Saturday, December 17, 2011

Thanksgiving, 2011

Thanksgiving Day.

Sitting in the yard,
Drinking Coffee,
Late afternoon.

Bathed in brilliant sunshine,
Watching turkey vultures soar effortlessly on thermals.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

Lots of news media coverage on the Occupy Wall Street protests. One has to wonder whether it can be a sustained effort, or if it is just a fad or the next new thing that lasts for a few months and then is forgotten. One also has to wonder whether it can shift from protest to influencing public policy.

In watching a lot of the coverage, it tends to go towards the idea that these people aren't "normal Americans" - that they are a bunch of socialists, or disorganized hippies, or even Nazis (I have actually heard that, and you don't really have to work too hard to guess which network that was on.......).

There is also a recurring theme that they are engaged in "Class Warfare", and that they want to take all the money from the rich and give it to the poor. As a Presidential Candidate recently said, if you are not rich, or working, it is YOUR fault, not the fault of Wall Street. Pretty interesting comments given the FACT that there are many more job applicants than there are available jobs.

Lastly, the idea that none of these protesters can really articulate what this is about, or that they don't really know what they are protesting for. It is true that there are those for whom this is the case. The media seems to be able to focus in laser-like on these people.

I think all of these ideas miss the point of the undercurrent of what these protests might really be about.

An idea that I got from William Greider several years ago in his book The Soul of Capitalism posits that we have ceded a lot of our "Self-Reliance" to big nameless, faceless organizations. This includes organizations that handle food distribution, fuel distribution, monetary distribution, logistics, infrastructure and a host of other things that it takes to survive in modern society.

When these systems are performing optimally, it is all transparent and not noticeable. When they are not performing optimally, or someone degrades the performance of the systems through greed or incompetence, that is when people try to start to think about looking in detail at the systems.

I believe these protests are about Rage. Impotence. Powerlessness. Insecurity. Fear. We've had to just take all of the things that have happened over the past 3 years.

No explanations, no apologies, no compensation. The people who did this to us are still working in the same places, making the same huge amounts of money, and now getting bonuses again, and for the most part they've never faced any kind of prosecution for what they've done.

Billions of dollars of wealth simply disappeared in a short period of time. Jobs and financial security disappeared, sometimes literally overnight. Homes were lost. Pensions were lost. While there has been minimal, incremental improvement, and statistically, at least for now the recession is over, a lot of those things have not improved in any large measure.

I believe these protests are about the inability to do anything when faced with a large, impersonal system, aided by it's protectors in Washington, that is not functioning optimally.

If you are one person sitting in your living room feeling the anger it is one thing. If you are one of thousands, that is quite another matter.

What fascinates me is a lot of reaction to the protests. A lot of people who are down on the protests and the protesters are people who've faced the same losses. They've faced same financial insecurity. The same impotence. The same fear. And, yet, they choose to face it stoically and without protest.


Why aren't we ALL not more angry about this?

Friday, August 5, 2011


I've been wondering,
how we got from a guy walking the dusty roads of Palestine
and teaching,
some of the most perfect ethical teachings ever,
on how to be a holistic, loving human being,
to, what we have today.

Thousands and thousands of Christian Denominations.
Each of them saying
If you don't follow my "brand" of Christianity,
to the letter,
you are doomed to the fires of hell.

Fragmenting, in Schism, Dividing,
breaking apart at the seams.

They can't all be right.
They can't all be wrong.
One group not orthodox enough for another, so they start a new brand.
One group too orthodox for the other, so they start a new brand.

Cries of "heresy" and "apostasy" and "infidel" as routine as doing the laundry.

A lot of energy,
and words,
and thoughts,

Seemingly very little of it having anything to do with any of what that guy taught.


Those on the outside,
looking in to see,
if the teachings of that guy,
and the life of the Christian,
and the love Christians profess for each other and their fellow man is for real


What the hell is going on?

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Just went back and looked and saw that this blog has been inactive for over a year.

A lot has happened over that year. A lot of it seemed to be important at the time that it happened, and some of it still does, and some of it still is important and ongoing, but, I didn't really feel compelled to write about any of it.

Because, it seemed like it was the same tape playing over and over and over and over. Bad economic news. War. Veterans in trouble. More bad economic news. More war. More veterans in trouble.

Still don't really feel compelled to write too much. A lot of things are sad and depressing.

There are plenty of good writers who are detailing these problems. One more or less is really not going to make any difference to anyone.

The economy is still not very good, and we are still in two, no wait, three (or more depending on what you count as a "war" - predator drone attacks in Pakistan, etc) wars.

