Monday, December 21, 2020

Christmas story, The Gift


This is my favorite story of the short stories I have written.  For the past several Christmasses I have it posted here, I do so again as my 2020 Christmas offering.  
It was written as a ‘new myth’.  It had always bothered me that although there are shepherds, angels, and wise men at the stable, nowhere is there any help for Mary at the birth.  Surely Joseph prayed for help; in my story, his prayer was answered and Jesus’ first miracle was for one speaking ‘the Word’ for the first time.

The Gift

            In the time before the star shone over Bethlehem, there lived a shepherd and his wife who had six sons. The husband was very proud to have such a family of sons, but the wife longed for a daughter.   After the fourth boy, she had expressed that wish to her husband.  He scolded her, saying it was sons, not daughters that every good Hebrew should pray for.   Although she dearly loved and cared for each son, she never stopped yearning for a daughter.  After the birth of her sixth boy her heart became heavy, realizing she was passing out of her childbearing years and was not to realize her hope.  But to their surprise, she conceived again, and a year later, she gave birth to a girl!  She immediately declared the child to be God’s blessing, and requested of her husband that the baby be named Johanna, Hebrew for ‘gift of God’.  They so named her.
            The baby was very beautiful, strong and healthy—except for a twisted foot.  Faithfully during the child’s infancy, her mother massaged and molded the foot, which improved from the care, but it was never to be fully cured.  Throughout her life, Johanna was to walk with a limp.  
            The husband—being a good Jew—went frequently to the temple.  As his fellow worshipers became aware of the child’s deformity, some would shake their heads and say this was punishment for his sins.  When he repeated this to his wife—who usually made no retort to his chidings—she scolded him: “Do not question God!  His ways are not our ways . . . this child is a gift; God has plans for her.”  The husband just shook his head and walked away.
            Johanna had a loving nature and sweet disposition, but she did not speak.  At first they thought nothing of it—with six lively and boisterous brothers, there was always commotion to which she was alert, so they simply thought her quiet.  One day a physician said her tongue cleaved to her jaw and she would never speak.  
              “—A curse of God for sure!” said the people.
            As she grew, the girl learned household tasks as befits a Hebrew woman, but she also had a great love of the sheep of her father’s flock and took delight in shepherding them in nearby fields that were not hard to walk to.  Later, as she matured, Johanna took on the task of bedding them at night when they were stabled . . . and she gently soothed the delivering ewes at lambing time.  Several times she saved both ewe and lamb in a difficult labor.  Always she was kind and gentle.  The knowledge of her skill spread through the village and at lambing time all welcomed her.
            As the years went on, each of the brothers in turn took wives . . . but no marriage could be arranged for Johanna.  Only the mean or stupid would accept so flawed a woman for wife, and her parents would not agree to such a match. 
            As her parents grew old, the daughter cared first for her father, then later her mother thru their aged infirmities, always with kindness and a loving disposition.  Her mother never ceased saying Johanna was God’s gift and blessing.
            After the deaths of her parents, Johanna went to live with and assist the elderly devout long-widowed Anna of the tribe of Asher, who spent much time in the temple praying.  In addition to the duties of Anna’s house, Johanna continued to watch over the stables and tend the lambing of the village.
            One December evening, on her rounds of the stables, Johanna came upon a man sitting dejectedly with his head in his hands—at her approach the man leapt to his feet saying, “You are the answer to my prayers . . . Can you help me? I am Joseph; my wife Mary is about to give birth . . .” Johanna gave no response. “I am a carpenter and do not have knowledge of such things.  We came for the census.  I could find no lodgings or midwife for her, but we were given shelter in this stable . . . her time has come.  Now she is napping between her labor pains—and I feel so helpless.  I called upon the Lord God to send help . . . and here you are.  Will you help us?”
            Johanna nodded.  Joseph soon realized she could not speak, but he did not question God.  He thanked God for sending this kind young woman as he handed her the supplies they had carried with them for this need.  She moved with self-assurance and, though not a midwife, all the years of tending the ewes gave her the needed inner confidence.  Her kindness, warmth and gentleness soothed both the travelers.
            At the moment of birth, gently she received the newborn into her hands, cleared the mucus, patted his back to encourage his first breaths of air, wiped him with the linens, and tucked him into Mary’s arms.
            With gratefulness, Mary received the baby and said, “He is to be called, Jesus.”  At that moment the infant’s tiny fingers curled around Johanna’s index finger—she opened her lips and whispered “Welcome, Jesus” . . . 

                                                                      THE END

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Democracy Under Assault

I’m not an expert, just a citizen looking at the condition of America’s democracy.  Throughout my memory, America was looked up to and admired by most of the world . . . but I now see an unrecognizable America.  The man who has occupied the position of president for the past four years had sullied our image.  He entered the office ready to withdraw from world treaties, rescind environmental advances made by his predecessor and self-aggrandize at every opportunity.  He has fulfilled those objectives.  He befriended dictators and alienated allies and in so doing opened the eyes of citizens of other nations—America had lost its shine.  No longer a beacon to the world; it would be the laughing stock were it not so serious a calamity.


