Tuesday, August 6, 2019

A Word To Those Who Lead - On The Vanity Of Hateful Rhetoric

If I were a careless candle
Waxing eloquent from the flame of my own burning
I would set free by my heated tongue
The liquified rantings of my softened core
And for a fleeting moment
Touch with my vanishing heat
The exposed senses of those who seek my glow…
And just as my warmth were known
I would go cold
Returning to my hardened state…

If I were a careless candle
I would promise you light
And then go out
Leaving you cold… and dark… and hard.

(Lukewarm Thoughts - From  - ‘Of Scattered Seed and Broken Souls’  by Roy Alexander Graham)

The right to freely express ourselves has been sanctified in the highest Code of our society. It is one of the things that we claim with an almost religious zeal. Unfortunately we are not always very conscientious about the impact of our expressions on each other, and if we are, then we sometimes do not seem to care.

The claiming of this right has an implicit assumption that as a society we are civilized enough to bear the burdens: intellectual, political, cultural, spiritual, social, and  legal; that the wanton expressions of our freedom of speech sometimes create. This is a careless assumption.

Time and again, events have shown this assumption to be problematic to say the least. Ideologues and demagogues, whether they be politicians or religious figures, continue to be overwhelmed by the ramifications of the frivolous exercise of this “Right”. Even as we speak we are witnesses to the negative banter of opposing voices, and to real violence, and threats of violence resulting from the indiscretions of a few who would dominate with their words.

For better or worse, our words create realities that we must then deal with in the various circumstances of our lives. As the agents of our thoughts, words express the deepest longings of our souls. Our words, at their best, create peace; at their worst, they result in tragic events. Our words can create feelings of compassion, or they can engender emotions that negate our efforts at well needed reconciliation.

Our expressions can build bridges that bring us together, or they can cause the kind of alienation that makes neighborliness almost impossible. Our words can heal, or they can cause wounds from which we never recover.

While we cherish the right to freely express ourselves, let us never forget the sacred responsibility that we have to make this world better. Let us help with the healing; not exacerbate the hurt. Our words create our world… for better or for worse.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019


I wrote this for my Sweetheart pictured above. I have her permission to share it.

You never have to try to impress me beyond my very first impression of you. I saw you and I thought … there she is - the one I have been looking for, and she is beautiful.

You are beautiful My Love.

There is a quality about you that is like the forest in Spring. Eventually the leaves will become monochromatic in appearance - but in essence they are a multiplicity of wonderful auras.

There is a certain splendor about you that draws me in. It calms and excites me all at once… it fills me up and empties me in the same voluptuous moment… it enervates me… it takes my breath away.

I look at you and my heart becomes a drum, playing the syncopated rhythms of a life in ecstasy. Together we are an inspired orchestra… filling the chamber of our life together with symphonies of joy, and all its compliant attributes.

I. Love. You.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Bob Marley... The Incredible Power Of A Prophetic Voice


Above and beyond the voices of the architects of war and strife ... beyond the strident fury of warmongers... beyond the froth and the incessant buzz of those who would keep us hopelessly off-balanced... are the prophetic voices that speak to our heartfelt desires for a more hopeful world.

Click on the link above and be inspired!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Living in the Stream of Consciousness

… . In the Stream of Consciousness there is freedom to be in your intellect and in your imagination. Where one ends the other begins… and the intermingling of both creates a powerhouse of possibilities. Here there is no pressure to be sensible or logical; instead we have the ability and the permission to flow... to drift, if you will, without the constraints of some predetermined outcome.

In the Stream of Consciousness Truth can reign supreme, because there is no deliberate pause for the convenient editing that seeks to elevate us above our judgement of others. Instead we are moved to forego our masks and bare our souls in a way that establishes the predicate : Judge not, lest ye be judged by the same measure to which we subject others.

