Capturing a Moment in Time

Capturing a Moment in Time


The Creative Soul


I remember my first grown-up present at Christmas.  It was a very inexpensive camera, but it was a gift that made me feel so grown-up at age seven and seemed to promise me the rest of my life would follow and be magical.  The art of photography continues to seem magical to me.  Photography is the taking of a picture of reality that somehow not only shows us the obvious but also the unseen, the possibilities of our imagination and beyond.


Photography not only can inspire us; it can improve our mental health.  IN a Dec 2017 article Danielle Hark wrote: “We all deal with mental or emotional struggles at one time or another in our lives. Whether it’s stress from work, situational depression or anxiety, or full-on mental illness, it helps to take time to refocus and gain perspective. One tool you can use may be right in your pocket attached to your phone… a camera.  It has been proven time and again that creativity and art therapy are valuable tools for emotional wellness. Photography is one such tool that you can utilize without going to art school or being professionally trained. Modern technology provides easy-to-use options including a variety of automatic modes on point-and-shoot cameras, digital SLRs (single-lens reflex cameras), and even camera phones. Now anyone can take photos — and just by taking a photo, you are taking a moment to stop and look at your environment through a new lens. This moment can be the moment that changes your day from a negative to a positive — or at least gives you a momentary distraction and calm.”


Photography is the act of taking pictures for sentimental reasons, as a hobby or keeping informed with new events. Similarly, taking pictures help us to stay in touch with past events, thereby enables one to appreciate history.  Most people use photography as a tool to keep in touch with past events. Looking at photographs taken in the past also helps to improve our knowledge on how we relate to past events.


Medically speaking, taking pictures can save a life.  The advancements made because of x-rays and modern photographic capabilities combines with nuclear medicine are truly life-saving tools.  There are other reasons for taking pictures, though.  Legally it is a good idea if ever in a traffic accident to quickly snap a picture of any damage done to your vehicle.  It is also a good idea to periodically take pictures of your home and its furnishings.  These can be used to document loss from theft or natural disasters.  Keeping hard copies of such pictures is also a good idea since digital photography is sometimes inadmissible in court.


What about the weekend photographer or the proud grandparent?  Are those being creative and are there health benefits?  Even the Centers for Disease Control recognize the advantages of taking pictures and the art of photography.  When community members photograph their daily lives, they may find that the bigger picture begins to emerge.  In young hands, a camera can be a gateway to healthy habits, life styles and communities.  Researchers gave cameras to teens in inner-city Baltimore and asked them to take pictures of positive activities that were alternatives to joining a gang. “The project gave participants courage to talk to adults about community issues,” says Seante Hatcher.  Ms Hatcher is the community relations coordinator for the Johns Hopkins University Prevention Research Center (PRC), one of 35 community-academic partners the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funds to find innovative solutions to health challenges. The “Photovoice” technique shows that taking pictures can empower the photographers, document their perspectives and deliver their messages.


“Photovoice bridges age, race and gender. The pictures speak in a language common to everyone,” says Joyce Moon-Howard, DrPH, a researcher at the Columbia University PRC. The center has used Photovoice in interventions to promote healthy eating and in programs to encourage teenagers.  The process of taking photos can be used to involve young people in positive activities and engage policymakers in discussions about sensitive community issues. with HIV to share their feelings about living with the disease. “The project used both the lens of the camera and the lens of the HIV-positive young adult,” says Alwyn Cohall, M.D., director of the center. “Participation reduced the isolation and stigma of dealing with HIV and gave the teenagers a sense of belonging.” In a separate study, teens took and shared pictures of nutritious foods and were inspired to try more fruits and vegetables, he says. Dr. Moon-Howard identifies group discussion as a vital aspect of Photovoice. A set of photographs, she says, creates a “series of meaning” that helps a group identify issues of mutual concern and can motivate change.


By picking up a camera,, you are not only being present and creative, but you are actually practicing mindfulness, which reduces stress and helps leave you balanced and ready to take on the rest of your day.



Vladimir Nabokov

Vladimir Nabokov


Literature and Life


It is always of great interest to me when, typing the name of a foreign author or expert in a field, spellcheck knows the person of whom I am writing.  This is especially true with today’s featured author.  There are other Russian notables with very similar names and, quite frankly, I expected to be suggested that I was trying to type one of those.  However, Nabokov is well-known in the data spelling files of my computer!


“Literature and butterflies are the two sweetest passions known to man.”  This incongruence is just one of many in regards to Nabokov.  Born in St Petersburg, Russia, Vladimir learned to read and write in English before he did in Russian.  As a teenager he published a collection of 68 poems entitled “Stikhi”.   Zinaida Gippius, renowned poet and first cousin of Vladimir Gippius, critiqued the collection to Nabokov’s father: “Please tell your son that he will never be a writer.”


