Monday, December 7, 2015

The Pearl

I am embarrassed to say that I have been around for the now legendary sixty-four (will you still feed me, will you still need me?) years, celebrating Pearl Harbor Day for all of them, without ever having this particular connection occur to me. I remember Dad coming home from work on Friday evenings with Three Musketeer bars in his pocket for my sister and me. What must it have been like coming from the freezing foxholes of the Pacific - yes, they froze, Dad told me, filling with water, going from slimy ooze to frozen horror, the horror of living in a foxhole of war and uncertain death, - to the little home on the prairie type setting of my parents' first modest house in the suburbs of Washington DC where I was born? Did he have times when he could not tell what was nightmare or dream and what was real or not? Yet we were his children with no memory of what came before us. We dutifully honored the day once a year: the memory of what we had no memory of. Over time, the recounted horrors of that day at Pearl Harbor slowly engendered a memory of their own in us, instilling its very name with a dreaded association.

This year I became aware of The Pearl in Pearl Harbor, considering its name apart from its day for the first time, and therefore this musing upon the significance and poignancy of our remembrance made its way into my thoughts. What must Pearl Harbor have been like before December 7th , 1941? My imagination says it may have been a tropical haven of pearls in a heavenly oasis known as Hawaii; one where divers found the best and most beautiful hidden treasures of nature. I can almost see the happy people diving into crystal waters coming up with  handfuls of oysters to seek out those elusive spheres, the only recognized "gems"  made during its own lifetime by a creature. Pearls are an inspiring tribute to the triumph of the beauty of life over its own adversity. Hidden deep within an oyster at the bottom of the sea, they are a response to a grain of irritation and annoyance. A solution to a problem that is built up by years of slowly, repeatedly coating the abrasive item, surrounding it with the very essence of the oyster’s own making, one that transforms a worthless grain of sand into a priceless item of great beauty. A Pearl. And they are only found as the oyster dies and gives up its secret by being opened. May we so respond to the irritations and unavoidable problems of our lives with layers of love, patience and perseverance to create those revered pearls of wisdom from them.

And as well, lying at the bottom of  Pearl Harbor, coated over with the slow moving years of grace and tears, the ripping abrasion of hostile invasion has become an item of great worth. A treasure of freedom and love. May all the priceless pearls of the lives lost that day rest in the peacefulness of knowing their lives and memory are tributes to the great beauty of the ideals their nation stands for.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

To My Family - A Thanksgiving Message

This Thanksgiving I am filled with gratitude for the gift of my beautiful children. As a parent I have spent sleepless nights and worried days, learned the inside of patience, the value of digging deeper for love and understanding as I have coped to hold their quicksilver natures in my sometimes uncomprehending sphere. Thank you for stretching my limits, challenging my boundaries and making me expand love into new dimensions.  I love the way our relationships change and develop over the years, revealing new depths and colors as we travel on.

I am so grateful for my firstborn, Heide, for all that she has taught me of patience, love and acceptance and true courage and persistence over the years. My life would have been so much flatter without you. I would have gone on walking comfortably in only two dimensions if you had not shaken me out of everything I thought I knew to go searching for something new – a new way to define love, relationship, and health. Thank you for expanding my boundaries, for going with me into new dimensions. Bless you.

For my Ingrid, my doll, my heart – that is what you are – a great big heart – you have taught me much – I admire your ability to take the leap and dive completely into love with all your might – and so do all those angels watching out for you because they sure take good care of you. I love how you love. Thank you for teaching me exuberance, fierce loyalty and passionate love.

For my son – my “gift of God” Matthew – who was truly awaited with love and expectation. Thank you for being so beautifully you. Low key, kind, observant, generous, and remarkable. Along with handsome and personable and very intelligently wise. Thank you for teaching me to stay even-keeled and cool headed. God bless.

My Jen has bloomed like the flower she truly is and always has been. She flows along gracefully not fighting life but taking it in stride with a genuineness of being that endears her to all. And she is an awesome new mom! Thank you for showing me how to go with the flow and allow others to as well.

