooms take shape and I wanted to hammer nails. Soon I had a little toy hammer with a peg bench that I'd hammer one direction, flip over and hammer the pegs back the other way. Quite likely, but I don't recall, at some point I took the real hammer and some nails and pounded them into something.
By the next decade and a major house project, I could swing a hammer well enough to work with him - side by side. I learned to make cement, lay block, trowel, use a power saw, do roofing.... Meanwhile, I watched him take discarded materials and create something. He made us an awesome little go cart with old lawn mower parts and re-purposed steel from wrecked cars. He built a truck camper. He took an old wooden boat - fiber glassed it - used re-purposed parts for a front split window that opened - and made it look like the new boats of the day.
A seed was planted - with a little imagine - it's possible to create something from what most people might call junk. Through the years I've tinkered and always have a variety of tools. Mostly working with wood has been most fun but I didn't develop the patience for fine woodworking. My tinkering never came to much. I made thousands of sticks for simple marionettes. And I believe there is a very large wood burned and jig sawed coat of arms I did that hangs still at the Venango PA Golf Course.
But a few years ago it seems to have all come together with primitive instruments and I expect to be dabbling with variations for the rest of my days. It's a culmination of three interests - making something from what others may discard, working with wood and musical instruments. As I dive into the history of primitive instruments - starting with cigar box instruments - it makes greater sense to me why I love it so.
As a very simple, very enthusiastic folk singer and guitar player with limited natural music ability - I want others to experience the joy of singing and playing something. On Holly's front porch, as a group of neighbors and friends gathered, I wanted to find those simple to play and learn instruments. Google popped up a list of cigar box guitars, single string canjos, and the imagination set my hands in motion. The journey began. With this journey, my understanding of music is growing as well.
Who knows where it will all go. All I know right now is that it makes me happy and seems to be spreading a bit of that around. How good is that!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Do you realize how connected you are to all that is and ever was?
We can see our lives in chapters - beginnings and endings.
Sometimes we see terrible events as terrible events. But somehow those events were connected to something else. Because that event happened, something else happened. We met someone. We did something. We went somewhere. Something happened because of that event.
There are beginnings and endings but those chapters are linked to the next beginning and ending. It is an endless chain that is interconnected. Try to imagine an image that represents it. It's kind of a chain but the chain is interwoven. It's kind of a quilt but the quilt is not exactly in blocks. How can you describe this?
The choices I make influence the person closest to me. We are all creating ripples in the waters of our time. We make a huge splash or a little splash.  We create a tornado or cloud. We create. We do something. Everyone around us is somehow affected by it.
Ok-what is the determining factor? We are all connected. What affects us? What is the effect? Truth is - we get to decide!
You can decide.
You can decide!
Do you want to end the world's suffering?
You can.
You Can.
YOU CAN!
End your suffering.
End it.
Be done with it.
You are connected to all that is an ever was.
You are a link to an never ending chain.
Stop it!
You can.
You Can.
YOU CAN!
I will inflict no pain.
I will expect nothing from someone else that I cannot do myself.
I will be thankful for this moment I am given.
Just be the person you are,
Give the gift of you.
Love those who are around you.
Be connected. There is evidence that you are only 6 steps away from any single person in all the world. That means you - YOU - are connecting in a very personal way to billions of people. YES - you matter. Your "small"voice resonates, your voice carries. You are a ripple in the pond. The pond is likely much larger than you realize.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

In the depths of despair...

Total despair, hopelessness and the deep belief that there is no end to the misery are not foreign feelings to me. There can be a moment in time when there seems to be no better day ahead. I have been there. I have been there more than once.
Some may say it's selfish to think of ending your own life but in that moment it truly feels as if it will matter to no one. The pain feels so great and the troubles so large that talking about it to anyone - reaching out to anyone - will only be a burden to them. Why burden anyone else? I recall thinking that it was my problem - my decisions - my consequences -  and no one else could offer a solution if I couldn't find a solution myself. My fight was over and I was ok with that. There was no where to go. I just wanted this life to be over. I wanted peace.
As I wrestled in the turmoil of it, I typed something in a Google search. I can't remember what I typed but I landed on some page on a website in the UK or so it seems in my memory. I could never find it again. Basically, it said - "Ok, so you have decided to take your own life. Please read on before you do. We are not going to talk you out of it. We just want you to consider...."
Then I recall reading pages and pages of things to consider. In the pages that followed were many practical things but also often a reminder that, "if you wait a day or so, you can still...but please read on...."
Of course, I waited a day or so. I discovered that inner strength to move to  better days. But in that moment, it could have ended. It wasn't about selfishness or selflessness. It was about being done. I was done with life as it was and believed that there would be no end until it was ended.
It was about cycles and circles that seem to repeat and have no hope of changing. But somewhere on that remote website far away, something suggested that maybe, JUST MAYBE, I could change that cycle. If I took a day to think about it, maybe an answer would reveal itself. And in the days that followed, hope and answers followed as well. Now years have passed. And I treasure these years as the best of all. That night years ago, I could not have imagined these days. How could I imagine? And I now see these days in a different light. They may have never happened - if not for an odd website on a fateful night - just one more day....
Give it another day. Believe that you can find a way. Today is not an end, if you make it a beginning.