Nabokov’s father became a government official after the Russian revolt in February 1917 but in October another revolt found the family fleeing to Ukraine.  They soon sought refuge in Western Europe with Vladimir enrolling in Trinity College/University of Cambridge.  Studying zoology and then Slavic and Romance languages, he earned hi BA in 1922.  The family had moved to Berlin in 1920 and Vladimir followed.  That same year as he graduated from Cambridge, his father was accidentally shot while shielding the real target.  This them of accidental death occurs frequently in Nabokov’s writing.  Though his mother and sister moved to Prague, Vladimir stayed in Berlin, using the pen name V. Sirin.


Nabokov married a German woman and had one son but then, as anti-Semitism grew, they moved to France.  In May 1940 the entire family except his brother fled to the USA to escape the advancing German troops.  His brother Sergei died five years later at the Neuengamme concentration camp.  The Nabokovs settled in Manhattan and Vladimir began volunteer work as an entomologist at the American Museum of Natural History.  A year later he became part of the faculty at Wellesley College as a guest lecturer in comparative literature.  At the same time he was the de facto curator of lepidoptery at Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology.


Vladimir Nobokov spent the waning years of his life in Switzerland, enjoying writing.  His sone became an acclaimed operatic basso in Italy and the family enjoyed relative q1uite and success with Vladimir’s success as a writer.  Nabokov’s creative processes involved writing sections of text on hundreds of index cards, which he expanded into paragraphs and chapters and rearranged to form the structure of his novels, a process that has been adopted by many screenplay writers in subsequent years.


Quoting  Darren Wershler) in his “The Locative, the Ambient, and the Hallucinatory in the Internet of Things” (Design and Culture):  “Nabokov is noted for his complex plots, clever word play, daring metaphors, and prose style capable of both parody and intense lyricism. He gained both fame and notoriety with his novel Lolita (1955), which tells of a grown man’s devouring passion for a twelve-year-old girl. This and his other novels, particularly Pale Fire (1962), won him a place among the greatest novelists of the 20th century. His longest novel, which met with a mixed response, is Ada (1969). He devoted more time to the composition of this novel than any of his others. Nabokov’s fiction is characterized by linguistic playfulness. For example, his short story “The Vane Sisters” is famous in part for its acrostic final paragraph, in which the first letters of each word spell out a message from beyond the grave. In another of his short stories, “Signs and Symbols” (1958), Nabokov creates a character suffering from an imaginary illness called “Referential Mania,” in which the afflicted is faced with a world of environmental objects exchanging coded messages.”


Nabokov is also known for his scientific endeavors and watercolors of butterflies.  Additionally, he was a self-described synesthete, who at a young age equated the number five with the color red.  Synesthetes experience a sensation produced in one modality when a stimulus is applied to another modality, as when the hearing of a certain sound induces the visualization of a certain color. 


Nabokov’s favorite book is said to have been “Ulysses” by James Joyce.  He felt Joyce wrote beautifully proclaiming:  “Joyce can turn all sorts of verbal tricks, to puns, transposition of words, verbal echoes, monstrous twinning of verbs, or the imitation of sounds. In these, as in the overweight of local allusions and foreign expressions, a needless obscurity can be produced by details not brought out with sufficient clarity but only suggested for the knowledgeable.”


Of the reader, Nabokov write:  “Literature was born not the day when a boy crying wolf, wolf came running out of the Neanderthal valley with a big gray wolf at his heels: literature was born on the day when a boy came crying wolf, wolf and there was no wolf behind him. That the poor little fellow because he lied too often was finally eaten up by a real beast is quite incidental. But here is what is important. Between the wolf in the tall grass and the wolf in the tall story there is a shimmering go-between. That go-between, that prism, is the art of literature.”


In his “Lectures on Literature” he explained the trifecta of writing.  “There are three points of view from which a writer can be considered: he may be considered as a storyteller, as a teacher, and as an enchanter. A major writer combines these three – storytellers, teacher, enchanter — but it is the enchanter in him that predominates and makes him a major writer.


“To the storyteller we turn for entertainment, for mental excitement of the simplest kind, for emotional participation, for the pleasure of traveling in some remote region in space or time. A slightly different though not necessarily higher mind looks for the teacher in the writer. Propagandist, moralist, prophet — this is the rising sequence. We may go to the teacher not only for moral education but also for direct knowledge, for simple facts… Finally, and above all, a great writer is always a great enchanter, and it is here that we come to the really exciting part when we try to grasp the individual magic of his genius and to study the style, the imagery, the pattern of his novels or poems.


