Summer Internship 2016


Over the course of the three and a half months I worked for NOFA-VT and VT FEED, I grew a great deal as a person and a contributing member to NOFA. I also gained skills and knowledge about the work being done in this one area of the vast environmental work field that I will enter after I graduate from UVM. Primarily, my work was divided between working and teaching in the NOFA garden and working for the partnership between NOFA and Shelburne farms: VT FEED.

Garden Reflection

Planting: I was given a great deal of responsibility in this internship. I embarked on my work with NOFA multiple weeks before Katie, the other intern who held the same position as me, did. Because of this I had the task (and opportunity) to plan the entire garden (13 raised beds) on my own. I was given a big box of seeds and a large pile of compost and the liberty to use my own creativity to design the garden.
I had to be strategic in my planning, succession planting, and timing because the garden was going to be primarily used for garden lessons with local daycares for only two short months: from mid-June to mid-August. I made sure to save as much planting as possible for the kids and planned my lessons accordingly so that the garden would flourish and have enough time to grow while still giving the kids the richest experience working in the dirt as possible. Abbie (one of my supervisors) and I started seedlings in pots so that we could plant the seedlings with the kids instead of just seeds so as to not be behind in the growing season. This way the kids would also see the fruiting of their hard work by the end of their two months working in the garden.

Teaching: After planning the garden, Katie and I spent every Monday morning with two daycares in Richmond. I contacted each daycare to set up this schedule, We were given little instruction on how to manage the garden lessons – yet when we needed guidance, Abbie was available. I enjoyed planning the lessons on my own. We were given a plethora of garden education resources to pull from when planning our lessons. I did about a week of research with these books before I even sat down to plan the garden planting. This way I truly tailored the garden plan to my lesson plans!

We had an hour with each group and worked to keep them very busy the whole time. We set up each lesson in a similar format with: an icebreaker, a garden activity (planting, harvesting or both), a taste test/cooking activity and an art project. This consistency allowed the kids to get familiar with how we ran the lesson. They seemed to like the familiarity, by the end of the summer they would race over to the herb garden when we said we were going to harvest herbs and they would race over to the picnic table when we said it was time to make our snack! Katie and I integrated basic gardening concepts into our lessons. For example, our first lesson was about the parts of a seed and the process of germination. We also taught about companion planting when we planted green onions in beds with other vegetables. We taught about crop rotation when we pulled up radishes and planted lettuce (and vice versa). We taught about compost and decomposition when we prepared a bed to plant fall crops in.

I strove to incorporate these important educational teachings into my lessons while not talking at the kids for long periods of time. I would mostly ask questions until they came to a conclusion themselves. I wanted them to simultaneously experience playing in the dirt and eating fresh food from the garden in a fun and non academic light to experience the freeing aspect and more personal essence of working in and eating off the land.

Harvest Donation: We harvested and donated all extra produce from the garden to the Richmond Food Shelf. I especially appreciated this connection because it connected to my course work of the previous academic semester. For my Lives and Livelihoods paper in ENVS 151, I had interviewed a woman from the food shelf so I felt an extra strong connection to the organization because of that and was excited to have my work contribute to supplying members of my community with fresh food from the garden!

Additionally, in my Envisioning a Just Food System class, we talked a lot about food sovereignty, food mirages, redlining of food access, etc. A woman who manages gleaning projects on farms in VT to benefit the VT foodbank also came to this class. I personally believe that increasing the accessibility of healthy local food to all Vermont residents (and not just Vermont, but all national and, for that matter, international citizens) is an integral part of our transforming the food system. Again, I was thrilled to be a working part of that!

VT FEED Reflection

Summer Meals nutrition education pilot program – Summary: I worked for the Summer Meals pilot program for VT FEED. The goal of this program was to observe how offering nutrition education lessons and fun taste tests at the distribution sites of federally funded summer meals (that include fresh and local produce, thanks to NOFA!) works. Summer Meal distribution sites include summer camps, summer school, mobile home communities and farmer’s markets. My job was to coordinate with each site to plan a lesson that corresponded with their meal and would work efficiently at each location. I would drive to each site, present the activity, and then reflect on the success of the lesson (comparing how each activity worked at different sites was an integral part of the pilot process).

Communication: Both Katie and I were delegated a great amount of coordination responsibility. To make each site visit successful, I had to communicate with both the food service coordinator and the program coordinator prior to each visit to assess what local ingredients would be in the meal, what type of facility I would be working in, whether I had a garden to use in my lesson, etc.

Lesson planning and flexibility: Planning these lessons was tricky, to say the least. As an ENVS major, I was a little unsure of how to plan nutrition education lessons. But, I tailored my lessons to my expertise! Generally, I tried to pair an educational nutrition lesson with a sample or a taste test. The taste test would correspond with the local food in the lunch. I would deliberately preface each taste test activity with questions like: Q: Why would we be sampling blueberries at this time of year? (A: because they are growing locally) or Q: When can you pick blueberries fresh in VT? (A: right now! In August!) or Q: And where do you all think the blueberries you eat in March come from? (A: somewhere warm, like California). My goal with these questions was to get the kids thinking critically about where their food was coming from and also food access in relation to the seasons.

It was vital to structure the lesson to the food in each meal and the type of site we were headed to. Lessons had to be versatile and we, as the teachers, had to be flexible and on our toes in order to cater each lesson to the site at hand. Often times we wouldn’t fully know how many kids were going to be at a site until we got there or how attentive the group would be. Being quick on our toes and ready to alter the activity so that the kids would learn the most and have a positive experience was critical.

Documentation and reflection: Documenting the level of success of each activity at each site was an integral part of the pilot program. The goal this year was to see what worked and what didn’t in order to improve the program for next year’s participants and also for next year’s interns. We discovered many ways in which the program could be improved and made more efficient. Our (my and Katie’s) reflections on this year’s pilot program will be used in writing the grant for next year’s program.


I cannot stress enough how diverse this internship was! I gained interpersonal skills, media communication skills (email, and writing NOFA blog entries with pictures of the teaching garden), organizational skills, lesson planning/teaching/working with kids skills. I learned how to work under multiple supervisors in a project setting. I experienced working for a non-profit and gained an understanding of the financial contingency of non-profit work. I also participated in NOFA community outreach at farm socials (farm celebrations hosted by NOFA at different farms around VT) where I baked with the NOFA pizza oven. And, no doubt my favorite part of the internship, I became proficient and confident in managing a large garden and sharing my knowledge and the fruits of my work with the community!

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The Art of Peace

Excerpts from:
The Art of Peace, by Morihei Ueshiba
Compiled & Translated by John Stevens

The Art of Peace begins with you. Work on yourself and your appointed task in the Art of Peace. Everyone has a spirit that can be refined, a body that can be trained in some manner, a suitable path to follow. You are here for no other purpose than to realize your inner divinity and manifest your innate enlightenment. Foster peace in your own life and then apply the Art to all that you encounter.

Twenty One
As soon as you concern yourself with the “good” and “bad” of your fellows, you create an opening in your heart for maliciousness to enter. Testing, competing with, and criticizing others weaken and defeat you.

Thirty Eight
Daily training in the Art of Peace allows your inner divinity to shine brighter and brighter. Do not concern yourself with the right and wrong of others. Do not be calculating or act unnaturally. Keep your mind set on the Art of Peace, and do not criticize other teachers or traditions. The Art of Peace never restrains, restricts, or shackles anything. It embraces all and purifies everything.

One Hundred One
The techniques of the Way of Peace change constantly; every encounter is unique, and the appropriate response should emerge naturally. Today’s techniques will be different tomorrow. Do not get caught up with the form and appearance of a challenge. The Art of Peace has no form – it is the study of the spirit.

One Hundred Thirteen
The Path is exceedingly vast. From ancient times to the present day, even the greatest sages were unable to perceive and comprehend the entire truth; the explanation and teachings of masters and saints express only part of the whole. It is not possible for anyone to speak of such things in their entirety. Just head for the light and heat, learn from the gods, and through the virtue of devoted practice of the Art of Peace, become one with the Divine.

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Seven Billion People, Seven Billion Perspectives: A Land Ethic

Seven Billion People, Seven Billion Perspectives: A Land Ethic

In this paper I depict my personal Land Ethic; I use the metaphor of a tree to describe its growth. I describe how my life experiences and perspective have shaped my Land Ethic. Perspective is the uniting theme. I demonstrate how my Land Ethic is an example of only one person’s complex perspective. I conclude by stressing the importance of understanding perspective and examine manageable ways to make a change in the human-land relationship while being conscious of perspective.

If there are some seven billion people on the planet, there are seven billion different personal perspectives and seven billion different Land Ethics. All people aspiring to make a change in the human-land relationship must understand this, respect the diversity of Land Ethics, and work with this diversity to make a change.

A good friend of mine once said, “life is all a matter of perspective.” I have since then considered this concept in many different situations; academic, social, personal, and spiritual; it is a broad and all-encompassing idea, free for interpretation.

In his paper The Land Ethic, Aldo Leopold – an influential character in the development of environmental ethics – defines an ethic, ecologically, as “a limitation on freedom of action in the struggle for existence.” So, I have been asking; what does this mean to me? What is the limitation on my freedom of action? Is the limitation I see on my freedom of action in my struggle for existence different than the limitation others see on their freedom of action in their struggle for existence? Does Leopold’s definition of an ecological ethic, or a Land Ethic, differ for all individuals? Do all people have a different Land Ethic? My thoughts in response to these questions have spiraled down to this concept of perspective.

Even if one does not consciously construct or ponder his or her personal Land Ethic (the limitation they see on freedom of action in their personal struggle for existence) to the extent that I have or Leopold did, everybody has a Land Ethic. All people experience some sort of limitation from the land on the freedom of their actions in their struggle for existence. For example, a limitation from the land could be drought. The response to this limitation is to conserve water. A person conserving water during a drought may not be doing so in consideration of the intrinsic value of preserving water for earthly ecosystems. They may simply be conserving water out of necessity for their own personal survival, yet they are still experiencing a limitation on freedom of action in the struggle for their existence. In essence – they have a Land Ethic. All people rely on the land to live; all people experience some level of limitation from the land; all people have a Land Ethic.

Perspective influences an individual’s Land Ethic (limitations one perceives from the land on his or her freedom). One’s personal perspective is influenced by experiences: childhood, upbringing, education, travel, etc. I have found this concept crucial to understanding an individuals’ Land Ethic that differs from my own. One must be able to understand other Land Ethics before they can successfully work within society to make a social, political, ecological, or economic change that will better our world. If there are some seven billion people in this world, there are some seven billion different perspectives, and in turn, seven billion different Land Ethics. All people aspiring to make a change in the human-land relationship must understand this, respect the diversity of Land Ethics, and work with this diversity to make a change.

Just one experience can impact one’s Land Ethic. Each day I am perpetually learning, thinking and growing; my perspective is changing. My Land Ethic is changing.

To visualize the temporal progression of what my Land Ethic has become today, I will use the structure of a tree as a metaphor. The roots of the tree are the roots of my Land Ethic (childhood and teenage hood) – these roots stabilize my Land Ethic. The trunk of the tree symbolizes the part of my Land Ethic influenced by my science-education. This was a time when my Land Ethic grew to encompass purposeful inquiry, similar to how a tree’s trunk grows upward and outward and establishes a greater existence and complexity on top of its roots. The branches of the tree symbolize even greater exploration than just scientific inquiry. They represent my gap year – the time when I “branched out” of the science-based learning environment I was used to exploring the land through and learned through exposure to new people, places, and experiences. The leaves of the tree – arguably the most complex part of a tree (because they possess the ability to convert sunlight into sugar) – represent my college education: the final and most complex part of my Land Ethic.

Childhood: The Roots – I have fond memories of my childhood. Summer days at the river, camping on a pond with my precious new puppy, playing beanie babies in the woods with my best friend Shayne. Creating nests for my cats in the wild tall, grass at my dad’s house; collecting the plethora of dandelions that grew in the lawn and making flower crowns. Playing cops and robbers, kick the can, and wolf in my neighbor’s yard on Pleasant Street. Popping a warm tomato (straight from the garden) straight into my mouth, ever-so-slightly dusty with soil. Boiling fresh corn that my mom would pick up from Conant’s farm-stand. Basking in the sun on top of a picnic table on the first warm spring day after school, daydreaming about summer. Walking with my mom and dog on the river trail, biking on the river trail, jamming out to my new iPod as I ran on the river trail, hosting solstice and equinox fires and potlucks and serving fresh Vermont – grown food.

I attribute the fact that I have these fond memories that fostered my connection to the land to my parent’s encouragement and dedication. They made sure I did not get sucked into a marathon of Walt Disney movies, inspired me to go play and explore outside, brought me home fresh VT corn on the cob, encouraged my respect and awareness of the natural world by teaching me how to hike safely, camp safely, and celebrate the changing of the seasons on the solstice and equinox. David Orr, in his writing on the concept of biophilia (defined by E.O. Wilson as the urge to affiliate with other forms of life), states “I think that we can safely surmise that biophilia, like that capacity to love, needs the help and active participation of parents, grandparents, teachers, and other caring adults.” My parents raised me and taught me to think and interact with the natural world, to find joy and peace and exhilaration in it; this has contributed immensely to my comfort in and respect for it. My childhood love of the outdoors represents the strong and stabilizing roots of my Land Ethic tree.

Teenage Hood: More Roots – As a teenager, the roots of my Land Ethic grew stronger. Cultivating “a sense of place” became a passion of mine (non-intentionally). I think I found that cultivating connection to my community and the land around my home (independent from the encouragement of my parents) allowed for stability and peace during stressful times. I taught swimming to local residents of my hometown, Richmond, VT. I worked at a small bakery and cafe in Richmond serving local food and I babysat for neighbors. I became a larger part of the community as I matured into a young adult. I knew many townsfolk and many knew me. I felt like a respected and appreciated member of the community. In addition to fostering a social sense of place, I began hiking and exploring the northern Green Mountains. I would take my dog and hike up to the cliff behind my house multiple times a week. I would lay on the rock face with my head resting on the liken-covered rock, soaking in the sunlight. My memory is pressed with the image of the Green Mountains and Lake Champlain from so many different peaks in VT. With these newfound freedoms and connection to place I developed an even deeper and more intentional connection to the community and land around my home.

In his paper on biophilia, David Orr argues that a strong sense of community and place encourages biophilia. “Love and biophilia alike flourish mostly in good communities…By community I mean, rather, places in which the bonds between people and those between people and the natural world create a pattern of connectedness, responsibility, and mutual need. Real communities foster dignity, competence, participation, and opportunities for good work.” In addition to encouraging biophilia, the development of a strong sense of place led me to have an emotional and spiritual connection to the land community and human community around me. I have a deep affection for (especially) the mountains around my home; and a smile will always break across my face when I think about my hometown, Richmond, VT. I am not sure exactly why, but it simply makes me happy. It is the first place in the world where I found a “deep ecological” or nature connection.

According to David Abram in his paper On Depth Ecology “the dimension of depth is wholly dependent upon the position of the viewer within that world…in truth, a space has depth only if one is situated somewhere within that space…modern science has long presumed to obscure the natural world from a detached position utterly outside that world…It insists on the primacy of our bodily embedment in the encompassing ecology, on our thorough entanglement within the earthly web of life…By acknowledging that we are a part of something so much vaster and inscrutable than ourselves – by affirming that our own life is entirely continuous with the…exuberant flesh of the earth.” I first experienced this depth of connection with my intimate experience in the VT Mountains; during the quiet afternoons resting on lichen covered cliff face. In the coming years of my life I found this conscious connection in other places I traveled to and spent time in. This connection makes me feel whole, and helps me feel balanced in times of stress or sadness. I find peace in having a deep nature connection to the land around me, in being fully immersed and grounded within my surroundings.

My teenage hood as well as early childhood (the roots of my Land Ethic tree) planted biophilia in my Land Ethic. The roots – the strong but basic foundation that supports the more complex growth of a tree – represent the subconscious portion of my Land Ethic. I was not actively thinking about my relationship with the land in the manner I do today. But inadvertently, the environment I was immersed in during these parts of my life and the things I was interested in contributed to what my Land Ethic is today.

Looking back on my life, I see how particular circumstances I experienced – like my parents fostering my love of the outdoors or stressful times that pushed me to seek the deep and comforting connection to wild places shaped my perspective on the natural world. These experiences and circumstances are particular to my life. And this is how I connect my personal Land Ethic to my thesis – childhood experiences have a great influence on any person’s perspective. Everyone’s childhood is different, therefore everyone’s perspective is different. If someone is not encouraged to value the outdoors as a child, they may not have the same connection to it that I have. This is not to say they will never develop a deeper connection to the natural world from other experiences, but their perspective will be different. All people have a different perspective shaped by different forces, people, and places – this concept must be understood and acknowledged by anyone who wishes to make a change in today’s human-land relationship. Everyone’s perspective is different. Everyone’s perspective counts.

I have experienced and interacted with people who have had different childhood and teenage interactions with the natural world. I see how these experiences are roots to their personal Land Ethics as well. Art Hayes, Lane Jaeger, and Jeanie Anderson were all born and raised in Montana ranch families. They have a deep connection to the land around where they grew up. All three of these ranchers have taken over their family ranching operations. At first glance I saw the shell of their ranching practices – the industrial corn and soy production they inherently support because they send cattle to feed lots. Yet, upon talking to each of these ranchers I found that they have deep emotional roots in the land they grew up in, similar to the roots I have in my home. But, they were also raised to view the land as their livelihood. It is the way their parents put food on the table and now they do the same. They grew up seeing the land in this light. Even though I still do not see the land as my means of income, by stepping into these ranchers’ perspectives I am able to see the validity in their way of life and am more open to understanding why they do what they do (even if I still don’t agree with it).

Introduction to Science: The Trunk – The trunk of my Land Ethic tree symbolizes when my Land Ethic sprouted with purposeful inquiry and established a greater existence just as a tree trunk grows upward and outward and establishes a greater existence upon its roots. Now, despite the fact that in his paper, On Deep Ecology, David Abram states “modern science has long presumed to obscure the natural world from a detached position utterly outside that world.” The basic introduction that I have received to earth science, biology, chemistry and ecology has increased my respect for the natural world and allowed me to connect deeper to the natural world. I did spend the majority of my time learning about these subjects in a classroom with fluorescent lights blaring into my eyes, but they broadened my understanding of the complexity of the world. I was constantly making connections between each subject as I studied a new one. My respect for the natural world grew and continues to grow as I learn more about the complexity and interconnectedness of biological and ecological systems. With a deeper understanding of the inner workings of the natural world – my amazement for the natural world not only grew, but my awareness and capacity to question and to learn increased.

Learning about evolution and natural selection was an eye opening moment in my understanding of the creatures on our planet. My fascination grew as I gained an awareness for how miraculously specialized each species is for its home community. I am even more amazed that such successful systems exist when all mutations (which can lead to evolutionary change of an entire species if the mutation is beneficial to the survival of a species) occur by random chance. I am amazed by how seamlessly biological and ecological systems function when they are the result of an initial single random mutation that happens to enhance a species’ survival in a specific ecosystem enough to be woven into the species’ genetic code.

Recently, while traveling through the Montana landscape, I have learned about the adaptations and evolutionary niches of many species. For example – the cottonwood tree (which lives in a riparian environment) has evolved to reproduce by capitalizing on the annual flood regimes of Montana rivers. Flooding carries seeds onto the banks of the river and deposits them in a moist environment where they germinate and take root. The alteration of flood regimes, that Cottonwoods have evolved to rely on, alters the reproduction rates. Aspen trees, which are closely related to the Cottonwood (same genus: populous), rarely reproduce by seed although they do have seeds. Instead they have evolved to reproduce with an extensive root system that grows larger underground and sends up “suckers” or new shoots. This evolutionary process has made the aspen trees in Montana highly resistant to fire decimation. Although fire may burn down all existing shoots, the root system remains intact allowing a grove of trees to recover from fire damage.

The knowledge of these intricate evolutionary and ecological processes amazes me. My introduction to the scientific world inspired me to think critically about the natural world. Now that I have the tools to understand some of the basic scientific workings of the natural world I am able to wonder about my surroundings. Furthermore, it sparked me to think about how my actions a impact these complex processes. Thomas Fleischner, in his paper Natural History and the Spiral of Offering, speaks to this newfound awareness and fascination with the intricacies of the natural world. Fleischner writes, “Natural history represents a search for patterns. It is an untidy process, a constant oscillating between landscape-scale views and minute biological details, and also between seeing what is right in front of us and conjecturing about what might be missing or otherwise useable.” (11) As I was introduced to the scientific mind I began to practice Natural history as Fleischner describes it. This personal growth represents the growth of the Trunk of my Land Ethic tree.

Gap Year: The Branches – I took a year off from school after I graduated high school. Over the course of this year, the branches of my Land Ethic began to form. These branches symbolize the time when I grew through exposure to new people, places, and experiences. I worked at the local bakery in my town and because of this became very aware of food: where food comes from, who grows it, processes it, harvests it, ingredients, nutritional value, how I feel when I eat it, how it makes my body look, the cost, and so on. I worked in a food-centric culture.

I traveled to California in March of my gap year. I worked on a homestead farm where they grew most of their own vegetables, milked goats and cows, made cheese, fermented and pickled veggies and treated my ailments with homemade salves and herbs. I was engulfed in the world of living “locally” and “off the land”. I began to form opinions on how to live “sustainably” and in good health. I discovered my ideal way of life; the way I wanted to live. In retrospect, I would say I discovered how I would want to live if I lived in a “perfect world”.