Friday, August 22, 2014

ID Laws

Here is how the new ID laws in Florida play out. It's supposedly intended to protect us from terrorists and the non-existent fraudulent voter problem. But the reality is that it creates a lot of unnecessary stress and costs people money.
Below is a description of the ID requirement for renewal of a driver license. www.dmvflorida.org/drivers-license-identification.shtml
So, a 79 year old woman from Pennsylvania goes to the Florida DMV to renew the license she has had in Florida for a decade. She has her birth certificate, her social security card and her expiring license.
Issue #1 - her birth certificate bears her maiden name. She needs a marriage certificate to explain the name change. But she has been married twice. Now she has to prove two name changes. She must provide both marriage certificates and a divorce or death certificate to explain the end of the first marriage. She has to call a registrar office in one county and a registrar office in another county along with a call to the prothonitary office. Each document costs $10. Cannot be faxed or emailed because they must bear the county seal.
Issue #2 - Her birth certificate is from the hospital and does not have a stamp. Another call. Another $10.
Already the renewal fee is rather high at $48 but turned into $88 to protect us from the potential 79 year old female terrorist or voter impersonator.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What Color is Your Spirit?

Somehow spirit, spiritual and religion have gotten all jumble up and twisted into knots. Sometimes religion and spirit or spiritual seem to be at opposing ends of the spectrum.
Generally when we talk about someone "getting in the spirit" it's about connection, joy, unity and enthusiasm. We have team spirit when we cheer for our side. We get in the spirit of holiday gatherings when we happily celebrate together. Being "in the spirit" is an uplifting experience and a shared experience.
Shouldn't our spiritual experience be about connection, joy, unity and much greater than enthusiasm - pure awe? Is it not about our deepest spirit? Shouldn't our spiritual journey be about creating a healthy space within that is able to connect to all that is - including the all encompassing spirit that surrounds us all?

We all have a particular spirit about us. It's what people feel when they are near us. If you have ever spent time around native people of North America, you may notice that they seem to stare - perhaps not directly but a long stare in your direction - especially if they do not know you. They are looking for your spirit - tuning into to the deeper you.
It's said of some that they light up a room when they walk in. Others have a commanding presence. Some can bring calm into any situation. It's their spirit. They tap into an inner strength that emanates out into the room. Meanwhile, others are like wall flowers remaining nearly invisible.
What color would you associate with each of these examples of spirit?
What color is your spirit?
When a person is said to "light up a room" are they yellow or white? Is the commanding person more orange or even red? Is the calm person more blue? Is the wall flower simply a very dim color we cannot see? What color is a mean spirited person? What color is God? What color is religion? Is all religion the same color?
Imagine the spiritual color of those at work, in your family, in your community. Are they bright as the sun or dimly shaded? What color is your spirit?
A spiritual truth will shine bright and clear for all and it will bring brightness to all. Some religions don't teach that but rather encourage separation and a belief that light can be split so one person has light and the next has darkness. That is just darkness and damages the spirit of those believing it as much as those they believe it impacts those who must endure darkness. Doesn't the sun shine the same for us all? When we practice that kind of thinking, we feel it in our spirit as a burden. We display it in what we do and say. Those things we do and say shed darkness.
What color are the words you say? What color are the beliefs you hold? Are they bright for you and dark for someone else?
What color is your spirit? What color are the words, beliefs and actions you feed your spirit? What color is God?


Monday, August 11, 2014

A Very Good Place..A Very Good Time

Days pass so quickly. It seems we are always wishing for a day to never end or wishing for a day to come. In a blink, the day we are in is gone.
More often than not lately I've been thinking about how fondly I will remember these days. It won't be the things or events as much as the sharing of those things and events - the people in these moments of time. It's about sharing thoughts, dreams, and joys. The dreams and joys will grow larger and whatever concerns we face will grow smaller.
At the end of each day, as I close my eyes to sleep, I count the moments that mattered in the day. Sometimes it's a funny comment or kind gesture from someone. Sometimes it's the faces of the people I treasure. It may be a milestone or an accomplishment big or small.
Quite often I am reminded of the words of a friend when we were in a far away place with customs quite foreign. "We could have been born here," he said. I could have been born anywhere. How different life could have been. So many things could have been different. But I am here and here has turned out to be a very good place to be at a very good time to be right here.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Behind the Curtain