“The three facets of the great writer — magic, story, lesson — are prone to blend in one impression of unified and unique radiance, since the magic of art may be present in the very bones of the story, in the very marrow of thought. There are masterpieces of dry, limpid, organized thought which provoke in us an artistic quiver quite as strongly as a novel like Mansfield Park does or as any rich flow of Dickensian sensual imagery. It seems to me that a good formula to test the quality of a novel is, in the long run, a merging of the precision of poetry and the intuition of science. In order to bask in that magic a wise reader reads the book of genius not with his heart, not so much with his brain, but with his spine. It is there that occurs the telltale tingle even though we must keep a little aloof, a little detached when reading. Then with a pleasure which is both sensual and intellectual we shall watch the artist build his castle of cards and watch the castle of cards become a castle of beautiful steel and glass.

Of writing, Nabokov once said “The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.”  Indeed, I think this is why all writers put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard. 

Location, Location, Location

Location, Location, Location

Detours in Life

Pentecost 35-36


Campers are on the road, hotel rooms are booked to capacity, and cities across an arc cutting through the mid-section of the USA are preparing for the total eclipse of the sun today beginning at 1715 hours GMT.  That is during mid-morning coffee break time for the west coast and at the just after the noon hour for east coast residents.


For the 1,200,000 people living in the 70-mile-wide (113-km-wide), 2,500-mile-long (4,000-km-long) zone life will be chaotic, if it already isn’t.   The last time the USA witnessed such an event stretching from coast to coast was in 1918.  The last total solar eclipse able to be seen in the USA occurred in 1979.  The fact that this one is happening during one of the busiest vacation months of the year is fueling the desire for families to travel to a spot in the viewing zone.  An estimated seven and a half million people will witness this total solar eclipse in person.


A predictive map issued on Sunday by Weather Decision Technologies Inc. shows clear skies in the West, clouds in Nebraska and northwest Missouri, and partly cloudy conditions farther east.  Regardless of the weather, all observers must wear specially designed eyewear to avoid damage to their eyes.  For wildlife, it will seem as though there was a very short day.  As the shadows on the ground increase and the sky appears to be experiencing a very early sunset, birds will go to their roosts in the trees to settle down to sleep.


For a brief two minutes on Monday, there will be a safe time to view the eclipse with the naked eye but the timing is to critical to risk it.  During the totality or blackout, only the aura of the sun will be visible, the corona or atmosphere of the sun surrounding the circumference of the moon.  Please, do not attempt to see this without protective eyewear.  It is simply too risky.


It will be possible to capture the eclipse on one’s iPhone or tablet but these also will require special filters so as to not damage some or all of the pixels of the screen.  Various websites can provide directions on how to do this.  NASA Sun and Space or @NASASun will provide a great viewing for Twitter followers and other outlets will have live feeds.


Where will you be when this eclipse occurs?  What effect do you think it will have?  The myths surrounding eclipse are plentiful and date back to the earliest of times.  In Italy it is believed that flowers planted during a solar eclipse will grow brighter and more plentiful that flowers planted at other times.  In parts of India, it is believed that food prepared during an eclipse will be poisoned.  In ancient Greece, it was believed that an eclipse was a sign of the gods’ anger.  In some ancient cultures, pots and pans were banged to ward off the evil spirits believed to cause the blackout.


Today we know that the path of celestial bodies is what causes eclipses.  Except for damage from looking at today’s event without protective eyewear, it should not poison any food, cause miscarriages, or even give positive assistance to horticulture.


Today we have the location of wisdom, scientific fact, and history to allow us to have a better understanding and detour from these ancient and incorrect myths about eclipses.  Today we know that when our minds and brains are in a location of wisdom we will see the big picture correctly.  Today our perspective comes from a location that has led to better understanding.


Ursus Wehrli once said “I like to turn things upside down, to watch pictures and situations from another perspective.”  One simple way to view a total solar eclipse requires nothing more than a salad colander and some space.  If you can resist the temptation to look up, you can place the colander upside on the ground or concrete and watch it instead of the sky.  The pinholes will illustrate what the sky is experiencing.


This eclipse will last less than three hours today but for that time, many will come together.  Denis Waitley reminds us that “You must look within for value but must look beyond for perspective.”  I hope that today we will look beyond the skies and envision a world that can come together for peace.  I hope that during those three hours in which our lives are taking a detour to experience this total eclipse we can celebrate each other – the value within and the potential beyond.



Epiphany 7


Nurture is one of those words seldom used and yet envied by all at some point in their lives.  Although they both come from the same Latin root word, “natura”, nature and nurture have seemingly been at odds since the late nineteenth century.  I think this fact to be sad and perhaps one of the root causes of the problems we face today.


