January 28th, 2008

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A Beautiful Day!



Good Morning!   The sun is shining, though a little shower just tip-toed through.

I read the book The World Without Us by Alan Weisman this weekend.  I am digesting the facts he presents,  the nuclear waste we’ve created and haphazardly stored, the animals that are extinct because of us, the world-wide legislation needed that allows each woman one child at the most.  We need to change, and, if we don’t, and destroy ourselves, the world will go on just fine without us.

This morning, I read of the pain a young family is experiencing at the loss of their fifteen and a half year old son, Mitchell who suffered miserably for ten months as medical science did all they possibly could to help him survive.

What is that about?  How do we make sense of it all?

We are so loving and caring, so self-sacrificing at times.  And then there is the fear and aggression that produce weapons that make no sense, weapons so dangerous they pollute the air and food for all of us.   Yes, we have created a world that needs power, but the sun shines, the wind blows, and the tides flow.  There is a harnessing that is more innocent than breaking apart atoms and storing nuclear waste.

I am also astonished to read of the accomplishment that is the Panama Canal.   Yes, we intruded into another country, but we separated a continent so we could easily move through. The actual feat of it is an amazing accomplishment for those times and even now.

It is what most baffles me about the Bush administration.  Progress for them seems to be about weapons, ways to attack and defend.   That is the thinking I can’t understand. 

Imagine a project that said we will put that kind of money toward teaching children, to think, connect, and get along.   Why don’t we have a Department of Peace?   If there is not the money in it that fighting provides, certainly there is the cultivation of joy.   What price do we put on joy?   On a nation that is joyous?   Oh, that doesn’t sell pills.  What would the pharmaceutical industry do?   Perhaps, they, too, could go out and dance under the stars.  It’s free.   We could each go outside in our own neighborhood and picnic with our neighbors, and watch the sun rise and the sun set each day.  We could remember it is we who are turning.  The sun is stable.  We could watch the moon in its changes, and feel so excited to be alive, that that would be enough.   Shopping malls would fade away and we would walk.

I read the Gentlemanfarmer’s blog yesterday.   He shot a rabbit.  He says it is easy to do.   He and his wife were having it for dinner fricasseed with tomatoes and pine nuts.  Then, they got under their down comforter and slept.  It seems pleasure can be so easily found.   He talks about taking down a barn, gardening, recyling, and this is from a letter from his father. 

Do you know Samuel Johnson?  One of my favorite famous quotes of his (and he has many) is about mental focus:

"Depend upon it, Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully."

Check out gentlemanfarmer if you are interested.  I like the feel of his blog, the integrity.

http://gentlemanfarmer.livejournal.com/

There are many wonderful blogs out there, many thoughts that are shared. 

 

Alan Weisman ends his book like this.

“Since the last 19th century, when, beginning with electrons, we got down to manipulating the most fundamental particles of the universe, human life has changed very fast.  One measure of how fast is that, barely a century ago – until Marconi’s wireless and Edison’s phonograph – all the music ever heard on earth was live. Today, a tiny fraction of 1 percent is.  The rest is electronically reproduced or broadcast, along with a trillion words and images each day.

Those radio waves don’t die – like light, they travel on. The human brain also emanates electric impulses at very low frequencies: similar to, but far weaker than, the radio waves used to communicate with submarines.  Paranormalists, however, insist that our minds are transmitters that, with special effort, can focus like lasers to communicate across great distances, and even make things happen.

That may seem far-fetched, but it’s also a definition of prayer. 

The emanations from our brains, like radio waves, must also keep going – where?  Space is now described as an expanding bubble, but that architecture is still a theory.  Along its great mysterious interstellar curvatures, perhaps it’s not unreasonable to think that our thought waves might eventually find their way back here.

Or even that one day – long after we’re gone, unbearably lonely for the beautiful world from which we so foolishly banished ourselves – we, or our memories, might surf home aboard a cosmic electromagnetic wave to haunt our beloved earth.”

 

It is an incentive to manage our thoughts.

It’s always possible that this day might be our last, and yet, do we live with that thought pounding each beat of our heart?   Probably not.  I don’t.  Only once in a while do I step into the immediacy of this life.  When I do, it is like I put wings on my back and float above any discomfort, to walk and live as though each step plants seeds and flowers spring up along my path.

Live well today, wisely and compassionately.  Let love hold your hand.

Each day I look at the words on my refrigerator, shared by a man who was soon to die, Michael Sawyer.

I would say that the most important thing is loving everything in this world without exception.

 

I agree.

 

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Thomas Merton -



This afternoon I suddenly saw the meaning of my American destiny -- one of those moments when many unrelated pieces of one's life and thought fall into place in a great unity towards which one has been growing.

My destiny is indeed to be an American -- not just an American of the United States. We are only on the fringe of the true America. I can never be satisfied with this only partial reality that is almost nothing at all, that is so little that it is like a few words written in chalk on a blackboard, easily rubbed out.

I have never so keenly felt the impermanence of what is now regarded as American because it is North American and the elements of stability and permanence which are in South America. Deeper roots, Indian roots. The Spanish, Portuguese, Negro roots also. The shallow English roots are not deep enough. The tree will fall.

To be an American of the Andes -- containing in myself also Kentucky and New York. But New York is not, and never will be, really America. America is much bigger and deeper and more complex than that -- America is still an undiscovered continent.

Thomas Merton. A Search for Solitude. Edited by Lawrence S. Cunningham (San Francisco, HarperSanFrancisco, 1996): 168.



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on another note -



This important news comes today.




Subject: Groundhog Day and the
State of the Union Address


This year, both Groundhog Day and the State of the Union Address fall on the same day.

