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Found Objects, and a Holiday Greeting

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Recently I began a new home renovation project, my biggest thus far…I’m moving my kitchen and raising the ceiling from 8ft to 12 feet. Doing this myself, this will without doubt take at least six months. At any rate, I’m off to a good start. My humble abode is about 150 years old; American Civil War era. I know to my friends in the EU and many other places a building that is 150 years old is not really that old, but on this side of the pond, a wooden structure of this age is pretty old (I’ve spoken of the history of my house and one of its first inhabitants before–who was also one of our area original bicycle advocates–to read that post, click here). Anyhow, this isn’t my first renovation project, but it is my first in a couple years. I always find it interesting as I’m gutting a room to see the craftsmanship that went into building it before power tools. And I am fully aware that I am destructing someone’s earlier construction. Often–when I remember–I’ll say a small prayer to the earlier inhabitants of this house and thank them but also let them know that I am simply upgrading the house to keep it standing. But is often the case, I am getting slightly off topic. I also find it very interesting when I find things in walls, ceilings, etc. This is what I found in the walls over the past week…a loose ring of pipe, two keys (which don’t look that old, but I wonder why they were hidden in a wall), a small glass bottle, and a Star of David ornament (this also, I wonder why it was in the wall). Some people find cash hidden in their walls, this is what I found. Anyhow, Happy Rosh Hashanah to my Jewish friend, both those I know personally and those that I’ve never met. Peace, Shalom, Salaam.

Urban Simplicity.

Photos from the Peace Rally

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Niagara Square, Buffalo, New York, September 1, 2013

Urban Simplicity.

Wise Words…

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That’s Howard pictured above (or is it Harold…sorry I am not that great with remembering names). He is one of a number of silent peaceful protesters that I see standing at the intersection of Elmwood and Bidwell each and every Saturday…rain or shine, snow or cold. They’ve been doing this for years. The women not pictured, who are standing to his left, are part of the Women in Black movement. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ridden past them. So today as I did so I decided to stop and say hi and thank you. I really believe that peaceful measures are our only hope if we, as a species, choose to survive (yes, it is our choice). We really need to give peace a chance. Anyhow, this post is to them…the peaceniks on the corner who are stand up for what the believe…

Urban Simplicity.

A Fresh Start…Take What You Need (but give what you can)

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Photo Found Here.

2013. It always feels a little odd to write the date of the new year for the first time. Just another day, or is it? Any day can be–and is–the opportunity for a fresh start, but today is especially pertinent being the beginning of a new calendar year. You may have seen the above image (or variations of it) floating around the Internet. I hadn’t until this morning when someone posted a link to this excellent article on Facebook. After Googling the phrase (of the above image) I was surprised to see how popular it is; maybe I’m the only one who hasn’t seen it. Anyhow, I thought it is a great message for the start of the new year (and so is the article that I previously mentioned), but my only problem with it is rather than simply taking…we should also give in return. I’m just sayin’…

This said, I just want to say thank you for visiting, following, and commenting…readership has nearly doubled this past year. This little blog is a hobby of mine that would surly run out of steam if I thought I was typing to an empty theater. So again, thank you. I wish us all a healthy and prosperous year ahead, but mostly I pray for peace…for my country, for our planet, and for each one of us.

And on the lighter side, I came across the below image a while ago and thought it would be fun to share…Woody Guthrie’s New Years resolutions 1942 (click it for a larger view).

Woody's resolutions

Urban Simplicity.

Non-Violence Overcoming Hatred; Love in Action

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Firstly, I have to apologize for so many Beatles-centric videos…three in a row. I do really like them, but that’s not the reason; I posted the one yesterday and happened to come across the above one today (and then had to post the below one as well). Anyhow, this is awesome. If you only watch one of these watch the one above (but I do hope you view both). The above video was filmed in Times Square just yesterday by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady. It begins by showing Terry Jones spewing his hatred in Times Square. For those who have not heard of him, Terry Jones is the so-called pastor who threatened to burn the Holy Koran at his Florida church last year. Anyhow, the camera pans the stunned crowd and then one guy–who it looks like he Googled the lyrics on his phone–begins to sing. Within a short time the crowd is singing All You Need is Love loud enough that the pretend pastor is no longer heard. This is such an excellent short film.