I ask, “Is there no way to stop the damage he revels in?”  There was an impeachment trial following his attempt to manipulate a newly-minted national leader to ‘dig up dirt’ on the man he thought was to be his opponent in the next election.  The evidence of malicious intent and abuse of power was overwhelming, but Republicans feared a loss of power.  They held the deciding vote—while admitting to impropriety—they insisted that the exact words used to describe his crimes did not match the constitutional words, and thus was he not found guilty.  That emboldened him to commit further egregious abuses.  He continued to fire qualified people in important positions to replace them with his unqualified financial supporters; make choices for the armed forces that were not supported by the military commanders; continually shout that the honest reporting of our free press was manufacturing ‘fake news’ while he himself was doing just that.  For months prior to the 2020 election he repeatedly denigrated our voting system saying it was ‘rigged’, that mail-in ballots were not legal—preparing for himself the means to question the results should he lose.


When he lost the election, he refused to acknowledge that Biden won.  Throughout history, even during contentious campaigns and during the worst of times, there has always been a cooperative transfer of power—it is the ‘shining star’ of the democratic process.  Only Trump has refused to accept defeat and will not engage in the required transfer process that includes allowing the president-elect into security briefings and access to the financial funding for future planning.  He thereby handicaps Biden’s ability to prepare to take the reins of office and this endangers our democracy.


His most shocking offence was to ignore the life-threatening pandemic.  He refused to listen to scientific evidence, gave no direction and support for combative measures, and in the weeks before the election he went on a blitz of rallies before huge unmasked crowds providing the opportunity for massive hot-spots of infection.  The virus spread explosively. He is indirectly responsible for thousands of Covid deaths.


He has blatantly used executive power to try to nullify the election.  He is a megalomaniac, obsessed with his delusion of superiority.  He denies reality, holds the paranoid belief that everyone is prejudice and plotting against him—he can’t recognize that it’s not prejudices, but an awareness that he is unfit for the job.


The Founding Fathers could never have imagined a crazy man would one day hold the office of president.  Constitutional scholars should begin exploring ways to withdraw decision-making powers from one who has lost touch with reality to prevent such things ever happening again.  Our precious democracy has been under assault for four years; may such never occur again.  





Monday, November 9, 2020

of Serious Thoughts: Fighting for the Soul of America

of Serious Thoughts: Fighting for the Soul of America:   The phrase ‘fighting for the soul of America’ has become part of the political battle of the 2020 election.     ‘Soul of America’ is used ...

Friday, October 23, 2020

Fighting for the Soul of America

 The phrase ‘fighting for the soul of America’ has become part of the political battle of the 2020 election.  ‘Soul of America’ is used in the Biden campaign and by the Lincoln Project—an American political action committee formed by a number of Republicans in 2019, whose goal is to prevent the reelection of Donald Trump.

That phrase is associated with Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address; he concluded with the plea not to yield to hostile instincts but to act upon ‘the better angels of our nature’.  The ‘soul of body politic’ is an ancient philosophical and theological metaphor . . . so with a nod to Lincoln we look at the words more closely.  


The soul is where our ‘better angles’ reside.  The soul is the incorporeal (without material form or substance) essence of a living being—the seat of reason, character, feelings, consciousness, perceptions and thinking.  Its main goal is to seek ‘the good’.  In our time we seem to have put a higher value on material things than the essence of the soul—surely Trump does.


A Trump campaign ad mocks Biden’s use of ‘the soul of our nation’ with a video showing conflicts between protesters and police with the words ‘save America’s soul’ and a request to text SOUL to make a campaign contribution.  He knows nothing of what is meant by ‘soul’.  Donald  Trump has stoked fear in our nation with endless lies about our institutions—science & health, the free press, CIA & FBI, the voting process, etc.  None of our institutions are perfect but have served us well.   We need to ever work to improve them, not tear them down.  Biden understands this.


How have we turned from seeking a leader of moral and ethical character, to one who delights in insulting and disparaging people, who lies constantly, who uses his white house position to amass personal gain?  One who seeks friendship with dictators while turning away from our allies?  One who uses fear and misrepresentation to divert and divide the populace? 


Trump is at odds with our nation’s values and its soul is crying out for rescue.


I pray:  All of our nation’s noble principles, all of its hopes and dreams, all of the bloodshed and sacrifices . . . cannot be to deliver our nation into the hand of a narcissistic, self-serving megalomaniac.    God, hear our prayer. 


Tuesday, October 20, 2020

of Serious Thoughts: Complex Issues

of Serious Thoughts: Complex Issues:   I begin with reference to an anonymous comment to my last (August) blog. “You should be shocked….Dems in general and Biden in particular a...

Friday, September 25, 2020

Complex Issues

 I begin with reference to an anonymous comment to my last (August) blog.

“You should be shocked….Dems in general and Biden in particular are viciously supportive of abortion rights….The scandal is that the Bishops should be condemning any political candidate who supports abortion….Wake up and truly be a Catholic.”


