Tag Archives: inspiration

In Solidarity…Images of Hope and Peace

These are just a few of the photos I took this afternoon at a peaceful rally. It took place on a rather chilly and windy afternoon in the shadow of city hall. It was simply a gathering of peaceful souls to show solidarity and respect and appreciation for not only our current Muslim brothers and sisters that live with us, but also those to come. The speakers represented leaders from all three Abrahamic faiths and other activists as well. They were inspiring and inspired to say the least. A couple of the speakers cited the quotes from the Golden Rule, and this gathering of people was surely a living example of it (to read fourteen quotes of the Golden Rule for multiple religions that use different words to basically say the same thing, click here). But one of the best, if not funniest, quotes I heard…”Donald Trump we denounce you!” Anyhow, even though I didn’t stay for the last part of this event I am really glad to have gone. Really beautiful; really inspiring. Peace. Salaam. Shalom.

Urban Simplicity.

Buildings and a couple other things…

I had the day off today and was out on my bike (surprise, right?). It was such a beautiful day, almost spring-like (55F). And after stopping for coffee I meandered around downtown and then stopped to take a photo of the interior of the Ellicott Square Building (pictured above). It was lunch time; the 30″ Christmas tree was lit and there was a high school choir singing Christmas Carols…really nice. And as I stood there listening to the sweet sound of song I marveled at the building. Really incredible. We (the city of Buffalo) have such a rich architectural history, and I never grow tired of the free structural art–the free gift–that is available in our old city; the gift of beautiful architecture. As I have often taken photos of some of our local landmarks, I felt moved to choose a few (I have hundreds) and post them in one place. Some of these you may have seen before; others have not been posted previously. Some were taken today or within the last couple days; others were taken over the last couple years. Anyhow, if you’d like to learn a bit about some of the buildings and the people who designed them, follow this link.


Urban Simplicity

Peace. Free Stuff.

What’s so funny ’bout peace, love, and understanding.”

~Nick Lowe

Precarious. That’s the word that came to mind this morning when thinking about the times in which we live. That could also have been a good descriptor of my emotional state as I rode my bike to a coffee shop. Has the world and everyone in it gone insane? There is just so much darkness. So much disconnect. Yesterday’s shootings are just the tip of the iceberg; just one in many destructive things that are happening as I type these very words. And then I came upon the scene pictured above. An apartment on South Elmwood Avenue here in Buffalo with a table out front on the sidewalk. A few odds and ends; nothing of any real value. But rather than throw them in the trash they took the time to set up a table, lay the items out, and make a sign…Peace; Free Stuff. They took the time to offer this stuff to someone who may need it. It brought a smile to my face then just as it does now. And it made me remember that there is still good.

With all the recent events I will be honest and say that I feel somewhat helpless. How can I possibly make a difference in this world. A difference in anything. And then I saw this and it made me remember. It made me remember that goodness can happen in really small steps. The words of a local and inspiring retired clergyman, the Reverend Phil Smith, came to mind (and I’m paraphrasing)…”America is really good at waging war, the best in the world in fact, but what we really need is to wage peace.”

Our society is seriously broken. And by “our” I don’t just mean American. We really need to do something, but what? What can we as individuals do to make a difference? What came to me was that we as individuals do need to wage peace at a personal level. Simply being nice to people in your own little world, regardless of their gender, skin color, or religion. Help people whenever you can. Maybe it can have a ripple effect.

I really do worry about the next generation, my son’s generation. And his children’s generation after him. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say I am waiting for the next MLK or Gandhi to appear to inspire us into a revolution, to change things and turn us around to face things differently…to wake us up. Though I’m not sure we’d recognize the next prophet if they did appear on the scene…we don’t have enough space for them. But I also think how it can be us. It can be us to make small changes each day to make ourselves as a society that much more…well, societal.

If we did this maybe it would stop that one person from doing something terrible. Maybe it would stop that one single person and make them think that they shouldn’t do the terrible act they had in mind. Maybe it would soften their heart enough to see the consequences. Maybe it would make them realize that they are loved and they themselves can in fact be love. And if our kindness changed even one single person that would be enough. But then maybe it would have a ripple effect.

We, as collective consciousness, really need to look within. It’s not us against them, or vice versa. It’s just us, the people of planet earth. We really need to do this if we want to survive.

And this is what I was thinking when my heart was warmed when I saw a little table of things out that were offered free for the taking as I was riding my bike to a coffee shop on a grey and chilly December morning.