In the Stream of Consciousness we position ourselves to keep the company of those who have necessarily found the value of Humility; a trait born of the realization that we are all victims and perpetrators of the foibles that some shout about in their need to point the finger away from themselves. It is here...in this place… that we are moved to declare : There go I, save for the grace of the Beneficent… the Merciful.

Like the river where those who seek salvation come to be submersed, the Stream of Consciousness is both a conservatory and a conduit. It is a place in which to grow, and a passage-way for those who seek healing. It is a place of confession and redirection. This is where we come to realize the existential maturity that is expressed in the statement: When I was a child I spoke and acted like a child; but as a function of my growth I have put aside my primitive ways. It is in this place that we give ourselves the opportunity to sort through the tension between our aspirations and our inclinations. With eyes wide open we may see and necessarily affirm the need to work toward true community despite the drag of our individualism.

Here is an oasis in the desert of our desperation. It is a place that is fertile with the promise of what we can become. At this retreat… in this sanctum … under this fountain … we gather to discard the dried up notions of our barren idealisms, and seek to cultivate that which is possible when we pause to give ourselves a chance to be better… to do better… and to inspire others to be more mindful of what they can become.

Many are those who will insist on indulging the formulaic redundancies that are a mainstay of their fundamentalism; but the Stream of Consciousness is substantially more than a babbling brook. It is much more than just a place where we come to be soothed, or to become comfortable in our complacency… it is, rather,  a place of change.

Unlimit yourself...

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Of Magic and Miracles ... Thoughts On A Season Of Sharing

        5 Loaves, 2 Small Fish - Banquet for a Multitude?

My granddaughter Elle Sophia shares her ice cream with me.

The special appeal of magic is its disdain for facts. Faced with the inconvenient realities of Life, many would opt to wish them away rather than face them with the resolve it would take to change them. The magician’s greatest helper is the deep longing that many of us harbor to be able to shake our heads, blink a few times, and “Abracadabra!” our way to a whole new circumstance.

The art of producing an illusion has great appeal to those who would rather pull a rabbit out of a hat than engage in the arduous task of raising livestock. Magic therefore thrives in a culture where people tend to make themselves available to become believers in the craft of “make belief”. In the end they are entertained … but nothing changes. Magic is thus an attraction to a distraction.

Now miracles… are a whole different matter. Contrary to the assumptions of many, miracles and magic are totally different phenomena. Let me explain… and let me do so by revisiting a well known story from Christian literary traditions. I should point out that the first time I expounded on this matter I had the greater part of a rather conservative audience angry at my “unbelief”; the rest just wrote me off as a hopeless “communist”. In my own defense… I am neither. Furthermore, I reserve to myself the right, even the duty, to be reasonably critical concerning the dogma of the faithful of both sects. Instead of relating a synopsis of the story, let the text speak for itself:

The Gospel According to John 6:5-15
5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” 8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. 12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. 14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

Sooo… Five barley loaves and two small fish ... and more than 5000 people to be fed - (They did not count the women and children, but I don’t think that they would not feed them also). This by the same guy who is said to have turned water into wine. When you listen to the average preacher expound on this “miracle”, you are left with the unmistakable impression that after Jesus said the Grace - somehow these five loaves and two fish became enough food to feed that multitude with enough leftovers to fill 12 baskets.

A comparison of the text from all four Gospels reveals one critical difference about the “leftovers”. This account in the Gospel According to John is the only one that states specifically in verse 13 : “So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.” The other three Gospels say: “They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.” The critical point of departure here is that the other three Gospels do not claim as John does that the leftovers were  of the five barley loaves etc ...

Let us keep in mind that these are the actions of a man, Jesus, who during his famous Temptations refused, yes refused … to turn stones into bread!! The story goes on to note that after he performed this “sign” he withdrew to be by himself because he knew they would want to make him king for what they saw him do. Now my question is: Why would someone who rebuked the Devil for tempting him by asking that he perform some magic act that would feed a multitude now tempt people with a similar feat?

(One moment people… while I erect a shield to protect me from the stones.)

I do not think that what actually transpired is what most preachers claim.