I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…

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This blog began as a sort of online diary (which it never really became) and sometimes I still treat it as such…hoping, I suppose, that someone reads it and it somehow effects them in a positive way. Even in the smallest way. Or that they respond and it inversely effects me (which it/you have…thank you).

This said, I have to mention that things are weighing heavy on my heart these days. I feel like we are in dark days; as a society, country, and planet as a whole. Maybe it’s the long darkness of this time of year that’s effecting me–dark early and light late–but it’s really the recent events. I just cannot stop thinking about the shooting this past week. Those innocent children and adults…

I have been a person of deep faith my entire life, but I’d not be telling the truth if I said this didn’t shake my faith at its very core. It brings tears to my eyes for so many reasons. For the obvious reasons of course, but also less overt. We, as a nation–as a world–have to change. We need a new paradigm. I worry for us. I worry for my son’s generation.

Violence and greed are not only the norm today, they are glorified. We as a people have become desensitized. Rather than trusting and befriending each other we fear each other. And in turn keep guns as an illusion of safety. But what we need, I think, is to look at each other and realize that we are not so different from one another.

What I can do on a personal level–what I have to do–is to stand up for what is right…for what I know is right from my deepest most inner being. To do what was written on my heart–on all of our hearts–before we were born. Treat people and our planet with respect. To help my neighbor and sow peace wherever I can.

We (America) as a nation are really good at waging war and inflicting violence. What we need now is to wage peace and show compassion.

It is a known fact that light overcomes darkness. If you bring light into a darkened room it becomes light, but a lighted room cannot be made dark by bringing in darkness. Love overcomes evil. In the end it always does. And this being true, then peace will overcome violence. It has to.

In this sacred time of year, and as we approach the winter solstice (which of course is the darkest day of the year), I pray. I pray for peace. I pray for those little innocent angels whose lives were cut so incredibly short. I pray for their families and for their unfathomable loss. But mostly I pray for peace. And that each of our hearts and minds is open to healing and forgiveness.

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…”
–John Lennon

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace

You, you may say
I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world

You, you may say
I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

If just for one day…

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Photo found here.

The 21st of September is International Day of Peace, with the lofty goal of international cease-fire for a day. It would be amazing, wouldn’t it? Whatever it is you do–whether you pray, meditate, sing, dance, chant, or contemplate…or just sit and think–I hope all of us will send our positive vibrations into the global sphere for hopes of world peace. We, as a species, certainly know how to wage war on each other–and on an incredibly massive scale–but what we need to do is to learn how to wage peace. It may be our only hope for survival. We could be heroes, if just for one day…

Urban Simplicity.

In Memorial…

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I ride or walk past this a few times a week each year around this time. The American Red Cross places flags across their massive front lawn each year in memorial to those lost in the 9/11 attack. And on each flag there is a small tag (visible in the photo), and each tag states the person’s name, age, where they were from, and what they were doing at the time of the attack (their occupations). Not every time, but often, as I pass these flags I get off my bike to read a few of the tags and say a small but silent prayer for the person. This is on a busy corner with cars zipping past and sometimes I feel a bit self-conscious, but I do it anyway. This is still such a raw wound, but we need peace and inclusiveness (opposed to exclusiveness) more than ever in this country and around the world. It is, for our species, our only hope for survival. My prayers are with those lost and the families left behind. Peace…

Things That Can be Carried on a Bike (#476)

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A canvas bag containing–among other things–a cell phone, an extra camera, and a small Bible; two boxes of vital wheat gluten, four small picture frames, and four new stickers (which now reside on the bike pictured).

Urban Simplicity.