I developed a “bioregional” mindset – I grew to believe, and still do for that matter, that one should live within the means of their local environment and “natural systems” of where they live to the greatest extent of their power. Daily work should be that of maintaining a plot of land that could sustain a family – my family. As stated by Jim Dodge in his paper Living by Life: Some Bioregional Theory and Practice, “A central element of bioregionalism – and one that distinguishes it from similar politics of place – is the importance given to natural systems, both as a source of physical nutrition and as the body of metaphors from which our spirits draw sustenance…the criteria most often advanced for making bioregional distinctions are biotic shift, watershed, landforms, cultural/phenomenological, spirit presences, and elevation…they give us a strong sense and the life that enmeshes our own.” This description not only represents the “local” life style I had grown to support but it even encompasses the importance of community and cultural awareness centric to the roots of my Land Ethic.

In today’s day and age, living bioregionally is a response to the global (non-bioregional) systems most people live off of today. Not only was I (there is no better way to describe it) “pumped” about the idea of living bioregionally, I saw extreme flaws in the alternative system; the interconnectedness and monopolization of industry and life style that occurs in a non-bioregional way of living. I became skeptical of anything large scale – I was frustrated when I felt that, to maintain my standard of living, I had to participate in and contribute to these systems because the majority of our world does not try to or even know about living bioregionally – and it is mighty hard to isolate oneself to living bioregionally when the community around you does not.

Clearly, with my new goal of bioregional living came many frustrations. My perspective on the world and Land Ethic was becoming narrow and more specialized. I found it hard to identify with other people’s perspectives because my own was becoming so established. I found it difficult to remain composed when the people around me did not see the value in living a bioregional lifestyle or didn’t even see the faults in the global, capitalistic – money making system that most people are inevitably engulfed in today. Looking back, I needed to realize this concept of perspective that I keep revisiting. I, like many others, could only see through my perspective. My narrowed perspective often resulted in frustration that people (even my own mother) could not feel as passionately as I did about living a bioregional life style. I needed to step out of my perspective to understand and sympathize with other perspectives. I needed to realize that through experience, just as my experiences had led me to believe in and value one type of lifestyle. My mother for example – I think whole-heartedly supports the concept of living bioregionally, yet she also (because of life experiences, money stress, etc.) does not as dedicatedly support and advocate for bioregionalism the way I do. Her perspective has been shaped by the responsibility of supporting a child, by needing to pay the mortgage, by needing to make ends meet, by needing the ease and simplicity of a frozen meal every once in a while. Her perspective is different than mine for it has been shaped by different life experiences and circumstances.

In addition, I have realized that just because one does not live completely off their bioregion does not mean that they do not participate in bioregional practices. For example, I am, and used to be even more so, convinced that a rancher whose cattle are sent to non-bioregional feedlots with non-bioregionally grown corn and soy and are shipped to foreign states and countries cannot be considered to live a bioregional life style. Yet, when meeting with Jeanie and Terry Anderson from the Bones Brothers Ranch, I began to see otherwise. I questioned – how could these people who seem to live so well off their own land and even contribute to the local grass-fed and finished meat industry also make a majority of their living off of a herd of cows that they send to these non-bioregional feedlots? It just didn’t make sense. I have come to believe, similar to the case of my mother, that it is a matter of seeing their perspective as well. They, like me, see the value in living within a bioregion and living off the land. Yet they can only sustain their home and grass-fed cattle operation with the supplementary income from their conventional cattle operation. Their perspective is valid, I just have to step out of my own perspective and into theirs to see the reason and rational behind their actions.

College Education: The Leaves- The leaves of my Land Ethic began to bud when I started college – the most complex growth period of my Land Ethic. As I have immersed myself in the academic world of environmental studies I have felt my Land Ethic become muddled. I have read so many readings, heard so many opinions, written many papers, and listened to so many speakers and professors talk about their specific area of expertise that I have become less certain about how I want to exist with the land and how I believe others should. The leaves of my Land Ethic are philosophical and theoretical. As I sift through concepts and ideas, I learn about other people’s opinions and beliefs and my perspective continues to change. But most importantly I critically think about and question my own perspective and new ideas. In this last section of my Land Ethic (the leaves) I delineate ideas and concepts that I have contemplated of late, but most importantly I dig deeper into these concepts and question them.

One new concept I have been thinking about is that humans are supposed to be a part of the biotic community. Our existence and survival is as justified as any other species. The human drive to use resources to survive is as justified as any other species drive to use resources to survive. I believe that it is an innate human instinct of survival to capitalize on resource availability and that resource use should not have a negative connotation. The issue is that humans cannot strike a balance between over-use of resources and the complete preservation of resources.

In The Land Ethic, Aldo Leopold writes “Man is one of the thousands of accretions to the height and complexity of the…biotic pyramid” This idea is not reflected by the current position of the human species in the biotic community today. Human impact on and use of biotic and abiotic resources is too extreme. It does not reflect Leopold’s statement that we are actually just one of the thousands of species in the biotic pyramid (an image employed in ecology). Leopold describes an ecosystem as a circuit. He states, “When change occurs in one part of the circuit, many other parts adjust themselves to it. Change does not necessarily obstruct or divert the flow of energy; evolution is a long series of self-induced changes, the net result of which has been to elaborate the flow mechanism and to lengthen the circuit. Evolutionary changes, however, are usually slow and local. Man’s invention of tools has enabled him to make changes of unprecedented violence, rapidity and scope.” Essentially this quote is saying – change is inevitable and biotic communities adapt to change. Evolution is change and evolution positively adds to a biotic community. Human induced change is not inherently bad, even if it does change a biotic community –change that occurs on a fast-paced and non-local scale is harmful change.

Mining often causes these fast-paced and non-local scale effects on biotic communities. For example – the feared environmental degradation from the proposed Tintina Resources Inc. copper mine in central Montana will not just affect the local water system of creeks and rivers around the town of White Sulfur Springs where the mine would be operated. Byproducts of copper mining such as sulfuric acid, if not properly disposed of, would first enter the local Smith River watershed (in the town of White Sulfur Springs) but then will be deposited into the sequential Missouri River watershed and later on into the Mississippi River watershed. The abrupt human perpetuated addition of sulfuric acid into the Smith River watershed that flows into transcontinental watersheds would make this possible change fast-paced, non-local, and harmful to many biotic communities. When a biotic community does not have time to adapt to large-scale environmental changes, harm will occur.

So why are humans driven to cause these fast paced and non-local changes to biota? It is due to our instinct for survival. We have the power to gain what appears to be security for our species. We are driven to use earthly resources – biotic and abiotic – to maintain our families, communities, countries, international enterprises, money savings, food sources, housing…it all comes down to security of human survival.

In response to the Great Depression, a time of stress on the security of many Americans, the government instituted many experimental projects and programs known collectively as the New Deal. These projects aimed to restore prosperity to struggling Americans. Now, 80-plus years after the implementation of these projects and programs we see the environmental repercussions of the New Deal (an act of security). Unfortunately the New Deal was also a foundation for resource overuse. In Richard Manning’s book Rewilding the West, he delineates the ecological impacts of The New Deal on the state of Montana’s biota. He describes the onset of the controversial cattle industry (that occupies most of Montana’s plains) when it was jump-started as a solution to America’s need for economic security during the Great Depression. The plains evolved as a home to migrating buffalo herds, prairie dogs, antelope, grizzly bears and other animals that rely on native grasses (with complex root systems that keep the soil healthy and fertile) to sustain the ecosystem. Now they are covered in non-migratory cattle herds often grazing on non-native grass species that do not sustain soil health the way native species once did.

The New Deal also established many dam projects (such as the Fort Peck Dam) on western rivers to bring more jobs to the suffering economy. These dams altered river ecology such as the flood regimes (that cottonwood trees rely on for seed distribution) on the Missouri River. Actions taken for human security can negatively affect biotic communities. The construction of dams occurred to ensure economic security of Americans, but also contributed to unintended environmental consequences. Another example of how the drive for security has caused humans to negatively impact the natural world is the extraction of fossil fuels from within the earth (extraction itself has detrimental ecological effects – ex: drilling, fracking and tar sands disrupt ecosystems with human and equipment presence and chemical use) and their combustion for heat, electricity, and power to produce commodities, material possessions, and comfort that humans want for security of survival.

Where is the line between security and excess of security? Is our societal reliance on fossil fuels an example of simply security or an excess of security? I personally believe that it is an excess of security. The human species has survived for hundreds of thousands of years without fossil fuels – our reliance on them produces a “cush” life with an excess of security (it also harms the earth) So now I wonder – is it an excess of security that leads to the fast-paced and non-local changes in biotic communities such as environmental degradation from fossil fuels?

How to not live with an excess of security? Does our society need a change in worldview? Maybe the Blackfeet Native American tribe worldview, quoting Power Buffalo (a Blackfeet tribal member), to “live with the land, not off of it” fosters a lifestyle of security but not in excess? Many members of the Blackfeet tribe today practice cultural traditions of a time when they lived with little excess. Their impact on the land did not cause fast-paced or non-local changes in the landscape. Traditionally, the Blackfeet tribe lived bioregionally (today many tribal members do not live bioregionally)– they hunted buffalo from the plains to eat and acquire skins. They used additional regional material for teepees and clothing. They traveled in small numbered bands (a group of families in a tribe) of tribal members. They lived within the confines of a bioregion. This bioregional “boundary” limited their lifestyle to one with security but not excess. They could not indulge in excess and exploit resources in a bioregion because they relied solely on those resources for the future as well. This way of life is how I interpret the Blackfeet worldview of “living with the land and not off of it”.

If the Blackfeet bioregional way of life encourages security but no excess and does not cause fast-paced and non-local changes in the landscape, is this a solution to the overuse of resources occurring in today’s society? Is it possible to implement this type of lifestyle into our convoluted world with laws and policies and treaties and so on that have our current system of resource over-use tied into a tight knot? Would the implementation of this way of life hurt some people? How would we even implement it? Who would support it? Who would reject it and why? I have so many questions. It seems as if the more I learn, the more muddled my beliefs become – I question them more than I believe in them.

My education has encouraged me to question my perspective; I postulate and wonder. My perspective is less specialized, less channeled with a specific opinion or perspective. My Land Ethic is ever changing and growing as I learn more and more about the human-land relationship. I have come to see how considering perspective is vital to my own Land Ethic.

I have become frustrated with my consciousness of perspective because I discover that a change (in the human land-relationship) I initially see as positive may not consider all perspectives and therefore may not be a truly positive change. For example, Naomi Klein emphasizes the necessity to approach the climate change crisis by describing, from an economic perspective, how the civil rights movement and the woman’s rights movements have never been fully won because economic equality has not been attained. “While these movements have won huge battles in institutional discrimination, the victories that remained elusive were those that, in [Martin Luther] King’s words, could not be purchased ‘at bargain rates’. There would be no massive investments in jobs, school, and decent homes for African Americans, just as the 1970s woman’s movement would not win its demand for ‘wages for housework’.” A person fighting in, or in support of these historical movements may see them as flawless in their perspective. They may have seen their goal as met, yet from another perspective (in this case – an economic perspective) the goal is not met, the fight not won. Success is a matter of perspective. To extend this example to the concept of a Land Ethic – what is an “ethically” correct or valid solution to a tragedy in the human-land relationship in one person’s perspective may not be in another person’s perspective. Furthermore, what may seem like a tragedy to one person may not seem like a tragedy at all to another person.

For example, the Tintina Resources Inc. copper mine has been proposed on a site along a tributary (Sheep Creek) to the Smith River in central Montana. The copper mine is greatly supported by the town of White Sulfur Springs because of the potential for economic growth. Tintina public relations representative, Nancy Schlepp (a citizen of White Sulfur Springs), presents Tintina’s dedication to environmental precautions to avoid the deposition of sulfuric acid (a biproduct of the mining process) into the surrounding watershed. Despite their transparency about environmental hazards and protection efforts, many Montanans do not support the mine.

Trout Unlimited (TU), a non-profit organization fighting against the construction of the Tintina mine, does not trust the environmental protection efforts that the mine is proposing. The TU mission, according to their website, is “to conserve, protect and restore North America’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds.” The organization sees loop-holes and faults in the environmental plan that Tintina proposes as foolproof. The history of environmental degradation from mining operations in Montana is extreme. There is a trend of failing environmental precaution efforts. TU is hesitant to believe that Tintina will uphold their environmental precaution commitments any better than other mining companies have in the past. They argue that consistent annual tourism from the Smith River outweighs the impermanent economic growth that the 15-year mine will bring to White Sulfur Springs.

This controversy is a matter of perspective. Maybe Tintina believes that it has done everything in its power to avoid environmental catastrophe from the mine and that it will absolutely be able to uphold all of the proposed environmental precautions. Maybe the residents in White Sulfur Springs truly believe the economic benefit from the 15-year mine is worth the possible (but in Tintina’s opinion very improbable) risk of polluting the Smith River (that does bring tourism money to the town). Maybe Tintina Thinks the extremely quick economic growth from the mine is simply better than the slow but steady income from Smith River tourism.

Contrastingly, maybe TU sincerely believes the mine will pollute the Smith River and local economic stability from Smith River tourism will be lost. Maybe they believe that the economic boom from the mine will not sustain the town into the future and with pollution in the Smith River, there will be an tourism income loss for the town. Or maybe TU makes the economic argument against the mine purely because they aim to conserve the freshwater habitat of the Smith River and they need a strong rebuttal to Tintina’s economic argument. TU comes from a perspective of habitat conservation; Tintina comes from a perspective of economic benefit. This is a complex issue; each perspective/argument has a very different goal, yet both perspectives are valid to the people fighting on each side of the battle.

Here is a personal example of this conflict – if I hope to make a change in the industrial food system (one aspect of the human-land relationship which I personally see many flaws in) I cannot simply address issues in the hot-headed and slightly aggressive tone and mind-set that I internally feel when discussing the topic. I must learn about the perspectives of different people who are involved in and rely on our convoluted food system. I must put myself in their shoes, really try to grasp their perspective and why they don’t feel the same way I do. I must question how to find a solution that will work with the whole system, a solution that will not just leave parts of what is already established hanging and demolished. To tackle a problem successfully, I must consider all perspectives.

Now the question is, how to consider perspective but still make a change? How do you live by your Land Ethic but not disregard other’s? I am not sure if there is a perfect solution to this question; for after all, there are seven billion perspectives to consider. Karl E. Weick of Cornell University introduces the concept of “small wins” – “A small win is a concrete, complete, implemented outcome of moderate importance.” The phrase “moderate importance” is key here. If a change (a win in one person’s perspective) is of “moderate importance” than perhaps the change will not greatly affect anyone in a negative way. A person with a different perspective might even receive it positively! Weick states that “A series of small wins may attract allies, deter opponents, and lower resistance to subsequent proposals. Small wins are controllable opportunities that produce visible results…Once a small win has been accomplished, forces are set in motion that favor another small win.” Small wins are steps to a large win that recognize and work with limits (such as perspective) that make a large win difficult to attain all at once.

The concept of SMART goals parallels the concept of small wins. The acronym -SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. A SMART goal, like a small win, represents a “controllable” opportunity “that produce[s] visible results”. Reaching for a SMART goal, one that will meet all of the characteristics listed previously will not lead to a monumental change or a large win it will lead to a small win. The process of meeting a SMART goal or making a small win is how I have discovered will best meet the needs of many different people with many different perspectives.

Living by your Land Ethic does not mean putting every belief you have into practice. Slow and steady “wins” the race. Patience and compassion are key to considering other perspectives. Working with people of a different perspective is key to making a successful and long lasting change in the human-land relationship. Because all seven billion (and counting) people in the world think of the land with a different perspective one cannot just blindly make a goal that overlooks other perspectives. I am not saying that to be successful a SMART goal or small win has to consider every perspective in the world – that might be impossible. However, it is vital to recognize that other people’s Land Ethics will differ from one’s own personal Land Ethic. Remember: there are seven billion people in the world, seven billion perspectives and seven billion Land Ethics.

Works Cited

Abram, D. (2014). On Depth Ecology. The Trumpeter (30)2. 101-104

Dodge, J. (1981, Winter). Living by Life: Some Bioregional Theory and Practice. CoEvolution Quarterly. 6-12.

Fleishner, T.L. (2001-2002). Natural History and the Spiral of Offering. Wild Earth, Fall/Winter. 10-13

Klein, N. (2013). The Leap Years in This Changes Everything (pp. 388-403). New York: Simon & Schuster. (24p)

Leopold, A. (1949a). The Land Ethic. A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There. New York: Oxford University Press. 201-226

Orr, D.W. (1993). Love It or Lose It: The Coming Biophilia Revolution. In Kellert, S., and Wilson, E.O. The Biophilia Hypothesis. Washington, D.C: Island Press. 415-437.

Welck, K.E. (1984). Small Wins: Redefining the Scale of Social Problems. American Psychologist 39(1), pp 40-49. (9p)

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Thank You, Mom!

Mom’s 90th Birthday Party 7-11-15

Thank you all for joining us in celebrating Gerry’s 90th birthday! It’s good to see you all.

I was going to try and entertain you for 15 minutes with a portrait of Gerry in song and story (see next post), but that was voted down heartily and unanimously by all involved as being unrealistic because we would have little-to-no-time to rehearse. Then I modified it into a biography of Gerry’s life through story alone and that got vetoed down strongly. Apparently, it was still too long for this kind of event. Then I transformed it into a 10 minute resumee-like litany of Gerry’s work life with a smattering of silly jokes, but that gained no traction with those determined to protect guests from such meanderings. Then I started reminiscing about all the times I had gone to some interesting place or event with my mother and what we might have learned together, and, because I am still able to learn, I vetoed that one swiftly and without remorse before the committee for audience protection was forced to step in and take action once again. I have defaulted to reading something I wrote years ago. It’s a sketch of my mother, and it’s a thank you note, and…it goes on a bit, and so, I apologize in advance. I leave you all to flesh out the sketch afterwards with a story or a memory you might like to share.

Thank you Mother for all that you’ve done, thank you for all that you do. Thank you for your big heart, for sharing everything that makes you, you!

Thank you for your helpfulness to others. Thank you for caring for your children and grandchildren. Thank you for giving to the world. Thank you for your bigness of Spirit. Thank you for your belief in healing. Thank you for helping make the world a better place.

Lover of conversation, facilitator, explorer, expediter, inviter; thank you for inviting the world into your home, with open mind and open heartedness. Thank you for lending your support, your confidence, your faith, for sharing your insight and understanding.

Thank you for falling down, for standing up, for moving on.

Thank you for sharing your truth, for believing in the value of your voice, for telling your story and listening to others.

Thank you for your sincerity, your earnestness, your love of knowledge. Thank you for your tenacity, persistence and endurance. Thank you for your focus, your concentration, your dedication.

Balloonist, soaring into the heights to study the effects of good humor and perspective. Thank you, for peeking, shyly at times, from behind bright clouds, with a wit and a wink and a good-natured growl.

Traveler, gatherer of shards, gleaner of information, student of history rolling over the past letting the rock reveal its lessons; thank you for moving on with awakened appreciation, freshened enthusiasm and greater understanding.

Chauffeur of children; thank you for your thoughtfulness and your timeliness.

Speller, teacher of clarity, precision and discernment, dis-speller of guilt, bell ringer; thank you for discovering and for sharing your unique voice and point of view.

Thank you for creating a space, a place for relaxation, re-creation, rejuvenation, a sanctuary for reflection and meditation, a place to heal, a place to be simple and honest, a place to be true, a place from which to move with integrity, good will and genuine helpfulness.

Thank you for reaching out with lightness of heart, with candor and humor, with clarity and purpose. Flyer, skier, now T’ai Chier; thank you for opening yourself to the discovery of freedom within and the practice of freedom without.

Thank you for exploring appreciation and acceptance in a world where intolerance seems to prevail. Thank you for discovering and rediscovering a childlike wonder, a childlike innocence that brings healing into a wounded world. Thank you for your artful blending of experience with meditation.

Thank you for your will to participate and for your patience. Thank you for your enthusiasm and for bringing a joyful balancing of self awareness and self expression to help heal soreness wherever it is received.

Thank you for your laughter, thank you for your smiles, thank you for your struggles, and thank you for your trials. Thank you for fussing over your children, grandchildren, family and friends alike. With artful tables set, tasteful food prepared, flowers arranged with care, thank you for creating an environment for the nurturing of good will and peacefulness the better part of your life.

Cat lover, music appreciator, gardener; thank you, Mom, for all that you’ve done. Thank you for all that you do. Thank you for your love, Mom; thank you for being you!

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Gerry; A Portrait in Story

Gerry; A Portrait in Story
Celebrating 90 Years of Life Well Lived
Gerry was born to Anna and Samuel Dintzis on July 10th, 1925, 7 years after the end of WWI (the War to End all Wars) the same year, as chance would have it, that the astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered the existence of the Andromeda galaxy, determining that the Milky Way might have once fooled around, and perhaps some of the stardust in our bodies is not hers alone. What Edwin didn’t know, and certainly Gerry didn’t know in 1925, was that in 65 years, a telescope bearing Hubble’s name would help determine that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate. This momentous discovery, in turn, helps to explain why this kind of family gathering is so challenging an undertaking. Nevertheless, even with the mind boggling discoveries of Hubble, despite the proposed existence of dark matter and dark energy, here we are, and here Gerry is, to help unboggle the mind.

Excerpt from Mom’s Garden Journal 08-21-08
It’s coolish…the breezes make it so. I spent an hour staking and cleaning up the tomato patch. It’s a tiny patch with only three large plants. They were leaning every which way. What inspired me were the three large, perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes that the squirrels bit into, then left the rest to rot. Aghh!
I had thought to pick them in the late afternoon, having read that’s the best time for picking because all the nutrients have come up into the plant in the morning and not yet gone back into the earth for the night.
Don’t have a clue if it’s valid but the squirrels sure don’t wait until evening. They’re out there munching away in the early morning, bless their little, pointed ears. From now on it’s morning picking for me!