This is my commandment: that you love one another, as I have loved you.

John 15:12

Urban Simplicity

A Christmas Message from Paramahansa Yogananda (for the first Sunday of Advent)

Paramahansa Yogananda at Niagara Falls

 

A Christmas Vow

“I will prepare for the coming of the Omnipresent baby Christ by cleaning the cradle of my consciousness and sense attachments; and by polishing it with deep, daily, divine meditation, introspection, and discrimination. I will remodel the cradle with the dazzling soul-qualities of brotherly love, humbleness, faith, desire for God, will power, self-control, renunciation and unselfishness, that I may fittingly celebrate the birth of the Divine Child.”

A Christmas Message from Paramahansa Yogananda (for the first Sunday of Advent)

Paramahansa Yogananda at Niagara Falls 

A Christmas Vow 
“I will prepare for the coming of the Omnipresent baby Christ by cleaning the cradle of my consciousness and sense attachments; and by polishing it with deep, daily, divine meditation, introspection, and discrimination. I will remodel the cradle with the dazzling soul-qualities of brotherly love, humbleness, faith, desire for God, will power, self-control, renunciation and unselfishness, that I may fittingly celebrate the birth of the Divine Child.

(MetaphysicalMeditations) by Paramahansa Yogananda

Urban Simplicity.

Thoughts on gratitude…

Where can I go from your Spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”

~Psalm 139:7-8

In Your Midst

There is so much,

just so much to be grateful for.

But some days I don’t see it.

Mind-made problems cover me in fog.

Asleep.

Mind narrows.

Heart hardens.

My world becomes small.

Some days,

even in your midst,

I don’t see you.

But I catch glimpses.

The veil is lifted.

However slightly,

and briefly.

And then I remember.

I am humbled,

and tears well.

In gratitude.

Beauty overwhelms.

I have everything.

You are closer to me than I can imagine,

closer than my very breath.

There is so much to be grateful for.

In the midst of everything.

In the midst of you.

Every day; every hour.

Each second.

Right now, in fact.

All I have to do is look.

Urban Simplicity

Thoughts on gratitude…

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”
~Psalm 139:7-8

In Your Midst 
There is so much,
just so much to be grateful for.
But some days I don’t see it.
Or more importantly,
feel it.
Mind-made problems cover me in fog.
Asleep.
Mind narrows.
Heart hardens.
Self-centers. 
World becomes small.
Some days,
even in your midst,
I don’t see you.
But I catch glimpses.
The veil is lifted.
However slightly,
and briefly.
And then I remember.
I am humbled,
and tears well.
In gratitude.
Beauty overwhelms.
I have everything.
You are closer to me than I can imagine,
closer than my very breath.
There is so much to be grateful for.
In the midst of everything.
In the midst of you.
Every day; every hour.
Each second.
Right now, in fact.
All I have to do is look.

Urban Simplicity

Imagine…

You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

~John Lennon

So a couple things. The guy in the photo above–pianist David Martello–drags his piano by bike to central Paris to play for free on the night of the bombings. He apparently is known for visiting conflict zones to play his piano. One of the songs he chose to play on this evening was, Imagine, by John Lennon. I have always found this song particularly moving, tear jerking at times. To see John Lennon see the original version, click here. David Martello can be seen and listened to playing his beautiful and moving rendition below. If you’d like to see other videos of him playing his piano outside (some of them in conflict zones), click here. And oh yes, I forgot to mention, David pulls his piano by bike.

Imagine…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
~John Lennon
So a couple things. The guy in the photo above–pianist David Martello–drags his piano by bike to central Paris to play for free on the night of the bombings. He apparently is known for visiting conflict zones to play his piano. One of the songs he chose to play on this evening was, Imagine, by John Lennon. I have always found this song particularly moving, tear jerking at times. To see John Lennon see the original version, click here. David Martello can be seen and listened to playing his beautiful and moving rendition below. If you’d like to see other videos of him playing his piano outside (some of them in conflict zones), click here. And oh yes, in the event I forgot to mention it, David pulls his piano by bike.