Washington seems COMPLETELY dysfunctional. There seems to be no leadership there. No creativity. No vision. No audacious thinking. No servant spirit, or real care for their constituents. Only arrogance, anger and raging incompetence.

A lot of what I said through the years I wrote this blog, I still believe, and a lot of it still rings true to me, but, a lot of it sounds kind of hyperbolic and stilted to me now. When I read it, it seems like a different person wrote it.

When I wrote, I wanted to write what I thought was true, and I wanted to write not from the standpoint of trying to not be sensational. For the most part, I think I accomplished that.

On the plus side, I'm still alive. Relatively healthy. Still employed (for today anyway). Still in my house. In a little better financial shape than I was a year ago.

Maybe I'll write something again next year at this time.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

This should be......

a HOLY SH*# moment for every American.

House Resolution 1553 (link and selected text below) states in part (introduced by Louie "Gomer Pyle" Gohmert):

"Expressing support for the State of Israel’s right to defend Israeli sovereignty, to protect the lives and safety of the Israeli people, and to use all means necessary to confront and eliminate nuclear threats posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, including the use of military force if no other peaceful solution can be found within reasonable time to protect against such an immediate and existential threat to the State of Israel."

So, representatives of the United States Government are, in fact advocating a military strike on Iran.

Silly us, we all thought this option was "off the table" with the election of President Obama and the ushering out of President Bush and his crew who were eager to shoot at anything in the middle east that moved.

Of course, some will say, "well, the resolution applies to Israel attacking Iran, not the United States".

Any attack on Iran by Israel will be viewed on as an attack on Iran by the United States. If you don't understand and believe that, you are, essentially, a moron.

On paper, it looks great. Israel sends a few planes in, bombs some stuff, and it's all good - never mind that a one time military strike against multiple targets will not stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon if it wants one. In fact, an attack on Iran will most likely accelerate Iran's development of a nuclear weapon to have the deterrent to stave off future attacks.

Some believe that a military strike on Iran will rally the opposition into action to topple the regime. How likely does that sound? Most likely, an attack on Iran by the hated Israeli's will draw the opposition closer to the regime - maybe not permanently, but for a time. When a country is attacked by outsiders, most of the time, the response is to rally around your country and your sovereignty.

What are some other possible scenarios for Iranian responses? Every one by now knows that you cannot stand toe to toe with the United States. Every one by now KNOWS how to fight a war against the Americans (and, the Israeli's). It's called Asymmetric warfare. Most of these actions would most likely be taken by Iran's Revolutionary Guard.

One possible response would be stepped up attacks against US interests in Iraq and Afghanistan. These are countries where there are currently a lot of US personnel (already facing deadly insurgent campaigns), and these are countries which border Iran. Iran could easily flood these countries with stepped up attacks against US soldiers. Bill Lind (a prolific writer on current warfare issues, especially "fourth generation warfare") has argued that because of fragile supply lines that could be attacked, the Army in Iraq or Aghanistan could be literally cut off and destroyed.

Another possible response would be attacks on naval and oil interests in the Persian Gulf. For a snap shot of how that might look, it would be helpful to look at General Paul Van Riper's low tech asymmetric warfare actions as the "bad guy" in the Millennium Challenge 2002 wargame (there is a good chapter in Malcolm Gladwell's Blink on it), where he inflicted DEEP damage on the "good guys".

Attacks on oil interests would have a devastating effect on an already shaky global economy.

It's fairly interesting to me that this House Resolution is not a bigger story.

Have we gotten to the point where we are so ground down from war, and so numb that our leaders are just going to do whatever the hell they want, that we don't want to think through the ramifications of what can actually happen?

At the beginning of our protracted wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a lot of observers predicted bad things were going to happen - worst case scenarios. The worst case scenarios didn't necessarily happen, but 8+ years of continual war (which has severely gutted our military's capability), several thousand dead Americans, an untold number of Americans broken physically, emotionally, spiritually and financially has been bad enough, especially if you look at it in a "big picture" fashion.

The ramifications and fall out of both of these wars are starting to be really felt, and are going to be felt for a long time.

Eventually, our luck is going to run out and the worst case scenario IS going to happen.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


I have spent more than a year studying the writings and the life of Ralph Waldo Emerson (since the end of December 2008). I have read a a lot his work and I have read a lot of biographical information on him.

I read that a lot scholars don't think his work was "systematic". I believe that his work was very systematic. I think he was one of the first systems thinkers. I believe he was an early person successful in looking at the whole systems and the interconnectedness of things.

A lot of people think that Thoreau eclipsed Emerson both in writing ability and in fame. While I view Thoreau as a brilliant writer, I view Emerson as being equally as brilliant.

I think Thoreau is for the young and idealistic, and Emerson, while still very idealistic is for the mature, and for those who've been through a bit of life.