Five Quotes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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4 February 1906 – 9 April 1945

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was of course a German theologian and pastor who was anti-war and anti-Nazi and ultimately was executed by the Nazis for his involvement in the group known as Abwehr. I’ve read that in a last act of humiliation he was forced to walk entirely naked to the gallows, which was nearly a mile away. Here’s a moving account of his last hours as recorded by the doctor who was present:

The camp doctor who witnessed the execution wrote: “I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer… kneeling on the floor praying fervently to God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the few steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”
(source)

“The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.” 

“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.” 

“We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”

“In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others.” 

“Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.” 

One More…

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” 

To read more in the Five Quotes series, click here.

Urban Simplicity.

Five Quotes on Peace, Love, and Kindness…and why I think we need more of it

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Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.”
The Dalai Lama
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I cried today. I haven’t done that in a while. My mind—and heart—are still reeling from the recent shootings in the movie theater in Colorado. What a horrific, selfish, and senseless act. I still cannot believe this actually happened (another one). It prompted me to write this post, but at the same time I don’t want to focus on the shootings…especially not on the shooter himself; there’s enough of that in media right now and for days to come. My thoughts and prayers are with the dead and injured, and their families and friends.
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It’s unbelievable to me that this keeps happening. It really is. I can’t help but wonder what the hell is wrong. And I know that there is no simple or single answer. Today, in many instances, violence is not only encouraged but actually glorified. Our society is out of balance.
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I’ve thought about this a lot in the last couple days. My soul weeps for the families and victims. While these random shootings seem to happen more and more frequently, this one in particular has hit me hard. It’s overwhelming. I can’t imagine what the people who are close to the injured and murdered are going through.
What is really frustrating is that I personally feel as if I can’t do anything; likely others feel the same. What about the next one, I sometimes wonder? It is overwhelming to me. But the more I thought about it the more I realize that I can do something, even if it is little tiny steps. But I have to start small…with me. For it is the small and seemingly insignificant acts of kindness that can really make a difference. Changing ourselves from the inside out—treating each other with more kindness and compassion on a daily basis—can really make a difference, I believe. We, as a society, have to change…it’s our only hope for survival. We sometimes worry about terrorism from other lands, but at this pace we are going to implode within our own borders. To paraphrase a Minister whom I’ve seen speak on the subject of peace a few times, “Our country knows how to wage war—and on a grand scale—but what we really need to do is learn how to wage peace.”
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It is highly unlikely that anyone close to the people in the shootings is reading this. But in the rare chance that you are, please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you and your families. And though we will likely never meet, know that through your loss I plan on making personal changes—however small—which, in turn, will hopefully make changes around me and elsewhere. I am so truly sorry for your loss.
“The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.”
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr.
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“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
Mother Theresa 
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“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”
 The Dalai Lama
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“As much as we need a prosperous economy, we also need a prosperity of kindness and decency.”
Caroline Kennedy
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“Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.”
Albert Schweitzer 
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A Pin, a Quote, and a Prayer…a few thoughts on peace

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The above image is of a pin that was given to me yesterday by a friend (thanks Jane!). It’s a miniature version of a sign that I’ve had in the front garden for the past years. Actually the sign in front of my house is the second sign…the first was stolen (how’s that for irony). It’s an image/slogan that began with Sister Karen Klimczak. Anyhow, I was going to write a long post on how much I enjoy having the sign in front of my house (though I don’t always believe I do what it says), how much it means to me, and how powerful and beautiful I think the below quote and prayer are…and also how much inner work I feel I need to do to be able to actually embody some of the things I share on this blog. But I don’t know where to begin. The image, I believe, and the below words, speak for themselves.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
Mahatma Gandhi

The Prayer of Saint Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Amen.

Five Quotes That Inspire Me

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“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” 
“A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all. No man can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire.”
“Non-violence begins with me.”
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” 
There is a criterion by which you can judge whether the thoughts you are thinking and the things you are doing are right for you. The criterion is: Have they brought you inner peace?”
To read more in the Five Quotes series, click here.