There is nothing in this story that suggests that after Jesus prayed the items in front of him somehow inexplicably multiplied. These thousands of people knew about this man’s inspired work. They brought their family members to see and hear him… women and children included. They knew by now that this would not have been a brief affair. I think they came prepared, each wanting to gain something for self and family.

What are the chances that in a crowd this large only one single person, a young boy at that,  had the good sense to come prepared for a long day by bringing lunch?

Oh... there was definitely more food in that crowd. Jesus knew this. That is why John accounts for the rhetorical question that he put to Phillip, knowing full well what needed to be done in such a situation. The resources to meet the needs of these people were right there among them. They came to see what Jesus could and would do for them. What was not accounted for in that transaction was the real issue of what they could do for each other. They came to get; what the multitude was not fully aware of at that point was the truism that “it is more blessed to give than to receive”.  

And so it was that those who came expecting to get something for self, found something even better. The Teacher … the Healer … brought about a new awareness of the communal benefits… the wonderful abundance … that can come from each one of us sharing the little we do have. Yes we are talking about the application of that old communal praxis: from each according to his ability - to each according to his need.

And that is what happened.

There was more available among the multitude on that day than what was initially brought forward. The teacher stilled their unfounded anxieties about having to share what they had. He made them sit down with each other in an organized way. He expanded their consciousness concerning the real connectedness they shared by pointing them to the true source of all things… our Heavenly Father who gives us this day our daily bread...

The ideal that is expressed in the idea “our father” - is one that recenters our attention on an aspiration to the greater benevolence that is expressed in a sense of brotherhood. Identifying ourselves with a Heavenly Father elicits a sense of spiritual kinship. It is this spiritual kinship that makes us say we will feed the hungry, clothe the naked, provide healthcare for the sick, and bring solace to the broken-hearted.

Those who came for the magic that day rediscovered themselves as part of something wonderful that happened.  And that my friends is the true meaning of the word miracle: something wonderful that happened. It is not the same as magic which is transitory and illusive. The power of miracles is in their ability to take our actions and their results to the realm of the extraordinary. It is a resignation to the assumed ordinariness of our lives that make us ignore each other’s needs. It is this ordinariness that numbs us to the real potential we each possess to make our world a more wonder-full place. This multitude became participants in a miracle.. a wonderful happening that they themselves were party to, and actors in. Indeed they came to realize what Jesus meant when he taught them: the kingdom of heaven is among you. The happening of this day was to be an enduring “sign” of that truth.

So… . Let us teach ourselves and our children the value and the power of sharing. We can make this miracle happen again and again in a world that is in many parts hungry for compassion… for healing… for comfort… for true leadership.

The work of creating a better world is not a calling to some magician’s spectacle. It is more substantially grounded in  a commitment to … each one of us … becoming better persons. A dat mi a seh. (That’s all I’m saying)

Tuesday, June 4, 2019


In a previously published piece I wrote that the world in which we live is in large measure the externalization of our interior states. Our joys and our frustrations, our hopes and our fears, the deep seated assumptions that we cultivate about life and our fellow inhabitants of the universe around us become concretized in the world around us.

Where we cultivate fear we find expressions of hate. When greed is the prime factor in our behavior we cultivate inequity. Where there is hopelessness we will find expressions of despair that negate the drive for accomplishment. The coming together of these life-suppressing energies create conditions in which violence thrives; and in such conditions none of us are safe.

The constant drumbeat about the insecurities of individuals and communities and states, is sourced in the recognition of the operation of these negative energies in our reality. Unfortunately the prescriptions for addressing these defects in our communal experience are often based on a denial of the real issues that drive them. In some circumstances these prescriptions are designed … by unscrupulous political operators … to mask the real problems in our body politic in a bid to exploit the already volatile conditions for political and economic gain.