"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain."
Remember when Toto revealed the Wizard of Oz and everyone could see he was just an old man with a big electronic toy box?
He was actually a very nice old man so why did he want to create an imposing persona?
A person's persona can grow from a perceived power or authority and a love of that position or title. We've all seen the police officer with the huge swagger who fondles his gun holster or nightstick constantly. Then there's the "Reverend" who prefers to always be addressed by his title and never his actual name.
We all have a bit of a need for recognition of some kind. Some more than others. It becomes a persona when we want everyone to view us through the filter of some crowning achievement. That crowning can become a persona that is a curtain through which no one should see the real person. When the real person does not match the persona, it's a problem.
The examples above are extreme but there can be much less obvious ones. It can be anything that we become "big headed" about. It could be a desire to be known as the expert of all experts on a subject. A persona can be attached to owning the biggest, grandest house or a particular business or being rich. It can even be attached to being a victim. If it becomes the filter through which all should view, there is an imbalance.
Crowning achievements can fade away or suddenly be stripped away. Who is left behind the curtain?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What's in it for THEM?

"What's in it for me?" is not an unusual question. If someone is trying to sell an idea, sell a service, sell anything - we want to know what we get in return.
A successful business sells a product or service that someone wants and that person believes the product or service is better than the next person's product or service. As purchasers we need to believe it benefits us in some way that is a measure of the price we pay. It is our "return on investment" - value.
We love a vehicle that gets us from point A to point B every time and with the level of comfort we expect. We will pay a price for that at the level of our ability and expectations.
At the grocery store we decide if generic or brand name is the best value. Sometimes we pay more if we think it is worth more.
Value, incentive, and some benefit are all tied in somehow. All relationships are like that - business ore personal. They are not so far apart. Through our selection we drive changes in the way people do business. Through our selection we drive changes in the way people around us behave.
Perhaps we need to sometimes ask "What's in it for them?" What are WE offering the other person? Not just in business but in all aspects of our lives.
It's easy to get in ruts of expectation. We slack a little at work. We let our family take a little more on than we do. We ask people for things. What's in it for them? Am I adding value to all that I am part of in this world?
Am I giving my employer an honest days work - greater than the value of my pay?
Am I making life better for my family - greater than the value they hold alone?
Am I making life better for my friends - giving them more than I ask of them?
If we all seek to add greater value in all we do, we will make a better world. Instead of "what's in it for me, " ask "what's in it for them?"
The next time you ask someone for anything it may be interesting to consider this question. What answer would you want the other person to give - the person asking YOU for something.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Isolation?

What parts of your life would you like to have others comment about? What parts of your life do you feel are everyone's "business"?
We live in a society. We have neighbors. We have family. We are visible in many aspects of our lives. There really is nothing that is not somehow connected to something else. Nothing happens in a bubble. Nothing is totally isolated from everything else.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Thank you - Why I write....

Often someone asks, "why do you write all that?"
The stories vary from what pets are doing - to community - to current events - to deeper thoughts. The best answer that I can give is that getting my thoughts in writing is kind of like satisfying an itch. It's there and I have to scratch it. The thoughts roll around in my head and I just have to write them down.
Within my blog domain lies many drafts that are never published. A thought comes but it doesn't seem quite complete or cohesive enough to share. Often I go back and fill it in or re-write or.... I'm curious that people do read it once it's posted. I'm curious to see what old posts capture someone's attention. But if no one reads them, I would still have to write. I cannot explain it. And I cannot dismiss the underlying sense that someone, somewhere, sometime, will think the words are meaningful. So, it is not for me alone - scratching an itch. Indeed, there is hope that someone may not feel alone in their questioning or their experience - whatever it might be.
Often I can write something easier than I can say it to someone. The words can be reviewed and changed as often as needed before sharing. That is comforting. Then once released, I must accept that someone may not understand - they many not agree - they may not like... I try not to let them go until I am ready to accept that agreement.
Now this blog is nearing 16,000 views. In the larger scale of the world, that is not too big. But I am a tiny little fish in a small pond. Why would people visit me this many times if I am not somewhat interesting? I am ok with those viewing and not agreeing. I thank you for giving me a few moments of the precious time we share. If I have only made you think and caused you to smile a bit, it matters to me. Because of you, I am not alone. And if you have found me, you are not alone.
Quite likely, I will scratch this itch as long as my days allow. Thank you for tagging along.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Marriage Equality and Religious Freedom