Birthday Thoughts…

Birthday thoughts, but first this…

Joseph George was the father of George Joseph George

Who in turn became the father of Joseph Edward George

But at the same time was still the son of Joseph George

And Joseph Edward George became the father of Isaac Joseph George

But at the same time is still the son of George Joseph George

And also the grandson of Joseph George

More than 90 years ago Joseph George set foot in the great land of America. This was my grandfather. I don’t remember him as he made the transition when I was very young. He and his much younger bride, Mary (my sitti, or grandmother), could neither read or write (as far as I know). They came to this country after beating the unbelievable odds of escaping the great Lebanese famine during WWI where hundreds of thousands perished at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. My grandparents had nine children, including their eldest son, George, my dad. He spoke Arabic before he spoke English (so I am told), as did his siblings. They didn’t learn English until they went to school. My dad, who by some politician’s definition would have been considered an “anchor baby,” went on to defend our country in WWII and was deaf in one ear because of it. He also married my mom, Marilyn (nee Enser), and would have four kids, including me. My dad didn’t speak Arabic to us kids, as he wanted us to be American. He worked hard, two or three jobs at a time to support his family, and paid his taxes. So here I am, an American. Separated from the “old country” by one generation. So why am I saying this? Maybe I’m getting sentimental in my middle age. But really it’s because of the recent events in Paris. It troubles me of the Islamophobia I’ve seen and heard since then, both blatant and not. Personally, I believe this comes from fear…fear of the unknown. Not all Muslims are Jihadists in the same way that not all Christians are akin to the hate-filled Westboro Baptist Church. The Muslims that I know are peace-filled and family oriented. I remember the altar my grandmother had in her bedroom, which was just off the kitchen, where everyone always gathered. Being a devout Catholic, she had images of Jesus and Mary, and of course a cross. She also had a candle for my Uncle Raymond, who I never met. And later, I’m sure, a candle for my dad, who transitioned at such a young age. Once, when I was a young teenager and came there with my cousin with our two girlfriends—sisters—who had Muslim last names, she brought us all in to see her altar. And it’s interesting to think that I was slightly embarrassed at the time—that my grandmother had an altar in her room—as I now find myself with a small altar in my room. Another time, I remember being alone in the kitchen as a young boy, and seeing her on her knees praying, and crying. She of course was speaking in Arabic and I was too shy to ask her what she was saying. I can only imagine what my grandparents went through to assimilate into this country, in the same way immigrants are today. Today was my 54th birthday, and tonight two of my sisters, my son, and I went to Lebanese restaurant for dinner. We struggled with some of the words on the menu, but the flavors of the food were the same. There are so many good people that we sometimes forget this. Not just family and friends but people we work with or those we don’t know. The Statue of Liberty was of course given to us by the French, and it is also the first thing many of our ancestors saw when they arrived here. Yesterday President Obama reminded us that France was our oldest ally. A hundred years ago the face of our country changed drastically with the immigrants that arrived here, and today it is doing the same thing. My hope is that we don’t build a wall (one literal or a metaphorical one in our hearts) but we open our arms (and hearts and minds) with welcome. There is so much disconnect in the world that now is the time for solidarity, both in our own country and elsewhere. I see so many people posting on Facebook about the evils of religion, and rightly so…there has been so much bad done in the name of religion, but there is also so much good done, too. Religion in itself is not the enemy, nor are people different than us. Darkness may hover for a while, but it in itself cannot make a room dark. One can bring light into a darkened room and make it light, but darkness cannot remove that light. My hope is that we become that light, are that light. All of us. And this is what I was thinking on a seasonably chilly ride home from a restaurant tonight. Peace be upon you.

Birthday Thoughts…

Birthday thoughts, but first this…

Joseph George was the father of George Joseph George
Who in turn became the father of Joseph Edward George
But at the same time was still the son of Joseph George
And Joseph Edward George became the father of Isaac Joseph George
But at the same time is still the son of George Joseph George
And also the grandson of Joseph George