“Natura” as a Latin word referred to not just the natural way of the things but that which exists from birth forward.  A form of the Latin word “natus” which means birth, “natura” was used in the context of all things in the universe which were a part of the natural order of things. It referenced one’s natural character, both of humans but also of the universe itself.  The innate disposition of all of creation was thought to be one of a nurturing disposition.  Somehow, with all of man and womankind’s advancements, we seem to have forgotten that one fact.


There is great debate on the topic of nature versus nurture but, for me, the best discussion comes not from psychologists and sociologists but from a faction author, the entertaining and seldom-considered overly deep Mark Twain.  “When we set about accounting for a Napoleon or a Shakespeare or a Raphael or a Wagner or an Edison or other extraordinary person, we understand that the measure of his talent will not explain the whole result, nor even the largest part of it; no, it is the atmosphere in which the talent was cradled that explains; it is the training it received while it grew, the nurture it got from reading, study, example, the encouragement it gathered from self-recognition and recognition from the outside at each stage of its development: when we know all these details, then we know why the man was ready when his opportunity came.”


The environment we create and decide to plant ourselves in determines a great deal about us, not only who we are but our hopes and aspirations.  Suzy Kassem explains it most succinctly:  “Empathy nurtures wisdom. Apathy cultivates ignorance.”  We may inherit a certain amount of DNA from our heritage but we alone control our future, in spite of whatever circumstances to which we were born.


“While genes are pivotal in establishing some aspects of emotionality, experience plays a central role in turning genes on and off. DNA is not the heart’s destiny; the genetic lottery may determine the cards in your deck, but experience deals the hand you can play. Scientists have proven, for example, that good mothering can override a disadvantageous temperament,” maintains Thomas Lewis, a psychiatrist and professor at the University of California in San Francisco.  I think those of days gone past knew something when they made nature and nurture from the same word. What if we lived as if they were truly the same thing?


If we lived in this natural world and considered to the need to nurture each other just as important as sharing the air we breathe, if nurturing became a natural order of our living in our relationships with each other, what type of world would we create?  If when we opened our mouths, what might result if we did so with the intention of only uttering that which would nurture our audience and not alienate or judge?  Would we perish from the effort or would we reap a more beautiful, productive world without the need for alienation and terrorism? 

The Truth about Grace

The Truth about Grace

Advent 28


Ann Lamott felt there was a mystery to grace, that concept we have spent Advent discussing:  “I do not understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”  Describing it is terms of a mystery makes one wonder about its axiomatic presence.  Can something be a mystery and self-evident at the same time?


In our approach to discussing grace, using the four realms of probability, we removed the mystery when it comes to grace.  Whether it was classical, empirical, subjective, or axiomatic, we held true to the belief that grace exists.   While some might try to isolate as the provenance of grace to the religious, we considered that it really is in the air we breathe, simply waiting for us to reach out and grasp it, holding it and then releasing it back into the world. 


So why did I elect to use the four realms of probability in my approach to grace?  Because there is a very great probability that you have shared grace, both as the giver and as the receiver.  We tend to think of things as concrete or abstract.  Those things we can see, hear, smell, or taste are definitely concrete while our feelings lean towards the abstract realm.  The truth is that our feelings, where we often give and receive grace, are as real as anything on earth.  The probability of grace in your life is a certainty. 


The actor Bradley Whitlock has a great quote about grace.  Infuse your life with action. Don’t wait for it to happen. Make it happen. Make your own future. Make your own hope. Make your own love. And whatever your beliefs, honor your creator, not by passively waiting for grace to come down from upon high, but by doing what you can to make grace happen… yourself, right now, right down here on Earth.”


Life is not simple.  It is complicated and will have periods of darkness and light.  The darkness can serve to clean the slate and lead us towards a brighter tomorrow.  Author Patricia Briggs advises ““When life doesn’t meet your expectations, it was important to take it with grace.”


Writer and thinker C. Joybell C. expounds on that thought.  “Peace is the number one beautiful ornament you can wear, I really believe that. They say you should always wear a smile, but I don’t believe that you should “always” wear a smile.  Seriously, you’re going to look stupid!  But peace, you should always carry peace within you.  It’s the most beautifying thing you could ever have or do. Peace makes your heart beautiful and it makes you look beautiful, too. You want to have perfect physical posture when you stand, sit, and walk, and peace is the perfect posture of the soul, really. Try perfect posture outside as well as inside. Peace creates grace and grace gives peace.”


Grace is not something we should be awaiting to fall into our laps, placed there by another.  Grace is something we should be sharing.  It is a verb, not a flimsy concept hovering just outside the realm of our own existence.  It is an action verb, the one thing that can turn a subjective judgment into a unifying movement, the first step for a better tomorrow, the hope of the hopeless and the light for those who do not see the beauty of the world.