The first point I want to make is that Biden is not ‘viciously supportive of abortion.’  He is Catholic and personally does not favor abortion.  He is supportive of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Row v Wade because it became the law of the land in 1973 and as an upholder of our nation’s laws he must do so.  What he does firmly support is a woman’s right to control her own body—and that is the central issue in this fight.  This is an infinitely complex issue.  On the one hand abortion is a moral issue; but it was made a legal issue when abortion was decriminalized by the Supreme Court in 1975.  Only women get pregnant so it is a women’s issue.  What may be needed are guidelines for its appropriate use.  I am a woman and a Catholic.  I believe abortion without just cause is morally wrong; but I also believe that as with all moral choices it is that individual’s right to decide.


The next point I want to address is the matter of the Catholic Church meddling in secular politics.  These issues are complex and multi-faceted and the Church trains its subjects from childhood to accept its authority without question, and thus when proclaiming a condemnation of a political position that is complex with many nuances it unfairly distorts it for subjects who tend to accept that judgement as they were ‘trained’ to do.  Life is not all just black and white.  Jesus knew that.  He did not order and condemn; he said “Go thy way and sin no more” and       “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”  He was not an authoritarian.   


Limiting an issue to one black or white answer is both dangerous and destructive. When the Church saw the decline in the number of men entering the priesthood as the population was increasing, thereby needing more priests for its functioning, it allowed pedophile priests to be re-circulated rather than dismissed.  


It is narrow minded and unjust to approach voting with only one issue in mind.  Governance of a nation involves multiple issues.  Currently we are faced with the Corona virus pandemic and a Climate crisis.  Also, we are in need of a viable health plan, international cooperation to avoid war, a humane way to manage refugees, a sustainable way to manage our resources . . . to name just a few.  There is a need to struggle long and hard over complex issues; there are no easy answers.


I return to the main reason for last month’s blog—the multiple mailings from ‘Catholic Vote’ which is focused mainly on the abortion issue.   Control of that issue, abortion, is in the hands of the Supreme Court, not the Presidency.  ‘Catholic Vote’ is not considered an official arm of the Catholic Church yet I know of no opposition from the Church to  its widespread circulation.  It is a sneaky underhanded way to exert influence on Catholics, by appearing to be ‘The Church’ telling Catholics to vote for Trump without giving consideration to all the reasons NOT to vote for Trump.  First and foremost, he is a danger to democracy—he strives to be a dictator.


The most important qualities for the presidency are strength of character, integrity, honesty , willingness to accept responsibility and admit errors in judgement.  It is a fact that Trump insults and libels his enemies (anyone who doesn’t agree with him), he cannot face criticism and responds with crudeness and insults, he is dishonest and takes no responsibility insisting he alone knows all the answers, he is without principles and moral character and an inveterate liar.  He is unfit to lead a democracy. 


Two recent deaths, John Lewis and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, are politicians for whom the whole  nation mourned.  They demonstrated the desirable qualities of a leader.







Friday, August 28, 2020

of Serious Thoughts: Protesting the 'Catholic Vote'

of Serious Thoughts: Protesting the 'Catholic Vote': I am a life-long practicing Catholic and I am angry and deeply offended by the group that calls itself ‘Catholic Vote’.     I have been floo...

Protesting the 'Catholic Vote'

I am a life-long practicing Catholic and I am angry and deeply offended by the group that calls itself ‘Catholic Vote’.  I have been flooded with at least 4 multi-page ‘information pieces’, several carrying three slightly different four-page surveys titled: 1) ‘2020 Catholic Voter Registration Confirmation & Presidential Preference Ballot’; 2) National Survey of 1,000,000 Catholic Voters Concerning the Democrats’ War on Catholics; 3) 2020 Elections Catholic Vote Survey Concerning the Left’s War on Catholics and Faith in God.  On each are listed: Your US Representative: John B. Larson, and Your two US Senators: Richard Blumenthal, Christopher Murthy. Thereby suggesting the reader inform their congressmen and senators of their position as ‘Catholic voters’.  My mailings were targeted to Connecticut voters; I assume they likewise identified congressmen for the other battleground states.


This is not a simple little flyer favoring a single candidate.  It is a vicious attack against the Democratic Party and Joe Biden designed to strongly influence the recipient to vote against Biden and for Trump.  It offends me on two levels: First, it flies in the face of the Constitution that calls for the separation of church and state.  Secondly, it opposes the official church position that Church refrain from political involvement.  One of the mailings contains a post card addressed to Connecticut Secretary of State requesting voter registration materials sent to the addressee (the person named on the letter.) 


Every ‘opinion question’ is strongly slanted against Biden and for Trump with bubbles of various words of  gradations from which to choose.   Examples:

--What is your opinion of President Trump’s performance on getting America’s economy growing again after 8 years of stagnation under the socialistic anti-business policies of Barack Obama?