Recently we passed the one year anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
A few months after closing arguments but before their ruling I wrote - "When discrimination is prevailing and accepted, it takes great effort to overcome.  We've had to hear the real stories of real people who have been harmed by the effects of discrimination.  We've had to overcome the myths and lies that justified the discrimination.  And we have had to force the issue until it could be raised before the Supreme Court."
Once again, the issue of marriage equality is marching toward review by the Supreme Court. In state after state, same sex couples have tested bans on their right to marry. While many are still pending and some are destined for appeal, EVERY ruling so far has deemed marriage bans unconstitutional.
I believe that's 14 to ZERO at this point.
Opponents, at first, determined that "activist judges" were hearing the cases - thus the reason for losses. Now, even Federal Judges appointed by conservative republicans have ruled that marriage bans were unconstitutional. Why is this happening?
These judges are hearing real stories from real people who have been harmed by these marriage bans. They require factual testimony from both sides. Plaintiffs have provided substantial evidence of very real harm to their lives. Meanwhile, defendants (anti-gay) have provided UN-substantiated evidence of potential harm. They have tried and continue to desperately argue that their position is much more than one of religious belief and that there is some pending danger if marriage equality becomes the law of the land. Judges weigh the facts and the facts favor the plaintiffs.
Anti-gay forces are now trying to gain traction with the argument that their religious beliefs are being trampled. It's like the moment the playground bully gets confronted and cries that he is being picked on.
The issue of marriage equality will continue again to the Supreme Court. It actually is a religion versus constitution issue and it's not the only one. We are watching the boundaries of religious dominance shift. We are seeing it with marriage equality, issues of contraception and the ability to religiously limit access, and with attempted legislation to allow various forms of discrimination based on religious belief.
While lower courts are consistently ruling more in favor of individual civil rights, it's difficult to determine how the Supreme Court will rule. The majority seems to favor large corporate and institutional dominance. The DOMA ruling was close.
But now, Massachusetts has had marriage equality for a decade. The state has not been unusually struck by any form of catastrophe. Tens of thousands of same sex couples are now legally married across the county. The biggest question remaining is how "religious freedom" is defined. Does religious freedom allow you to impose your religious beliefs on your employees or customers?
The majority at the Supreme Court seem to be supporting freedom for the powerful over individual freedom. They appear to be leaning, with the Citizens United and Hobby Lobby ruling, toward granting protection for entities as though they are individual "people".
As the marriage equality cases make their way up, the court will likely seek hearing of a case that includes religious objections as a "religious freedom" issue. There actually is precedent when applied to civil rights. The court ruled against religious exemption in a case where the argument was that a businessman had deeply held religious convictions that demanded he segregate the races. But that was decades ago and a very different Supreme Court.
It will be interesting to see what this Supreme Court does.

Monday, July 7, 2014

What do you worship?

Many church leaders are frustrated that fewer and fewer people are filling the pews. The predominant reaction is to criticize those exiting and question their commitment to God. They should be asking why people no longer feel committed to the church.
Many who have felt alienated from the church have learned God and Church are not one in the same. The church is an institution that can be more focused on preserving itself and its dogma than growing in spiritual understanding about God. Those who worship the church are strongly vested in preserving its teachings and beliefs as "non-negotiable" and stagnant as though everything to be known has already been written.  The "spiritual" experience needs to be prescribed and locked in step with whomever is driving the message. The teachings drive an inextricable web of connection between God and church in hopes that followers feel more connected to God through greater connection to the church. That connection is the driving message.
There is very clear evidence that God and the church are NOT one in the same. If you believe in God, certainly you believe God is never wrong. Through the years the church has been wrong on many issues and in many practices.
The church is simply a group of people sharing what that institution believes. There is nothing wrong with that. It can be a wonderful source of community and support. But the church is not God. Promoting and leading the church as if it is infallible and specially chosen as THE voice of God is a huge mistake. It's spiritual poison for those within the church and it is spiritual poison for those who question church doctrine.
This type of thinking within the church causes followers to view those not in the fold as inferior. Those not sharing their commitment to the institution are seen dis-connected from God, not as spiritually driven and in need of fixing. Those who grew up in this type of church and realize a disconnect with church doctrine have a difficult time separating the church doctrine and God. It causes an unnecessary spiritual storm. In both situations it's a destructive result of church worship as opposed to a path of spiritual growth.
God is everywhere in all things. God is the connection of all things. When churches teach connection instead of separation, there will be a spiritual movement that has momentum. The connection is not church and God. The connection is all things and God. The only separation is in one's own mind and that is an illusion.