Waaa…y back then, when Gerry was a kid, Newton still ruled the day. And though Einstein was to have his day of certainty, and Heisenburg his day of uncertainty, they had yet to make the scene. Nevertheless, with a certainty and uncertainty all her own, Gerry ventured out into the world believing and behaving as if all were well. Gerry’s world was one of great interconnectivity, consisting of mother Anna, father Samuel, sister Eleanor, her beloved nieces Lanni, Denni and Lita, the drug store, greater Chicagoland, friends and extended family. When she needed to get somewhere, she’d walk, or skip, or take the bus; sometimes she road her bike all the way to what was then an Old apple Orchard in Skokie. Many summers, she went with her Mom and Eleanor to live on a farm in Wisconsin. She loved learning, and family, and she also learned to love—Traveling!

Excerpt from Bubbe’s Travel Journal
We bid adieu to Montreux; the hotel with its wonderful breakfasts; pretty views from the dining balcony; great concerts and exciting, enticing bazaar scene where we all found treasures…did we ever find treasures!!!!!!…and boarded the train to Lausanne and thence to Zurich in a First Class car with a conductor with a heart. Thank you very much, Mr. Conductor. I’ll remember you kindly for a long, long time as will the arms and shoulders of the others.
Thank you all for making the trip so enjoyable and so memorable.

Throughout the Great Depression, Gerry maintained her optimism and good cheer. She worked in the drug store from the age of eleven until she graduated high school. She helped her mother dust the stock of cosmetics and comic books and sundries and sold everything under the sun including, cigarettes and cigars.

Gerry Reflecting
While working at my Dad’s store one day I witnessed somebody come into the drug store to buy something. While he was paying, my Dad turned away from the man briefly in order to use the cash register. When he turned back, the man was gone. Alas, he still had a penny change coming! I remember my father chasing that man down the block to give him his penny change.

Gerry was a senior in high school when Pearl Harbor was attacked drawing the United States into WWII and awakening the American citizenry into the reality that war does not end war. After graduating from high school, Gerry studied at Wright Jr. College for a year and then got involved in the war effort and went to work for Revere Copper and Brass (of pot and pan fame) that had turned its attention towards manufacturing shells for machine guns and torpedoes. She worked in the lab weighing samples of shells.

A Poem by Gerry
Oh joyous gratitudinous
‘Twas thirty-seven degrees

The snow…all four plus inches
Was buckling at its knees

But lo ! …………………..
‘Twas not enough to please
The weather gods decree

So…Up it went…and Up and Up
It’s now a High For – tee!

The wind doth blow
The sky is low
And darkish is its color

The grass appears…
There and here
Its emerald hue aglow……………so


After a year at Revere working the night shift, Gerry appeased her concerned mother, Anna, by getting a job at Pettibone Mulliken Foundry working in the chemistry lab analyzing molten steel. When she came home from her job, her Mom made her take off all her outer wear on the porch, anything that had picked up the fragrance of the foundry, even if it was 10 degrees below zero outside! She stayed at Pettibone for 2 years because that was the minimum time that the war labor board decreed mandatory. They manufactured what were called “frogs” or railroad track switches destined for Russia during WWII. Before the molten metal (referred to as a ‘heat,’) was poured into molds, they poured out a tiny fraction and sent it to the lab for Gerry to analyze for the proper balance of six different metals. It was cold in Russia. They needed good train switches. This was before the Cold War. Russia was still our ally.

Tips on How to Stay Mentally Fit at age 85 by Gerry
– I’ve joined a group of women from JRC who study with a non- JRC rabbi, three times a month. Meet for lunch at the home of the hostess of the month…it’s greet, eat, seat and read. This rabbi is really great. He’s best described as totally with it. Reading’s in English, he reads the Hebrew/Aramaic (to himself) and ties everything to local politics, economics, cultures. Makes it real and living.
– Then there’s the once a month b’nai mitzvah group gathering.
– Then there’s the once a month ladies torah group that I’ve been a part of for about 30 years.
– Then there’s the Saturday minyan at JRC that I get to 2-3 times a month.
– Then there’s the First Friday of the Month dinner group.

After the foundry job, Gerry went to work for Continental Can Corporation where they were developing an adhesive that would seal containers making them waterproof so that they could protect food from being lost at sea after a boat was torpedoed. She worked there for over a year and then went to the University of Chicago to study liberal arts for a year, broaden her mind and take a break from the relatively conservative, narrowly focused world of torpedoes. Though her formal liberal arts education was soon interrupted, the broadening of her mind continued when she met Wallace Salzman, a bright, young Chicago Med student from Brooklyn.

She and Wally hit it off. They were married in March of ’47 about 8 months later. Within the year, Wally graduated from Medical school and they drove off to Wilmington, Delaware for an internship. The next year they moved to Long Branch NJ for a residency in internal medicine. In what might now seem like the blink of an eye (or, an eternity, depending on your state of mind) they took a slow drive through New York heading west, trying to decide where to settle down. They agreed that they wanted to live within a comfortable driving radius of family. They finally settled in the Chicago area in Libertyville after a friend tipped them off that it was a very pleasant, little town. There, Wally got busy building a medical practice and supporting a family, and Gerry got busy birthing and raising their children: David, Richard, Steven, Judith and Beth.

Excerpt from Bubbe’s Garden Journal 04-23-09
My backyard looks like Spring has really Sprung!
The ground is covered with flowering vinca, and scattered hither and thither are clumps of white, pale yellow and deeper yellow daffodils. The peonies are peeking through their mulch. The lovage is almost a foot high and their split leaf pattern is really pretty against the wooden fence.
Later, in May, all the baby lilac bushes that have grown throughout the yard will be transplanted along the back fence. In thirty years, they’ll be big and strong like the parent plant, towering over the fence and wafting old-fashioned lilac fragrances around the yard.

Well, perhaps things weren’t perfectly well all the time. In those days there were the mumps and measles and chicken pox and a host of other common maladies and there was the space race with sputnik and the moon landings and civil rights and the struggle for justice and women’s rights and the Korean War and the War in Vietnam. But there was penicillin and there were vaccines and there was antiwar protesting and desegregation and all the while there were family gatherings and Katz Cousin Club picnics and the family trees kept growing:
The Dintzises,
The Uretzes, the Bermans, the Ragins,
The Guttmans, the Cuthberts;
The Salzmans, the Graubarts, the Golds;
The Hafts, the Polegs
And Gerry’s tree of friends kept growing:
The Sherwoods, the Shwartzmans, The Klopshes,
The Lipshultzes, The Counselbaums, the Leichlings, the Tannenbaums

In the Lilacs August 27, 2009 by Gerry
Oh my goodness…there’s a chipmunk climbing the lilac bush! I’ve seen them in the garage, on the deck, scurrying across the wood chips at the base of the deck, but this is the first time I’ve seen one actually climbing the bushes.
The branch barely moved under such a wee one. Not a leaf is stirring. The sky is bright gray. The air feels as if one were enveloped in a mist but really not.
There’s a gentle stillness over the garden; even traffic noises are stilled. One could become pensive in this atmosphere, that is, one could, if one were not hungry.

With the advent of the space race, and spin off technologies leading to the creation of space shuttles and space stations, the time was right to peer a bit deeper into the cosmos. And so, the hubbub of the Hubble telescope began. And our understanding of family gatherings was deepened. And possibility gave way to probability. And the probable existence of antigravity spurred a renewed appreciation for the magnificent accomplishments of gravity.

In other words, there were more family gatherings, and trips to see Joe and Dotty and the Gold clan and trips to see the Hafts and Polegs in Israel and trips to Europe just to see, and trips to Alaska to see Frankie and trips to California to see George and Mike, and trips to see the Dintzises in Peoria, and trips to see the Dintzises out east to eat freshly baked popovers and pick wild blueberries on Cadillac Mountain while witnessing the northern lights ablaze amidst an awesome shower of meteorites painting glorious pictures in the late evening sky!

And even if the physical universe is expanding at an ever increasing rate, even if in a billion years the children of The Milky Way won’t be able to help her see her beloved Andromeda with any power telescope, we can always hope that the strength of love and wonder and kindness and patience and forgiveness are up to the task of filling the great void of space between them.

Aaa…nd there were trips to Florida and the Black Hills and more trips that break-you -but-in-the-end-make-you, and roughing it at McCormick’s Creek with the Guttmans and the smell of wood burning in the stove and, naturally, sometimes necessarily there was plenty of poison ivy grounding everyone into the itchy reality of life on earth.

“Spring in Skokie” A Poem by Gerry
Had an uninvited guest in my bedroom early today.
Lightning and thunder crackled their way into my sleeping cell.
4 A.M. was as bright and as noisy as 4 P.M.
and, like rush hour, lasted and lasted,
with short breaks, until 6 A.M.

Water sheeted down from battleship gray skies
flooding streets, parking lots
and probably basements most unfortunate.

Morning, rainy and 47; Afternoon, sunny and 72
Ground saturated, Trees growing tall
People growing bewildered
Perplexed…what’s next?

Then of course there was the separation with Wally and the recovery, and the long and winding road with her beloved children, the sorrows and the joys. Thankfully, Gerry had many wonderful friends through the good times and through the not so good times. Many of you are here today: Betty and Pat and Roz and Ester and Ada and Carol and Howard and Eva, and Karen and Larry, and Albert and Menchi and family. And many are not here today: Jean and Herb, Eileen and Bert, Elaine and Mel, Sylvia and Leo…and through it all, the family trees kept growing: the Kiddles and the Deerings; the Polegs and the Levys; the Alahis…and it was good.

Life goes on, as persistently as human endeavor, and just when you thought watching “The Wizard of OZ” on color TV was the pinnacle, the Everest of human imagination, you realize it was only the Mount Rushmore. Along came computers and iPhones and Youtube and Skype. Did Gerry adapt? As Deni’s husband Bill would say, “You Betcha!”

Excerpt from Gerry’s Garden Journal 06-05-09
The ladies of the FFM (First Friday of the Month) group will have dinner here tonight. My table decorations are small glass vases of flowers; lavender, wild geraniums and white blossoms from snow on the mountain ground cover, both from my back yard.
That snow on the mountain ground cover has spread all over the backyard and needs pulling out. Oh well, that’s next week’s chore.
Kristen, a young friend from the minyan, was here for an hour of digging out all the horseradish plants, ferns and garlic chives that have also spread all over the place. Now there are mounds of horseradish root piled in the way back…and to think, yesterday, at Whole Foods, they had organically grown huge horseradish root priced at $9.95 a lb!! I could send a kid to college for a year with the pile in my backyard!!
It was wonderful having that help. Now the raspberry patch, which needs lots of weeding, doesn’t seem so overwhelming with all the rest taken care of.
It’s coolish, with bursts of warmish sun…rain on the way tomorrow and Sunday. The ground is still moist from last week’s rains, and the rains the weeks before then, so everything is growing at a rapid pace. Everything does look beautiful. Ah! There’s the sun peeking out for a bit.

And then Lanni met George and Lita met, Jo…Oprah—and it was good.
And then Gerry’s children began to make their move out into the world.
To make a long story short: Steve met Lisa, Beth met Mark, Richard met Maureen, Judith met Jim; and all was well. And in the blink of an eye, and perhaps a wink or two, Gerry’s beloved grandchildren were born into the new digital age: First Allie, then Laura, then Danny, then Ariana—and life was good.

It was good because humans have an uncanny ability to join together even while the stars and galaxies of the physical universe that they inhabit are rushing away from each other at increasing speeds. And though dark energy has had its day (after all, suburban sprawl is a harsh reality) the gatherings continued with the Gordons, and with the Ruttenbergs and the Rices and the Hershes. And there were trips to Savannah, and to Door County, and to Vermont! And then Nuchy met Alan and soon Coby and Gaia were born and they all moved to Skokie, Yay!

And though there had been much Hebrew School shuttling over the years and of course the High Holidays and Chanukah and Sukkah, and later Torah study and the Minyan, and then Gerry’s Bat Mitzvah at age 75!, most memorably there were the beautiful flower arrangements on the table and the pillows on the floor and the good conversation durig…you guessed it…Passover Seders celebrating, what else—freedom: Freedom from slavery without; Freedom from addiction within. What better way to climb the perplexing rungs of Jacob’s ladder, than to practice saying “No!” to what is false, and “Yes!” to what is true. Gerry studied T’ai Chi for 25 years and Torah for 30 years to align herself with truth, cut through falseness, and help keep her spark well kindled with the dedicated practice of thoughtful words and mindful deeds, even though she might flash back to her Revere days and pretend at times that she studied T’ai Chi to learn how to kick somebody’s ass, and studied Torah, to learn how to prevail in a fierce debate.

A Poem by Gerry
Oh my achin’ back……and where were my brains?
Somewhere in the dirt I was scratching, I guess
Picking out small pebbles and chips from broken pots
Temperature in the high eighties, some sort of breeze
But not where I was working in the small space
Between my house and my neighbor’s fence
Pachysandra once grew there in abundance
But of late others are encroaching
A very small bushy evergreen has
Volunteered to grow in this shady place
And a cotoneaster has joined in
It likes the crowded corner near the walkway
My back will stop aching when I lie down on
The back roll and breathe a sigh of relief
The rock garden looks so much better with
All the broken pottery now in small pieces
Making a mosaic area near the deck
And the small growing greens now
Fed and watered are really perky
My reward for all the sweat equity invested

As we all know, Gerry is a person of good cheer and shares her joy of life with everyone she knows. Much like everyone else, it helps her to have nourishing food, fresh water, clean air, sufficient shelter, good friends and meaningful work from day to day. Perhaps, unlike everyone else it also helps her to have flying lessons! And so there were the flying club days and the days of downhill skiing, and there were the falls and the broken bones and the subsequent healings, some would say swift healings, owing to her understanding of the importance of relaxation and the power of positive thinking.

Excerpt from Gerry’s Journals
The wind…is blowing so strongly that it’s blown the snow off the picnic table…distributed it all over the yard. It’s pretty to see the swirling snow making houses across the street be seen as if in a mist. Jake was sitting on the chair by the living room window watching the swirls. When they subsided for a moment, he went to sleep. Smart cat!

But there are decisions to be made and there are things to be done in order for healing to be extended…And so, there were the days of Herman Cember and Ray Johnson and Gerry’s many years of working as a lab technician in the civil engineering department at Northwestern University. Her connections there led to 19 years working at B.R.A.I.N. Labs as a facilitator helping to ease peoples’ intractable pain through the newly emerging field of biofeedback. Gerry witnessed some wondrous results, especially while helping people manage the symptoms of migraine headaches.

A Very Short Story by Gerry
When I turned nine
I was sent to the bakery with a precious dime
to buy a loaf of Vienna bread
and get 3 cents change…

I lost the dime.

Crying my eyes out, I walked up and back
on the double width sidewalk
looking for that dime.

A lady asked me what I was looking for.
Too embarrassed to tell her,
I kept walking, looking and crying.

She kept asking…and finally I told her.

She uncurled her fingers,
and in the palm of her hand
lay my dime!

From then on,
I believed in angels.

Thank you, for remembering to find your kindness, patience and compassion in a timely way throughout life’s ups and downs—
And thank you, for keeping your curiosity piqued and your sense of humor and wonder alive throughout the constant changes of life—.
And thank you, for sharing your story and for listening to others’ stories no matter how troubling—for they help to restore and maintain the peace.

What dreams do I have for my grandchildren, I wonder? And as I wonder and my thoughts wander, I really wonder how I have the temerity to dream about my grandchildren’s futures.

Will the world they live in have fewer borders with ideas and
people moving easily and freely through place and space?

Will the world be ever more subdivided with people
densely packed into restricted spaces?

Will they grow in wonderment at the smallest particles of our universe?

Will they look with amazement at the variety of living organisms in our macro-world and recognize their responsibility in maintaining this exciting beauty?

Will they continue to build upon the foundation built by their parents, of awareness of the needs of others less fortunate than they and continue to extend help in positive ways?

As they grow, will they learn to look inside themselves to help solve relationship problems?

Perhaps what dreams I have for my grandchildren can be summed up in a sentence:

May they continue to grow healthy in body with an always interested mind and thoughtful spirit, and may the glow from them help illuminate the world.

And let us say…Amen.

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Shooting Blanks

The words startled me as they sprung from my mouth, in part because there was so little emotion behind them. It wasn’t a typically embarrassing moment of acting out. I’m not an attention starved kid; I’m 60, for heaven’s sake. It was more like acting, pretending, having fun, shouting with glee, delighting in the capacity for loudness. Apparently, my mute button’s not depressed, yet I’m not one to toot my horn unnecessarily. Indeed, according to my partner, E, my troubles in the market place result from failing to toot my horn sufficiently.

It was odd to shout and not feel justified. It was game night. We were there to have fun. Later, E commented, “at that moment, I disassociated.” She couldn’t believe I was making a scene in front of our friend, the ultimate sin, worse than dead air time stunning its audience with a moment of silence. Yet isn’t that why we go out: to watch those who make scenes in public? I was sparing them the drive, the search for parking, stickiness on the theater floor, the trauma of violent previews, the temptation of buttered popcorn, as well as saving them money and helping to reduce their carbon footprint.

OK, perhaps it was a feeble attempt to steal the show, 60 going on 6, but at that moment I felt like a good Samaritan shouting a warning to an oblivious pedestrian wandering into the rush of oncoming traffic. Of course, we weren’t in the streets. We were inside E’s cozy living room, the fire was burning, conversation was flowing, we were dancing, and only a wee bit of sherry had been sipped. Suddenly, the fun was over. Get back to work. Be careful. The streets are everywhere.

‘Fire can freeze and frost can burn.’ I read that recently. The world is paradox, takes two to tango, two to tangle. Tantra, tantrums; it’s in our DNA. We’re wound up together and we’re healing together. Funny how wound and wound are spelled alike. We’re each other’s cause and each other’s reason for being. So why do we feel so alone and separate so much of the time? That life is paradox provides the short, glib answer. Having the courage to remain in relationship and deepen our sense of interconnectedness provides the long, convincing answer.

I used to tell E when we first hooked up that what I appreciated most about our connection was the easy, fluid, mental exchange. That’s true to this day. We have a relaxed, playful, meaningful communication most of the time. Once in a while it gets intense. She doesn’t like it. Those moments, she tends to bolt; I tend to wrestle with demons. I jest that she’s kin to my cats. She wants contact but only so long as there’s no feeling of being restrained. Brief hugs are OK; holding on is not. Like my cats, she needs plenty of wiggle room.

There we were, nowhere near the streets, in a cozy, warm living room dancing together. E had put on a CD she’d recently received from her previous partner who consistently rubs me the wrong way for reasons quite explicable yet unimportant to this narrative. What is important is my not being reactive when she chooses to be in contact with him. It’s not important that I dislike the dynamics of their relationship. What is important is that I allow her to relate in whatever way she wants. It’s her want, not mine. I need to remember to butt out, not demo her wiggly room.

The thing is, they weren’t even relating. The CD, an innocuous plastic symbol of their relationship, set off the smoke alarm. Firecrackers go off when you light their fuse. Baseball fans go off when their team gets a hit. Everyone’s looking to unwind in a wound up universe. But thermodynamics and psychodynamics are not always on the same page. The problem is we’re all in some sort of psychic pain most of the time, searching for the treatment that will ease our angst. We typically search in the wrong place because we’ve been programmed to look there by yours un-truly, the corporate entities that gluttonously feed on human suffering.

Just the symbol, that was all. That was all that was required for the outburst. We pretend to be in control, but mostly we’re out of control, in denial, projecting, making scenes, lurching about, stumbling and bumbling and then acting as if all is in order. If we’re in control, why is there so much violence in the world, so much violent imagery, starting with the omnipresent police force that pretends to be keeping the peace? Sometimes I wonder if human beings are truly interested in peace. It seems clear that peace is not kept by force or by threat of force, but by sharing, by letting go, by giving way. Peace, too, requires minimal restraint.

Fools rush, so fools fall. Angels never fall, for they never rush. I was shouting at her. Stop! Look out for the car! Look out! Seemingly, the energy of transformation rounded a corner and sped out of sight. Wasted? Hit and run? Maybe. Maybe not. Perhaps, the energy didn’t speed after all. Perhaps it slowed for a moment and condensed into a denser, more visible form. Funny how ‘going off ’ can mean coming on. At that moment, I might have shouted in pure glee and the mood would not have shifted dramatically. The dancing would have continued, along with the chit chat so helpful for winding down. But at some point, we’re going to wind up again. There are important things to be done. Novel idea: bring our fuller, truer, more genuine selves out into the world, rather than the usual trail mix of persona and shadow.

Integrity? What does it mean in a world where ambition, drive, focus, concentration, commitment, dedication and desire mingle to manufacture the fuel required for getting things done, for ‘seizing the day.’ What needs to be done, of course, is a question integrity alone can answer. Integrity is source and delta, that state we’re driven from and towards, in circuitous, often convoluted ways. When we return from our meandering (recover from our seizures) we remember what needs to be done (kairos, now is the time). In the meantime, we play with the fuel, spill it about in clever ways, pretending its purpose is other than wanton wastefulness. Honesty is key, not sincerity, not earnestness. Simple, unrelenting honesty stops the waste and bitterness rooted in denial and pride. Salt in the wound, honesty allows us to taste the sweet purpose of forgiveness.

There I go again. Another outburst. It would seem that I need wiggle room too. Please allow me to wind down. Healing is the purpose, forgiveness is the means, honesty is our recognition of the need for healing. Blah, blah, fucking blah: modern day trilogy…I mean trinity…I mean tritium…you know what I mean. Everything leaks a bit in the dueling world of duality, where everything seems solid, separate and at odds for a short period of time. Watch out! Watch out for the car! Yes, I shouted. But like I said, “I rarely shout for the sake of shouting…” So why was I making trouble where there seemingly was none? Clearly, my suspension is not in great shape. Hit a pothole, I suppose, spun out of control while attempting to steer clear of the frost heaves and ruts.