And so we find that the building of more prisons and the militarization of police departments are given priority over addressing the very real inequities that inform the despair that underlies the violence we witness daily. The building of walls to keep out the people of nations that have been plundered and otherwise destabilized for the economic and political supremacy of “developed countries”, become their way of denying the responsibility they have to those they have exploited to build their “wealth”. The widows and orphans we have created now become the dwellers in tent cities to be further victimized by the same vampires responsible for their dehumanization.

The corporate multinationals developing and peddling weapons of war to individuals and the security apparatus that they rely on to keep the hoards at bay must realize that ultimately there is no weapon that will keep an iniquitous dynamic intact. The universe tends ultimately toward balance… Justice that is. Advances in modern weaponology will engender a false sense of security. In the end however, sticks and stones will break our bones; and the truth will always offend those who thrive by living a lie.

There is no wall we can devise that will protect us from the defect of injustice from within.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Like Lilies In Spring

There is a bulb buried deep inside us all that longs for the end of the season of dormancy. It contains, and is the symbol of all our potential.  That bulb could reasonably be characterized as our life force, waiting for the opportunity to lend itself again to our regeneration. It longs for the right conditions so that it may burst forth and become the living thing that makes a difference in the circumstances in and around which it has been buried.

In its dormant state that bulb dreams… it longs for a time when it may become the thing that it is… essentially. It dreams of bursting forth and declaring its presence in the world. It desires to soak up the warmth and luster of sunlight all around it. It wants to drink of the rain’s abundance. It patiently waits  to demonstrate the benefits it has accrued from the soil out of which it came, and from which it draws succor… and to which it knows it must eventually return. It wants to replicate itself, so that the earth will be a witness to its innate fecundity.

During the seasons of its dormancy it may have been cared for… or not. It may have been covered with weeds that hid, and in some cases suffocated its existence. It may have been trampled underfoot by the careless and/or the ignorant among us. It has had to endure the obscurity that things unnoticed must. It may have even succumbed to its own existential exhaustion, not giving up - but recognized the need to just rest.

In an effort to make sense of its experiences while in its state of apparent non-productivity, it finds itself agreeing with and embracing that oft repeated soliloquy from  Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. It is a piece that fosters the cultivation of patience, and has rightfully earned a place at the very core of our idealism:

“To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time of war, and a time of peace”.  

A time to be… and a time to be dormant.

The wisdom of the Preacher instructs us to be mindful of the “times” of our lives… lest we miss the opportunities to become what we long to be… even that which we essentially are.

And so when we have given our all and find ourselves empty… When we have been trodden underfoot and otherwise stepped upon… When we have been dissed, and discouraged… When the thorns all around us have subjected us to their constant assault, and left us to nurse the wounds of an abrasively unforgiving culture… When we come to the end of our tethers, having been exhausted by our own vanity and our lack of discretion… Let us, even then, remember that these seasons too - will come to an end.

Like lilies in Spring we discover the essential us as a bulb waiting for the right season to burst forth, casting off the redundant obscurity of a season of dormancy so that we may become all that we are again. We look forward with a certain longing in our being to making our presence known and felt in a world gone bleak through our falls, and our follies, and the winters of our discontent.

Well… it’s Spring!
It is the time of rising up again! It is time to cast off the gloom of lives gone dormant for reasons that are too many to list, and too uncomfortable to regurgitate.

Let us declare a resounding “No!” to the naysayers… Let us issue a timely rebuke to those who would be uncaring, or ignorant, or oppressive, or any combination of these iniquitous qualities... Let us rise above our own sense of being unworthy, and redefine ourselves in terms of our ability to become more than we have been.

Like lilies, we all share a certain vulnerability. That being so, let us not allow our finiteness to prevent us from rising up and blooming again. Indeed, let us live into our existential duty to help to lift the spirits of those who await our coming again - with the timely offering of something so exquisitely and exhilaratingly beautiful.

Monday, March 4, 2019


Necessary Changes
So here I am cruising at thirty-two thousand feet on a flight from Atlanta, Georgia to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. My flight originally scheduled for this time yesterday was cancelled at the last minute due to bad weather. A day later, with the sun streaming through the windows of the business class cabin, it is going to take at least an extra half-hour to get to our destination because we have been re-routed.