Friday, June 27, 2014

1 to 10

Long ago a friend listened to my ranting about a situation. She listened quietly until I took a breath.
"May I ask a question?" in her calm voice. "On a scale of 1 to 10 - ten being death - how important are these things?"
On a scale with death, they were not so very important.
Often I was caught up in my own whirlpool of emotions and attaching way too much meaning to the lack of reaction to my emotional need and not objectively assessing the importance of the actual issue. In other words, acting like it was a life or death situation when it was really small - on a scale of 1 - 10. The issue usually grew into "if the person cared about ME, they would..." type of thinking.
We've all heard stories about couples getting into great arguments over toothpaste lids and toilet seats. One side or the other cannot get over needing to have it their way. Of course, one side or the other has to give. Otherwise, what sounds like a very small thing remains a constant source of tension. The consequences of the issue grow larger than the issue itself.
Once we've wound ourselves up, it's really hard to wind back down. Maybe the 1 - 10 scale can help. It kind of helps think a bit further and consider consequences. 'Is this really going to kill me?" Maybe even more importantly, 'How is this affecting those around me?'


Monday, June 23, 2014

Taking Stock can be a Good Thing

Sometimes we just need to take stock - measure where we are, review where we need to go, and count what we have achieved. It used to annoy me that we had to create objectives and review them regularly at work. But now I see there is great value in setting a formal time to measure progress and discuss things. It's a forum for ensuring that everyone is on the same page and it can be a time to celebrate progress together.
Being blessed with a great team of dedicated people makes this kind of "taking stock" a great pleasure. Six months ago we thought we would achieve XY and Z. As we review those plans and compare them to the reality of what we accomplished, we are able to see where we need to put more energy. Most enjoyable to me, is the discovery of how very much was actually achieved.
Maybe we need to set aside days - several times a year - where we take measure of every aspect of our lives. Celebrate accomplishment. Review where we can do better.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

All wrong

Once upon a time there was someone who faced the religious establishment and said "You have this all wrong."
He looked at the system of "chosen ones" and he said "God does not work like this at all."
He said, "You think God is for you only, not so. God is with all."
He knew the text better than anyone of his day. They tested him. His answers were plain and simple.
He tested them.
He challenged them.
He set an example for them.
They could not contain him. And so they tried to kill him.
And now they use his name to create a system of "chosen ones."
Now they use his name to say God is just for some.
They created a text to maintain man's way. They ignore him. They change his answers that were so plain and simple.
They could not contain him. And so they tried to kill him.
They have this all wrong.
A spirit cannot be killed.
Iam cannot be contained.
Iam cannot be killed.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

How can anyone be "self made"?

How can it make sense for anyone to say their success is self made?
Even if they had lived on an island alone all their lives and were able to thrive, would they not be thankful for the gifts of the land? Would they not feel lucky that a storm had not destroyed them?
Here in the United States it seems we take a lot for granted. We benefit from the labor of millions of people every day and millions more who labored many years ago.
Consider all the things you have been given throughout your life? Consider all the things you have enjoyed? These things cost someone something.
Our parents gave us shelter, food and clothing. They took us places, bought ice cream and gifts. Start totaling that up and consider the bounty given - GIVEN!
In our lifetimes can we really pay enough taxes to pay for the education, the roads we drive on, the bridges we cross, the public parks, roadside rests, and countless other benefits of government or community? Not likely. It's our collective contributions that make these things possible.
It's the same for business. No one built a successful business alone. People worked for us, with us, encouraged us, and labored on our behalf. Anyone who has succeeded in business has benefited from someone else in some way. It was not accomplished alone on an island. If the business succeeds it's because everyone involved is giving more than their money's worth - they are contributing to the bottom line.
Yes some of us work a little harder or smarter or are luckier. But no one is self made. We need a lot more gratitude in this country. We need a lot more recognition of the importance of collective accomplishment. We need a lot less arrogance and a lot more appreciation.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Time to enter the light...

All the major religions of the world are centered around texts that were written thousands of years ago - Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Muslim, Hindu, Taoism. Isn't that odd?
Consider all the advances of the world's understanding of so many things - medicine, biology, chemistry, geology, medicine, astrology, oceanology, physiology, technology... Would you ever pick one book and say that is the end all - be all - authority on that subject? Of course not!
And yet, if you were raised in the tradition of any of the "religious" teachings above, you are prone to believe it is the ONLY correct teaching about spirituality. We have been led to believe that ONE and only ONE is the correct path. AND only what was known thousands of years ago is known and correct.
Consider what medical practices were 2000 years ago. Would you want your doctor to follow ONLY what was text book knowledge then?
Consider the world maps of 2000 years ago. Would you want to follow those today?
Have we learned nothing in 2000 or more years about spirituality? Should our focus be purely on reading those ancient texts and attempting to interpret them in a new way?
Would it not make more sense to find the core meaning of each and then seek new discovery?
Let's accept them for what they are - ancient history. We can learn from them but it's time to shed the old cocoon and emerge as butterflies. It's time to awaken from the spiritual darkness and find the light.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Good in the World