That’s why I stood up and was counted for at town meeting when B proposed Richmond vote to not let tarsand oil be transported through town. Reason does just fine in most situations, because everything has a reason. The trouble is, we live in a confused world where we’re so dazed and bedazzled by the onrush of information that we don’t have eyes to see. We’re so busy swiping tiny specks of dust, soap and toothpaste from the mirror that we’ve little time or inclination left for more than a cursory glance in the mirror. How can we be reasonable when we fail to see our hidden drives? How can we be free of addiction when we fearfully consume whatever the trucks deliver? In the addictive culture we’ve created, we need gas almost like we need water, but we don’t need a dirty needle to sustain our culture any more than we need dirty water to quench our thirst.

We’re all living one day at a time. I’ve been making a living through building for over 30 years. The key to creating smooth-wall, walls that are seemingly flawless and continuous, without joints, is to dim the overheads and carefully scan the mud with a trouble light so that dimples, bumps and edges can be revealed for sanding. In daylight or bright light, there’s too much glare to perceive so-called imperfection. So it is with everyday life and its glaring demands. We wait until night for the shit to hit the fan. It need not be a bad thing. There’s less trouble detecting error when it’s not cloaked in virtue. In the world of glee and glare, everything’s backing up; we step in it, spread it about, pompously pretending it’s holy water. At least, when shit hits the fan, we can entertain hope that it will soon find an appropriate field to fertilize.

OK. I’ll get to the point. Sorry I startled you. It was a mistake. Allow me to offer restitution and reassurance that it’s not a steady state. It was a blip on the screen, a chink in the amour, a run in the hose. Even if it was as serious as ice on the bulkhead, a car backfiring or a kink in the hose, equilibrium can be restored easily with a bit of chipping, a gentle nudge or a slight turn of a screw. Some glitches can be fixed simply by rebooting, letting go—an uncertain grip on certainty.

It takes but an unmindful moment for anger and fear to do their destructive work. It requires but a mindful moment for forgiveness and kindness to do their work of reparation. What is now an occasional blip on the screen, was once a steady-state of repressed feelings and conflicted emotions. At 60, I’m still healing from childhood wounds. Kind of sad, but we’re all in the same boat. No one gets out of childhood fully alive. Adults get busy and call it living. Much of what we do is avoidance. Now, when I flashback, it’s like watching a B movie: bad acting, poor direction, lame script, heavy reliance on outdated special effects—good for a chuckle and a sigh—and if we’re not too proud to admit error, also good for propping open the door on a space expansive enough for patience, kindness and forgiveness to flourish.

I hope W will not tuck me into a file with her father, ‘the explosive type, not to be emotionally relied upon.’ But if she does, that’s OK. I won’t become her fall guy. After the chit chat ceased, suddenly she shared about her father and brother and their abusive behavior during her childhood. Perhaps she’s healed from those relationships to some extent. Perhaps she needs to go another round in the spiral dance. Mayhap my unmindful muttering served as catalyst for more than a moment of mayhem. What a mouthful. Unlike that last hyper-alliterative sentence, perhaps my unwitting outburst was not waste, ‘sound and fury signifying nothing’.

Shooting blanks can be a waste of time, especially if we’re looking for effect. How do we know we’re on target if there’s no projectile, no effect? Read this recently: ‘rather than focus on the bow and arrow, focus only on the bow.’ Sound without fury signifies more than nothing.

Ebb and Flow,
fools both,
rushing from
and rushing towards,
angels’ certainty.

Like anger,
we know love,
by its effects.

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A Path Opens at Trail’s End

Excerpt from ‘Wandering Jew’

Words heal. Words harm. Arguing over who did what to whom draws us into the pattern of harm. Argument comes of having lost the forest for the trees. Winning is the point of argument. As with all competition, it reflects the ego’s agenda. Argument is self defeating because it ends in loss. No one wins in the end.

When we argue for the sake of argument, we side step an opportunity for understanding. If understanding becomes the motivation for ‘argument,’ a weapon has been transformed into a tool; we have found the way out of the pattern. When we debate, we are honing the weapon, not honoring the tool. We’re stuck in the pattern because winning is the point.

Conversation, annealed with honesty, honors the tool; it follows the flaws in our own argument. Flaws in our pattern of thinking show us the way out. “Swords into plow shares.” Suddenly, the sharpened weapon becomes a useful tool. Fire can burn, fire can warm. As argument transforms into communication, words that once harmed can heal.

The path that leads towards understanding is the path that led away from it. Somehow, we must turn ourselves around. It is not easy, but it is simple. The further from understanding we get, the more we’ve exercised our pride and arrogance. The deeper we are into habit, the steeper and narrower the path becomes. When there’s barely room to stand on a ledge, it’s difficult to turn. But turn around we must. A path opens at trail’s end. The heart starts opening when it stops closing.

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Aikido has a deep and lasting value in human society
– promotes peak physical condition and vibrant health
– heightens mental concentration
– develops good character, improves human relations
– provides alternatives in resolving conflicts
– increases self-discipline, confidence, ability to share

Peak physical condition and vibrant health
Students experience increased balance, coordination and agility. Aikido as exercise or physical conditioning is unparalleled. It combines the benefits of swimming and diving, hiking and mountain climbing, running and dance. Endurance and stamina are developed optimally. The stretches and motions of Aikido techniques form a physical therapy to keep the internal organs healthy, to condition the joints and strengthen the musculature. The strength developed in Aikido is accompanied by flexibility so that power can issue fluently through the entire body. Sensitivity is heightened because Aikido does not ‘work’ when only muscular strength is applied. The proper position must be precisely and softly ‘felt’ so that energy can flow forward without obstruction. This manifests the ethical stance that Aikido ‘never intends to harm.’

Heightening mental concentration
If we are not careful, we can be injured. Aikido practice, which otherwise might be dangerous to life and limb, is framed by certain courtesy forms. These help us to approach the study with respect for each other and provide a basic safety. Yet, as trust builds among students, the practice can get quite vigorous and the pace can be accelerated. As this occurs, strong concentration is an absolute necessity. We cannot be lackadaisical, and yet we must relax. Unreal and distracting fears and fantasies yield to increasing mental clarity. There is no room for extraneous thought. Once we experience this it can then be naturally applied in any endeavor.

Character development, interpersonal relations

The ethical stance of Aikido is often expressed as its ‘philosophy.’ This might lead to a misunderstanding that to study Aikido is to learn and accept a particular belief system. There is no need to adhere to a ‘philosophy’ in Aikido, and yet it provides continuing proof to the student that good character is a reachable — and practical goal. If a student is Christian, it vivifies the Christ. If a student is Buddhist, the Buddha is illuminated. It can help Buddhists understand Christians and vice-versa. In down to earth terms, Aikido communicates that tolerance and understanding, honesty and kindness, self respect and respect for others, always doing one’s absolute best—all lead to a fulfilling, meaningful life experience.

Providing alternatives in resolving conflict

There is not life without conflict. How we cope with conflict is what matters. In the most stark terms, when conflicts arise, it is a situation of kill or be killed. Aikido illustrates numerous alternatives; all of them effect a mediation which results in a successful resolution for all concerned. Aikido, used as a metaphor, has inspired innovations in business conferences and in governmental diplomatic negotiations. It has broadened and improved police training as it applies to reaction in critical, life-threatening situations. It is used by psychologists to ameliorate their patient’s mental or internal conflicts. Artists, too, find resolution for their creative conflicts through applied Aikido principles. Applied Aikido works to ameliorate all potential contention: to reconcile, to resolve peacefully.

Self-discipline, confidence, the ability to share

In Aikido practice everyone is a student and a teacher. There is an inexplicable, deep sense of sharing that is inclusive. Aikido nurtures the growth of the best discipline of all—self-discipline. In daily practice, there is an atmosphere free of competition where all students participate and experience success so that self-confidence can grow. These benefits are present on the mat during practice time and gradually influence all the daily activities of work, recreation and leisure.

Aikido is a fully accredited course at a number of American universities. It is also included in the curriculum of a growing number of elementary and secondary schools—public and private. It has been steadily proliferating as an educational offering for the past 40 years.

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Run On Sentence

I know that austerity is a dirty word in this country, it’s an emergency measure that Europeans resort to when the economy gets out of whack, but not in the United States, and I wonder why that is and I wonder why organizations such as focus so much attention on getting oil companies to stop drilling, stopping production at the ‘pusher’ end of things (yet another war on drugs?) rather than focusing on the ‘addicts,’ the consumers, and helping us to stop our mindless, despairing addiction (which brings up the question, why are we so mindless and despairing), and I wonder why Bernie Sanders, who clearly is passionate and does his job with great sincerity is a champion of the so-called middle class, still believing after all the evidence is in, that the middle class is sustainable in the face of India and China attempting to follow suit, not learning the lessons big brother has taught, that the middle class is not sustainable, where 4% of the people use 20% of the resources, it just can’t happen mathematically, 100% of the people would have to use 500% of the resources and pollute 500% of the planet, maybe the math isn’t perfectly accurate, but you get my point, the resources of the earth are limited, and ultimately, technology, the mindlessly clever beast that gets us into trouble, is not going to get us out of trouble, at least not all the time because if enough symptoms surface simultaneously, system failure is imminent, and no amount of band-aids or pressure will stop the bleeding, for the birds of prey continue to peck out our liver while we’re chained to the rock of our industry, and just because corporations are clever at innovating the next unnecessary thing, and advertisers are skilled at selling the next unnecessary thing, the earth is still just the earth and does not answer to CEOs, any more than people passing away answer to doctors, the truth answers to lawyers, or hurricanes answer to levees.

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Just Imagine

Just imagine that Mrs. Lanza decided to collect guitars instead of guns, and that she took her troubled son to music lessons instead of shooting ranges. Imagine that he spent time playing music instead of pretending to shoot people in video games. I think that world might be a better place, and the families of 28 people might be happier today.

Mrs. Lanza was afraid of something, and thought her guns would protect her family. Look what happened instead. We can all support the ideas that will make our children safer, and stand up for their right to go to school in peace. But isn’t it also worth the risk to put more music into their lives, and less pretend violence?

We can decide right now, without waiting for an act of Congress, that violent pretend games of any kind are not welcome in our homes. Even the youngest children can learn to avoid that habit. Rule #1: “We aren’t going to play games anymore where we pretend to hurt people.” Rule #2: “We will not support the excessive violence in the movie industry”.

We can decide right now to put more music and art into our homes. In doing so we will make this world a better, more compassionate place for our children and the children of the next seven generations.

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The Space Between

Last night I clearly saw Salmon…symbol of the ancient Celtic wisdom. Salmon weaves through all knowledge that is and was. Salmon swims the rivers and oceans linking us to sacred ancient mysteries and deep emotion. Salmon is a very wise, magical creature.

“…he is said to “swim in the Well of Segais, eating the mystical hazelnuts that fall from the tree.” Salmon is said to be as old as time itself and knows everything past and future and it is through Salmon’s deep and ancient wisdom that connection lives, never fully captured it but always felt. It is a wisdom that requires faith in the mystical and the compassionate realms.

As we rejoice in our connections with others we feel great sorrow when they are lost. In truth Salmon reminds me that they need never be lost if they are allowed growth. Like air to our lungs, we take it in and let it out…take it in…let it out…again and again for if we don’t…love, compassion and life itself surely dies.

It is the way the cycle of energy that we call life works. One spiral of energy leads to another and traveling through the spirals of life’s experiences requires us to become centered in the space between before moving on to the next.

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Tao te Ching, by Lao Tsu

Source: The Complete Tao Te Ching
Translated by Gia-fu Feng and Jane English, Vintage Books, 1989

Verse Sixty-seven
Everyone under heaven says that my Tao is great and beyond compare.
Because it is great, it seems different.
If it were not different, it would have vanished long ago.
I have three treasures which I hold and keep.
The first is mercy; the second is economy;
The third is daring not to be ahead of others.
From mercy comes courage; from economy comes generosity;
From humility comes leadership.

Nowadays men shun mercy, but try to be brave;
They abandon economy, but try to be generous;
They do not believe in humility, but always try to be first.
This is certain death.

Mercy brings victory in battle and strength in defense.
It is the means by which heaven saves and guards.

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One of the things I love most about hiking on a mountain trail with roots and rocks
(especially at a good clip, while coming down)
is that you need to pay very close attention so you don’t stumble.

There you are, in the “zone,” steadily surveying the terrain,
and suddenly you spy a furry, little caterpillar
slinking slowly across your path

and just before your foot is about to come down
from sheer repetition, inertia and gravity
and squash the innocent creature…

…you see…

and you make that slight adjustment
avoiding collision,
allowing that wondrous life
to live on and blissfully (or ignorantly)
go its way,

perhaps one day, in its own good time, to turn to goo
the kind that might transform into a lovely butterfly,
the kind that might inspire human imagination.

there’s got to be
something good
about coming

Taking it to the limit
and making intelligent choices
so all might thrive,
that’s the real rush,
not the winning time, not the catastrophe
not the glorious stories about survival of the fittest.

Posted in Defining Moments | 1 Comment

Garden Magic

It’s a funny thing.

I sit at the computer doing well and with mostly positive things on my mind, then I go outside to the garden and all that is important is really right there. I actually already knew that, but today I know it deeper.

The garden is magic. It’s the song Mother Earth sings if you just take a handful of minutes to harmonize with her. It is extraordinary. Tending the garden is about planting and weeding and watering and harvesting. Yet it is also about altering relationship with the universe and oneself.

I look at my tiny garden and am again reminded that every inch of the earth is holy. It is easier to remember that holiness when it looks like the Scottish Highlands, or the beach at Chatham, or Vermont in Late September but really, the Black Eye Susans in the garden carry all of the majesty of any of those places.

We humans have lost track of that to some extent and need shock and awe vistas to remind us “Oh, yeah, the earth— it is beautiful!” even though it is right outside the door, at this moment, wherever we are.

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This is why we come together
—we who work and wonder alone.

We come together to ease our isolation
—to check our sanity
—to share power and our sorrows
—to share wisdom and mistakes.

We walk our paths alone
—but that doesn’t require loneliness.

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Everything Depends

There is no winner in the human race.
We cross the finish line together

Humans are skilled at splitting
more than atoms.
Violence creates the split second required
to maintain war and detain peace.

When we speak about helping people
up the economic ladder,
what we’re really doing
is discussing strategies
for laying down cover fire
for those laying down their lives
up at the front.
The further we are from up front
the lower the apparent body count.
What appears to be higher on the ladder
is both the distance
and the advantage we gain
from the violence required
to sustain inequity and injustice.
War lends new meaning to
political sophistry about
leaving no child behind.

Our children
are being sent over seas
this moment
to fight and die
in a war
being fought
over the oil
required to send them to war.
How is it that children
who have a difficult time
fixing themselves
suddenly find themselves
in a game
of fixing
the world?

The more difficult task presumes stillness and silence, not propaganda
and political campaigning.
The more difficult task
leaves us anonymous,
not with the illusion of
a mandate from the people or
the backing of some vindictive god.
The more difficult task lies in
allowing for our own transformation,
not in forcing others
to conform to our will.

Everything depends on how
guiding principles are fleshed out,
played out in practice.
Everything depends upon
the integrity of the individual
within whom practice and principle
become one.

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Richard’s Résumé

Resume, Richard Salzman, 2012 copy

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Holding The Paradox

The year has turned its circle.
We celebrate our friends & family.
We celebrate the harvest.

Are we aware of the hypocrisy,
that this holiday is based on warped truths,
that it glosses over genocide?

Are we aware that the recipients of indigenous generosity
would become the agents of their destruction?

Oh but it’s a bitter irony that, in the midst of this day of plenty,
Indigenous people across this continent from Southern Mexico to Northern Canada
still face racism, poverty, and abuse.

But year has turned its circle and
we once again, spread the tablecloths over our blemished history.
One more time, we give thanks for all that we have
and we feast.

But there, at the end of the day
we are left holding the paradox.
We have swallowed the untruth yet again.

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Immaculate Deception


Though the audience wanders, the witness remains. We can pretend our secrets are private, copyrighted, protected, not of public domain. But after the distraction of coming attractions, after the great escape, after we make our mark, there remains the subtle knowing smile which taunts and teases like light from the end of an endless tunnel.

We want to be missionaries for God as well as emissaries of empire. We want to have peace of mind as well as a piece of the action. We want to scream our heads off and maintain our composure too. It is the nature of extremism to be ambivalent, to return to the chores left squished in the closet swept under the rug while trying to have our cake and eat it too. Perhaps we are all more extreme in our manner of thinking than we would like to imagine.

Sweet dreams wend their way through nightmares to waken. Whenever we take liberty and ignore responsibility, it comes back to haunt us.

Back at the capital, senators were running for office. What were they running for? What were they running from? Machines run. Perhaps it would serve them to slow down to a jog and have their memories refreshed. While simply running, can we take responsibility for: our limitations, our expectations, our stubbornness, our pride, our arrogance, our greed, our lust for power, our meanness of spirit, our cruelty?

When does taking a stand mean hiding in the shadows of power? Why must we run? Can we not stand with dignity? Can we not walk the earth with one another? Perhaps it’s the uncertainty principle at work again. Clarity with respect to where we’re going often reflects confusion about where we are. Corollary to the wisdom of the Tao, suggesting that those who talk, don’t know, and those who know, don’t talk.

When humanity turned sixteen (or was it twelve?), Copernicus, gnomon of the middle ages, unwrapped the gifts of perspective and humility by demonstrating that the earth is not the center of the solar system. Human beings are slow to face the fact that the earth is more of a gulag than a cultural center of the universe.

With experience and ample time for reflection, unharried, the magic turtle comes around. Our awareness is ever being resurrected: as suddenly as suspenders slip from shrugged shoulders, as swiftly as runs form in nylon stockings, as surely as kinks turn up in garden hoses. The audience offers conditional love depending on performance. The witness offers unconditional love based on the truth of our being. We witness the audience (unconditionally accept the conditional) while forgetting the truth of our being. We audience the witness (conditionally accept the unconditional) while remembering the truth of our being.


Trying to take a stand while hiding in the shadows is kind of like straddling the fence; when you slip it hurts. But it hurts worse when you try to straddle light and shadow because it’s all for nothing if nobody sees or hears you.


Like a gooey little chick, humanity seems to be slowly poking its way out of its shell. Perhaps one fine day, we’ll actually get on our feet.


“Taking a stand” is for the most part, refers to taking a stand in the outer world to correct injustice.

To take a stand, we must first stand still. That pause must follow activity that allows for intimately knowing the issues. Once this journey begins you can never turn back. You can hide behind Bush—oops—I mean under a shrub but sooner or later you will come out and the truth will be waiting.

My journey began with gut feelings when something was wrong. The intellectual knowledge came with questioning and study. The commitment to take a stand came from my personal connection with those struggling under the burden of another’s wealth.

It seems as though I have been taking stands forever. In elementary school, I was punished for suggesting that the Pilgrims might have erred in their relationship with the Indians. In Sunday school, I was silenced when I announced that I didn’t think Jesus was a Christian. I have marched against war, for immigrant rights, advocated for the mentally different, and against oppressive legislation.

My journey has taken me many places including Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Cuba. Entering homes of the campesino is like stepping into another reality. Sharing their joys, fears and pain will threaten anyone with resurrection.

I understand that I must not be the “white man” who comes to ask questions and then leaves. I understand that I have been given the gift of stories. With that comes the responsibility to become the voice for those who remain voiceless in the halls of the US congress where poverty has become a “weapon of mass destruction.”

The poor tell us who we are.

The prophets tell us who we could be.

So we hide the poor,

And kill the prophets.

– Phil Berrigan

So I continue to take stands. I continue to speak to power but too often in whispers. My stand is incomplete. The stories must be told completely. To do this will bring resurrection, but that means remembering pain, disillusionment, anger and grief – theirs and mine. The fear that I will drown in the tears means the stand I take within myself wobbles in quick sand. In my worldly journey, I have accumulated the collective guilt of the middle class life style and the collective tears of those who carry this burden in their poverty. I find it is easier to fight for my principles than to live up to them, so I remain threatened with resurrection.

For now I guess I am taking my stand in the shadows.


‘Threatened with resurrection,’ an interesting choice of words.

It would seem that human beings are not as quick as moths to enter the light. When I’m roofing in the middle of summer, I’m often seeking shade. The condition of being human would seem to mean straddling light and shadow, slowly coming to know the truth of our selves. Two steps forward, one step back is still revealing, Unfortunately, we oftentimes get stuck in concealing mode; one step forward, two steps back.

Thanks for your honesty. Perhaps through acknowledging our complicity it becomes simpler to tell the whole story. When you feel like you’re falling down on the job, just keep standing up for what you believe in. Perhaps we like to hold ourselves to high standards to see them shattered.


Before I departed for Guatemala a number of years ago my brother told me that he feared my heart would be broken—that the immensity of violence and brutality would dim my world view, darken the joys of my heart, and send me into endless despair. I cannot deny that I have experienced pain and frustration; I cannot deny the terrible anger I feel toward the perpetrators of violence and repression. Nevertheless, my heart is not broken, my vision and hopes for the world still flicker.

Traveling has taught me much; not only about repression and war but about myself, my faith and my native land. I have learned about love, compassion, understanding, patience and tolerance. I have learned to walk my spiritual path. I have witnessed the overwhelming desire of human beings to be at peace with one another, to be in solidarity, to live in community, to defy injustice, and to build societies in which there is less suffering, and more understanding.


As Berrigan said, we hide the poor and kill the prophets. The inner wall denies us humility and insight.

Unfortunately, we also kill the poor and hide the profits. The outer wall denies our denial, allowing us to commit all manner of atrocities.


I regret to inform you that, due to high cost of power, the light at the end of the tunnel has been dimmed.