It is an ironic juxtaposition: one involves a meaningless ritual in which we look to a creature of little intelligence for prognostication.

The other involves a
groundhog.


This is very funny, but the state of the union address was today, and groundhog's day is February 2nd.  The source appears to be Al Franken, and the joke pops up in the years of Bush, for those who aren't overly particular about actual dates.



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My brother sends me this:



I understand the subject of illegal immigrants and driver's licenses is complex.  In my opinion,  Barack Obama might have had better timing with his announcement.


This comes from my brother who disagrees with me and sees it as a bold and necessary step:


September 22, 2007


Drivers Licenses For Illegal Immigrants


 


Gov. Spitzer announced yesterday that illegal immigrants will be able to get valid New York State drivers licenses if they provide a valid and verifiable foreign passport. Spitzer hopes that the change, which reverses a four-year-old Pataki-era decision, will legitimize the 500,000-1 million undocumented immigrants who are driving in New York. In a repudiation of the federal government's stance, the governor said "We will not become part of what is propagated on the federal level that if we don't admit they are here then we can somehow not provide services. That is bad policy."


David Swarts, the New York Motor Vehicles Commissioner, thinks that the initiative will save New Yorkers $120 million in reduced insurance premiums, since unlicensed drivers are unable to sign up for insurance and unlicensed drivers are more than five times as likely to get into an accident as licensed drivers, according to AAA. The NY Times notes that this move goes against the national trend, since more states do not offer licenses to illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants applying for licenses in NY will have to meet a residency requirement.


Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said, "I understand the fear of 9/11 and I agree security is essential, but our nation is an immigrant nation ... and to deny law-abiding immigrant New Yorkers licenses ... is to give into that fear." Not all lawmakers agree with the plan. One Congressman from New York pointed out that the 9/11 hijackers had 35 drivers licenses, which allowed them to open bank accounts and rent cars. We'll add that if the NY State DMV is now a frontline on the War Against Terror, we are very concerned.


However, there is some more homeland security debate about Spitzer's plan. Back in 2005, Congress passed the REAL ID law, which requires states to ask for a Social Security number for a license. From the Post:


States that fail to meet the standards will lose their certification by the Department of Homeland Security, meaning that driver's licenses in those states will no longer be valid for air travel, entry to federal facilities and for tax purposes.


Travelers will now have to carry a second form of ID, like a passport, which was met with criticism yesterday.


State Homeland Security Director Michael Balboni, though, said that there were problems with the REAL ID law and the Department of Homeland Security's handling of the program, which is still in flux. He added that Social Security cards and birth certificates lack "biometric information" and NY would be part of a pilot program where license photos would be checked against others in a national database to make sure there were duplicates. Plus, if illegal immigrants had licenses, there would be a public records of true identities.


The New York Immigrant Coalition said, "Immigrant communities throughout the nation can take heart that today’s victory may begin to turn the tide toward sensible and humane reforms at the federal level." Illegal immigrants were happy, noting how they would be able to drive their children to school and drive to work.


 

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Evening -

After reflection and discussion, I consider the subject of illegal immigrants and driver's licenses.   Barack Obama says he will be the president of healing, cohesion, and change.  Immigrants are here, many illegally, and they are working and doing jobs many of us don't seem to want to do.  Since they are here, and they do need to drive, because we have been negligent in certain areas of this country about public transportation, it makes sense to allow them a way to drive legally and with insurance.

I feel so strongly that I want the Democrats to win, that I suppose I have been hoping there would be some tip-toeing, but that is not what this election is about.

I also recognize how fervently some of my women friends want a woman president as an example for their daughters.  It seems that many feel these endorsements today by the Kennedy family have now given the election to Barack Obama.  I'm not necessarily sure about that at this point, but no matter what, I think Hillary has shown us that a woman can be president.  It may not necessarily be this time around, but the dam is broken, and without a doubt this election is about great change.   The Democrats have strong candidates, and we have a choice, and a woman and a black are showing courage and strength.   I am thrilled about that. 

We haven't had an election in years where people were so invested in their candidate.  Young people are voting and are enthused.   Paul Krugman says the Democrats have to win by huge amounts to counteract the dirty tricks the Republicans used in 2000 and 2004, and will use again in 2008.  It is time for a land slide.  May this be so!!
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Reading -



This evening I tucked in with Shirin Ebadi's book, Iran Awakening.  She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003.   This book is an inspiring account of her life and what she has done.  Thankfully she is still young, so there is even more she will do to further increase liberty and freedom for the people of Iran, especially the women and children. 

What is most astonishing is that U.S.  Treasury regulations prohibited her and any Iranian intellectual from publishing in the U.S.   Supposedly her book, her memoir was "information materials" from an embargoed country.   She challenged it in a lawsuit and the Treasury backed down in 2004 and revised the regulation, so now we have the opportunity to read her book, a book which is not flattering to the U.S., and, therefore, even more important to read.  We need to keep close tabs on our government.   It's our money they use to abuse.  

Years ago, I attended a poetry reading of Cuban poets.  We were informed that the words had been smuggled into the country.  A woman, not the author, read the poems to us.  They were astonishingly beautiful and were legal in all other countries, just not ours.  We were told it was illegal for us to be listening to these words.   I found that information unfathomable.  Isn't this a country of freedom, of freedom of the press, and freedom of and for all words and thoughts?

We need to read the words of the poets of Cuba, the writers of Iran.  Suppression often leads to better writing.   The power of the word is seen and valued.   We need access to all that is written if we are to choose and create the future of our own country.   We need to energize on full linguistic fuel.