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Showing posts from December, 2007

Some thoughts on the darkness

New Years is a great time for reflecting back and looking forward. As I do a bit of that today, its clear that the last year has been one of darkness. But, as the poet David Whyte says, there is a place for darkness - even a sweetness.



Sweet Darkness by David Whyte

When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.

There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your womb
tonight.

The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.

You must learn one thing:
the world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.

I know that in this dark hour, I have found new depth and meaning in many of the day-to-day tasks to which I have devoted myself. And I think I see the w…

Peeling the onion

Lately I've been reflecting a bit about my own journey to understand and undo racism in my life. I was steeped in it - growing up mostly in east Texas where the lines dividing "us and them" were drawn clearly and never crossed. I remember a few years ago I pulled out my old high school year book. I grew up in a small town (about 20,000 at the time) and we had two high schools - one white and one black. As I looked at my yearbook I was stunned to see that there were black students who went to my "white" school. It shames me to no end that I NEVER SAW them.

But don't worry, my plan is not to take you step by step through this long journey I continue to be on, but simply to talk a bit about the fact that it is a journey. I think the classic metaphor of peeling an onion one layer at a time is very apt in this instance.









Perhaps there are people who have some kind of enlightened moment when they wake up all of the sudden to discard their own racism. But I'd be …

Three Cups of Tea

All the news about Pakistan today in the wake of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto made me think about a book I read a while ago titled Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.



Greg Mortenson was a nurse by profession and a mountain-climber by passion. He attempted to climb K2, but was unsuccessful. After several mishaps, he found himself alone on his descent and almost died. He was taken in by the people of Korphe, a small village in the Pakistani mountains, and nursed to health. Greg promised to repay the people of Korphe by coming back to build them a school. When he returned to the US, he sold all of his possessions and dedicated himself to raising the small amount of money he needed to build the school. Within a couple of years it was done.



The process eventually led Greg to start the Central Asia Institute, which has gone on to build over 55 schools and several women's vocational centers and wa…

Pax, Libby and Me

I have posted pictures of my little sweetie Pax here before. But just in case you haven't seen them, here she is.



Pax is a one year old teacup shih tzu and weighs in at just about 4 pounds. I brought her home just about a year ago, which was six months after I'd had to say goodbye to my buddy Henry the beagle.



I got Henry at the humane society where he'd shown up as a runaway (typical beagle). He was a bit fiesty and had that obnoxious beagle "bark/howl" so people were mostly a bit stand offish with him. I got no end of crap from my neighbors if he was ever outside long enough to unleash that howl.

But Henry was my cuddle buddy. You know, that kind of dog that needs to sleep with you with his body stretched out with contact from his nose to his tail. No matter where I settled, on the couch, on the floor, or in bed, Henry had to be there all snuggled up beside me.

Its been a year and a half since I had to say goodbye to Henry. His heart finally gave out at about 15.…

The words of Jesus on his birthday

Since tonight we celebrate the birth of Jesus, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at some of the things he stood for during his life. I no longer consider myself a christian, but it's not for lack of trying. I went to church at least 3 times a week growing up, attended a christian high school and college, and finally got my master's degree at a seminary. So sometimes I feel like I've heard just about everything there is to say about Jesus.

But a theology professor of mine at the seminary used to talk regularly about how christians today focus on Jesus' birth and death - but don't talk much about his life in between the two. That's why Christmas is probably the biggest holiday of the year and its also why they LOVED the movie "The Passion of the Christ."

The life of Jesus is where he presented challenges to all of us in showing us how we can live in a way that truly does transform the world. In our power-driven consumer society - those mess…

An Open Door

As many around the world are thinking about a little town called Bethlehem and the family that needed refuge there a couple of thousand years ago, I'm thinking about a little town in Southern France called Le Chambon that heard the call of those in need during more recent times.



The story of Le Chambon is written in a book titled Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed by Philip Hallie. It is the story of the people there who were responsible for saving the lives of over 5,000 Jewish refugees - mostly children - during World War II.