#1: There is a substantial cost to personal power. Using it to spotlight imbalance in the external puts it in danger of being dimmed or snuffed out altogether.

#2: There is much less danger of killing off the poor than killing off the prophets. The poor are necessary to maintain the balance of wealth. The prophets illuminate the imbalance.

This is why we fear resurrection. It is hard work to be a prophet.


And yet the poor are fighting and dying in the war for those making the profits. Those who survive the war often become the prophets. If we didn’t kill the poor and hide the profits, we’d have no need of prophets to illuminate the imbalance.

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Merciful Progress

Simplicity is a quality of heaven, like mercy
simply because, within heaven
diversity is sustained amidst great unity.

The world is not simple. The world is complex.
The world subscribes to the notion of merciless progress,
progress without thanks, without gratitude.

We’re trained to give perfunctory thanks
while educated to demand more
and programmed to expect the best.

This results in a confused condition/complex
where we give thanks when getting
exactly what we want.

In the merciless world, we fail
to fully receive what we need
and so rarely experience genuine gratitude.

In the merciless world, everyone dies
but some must die an unnatural death.

The merciless world is man-made.

Misappropriating the reality of revolution,
mankind spins it out of control:
faster, faster; more, more; newer, newer.

The earth is not the merciless world.
Though the earth revolves steadily,
it doesn’t obsess on revolution.

The earth fosters evolution, merciful progress.

In the merciful realm, everyone dies
but of natural causes, just as they were born.

Simplicity is a quality of the earth, like mercy
simply because, upon earth
unity is sustained amidst great diversity.

Posted in Peace Books | 10 Comments

Eulogies for Dad

Steve’s Eulogy for Dad

My Dad was born in Brooklyn, New York, a tough, Jewish kid from an orthodox leaning family. He always portrayed himself as a fighter growing up, and he continued in that spirit in every aspect of his life until the day he passed away. He believed in hard work and that every struggle no matter how hard, was worthwhile and brought knowledge and strength. He was filled with questions from an early age and had an overwhelming drive to find answers to the “big problems” in life. In going through his papers I found a letter he wrote to his parents in May 1945, at the age of nineteen. To me it explained a lot about his nature. Here is a small excerpt: “As you know Dad, it has been my sincere desire to spend the rest of my life not as a practicing physician but as a man of research delving into the unknown and trying in some way to bring to light and knowledge which will be beneficial to mankind.” Now that is definitely not the typical note home to your parents, but very much Dad. What I find most remarkable is that I believe he stayed true to that desire through his entire life. He worked everyday in his journal writing, to piece together an understanding of the world around him and to discover answers that would make a difference. In fact, his need was so powerful that his last year of writing was done after his stroke when he could no longer use his left side. He would type letter by letter pecking away with one finger on his right hand. Much like Sisyphus the goal of finding ultimate answers were Dad’s boulder forever being pushed up the mountain. The more he wrote and the more he lived, the more questions and problems that confronted him. I think in his heart he understood this and the daily act of writing became more important for his personal health and balance than for any of the answers he ultimately crafted.

Being a doctor with a young practice in Libertyville was always a central part of his day. He was a person of habit, everyday waking, writing and preparing himself for the day. Making rounds at the hospital, getting to the office around 9:00am and generally seeing patients until 6:00pm or later with a break for lunch.

When I was young, we would make rounds at the hospital together. I gowned up and observed a number of simple surgeries with him and at times would go with him to the newly developed emergency department and assist him with minor procedures. Times have sure changed. Can you imagine a nine year old kid assisting in today’s medical world. The lawsuits would be filed before we had left the hospital parking lot.

When we were young, my Dad’s medical practice did not leave much time for daily family activities. There was a short period of time when he took us on individual weekend getaways. In 1967 my turn came and we went to the Palmer house in Chicago, the weekend of the big snow. The train ride into the City was an adventure in itself seeing all the streets, cars and many houses snowed under. We went to Chicago stadium and saw the UCLA Bruins (with Lew Alcinder, soon to become Abdul Kareem Jabbar) defeat Loyola University, a very big and memorable moment for my ten year old self.

Family childhood trips included trips to New York to visit his family, Florida for the sun, ocean and shelling, and the Black Hills of South Dakota. And there was always the car game which was initiated with the question, “animal, vegetable or mineral.” Each of us would have to choose our topic. The time would pass quickly as the competition heated up between the 3 boys. For a number of years springtime trips to McCormick’s Creek State Park in southern Indiana were a highlight, with rustic, wood heated cabins, long hikes in the forest, and searching for the perfect vine with the longest and most perfect swing over the ravines.

My earliest memory growing up in Libertyville was the move from our home on 7th avenue to the newly constructed house on Milwaukee Avenue which had been built immediately adjacent to his office. (It would later be more famously known as the Bauer’s house) I was 4 and spent most of my first few weeks sitting on a dirt pile watching the apartment buildings being built next door. For my Dad it simplified his life. He could walk to work and be home for lunch or just see another patient or two or three.

This was the early 60’s and life was energetic in the Salzman household. There were now 5 Salzman kids: David, Rick, Steve, Judy and Beth. The house was filled with all of us and a constant flow of our friends. Dad worked, continued to write and for a short while dabbled in music. He was an accomplished classical pianist and over the course of a year or two tried his hand at popular music writing a Broadway play titled “Lanni” and the accompanying music. I don’t believe the play was ever produced but many of the music pieces were excellent and entertaining.

Around 4th grade life changed. Dad and my mom “Gerry” were divorced and within a year we moved to Skokie and Dad moved to Loch Lomond, Mundelein.

Family became defined very differently afterwards. We got to know Ginny, Karen, Dennis and shortly thereafter Jennifer was born.

For a while life was split into two worlds, Skokie and Mundelein. Both were very different with their own joys and disappointments. For the next few years, week-ends with my Dad revolved around the lake, projects with Dennis and the occasional holiday party bash. The parties were filled with music, food and friends. I did not know all the guests but the DeLorenzo’s and Bauer’s were loving, close friend’s who always kept the singing and action moving.

The one Mundelein family vacation I went on was a Winnebago trip south to New Orleans, Mississippi and Florida. I am sure you can imagine the fun with 6 kids and two adults for two weeks in a Winnebago. I was barely over sixteen with a valid drivers license and the highlight was that I drove for a good portion of the trip. My one other strong memory from that time, happened as we drove through the Everglades. On a sunny day, smoke appeared in the rear engine compartment, then a burst of flames. We pulled over and at the same time I ran out and was throwing heavy towels over the flames my Dad ran around the other way and in a moment of panic promptly lost the keys in the muck and shallow water of the Everglades. The cool medical practitioner was a little out of his element. Needless to say, we had a very very long afternoon on the side of the road enjoying the natural wonders of Florida.

Instead of a college trip, Dad and I went to the Tetons, and during the car ride had long conversations. In the Tetons, we took long hikes and soaked our achy muscles in the cold streams and continued the conversation. In truth, I think that was the first time we truly started to get to know each other and was the beginning of the adult relationship we shared.

Shortly after, he discovered that I had only applied to the University of Illinois School of Architecture, which made me the third son NOT to go to medical school. I think he came to the realization shortly thereafter that each of his kids were individuals and for better or worse would be making their own decisions.

Being a doctor stayed central to Dad’s daily regimen. It filled his days, provided him professional challenges and gave him fulfillment through his relationships with his many patients. He continued with his daily journal writing. Chronicling the highs and lows of each day and diligently pursuing his search for answers that would make a difference. Unfortunately, the search for answers to the big questions did not necessarily give him the solutions for day-to-day life. Tensions grew in Mundelein which ultimately ended in Dad and Ginny getting divorced.

Slowly his life regained its routine. Once again, being a doctor and writing were primary anchors in his life. The Libertyville Medical Group was truly his 9th child. Perhaps the offspring that received the most attention and at times was equally adept as the other 8 of us at creating frustrations. I cannot speak with any specific knowledge to his day-to-day routine but I know he shared a bond with his physician partners (Dick Dolan, Mark Fields, Bill Greenfield and Chuck Colodny were the ones I came to know) and these bonds were as strong as any other in his life. Over the years there were rewards and tensions that come with all relationships. But through it all he always deeply valued, respected, and when he retired, rooted for the success, of LMG. This became clear to me when I brought Dad to Helen’s wake last fall. His face lit up when the LMG folks, doctors, nurses, staff and patients came over and shared recollections. The stories and jokes brought back a smile of happiness in his face that I had not seen in a long time.

When he retired from medicine, he was a happy man. He had loved his day to day contact with his patients but had increasingly become disenchanted with the realities of the medical bureaucracy. He was excited to focus his days on writing and the simple pleasures of walks, cooking, conversation and travel. His goal was to turn his journals and concepts into a series of books describing his philosophy of life. He started with grand aspirations of being a best selling author and national book tours, with both academic and popular notoriety. But, that was not to be. The true success of the books (all 6 of them) was that they sustained and excited him. Giving each of his days a direction and purpose.

With retirement he and Helen were a couple and they entered their golden years together. They shared taking care of the house at 1107 Lomond Drive, took walks, traveled, argued, made up and genuinely enjoyed each day as it came without the tensions of practicing medicine. They had annual pilgrimages to Door County, Wisconsin and Sanibel Island and mixed in other adventures too numerous to count. In many conversations I had with them, they both supported each other unquestionably. Their mutual support continued in meaningful and tangible ways up until Helen’s death last fall. They were truly the closest of friends and found in each other a trusted and loving life partner.

In January 2005, Dad had a major stroke in Florida, which initiated his final struggle. My sister Beth and Helen were with him at the time and I joined him a day or so later. Once he knew he was going to survive, his goal was to live independently with Helen and continue his writing. For a while they succeeded, sharing an apartment at The Park in Vernon Hills and he worked on completing his final two books.

Born a big city kid he discovered himself in the small farm town of Libertyville. My Dad perceived life as a series of struggles, with rewards and joys mixed in. He led a very full life filled with family, hard work, professional success and a daily exploration of the world he lived in. He was not a perfect man and made many mistakes along the way which created heartache. Perhaps he did not discover that one great idea that changed the world that he envisioned when he was young. But, with his intellect, creative energy and love for life he provided insights, guidance and friendship that touched on and changed each one of us. None of us ever said it enough, but despite all the disagreements we all loved him.

His final struggle over the past five years was his toughest, but I think he stayed true to himself, working and learning all the way and is now enjoying his well deserved peace.

Beth’s Eulogy for Dad

Good Afternoon,

Thank you all for coming. I am Beth and I know my Dad is honored to see you all here celebrating his life. I would like to share with you a little bit about my relationship with Dad and the nature of his spirituality as I came to know it. It may help to clarify why there is no Rabbi or clergy here today.

When I was born, my father was already a very successful man. He had a large and growing medical practice and a large and growing family and he was loved and cherished by the community at large and at the hospital. He was a man of Science and reason. He was also a man of G-d, practicing the Judaism of his youth. As with any successful person, he depended on a team of people to help him manage and sustain the many aspects of his life. He was spread too thin to be present for every aspect of his life all the time. His life and his spirit was big and as a consequence, he was evolving and connecting to new ways of looking at life that would ultimately be very important in his spiritual development and in helping him be present to all the aspects of his life even from a distance. This story illustrates this point.

When I was born, It was July and my oldest brother was away at summer camp 8 hours N and very homesick. Parent day was at the same time that my mother was due to deliver me. Since my mother could not go, my father reluctantly left after my mother promised she would cross her legs and wait the 36 hours until he returned. My father tells of finding a small motel room behind a house to sleep for the night. He woke up to the phone ringing and he knew that I had been born. In his groggy state he reached for the phone only to find that there was no phone in the room. Startled, he got dressed and went to a phone to, sure enough, find out that I had been born. Although it took him a while to process this event, it became pivotal on his spiritual path and fundamental in my relationship to him.

Through my own discussions with him over the years, it became clear that he had consciously connected to something in that little motel room that informed him, without another person or modern technology, of exactly what he needed to know at exactly the right time, hundreds of miles away. He had received a message from an all-knowing presence directly. Some may call it intuition, others the still small voice within. What he came to understand is that G-d is always talking to us, whispering to us, giving us signs and symbols and signals if we will only tune in, pay attention and listen.

He began to pay attention and listen to this ever-present, all-knowing presence that is available to everyone, everywhere all the time. He called it G-d. He saw life being mirrored to him in everything. When he studied chemistry he noted that the ionic and covalent bonds of chemistry mimic the bonds of human relationships. His connection to G-d in this way was transforming. His spirituality deepened and his desire for organized religion became less. Rabbis or clergy were no longer able to comfort him and he no longer felt the need for a middleman between him and G-d. Instead he found he could consciously connect to this Presence with his writing and walking and sometimes in his dreams. He walked everyday for at least 2 miles in nature. He did this for decades until he couldn’t walk any more. He walked and he wrote and he tuned himself in to the still small voice of G-d within, often having Aha moments, eurekas or insights, giving him answers or solutions to problems, or ideas for his next creative endeavor.

He would tell me that when he would sit and write he often had no idea what he was going to sit and write about. He just knew that when he put pen to paper it would just flow. He said he often felt a Divine hand coming in and writing through him. Sometimes he would read what he wrote and be amazed because he did not know where it came from. He could not take full credit and yet he did write it.

Although he continued to study all religions, it was this personal connection to G-d, through his walking and writing, that was his most satisfying and it was these practices that integrated him and the many aspects of his life. In this way, he was able to connect to everything and everyone all at the same time and that all knowing presence. Through them, he felt a deep and personal connection to each patient, staff member, friend and family member even from a distance.

I only lived with my Dad for the first 5 years of my life. After that I initially saw him according to a visitation schedule. By the time I was 12, my father let go of this rigid schedule, sensing it was not good for either of us. So our relationship became based on tuning in and sensing when it was good to get together from a distance. When one of us wanted to see the other, opportunities appeared or one of us called. It worked well for us and there was always lots of love, even from a distance.

His faith in G-d, the Presence that just knows, remained strong all the days of his life and when he was connected to this Presence everything flowed perfectly in his life and when he was disconnected life was depleting.

One of the things that always troubled me about my Dad was that he believed that as he aged his health would fail. He also believed that through his connection to G-d he would have what he needed or he would die. He trusted and was okay with dying if the good Lord was ready to take him. This story of amazing synchronicities that only a Divine hand could have coordinated demonstrates how well that belief worked for him.

5 years ago my daughter and I were trying to plan a last minute vacation to some place warm over winter break. All the weather forecasts for the southern states across the US and Bahamas were predicting 40s and 50s, not beach weather, as we desired. I promised my daughter that if we stayed home we would go somewhere warm in January or Feb over a long weekend and be guaranteed good weather. During that time a friend called to invite us to Florida for a week in Jan. A co-worker of hers had a house in Florida that he usually rents month to month but had been damaged in the last hurricane. Repairs had finished one month early and he was renting this house week to week for one month only. She took the week of Martin Luther King’s b-day, which most schools have off. My daughter’s school had 2 days off, making it a good time for us to go away keeping my promise to her. I found very inexpensive flights and realized the house was on Sanibel Island, the same Island that my Dad and Helen went to every year in February. Our trip was scheduled for Jan 14-22.

I called my Dad to let him know that we would be on Sanibel Island 2 weeks before him. He told me that they had changed their plans and were leaving to drive down early and would be arriving on Jan 14. Then we figured out that his condo was only a few blocks from our house. This got my attention and I knew I was going to Florida for more than just a warm vacation.

We all had a wonderful week. On the 22nd, when we were to fly home, there was a blizzard in Chicago. Our flight was delayed until 10:30 that evening with no guarantee it would depart at all. Eventually I got the airline to agree to put us on the next available flight, which was early Monday morning. We had an extra 40 hours to spend in Florida, yeah! We had already checked out of our house and so we moved to the extra bedroom in my Dad’s condo.

At 10:30 that night my Dad had a major stroke. No human being could have orchestrated with such precision all of the elements that led me and Laura to being there for him and Helen in Florida in his time of need. A Divine hand was definitely involved and we all felt it.

This is the all-knowing, all connecting, unifying Presence to which my father was faithful. It does not require anyone to access, just the ability to tune in and listen and flow.

I could share with you many more stories like this. You get the idea and have I am sure some of your own.

I ask everyone now to take a deep breath and connect in your own way to this Divine Presence and this ability to connect to anyone or anything, anywhere through all time and space. Whenever you want to connect to my Dad, Wally, or Dr. Salzman, as many of you know him, just tune in and know that his spirit is still here with us. It is here in all of his children and grandchildren of course. It is also here in all of his patients, at the hospital, the medical building and in the heart of this community.

So as I connect I just want to say…Hi Dad, I love you and I miss you. I know you are still here with us with your big spirit; I still miss you being here physically especially hearing your voice. Thank you for teaching me about this empowering way of connecting to all of life. I shall carry it with me all the days of my life and all of you can too.

Thank you

Jenna’s Poem for Dad

My father saved lives
My father worked hard
My father was determined
He suffered
My father loved to learn
My father loved to teach
My father loved music
He suffered
My father loved to read
My father loved to write
My father loved challenges
He suffered
My father gave hope
My father gave dreams
My father gave security
He suffered
My father was a lover
My father was a fighter
My father grew weak
He suffered
Good bye father
Au revoir mon pere
Please suffer no more
Be free Poppy
Have peace daddy
Please suffer no more

With love,
Jenna Penna
Your Caboose

Rick’s Eulogy for Dad

Walking the same path today as yesterday, Dad.
There’s a man buttoning up a house, sealing out the cold weather
a woman walking her dog, trucks and cars grumbling and mumbling along.

The world feels a little lonelier today.
I haven’t spent much time with you over the last decade or so.
But still, there was the handshake, the hug, the smile
the laugh, the cough, the sneezes-in-threezes
the occasional phone call, email, snail mail.
You were here, if not in all your glory, still
curious, inquiring, affectionate
with your formidableness intact.
You were “someone in our corner helping to shore up the tent,”
as Maureen recently put it.

I’m nearing the Richmond village green now.
There’s a lovely gathering of snowdrops
in the lawn of the house across from town hall.
The first flowers I’ve seen this unofficial spring.
Soon crocuses, forsythia and daffodils will bloom
buoying our spirits with their hardiness, their beauty,
their readiness to reveal themselves as soon as the earth thaws.

There’s the bridge over the Winooski that was rebuilt last year.
It was a source of controversy and inconvenience for quite a while.
Both lanes are moving freely now.
Another car’s crossing over…and there’s the playground, and kids playing.
It’s another warm, sunny day.

There’s the kite, still waving in the breeze, seemingly saying “Hi” or “Goodbye,”
like Vermonters in spring shooing away the black flies.
It looks as if it may be trying to take advantage of this stiff breeze and take off.

When your stiff breeze came up, Dad, your legs stretched out.
Beth said you looked like you were at peace when she left you last night.
She knew it was a matter of hours.
Early this morning you were gone, downstream, around the bend
like the snow on the riverbank yesterday,
gone, to help freshen and deepen the river.

You’re breathing freely now, without the need for aqualungs,
or aero-lungs, for that matter.
You’ve peeled off your scuba gear and are soaking up the sun,
enjoying the warm breeze in your hair and face, refreshed
on board some para-scientific research vessel.
It might have been a leisure craft, but you know
it’s your way, Dad, your choice, to put work before pleasure.

Nevertheless, you enjoyed journeying through this hard, watery world.
Exploring its nooks and crannies, gathering rocks and shells from its far flung corners:
The Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, Guam, Koror, Palau, Captiva, Sanibel….
So many places, so much diversity to be appreciated.
So many possibilities in life…for life…So many possibilities.

You got around, Dad. Steve’s followed in your footsteps, or should I say flutterkicks and Danny’s following in his, with a passion for scuba diving.

How do you see it, Dad? The way I see it:
Steve inherited your drive, and your passion for building a world focused on wellness.
David inherited your keen sense of the need for justice and fair play.
GG inherited your love of travel, your love of place, and your artistic attention to detail.
Beth inherited your excellent story telling and intuitive diagnostic abilities,
as well as your focus on wellness and well being.
Jenna inherited your determination, your joie de vivre, and, in her words,
“your fondness for fine dining!”
Laura inherited your love of piano, the arts and travel.
Ari inherited your love of music and nature and animals.
Allie inherited your love of culture and communication, and is quite a writer as well.
Danny inherited your love of…well…women. He also inherited your passion
for science and technology.
Amanda inherited your passion for playing classical piano.
Virginia inherited your love for making up silly songs.
Dennis may not have inherited it genetically,
but he’s a wonderful family provider and enjoys hard, honest work.
Cassie may not have inherited it genetically,
but she too has a passion for journaling and writing.
And Richard, well, clearly one thing I inherited from you
is the gene disposing one to “verbal hyperplasia;”
your playful diagnosis of your fondness for the spoken word.

But seriously, Dad, you touched so many lives with your bright and hopeful spirit
your courageous and caring heart
your helpful hands, your steady feet
and, of course, your curious and determined mind.

Yes, you diagnosed, you prescribed, you performed, and, you also knew.
You knew how to share your confidence freely,
how to share your faith and trust and good humor.
You helped stimulate the healing response.
You helped restore others’ faith and trust and good humor.
You helped ease the pain and suffering of many people.

I’m out in the cornfield now, moving forward, gaining some perspective.
Looking back on our little town in the Green Mountain state.
Just a little town in the middle of a little valley
somewhere on Planet Earth, within the Solar System
in the midst of the Milky Way.
A pretty good place for kids to grow up.
A few buildings, a few farms, two rivers
some woods to romp in, not much to it.
But a lot of living goes on here.

Kind of like the little town where you settled, Dad,
and raised a family with Mom
and raised a family with Virginia
and doctored a community with Helen
and wrote your books
and cared for your children and grandchildren.