--What was your reaction to the openly anti-Catholic stance of the Democratic Party leadership?

--How concerned are you that Christianity (which includes Christian morality) has been criminalized in America—especially in Democratic-run states and cities?

--What is your opinion about the Democratic leadership’s total opposition to President Trump’s efforts to secure American borders?


These 3 slightly different ‘surveys’ are each heavily loaded to lead the reader to affirming Trump and demonizing the Democratic party.  Why three?  I presume to give them more opportunity to apply pressure to to their audience.  There was of course an appeal for financial support in a brightly colored orange return envelope identified as:

                        Catholic Vote 

The 2020 Elections Project

        Campaign to Educate America’s Catholics

On How Anti-Catholic the Democratic Party Has Become

                        PO Box 7047

                 Merrifield, VA 22116-7047

Thus calling loud attention to their hostility toward the Democratic Party even by way of the US mail.


In referring to the similar 2016 campaign one of the letters stated:

“In all, Catholic Vote made more than 50 MILLION contacts with Catholic voters—with digital video ads that went viral, email, our social media campaigns, traffic to the website, and our CATHOLIC VOTER EDUCATION postal mailings.  This made the difference.

CatholicVote is undertaking a very similar Battle Plan this year—educating Catholics in the key Battleground states how anti-Catholic the Democrat Party had become.  But we aim to double what we did in 2016.”


I have found this so shocking I’m almost embarrassed to call myself a Catholic.  I was unaware of the extent of the so called ‘Catholic Vote’ in the 2016 campaign, I received no such mailings, perhaps because I was not in a battleground state at the time.  Although it is not an officially sanctioned church organization, I have heard no formal objections from the clergy.  


Catholics I know are shocked and strongly object to this slander.  How can there be—in the name of ‘Catholic’—such a blatant wide spread bias against the Democrats while giving support to a president known to be amoral, immoral and an inveterate liar?  It is inexcusable that there has been no official Church opposition to this.  It reflects the same silence that was demonstrated by the hierarchy regarding the Church’s sex-scandal.  

Saturday, July 25, 2020

of Serious Thoughts: Toward Justice

of Serious Thoughts: Toward Justice: I received a note-worthy comment on my June blog on violence.  Only last week did I realize how to make comments appear after the recent upd...

Monday, July 20, 2020

Toward Justice

I received a note-worthy comment on my June blog on violence.  Only last week did I realize how to make comments appear after the recent updates—technology is not one of my talents.  I want to repeat that comment as the lead in to my July essay.


            ‘Your insight - that the only formula for success is to put the self at risk in front of the offending party - is correct and difficult. It doesn't satisfy a sense of "fairness" because it is not fair... but it is the way that the arc of history is bent towards justice. (And that arc doesn't bend itself)    Anonymous’



Thank you for that wisdom, Anonymous.  Surely life is not fair!  Throughout my children’s growing up years, each time one came in whining ‘it isn’t fair’ about some perceived injustice done to them my response to them first was ‘and what did you do before that?’ followed by my stating ‘Life isn’t fair, but it is our job to make it more fair’.  Making it more fair includes standing before the injustice and refusing to resort to violence.  That is what Gandhi, the Suffragettes, and  MLK did and they made gigantic progress against the odds.  We celebrate, respect and admire what they achieved.


The arc of justice doesn’t bend itself;  the moral universe is not inevitable.  Humans are the only species capable of envisioning and understanding morality which involves principles of right and wrong, good and bad, truth and falsehood.  We know of it because of having reflective awareness—the ability to see forward and back to realize the consequences of our choices.


It is for that reason I wrote ‘violence is never the answer’.  Returning violence with more violence can only and will always escalate to ever more violence until someone is defeated or something is destroyed.  Violence has as its objective to crush, defeat, and/or destroy—to WIN.  The wiser objective is to raise awareness to the injustice and negotiate a solution.


Our desire for fairness sometimes gets in the way of reason.  When there is unfairness, tempers rise and indignation fuels anger—but it is within our ability to control the anger and not return the violence with more violence.  The marches of the 60’s did that.  Violence will never cure injustice; it will only expand and extend it.  Justice can be reached only by awakening to moral order; standing against violence and putting the self at risk.


The ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement and subsequent murder of George Floyd by white policemen has awakened world-wide awareness to legal systems being unjust.  Our law enforcement system unjustly targets blacks and minorities.  But consider: it is the job of police to control crime and keep order.  It is a fact, that in general, police unfairly treat people of color—as with George Floyd.  This attitude arises from a white supremist belief that all non-whites are inferior and more prone to crime and violence . . . so when those protesting retaliate and become violent (even if it be for a valid reason) that violence serves to reinforce their view and confirms in their minds the need to ‘levy control’, i.e. bring out stronger weapons. 


There is such a thing as righteous anger.  It is correct to be angered by injustice . . . that is what we see in the marches, a voice raised against injustice.  MLK did it without resorting to violence

--the million-man march and other 60’s marches were morality-based protests.  They were completely non-violent on the marcher’s part; the only violence was perpetrated by the ‘controllers’ . . . and their violence was witnessed.  The cost was the loss of a great leader and many other ‘innocents’, but the gain was that a huge measure of justice was won with sweeping changes in the law.