Moving Forward

177 – Moving Forward

Pentecost 177


There once was an old proverb common to the New England area of the United States.  New England is in the northeastern section of the country and was settled in the 1600’s by the Puritans who were escaping religious persecution in Great Britain.  The Puritans were not the region’s first settlers.  Those would have been the groups known as American Indians who came roughly twenty to thirty thousand years earlier, having crossed the Bering Straits from the Caucasus Mountains in Euro-Asia.


The Puritans were a non-nonsense type of folk.  They were not known for their sense of humor nor wild behavior.  Their religious principles included strict adherence to their interpretation of scripture.  Their clothing was very modest and did not include bright colors.  Men and women had narrow gender roles and one did one’s best in all things.


The proverb of which I am referring today goes like this:  “Use it up, wear it out; make it do or do without.”  Descendants from these early Puritans take pride today in having those same principles as their forefathers in being practical.  Such practicality as is denoted in this proverb is a type of altruism that many have forgotten today.


It is hard to regroup and move forward if you feel defeated. The fact is that nothing can really defeat us unless we allow it to do so.  So maybe we were not the winners in a particular endeavor.  There is still much we can do to be a winner.  Let’s talk about five “R’s” of earthly altruism that we can each do every day.  Not only does it not have to be expensive, it can even result in saving us money!


The first “R” is respect.  We need to respect the earth and our natural resourced.  Water is a vital resource that all living things require.  We have to imbibe and clean so how can we economize on our water usage.  The easiest is to take shorter showers or baths.


The second “R” is reserve.  For instance tonight, instead of leaving your computer on all night, turn it off.  Yes you will have to reenter all your passwords but seriously…how long does that take?  The amount of electricity saved might not seem like a great deal but if multiplied by all the computer users in your area, it does make a difference.


The third “R” is reuse.  We all know about reusing glass bottles but before you get to that point, think.  Purchase reusable water bottles and other containers.  Make sure that the bottles you are reusing should be but if they are, then you are saving the planet from becoming an unnecessary landfill.


Our fourth “R” is recycle and, since we are talking technology, think about recycling your own tech gadgets.  The easiest to recycle are batteries.  Most metropolitan areas have recycling centers for such things and we should all utilize these.  Batteries can be recharged but also reincarnated.


Our fifth “R” is not a common one when environmentalists discuss such things.  It is repair.  All of these other things are good and necessary but we really purchase far more things than we need.  Alan Minter explains: “Recycling is better–I won’t write “good”–for the environment. But without economics–without supply and demand of raw materials–recycling is nothing more than a meaningless exercise in glorifying garbage. No doubt it’s better than throwing something into an incinerator, and worse than fixing something that can be refurbished. It’s what you do if you can’t bear to see something landfilled. Placing a box or a can or a bottle in a recycling bin doesn’t mean you’ve recycled anything, and it doesn’t make you a better, greener person: it just means you’ve outsourced your problem. Sometimes that outsourcing is near home; and sometimes it’s overseas. But wherever it goes, the global market and demand for raw materials is the ultimate arbiter.  Fortunately, if that realization leaves you feeling bad, there’s always the alternative: stop buying so much crap in the first place.”


Maybe I should add a sixth “R” – realization.  We need to realize that we all are living together on this big blue marble of a planet we call earth.  We need to take care of it and practice altruism on a global basis.  It is the best way we can be ready for tomorrow.




Pentecost 108


“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.”   Robert Fulghum made that statement in his book “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”.  His words are both powerful and true.


Philosophy was born once mankind decided to ask the important question “What is the world made of?”   That first question led to possibilities, answers, if you will, but those led to another important question: “How do we know that?”  If metaphysics was the first branch of the tree of knowledge that is philosophy, then epistemology became the second although the name itself was not used until 1854, introduced by Scottish philosopher James Ferrier in his work “Institutes of Metaphysic: The Theory of Knowing and Being.”


Epistemology is the study of knowledge, of “justified belief”.  One school of philosophers believed that man’s senses were the greatest teachers as well as experience.  This was known as empiricism.  Others, however, believed that knowledge was the result of the process of thinking, reasoning out facts.  This manner of gaining wisdom was known as rationalism.  Epistemology primarily, though, dealt with the relationship between knowledge and concepts like truth and belief.


Aristotle developed what became the basis for determining the truth or logic of an answer.  His syllogism or logical argument used two premises to arrive at a logical conclusion.  One famous example is “All men are mortal.  Socrates is a man.  Therefore, Socrates is a mortal.”  This was the basis for philosophical logic until the nineteenth century.  There are some fallacies in this way of determining the validity of knowledge.  For instance, “I am a mammal.  My cat is a mammal.  Therefore, I am a cat.”  Trust me; my cats are firmly convinced I am not smart enough to be a feline!