More than 90 years ago Joseph George set foot in the great land of America. This was my grandfather. I don’t remember him as he passed away when I was very young. He and his much younger bride, Mary (my sitti, or grandmother), could neither read or write (as far as I know). They came to this country after beating the unbelievable odds of escaping the great Lebanese famine during WWI where hundreds of thousands perished at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. My grandparents had nine children, including their eldest son, George, my dad. He spoke Arabic before he spoke English (so I am told), as did his siblings. They didn’t learn English until they went to school. My dad, who by some politician’s definition would have been considered an “anchor baby,” went on to defend our country in WWII and was deaf in one ear because of it. He also married my mom, Marilyn (nee Enser), and would have four kids, including me. My dad didn’t speak Arabic to us kids, as he wanted us to be American. He worked hard, two or three jobs at a time to support his family, and paid his taxes. So here I am, an American. Separated from the “old country” by one generation. So why am I saying this? Maybe I’m getting sentimental in my middle age. But really it’s because of the recent events in Paris. It troubles me of the Islamophobia I’ve seen and heard since then, both blatant and not. Personally, I believe this comes from fear…fear of the unknown. Not all Muslims are Jihadists in the same way that not all Christians are akin to the hate-filled Westboro Baptist Church. The Muslims that I know are peace-filled and family oriented. I remember the altar my grandmother had in her bedroom, which was just off the kitchen, where everyone always gathered. Being a devout Catholic, she had images of Jesus and Mary, and of course a cross. She also had a candle for my Uncle Raymond, who I never met. And later, I’m sure, a candle for my dad, who transitioned at such a young age. Once, when I was a young teenager and came there with my cousin with our two girlfriends—sisters—who had Muslim last names, she brought us all in to see her altar. And it’s interesting to think that I was slightly embarrassed at the time—that my grandmother had an altar in her room—as I now find myself with a small altar in my room. Another time, I remember being alone in the kitchen as a young boy, and seeing her on her knees praying, and crying. She of course was speaking in Arabic and I was too shy to ask her what she was saying. I can only imagine what my grandparents went through to assimilate into this country, in the same way immigrants are today. Today was my 54th birthday, and tonight two of my sisters, my son, and I went to Lebanese restaurant for dinner. We struggled with some of the words on the menu, but the flavors of the food were the same. There are so many good people that we sometimes forget this. Not just family and friends but people we work with or those we don’t know. The Statue of Liberty was of course given to us by the French, and it is also the first thing many of our ancestors saw when they arrived here. Yesterday President Obama reminded us that France was our oldest ally. A hundred years ago the face of our country changed drastically with the immigrants that arrived here, and today it is doing the same thing. My hope is that we don’t build a wall (one literal or a metaphorical one in our hearts) but we open our arms (and hearts and minds) with welcome. There is so much disconnect in the world that now is the time for solidarity, both in our own country and elsewhere. I see so many people posting on Facebook about the evils of religion, and rightly so…there has been so much bad done in the name of religion, but there is also so much good done, too. Religion in itself is not the enemy, nor are people different than us. Darkness may hover for a while, but it in itself cannot make a room dark. One can bring light into a darkened room and make it light, but darkness cannot remove that light. My hope is that we become that light, are that light. All of us. And this is what I was thinking on a seasonably chilly ride home from a restaurant tonight. Peace be upon you.

For the Ghosts of Greenwich Village…

For the Ghosts of Greenwich Village

As I sit in a basement bar on Macdougal Street.

I feel you.

Your presence is palpable.

Kerouac.

Ginsberg.

Gibran.

Wolf.

Thomas.

And so many others.

I feel you as I walk down the streets.

As I sit in the bars and cafes.

The same streets that you walked.

And some of the cafes that you worked in.

Drank in.

The same streets that you called home.

That inspired you.

And today as I sit in a basement bar.

Drinking a cold beer,

I thank you.

For changing things.

With your art.

With your words.

And for inspiring so many people.

Still; today.

And for—in a way—changing me.

Even if just a little.

That is enough.

Thank you.

For the Ghosts of Greenwich Village…

For the Ghosts of Greenwich Village 

As I sit in a basement bar on Macdougal Street.
I feel you.
Your presence is palpable.
Kerouac.
Ginsberg.
Gibran.
Wolf.
Thomas.
And so many others.
I feel you as I walk down the streets.
As I sit in the bars and cafes.
The same streets that you walked.
And some of the cafes that you worked in.
Drank in.
The same streets that you called home.
That inspired you.
And today as I sit at a bar.
Drinking a cold beer. 
I thank you.
For changing things.
With your art.
With your words.
And for inspiring so many people.
Still; today.
And for—in a way—changing me.
Even if just a little.
But that is enough. 
Today I think of you.
And thank you.