I read this book a couple of years ago and have since then found myself thinking about it quite often. It is a powerful story of ordinary people who had a huge impact in the world by living out their values of peace and human dignity in the face of totalinarianism and violence. Many have wondered over the years why a small town like this would take a stand when so many others were choosing to look the other way. Philip Hallie tries to answer that question in his boo…

Blog Voices go MTV - 12/22/07

Will the young people of this country engage in political change? They will if Nezua at The Unapologetic Mexican and Kyle at Citizen Orange have anything to say about it.



These two powerhouse voices of the diversosphere have been chosen by MTV to be part of the Street Team '08 that inlcudes 51 young vloggers that will cover the presidential election through next November.

The presidential candidates can run, but it will be hard for them to hide from the horde of citizen journalists tapped by MTV's Choose or Lose '08 to cover the race for the White House. A group of 51 youth reporters — one from each state and Washington, D.C. — will follow the 2008 elections and deliver weekly multimedia reports tailored for mobile devices.

Using short-form videos, blogs, animation, photos and podcasts, the reports will be distributed through MTV Mobile, Think.MTV.com, more than 1,800 sites in The Associated Press' Online Video Network and a soon-to-launch Wireless Application Protocol si…

Intergallactic Throwdown

From NASA:

A powerful jet from a super massive black hole is blasting a nearby galaxy, according to new findings from NASA observatories. This never-before witnessed galactic violence may have a profound effect on planets in the jet's path and trigger a burst of star formation in its destructive wake.

Known as 3C321, the system contains two galaxies in orbit around each other. Data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory show both galaxies contain super massive black holes at their centers, but the larger galaxy has a jet emanating from the vicinity of its black hole. The smaller galaxy apparently has swung into the path of this jet.

The effect of the jet on the companion galaxy is likely to be substantial, because the galaxies in 3C321 are extremely close at a distance of only about 20,000 light years apart. They lie approximately the same distance as Earth is from the center of the Milky Way galaxy.

Another unique aspect of the discovery in 3C321 is how relatively short-lived t…

Rest in Peace Dan

I got home from a busy day at work to learn that Dan Fogelberg died today. I'm so sorry to hear of this loss. Dan's been one of my favorite singers for a long time.

I remember back in the early 80's I was in grad school in southern California. After final exams a bunch of us went to a see Fogelberg. Turns out it was an acoustic concert. I'll never forget leaving all the stress of fullt-time studies and two part-time jobs behind, slinking down in my chair, and letting Dan take me to another peaceful world.

I have the "Innocent Age" cd and listen to it regularly. Its great music, but there's one song on there that I listen to over and over again. It's titled "The Reach" and isn't to be found at any online free music source. But if you want to hear some great music, I'd suggest buying it. Here are the lyrics:

It's Maine...
And it's Autumn
The birches have just begun turning
It's life and it's dying
The lobstermen's boa…

Simon: On the End of the American Empire

I am wholly pessimistic about American society. I believe The Wire is a show about the end of the American Empire. We are going to live that event. How we end up and survive, and on what terms, is going to be the open question.

David Simon, creator of "The Wire"

This week I spent every evening watching the dvd's of the fourth season of HBO's "The Wire." I know that Armando plans to write about the fifth season that starts January 6th, so I thought I'd give some background about how the creator has envisioned the show and its purpose since it seems to echo so many of the themes that we talk about here.

The quote at the top is from a speech David Simon made over a year ago at Loyola University. If you've got half an hour, I'd highly recommend watching the three segments of this on youtube here, here, and here. I'll summarize some of his main points. But of course, I can't do the whole thing justice in a few words.

Simon explains the reaso…

Seven Factoids

I've been tagged by my friend James. Its a good thing there's not a time clock on these things, because he did it a few days ago and I'm just getting around to responding.

These are the rules:

1) Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
2) Share 7 facts about yourself.
3) Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
4) Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.This is kinda fun, so here goes:

1. I've lived in one foreign country (Peru) and six states: Texas, Oregon, Florida, Minnesota, Colorado and California. I figure I need to check out the Northeast at some point so that I hit every region of the country.

2. I have some confusion about where I fit in the Myers Briggs. My results tend to be I/E,N,F/T,P. I seem to be both an introvert and an extrovert and I rely on both thinking and feeling.