Fulghum’s book title was based upon a poem he wrote.  In his poem, Fulghum mentions the rules he was taught at the age of five and how they relate to his life as an adult.  Those rules were basic guidelines which related to treatment of others:  share everything; play fair; don’t hit people.  Others concerned basic living and living on the planet with others:  put things back where you found them; clean up your own mess; don’t take things that aren’t yours; say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.  Still others concerned basic health and a recent study proved one of the rules correct.  “Wash your hands before you eat” is touted as being the best offense in cold and flu season and “take a nap every afternoon” has been shown to be healthy as well.  Fulghum included the importance of living a balanced life, advocating both play and work as daily habits, and the sage advice of looking before crossing a street, being mindful of coming traffic.


Kindergarten, the first formal schooling for most of us, teaches us to, in Fulghum’s words, ‘learn some and think some.”  In his poem he states that wisdom is not found at the top of the educational ladder in a formal classroom but, in Fulghum’s words “there in the sandpile at Sunday school”.  I want you to not focus on the reference to organized religion but interpret/define his “Sunday school” as any spiritual or religious basis.  After all, that which we truly believe becomes truth for us, often because of but usually in spite of either empirical or rational knowledge.


This year has been the warmest on earth and, not surprisingly, as I write this China and Taiwan are bracing for what is expected to be the “biggest storm on earth” this year, according to Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau.  Outer bands have already caused disruptions to the power grid and closed some schools.  While 2014 holds the record for being the warmest year and 2015 for being the second warmest on record, we need to think about how our living is affecting the planet and our future.  We cannot just think for today.  We must think big and consider tomorrow.


Fulghum’s poem concludes with this verse:  “Hold hands and stick together” and it is a great philosophy for living.  We cannot survive as a planet if we do not work together for the good of all, nature and mankind.  Being a “tree hugger” doesn’t just mean caring about the environment.  It means embracing all life, hugging those things that make life possible.  Regardless of your creation belief or lack thereof, we still all need the same things.  We need to hold hands and stick together while we think big and remember that, in the big scheme of things, we are all very small and…very important.


We learn when we look beyond ourselves, when we look at the big picture so to speak.  However, it does not become truth for us until we absorb that knowledge into ourselves.  After we look up and think big, we need to think small, think about what we believe, and then live it.



A Bridge

A Bridge

Pentecost 98


We are in that time of year known as a bridge, a time when the weather hints at what is to come while still giving us a taste of what has been.  It occurs four times a year but this time of year, the bridge between summer and fall seems the most… I’m not really sure what to call it.  For those that are generally in the path of hurricanes, it can be a time of waiting and praying.  For those who have eagerly anticipated the return of American football, it is a time of rejoicing.  For those who thrive on holidays, it is the beginning of three heavily celebrated in the United States – Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Hanukkah/Christmas/Kwanzaa.


It is that time of year that spans a period of laziness and summer vacations with the start of many school terms, much like Egypt spans three continents – Europe, Asia, and Africa.  Egypt is the world’s only Eur-afra-sian country since it is bordered by the Mediterranean on the north as it shares a northern border with the Gaza strip and Israel, the Gulf of Aqaba to the east, the Red Sea to the south as well as Sudan, and Libya on the west.  It was an area that connected the earliest beginnings of man with the spread of mankind, both to the Far East and to Europe and beyond.


Egypt is located in what historians and anthropologists call the cradle of civilization.  Its history is as long as any nation and it became one of the world’s first cultural and ethnic entities while at the same time becoming one of the first actual political and geographical countries.  At one time or another, Egypt has been ruled and influenced by Greek, Persian, Roman, Arab, Ottoman, and European cultures.  Its eighty-nine million residents were some of the first Christians but Islamic conquests during the seventh century made it an Islamic nation.


Many of us only know Egypt from the big and small screen.  Movies about the early Christians with the actor Charleston Heston and later music videos by Michael Jackson starring comedian Eddie Murphy and supermodel Iman do little to tell the true story of Egypt.  The ancient name for the country is from a word meaning black soil, and is best written as “km.t”.  This was to distinguish the land of Egypt from the desert area or red soil.  The English version of the country’s name comes from an ancient Greek word “Aigyptos” which dates back to the French “Egypte” and Latin “Aegyptus”.   Early Greek tablets show it written as “a-ku-pi-ti-yo” which became the Coptic “gyptios” and the Arabic “qubti”.  The official name of Egypt is “Misr” which translates as metropolis, civilization, or country.


