Tag Archives: inspiring

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

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, in the event I forgot to mention it, David pulls his piano by bike.

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.

La Luna Roja!

Shine and shimmer my harvest moon, Illuminate the shadows of the sky.”

A.F. Stewart, Reflections of Poetry

These photos were all shot a week ago, on the evening of the harvest moon/blood moon/super moon/lunar eclipse. Some were shot on Buffalo’s beautiful waterfront, while others were shot from the sidewalk in front of my house. They are not all of the moon, of course, but that was the real star of the show that evening. It was a pretty incredible sight. Anyhow, click any photo for a slightly larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

La Luna Roja!

Shine and shimmer my harvest moon, Illuminate the shadows of the sky.”
A.F. Stewart, Reflections of Poetry

These photos were all shot a week ago, on the evening of the harvest moon/blood moon/super moon/lunar eclipse. Some were shot on Buffalo’s beautiful waterfront, while others were shot from the sidewalk in front of my house. They are not all of the moon, of course, but that was the real star of the show that evening. It was a pretty incredible sight. Anyhow, click any photo for a slightly larger view.

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.

This is Sly…

“Hey Allentown!” That’s what I hear frequently while on my bike in the Elmwood Village. That’s what Sly (pictured above) knows me as. He used to panhandle in Allentown but as he put it, “I’m not allowed in Allentown anymore.” But that’s an entire neighborhood, I’d think to myself. He does have a rather gruff appearance (and that’s putting it mildly). Some are afraid of him, some–with closed minds and hearts–get angry with him. Once I saw a couple collage boys threaten him physically when he asked them for money. This, I’ve heard is also the reason he’s “not allowed” in Allentown any longer. I was told he was beat up by someone there a couple years ago and told it will happen again if he returns. But nonetheless, he is a fellow human on this rock we call earth, and at times–when he is lucid–a very friendly and coherent one at that. Such was the other night when I ran into him while exiting a bar on Elmwood. I was walking to my bike when I hear his familiar beckon, “Hey Allentown,”  and I turn to see him with his distinctive hobble coming over to me. I gave him a couple bucks and asked how he was doing. “Oh you know you know.” Where you staying I asked. “Right here, man, right here on the street.” How about winter, like last winter, I questioned. “Oh you know, hospitals, churches, and other places.” He has a mental disability, and I’ve heard he spends winter nights at the psychiatric hospital, but I don’t know if that is true. I’ve also heard that he is a Vietnam vet and had an emotional break during the war. I don’t know if that is true either. But what I do know is that he is a nice guy and interesting to talk to at times. And it’s interesting, I am finding out that when I ask people if I can take their photo most people say yes right away. This was the case with Sly the other night. He commented on my bike, “Hey man, that’s a nice bike, you didn’t tell me you got a new bike.” Would you stand in front of it while I take your picture, I asked him. He immediately stood in front the bike, flashed a grin from ear-to-ear and held out the peace sign with his right hand (and, FYI, for those who may make the sweeping rash judgment of street people, that’s a soda in his left hand, not a beer). Personally, I feel the world needs more Slys and less “Donalds” (sorry, there’s my judgment). When we shook hands I noticed, as I have in the past, how calloused his hand was; likely from the hard life of living on the street. And as I pedaled away on a really lovely summer night I saw him make a b-line towards a group young college girls and could hear his familiar mumble, “Hey can you help me out with a little something, I’m trying to get something to eat.” When they turned him down, or more specifically ignored him and kept a large distance from him as they passed, he moved onto the next group of people coming down the street. Thankfully I do not know this personally, and contrary to what a lot of people think about the homeless (another judgment, sorry), is that one can not be lazy or stupid to survive on the street. As the summer ends and the cold months loom closer each day, I pray that Sly makes it through, because he makes this world just a little bit more interesting. And that’s what I was thinking about as I pedaled and coasted home on a warm summer’s night with a few beers in my belly.

Urban Simplicity

This is Sly…

“Hey Allentown!” That’s what I hear frequently while on my bike in the Elmwood Village. That’s what Sly (pictured above) knows me as. He used to panhandle in Allentown but as he put it, “I’m not allowed in Allentown anymore.” But that’s an entire neighborhood, I’d think to myself. He does have a rather gruff appearance (and that’s putting it mildly). Some are afraid of him, some–with closed minds and hearts–get angry with him. Once I saw a couple collage boys threaten him physically when he asked them for money. This, I’ve heard is also the reason he’s “not allowed” in Allentown any longer. I was told he was beat up by someone there a couple years ago and told it will happen again if he returns. But nonetheless, he is a fellow human on this rock we call earth, and at times–when he is lucid–a very friendly and coherent one at that. Such was the other night when I ran into him while exiting a bar on Elmwood. I was walking to my bike when I hear his familiar beckon, “Hey Allentown,”  and I turn to see him with his distinctive hobble coming over to me. I gave him a couple bucks and asked how he was doing. “Oh you know you know.” Where you staying I asked. “Right here, man, right here on the street.” How about winter, like last winter, I questioned. “Oh you know, hospitals, churches, and other places.” He has a mental disability, and I’ve heard he spends winter nights at the psychiatric hospital, but I don’t know if that is true. I’ve also heard that he is a Vietnam vet and had an emotional break during the war. I don’t know if that is true either. But what I do know is that he is a nice guy and interesting to talk to at times. And it’s interesting, I am finding out that when I ask people if I can take their photo most people say yes right away. This was the case with Sly the other night. He commented on my bike, “Hey man, that’s a nice bike, you didn’t tell me you got a new bike.” Would you stand in front of it while I take your picture, I asked him. He immediately stood in front the bike, flashed a grin from ear-to-ear and held out the peace sign with his right hand (and, FYI, for those who may make the sweeping rash judgment of street people, that’s a soda in his left hand, not a beer). Personally, I feel the world needs more Slys and less “Donalds” (sorry, there’s my judgment). When we shook hands I noticed, as I have in the past, how calloused his hand was; likely from the hard life of living on the street. And as I pedaled away on a really lovely summer night I saw him make a b-line towards a group young college girls and could hear his familiar mumble, “Hey can you help me out with a little something, I’m trying to get something to eat.” When they turned him down, or more specifically ignored him and kept a large distance from him as they passed, he moved onto the next group of people coming down the street. Thankfully I do not know this personally, and contrary to what a lot of people think about the homeless (another judgment, sorry), is that one can not be lazy or stupid to survive on the street. As the summer ends and the cold months loom closer each day, I pray that Sly makes it through, because he makes this world just a little bit more interesting. And that’s what I was thinking about as I pedaled and coasted home on a warm summer’s night with a few beers in my belly.