A Few Pics (during semi-delirium)

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These are a few photos I took during the day and then just as the sun was going down. The reason I wrote the pics were taken “in a semi-delirium” is my current physical state…nothing major, just the common cold. But it’s one I’ve been fighting for about the past week or so, and I’m not one to lay about. Anyhow, between the rundown and foggy exhausted feeling that comes with a cold, and the loopy feeling created by being tanked up on meds–both natural and over-the-counter–everything had a certain clarity to it today; a sort of crispness. Ahh…who am I kidding, it’s the cold and the meds. Anyhow, I thought I’d share a few photos. Click any for a larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

The Present is Now

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Today was one of those days…you know what  I’m talking about. Everyone has them once in a while. Crazy stupid busy at work, and I was annoyed and annoying. But this evening–after work and after a brief steam and swim at the health center–I sat under the grapevines in my backyard and pondered. I ate grapes and drank wine (ok, I drank more wine than I ate grapes), and watched my pugs wander around and sniff each other. I also admired not only how beautiful the grapes looked, but also how all the ridiculousness of the day really doesn’t matter. What does matter is the here-and-now. But sometimes it is so difficult to be present. The present is all we really have, and it’s usually pretty good.

The Present is Now

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Today was one of those days…you know what  I’m talking about. Everyone has them once in a while. Crazy stupid busy at work, and I was annoyed and annoying. But this evening–after work and after a brief steam and swim at the health center–I sat under the grapevines in my backyard and pondered. I ate grapes and drank wine (ok, I drank more wine than I ate grapes), and watched my pugs wander around and sniff each other. I also admired not only how beautiful the grapes looked, but also how all the ridiculousness of the day really doesn’t matter. What does matter is the here-and-now. But sometimes it is so difficult to be present. The present is all we really have, and it’s usually pretty good.

24 Hours of Reality

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“History will not judge us by how much economic growth we achieve in the immediate years ahead, nor by how much we expand material consumption, but by the legacy for our grandchildren and their grandchildren,” he said. “We are consuming what is rightfully theirs by sacrificing long-term progress on the altar of immediate satisfaction. That is hardly responsible behaviour. There is an urgent need for all of us to concentrate our efforts on sustaining, nurturing and protecting the Earth’s natural capital and, moreover, reshaping our economic system so that Nature sits at the very heart of our thinking.”
Prince Charles

24 Hours of Reality will focus the world’s attention on the full truth, scope, scale and impact of the climate crisis. To remove the doubt. Reveal the deniers. And catalyze urgency around an issue that affects every one of us.”
Al Gore

24 Hours of Reality

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“History will not judge us by how much economic growth we achieve in the immediate years ahead, nor by how much we expand material consumption, but by the legacy for our grandchildren and their grandchildren,” he said. “We are consuming what is rightfully theirs by sacrificing long-term progress on the altar of immediate satisfaction. That is hardly responsible behaviour. There is an urgent need for all of us to concentrate our efforts on sustaining, nurturing and protecting the Earth’s natural capital and, moreover, reshaping our economic system so that Nature sits at the very heart of our thinking.”
Prince Charles

24 Hours of Reality will focus the world’s attention on the full truth, scope, scale and impact of the climate crisis. To remove the doubt. Reveal the deniers. And catalyze urgency around an issue that affects every one of us.”
Al Gore

Peace Now and Then

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This is a little weird and scary…is it a premonition or just a metaphor? I originally took the top photo this past spring and posted it here; I titled the post “We Need This Now More Than Ever.” Since then it seems the world has gotten crazier than ever. The building the phrase was spray-painted on was recently sold, and this morning as I rode past it there was the above pictured bulldozer plowed straight through Peace Now. Sort of gives me the shivers.

Peace Now and Then

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This is a little weird and scary…is it a premonition or just a metaphor? I originally took the top photo this past spring and posted it here; I titled the post “We Need This Now More Than Ever.” Since then it seems the world has gotten crazier than ever. The building the phrase was spray-painted on was recently sold, and this morning as I rode past it there was the above pictured bulldozer plowed straight through Peace Now. Sort of gives me the shivers.

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