October 1982…

So recently I came across a box with some old things in it. One of them was a composition notebook with some lyrics/poems I had written. One of the poems, which was untitled, was simply dated “October 1982.” At the time I was out of high school for a just few years, both my parents had all ready made their earthly transition, and I was working as a cook in a Greek diner. The thought of a blog or the internet at the time would have been science fiction. So I wrote things down. This was one of my earliest journals. I would have been 21 years old at the time. In many ways I feel like I’m a different person since then, but at the same time I am very much the same. What struck me about this particular poem was my voice…I could have written this today. Some, I think, who may have known me for a while, were surprised when I attended seminary a few years ago (after being a cook for much of my life). It’s not as if I had this sudden epiphany, I’ve been me all these years. I’ve just finally had the courage to say so. Or maybe things simply bubbled over. Anyhow, when I read this poem I realized I hadn’t changed all that much in 34 years (okay, my knees and back didn’t hurt back then). Anyhow, here’s an excerpt…

You may not believe in

organized religion

but the truth of God is real.

Everybody is

created equal

no matter what their race or creed.

We are all the same.


Urban Simplicity.

Sister Autumn

Sister Autumn

Sometimes you arrive so gradually

That I barley notice

There’s a slight shift

Balmy days

Give way to cool nights

Warm breezes

To chilly winds

Early nights announce you

But I don’t listen

You deceive me

Flowers still bloom

There are leaves on trees

But here you are

As if the door was left ajar

And you slipped in

Quietly

And sat down

With just a whisper

But now that I look

I see you

And I smile

Warm days and chilly nights

You are my favorite

But you know this

Your embrace

With freshness in the air

Is all-encompassing

And it comforts me

I hug you with all my senses

And I don’t want to release you

Because it’s your brother

Winter

Whom I’ve begun to dread

And he’s just behind you

For him

There is preparation

But for now

I solely embrace you

Sister Autumn

With your incredible beauty in decay

Signaling another cycle

Another year’s end

A reminder

But for now

Your embrace is enough

It fills me

And I overflow

Urban Simplicity

Sister Autumn

Sister Autumn 
Sometimes you arrive so gradually
That I barley notice
There’s a slight shift
Balmy days
Give way to cool nights
Warm breezes
To chilly winds
Early nights announce you
But I don’t listen
You deceive me
Flowers still bloom
There are leaves on trees
But here you are
As if the door was left ajar
And you slipped in
Quietly
And sat down
With just a whisper
But now that I look
I see you
And I smile
Warm days and chilly nights
You are my favorite
But you know this
Your embrace
With freshness in the air
Is all-encompassing
And it comforts me
I hug you with all my senses
And I don’t want to release you
Because it’s your brother
Winter
Whom I’ve begun to dread
And he’s just behind you
For him
There is preparation
But for now
I solely embrace you
Sister Autumn
With your incredible beauty in decay
Signaling another cycle
Another year’s end
A reminder
But for now
Your embrace is enough
It fills me
And I overflow

Urban Simplicity

But who is my neighbor?

Photo taken from the Brooklyn Bridge, June 2014

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The above words are what is inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty. It’s a portion of the poem, The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus. I’ve been thinking about these words a lot lately. Mostly, I think, because of what has been in the news, and by this I really mean some some of the things spoken by people “in power” with hardened hearts that can’t seem to see beyond their own egos.

Some weeks ago one of these–I shan’t glorify him by mentioning his name, but you know him…the brother and son of former presidents and is in fact running for office himself–referred to first born immigrant children as “anchor babies.” Meaning, I suppose, that the American born baby can anchor it’s immigrant parents here without deportation.

And then just this morning I saw a video clip of that other guy–you know, the one with the fake looking hair who is always yelling–where he said if he wins he will deport every Syrian immigrant because they don’t belong here and they can’t be trusted. What really broke my heart, though, was when he said this the crowd to which he spoke broke out in applause.

And correct me if I’m wrong, but both of these guys–among countless others–would like to “build a wall” to keep immigrants from coming through our southern borders.

If you are like me, and countless other Americans (including the two guys I just mentioned), ancestors on both sides of my family came through New York harbor as they entered this country for the first time. It is doubtful that, even if they could see it, they could read the inscription on the statue because it was written in English, but she is likley one of the first things they saw…welcoming them.

I’m the son of an “anchor baby.” And my anchor-baby-daddy fought in the second world war, and in fact lost hearing in one of his ears defending our country. Two of his brothers (also anchor babies by that politician’s definition) also fought in the war.

I just can’t help but wonder if people (not just the two mentioned above) who are so afraid of others coming to this country (who may seem different than themselves) ever consider what the words on Lady Liberty say, and the fact that our country was founded and populated by immigrants.

