Friday, October 5, 2012

Some thoughts on kindness

I was thinking about the word "kindness" today. When most people hear this word, myself included, they tend to think about "being nice" or some such thing. This is no doubt basically true, but as I break down the word today it also appears to me as meaning "like-ness". As in something of the "same kind". To be kind is to recognise a kinship between yourself and the object of your kindness.

Looked at this way kindness becomes a much bigger word for me. With definite "spiritual" ramifications. I recall a favorite quote of mine from the Dalai Lama: "There is no need for need for temples, no need for complicated philosophy. Your own mind, your own heart is temple, the philosophy is kindness". Can you imagine what the world would look like if we all internalized that lesson?

In a very real way then this simple quote points to the secret of life in fullness: Kindness. If you are looking for "the big answer", I think a life dedicated to growth in "kindness" is about as close as it gets. But, getting back to what I said earlier, it seems we could then also say that "sameness is the answer". The "other" is no different from "me"(insert Golden Rule here). Quantum physics of course tells the same thing: we are all connected, all "one stuff".

One of the logical conclusions that we can then draw is that there is, in the ultimate dimension, no difference between "enemy" and "friend". This is deep and also difficult teaching. Is it saying, to use a current example, that the suicide bomber is my friend? Ponder that one for while.... And if your answer is "No, the suicide bomber is not my friend". Then consider this quote: "Love your enemies, bless those who curse you" (Matt. 5:44).

Did Jesus get it wrong?

Monday, February 21, 2011

What's so important about labor unions?

If you have been watching the news this past week you have no doubt seen stories of the massive protests and strikes involving the teachers union in Wisconsin. In a nutshell, the Republican Governor Scott Walker is trying to kill the "greedy" unions. He has refused to negotiate with them. And why not? What have unions does for us?

A lot it seems.

For instance, let's take the case of teachers unions and their process of collective bargaining. There are currently 5 U.S. states that have outlawed unions and what follows are their places in national SAT/ACT scores:

South Carolina, 50th
North Carolina, 49th
Georgia, 48th
Texas, 47th
Virginia, 44th

In case you are wondering Wisconsin, with it's collective bargaining for teachers, is ranked 2nd in the nation.

As I wrote in a earlier post we are already lagging behind most other industrialized nations in our educational system.

How low are we willing to go?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Indian Blood

A few years back a woman from Maryland was in contact with my Dad and she gave him a genealogy that traced his (our) family tree back to the 1600's. I did not look at it closely at the time, but recently pulled it out again. A couple weeks ago I had the fortune to see some Native American dancers here in town (Saratoga Springs) for the First Night celebration. This reminded me that we supposedly had some "Indian blood" in our past. With the family tree in hand and some internet digging, here is what I discovered.

My Native American roots go back to one Nicolas Arendanki (meaning: "He who comes from beyond Arenda"). He was a Huron chieftain of the Bear Clan. "Huron" is actually a French name however, and they called themselves the Wendat or Wyandot. Nicolas died repelling an attack on the Jesuit Mission Sainte-Marie during the Iroquois massacres in Huronia in 1649. The Mission was the first European settlement in what is now the province of Ontario. In addition to the local Hurons, 8 missionaries from Sainte-Marie were also killed. They were canonized by the Roman Catholic Church in 1930. "Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons" was designated a national historic site on November 11, 1988. A reconstruction of the mission now operates as a living museum. Anyway...The Wyandot nation was divided by sub tribes or clans. The major sub-nations of the Wyandot are the Arendahronon (rock sub-tribe), the Attigneenongnahac (bear sub-tribe), the Attignawantan (cord sub-tribe), and the Tahontaenrat (deer sub-tribe).

But back to the family...

Nicolas, his Christian name, was born about 1623 in Huron Mission, Georgian Bay, Ontario. He is of historical note as he was the first Huron Chief to convert to Catholicism. He married Jeanne Otrihoandet, also a Huron, born about 1627 at Huron Mission. Their daughter Catherine, was called by Jesuit missionaries "Catherine, the beloved child of God (Annennontak) a Huron girl". The 1649 attacks that killed Nicolas were also widespread throughout the area and the Huron Nation was almost anihilated. Catherine, a new-born infant, and her mother took refuge with surviving Jesuit missionaries. When her mother died, Catherine, age 5, was taken by the Jesuits to Quebec, where she became a protege of Madame de la Peltrie, the founder of the Ursulines in Quebec, and the ward of Venerable Mere Marie de L’Incarnation convent.