I gathered your photos together, Dad, and arranged them on the mantel
amidst pine cones and chestnuts, an acorn, chunks of onyx, obsidian,
turquoise and granite, mica and pumice, quartz crystal,
amethyst, an oval of polished tiger eye, and many of the
beautiful shells that you treasured so.

There are no mysterious junonias, of course,
or any rare and elusive right handed lightening whelks, but there are left handed whelks, apple murexes, a right handed paper whelk, banded tulips, olives and
king’s crowns, periwinkles, cones and augers, scallops, clams and jingles,
cockles, coquinas and cowries, shark eyes, sand dollars and angel wings.
We walked many a beach collecting these old homes of once living creatures,
with gulls squawking, pelicans diving and sandpipers dodging the crashing waves.

Your photos rise from these wonders of the earth, capturing the many faces of your spirit:
confident, playful, curious, joyful, enthusiastic, skeptical, probing, hopeful, compassionate, determined, shy, sad, glad, fierce, forgiving.
It was when I was young, Dad, and we were scouring those pristine beaches together,
that I saw your spirit shine through most clearly.
I thank you for those good times.

You have a lot of faces Dad, most of them instantly loveable.
And those that aren’t instantly loveable, are easily forgivable.
It sounds cliché, but I will miss even the not so loveable faces.
You often said it, didn’t you? “It’s easy to love what’s loveable.”
Only through recognizing and appreciating what’s forgivable
do we practice extending love, fulfilling love.

I’m crunching along now on the husks of last year’s late soy harvest.
Soon the husks will enrich the soil.
Now they’re helping to keep my boots high and dry, free from mud.

Time to turn back. Chauffeuring duty calls.

I’m down by the river again.
Just grabbed a handful of dirty snow from the riverbank.
Now, melting with the warmth of my hand
the soil is washing away, slipping through my fingers
revealing the most amazing crystalline patterns.

Life’s a treasure hunt, Dad.
So many marvels to be discovered.
Today, it’s your turn to find the afikomen.*

It’s quite a world, this world you’ve lived and loved in,
this world of constant transformation.
The only thing this world seems to lack
is changelessness.
But that’s here too, hidden, within the fearless love we feel for one another.

Thanks for the chat, Dad. We’ll always have our conversations.
Whether or not we were in shouting distance,
never seemed to matter before.

No. The conversation won’t stop.
Does the river stop flowing towards the sea? Preposterous.

With a little luck, our conversation will take on new clarity
melting loneliness away, along with
whatever grievances the heart still clings to.

I love you, Dad. We all do.
Bon voyage!
Peaceful journey.

*Matzah at the Passover seder used to symbolize redemption

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Fundamentally Speaking

defining-momentsNow what was her child’s name? Lost it, lost it in the conversation, or the attempt at same. His mother had chased him to the sand circle next to the playground.

I was sitting on a concrete pier watching my five year old daughter play while pondering the source of friction that had been developing between us recently.

The fair-hair, fair-faced woman seemed friendly. Perhaps a little too friendly. Yup, a little too chatty; for a Vermonter, that is.

Turns out she’s been in Vermont for two years. Up from the South where an 18 inch snow fall can crush roof tops and halt traffic. At least, that’s what she claimed.

It took a while, her words were coming out a mile a minute. Finally it became clear where she was going. She hadn’t been talking with me. She’d been stalking a sinner.

Her style of engagement (her manner of placing me in the cross hairs of her sight) had eluded me for a while. I’d imagined closeness where there was distance; warmth, where there was coldness.

I hadn’t been pent-accosted for some time. Yes, we learn to pray and we learn to prey. Oh well, I guess Caleb, that was the toddler’s name, needed for his mother to have a conversation with some long-hair, bandanna-bedecked, fellow in sunglasses contemplating his relationship with his daughter.

It didn’t take Caleb’s mother long to drag a conversation between two people down into her own private hell where love and fear are tangled up in a horrifying web of dogma and gospel.

She simply could not accept the idea of Love without judgment, of Love without the threat of hell as punishment for sin. Love and heaven, to her, were rewards for the privileged, people like her.

She spoke of love as if it were private property or an exclusive club, with violence threatening at every turn to oust one from ones heavenly estate if one failed to play by the rules; love as a police state, where a kind of unkind cosmic homelessness threatened all.

Clearly, this is the confusion of heaven and hell, of love and hate. This manner of thinking is no longer meaningful to me. It amazes me that I still have this kind of encounter.

Perhaps, I’ve yet to learn to be fearless of religious predators. I need to learn to have more patience and compassion for those addicted to the dogma of original sin.

The conversation ended quickly and not as kindly as it began. At one point, we’d even talked about Spencer, Indiana, of McCormick’s Creek State Park, of swinging on vines as children across great ravines.

No. This person suddenly ceased to exist for her. I simply disappeared, as the gulf and the cosmic war swallowed us both. She walked away in a huff, dragging Caleb behind. There would be no more conversation.

If I didn’t entertain her politically motivated brand of gospel where her interpretation of the Bible with all of her ‘confusioning’ of truth is the final word; well, you know what I mean. She could not listen.

Her belief in damnation was too easily undermined. She had to walk away. But I think her teenage daughter was listening.

Perhaps the conversation was for her ears, not the mother’s, not Caleb’s, not mine. This sister of Caleb had given her mother no response on three occasions when her confirmation had been sought to justify the need for threat and condemnation.

“Aren’t I right child? Aren’t I right? Aren’t I right?” Apparently, her older child was not fully on board, not ready to teach confusion. She was still open. Perhaps the idea of love without hate, of love without fear, appealed to her at some level.

Perhaps her investment in her mother’s fundamentalist philosophy had not yet closed her mind to other possibilities.

It seems to me that we all have a choice to make, moment to moment, between condemnation and forgiveness, between the cross and the dove, between crucifixion and resurrection.

One cannot believe in both. Either death rules, or there is eternal life.

You cannot condemn a person to hell and talk of love and salvation simultaneously. They do not exist for one another.

Let us be more vigilant in freeing our children from our confusion and not look to them for corroborating nods to support our fearful beliefs.

Perhaps, in the end, the encounter was for me, the father, feeling friction in his relationship with his daughter. Perhaps this father is not totally free of the belief in condemnation.

Perhaps he needs to get a clearer grip on his own approach to discipline; learning to free it completely of even the slightest hint of condemnation in order to court true fearlessness.

The imagery, the idol of anger as fire and brimstone may not be there, but when that contraction in the heart flares, and the raised voice gropes for control, well, that still smacks of this woman’s confusion.

I must thank this mother of Caleb. If she gave me her name it got lost in the heat of the hellish moment. I must thank her. No, not personally. She would not hear it.

Yet in my mind, I must thank her. She helped to clarify some confusion. I can see more clearly the way to go after seeing more clearly the way not to.

Note: Caleb; from the Hebrew (kalev), meaning “dog” or “heart.” Also, from the Assyrian, meaning “messenger” or “priest,” and from the Arabic, meaning “bold, brave.”

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Both Ends of the Stick

defining-moments“Papa, can we play the monster game?”
“Not right now, Hon. Why don’t you guys take turns playing the monster for a change?”

Monsters are a part of childhood. Every time a big person acts mean to a little person, carelessly tossing their word or weight about, they become a monster in the eyes of the child. John and the girls had invented a game to make monsters seem less scary, more approachable, lovable even.

The game began when John transformed his normal appearance and behavior in some gross way and then plodded about the house moaning and groaning while the girls ran around shrieking with delight.

“Come on Papa, please. It won’t be as much fun without you.”

It probably wouldn’t be as much fun without him. He was bigger than them, and worked diligently to keep his monsters fresh. Most were variations on the theme of a silly, over-sensitive, light-hearted dim-wit. He wished his less conscious concoctions could be so lovable. Alas, only variations of an over-sensitive dim-wit showed up to play the unconscious version of the game. After ten minutes of pestering and pleading, he relented.

“All right, all right. Give me five minutes to finish the dishes.”

The dishes were never really finished. They kept getting dirty and piling up by the sink. John was easier these days with that fact. He’d become a born-again pre-rinser. It made things easier down the road. Life was always offering something to chew on, to taste, to nourish, to spit out. What he left on the plate was often precisely what he needed. There it goes again. Right down the drain.

Yet life was nothing, if not relentless. It kept serving up the same old meal until the plate was licked clean. Forgiveness was always there on the flip side of relentless, but John often got stuck listening to one side only. The virtue of DVDs and the digital/global age is that now there are no sides to choose. Maybe this will lead to no bones to pick, or alternatively, no grooves to get stuck in.

“Girls, clear the table please.”

Even while it coddled a lazy desire for instant gratification, the digital age held out an opportunity to move beyond partisan and bi-partisan bickering towards a genuinely unified perspective. Unified that is, if people moved beyond compact, complacent thinking (i.e. opinion & judgment) by diligently working to synthesize the information that magically lay at their fingertips and learn to honestly and openly communicate their discoveries.

“Girls, please. Clear the table.”
“OK, OK.”

Opinion and judgment are born of failing to clean one’s own plate. Aware of this, John was not one to force Anna to eat everything he served her. That would be hypocritical. Anyway, he knew much of what he served up was unsavory.

Whatever comes through us, we taste. Much of what we serve others is precisely what we spit out. Spam! A strange way to nourish our loved ones indeed. But it was common fare, and so it was understandable that people had all sorts of strange ailments.

Most of the world’s problems are not real. They’re manufactured by the severing of natural ties. In the words of Ken Wilber, “We manufacture abstract boundaries where in nature there are only meeting places; beaches, rivers, mountains.”

“Papa, hurry up.”

Do we meet at the river to celebrate our differences? Rendezvous top the mountain to experience our oneness? Comb the beaches, together finding our way? No. We form beliefs, make judgments and fight over territory. We create gulfs, build bridges, then bomb them.

“Hold your horses.”

John finished his reverie along with the dishes, dried his hands, went into his room and closed the door. The girls witnessed John’s self-imposed time-out. They knew the game was afoot. They scampered about excitedly, shedding any inkling of boredom; preparing themselves for the delicate task of gracefully evading the monster all the while taunting it mercifully forward.

“Papa, what’s taking so long?”
“I’m turning into a monster. Isn’t that what you want?”

With light heart and heavy feet, John opened the door. The chase was on. The girls ran with purpose. Their hearts pounded in rhythm to their laughter. Keeping distance became their mission. As the struggle to stay close or distant evaporated, miraculously it precipitated renewed connection.

Suddenly, they didn’t need a two party system or three branches of government. Suddenly, criminal justice became just. Though touching and not being touched became the focus, the experience was one of being more ‘in touch’ with each other. Perhaps distance does make the heart grow fonder, if bridged with good will.

Life truly was one continuous game of hide and seek. “Oleoleoceanfree!” John, the monster, plodded back into his wilderness. The girls relaxed for a few minutes and caught their breath. John put down the magnifying glass that Magnified monster religiously held to his face and considered his next performance.

How do you explain cold war to a nine year old child? Even one who at six years of age witnessed the Twin Towers fall. By six, most children understand terrorism, because they’ve experienced injustice, unfairness, anger, frustration, the bully, sticks and stones, guns, maybe even death and broken bones. But how do you explain to a child that human beings have ingeniously devised a means for annihilating the entire world?

Can we make a reasonable account for nuclear silos and the spontaneous eruption of mushroom clouds in any sane way? No. When does ‘first strike capability’ become a topic for rational discourse?

“What are you going to be this time, Papa?”
“You’ll find out soon enough.”

Begrudgingly, we must admit, the adult of the species is insane, at least in part. Do we tell our sane children that we are insane or do we struggle to maintain our sanity by denying reality to cold war?

There’s a difference between madness and insanity. War is sticky business because blood is warm and sticky. As we keep the war warm, we remain mad, but not insane. How do we keep the war warm? By dropping bombs from higher up? By planting mines for who may come? By filling silos with ICBM’s instead of emptying them of corn?

Sounds cold to me. Who’s face can you see? Who’s heart do you touch? The bigger the stick, the more careful we must be.

“Papa, hurry up. You don’t have to be a fancy monster.”

“Pay attention to both ends of the stick,” John reminded Anna in her play. One end was practical, technical, precise, surgical. It served to define the space they shared. The other end was connected to their sense of fair play and ethical conduct.

When we’re not careful and draw blood, we correct ourselves. Right? Why would we want to hurt anyone? We don’t like to get hurt. The Golden Rule isn’t a rule; it’s a principle, a spiritual law governing the unfolding of reality. All acts of violence in the world defy that principle and so reality does not unfold as creation intended. We miscreate the monster of our own free will.

“We, the people,” are Dr. Frankenstein. Prometheus may have been the father of invention, but we are its caretakers. The fact that the world is one bolt shy of inspiration is our responsibility. When we mistake beliefs for truth, progress becomes a thug and we, become its victims.

“OK. I’m coming.”

John slipped on his sweatpants, stuffed a pillow over his rear-end and another one up his shirt. Pillow-butt was the girls’ favorite. They liked to spank and punch him while they evaded his slow but heavy grasp. As he plodded out of his room moaning, the girls scattered with glee.

The monster plods slowly, to jump start the heart; giving it time and energy to open. The monster is everyone and anyone, who has forgotten who they are, while trying to be, what they are not.

There’s a fine line between being alone and together; between farewell and welfare; between conditional and unconditional love. The monster walks that line. The monster is guard, guardian and guide, depending on our condition. For closed hearts, he is guard. For hearts wide open, she is guardian. For hearts opening and closing, s/he is guide.

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Storming Around the Door

installation-guy-2-blogInstallation Guy showed up on the job. His mission: install a storm door. Our guileless guy was in classic form. As always, he read the directions thoroughly (top to bottom and then bottom to top). And, as always, his thoroughness was rewarded. Though not immediately, for as always, his good intentions, initiative and industry did not prevent him from thoroughly pondering which side of the door went in, and which edge of the door went up. No. Nor did these virtues save him the trouble of screwing the hinge side Z-bar on wrong. No, not even after giving the task 15 minutes of his most confounded contemplation.

Finally, after getting the hinge side Z-bar properly secured to the door and installing the header, he managed to install the hinged door frame to the jamb. Thereafter, the latch side Z-bar and the door bottom were successfully secured with alarming rapidity.

Brimming with confidence, having once again thoroughly read the directions (front to back and back to front), our hero proceeded to drill holes for the door latch. After inserting the outside handle and connecting it to the inside latch mechanism, he attempted to screw it together with two shiny, very alluring screws that came in the box.

For fifteen minutes he struggled, he cursed, he struggled, he cursed. He cursed as if it were oil lubricating the works, oozing everywhere, easing unwanted friction. Finally, having nearly given up hope, after reading the directions for a third time (outside to inside and inside to outside) he had an epiphany…the clouds parted. Suddenly, he realized his mistaken way as if by divine intervention.

”Not the long shiny wood screws dummy, the short black machine screws. Black, see, in the box, two screws, same color as the door latch. Jeezami.”

After his revelation, Installation Guy was confident that the latch would be secured in no time at all. Unfortunately, in his earlier zeal to succeed, he’d stripped both bosses (the built-in nuts that received the screws). For our guileless guy, no time at all, often seemed like an eternity.

In the end, he discovered that by nipping a quarter inch off “the black, machine screws dummy” he could cinch the handle up, though not without unnecessary force still, just that extra little bit which assured each screw head would be slightly stripped.

That’s our guy. Always thinking ahead. Making work for himself or assuring things are interesting for the next guy who shows up on the job. After all, what’s the point of having a guy on the job if he’s unable to say, “Oh, brother…who the hell did this? What was he thinking?”

Undaunted, unconcerned, unthinking, filled with the elixir of success, Installation Guy proceeded to install both the latch strike and the door closer with minor difficulty only. However, upon his attempt to drink the full glass of pain, I mean, install the full pane of glass into the door frame, Installation Guy discovered it didn’t fit.

“You’ve gotta be kidding,” he insisted. No. The pane would not budge. The glass wasn’t kidding. He pushed on it, banged on it with bare hands, banged on it with a rubber mallet, pleaded, cursed, but alas, it was still too big in spots. Fortunately, before he shattered the glass, yes, before he looked down to find his zeal unzipped, Installation Guy had the good sense to ask the homeowner to take a look.

This homeowner happened to be mechanically inclined (was patient and attentive enough to see how things fit together) and in due time he noticed the thin rubber seal which sandwiched the edge of the glass had bent back upon itself ever so slightly and was clogging the channel in the frame.

You can imagine how interesting this was to our hero in waiting and how thankful he was that the mechanically inclined homeowner happened to be at the home he happened to own. If only he was available everywhere always; our guy’s tool box would runneth over.

A fidget or two later and the rubber gasket was seated properly. Suddenly, everything was golden. Yes, Installation Guy had accomplished the harrowing task with but a shudder of glass.

A few minor mishaps later and zip zip zip, the job was professionally completed. Clearly, our gallant lad’s faith was not yet capable of moving mountains. Though with patience and persistence, and with a little luck and some help, it was able to move a thin rubber seal nearly half a millimeter. Welcome to another day in the life of Installation Guy, the guy who gets paid for having fun.

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Bouncing Back

defining-momentsLike most children, Anna had mastered the art of worrying at a young age. Presently, she was studying the art of not worrying. When she was four, she feared that by thinking of fire she could magically ignite one. At nine, she was learning that while worry prepares for fire, it cannot ignite it. But neither can it benefit from its warmth and illumination.

Within the encircling rocks of our beliefs, atop our crumpled daily news and doubts, worry lays on the kindling of faith, yet hesitates to ignite the fire with the reality of experience for fear the fire will get out of control.

Worry is a virus that attaches itself to the site of potential experience, undermining our capacity to reflect and prepare ourself to receive illumination. Worry is wet green beliefs pretending to be true. Worry offers much smoke, but little warmth and little light.

Slowly, over time, in a metaphorical and miraculous way, Anna was learning to ignite her experience with the light of perspective, allowing for the healing of her worried mind.

Meanwhile, back at the blue spruce, the limbs were getting brown. Sharp, dry needles were falling everywhere, poking tender feet. One day, John brought out the shop vac and vacuumed the front lawn. It was an odd sight, and noisier than it was odd. But no odder than the familiar sight of grown men walking about blowing leaves from here to kingdom come.

Molly was at work. Anna’s maternal cousins were visiting. John was spending the day with them. Anna was at her Libra best around her younger cousins. John enjoyed watching her interact in a balanced and equitable manner.

He, on the other hand, was at his Gemini worst. He began teasing Anna, calling her ‘Minnie Mo’ whenever he perceived her behavior to be too controlling. In a self-contradictory and controlling way, he teased Anna to lighten up and stop imitating her mother’s manner of micro-management.

He persisted like a black fly in her ear. He pestered her to be less controlling though she was already demonstrating more balance than he. He got on a roll. She got on a rock. She didn’t get less controlling. She got quieter and more distant from John.

When Molly got home, they walked the dogs down to the river. John held the Aussies on leash. As they approached the river, Anna released them as she did routinely with her mother. John was not so free with the dogs. He was less familiar with their behavior around strangers. He asked Anna to round them up. She insisted it was fine. She did it this way with her mother all the time.

Rather than take her more trusting lead, John went with his general knowledge of Aussies and insisted she round them up. She resisted. He got angry. She got scared and weepy. John left the group at the river so he could simmer down and Anna could gather herself together.

That evening it nearly all came out in the wash. Anna explained to Molly her frustration at being called names by her father. Molly phoned John, slightly flabbergasted. She critiqued his out of character behavior.

John had already repented. He apologized to Anna for being mean. Anna didn’t quite apologize to John for ignoring him. John didn’t quite acknowledge his reasons for not trusting her decision to release the dogs. It did not all come out in the wash. Not quite.

The next day Anna was on the trampoline with her three year old cousin Katie who began chanting softly and innocently, “Minnie Mo, Minnie Mo…” John was present and asked them to stop jumping so that he, might mop up his puddling integrity, so that they, might jump safely.

He needed to heel his dogs to prevent his propaganda from becoming another’s dogma. He needed to prevent his silly outer chant from becoming another’s serious inner mantra. He explained to Katie that he’d been mean to Anna by calling her names, and he’d also been mean to Aunt Molly by suggesting that Anna not act like her.

Before they began jumping again, Anna looked John squarely in the eyes and without meanness said, “See what a bad influence you had on them yesterday.” She spoke her piece firmly. Yet, the humor of the moment had not eluded her. Like a ray of sunshine piercing through clouds, a knowing smile revealed her clarity of mind.

Impeccable in our word, immaculate in our conception, how else to be reborn?

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Squeaky Wheels

peace-books-2Moral authority does not come from success
or fame or wealth or status.
We cannot accrue moral authority
like we would interest
on a certificate of deposit.
We cannot acquire moral authority
through force or know-how or influence.

We display moral authority through
the choices we make
and the actions we take
from moment to moment.
Moral authority is not compounded daily or yearly.
It is manifested by living in accord
with universal principles now.

We often confuse moral authority
with charm, charisma, the power of persuasion
or the power of positive thinking.

We often mistake it for experience, a track record,
a glowing résumé or a host of other imposters.

The truth is, moral authority often goes
unrecognized and unheeded
for it is not in the habit of stealing attention;
it cannot be bought or sold.

That which can be bought or sold represents
something other than itself.
Moral authority comes from the source
and can represent nothing.

In a sense, moral authority is simply a fact,
the natural consequence of being
true to oneself.

We’ve heard about the squeaky wheeler-dealer
because the media (which for the most part
has squandered its moral authority for a story)
has a thing for people who are rusty
at being true to themselves.

peace-booksWho has moral authority?
Toddlers have moral authority.
That’s why they’re so gifted at
evoking our genuine smile.

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Sincere Practice

To those who question the value of
the kind and sincere approach of Aikido:

Why not have ten people attack beginners
with knives, swords, bokens and jos
right from the get-go?
Why eliminate the physical weapons?
Why practice with one person at a time?
Why change partners?