And on a different slant, I also can’t figure out how so many of these people, who like to quote the bible (yes, I’m aware that I’m generalizing), don’t see that the very message of Jesus was not segregation, hate, or exclusion, and that his entire short ministry while on this earthly plane can be distilled down to one word…Love.

Some of my favorite passages in the gospel are the parables, which are told in such a way that makes you think but are also meant to be so simple that anyone can understand them, if they listen. And one of my favorites is the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

It begins by an “expert in the law” (today, could this be one of the men aforementioned?) asking Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. And by this, I take it as not so much in the next life but this one, what must he do to be free, or to use other terminology, enlightened. And clever as he was, Jesus answered the question with a question, to make the person think for himself. He asked him, “What is written, and how do you read it?” The expert of course was able to recite the scripture exactly…”Love God with all your heart, soul, and strength of your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

“You answered correctly,” Jesus told him, “do this and you will live” (do this and you will live…let those words sink in for a moment).

But the expert needed to justify himself, so he asked, “Who is my neighbor?

And this time Jesus answered him with a story (parable), and I am paraphrasing…it began with a man who was walking down a deserted section of road where he encountered thieves. They stripped him, robbed him, beat him, and left him for dead on the side of the road. As people passed the dying man they crossed to the other side of the road and looked the other way. One of the people was a priest, the other was a Levite (I may be wrong, but I believe the beaten man was also a Levite). Anyhow, finally a Samaritan came along, and correct me if I’m wrong again, but I believe during those times a Samaritan was not supposed to socialize with, let alone physically touch, a Levite. But the Samaritan, being filled with compassion, cleansed the man’s wounds with oil and wine and bandaged him. He then carried the man on his own donkey to an inn, where he paid the inn-keeper money to care for the man, and even went so far as to tell the inn-keeper that he will return and pay additional money if needed.

After telling this story Jesus then posed another question to the expert…”Which of these men do you think were a neighbor to the fallen man?” He answered correctly again…”The one who had mercy on him.”

To which Jesus replied simply…”Go and do likewise.”

Our nation was founded and populated by immigrants, yet there are many who forgot this (or choose not to remember or acknowledge it).

And there are some who hold the bible as a shield and claim (incorrectly) that we are a “Christian nation,” yet fail to show compassion, or to quote directly…”Go and do likewise.”

And yes, I know many of these statements (my personal statements) are rash generalizations, but it seems (to me) that somewhere along the journey–with all of our technology allowing us to be connected 24/7–we have become less connected than ever before. In many respects we have lost our way. We as a nation have become more about “I” than “we.”

The fear that I have is not of being over-run by immigrants, my fear is that one of the men previously mentioned actually wins the presidency.

Sorry for my mini-rant; I’ll get off my soapbox now. But before I do I have to pose this question that was spoken more than two millennia ago… Who is my neighbor?

Urban Simplicity.

But who is my neighbor?

Photo taken from the Brooklyn Bridge, June 2014

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The above words are what is inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty. It’s a portion of the poem, The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus. I’ve been thinking about these words a lot lately. Mostly, I think, because of what has been in the news, and by this I really mean some some of the things spoken by people “in power” with hardened hearts that can’t seem to see beyond their own egos.

Some weeks ago one of these–I shan’t glorify him by mentioning his name, but you know him…the brother and son of former presidents and is in fact running for office himself–referred to first born immigrant children as “anchor babies.” Meaning, I suppose, that the American born baby can anchor it’s immigrant parents here without deportation.

And then just this morning I saw a video clip of that other guy–you know, the one with the fake looking hair who is always yelling–where he said if he wins he will deport every Syrian immigrant because they don’t belong here and they can’t be trusted. What really broke my heart, though, was when he said this the crowd to which he spoke broke out in applause.

And correct me if I’m wrong, but both of these guys–among countless others–would like to “build a wall” to keep immigrants from coming through our southern borders.

If you are like me, and countless other Americans (including the two guys I just mentioned), ancestors on both sides of my family came through New York harbor as they entered this country for the first time. It is doubtful that, even if they could see it, they could read the inscription on the statue because it was written in English, but she is likley one of the first things they saw…welcoming them.

I’m the son of an “anchor baby.” And my anchor-baby-daddy fought in the second world war, and in fact lost hearing in one of his ears defending our country. Two of his brothers (also anchor babies by that politician’s definition) also fought in the war.