And Victoria has all the fire she was born with – down to her core she burns with a passion for all she holds dear. Though you may get scorched if you do not know how to be close, her passion and fire will light up the dark and bring warmth when treated with respect and care. Thank you for teaching me how to pay more attention  and keep the inner fires stoked with vision and purpose.

It is truly humbling to realize the qualities your children express that inspire your own direction and growth as you grow older and they grow wiser. Thank you all so much for the richness you bring into my life and the lives of others. I am honored to have brought you into the world where your lights are shining ever stronger and brighter. 

May your days be blessed with friendship and love. May your lives continue to bring about that depth and beauty of being you are truly meant to embody. May you be wrapped in the love the universe has for you – that love that your parents tried so hard to be a little tiny piece of so that you could get your first taste of how much love there is for you out there.

And many humble thanks to the man who has stood by my side through it all. The one I come home to each night, my beloved Arthur, for showing me how sensitive, resilient and beautiful the male psyche truly is.

Let's be mindful of and grateful for the many and deep blessings of each other in our lives during this holiday season. Bless you all. Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 20, 2015

What About Life??

I haven't added anything in here in a while, but this evening something grabbed at me and here is the result. I felt it was appropriate to post here as it is my own fiery opinionated view. My passionate grab at what would make for a better world, a wish list that might not be as good as it seems at the time I embrace it, and therefore part of my political and social profile, that part of us that truly shifts with our inner compass, gets tossed about by world winds and events:

Years ago my father repeatedly played a song "Little Boxes" - and I had no idea how much it influenced my life, but its theme recurs at various times again and again and again. (Listen to it here.)

I'll start with a quote from an article in a recent Framingham Patch which prompted this blog - on the revision of the MCCAS and PARCC testing for Massachusetts public school students; one regarding the vote to approve the revision of current standardized testing to a new standardized state assessment system:

“Their vote paves the way to a next-generation assessment that will be a better reflection of student achievement and, at the high school level, of readiness for college and a career.”

College and a career. Here is my shout.

What about life? Life? What in our public school system supports and prepares children to take on their lives? How do they develop the ability to tell when they are on the right track for them? How do they learn to pay attention to their own inner abilities and innate talents? How do they learn to follow their own path and express their own uniquely beautiful contribution into the world? Not from a system designed to produce factory workers. One focused on input and output, societal systems and making the uncomfortable shoe fit. One that says – oh play music alright, but have a career – and to do that, go to college. Congratulations on vomiting out another year of students who will take the next twenty years to discover that the paths they were taught to walk on are not the right paths for them. They are not the paths that lead to listening to their own inner voice and expressing their own gifts and talents into the world that so desperately needs them – they are the paths of … college and a career – something to make money with, not a life. Not a life.

Who teaches them about happiness, inner clarity, being in touch with who they are so in 25 years they will look back and be content, not careered? How many of you out there have changed careers? How many are truly happy with your careers? How many spent time and money pursuing that which is not what their lives are really about? How many have reinvented, and made a new life that works, financially and personally?? How many have paid the price of health and happiness in pursuit of college and career? What are we teaching – that we cannot do what we love and make money doing it? That we cannot be who we want to be, it’s not practical; it won’t guarantee financial success in life and college will? A big LIE.

Standardized tests are like the MDR’s (minimum daily requirements) in the vitamin world. They are the MINIMUM requirements for a pre-package life. They have been determined to be that which is needed to keep their recipients from death in the records, not support them in living. They are designed to make the current school system look like one that works. The only thing we can accomplish with predetermined testing is a child’s ability to fit into the standard “shoe” – absolutely nothing about what the child is capable of, nothing to do with how sensitive the child is to that capability and how supported they are in achieving it. Our system is broken. It makes broken lives. Ones that are ticky-takied onto the outside, harden and crack over time, disintegrating around the core human being inside somewhere down the road, which becomes the time when they really begin to live their own lives – or disintegrate personally trying to do so. Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually nurtured our children so they could navigate their own true course. Gave them skills instead of standards, support and opportunities to be individuals instead of psychotherapy and drugs to enable them to fit in, make the grade, ace the test…

We are in the throes of a generation sold on the marketing principle of the successful life. All god’s children go to school. All god’s children get good grades. All god’s children have careers. That is what parents want. That is what they have been told equals success. And so when the shoe does not fit we cut off a bit of the heel, or a toe….the real tale of Cinderella is how desperate her sisters were to fit into that which was not their shoe. God help us. God help our children, and preserve them from the lies we believe.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Christopher Columbus!