Humanity is progressing but progress is slow . . . bringing primitive man through inventing and learning to use language then how to preserve ideas by writing, to awakening to the need for laws, learning how to plan for future needs, recognizing the wrongness of invading and plundering, finally relinquishing slavery as incompatible with civilization, becoming aware that all people have inherent value . . . now we are struggling to understand justice and its place in the world we have created. 


It has taken thousands of years for mankind to begin to see justice as a goal.  Even as short a time as 150 years ago, mankind knew the words  but not the meaning of ‘justice for all’.  It will take many generations to inch toward its achievement.  Having recognized there is a flaw in our justice system is a giant step in the right direction.  I’m not suggesting to stop there, but I am suggesting there is a need to stop the violence that breaks out, because it causes the loss of our objective toward justice.  Keep marching, keep protesting, but temper the anger, be persistent but don’t throw rocks or antagonize those whose job it is to keep order.  When they choose violence be willing to put self at risk.


Today we mourn the passing of John Lewis.  In his lifetime he was demeaned, jailed and beaten but he never resorted to violence.  Let his example lead.  He is highly regarded by people of all colors and in both parties.   He will remain among the great American heroes.  He was a true moral leader.








Wednesday, June 3, 2020

of Serious Thoughts: Violence Is Never the Answer

of Serious Thoughts: Violence Is Never the Answer: Violence is never the answer—it can only escalate the problem. There is a systemic problem in this country built upon our unique democ...

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Violence Is Never the Answer

Violence is never the answer—it can only escalate the problem.

There is a systemic problem in this country built upon our unique democratic origins wherein specific ‘human rights’ were granted to citizens as a constitutional right (upheld by law)—but citizenship was reserved only for white males.  The devastation that is now threatening to engulf our nation has its origin in the institutional enslavement of humans to work and build this nation to world prominence (primarily in the South).  Imported mainly from Africa, the enslaved were deemed ‘property’, denied rights—even denied the recognition of full humanity.  White  American males were ‘in control’ and automatically believed in their ‘superiority’.  It became an embedded belief.  A belief leads to assumptions which dictates behavior, producing habits which finally become entrenched. That superiority belief has its roots in the law of the jungle—‘Might Means Right’.

Slavery was abolished and laws were changed . . . but the systematic acceptance of superiority and dominance did not.  Blacks were given voting rights with the fantasy of equality, but widespread discrimination was the norm—and the myth of white supremacy in the minds of many men continued.

[a side note that is relevant:  Women also were considered property, inferior and denied rights.  Only in the 20th Century, after years of struggling for change, women for the first time were ‘given’ the right to vote and the appearance of equality but continued to be controlled by the illusion of their ‘privileged position of wife’. . . They didn’t need to be  ‘out in the world’ they were being ‘protected’ by husband.  To this day women are still denied full pay and equal authority.]

What I’m saying is that a deeply imbedded attitude is largely unseen and often unrealized.  Attitudes permeate cultures and take many generations to dislodge. 

There is just cause for the anger, rage, and pain in the black community.  I support demonstrations, and while the majority of protestors are concerned citizens, these events are opportunities for outsiders to create mayhem which degenerates into riots.  In this particular crusade too many rallies become destructive.  There is never a just cause that can validate violence.  The violence only justifies in the minds of white bigots that they are right to oppress and call in lethal weapons . . . and everything escalates until damage, destruction and death follows; obscuring the valid accusations of injustice.   Violence cannot be used as a tool against injustice because it also is unjust.

The killing of black men in the name of law enforcement is a travesty—and it truly happens.  All reasonable people will agree.  But to turn a demonstration into burning, smashing, destroying and an orgy of looting is equally despicable.

Our dictator; excuse me, our president who clearly thinks he is the lawfully appointed ultimate example of the Supreme white supremacist has chosen to militarize the streets of our cities in response—this is a cycle in which there are no winners!

Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and the Suffragettes knew that the only formula for success in the fight against injustice is to put the self at risk in front of the offending party and be willing to pay the price, whatever it is.       –as did Jesus

I refer you to a prayer from Teilhard de Chardin:  ‘Trust  in the Slow Work of God’  (see google)

Friday, May 15, 2020

Without Leadership

America was once referred to as a beacon of hope for the world; the shining city on a hill—having pride in what went before and with hope, proudly anticipating what is ahead.  That vision has been greatly dimmed and it has to do with leadership.  Only a strong leader can steer the ship of state in the right direction amid the relentless challenges in the contemporary world.

What is a strong leader?  It is Not one who equivocates on important issues, paints false pictures and denies responsibility; Not one who wields power to punish all who disagree and tears down others to enhance his self-image.  But a strong leader is one who honestly faces challenges, accepts responsibility, gives credit to advisors and acknowledges his mistakes. 