Bridging the three continents and the various cultures involved has resulted in a history full of conflict.  It has not gotten easier as time has progressed.  We must learn to build figurative bridges and join all the cultures of the world if we are to move forward and have a future.  Egyptian-American writer Suzy Kassem explains: “It is up to us to keep building bridges to bring the world closer together, and not destroy them to divide us further apart. We can pave new roads towards peace simply by understanding other cultures. This can be achieved through traveling, learning other languages, and interacting with others from outside our borders. Only then will one truly discover how we are more alike than different. Do not measure anybody strictly based on the bad you see in them and ignore all the good.”


This past weekend, a hurricane traveled into the Gulf of Mexico and then crossed the Florida upper peninsula to travel up the Atlantic coastline.  On what is generally considered the last weekend for beach activities, those in the affected areas stayed home or in their hotels.  There was no last rite of passage for summer, no bridging of summer and fall.  Weather forecasts have guaranteed warmer weather will continue and another opportunity for swimming will present itself this coming weekend but many will forego traveling to the beach since it will not be a three day weekend.  For them, Hurricane Hermine was a lost opportunity.


Often life gives us chances that somehow seem to fall flat.  If we could only tweak the timing or change just one little decision, we might have become something better or greater, something extraordinary.  Midway through last week there were six tropical depressions in the Atlantic.  While several were named storms, a designation saved only for those of a certain power and magnitude, only Hermine really affected the U.S.A.  Two in the Pacific knocked on the shores of Hawaii but they, like the other storms in the Atlantic, did little if any damage.


If you were one of the ones sitting in a hotel room or a worker on a beach losing holiday income because of Hurricane Hermine, then seeing the positive will be difficult.  It often is hard to see past our disappointments to find the positive, to bridge one hour of our life to another.  A shaman was quoted as saying, “A story is like the wind: it comes from a distant place and we feel it.”


Today you will write the story of you.  You may not have control over the setting, the characters, or even the action to a large part, but you do have control over yourself.  We make a choice each and every hour whether to act or simply react.  Steve Jobs said it best:  “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”



Pentecost 69


Last night the world came together as it does every two years.  This time it was in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  The Olympics are not without controversy and these Olympics are considered the yet another installment of the “modern” Olympics.  We think of mythology as something akin to fairy tales, imaginary happenings and yet, last night, the world came together as part of a dynasty that, according to legend, was started by the mythical hero Heracles, also known as Hercules.


It is considered Olympic history that these games were held from 776 BCE to 393 ACE, a span of over twelve hundred years.  Most believe the games had been ongoing for a period of time before 776 BCE but this is the first year that the games were documented.  The single event was a race run by a naked runner.  A cook by the name of Coebus ran the 192 meters/210 yards and was victorious. 


This year is a continuation of the games’ reboot in 1894, the idea of a Frenchman.  A child during the Franco-Prussian War in which France was defeated, Pierre de Coubertin believed the key to France’s recovery was in strong athletes.  While others had tried to revive the games abolished by the Emperor Theodosius, Coubertin was a nobleman with the resources to persevere.    He founded the sports organization Union des Sociétés Francaises de Sports Athlétiques (USFSA) and two years later proposed reviving the Olympic Games.   


“Let us export our oarsmen, our runners, our fencers into other lands. That is the true Free Trade of the future; and the day it is introduced into Europe the cause of Peace will have received a new and strong ally. It inspires me to touch upon another step I now propose and in it I shall ask that the help you have given me hitherto you will extend again, so that together we may attempt to realise [sic], upon a basis suitable to the conditions of our modern life, the splendid and beneficent task of reviving the Olympic Games.”  In 1892 Coubertin gave this speech which was not well received.  In true Olympic spirit, however, he repeated it two years later at a meeting he hosted with seventy delegates from other countries and was met with more success.


Last night the world came together once again, this time with ten athletes marching homeless.  Entering under the flag of the International Olympic Committee and without a country to sponsor them, these refugees illustrated the current state of the world.  They also embodied the Olympic spirit, a spirit that Coubertin felt would benefit his country.  Their spirit will benefit the world and last night brought us together as one mankind, one people.


The flag bearer of this delegation without homes was a female swimmer Yusra Mardini.  She and others escaped the conflict and genocide in her native Syria and arrived in Turkey.  From Turkey the sought to reach Greece by boat but the boat’s engine died partway across the dividing waters.  Yusra jumped out and swam, pulling the boat and seventeen other refugees.  This petite young woman reached the shores of Greece and her journey continued to Macedonia then Munich and eventually Berlin. 


Riding in overheated and overcrowded busses and walking distances that would tire a marathon runner after swimming an event equal to those the Olympic weight lifters will endure, Yusra Mardini held onto her dream.  This year the IOC announced it would allow refugee athletes to compete under their own International Olympic Committee flag.  Companies such as VISA offered to help these athletes reach Rio so that they could compete.