Last Saturday morning a group of strangers converged to do something - unexpected - unrehersed - without hesitation. They did not know what the outcome may be. It could have resulted in nightmares. It could have resulted in worse. But it did not.
While driving on route 8 just south of Union City, a jeep slid off the road, entered the field and rolled over on its side. It seems no one who converged on the scene actually saw it happen but the sight of that vehicle on its side with lights still on - a slippery road - caught our attention. Cars stopped. People came from the houses and a a chain of events unfolded.
911 people are so skillfully trained to obtain the needed information from a frantic caller.... something like this.
"there's been an accident"
911 "Where are you located?"
"On route 8 somewhere between Townville and Union City.... I mean Centerville."
911 "Are there injuries?"
"Donno - jeep on it's side"
"How many vehicles?"
"One"
911 "Any chemicals?"
A man climbed on the jeep and pulled open the door as another man stood alongside waiting. "Call 911 - there are children in here."
"No..... They are pulling driver out....there are children in the car....children...."
911 "Any injuries? Help is on the way...."
As the 911 operator continued to gather pertinent information - all were pulled safely from the car - shook up but ok. A dear woman opened her car to keep them warm and seconds later a responder arrived - likely a volunteer fire chief.
As quickly as the strangers had converged, they dispersed when trained help arrived.
In the days that have followed, I am flooded wth memories and thankfulness. People did not hesitate to help. We are gifted with trained responders. We are also gifted in some remarkable moments to see the heart of strangers.
Years of my life I observed the dedication of volunteer firefighters in these types of situations but most often as the one who watched them leave home to respond - My dad, uncle, brother in laws....
This day there were simply people who saw a need and stopped to help. I am thankful to have been witnesss. I am thankful all turned out well. I am thankful for all.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Sacred Science book

What would you think if you learned that a school system was using the same science book it had been using for generations? And that same science book was the only book regarded as correct for every single grade - first through 12th.  "Everything you need to know is in THIS book," their teachers said.
No other book on science was authorized and, in fact, any other science book was considered to be of no value. These other books could even destroy their understanding of real science.
They taught from this book for hundreds of years - reading it over and over again. They discussed its meaning, extrapolated, built lab programs and experiments based solely on information contained within those pages but added nothing. Through the years students and teachers learned that chapters were missing, pages were missing, words were missing but nothing was corrected.
While other schools of science grew and expanded, this school continued to cling to this one book as sacred and untouchable. As some revealed that the sacred science book was full of contradictions and tried to point out the parts that were right and the parts that were misguided or entirely missing, the sacred science school system grew angry and defensive.
For many years it was easy to convince those following the sacred science book that there was no other science. Students and teachers were isolated. Former students and teachers did not return. So current teachers and students heard little dissent. But outside of school, many technologies emerged that enabled current teachers and students to learn world teachings. Soon students and teachers could read and learn about other science knowledge.
Maybe the moral of this story is; "You can fool all of the people some of the time. You can fool some of the people all of the time. But you cannot fool all of the people, all of the time." And perhaps it can be added you can fool fewer in the course of time.
Sooner or later, the book has to be updated. If it's not updated, it will be replaced and deemed irrelevant. Those who insist the book is perfect, the teachings surrounding the book are perfect and refuse to grow, will become irrelevant.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Mr. Jeepers story