Well I did some looking around this morning and it seems there is a lot of controversy over the celebration of Columbus Day.

I am not a historian, nor have I studied both sides of this controversy in detail. I am painting with broad brushstrokes here.

There are of course two schools of thought – one says Columbus brought destruction, greed and death, domination and exploitation to the Americas. The other says he was a courageous explorer credited with opening up the Americas. 

Columbus’s dichotomy is a very human story. Five hundred years from now, how will our portraits hold up against the standards of time? Will they be a type of Dorian Gray composition, a dubious life painted over with the bright hopeful colors of what we wished to be, or perhaps the other way, painted as ogre-ish and ugly on the outside by others with no seeing or understanding of the softer truths of the heart inside? We tend to paint a picture of Columbus as evil villain or heroic explorer. Take your pick. Which Columbus would you like for your personal own? And will the real Columbus please stand up? 

The Columbus question can be argued ad nauseum:  his voyages to the Americas resulted in opening up and putting the continent on the map as a place of global interaction. A new set of nations and countries were brought into recorded history and entered the world stage as recognized players.
And in the course of that discovery there is the pure human horror of “man’s inhumanity to man” played out in the ugliness of the cruel exploitation and extermination of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

This story, our story, the story of the Americas, is not an uncommon or unrepeated one throughout history. But we have highlighted this part of history in our home hemisphere for special treatment and attention. And rightly so. It is our side of the world, our responsibility to look at and learn from. Perhaps our heightening sense of awareness and social consciousness is fomenting the need to take a closer look at our societal behaviors and beginnings.  Countries, peoples and races have been overtaking other countries, peoples and races for all of our known human history. Brutal expungements of entire populations and species have been our unwitting trail of development in the huge panoply of the struggle for survival. Even before recorded history the archeology of a region reveals displacement and usurpment of another’s territory and right to live. Every single human is responsible for every single act, and every single human is part of a larger, societal mindset and force that operates through each of its members to preserve itself. 

Is Columbus a hero or a demon? Or both? Even if he was completely motivated by the lust for gain – remember he was funded to produce that for Spain – somewhere at his heart he had a big vision. And he worked desperately hard to bring it to pass. Winning the support of the monarchy in Spain was his huge break. Everything he had dreamed of and wished for suddenly had financial legs to stand on and wings to fly with. What a word to us who have big dreams, ones that in the depths of our hearts seem lustrous and noble, about the judgment of time and the incalculable effects of momentum and expansion upon a kernel of creative thought when released into the stream of the societal consciousness present at its day. 

Are we responsible for that very societal consciousness? You bet we are. Every tiny kernel of it is a thought, belief or action played out across millions of interactions every day. We are building it all the time, you and I – not our leaders, not our religions, not our economies – us, just us. We are the microcosm of the whole, like the atoms and molecules and cells in a body that determine its health, strength and direction. The whole is a reflection of the individual one. And so it does come down to

Christopher Columbus
Had a dream
All did not come out
As well, it seems
As the dreamer dreamed the dream.
And so we go
Along each day
Thinking we have no power
To sway
The direction of others,
Unknowing along the way
That we have sown the seeds
Of tomorrow today

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Building a Case for War

One that is very poor
based on scenes seen before

A sad and paltry place
where words are used to encase
giving an unpleasant taste
to all that's said.

Its specter fills with dread
a place of sanity fled
before the rhetoric of war.

Geneva's conventions are by far
and most, including us, ignored.

Made at conflict's end to ensure
in retrospect, our sanctity of life
idealistic protectionism
sweetened good intentions
salted with hypocrisy
both time and expediency
and war

I cannot listen anymore
to why we should intervene
take upon ourselves another's world scene

Lead the charge of morality
tainted with complacency
giving away what is not ours
the lives of our young to preserve
our sense of dignity.