We’ve had many strong  leaders in our past . . . it showed in JFK’s admitting his mistake regarding the Bay of Pigs and learning to surround himself with people having different perspectives; it was Woodrow Wilson meeting with an array of foreign powers to begin work for international cooperation; it was Barack Obama carrying the country forward without insulting and disparaging the hostile stonewalling from the other party; it was Harry Truman proudly displaying the sign on his desk ‘the buck stops here’; it was FDR’s ability to mobilize every man, woman and child to support the Nation’s war efforts during WWII.

To be a true leader requires character and moral fiber.  A leader is one who goes ahead of others leading by example while relying on accurate information, proven knowledge and having the willingness to adapt if the facts determine another approach is necessary.  It is a leader’s courage that becomes an inspiration to others.

Dictators are not ‘strong leaders’, they are in fact iron-fisted megalomaniacs who cruelly wield their power to single-handedly demand blind allegiance to their words without recourse to facts, reason or openness to proof.  They instill fear in their followers.

At present, the man we have in America’s seat of power, is closer to a dictator than a strong leader.  By aggrandizing his personal image while disparaging all other sources of democratic leadership he has weakened the nation’s respect for law and order.  He has seeded widespread disrespect for the underpinnings of our democracy by repeatedly insulting and defaming these institutions upon which democracy stands: the free press, intelligence agencies, news media, the voting process, military leadership and scientific findings.

He has failed to deal with this pandemic with decisive action, giving mixed messages, disputing scientific findings, using insulting and disparaging remarks to all who voice a contrary opinion and firing key people who challange him, and even his blatant refusal to wear a face mask shows a level of disrespect for all authority but his own.

His failure to face the coronavirus crisis is but the final demonstration of his incompetence to lead a democratic nation.  And his bungling portends a danger to our democracy.  

Without strong leadership we watch the demise of our nation in in the eyes of the world and within our country, the crumbling of respect for law and order, inching more and more toward anarchy.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Awakening Our Humanity

For the first time ever, all services and rituals of Easter and Passover season were canceled—attention was focused on the crisis of the global coronavirus pandemic.  People sheltered in their homes, some watched virtual services on computers and TVs.      …...It felt empty.

We are embroiled in a world pandemic; thousands have died and more will follow.  This is a tragedy beyond reckoning . . . but history of the world shows that out of tragedy there often arises unexpected good.

I have seen signs of an awakening of our humanity.  People reaching out to help others: doctors and nurses volunteering to leave their homes and go to help where the need is greatest; first responders knowingly walking into danger; people in apartment buildings cheering together from their windows the efforts of those facing the danger; healthy people singing and dancing from a distance to cheer up their neighbors; children finding ways to raise money to help strangers; homebound folks making face masks to distribute to nursing homes and shelters; random groups distributing food to those financially challenged by job loss . . . These are people helping people, not for profit or personal gain but because there is a need.  Isn’t this what we are supposed to be about?

In our fast-paced competitive world we have over-valued the material side of life while under-valuing—often ignoring—the spiritual dimension of our reality.  The spiritual dimension is not substantive but ethereal (without weight or measure) . . . the consciousness that is present only in humanity: love, compassion, empathy, hope, dreams, ideas, creativity, inventiveness . . . qualities that define our uniqueness and the very essence of our humanity.

I’ve longed for some unexpected good to come from this tragedy and I see it in the kindness, compassion, and thoughtfulness that is daily emerging.  Perhaps we needed to be slowed down to allow it to shine forth.  This world-wide viral attack shows us the oneness of our small planet, what harms any part harms the whole.  Man made boundaries no longer apply in a world with international transportation and communication.  We are at the point in history which requires our acknowledgement of our One World—our survival depends on it.

A quote from Martin Luther King:  ‘We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

And from a book by Kathleen Duffy titled: Teilhard’s Struggle ‘An evolutionary worldview implies that the cosmos is still unfinished and that its future depends on Human activity . . . the advance of Humanity’s movement in the direction of spirit depends critically on Human endeavor’ . . . not fleeing the world to commune with God but plunging into the World at its deepest and most violent.

Humanity has a purpose--we are here to build a better world.

Friday, March 20, 2020

One World

Just as the human body is a whole in which damage to any part is shared by the whole; our World is a functioning unit where damage to any part is shared by the whole.  Recently the whole world has been damaged by the coronavirus.  If we can find anything positive coming out of this global pandemic where we have shared fear and loss, I hope it brings a greater awareness of our One World.

Only recently has humanity become aware of the reality of our world as a singular unit—it has always been treated as if it were made up of separate parts.  The first time the curvature of the planet was observed was in 1935 when an explorer balloon observed the earth’s spherical horizon.  In 1946 the first pictures of the curvature appeared.  The most famous picture of all time was taken in a rocket  traveling to the moon on December 7, 1972—the stunning picture of one tiny Blue Marble drifting in the vastness of space; one single whole unit on which everything we have ever known resides.   We have come to revere that picture; but have we yet understood its’ meaning?  This is one world, one singular complete unit, sustained by the delicately balanced interaction of its many parts—and humanity is one of those parts.