The new route will add an extra two hundred or so miles, but it will get us around weather that is not conducive to safe, comfortable flying. Small price to pay I thought, I just want to get to my destination safely. In the final analysis we will readily accept changes in our lives, and to our plans, when we realize that we have no viable alternative...and gladly so.

I have grown patient with these delays and re-routings from experience. One kinda has no choice but to adapt, if one intends to remain in a healthy state of mind. I bolster my acquired stoicism by telling myself “safety first”. Yesterday my flight was cancelled because of bad weather, and today I will get to my destination at least a half hour later because of similar concerns. Ok. Safety first. And besides, what’s an extra half hour or so, I have no plans for the evening.

My Fellow Travellers
It has become quite interesting to stand by and observe some of my fellow travelers get really angry about these cancellations and delays. To hear them tell it, they have important business that can't wait. Some rant and rave a little, demonstrating that aura of self-importance that they come to be known for, but to no avail. To such persons it matters not what the reason for the change is. Come hail or high water, the airline had better find a way to get them to their destination on time.

The seasoned agent behind the counter will patiently listen, knowing full well that there is not a damn thing that will be done to satisfy the demands of angry, disappointed clients. Oh hold on, maybe a free ticket to a destination of choice? Not today! Just a new itinerary, a facile smirk, and a not so gracious “thanks for your patience and understanding”.  “Now go back home, or go find a hotel room till tomorrow!”. Oh hold on, that last sentence is me thinking out loud. There are such a things as “acts of God”, the consequences of which we are all expected to share.

As I drift further into my own headspace I recline my seat just enough to maximize my comfort without impinging on the space of the passenger behind me. I am always conscientious about that, unlike those who just recline as far as the seat allows. I must confess my annoyance with people who do that.

The Boeing 737-800 series aircraft shears the wind, eliciting an elongated monotonous whistle as it makes its way across the sunny skies toward Pittsburgh. In a conscious effort to relax, I take a number of slow deep breaths.  As I do so I find myself going through some of my own reflections on life that may or may not relate to the experience of flying.

Our Fragile Existentialism
It seems to me that the idea that we are free and are therefore ultimately responsible for the choices we make is a philosophical burden that few of us are prepared to assume. In a world in which it is sometimes convenient to believe that "what is to be will be”, we tend to cultivate a certain pathos around the reality that whatever is to be is up to us. I have come to believe this. Many of us declare and live into a pre-determinism that assumes that our course in this life has been set, and there is nothing we can do about it. What is to be, will be. Period.

We can agree that there are some things we have little or no control over in our lives; but our fate and destiny are determined by the course that we ourselves set by each decision we make. There are people who will never set foot on an airplane because of their fear of flying. Like bungee jumping, and riding on the latest version of a crazy roller coaster, they just won't do it. Our most awe-full phobias are fed by one decision after another not to do something...not to take those steps which will ultimately give us power over our irrationality.

In other contexts in our lives we parrot the dogma “practice makes perfect”, but we fail to see its implication for the growing of ourselves with regards to our fears. We are impacted daily by the formative influences of the hands of experience. The constant growth that life nudges us toward is a function of the steps we take to overcome our worries and our fears. Sometimes the nudges of reality are painful and unsettling, but they force us to look more clearly at the ground around our feet. They make us look again with more critical eyes at the assumptions in which we have anchored our expectations.

Our fears sabotage every aspect of our existence. They prevent one from asking for a deserved salary increase at the job one has done well for five, six, seven years. It is fear that causes an unhappy spouse not to declare to the world that his or her marriage is a miserable sham that should end. It is fear that keeps us in one place all our lives when there is a world yet unexplored all around us.

The desire to maintain the status quo at the expense of one’s fulfillment demands unreasonable self-sacrifice. We worry about outcomes that may never be because fear breeds irrationality. My existentialism says, if a thing is unreasonable it is wrong. There comes a moment when we are shaken by the need to right the ship of fear filled living.