Follow the answers
and you will understand.
It is easy to harm.
It is easy to heal.
It is impossible
to do both, simultaneously.

It is easy to eliminate the physical weapons we possess.
But it is only through sincere and dedicated practice
that we learn to eliminate the emotional and mental weapons
that possess us.

The ‘empty your cup’ idea
is a good idea whose time comes
whenever we choose to manifest it
through sincerity, honesty, stillness, forthrightness…

It’s easy to wage war
once we’ve filled our mind and heart with weaponry.
Then, anything can serve as a physical weapon.

It’s easy to harm, once we’ve fallen into harm’s way.

Waging peace is a different story.
It requires a different narrative.
Not one filled with good guy/bad guy stuff.
In the way of peace, there is no winner or loser.
There is no me vs: you.
There is us.

In Aikido, we practice emptying our cup, our mind and body
of all strategies of attack and defense.
Uke and nage join
in the study of openness, fearlessness
thereby receiving the way of peace.

It’s easy to heal, once we’ve entered into healing’s way

Through the kindness of practice,
we learn there is nothing to fear;
not even falling back
into mental patterns governing harm’s way.

It will happen, from time to time.
How else to practice forgiveness?
How else to tumble forward into the unknown?
The question is: After we choose to wield a weapon
(feinting perhaps; pretending to attack; ambivalence)
how quickly do we choose to lay it down?

Sincerity doesn’t reflect attainment of a state of perfection.
Sincerity reflects a willingness to embrace our im-perfection.
We all stumble. We all fall.
When we stumble, how quickly do we catch ourselves?
When we fall, how quickly do we pick ourselves up?

As vigilance is required
for the ways of war to persist, just so
vigilance is required
for the way of peace
to endure.

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What’s Necessary

Doing what you can to stay alive is necessary.
Enjoying your friends is necessary.
Taking care of your children is necessary.

Acquiring an unkind wealth is not necessary.

Being truthful is necessary.
Being honest is necessary.
Being respectful is necessary.

Acquiring an unkind wealth is not necessary.

Sharing is necessary.
Being kind is necessary.
Meaningful work is necessary.

Acquiring an unkind wealth is not necessary.

Living in balance is necessary.
Appreciating diversity is necessary.
Enjoying the abundance of the moment is necessary.

Acquiring an unkind wealth is not necessary.

Singing your song is necessary.
Dancing your dance is necessary.
Dreaming your dream is necessary.

Acquiring an unkind wealth is not necessary.

An unkind wealth is anything hoarded, anything acquired
that is personally wasted and publicly wanted, contributing to
the degradation of the health and well being of community.

Simply put: a bloated belly reflects unkind wealth,
whether it be the bloated belly of the rich
or the bloated belly of the poor.

Posted in Food for Thought | 1 Comment


There are many avenues, many ways to bring value into the world.
Every moment offers an opportunity to share love, truth, vision.

If you measure value by money alone, it’s not value you measure; it’s salesmanship.

To offer a tired analogy from the world of art: Van Gogh offered value through his paintings, yet even with his brother’s considerable influence he was not able to sell a single work of art in his lifetime. Posthumously, his paintings have sold for obscene amounts of money.

This fact does not alter the value that Van Gogh offered to the world in his lifetime. That his paintings sell for millions of dollars today does not reflect their value any more than his inability to sell his paintings prehumously reflected their value.

Value in paintings lies in the transforming effect they have on the individual viewer. The money “value” presently assigned to his works of art has more to do with big business and the games rich people play, and less to do with genuine value.

For me, the value of the paintings hanging on the walls of my house is priceless.
My daughter painted them when she was two years old.

Value in art is best measured not by money, but by the look of clarity and appreciation that works of art evoke in the eye of the beholder.
I think this definition extends beyond the world of art to serve as a measure for the art of living:

Mama’s milk evokes clarity and appreciation in a hungry child’s eyes;
A kind word evokes clarity and appreciation in a troubled person’s eyes;
Shelter from the cold evokes clarity and appreciation in the eye’s of the homeless;
A meaningful job evokes clarity and appreciation in the eyes of those struggling to provide for their families.

Simply put, genuine value takes care of real need.

Money, well spent, can take care of real need.
Unfortunately, much of the time, money is not well spent.

Posted in Letters from the Editor | 3 Comments

Lawyers, Loopholes and Guns

No one owns the earth. We’re all immigrants passing through, pilgrims on a journey.
When we think we’re buying the earth, we’re buying lawyers, loopholes and guns.

Sometimes in the law, especially constitutional law, the voice of the Holy Spirit can be heard seeping through.
Yet most of what we hear is ego driven and does not reflect an earnest search for truth.

There are no loopholes in the truth. The truth cannot be manipulated to give some an advantage over others.
We can’t buy truth like we can buy an election.

We can’t keep the truth. Like love, we can only let it go.
The part of worldly success that is governed by ego driven thinking is ultimately illusion.

No one owns the earth. We’re all immigrants passing through, pilgrims on a journey.
When we think we’re buying the earth, we’re buying lawyers, loopholes and guns.

Sometimes in the law, especially constitutional law, the voice of the Great Spirit can be heard seeping through.
Yet most of what we hear is ego driven and does not reflect an earnest search for truth.

We can’t provide for our self and our family in any way that harms another without creating a world that is harmful for our self and our family.

We can work overtime to maintain the illusion of security, but ultimately it is a waste of time and energy.

To do the right thing in the beginning, is the only way to save time and energy, and to eliminate suffering for all.

There are no loopholes in the truth. The truth cannot be manipulated to give some an advantage over others.
We can’t buy truth like we can buy an election.

We can’t keep the truth. Like love, we can only let it go.
The part of worldly success that is governed by ego driven thinking is ultimately illusion.

No one owns the earth. We’re all immigrants passing through, pilgrims on a journey.
When we think we’re buying the earth, we’re buying lawyers, loopholes and guns.
Sometimes in the law, especially constitutional law, the voice of the Shekhinah can be heard seeping through.

Excerpt from “Unpropping Propaganda” by Richard Salzman

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Respect is not a tool or a weapon
to be used to control others with at whim.

Respect is given freely (not earned)
or it is not respect; it is manipulation.

Respect is given freely in order to
enable honest communication.

Respect is given from an open heart
to help other hearts to open.

Respect is not given in order to have our way.
Respect is given to help us find our way.

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The Day After Peace Is Reached?

Will we marinate the glory of victory?
or unfurl and flourish!

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Inevitable & Avoidable

When we narrow our mind
to keep our options open,
it is easy to do the wrong thing,
conflict is inevitable
and is rarely peacefully resolved.

When we narrow our options
to keep our mind open,
it is easy to do the right thing,
and though conflict may not be avoidable,
it is often peacefully resolved.

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Aikido; The Art & The Science


    From the beginning, do your best
    to unify your body and mind as you
    explore the motions of aikido.

Due to our culture, we have a strong tendency to want to figure it all out mentally, to have the particulars first explained so that we can then move the ‘appropriate ‘ parts of our body ‘correctly’ (usually through separate mental ‘command’). As we continue in this manner, we reinforce a gap between the mental and the physical. We must remove this artificial gap.

Aikido acknowledges the mind and body as one entity. The tension in our little toe, the numbness of our left elbow, the belly cramp, the buzzing feeling in our forehead, our emotions, and our rampant thoughts are not separate, isolated processes. They are expressions, in gestalt, of our state of being.

As our mental activities are quieter and we are able to relax and be more totally attentive to the feelings coursing through our body as we experience our partner’s motion, our response will be truer and more appropriate. Our ability to ‘get’ the motion is enhanced on many fronts at once.

Because our formal practice is generally in silence, there is a force exerted from the beginning on each of us to unify and integrate our total being in this moment. In the short-term, this creates a difficulty for the new student. Old habits are ‘ordered’ out; we have not yet replaced them with the new.

The verbal silence remains a goad and an alchemical refining force for the experienced student or teacher as motions must be very clear if we expect there to be communication and ‘pickup’ by the newer student. This means that the experienced student must ‘connect’ non-verbally with their practice partner and do their absolute best rendition of the particular motion, in this context.

The new student may, at first, find themselves in a total quandary as to what is taking place, but gradually as the tendency to ask for verbal explanation is successfully ‘stifled,’ little clarities begin to appear, the approach is more total.

There are many reasons for holding fast, even ferociously, to the silent base of our practice. Don’t be put off by it. Its importance will become clear as you begin to reap its benefits.

On the way to practice, as you dress, and when you come onto the mat prior to practice, do what you can to bring your concentration into the best mode for maximum reception of what is offered in the session.

When in the kneel-sit before formal practice, make a strong request to yourself to sit with good posture, to be alert, and to relax completely. We must calm the body-mind; it is absolutely necessary if we hope to receive aikido. The physical position is an ancient one and is said to, in itself, carry us into or express center. If this position is totally new to you, or if you have enduring or excruciating pain, you may use a cushion. Many, however, discover that the strength of discipline will carry them through the initial difficulty, and that short periods of sitting in this position are soon both easy and restorative.

When we begin to stretch and explore some of the principle exercises, there is further opportunity to deepen our relaxation and improve our concentration. Many of the motions are simple and therefore it is easy to leave off the quest and begin to do them always in the same way. Please keep your attention alive, keep questing to discover the deeper aspects—the fulfillment—of the particular stretch, position, or motion.

Carry this attentiveness throughout practice into the techniques explorations with your various partners and you will begin to experience the spirit of aikido.

Aikido increases muscle tone while requiring a full expansion into our potential range of motion. It is necessary, as a prelude to practice, to warm up thoroughly and to stretch ourselves well.

Caution: Please do not enter yourself into a contest to see how far you can stretch. Be honest in your stretches, but do not try to match what you see anyone else doing. Maxim: It matters not how far you can stretch. It is all-important how you stretch.

Do not harshly bounce into and beyond your present limits in stretching. Your body will recoil and you will have the opposite of the desired effects. Extend easily to your limit, rest there for a time, and then gently extend a little beyond while attending and relaxing your breathing and opening your body and mind with faith that as you do this regularly you will experience the necessary release. Do not hold a stretch for too long, and learn to recognize the good sensation of a ‘good for you’ stretch. This sensation may be strong, but it should not be alarming.

Breathing is a very important indicator in your stretching efforts. Be sure it is free and easy. Our breathing is quite reflective of our state and, when we open to its needs, will always help us to accommodate, integrate and release. We all have habits of holding or pushing our breath; as we can simply allow our breath to be what it needs to be, in this moment, a new balance arrives.

When beginning pair exercises or techniques with a partner, do your best to trust and to build trust. Know that your partner has no intent to hurt you, and that you are simply trying to receive the gestalt or totality of the movement. All of aikido is receiving; as you learn to yield, with integrity, to your partners’ motion, a gradually growing understanding of the technique will be yours.

When grasping your partner, do so with a tone that is clear in intent (integrity-presence) and that provides you with maximum feeling of the slightest move your partner might make. This means that your grip should be neither too loose nor too tight. Let your body yield to your partner’s motion without anticipation or resistance; let your feet be solid on the mat and the last to move.

Mutual Assistance
stacked-rocks-3-sun-8-greyOne meaning of the ‘Ai’ in aikido is mutuality. There is a subtle aspect at work as we can more truly help each other. We practice usually in two or three person partnerships. Everyone’s desire is to have a beneficial practice. As we reach to give this rather than get it, we help each other immensely. It is true, too, that we get much more out of our practice, as it will be clearly more balanced, more sincere.

I think we have all had the experience of meeting a friend in a rush when we’re relaxed and ‘laid back,’ or of being the one in a rush and feeling our hot overexcitement meet the ‘cool’ of our friend. On the aikido mat, this disparity is quickly transformed when our partner moves to meet our energy and we, at the same time, are moving to meet our partner.

Some of us may tend toward the ‘speedy, let’s go, let’s go!’ side; some of us may want it all to be ‘slow and easy, smooth and comfortable’ too much of the time. Give your partner a good practice, a good feeling. It will modulate and broaden your potential, and will likely be strongly reciprocated. Your own best practice is truly only possible as you increase your sensitivity and concern for your partner.

ai-2© 2001 by David O’Neill Heart Belly Walk”
Information about the AUTHOR

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Politics and Relativity

What are the ends that are sought by the political movements that guide our Nation?

The goals of a Democracy are that the majority rules. It seeks to influence our Constitutional Republic, via the reinterpretation of Constitutional law at a Supreme Court level, and if necessary even have a Constitutional Convention and rewrite the old document. It also would disallow the hierarchy of Supreme law that would hinder the Will of the People. Thus via Democracy could rise the most Totalitarian of Dictatorships. Hitler accomplished just that with his rise in power in the Weimer Republic.

The goals of the Socialist is to design a state which the government controls at every level, and via this control, the ultimate balance between the needs of the people and that of the state could be achieved. It presupposes that such a state could have available to it all of the data essential to divining both the right policy and the ultimate outcome of its policies. Thus, Stalin came into power in Russia.

The goal of the Conservative is to hold onto the Traditional values of the state that is ruled by a hierarchy that is willing to guarantee the status quo by increasing the coercive powers of the government for the purpose of resisting change.

The goal of the Liberal is to maintain the highest level of personal liberty for everyone, with the understanding that neither the individual nor the government uses coercive forces against any one or group, except that necessary to control both individual or national coercion. It stands for a true free market economy, one that allows for the freedom to both succeed or fail within a beneficent and non maleficent environment. Thus the liberal has as an end goal the Principle of Liberty and Freedom, protected by a hierarchy of laws that control both the forces of government and of those people who would, via coercion, alter the Principle.

Although there are definable and even predictable feelings and behaviors that sequentially unfold, no two people are in the same place at the same time and there is no easy way of predicting where they are, where they were, and where they’re going to be at any moment in time. Nations pass through a similar evolving process and are similarly unpredictable, so that what may be an ideal government for one individual, whose moment of maturation is consonant to that of his nation, both before this moment and after, this may not be the case.

I raise these points because my political philosophy has varied as much as my evolving spirit, strengths and concepts. When helplessly dependent, egocentric and needy, it would have been difficult for me to accept any philosophy that didn’t broaden the responsibility of government and law, to protect, nurture and subsidize my very existence. I could easily have accepted the governmental base that guaranteed my needs without concern regarding its effect on either my future, or the ultimate goals of the government that subsidized me. When playing the role of the dependent child, I was concerned primarily with the moment. The past, which influenced and controlled my present, and what my future might ultimately be, was not a significant motivating force. It could not over-ride the feelings of insecurity that permeated my childhood and required some authority figures to surround and encompass my feelings so that I could integrate my own inner chaos within a safe environment. At that time, to have a powerful government, whether Conservative or Socialistic, was of utmost importance, as long as it served my individual needs.

Whereas the Socialistic government designs what it considers a rational, distributive hierarchy, with bounded limits to individual accumulative powers, and therefore having the not too rich and the not too poor, there are problems associated with the processes of subsidization of the indigent, the lazy, the old, and the young who are physically or mentally handicapped. These are compounded by the processes of containment, and the inhibitions imposed on the energetic, entrepreneurial and the creative, who want more than the government would allow them. In a sense, the restrictions could ultimately negatively influence both individual and National evolution.

The Conservative, on the other hand, tends to want a powerful government to control and regulate, in order that his economic power and influence can be perpetuated by governmental policy. The poor distribution and inordinate differential between the oligarchic wealthy and the near anarchic poor, is maintained and fed. I felt a part of the poor and helpless, up to the time I entered Medicine. Thus, up to that time, the concept of majority rules, a democracy that represented me and the greatest number of have-nots, looked very attractive. My struggling family and relatives were all democrats, and they pushed for every governmental policy that would be more distributive of national wealth and justice. Many people chose the socialistic and communistic movement because of their fantasy promises of the greater good for the greater number.

By the time I painfully extracted myself from the needy and was struggling to make a good income, it was time to re-evaluate my political philosophy. I had fought my way up the ladder and was now independent, with a great potential for becoming economically secure. The very political philosophy I had tried to strengthen when I was needy, was now becoming the concept that would impose greater burdens on me. I no longer looked at the taxing of the wealthy as being just. The definition of justice was now changing. The dangers of too much beneficence and its potential for inhibiting my growth became obvious. If autonomy was to be encouraged, it became obvious that all of the forces that made me independent, and were uncomfortably and fearfully borne, were essential to my independence and that the very governmental policies I had elevated as ‘Ideal’, were the very same ones that are destructive to individual evolution. I was lucky I had not benefited by the ideals that had aroused so much positive emotion when I was young and still fantasizing.

I was now ready to become a Conservative Republican. I wanted to protect my property and my rights. I wanted to be involved in a free market, where my strengths, my knowledge and my high energy was sure to meet with success. My egocentricity was now encompassing more than myself. It now included my wife, my children, my practice and my group, and everything else I could call my own. Everyone else, outside of these enlarged but bounded systems, were potential adversaries. To subsidize them made little sense, if it did not encourage their movement to the same glorious position I now found myself in. I found myself less able to justify an overly distributive political philosophy, since it seemed to me that both the donor and receiver would suffer. The donor was less able to give to those whom he felt worthy, and the receiver was less likely to ever become a donor and be economically independent and autonomous.

There was one thing common to all of the above. There was a need for a national and all encompassing coercive power. As a conservative Republican, I required the government to maintain the existing hierarchy. On the other hand the progressive Democrats wanted the government to tax more, redefine national rights, and to give more to the have-nots, whether they were poor, ill, lazy, too young or too old, or whether they were recent immigrants, or some discriminated against minority group. Whereas the conservatives forcefully resisted the dynamics of a free market, and allowed each person to define his position in life by what he was willing to do for himself, the liberal Democrats were doing the same thing.

In the conservative movement the laws would guarantee that wealth would be extracted from the wealthy with great difficulty. In the progressive movement, the laws would guarantee that wealth would be accumulated with great difficulty. Understandably, those who were in the hierarchy of law making would be immune from the law and the ethics that bounded the actions of those who walked beneath their power, and were forced to bend to the law, its administrators and its judiciary.

When Hayek came along and shouted “Let the market be totally free,” he maintained that the only coercive force from above should relate to the controlling of coercion from below. No individual should deprive another of the freedom to be involved in the free market. One must suffer both the successes and failures that a free market exposes everyone to. Suffer the consequences of success or failure and readjust one’s actions and concepts in relation to these teaching experiences. It is, Hayek said, what has made the United States what it is today. Take it away and all the growth, creative ingenuity and economic success would come to an end. In short, this was Hayek’s ideology.

In response I ask myself this question. In a society where the hierarchy of power is the mind-set recognized as the natural survival attitude, can we do away with the rule oriented and the highly regulated social scaffold we live in today? Can we free up the game rules so that every individual, in order to survive, becomes a gambling entrepreneur in a semi-anarchic society?

I doubt it. Actually I fear it. The Constitution was very aware of human ethical and moral fallibilities. It was aware of the dangers of the parochial power of the individual, and the groups who might actively or passively usurp and assert power over others, and who had to be contained. The evolving laws that became Constitutional law had a genesis of 2000 years and contained the qualities essential to the controlling of all the phases of human growth and development. The changes in attitude and behavior that I experienced over my short life time, had to be controlled when they got out of line.

What appears apparent to me today, after struggling for some time to discover the political label I could attach to myself, is that there is none and cannot be. Consider F.A.Hayek. After a brilliant life time of searching, in the post script of his ‘Constitution of Liberty,’ he came to the conclusion that there was a time in the 18th century that if he called himself a Whig, it would have been the most accurate of liberal labels that incorporated his beliefs and the goals he sought within the framework of the natural law he felt the free market represented. As he examined liberality today, it had lost its 18th century meaning, and he found himself a political philosopher without a label.

I know how uncomfortable it must have been for him to write that last postscript. How comfortable we all feel with a label. It circumscribes our specialty. It announces our place in the hierarchy of mankind. It speaks to our principles and goals that everyone thinks they understand and it removes the mist and mystery that makes us otherwise an enigma in a society that feels most comfortable with labels. God knows, I’ve called myself a doctor, and within the framework of this label, I have had more freedom to live, to succeed and to fail than most people who have less license than I do.

But the label is a collusion. It suggests that all doctors are the same and we are not. It suggests that I stand for the principles that you as a patient feel I stand for because of your concept of a doctor. I probably do not. I know few doctors who stand for the same thing; few lawyers and political philosophers who think alike; few people who have been called sopranos who sing the same voice. Hayek said the same about all the political parties of these past two centuries. Label makers offer us a means of feeling safe and try to offer to the world a way of defining who and what we are, so that we feel we’re making intelligent choices when we vote for them. We rarely do.

In my search for a political label, I have tried to find the ideology to which I belong. In truth I belong to none. Each label today gives me more reasons to distance myself than to reach out and embrace it. What’s more, at different moments of the day I change and would look painfully at a label I had embraced only a short time before. I realize that being label-less is floating in an unpredictable sea without a life jacket. When I was young I would have frowned on such bravado, but I have changed.

When I began to accept my personal significance relative to my system commitments, I discovered that there are as many ‘Mes’ as there are systems. I discovered that each ‘Me’ is guided by a different set of inner rules. They enable me to function primarily in relation to that specific system commitment, and that the passion/reason ratio falls, as I move from my most central systems to my most peripheral.

It explains why, from each special perspective, my attitudes regarding society and its freedoms, vary. There is no political philosophy that is foreign to my moments in time, each having been the conceptual matrix that helped me define what was right and wrong at some period of my life. That is why the labels changed throughout my growing cycle and why I am as relativistic today, regarding political philosophy, as I am about every other aspect of life, living, and the destiny of our world and Universe.

Excerpted from
Ortho-Para lll; The Embryologic Evolvement of Civilization

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Discovering the Ortho-Para Balance

Even though scientism hopes that miracles will someday be explained away, I know it will not happen.