For thousands of years of human history, the earth’s complexity and vital interactions were not realized or understood, so its wholeness was separated into pieces.  Those generations can be excused, they didn’t know.

Looking to the long past we see a slow gathering of groups of people from tribes to villages to cities, until the groups became Nations which laid claim to land areas and fought wars to hold or expand their ‘piece’.  National Resources, earth’s gift to humanity, were claimed and privatized for profit by states, special groups and corporations or occasional individuals.  The air and waterways were  polluted in the name of progress as industrialization swept the globe.  Species were carelessly extinguished for profit and pleasure—all because of a ‘piecemeal’ focus while failing to recognize the earth’s reliance on its interdependent functioning.

In the half century since that photo of our ‘blue planet’ appeared, we should have become cognizant of our world’s wholeness and awakened to the realization of its delicate balance and that we—humanity is part of it.  We should all be seriously taking steps to mend the sundering, not withdrawing from peace and climate accords!

It will take generations to end the warring, and learn to share the planet and its’ resources, but it has been given to This generation that it begins to move in that direction.   We may look at the acrimoniousness in today’s world and say ‘it’s not possible’—but look back some 80 years and  see the bitter fighting between Germany and Japan against Great Britain and America in WWII and realize they are now all allies.  

My point of writing this is that the coronavirus is awakening us the reality of One World.  We will get through the suffering, with painful losses to be sure, but I pray it awakens us to the only way we can save ourselves from ourselves—by seeing our wholeness.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Legal System vs Justice System

America has a legal system, not a justice system.  A legal system is tied to the letter of the law; the goal of a legal system is to win.  A justice system resides in the spirit of the law; the goal of a justice system is to reach the truth.

The impeachment trial of Donald Trump exemplifies the difference.  Everyone agrees about what he did and most agree that it was wrong; but the specific word to fit what he did was not in the constitution so he was acquitted . . . his side won!  If it had been a justice system and the goal were to reach truth; the impeachment would have been upheld.  

The letter of the law is absolute and seems to be unbendable, yet it is subject to manipulation by clever minds seeking to win at all costs.  When winning becomes the primary goal, truth and justice suffer.

In day to day living there are few if any absolutes.  Life is infinitely complex and variables effect how actions are viewed.  In this case, the actions of Donald Trump seen through the eyes of justice were wrong.  It was not merely an impulsive misjudgment on his part, it was an elaborate and long-term plan to entice a young newly elected leader, who had pledged to fight corruption, to be led—forced by circumstances—into participating in corruption.  The financial aid desperately needed by his country was being with withheld.  The truth is that this action alone is worth impeachment.

But looking further into the truth-justice issue: Trump operates as a con-man without a conscience;  his personal views alone guide his actions.  His history shows numerous unethical business deals.  Among others are those involving bankruptcy in which he protected his money while all others, from investors to the cleaning people, lost.  His misogynistic attitude was clearly captured on TV.  He blatantly lies about everything and anything and repeats the lies over and over until some folks come to believe him.  He unconscionably hurls insults and slander at anyone who opposes him.  In short, he acts more like a dictator than a president.  A democracy requires that a person of honor and integrity lead it.

Since he took office, the U.S. world standing has steadily gone down.  He disparages allies and embraces dictators.  He single-handedly has withdrawn our country from international treaties that were years in preparation.  All the world now recognizes the Climate Crisis but he denies it.  He has defamed the reputation of all institutions supporting our democracy from our intelligence agencies to the free press.

Our legal system has enabled Donald Trump to continue to ravage our country’s reputation,  there seems to be no more constraints on his behavior.  I believe it was Stephen Collins of CNN who said he has weaponized the Presidency by punishing his ‘enemies’—anyone who spoke against him.  Now he is freeing ‘criminal friends’ from their legal sentences.

It has been said by many Republicans that the Democrats have been prejudice against Trump since his inauguration.  It isn’t prejudice that motivates them but recognition that the man in power is unfit to rule.  His ‘winning’ frees him to continue to damage our Democracy.

Friday, January 17, 2020

A Look Inside My Book

For 6 years now, I have been writing this blog, ofseriousthoughts.  For the first 5 years I wrote twice a month.  In my 6thyear I reduced it to once a month as I’m now working on another ‘work of serious fiction’.  The response I’ve gotten to my blog is rewarding so I continue.  Recently my daughter asked if I’d ever shared a chapter of my earlier fiction book in my blog. I hadn’t; and thought that was a good idea so I do that now.