Mr. Jeepers

Now that Jeepers has grown quite comfortable with his new home, we can enjoy his personality. And what a wonderful little personality he has! Watching him evolve has been remarkable and amusing.
We don't know where he came from or why. One late summer day he was laying on a chair on the front porch but as soon as we tried to get near him, he ran. Such visitors are not an unusual thing. Neighborhood cats do that from time to time. But he was there every morning and every night over the next few weeks as if he had no home. Not wanting to encourage someone else's cat to stay, we were reluctant to feed him, but as the nights turned chilly and he stayed on the porch longer, it was clear, he had no home. We put a box on the porch, put out food and with a long outstretched arm, he would let me pet his head. As weeks passed, I could hold him but only if I was standing up.
We had no plans to adopt a cat. Two dogs seem family enough. Day after day, we asked each other 'what are we going to do about that cat?'
The first snow came and there stood Jeepers at the door with snow on his back. Our hearts melted. He had to come in.
Numerous times Molly and Tobey had gone out on the porch and greeted him in his chair without great incident. But I was most surprised when, on his first indoor greeting, he and Tobey interacted and played like they were old friends. Molly, on the other hand, was rather indifferent. She surprised me as she has had many cat friends through her years. Perhaps she was annoyed that her best buddy Tobey was paying so much attention to someone else.
We set up the basement to meet Mr. Jeeper's needs and began a routine. He stayed in the basement at night but could come and go freely when we were home. He adopted a basement window perch where he was somewhat hidden. He'd come up for an hour or so in the evening, mostly interacting with Tobey.
Not surprising, Jeepers was not impressed with his first vet experience. The carrier and the ride caused him to complain quite loudly. At the vet, he was scared but pretty good and they remarked that considering his experience, he seemed to have an easy spirit. As we know him more, they were quite right. Perhaps because they see so many homeless and neglected pets, they thanked me for taking him in. We now thank him for insisting that we would.
Once he healed from being neutered, he found his role in the house - rid the varmints! An old house is easy sanctuary for little rodents and Jeepers takes offense to the invasion (as do we.) I've only caught one or two in traps but Jeepers is nearing double digits. It seems he is quite pleased with his accomplishment as he likes to ensure that we see each prize and is euphoric when he catches one. In the night we hear him madly racing from room to room. We now know we should get up. The hunter has succeeded and is doing his celebratory dance.
What's interesting is that he practices this dance sometimes with Tobey. He runs up, bats Tobey's nose and runs away. Tobey chases, tags him with his nose, and runs away with Jeepers chasing after him. Every now and then, like children, one of them gets a little rough. They let out a yell and the game is over for while.
Jeepers now has complete freedom around the house. Most of the time, he likes to be wherever the dogs may be laying. He escapes to his basement window perch less often, and he wants fed at the same time and in the same room as the dogs. There's no fear of trying to share their dish if we won't fill his fast enough. Unlike most cats I've known, he isn't one to jump up on tables or counters. If we tell him 'no', he seems to understand and accept it. He loves to have his belly rubbed and sometimes circles our legs begging to be held for a little bit.
Molly and Jeepers
Molly is not his best friend but they are often cuddled up together. While she doesn't pay a lot of attention to him, they touch noses and she will give him a big lick across the face.
I'm curious that Jeepers shows little interest in going outside. Warmer weather may change that but I think all in all, he has grown quite fond of the home he claimed. We could not have asked for a better little furry friend. Thank you Mr. Jeepers!





Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spiritual Journey?

What is a spiritual journey? For me, it is being mindful of the energy I carry and create in everything I do and say. It is how I live and determining to live with purpose in all ways and in all things. It's not a religion or a Sunday practice or a "when people are looking" kind of journey. It is a connection with all things, all people, all creation and that greater power that many call God.
I seek spiritual truths. These are laws that are undeniably correct. A spiritual truth from the source of creation brings abundance, love, joy, and overflows with more and more positive outcomes. There are dark spiritual truths. There is a spiritual path that leads to destruction, damnation, separation. Many churches teach that path. Listen closely. Our thoughts have power. Our words have power. Our deeds have power. Every thought, every word, every deed creates an energy that ripples out.
Today I read about relationships. When we say a negative thing about someone, we need 10 blessings to overcome that negative thing we said. We need to say - believe - think about 10 things that are blessings to overcome that one negative thing we said otherwise we are causing destruction in that relationship. It stunned me a moment. Whoa - 10 to 1 - why? If I say or do one negative thing, why does it take 10 positive to offset it?
Suddenly I saw myself in my little 15 foot backyard pool. I like to run in a circle around the side creating a whirlpool. After a while, I turn around and run against that current to change the direction. As I turn against the current it is very hard - 10 times the effort - until I can get the current going the other way - then it carries me.
I want everything I think, say and do to carry me in the direction I want to go. If I judge another harshly - so too will I be judged. Whatever I do to another will be done to me. We have heard these things no matter our religious teachings. This is spiritual truth.
For the rest of my days, this will be my journey - to make the whirlpool go in the positive direction - the direction that leads to joy, abundance for all, love for all and generates empowerment for all. As I feed my spirit, I will share freely and urge you all to feed yours.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Seek the Best in one another

There is one directive we have been given that may be the most difficult; "Love one another."
It is not just "love people who are like you" or "love people who are nice to you" or love people that think like you" - it is "Love one another." Honor your family. Love your enemy. LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
It's really easy to love people who are like you, believe the same things and share the same path. But what do you do with people you don't trust, don't believe are walking the same path or even who are very alien to your deepest values? We all face that difficult challenge and it can really throw us off the path of love.
Not long ago I faced this. I was faced with needing to deal regularly with a person I did not trust, felt had very different values and that I would prefer not to have to deal with on a regular basis. I began to complain about it a lot. One day my best friend asked a simple question, "what does he do better than you?'
It changed my entire perspective. I began to look for our common ground and more importantly, the gifts he has. As I sought his gifts and strengths, I grew.
Love is about believing in something more - something bigger. There is always something that another person does better than we do. We need to look for that. When we discover that about one another, we grow to love one another for those gifts. As we recognize one another for the gifts we each offer, our relationships build into something greater.
Yes, stick to your values. Yes, express real concerns. But don't let yourself be driven by the negative. Seek love and you will find it by seeking the best in one another.