In 1991 a movie called "Black Robe" (based on a historical novel of the same name) was released. It deals with the story of the Jesuit mission to the Hurons during Nicolas's time. I saw it in a theatre back when it came out. Little did I know then that this film, which I recall as quite moving, was so closely related to my own family's history.

I need to see it again.

For more info on The Hurons and the Mission here are a couple nice links:

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Planet's Game

It's official...I got da World Cup fever.

The Cup kicks off in South Africa tomorrow, and not moment too soon. With all the bad news that seems to have a stranglehood on our global attention, here is a contest that has the chance to unify. Soccer (or if you prefer Football) is without question the most popular sport on the planet. And for one month, every four years, the whole world is "on the same page" on the largest scale that we will ever likely see. But even if it was not the most popular sport in the world, it would still be the greatest. There are many reason's for this fact but I would like to concentrate on just a few.

The game of soccer is truly a game for everyone. It's for the rich and the poor...all you need is a round ball and something that will pass for a goal. Many sports require expensive equipment that effectively marginalize the poor. Also, in soccer big or small body types are also welcome. Indeed many of the worlds best players are smaller in stature and even strength.

I have played soccer for years and still play in a "old guy league" and I can attest to the fact that it is also the epitome of a team sport. Weaker players can defeat stronger players if the unit as a whole is more cohesive. It is ultimately a game of imagination, not strength.

Maybe in the future (I say this donning my dreamer's cap) the day will come when our species evolves to the point where even national disputes can be settled, as the English say, "on the pitch". I will go further...why not make this goal a mission, despite it's quixotic nature?

And as all good missions need a rallying cry, I humbly offer one possible choice:

"Drop a ball, not a bomb"

Go ahead and print yourself up aT-shirt! We gotta start somewhere.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The earth is sacred to my people

When I was teenager, many moons ago, I had poster on the wall in my bedroom. Last night it popped up in a dream. I cannot recall the contents of the dream other than having a fond memory of what the words on the poster meant to me then, and still mean today. So, as part of my ongoing "quotation project", I am posting the speech from poster here... in it's entirety.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Chief Seattle, leader of the Suquamish and Duwamish tribes, from the U.S. pacific northwest (now Washington State). The year is 1855.

"The Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. How can you buy or sell the sky? The warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. Yet we do not own the freshness of the air or the sparkle of the water. How can you buy them from us? Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of the land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother but his enemy and when he has conquered it he moves on. He leaves his fathers' graves and his children's birthright is forgotten. There is no quiet place in the white man's cities. No place to hear the leaves of spring or the rustle of insect wings. But perhaps because I am a savage and do not understand - the clatter only seems to insult the ears. And what is there to life if a man cannot hear the lovely cry of the whippoorwill or the arguments of the frog around the pond at night? The whites too shall pass - perhaps sooner than other tribes. Continue to contaminate your bed and you will one night suffocate in your own waste. When the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses all tamed, the secret corners of the forest heavy with the scent of many men, and the view of the ripe hills blotted by talking wires. Where is the eagle? Gone. Where is the buffalo? Gone. And what is it to say goodbye to the swift and the hunt, the end of living and the beginning of survival".

Friday, January 8, 2010

Sayings from the East

A few meditations from Asian masters:

When you are deluded and full of doubt, even a thousand books of scripture are not enough. When you have realized understanding, even one word is too much.


The Great Way is not difficult, for those who have no preferences. To set up what you like against what you dislike, this is the disease of the mind.


In the beginners mind there are many possibilties, but in the experts mind there are few.

Shunryu Suzuki

All philosophies are mental fabrications. There has never been a single doctrine by which one could enter the true essence of things.


All happiness comes from the desire for others to be happy. All misery comes from the desire to make oneself happy.