The Stations is ‘serious fiction’, leaning heavily on psychology, philosophy, and theology.  It is the spiritual journey of an artist commissioned to create Stations of the Cross, but encounters resistance from the conservative wing of the Catholic Church when he introduces contemporary concepts.  He ultimately loses the commission yet continues the work.  This excerpt is from chapter 18.  The artist is feeling threatened and meets with his spiritual advisor, Mother Abara, who has asked him to share a writing from his journal:

“My writing is about faith and the conflict I feel.  How can I be so sure about my Stations and yet so uncertain about God?  Is there dishonesty in that?  Do I actually lack faith?”
“But you have captured faith so solidly in your stations.”
“Jesus is the God-man, that’s the easy part.  Beyond his form is the mystery of God.  Our theology says a personal God.”
The nun only nodded and waited for him to continue.
The artist reached for his journal.  “This is an entry I made while working on the theme of acceptance.  I had struggled for days while nothing satisfied me; --then suddenly it was fully apparent what should be in this station.  I wrote this after finishing my initial sketches.”
He opened to the marked page and read, “I feel grateful when such ideas present themselves.  As I’ve often said, I don’t know who or what God is—surely not Santa Clause in the sky, handing out gifts to good little boys and girls—but somehow, in a way beyond my capacity to comprehend, there is a something which is the source from which Life, Truth, Beauty, Justice, and Creativity arise.  And I am inexpressibly grateful when I receive a measure of those goodnesses.  I know they are coming through me; I am not the source; I am the channel.  I am sure of that fact.  I am not the source for I am too limited, I am a means of expression…life, truth, creative ideas come through me and I am moved to give praise to the unknown source.  Thank you, Source of my inspiration.”  He closed the journal and looked up.
Mother Abara seemed to be savoring the words, “How would you explain to someone,--say an atheist—what you mean by being the means, not the source?”
The artist turned the question in  his mind.  “I don’t think I could explain it to an atheist’s satisfaction.  Do I even understand this?  No, this is where I get tangled in confusion.  There is a source of Truth outside myself that uses me to express understanding.  I can only encounter it; I can’t invent it.  So, I have faith that it exists, yet what is that source?  To call it God brings up narrowly defined images that I can’t accept.  What I find is that I am connected to a source of the idea, the inspiration, not a ‘personal’ God.”
“Perhaps that is God, you just don’t recognize it.  If your belief were free of doubt you wouldn’t need faith any more, you’d have knowledge.”
He thoughtfully considered her comment and probed deeper into his own soul.  “I constantly struggle with this belief/doubt puzzle.  I have faith, yet it’s not unquestioning or total.  At times I’m even sure there isn’t a God.  Often when I’m experiencing the conflict, I find that, instead of faith, I turn to reason.  I believe in God because nothing else makes sense . . . I can’t create truth or beauty.  I can only participate in it.  Only if ‘my truth’ fits Truth, or ‘my beauty’ fits Beauty will it be recognized or accepted. …
There is a knowing within people that lets them recognize when a singular expression had entered upon the infinite, and so that expression is treasured.  Some charlatan may temporarily deceive but to endure, the expression must participate in greater being beyond the narrow limits of the person doing the expressing.  And so, we are back to my ‘reasoned faith’ that says there is something beyond what I personally can know or explain.”
“Do you want to name the ‘something’?”
“Yes and no.  Within myself I feel this is the unknown source of my life quest, my God—yet to say ‘God’ is to call up images that confuse my thinking with outmoded ideas.  Yes, I want to call it by name, I think it is God; but no, I don’t want to call it ‘God’ and get trapped in some theological box.  I can only refer to it as a ‘something’ which I believe to be more real than this reality I live.”
The nun let the artist’s words recede before speaking.  “The something is beyond specific naming because it is beyond human comprehension—but traditionally it is called God, or Allah, or The Tao, or the Great Spirit.  It is alright to leave it as ‘something’.  If we would only stop arguing over what the something should be called, we might remember that ancient Hebrew tradition cautioned against naming God.  In answer to his question ‘Who are you?’ Moses was told ‘I am Who am.’” As the nun was speaking, she reached for her Bible.
The artist continued the thought, “I think you are saying that when we remember to affirm an unknown God, we will re-discover humility . . . and learn to say “Thank You” instead of insisting we alone have THE answer—or threatening those whose call was different from our own.”
The nun only nodded, encouraging him to continue. “I feel such urgency to convey the need to see creation differently than we have seen it thus far.  We’ve used life instead of realizing we’re participants in something beyond our reckoning.  It’s all in the story of Jesus, but we miss the point.  We are bound together as life flows through us.”
“’I am’ means ‘to be’ or ‘life’” said the nun as she leafed through the Bible and quickly found what she was looking for. “EXODUS 3:13, ‘But’ said Moses to God, ‘when I go to the Israelites and say to them ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you’, if they ask me ‘What is his name’ What am I to tell them?’  God replied, ‘I am who am’.  Then he added ‘This is what you shall tell the Israelites ‘I AM sent me to you.’.”
Closing the page, she looked up and said with a smile, “You are in good company when you exert caution in giving a name to your ‘something’.  Your stations say that God is Life.  Hold tightly to your urgency!  No matter how uncomfortable it becomes around the complacent clergy who want you to simply repeat what others have already said.”
                                                                                         The Stations  by B. Sabonis-Chafee
                                                                                                                 Available at Amazon