Monday, March 10, 2014

To a Better Way

Recent polls show that the number of people in the United States without a religious affiliation has increase from 8% in 2003 to 23% in 2013.  Among adults 18-30 the percentage of non-affiliated is even greater - about a third.
Many are asking why but I don't think it's too difficult to understand. The loudest and most politically imposing religious figures are turning people away from religious institutions. For more than a decade they have been fixated on homosexuality, contraception and abortion, while supporting the rich and shunning the poor. The shame is that all religious institutions and followers do not agree with the focus on these things but, until recently, most have been silent.
Over the course of the decade some who remained silent and may have moderately agreed with the theology, are now finding the theology difficult to support as they see outrageous outcomes. The extremist tactics exercised in the name of religion are causing many to question the origin of the need for such tactics. Many are seeing the results as lacking compassion, understanding and insight. The tactics taken and the rhetoric with those tactics is in conflict with the central themes of any of the mainstream religions.
We no longer live in isolation. Many sources of information are at our fingertips. We hear and see stories of real people affected by events around us. If you do not put blinders on and listen to only a narrow stream of sources of information, you learn there is more to the world than your religious institution may like you to know.
I was about 6 or 7 when my best friend went to Catholicism. After a few weeks she announced that we could no longer be friends because I was Protestant. My church taught me to fear Paganism, Judaism, Buddhism and Muslim. If I even learned what they believed I would be tainted. If I practiced Yoga my soul may stripped from me. Paganism was equated with Satanism. Native American teachings were equated with Paganism.
Many like me, are remembering all that, learning something about the world and saying that is all hogwash. If you believe in a God, you have to know deep inside that God is not owned by any single religion. If you have met a Buddhist, a Jew, a Pagan, a Muslim or anyone from any other religion that sincerely seeks God, you can not dismiss them as anti-God. It then becomes difficult to sit in a religious environment that holds those beliefs.
So, an increasing number of people are now non-affiliated. I do not believe that is a good thing. I call myself Unitarian but I would need to drive many miles to be affiliated with like believers. That physical distance defeats some of the purpose for which I would like to be religiously affiliated. A church or temple provides a unique community connection. A believing community of some kind offers support and encouragement for its members. The stronger and more diverse, the greater the rewards for both the members and the community. It can offer multiple skills from many socioeconomic levels that gain from the experience of collective. If these people gather in the spirit of love and compassion to deliver others, and one another, from hardship, the world is a better place.
My prayer is that all religious institutions will re-evaluate their theology - their mission - their values - and become resources for lifting us all to a better way.


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Holy Crap?

Some religious institutions teach that holy men must intercede for us in our quest for some greater afterlife. They teach that we must follow without question. Some even teach that these holy men must absolve our sins or we cannot reach heaven. They have some special authority - a closer connection with God - and are uniquely qualified to present a ticket to heaven.
And so I wonder, what if what they teach is not exactly true? If we follow and accept wrong teachings without question, who is held accountable? Are we all equally doomed?
What if the holy man absolving our sin at the last moment is actually not closer to God? What if they are actually really messed up? Like pedophiles or something. Does that then mean there is no absolving that happens? Does that mean everyone who believed them is now actually doomed?
How do we figure out who is an actual holy man? Is following a holy man actually the same as idolatry? How do we determine if it's holy or holy crap?
This holy business seems pretty scary.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Memory Jog

My memory seems to have some odd ways of association these days. I will see someone I have not seen in a while and know the first letter of their name but it takes a while to know the rest. But yesterday the mind jog went a new direction.
I saw a woman I graduated with - let's just say decades ago. While standing in line at the store, I got a glimpse of her behind me. My mind started racing. 'What's her name? Oh, her cousin's name was Daphne. What was Daphne's last name? No matter, it was not the same. Oh wait - her last name was Johnson. What was her first name? Daphne's cousin. What was Daphne's last name? Oh, no matter was not the same. Johnson. Johnson. What was her first name? Oh, yes, that's it.'
And I turned around and said hello. She looked totally baffled. I had to re-introduce myself. Then I felt so much better that I could not remember her name. We chatted briefly and off I went.
Crossing the street, I suddenly remembered Daphne's last name.
Oh boy, what are these next years going to be like?