The Opening Ceremonies told the history of Brazil as many countries do when the world’s sports stage comes to their shores.  However, Rio showed a ceremony that focused not only on the past but the present and the future.  They gave each athlete a seed to plant as they entered the coliseum which was then planted for the future Athletes Forest.  Nature has supported us and our life on this planet and while current emissions are putting such support in jeopardy, Rio 2016 planted seeds for the future.


The athletes are winners by virtue of trying but Rio showed us we can all be winners when we come together and work for the real meanings of life.  Coubertin believed  that the future was possible. “Let us export our oarsmen, our runners, our fencers into other lands. That is the true Free Trade of the future; and the day it is introduced into Europe the cause of Peace will have received a new and strong ally.”  He believed the future was in the hands of those who ran a fair race in communion with all.  Yusra Mardini said it another way when asked about VISA’s corporate sponsorship.  “I think Visa is sending a message” that we “are all human in the end”.


We are all human in the end.  Together was can accomplish great things.  Together we can make an ordinary present into an extraordinary future.  With preparation, forethought and effort, we can create a better tomorrow together.



Do It!

Do it!

Pentecost 64


Today is the first day of August in most countries using the most commonly accepted calendar system.  It is August 1, 2016.  It is the perfect time to do a good deed.  Get it done and you might just start the best month of your life.


Since this is the eighth month, I’m going to offer you eight ideas to make your month start off better than the last.  These are eight simple good deeds that will not just improve the overall living for someone else, it will also improve yours. 


First, this is the first day of the month so there are probably some bills you need to pay, some checks you need to write.  Select a charity and write that first check to them.  Forego a day of that cup of coffeehouse coffee and instead give that money to a charity.  The average small cup of  such a beverage costs about five USD or $5 USD.  While that may not seem like a great deal, if we all gave just five dollars, it would quickly multiply into a large sum of money.  Given to your local animal shelter, it can purchase a bag of dry food to feed one cat or small dog for an entire month.  Send it to the Humane Society and again, when multiplied by other donations, it can change the life of an animal (or more) forever.  Donated to a relief agency in Africa and that five dollars can buy mosquito netting for an entire family or safe drinking water for a month.  St. Jude Research and Children’s Hospital might just find a cure for pediatric cancer with your five dollars.  The opportunities are endless and you can make it happen by writing that first check for a good cause.


2.  Make the first thing you do when you awaken, after stretching and standing, be a chore.  I am not talking about your usual chores but do a chore for another family member.  Empty the dishwasher or fold some clothes; take out the trash or sweep the floors.  Then maybe leave a little note on a cabinet door to say thank you.  If you pack someone’s lunch, insert a little note in their lunchbox or bag to remind them they are special and loved.


3.  If you have the time now (or later is fine if you don’t), clean out a bookshelf and donate your excess books to a local facility for clients’ use or library for resale.  Some cancer treatment centers will accept such donations for patients to read while undergoing treatment.  Maybe your bookshelves are fine but your closet is stuffed.  Clean out one third and donate unused items to charity.  Doing just one shelf or portion of your closet should only take about ten minutes and let’s face it, we all can find ten minutes to do a good deed.


4.  Give someone a compliment.  It can be total stranger or someone you know.  If we stop hurrying through our busy lives, we can find something to compliment.  Perhaps it is a child to helps another on the school bus or a stranger letting an elderly person sit down on the subway or bus.  “That was a nice thing you did.”  Whenever someone hold the door for me when I am entering or exiting a store, I try to always thank them and then say:  “What a gentleman or gracious lady you are.  Thank you so much for your courtesy!”  This also works if you drop something and a stranger picks it up for you, lets you go first, etc.


5.  Share a smile.  It can be just that simple to make someone’s day.  Share a nice, quick smile.  No flirting or overly done facial expression – just a nice, pleasant, quick smile. 


6.  Set your email so that your email server will donate a proceeds from the advertisements to a local charity of your choice.  Not all email servers do this but many such as Microsoft will.  Check it out and see if your emails can help raise funds for a needy organization so that they can help others.


7.  Help the environment by turning the water off or the thermostat to a more user friendly – use of resources friendly, that is – setting.  Many of us, me included, often leave the water running when we really do not need to do so.  Using less water, even a gallon or two will add up and save it for future use.  Being better consumers of our resources will not only help the planet it will help our budget.


8.  Mail a thank you note to your local school or a favorite teacher if they are still teaching.  As schools begin to go back in session, we need to recognize the contributions our teachers are making towards the future and for our children.  Post your thank you on Facebook as well. 


I’ve given you eight simple ideas to start the month on a positive note.  With the exception of the first, none really cost any money.  What ideas can you come up with?  I’d love to hear from you and learn about them.  The important thing is that we realize we can control our future and make the world not just a better place for tomorrow but an extraordinary place for us all for all times.  All we have to do is do it.