Let others bear the burden
of democracy themselves
take its reins upon their shoulders
put their youth to its presses

That we stand not alone
and first
in meaningless words
well rehearsed
as we push them off - pawns across the
world of our kingship

Protecting not the purity of life
but the vanity of supremacy

Building a case for war
When there is none.

This was written after President Obama's speech to the nation urging a strike in Syria a few weeks ago - before the budget brouhaha struck - I thought it timely on a Sunday morn of bloodshed overlooking the taking of an ounce of blood for an ounce of blood. When are we justified? What is our justification? Usually a religious source, used to create a sense of the rightness of an action that is essentially wrong. And how do we reconcile these goings on? An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth - all preachers should preach on that one this morning, and help us find a place of comfort in it. May you find peace somewhere today, a little bit of it - not the solace of its placebo, but a true step toward achieving it. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Dzhokhar: Facing the Enigmatic Truth?

Michael Thurston/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Okay – I’ve heard about how upset we are at Rolling Stone for putting Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on their cover from every corner. Facebook posts, street protests, news articles and reports, even people actually talking about it!
But here – here! Listen – read – think for a minute about a point of view other than one that agrees with the particular emotional, and understandable, general public reaction. Let’s talk about another emotional reaction we are not as quick to face.
This kid’s face – this kid’s face – could be any of our children’s faces. His is not a hardened, easy-to-hate looking face. He was a student at our own UMass Dartmouth. He could be anybody’s son. That is the corker here.
We have seen countless faces of the victims, honored and mourned the lost, fundraised and supported the recovering. There is a huge effort going on to heal. And it will continue. But part of healing is dealing with the root cause, while healing the resulting damage.
We do not want to take a second look at the face of terrorism. We do not want to see an innocent looking young man’s face, look to see where this madness and pain came from and how it can hide so well behind the mask of normalcy. We do not want to be made to look at causes and roots so that we become more aware and better able to intervene and prevent. We do not want the responsibility of caring for society and our own safety and health by being involved and proactive when and where we are able to see risk. Let the “professionals” do that we say…and yet, the professionals do not walk the streets every day. Change does not come about from professional intervention, it comes from personal recognition. It is when the people on the street wake up and get involved and take responsibility for their future that we as a nation, town or community, change.
And so the need to understand and perceive, to look at this face once again and acknowledge it could be anyone’s child. To become familiar with the story behind the face. To be able to see the disgruntled, the lonely, the overwhelmed, the angry and in pain before they are at the point of explosion; and to be able to bring some healing, relief and help to those in silent screaming need before they seek self-expression and self-destruction through the destruction of others.
Look at his face. Pray for his soul, that it may not leave this earth in the same maniacal torment that expressed itself on April 15th. And let us learn. Learn how to see lonely, unhappy, overwhelmed people and young people. Learn how to defuse the human bomb before it expresses itself in outward violence, mass shootings, terrorism and murderous hate. We have a lot of societal growing up to do and responsibilities to learn. Let’s not shy away from the reflection needed to assimilate the lessons being taught by these increasing incidents of mass violence. Incident response always includes a review process for the purpose of improved prevention. This is more than friends and relatives shaking their heads and saying they are shocked and don’t understand how this could be the person they knew. It involves the community, not just the family. And the first step is learning to see where we have been blind. Looking at what we don’t want to see; the simple young face of a boy who could be anybody’s son, and yet he killed and maimed many people. We need to be learning the signs and developing ways to defuse wounded souls before they explode, and then be willing, when it is our turn, to use what we have learned to relieve, heal and change the course before harm is done.
Let us look at Dzhokhar’s face once again with sorrow and compassion for the whole of society’s pain, both perpetrator and victims; read the story, search for answers, and make some changes in how we live our daily lives – not those of fear and self-protection – but changes of love and compassion that reach out and prevent the need for violent expression in others. Let us face and deal with the root of these horrible happenings and not turn away so quickly that we do not learn from them anything more than fear. Let’s fight terrorism on two fronts, inward and outward – through protection and prevention for all from any future instances, and by early recognition and compassionate intervention  for those who would be the source.