Every question I’ve ever answered, designed new questions that were more complex than the one I solved. Knowledge and mystery are born twins. My pen seems to discover both in rapid succession. It doesn’t bother me. It makes life interesting.

How dull it would be if all that could ever be known, was already known, and probing minds like yours and mine no longer had problems to solve, mysteries to resolve, and in the process, sense the joy and fulfillment that are their reward.

Pacing Ourselves
We are all carrying the residuum of our complete unfolding. We can be the highest or the lowest creatures. Even our fetal embryonic pacemakers can reveal themselves through chaotic dreams and while were intoxicated.

These behavioral pacemakers are our potential for social good or bad. Society judges us on the basis of how we act, not on how we might act, because the latter doesn’t touch on the reality of those with whom we live.

Slow Poke
The period of ectophilia is slow to mature. It begins on the first day of life, when the processes of programming start to organize the central nervous system. Its rise to dominance, however, requires a painful awareness of an endophilic and mesophilic breakdown, whereupon it becomes apparent that one must understand life and its individual and social complexities.

Both must be failing to give life the meaning and significance for which we are searching and struggling. Only then do the powers of ectophilia rise to motivating levels and take on the enormous task of reconstructing the individual.

Dynamic Balance
What are the qualities of ectophilia? They can be confusing. The reason for this confusion lies in the very nature of intelligence. Many people believe that the man who has developed skill and eloquence in the art of speaking and dialectics, also has the power of discovering the greater truths. Truth therefore, is frequently measured by the power and persuasiveness of the words of those who eloquently and confidently speak their views.

The basal nature and prejudicial origins of this view are so well dressed in verbal power and poetry, that the man beneath the garb: his selfishness, his need for power, and his struggle for survival, all become invisible.

His arguments take on the power of a Life Essence. They are pronounced pure. They are thought of as an extract of consciousness that transcends man’s instincts, and are uncontaminated by the passions and irrationalities of basal man.

In these positions of power, I place the Ectoendophile and the Ectomesophile. They are the authoritarians of chaos who precede the chaos that follows. Only if they survive the forge that fires their ultimate fusion, do they reach a newer age whose truths lay always in the dynamic balance of antitheses.

© 2006 by Wallace Salzman “Ortho-Para IV; The Ortho-Para Test and its Interpretations”
Information about the AUTHOR

For more information, go to

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Not much difference between a Democrat and Republican when they’re
driven by fear of human weakness rather than faith in human strength:

    In the public sector:

    When Democrats fear corporate greed
    more than they fear government excess and inefficiency;

    When Republicans fear government excess and inefficiency
    more than they fear corporate greed.

    In the private sector:

    When Republicans fear individual rights, choice and freedom
    more than they fear excessive government intervention and control;

    When Democrats fear excessive government control
    more than they fear individual rights, choice and freedom.

In summary:
When fear (masked as enthusiasm)
fuels the agenda of political juggernauts,
it is typically so draining and wasteful
that genuine insight, joy and intelligence
(not to mention trust, appreciation and collaboration)
remain on the back burner, awaiting our return:

    to center;
    to natural balance;
    to homeostasis;
    to the fearless, peaceful mind

wherein optimism and hope
(the silver-lining of the dark cloud of fear)
are unneeded.

Politicians have impossible jobs, partly because, even while
it is often higher callings
that draw them into the political arena,
it is often lower obsessions
that flesh out their agendas.

When it is fear that motivates us, in one form or another:

    fear of self (Democratic Party default setting) or
    fear of other (Republican Party default setting)

it is difficult to do the right thing.

When we come to see

    our self as others and
    others as our self

our motivations begin to change
from being fearful in nature to being fearless.

Healing, harmony and peace are tri-products, if you will,
prosequences, collateral repairs, if you dare,
natural expressions, if you share,
of such a transformation of heart and mind.

In a democracy, election returns should reflect
a turning away from grouping as party animals
towards gathering as people.

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On Charity

Every time I hear the term “charity” it evokes a negative response in my gut. “Charity” is something we do from time to time, for any number of reasons but mostly it seems to unburden the conscience. It’s nicer than welfare and it doesn’t carry the baggage of ministry.

But charity is still about handing out stuff…our extra stuff, our extra money, to people that we decide need it. We leave things at collection points or drop checks in the mail but we rarely have personal contact with the recipient. When we complete the “drop,” we feel like we have done something really good. But have we?

I remember one hot day in Tlamacazapa, Mexico. I was out gathering stories and photos to complete a grant application for a community project. While speaking with Marta, she went into her house and returned with a heaping plate of watermelon. I was hot and thirsty and the fruit was red and juicy but conventional wisdom said don’t eat it, you’ll get parasites.

…But then how do you refuse that which is offered in hospitality?

Marta’s smile was full of eager expectation. I am quite sure my smile was rather forced so we sat through some awkward moments while I contemplated a piece of fruit. I nibbled it. I didn’t taste any parasites so finally I took a bite. Martha’s smile must have lit the world at that moment.

This was one of those pivotal moments in life when I saw the difference between charity and mutual sharing. Moving beyond charity is only possible when we dissolve our differences (our racism, classism, sexism, ageism) through hospitality where we openly and without reservation share laughter and tears, the human condition.

What was important at that moment was not what I was doing to help this impoverished community but that I was actually in Mexico sharing a piece of watermelon with one person.

When we don’t take time to step into the world of need, then we continue to be neighbors living on islands in isolation.

Without taking the opportunity to build a relationship, our gift giving and check writing is really quite hollow.

When we open our lives and share with others in hospitality, we strengthen the web of relationships that bring meaning to lives.

Posted in -Joanne | 6 Comments

Children & Adults

Children remind us to grow up.

They demonstrate how to follow the light,
how to allow inner being to bloom.

Children know how to be themselves,
how to grow, how to see the light
in each other.

Generally speaking, adults are people
who stop growing up,
and begin growing sideways.

They become political and religious beings,
shadows of the spiritual beings they are.

Children enlighten because seeing
another in their true light

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Breathing With Intention

This morning during my breathing time I began to ponder the expanding and contracting of the body and relating it to life. Life itself expands and contracts like some great creature breathing.

Breathing and living are inseparable – you can’t have one without the other, yet the quality with which you breathe will determine the quality of the life you live. Sometimes living can be an autonomic function that manages to keep going without thought or design. Other times, when I make a commitment to living, it seems as though life breathes with much more energy and the light shines brighter.

I have made many commitments over the years. Some are long term and some only for the short time, but each one helps me move with purpose. Each morning when I wake up I can either make a commitment to breathe or I can assume that I will breathe. Of late, I have been doing too much of the latter. My body does what it needs to do to survive but that does not mean that it lives fully.

As I contemplate my future now that I have shed my job, I realize that there are basic facts that I can’t ignore.

My personal life is my political life.
My political life is my personal life.
Where they intersect is my spiritual life.
They intertwine.
They are inseparable.
They are about compassion and conscience.

Thinking back to times I loved and laughed most were times when I was in and of nature, living as one in that balanced power. I worked, I played, I created, I cared and I loved. I was in balance.

I think my job right now is to breathe deeply and keep my heart open. I know not where next my path will lead.

Posted in -Joanne | 2 Comments

Food for Thought

For the organizer (in us all):

    The way to extend peace
    is to share the things we need.

    The way to maintain war
    is to compete for things we want.

    What is the wheat?
    What is the chaff?

    What do we need?
    Why do we want?

For the religious moralist (in us all):

    There is no hell (in the sense of something that awaits us).
    Hell is what the ego makes of the present. ACIM

For the story teller (in us all):

    The notion of original sin is a misunderstanding of aboriginal innocence.
    It is the ego‘s fearful interpretation of our so-called ‘condition.’

For the new age vendor (in us all):

    There is no selling in community; only sharing.
    Selling is the attempt to get someone else’s share,
    and so it is the denial of community.

For the leader (in us all):

    The good will is strengthened by respect, appreciation and gratitude.
    The good will is strained by expectation, disappointment and blame.
    The good will is strengthened by cooperation.
    The good will is strained by competition.
    The good will is strengthened wherever there is giving and receiving.
    The good will is strained wherever there is pushing and pulling.
    The good will is strengthened wherever there is sharing.
    The good will is strained wherever there is winning and losing.

For the true believer (in us all):

    Religious belief promotes bickering over what to fill the potholes on the spiritual path with.
    The problem is, there are no holes on the spiritual path.
    There are only holes in our perception.
    Holes in our perception are filled when we open our minds.
Posted in Food for Thought | 15 Comments

Math Ogre

I can be an ogre as a math tutor
insisting that the real lessons are
patience, and calculating
the need of the moment.

I resort too quickly to iff statements.
Iff you take care of yourself
does getting good grades have any value.
Iff you take care of real need
does having a lucrative job have any value.

Eat a nutritious snack.
Drink a fresh glass of water.
Rest awhile from your struggles.

Let go the Sputnik driven, ‘shock & awe’ agenda
of the educational matrix.
Remember, its labsolute valuel rests in the fact that
it’s there to serve you.

Don’t forget what you’ve taught me all these years,
enjoy life and be happy.
Factor everything in, and then cancel everything out
that is simply one, in disguise.

Don’t worry. You’ll get it.
You have a good work ethic.
You have sound study habits.
You have the initiative, drive and persistence
required to succeed (and remain happy).

Go slow. Read the question carefully.
Now! Dive in and exercise your faith.
You know how to swim.
The algorithm will come.
Remember to show your work.

Like all good math ogres,
I snuck a peak in the back of the book for you.
It has the answer to odd problems such as this.

Patience enough to experience the peace of creation.
Wonder enough to appreciate the beauty of creation.
Curiosity enough to enjoy the diversity of creation.
Humility enough to join the harmony of creation.
Joy enough to share the abundance of creation.

Excerpt from “Peace as a Seventh Language”

Posted in Peace Books | 3 Comments


Broken pots
Fragments of people
Crumbled castles
Are the memories of museums

Churning waves
Swirling breeze
Gorse and rhododendron in full bloom
Are today memories in my heart

In rapid succession

Soft moss
Jagged rocks
Shades of green
Round gray stones

Maker of music
Dreamer of dreams
Ireland flows on its own path.

Posted in -Joanne | 1 Comment

Spring Poems

Dandelion seed adrift
Hovering, floating gently in the
Breeze, shifting weight from
Side to side, para
Gliding above the terrain
Wandering, exploring, searching for a
Suitable place to settle and grow.

Synaptic threads
Quiver in the warm breeze
Delivering light
Conveying information
Connecting leaves of
Seemingly separate plants
Reminding them
Their lives emanate
From common soil.

A gnat
Flits through
My field of vision until
I realize
It too is
Dancing on threads
Playing in the breeze
Conveying information
Reminding me how to live.

Excerpts from Peace Books

Posted in -Richard, Peace Books | 4 Comments

Busy Lady

R) How long did it take you to craft the story about the dime for Ari?

G) 5-10 minutes. I first wrote a longer, detailed version describing the street I lived on, and a more complete version about the woman who found the dime. Then slashed it, timed the new version, slashed again and timed it.

R) So, your new discipline (in addition to t’ai chi four mornings a week) is to take 5-10 minutes (three times a week) and send a short story to me.

G) Wait, wait…as I thought about it, it was 5 minutes to do all the typing, so it was more like 10-15 minutes!!!! Three times a week? That’s asking a lot. Where do I fit it in?

– I’ve joined a group of women from JRC who study with a non JRC rabbi, three times a month. Meet for lunch at the home of the hostess of the month…it’s greet, eat, seat and read. This rabbi is really great. He’s best described as totally with it. Reading’s in English, he reads the Hebrew/Aramaic (to himself) and ties everything to local politics, economics, cultures. Makes it real and living.

– Then there’s the once a month b’nai mitzvah group gathering.
– Then there’s the once a month ladies torah group that I’ve been a part of for about 30 years.
– Then there’s the Saturday minyan at JRC that I get to 2-3 times a month.
– Then there’s the FFM (First Friday of the Month) dinner group.
– Then there’s the once a month (Monday late morning) visit to the chiropractor.
– Then there’s the twice a year check up at the dentist.
– Then there’s the twice a year check up at the eye doctor.
– Then there’s the 3-4 times a year check up at the doctor.
– Then there’s the every 2-3 week visit with David.
– Then there are all the birthday celebrations.
– Then there are all the graduation celebrations (this year, at least.)
– Then there are the visits to friends who are in need of visits.
– Then there are the occasional classes…just tossed in at random.
– Then there are the 2-3 yearly visits to the Vet.
…And we haven’t even gotten to cleaning, laundry, sleeping and eating (a lot of that) and occasionally showering…and wonderful sleeping.
– Oh yeah!…Thanksgiving visits, Christmas Day visits at the Cuthberts, and Spring visits to Savannah (and Vermont)...and throw in twice a year movie, play, or concert…and YOU want me
to write THREE TIMES A WEEK? You are totally round the bend, darling son…but I’ll think on it.

Did I mention….

Weight lifting every other day to build arms.
Squats (from a sitting position) every day.
– Side leg lifts to strengthen the tush muscle that governs balance, every other day.
Rock back on heels and hold as long as can (still in seconds) a few times a day to improve balance.
Stand on one leg as long as I can, to improve balance every night…only in seconds so far.
Stretching out on spine straightener (styrofoam roll) every day.
Eye exercises, relaxation, 6 days a week.(30 min.)
Feeding Jake.
Cleaning his litter box.
Letting him in and out, in and out, in and out…
Watering and trimming and feeding indoor plants.
Planting, weeding outdoors (very little so far…weather not cooperating)…but I have put in the pansies in the planters along the edge of the deck…and each day, as I throw out the garbage, I spend 5-10 minutes pulling something that’s not supposed to be growing where it is…mostly dandelions.

– Now I’m rereading “Chi Walking” and I’m going to start utilizing the information in it. I think it will help me regain good walking skills…I really should say gain.

– More will probably be sent along…as it comes to mind. Ha!

R) “The more to write about. Right?”

G) Here’s the more:

Standing straight, with the palms facing forward…then pulling the shoulders back as much as possible…several times a day…to keep shoulders as straight as possible (getting rid of my right should kyphosis (sp?) – the rounding of it.

Bridging…lying on floor with feet planted flat, lifting body and contracting abs…strengthening core muscles…helping back…every other day.

Knee massages ( t’ai chi style) several daily.

By now, you have a good idea of what’s involved if one wants to remain active, flexible and relatively pain free in old age. It just about replaces the 8 hour a day work place schedule…and did I mention that I try to do a little reading each day…sometimes it’s only five minutes before I fall asleep.
– Gonna reread “The World According to Garp.” Currently rereading “The Return of Sherlock Holmes”

R) “The more to write about. Am I wrong?”

G) – And did I mention the foot massaging at bedtime…at least 5 -7 minutes……..
– And the Wake-Up-the Legs-and-Arms exercise before I get out of bed in the A.M…..that’s 10-15 minutes.

R) See. I knew you could do it. You found enough time to write a little story. Or at least sketch out the outline. Leave it to a busy lady to get something done.

Posted in -Gerry | Leave a comment

Sent to the Bakery

Sent to the bakery with a precious dime
to buy a loaf of Vienna bread…
and get 3 cents change…
I lost the dime.

Crying my eyes out, I walked up and back
on the double width sidewalk
looking for that dime.

A lady asked me what I was looking for.
Too embarrassed to tell her,
I kept walking, looking and crying.

She kept asking…and finally I told her.

She uncurled her fingers
and in the palm of her hand
lay my dime.

From then on,
I believed in angels.

Posted in -Bubbe | 1 Comment

Once Again

Once again I stand on the edge of acceptable,
venturing too far into emotions.

    Too many times I leave my heart unprotected.
    Now wishing to shut out the world, to shrink back to before.
    With serenity shredded, anxiety spreads.
    I brace for the fall, always greater than expected.

So once again
The spiral has turned,
I look within.

I’ve become too complacent
in my bubble of like minded friends.

    Now there is a leak.
    I entered a conversation that assaulted my beliefs.
    I became indignant, then pious, then angry.
    I ended the already non conversation.
    I plugged the leak but my bubble is not the same.
    The energy inside has changed.

So once again
The spiral has turned,
I look within.

In this non-conversation my spirituality was attacked.

    My personal relationship with the divine, insulted.
    A Bible was thrown in my face
    watered down,
    then muscled up
    for personal convenience.

Wounds of experience bubbled over the cauldron of my heart

    I remembered indigenous communities
    forced to “Live” by the cross or “Die” by the sword.
    I relived the shameful history of Christians
    who carry the Bible as a breastplate
    yet behaved in unchristian ways.

I remembered so many Jesus-like people
giving up their lives everyday

    trying to right the wrongs of people
    who thump the Bible
    as modern day Conquistadors.

So once again
The spiral has turned,
I look within.

I struggled to return the non-conversation to conversation.

    With wounds of memory still bleeding I shoot back;
    “I am not familiar with a Jesus
    that sat around mumbling words from a book.
    He demonstrated perfect love.
    He walked among the sick, the poor, the oppressed.
    He gave voice to the voiceless.
    He spoke truth to power.
    For that he was killed.”

As if I had said nothing, my conversant replied
…if you confess with your mouth,

    “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart
    that God raised him from the dead,
    you will be saved.
    Romans 10:9
    “If you haven’t done what it says to do
    God isn’t doing anything with you.
    You can change that by just doing what it says.”

Yes it was a non-conversation.

I realize too late

    We closed our ears.
    We closed our eyes.
    We opened our mouths
    to push our agendas.
    We are all interdependent.
    We are mirrors of each other.
    Yet in this non-conversation
    two individuals are speaking
    with hearts closed to the other.

So once again
The spiral has turned,
I look within.

I write from the heart.

    I share observations from experiences
    among the indigenous and disenfranchised.
    I walk my talk to the best of my ability.
    I have been deeply hurt by the injustice that I see.

In my heart,

    I do not believe that God
    supports oppression,
    violence or bigotry.

So once again
The spiral has turned,
I look within.

God’s wisdom is free and available to everyone.

    God does not pick and choose.
    Human beings do that.
    God does not point fingers.
    Human beings do that.

Each of us has the ability within to awaken

    and walk in a sacred manner.
    The only thing stopping us
    is ourselves.
Posted in -Joanne | 7 Comments


O’Sensei Morihei forbade competition. It is a part of the definition of the aikido that is in Morihei’s lineage—I would say true aikido—that there is no competition.

Aikido’s power derives from the deft combination of energies, and expresses a highly refined ability to cooperate.

Sometimes students ask. “What do you do if the aggressor will not cooperate?” Answer: “It is our response-ability to find a way to cooperate with the life energy of anyone (and everyone) while forthrightly diverting that which would cause harm.”

It is best, from the beginning, to cure any tendency to compete: to go willingly and boldly where you have not gone before, to learn to relax in tenuous positions or (especially) when your body tightens. It is important to allow your partner to complete his or her motion and to stretch your body where it seems least ready, willing, or able.

As you learn to be soft, you begin to understand a basic aspect of self-protection. If you fight against an irresistible force, you will only be hurt more. As you can yield (with integrity), no one, not even the behemoth, can crush you.

Excerpt from ‘Heart Belly Walk’ by David O’Neill

Posted in Aikido | 1 Comment

Lazy Mentality

I’m weary of listening to ‘rags to riches’ propaganda about people emigrating to the US
(from some authoritarian regime where there’s no entrepreneurial freedom),
and making it BIG here.

The choice does not boil down to the virtues of capitalism vs: the evils of socialism,
or the virtues of socialism vs: the evils of capitalism
except where ignorance is trying to pass for intelligence.

Virtue and evil in the simplistic scheme of things are difficult to distinguish because
the choice is rarely between distinct mindsets (say moderation and excess), but between
the excesses of a laissez-fair mentality and
the excesses of an authoritarian mentality.
Choose your poison. Choose your excess.

Every responsible parent knows the trap of being too liberal,
too laid back with their children.
Every responsible parent knows the trap of being too authoritarian,
too controlling with their children.

It’s a dance, a slow dance, a dance that evolves and changes
with changing times and needs.
To adopt a rigid standard by which to dance, by which to raise (raze?) ourselves,
demonstrates ignorance only.

But that seems to be what economists,
or at least pundits pretending to be economists, generally do.
They take a stand, when they need to go with the flow.
They go with the flow, when they need to take a stand.
Both tendencies demonstrate an irresponsible and lazy mentality.

Each moment is new. There’s a chance, each moment, to undo,
to redress the damage done from lackadaisical/authoritarian errors of moments past.
This moment has its own needs, which must be
intuited; not imposed, not ignored.

Isn’t it ironic that those who don the mask of the conservative
are often the most liberal. Hands off buddy, laissez-faire,
I do what I want, it’s a free country you know.

Isn’t it ironic that those who don the mask of the liberal
are often the most conservative, inviting government (parental-like authority)
to have its way, set things straight, make things fair.

Personally, I’m not keen on rags or riches;
or overbearing parents or children run-amuck.
Still, I’m happy to hear that choice is on the table
(to a certain extent) in this great nation.

The question of the decade (and every decade) is,
is great good, or is great terrible? (to echo J. K. Rowling)

Yes, we have choice in this country:
– to ignore truth and create illusions, bubbles of myopic opportunity; POP
– to ignore happiness, in the relentless pursuit of more and new and better (in the whacky wild West); BANG
– to ignore compassion, disregarding tomorrow by living an unsustainable lifestyle today; GASP
– to ignore life, by (fill in the blank); CRACKLE
– to ignore liberty, by (your turn to lead); PUNT

Posted in Letters from the Editor | 7 Comments

Open-Hearted Communication

We just assume that home is where the heart is but….

We first have to open our hearts before we can be at home.

There is a fine line between protecting open hearts and closing protected hearts.

Posted in -Joanne | 4 Comments