I told a friend awhile back that I'd like to be able to write like Ralph Waldo Emerson. He said "who wouldn't".

But, I don't think he got my meaning. I'm not talking about writing as well as Ralph Waldo Emerson - I just don't think anyone could write that well again. I certainly don't believe that in five life times my writing could ever be that good.

I'm talking about writing LIKE him.

Writing about what is important. How to best live a good life. Writing about how all of us are interconnected. The search for God. That kind of thing.

Not so much about specific events (like health care reform, or the wars, etc), but about life.

When you read Emerson's writing, he doesn't usually talk about specific events. Certainly there were some big events in his life, most notably the Civil War and Slavery, and a whole lot of personal tragedy.

Emerson writes not specifically about events a lot of the time - you know the events are happening in the background because you know the history.

The events certainly must be on his mind, and they certainly must be influencing him.

There are always going to be events. One hundred years from now, the events that we have fretted over, and spent so much time thinking about and arguing about (sometimes with a vehemence that borders on hatred) are going to be something for the history books, and something for the people who come after us to study.

The people then will have all new issues.

But, the big questions will always be there no matter the events. In fact, sometimes I think believing in the importance of the events keep us from asking the bigger, important questions. We focus on the events, and think the events to be the important things, and not the questions.

We forget to keep asking the questions. What is the meaning of life? What is my purpose? Am I doing the right things? How can I be happy? Is being happy the most important thing, or is it living a good life? What does living a "good life" mean?

All of these and more.

A lot of the time over the past year, I feel like being able to dip into Emerson kept me sane and grounded.

It certainly was better for my psyche than anything Fox News, MSNBC or anyone else had to say.

I'll close with one of my favorite Emerson quotes, from his brilliant essay Self-Reliance:

"These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God today. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence."

Emerson goes on to say:

"But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time"

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Church

I write this on Easter Sunday, 2010.

I have been thinking about my stormy relation to the Roman Catholic church, which I joined in 2003 for quite some time.

As a lifelong Protestant (Lutheran) prior to my joining the church, I have struggled with the hierarchical nature of the church almost since day one. I don't know that I'll ever resolve that struggle from an emotional or an intellectual level.

I cannot defend what happened now, nor can I defend what happened shortly before I joined in 2003 (the sexual abuse scandals that rocked the Archdiocese of Boston). I cannot try to defend the Vatican or Pope Benedict XVI or any Bishop involved. In my opinion, they show themselves sometimes to be so far out of touch with what the average Catholic is thinking, and the teachings of Christ, I just cannot believe it.

All I can do on this Easter Sunday is to continue to do what the Apostle Paul instructed me to do in Philippians 2:12-13: "So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure"

What drew me to the church was not the Vatican, or the Pope, or the Magesterium, or the hierarchy, or anything like that.

What drew me to the church were prophetic, hard working men and women. Some of them known, some of them not well known. Some of them Saints, and some of them on their way to being saints. Some of them, not ever destined to be saints - at least within the formal canonization process of the church.

People like Saint Francis of Assisi. Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin. Saint Maximilian Kolbe of Auschwitz. Franz Jaggerstatter of Austria. Thomas Merton. The Patron Saint of my Parish, Saint Therese of Lisieux. Mother Teresa of Calcutta. And so many more, including good people I've met in my faith journey.

I could post the reasons why I was attracted to these people's lives and actions, and how that related to my finding a home in the church. But each person has to find these people for themselves.

The people mentioned above, and the work they did through the ages was important. Their examples helped me to enhance my faith, and gave me good examples of how to live out my faith. But, they didn't do it for themselves. They did it for what the church is really about. The central figure of church history. Jesus Christ.

He is the true focus of my faith. I hereby reaffirm that on Easter Day 2010.

Last night I went to the Easter Vigil at my parish. The Easter Vigil is traditionally the Mass where those who have been preparing to enter the church are brought into the church. Last night we had one person come into the church. He was baptized last night, confirmed, and had his first communion.

As I looked around at the people, people who I know, people who I worship with each week, each of us watching a person come into the church, I realized that THIS was what it was about.

Each of us living our faith in a community of faith. Struggling to deal with the sin and ugliness of the world, and sometimes the sin and ugliness of those who are entrusted to be our leaders and teachers in the faith. Being perplexed about it, being angry about it, and sometimes being incredibly sad about it. But also dealing with beauty, and the greatness of the faith.

It is a gift in having those rare moments like last night, where you get a sense of what it is all about.

I realize that my words here are grossly inadequate to explain it all, so I'll close with a great quote from Dorothy Day:

"We have all known the long loneliness, and we have found that the answer is community."