I just can’t help but wonder if people (not just the two mentioned above) who are so afraid of others coming to this country (who may seem different than themselves) ever consider what the words on Lady Liberty say, and the fact that our country was founded and populated by immigrants.

And on a different slant, I also can’t figure out how so many of these people, who like to quote the bible (yes, I’m aware that I’m generalizing), don’t see that the very message of Jesus was not segregation, hate, or exclusion, and that his entire short ministry while on this earthly plane can be distilled down to one word…Love.

Some of my favorite passages in the gospel are the parables, which are told in such a way that makes you think but are also meant to be so simple that anyone can understand them, if they listen. And one of my favorites is the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

It begins by an “expert in the law” (today, could this be one of the men aforementioned?) asking Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. And by this, I take it as not so much in the next life but this one, what must he do to be free, or to use other terminology, enlightened. And clever as he was, Jesus answered the question with a question, to make the person think for himself. He asked him, “What is written, and how do you read it?” The expert of course was able to recite the scripture exactly…”Love God with all your heart, soul, and strength of your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

“You answered correctly,” Jesus told him, “do this and you will live” (do this and you will live…let those words sink in for a moment).

But the expert needed to justify himself, so he asked, “Who is my neighbor?

And this time Jesus answered him with a story (parable), and I am paraphrasing…it began with a man who was walking down a deserted section of road where he encountered thieves. They stripped him, robbed him, beat him, and left him for dead on the side of the road. As people passed the dying man they crossed to the other side of the road and looked the other way. One of the people was a priest, the other was a Levite (I may be wrong, but I believe the beaten man was also a Levite). Anyhow, finally a Samaritan came along, and correct me if I’m wrong again, but I believe during those times a Samaritan was not supposed to socialize with, let alone physically touch, a Levite. But the Samaritan, being filled with compassion, cleansed the man’s wounds with oil and wine and bandaged him. He then carried the man on his own donkey to an inn, where he paid the inn-keeper money to care for the man, and even went so far as to tell the inn-keeper that he will return and pay additional money if needed.

After telling this story Jesus then posed another question to the expert…”Which of these men do you think were a neighbor to the fallen man?” He answered correctly again…”The one who had mercy on him.”

To which Jesus replied simply…”Go and do likewise.”

Our nation was founded and populated by immigrants, yet there are many who forgot this (or choose not to remember or acknowledge it).

And there are some who hold the bible as a shield and claim (incorrectly) that we are a “Christian nation,” yet fail to show compassion, or to quote directly…”Go and do likewise.”

And yes, I know many of these statements (my personal statements) are rash generalizations, but it seems (to me) that somewhere along the journey–with all of our technology allowing us to be connected 24/7–we have become less connected than ever before. In many respects we have lost our way. We as a nation have become more about “I” than “we.”

The fear that I have is not of being over-run by immigrants, my fear is that one of the men previously mentioned actually wins the presidency.

Sorry for my mini-rant; I’ll get off my soapbox now. But before I do I have to pose this question that was spoken more than two millennia ago… Who is my neighbor?

And this is what I was thinking about as I sat in a coffee shop on the first chilly day of autumn.

Urban Simplicity.

It’s all around you…

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

~Philippians 4:8


So some of you may already know this because you’ve either read a Facebook post or I told you in person, but three days ago a wasp collided with me while on a bike going about 18mph. It entered a vent in my helmet and stung me two, possibly three times. Without going into too much detail I’ll just say that I learned the hard way that I am allergic to wasps. Last night was my second and hopefully last visit to the ER at a local hospital; I was there till 5am and almost admitted. So why am I mentioning all this? Because as I was walking to a coffee shop this afternoon after getting only a few hours sleep I was feeling depleted…physically, emotionally, and spiritually (and soon, financially, given healthcare costs). It’s a rainy and grey day and I was walking in my own personal fog. Just walking but not seeing anything. But even though I was feeling low and sort of zombie-like I was still thinking how we and everything are all connected, I just couldn’t feel it right now. So I sent a thought-vibration out into the Universe on this grey, grey day…Show me your beauty, I really need it right now. And before the thought even left me I got response. Not a voice, more of a hunch…a knowing. And the response was simply…It’s all around you. Arrogantly, I thought to myself that I already knew this, but I needed proof. And then I looked down and saw the leaf pictured above, it was on the wet sidewalk directly in my path. All I needed to do was look at what’s right in front of me. 


Urban Simplicity.