Danger Is Real, Fear Is A Choice
My thoughts go by like wisps of cirrus clouds. A multitude of “what ifs” find their way in and out of my mind despite the protestations of my rationalism. I eventually surrender to the moment, recognizing the reality that there are some possibilities that lay on the heap of fate which are out of my control. I entertain that thought for a moment… and then...

I am taken back to something that Cypher Raige says to his son Kitai in the movie After Earth : Danger is very real. Fear is always a choice”.  I try for a moment to reconfigure the notion... Fear is a response to danger… My reformulation sounds reasonable; it is congruent with what I have heard others conclude. I chose however to stick with Cypher Raige's dogma...Fear is a choice. Something about this formulation engenders a sense of being in control. I identify with that. The thought appeals to something in the DNA of my personhood, so I let it soak in. It fleshes out my existentialism, fragile as it may be.

Little Things That Matter… Or Not
We are twenty-five minutes from landing in Philadelphia according to the in-control, well seasoned, reassuring voice of our captain. I hold my head up and briefly, look around. The passenger beside me has had a coca cola and five or six airplane size bottles of cognac over ice. He will be served as much as he can tolerate; drinks being free in business class. He seems to be in a good mood, gently bobbing his head up and down as he listens to music from his smartphone via a headset with his eyes closed.

As for me, I have given up on my can of ginger ale. It has gone flat. I’d prefer some water anyway, but I am otherwise occupied, and not really thirsty. The lady across the aisle to my right is typing away on her laptop, much like myself. I don't think she is documenting her roaming thoughts though. She seems quite focused, maybe a businessperson catching up on work. Who knows, maybe a writer working on her next bestseller.

Often people meet others on these flights and engage in very audible exchanges about work or their other interests, or both. It can be particularly jarring when someone has had too much to drink, or when some guy is trying to impress the lady he is sitting beside whom he has just met, and with whom he must complete a certain social transaction before landing.
At the moment I have a certain private transaction that I must complete myself... in the bathroom. I unbuckle my seatbelt and head thereto. It's less than a minute later, and I hear that discreet ’ding’ which precedes inflight announcements. The flight attendant speaks: “The pilot has turned the seatbelt sign on. Please fasten your seatbelts and return your seats and tray tables to the upright and locked position. If you are moving about the cabin please return to your seat and fasten your seatbelt.”

Grounding Ourselves
The aircraft tilts to one side and then downwards as I return to my seat. We had begun our initial descent into Philadelphia. It is still sunny above the clouds.

The journey through the clouds, some of them appearing like mountains, evoke certain latent reflections. No matter how stormy it is below, it is almost certainly calmer above the clouds, especially at thirty two thousand feet. I am brought back to conversations in which we often underline the importance of “taking the high road” when we face certain difficult situations.

The ability to ground ourselves in a robust objectivity in the face of trying circumstances is a most welcome resource, one that we hope will always serve us well. This objectivity enables us to understand the circumstances we face in a way that balances us when we would otherwise be teetering on the edge of our own precarious subjectivity.

The sound of the landing gear deploying breaks my momentary soliloquy. We will be on the ground in a few minutes, and must now put away all those technologies that could interfere with the aircraft’s safe operation, and our own safety. Safety first! And so we turn our phones and computers off, storing the larger items appropriately.

I look outside, it is still raining. I have barely noticed the difference in the duration of the flight. Time contracts when mind melds with the sometimes dense matters of living. Those who had fallen asleep now begin to stir as we prepare for landing.

The wheels of the aircraft eventually announce their contact with the runway with their familiar screech, and even the most seasoned flyer breathes a prayerful breath in appreciation of terra firma… again.

A Word To Those Who Lead - On The Vanity Of Hateful Rhetoric

If I were a careless candle Waxing eloquent from the flame of my own burning I would set free by my heated tongue The liquified ra...