Urban Simplicity

Thoughts from a pew…

My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference.

~Jimmy Carter

I sat in a pew this morning, the first time in more than a month. I’m not sure why it’s been this long without attending the church which I love, but it has. But it doesn’t mean I haven’t been to worship since then. I like to think that I worship the Divine (or God, or Universe, or Spirit, or whatever name you feel most comfortable with) on a daily basis. I worship this Presence when I ride my bike, for example, and when I take photos, and when I have a meaningful interaction with someone, be it a friend, family, co-worker, or complete stranger. I also worship this Presence when I lay in bed in the morning just after the alarm goes off and it’s the beginning of a new day. Because, to me, God is in all things (including you and I) and is, in fact, what makes each one of us connected to and inseparable from not only each other in some indescribable way, but also the very source (or consciousness) from which we came and will return. So today I worshiped the Divine more formally, in church. And it felt good.

The guest preacher spoke on the Epistle of James, which is one of the oldest books in the New Testament and is attributed to James the brother of Jesus. It’s a somewhat small book but has a powerful and straightforward message. Some say it is a blueprint for daily living. Personally, it has had a profound effect on me and I return to it often. To me, the book is a synopsis of what Christianity at it’s core is about…not just having faith in a Higher Power, but having action as well.

Faith by itself, if not accompanied by action, is dead.”

James 2:17

This morning, before leaving the house, as I was having coffee and scrolling through Facebook I came across a photo of Hungarian citizens lining a highway with crates of food and other necessities. They were just average citizens and not affiliated with any government organization. They were lining the highway with food because they knew that soon, very soon, there would be thousands of refugees walking that road. The image was so moving that it brought tears to my eyes.

Humans helping other humans is faith in action. But it goes beyond that, I think. Because this is something that is written on each of our hearts, whether or not you have faith in anything, or whether or not you care to admit it. Deep down each of us knows this.

Inversely, a judge denying other humans of a very basic right because of “her religion” is not faith at all. And deep down—somewhere beneath the crust of her hardened heart—she knows this too. But she will not allow herself to see it. If she did read the scriptures of her so called religion she would see that Jesus spoke of inclusiveness, not exclusivity.

Prior to the preacher’s sermon this morning, a deacon read from the Book of Matthew…

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.

Matthew 7:12a

What’s interesting, I think is that this statement—which is commonly referred to as the Golden Rule—is stated in many variations in nearly every major religion and spiritual movement. Jesus himself says this rather bluntly at the end of the statement…“For this sums up the law of the profits.” Matthew 7:12b

Here’s a few examples…

Judaism: Love your neighbor as yourself.

Hinduism: Do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you.

Taoism: The sage does not dwell on his own problems. He is aware of the needs of others.

Islam: None of you has faith until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.

Buddhism: Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.

Native American: Do not wrong or hate your neighbor. For it is not he who you wrong, but yourself.

Then, during worship this morning, as the congregation stood and recited the Lord’s Prayer in unison, it moved me as it often does. The words themselves move me, but so does the thought of so many others around the globe saying this prayer (possibly at that same moment). I hope that some of us—myself included—listened to what we were saying, letting the words sink in and take root.

Last year when I was in NYC I witnessed something I will never forget. A homeless man asked a person to buy him a hotdog from a street vender because he was hungry. The person he asked (wearing a suit) not only bought him food, but he bought himself some as well and then sat on the sidewalk and ate with the man. To me that was not only worship, it was holy communion (Namaste…the soul within me acknowledges the soul within you).

Just being nice to one another—and seeing each person as an equal—can make such a difference in someone’s day (including your own). It’s not always easy but it is possible. When I write these things I am doing so because sometimes they just need to come out, but mostly because I need reminders for myself. And in a way, this in itself, I suppose, is a form of worship, and when you read this we are in sanctuary together.

And this is what I was thinking about as I sat in a pew on a hot and humid Sunday morning in September.

My religion is very simple, my religion is kindness.

~The Dalai Lama