3. I've always loved watching professional tennis. Lately there aren't any p…

Leaving our most vulnerable children behind

How to write when the rage is boiling? I don't know, but I'll try. There is some news out this week that will drastically affect child welfare all over this country in the next few months because of decisions our Congress made almost two years ago. But I can't find a word about it in the Washington Post, the New York Times or the Los Angeles Times. Granted, to understand how this happened and how children will be affected takes some time to explain. But still...

If you'll bear with me for a moment, I'll tell you what happened.

Back in January 2005, Congress passed and Bush signed a budget reconciliation bill. I don't know if any of you remember that bill, but it included cuts in funding to programs like student loans, child support and other safety net services. These cuts were needed in order to continue to grant the wealthy in this country additional tax cuts.

A somewhat obscure cut was made in Medicaid to a program called Targeted Case Management. This funding,…

Musings on peacemakers

Today I'd like to write about peacemakers - who are they and what do they do? And no, not the kind that try to avoid conflict - but the kind that take on the war machine and attempts by the powerful to marginalize whole groups of people. The more I look into this, the more I see that there are peacemakers of all kinds who find their own various paths to peacemaking.

A few months ago I found a wonderful site that many of you might know of already, peaceCENTER. They have a list of peace heroes with short bios about their contributions to the world. I know you could never do an exhaustive list of peacemakers, but this one inspired me in all its wonderful history and diversity. Of course it includes the names of those we cherish in this work, like Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Cesar Chavez, Bishop Oscar Romero, Henry David Thoreau, Bishop Desmond Tutu and The Dalai Lama. But how about some of these names?

Mildred Norman - otherwise known as "Peace Pilgrim." Startin…

A poem and a playlist

First, a poem by Marge Piercy:

For strong women

A strong woman is a woman who is straining.
A strong woman is a woman standing
on tiptoe and lifting a barbell
while trying to sing Boris Godunov.
A strong woman is a woman at work
cleaning out the cesspool of the ages,
and while she shovels, she talks about
how she doesn't mind crying, it opens
the ducts of the eyes, and throwing up
develops the stomach muscles, and
she goes on shoveling with tears
in her nose.

A strong woman is a woman in whose head
a voice is repeating, I told you so,
ugly, bad girl, bitch, nag, shrill, witch,
ballbuster, nobody will ever love you back,
why aren't you feminine, why aren't
you soft, why aren't you quiet, why
aren't you dead?

A strong woman is a woman determined
to do something others are determined
not be done. She is pushing up on the bottom
of a lead coffin lid. She is trying to raise
a manhole cover with her head, she is trying
to butt her way through a steel wall.
Her head hurts. People waiting for the ho…

You cannot stop the coming of spring

Malalai Joya has been called "the bravest woman in Afghanistan" by many in the media. When you hear her story and read her words, you'll know why.

Born in Afghanistan in 1978, Joya's family flew to the refugee camps in Iran and Pakistan in 1982 during the Soviet invasion. When she was 20 years old, her family returned to Afghanistan, where she became a vocal opponent of the Taliban and worked to establish an orphanage and health clinic.

In 2003, Joya was elected delegate to the Loya Jirga convened to ratify the Afghan Constitution, where she spoke out publicly against the involvement of warlords and was summarily dismissed.

Here's how World Pulse Magazine reported the incident:

When her time came to make her 3-minute statement, she tugged her black headscarf over her hair, stepped up to the microphone, and with emotional electricity made the speech that would alter her life.

After she spoke, there was a moment of stunned silence. Then there was an uproar. Male mujahi…

Blog Voices This Week 12/1/07

When I started writing this weekly essay, the idea was to travel around the "diversosphere" and catch interesting items so that we could bring those voices here. I've focused mainly on blogs written by people of color and hoped that we could highlight some of the excellent stuff that's going on, whether it was a news story about people of color that the msm had missed, or a challenge to the dynamics of racism in our culture.

But we've had an interesting week on that issue right here in our little corner of the world. I know there's been a lot of heat related to the topic and the personalities involved. But in the midst of it all, there was some amazing wisdom shared and ... change happened.

So, this week, I'd like to congratulate everyone for hanging in there. To do so, I thought I'd stay right here this week and bring you a few of the kernels of wisdom that were shared by some of our own dharmaniacs.

Lets start with da boss who, despite being sleep-depr…