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Can we develop 'compassion muscles'?
Science is able to find areas of the brain that relate to compassion. The mirror neurons are a recognized fact, and they seem to support the ability to feel what others are feeling; this feature of our genome enabled civilization, according to some, as it accelerated learning, therefore the thickening and continued extension of civilization. Fascinating read.
Christian the Lion
In this video the lion is reunited with parents who nurtured it and released in Africa. Less than three minutes of your life, and well worth the time.
Archimedes had his lever
Kevin Harville has a simple premise that can change your life: "We are all simply different parts of the same Universe"
R.I.P. Millard Fuller
Taking to heart the seven corporal works of mercy, one of which is to 'house the homeless' Millard Fuller left a successful career at 29 a millionaire, but one whose goals were not to acquire more, but to serve. He created Habitat for Humanity which uses volunteers along with donated money and material to build homes. These homes are then sold to local families without a profit (at least not an earthly one), and buyers pay no interest. Buyers must help build their houses; this requirement for 'sweat equity' to me combines business savvy and a keen understanding of human nature with a true do-gooder mindset.
Good Web Site
It's actually called Good, and is full of positive and uplifting content. As the site banner proclaims:
"GOOD is a collaboration of individuals, businesses, and nonprofits pushing the world forward."
A Warrior's Wisdom
We're probably familiar General Sherman's observation that "War is Hell".
Here's a reflection from Stonewall Jackson, his opposite number from the US Civil War
"It is painful enough to discover with what unconcern they speak of war and threaten it. I have seen enough of it to make me look upon it as the sum of all evils. "
One Small Story
I was in the barbershop recently and was blessed to behold a scene that, weeks later, I still revisit in my mind. A man of about forty was in there with his parents, who were at least in their sixties. The man was severely impaired, likely autistic (which regardless of Denis Leary's opinion, is a real malady for some). As he sat in the barber chair, his parents anxiously watched him and continued to comfort him about how the barber was not going to hurt him, the barber liked him, etc. He seemed on the verge of agitation the entire time, and actually got more agitated as his father was getting his hair cut later, such that there was a palpable tension in the air, causing the father to lean back inside the shop and apologize as they left.
The father had himself been dealt a tough hand. He had obviously had a stroke at some point, such that it seemed as if half of his face was melted down permanently, and he slurred his words when he spoke. Here's the inspiring part: the whole time I was privileged to be in the room with the parents, they constantly exchanged phrases of support and endearment with him.
The young man's father called his wife 'Hon' pronounced 'hun', for 'Honey', a common phrase where I live) and chatted animatedly about what was for dinner, how the weather was so lovely, etc.
The mother told her son how proud she was of him, and how much she loved him.
They were not well-to-do, and appeared care-worn, for understandable reasons. [ed. this post pre-dated our current economic plight] Yet they were upbeat and seemed to shoulder their fate with courage and character. The highlight of all this? At one point, Louis Armstrong came on the radio, and the man sang along with him -- "What a Wonderful World". What a world, indeed, and what wonders it sometimes reveals to us.
God bless Dennis Delano
This Buffalo detective is undergoing a suspension without pay for speaking publicly about two cold cases in which DNA evidence exonerated a man and woman imprisoned for crimes they didn’t commit, according to the Innocence Project website. His supporters say he was being unfairly punished for continuing to pursue one case against direct orders from superiors. Another small effort to do the right thing, another mean-spirited and spiritually ignorant response from 'leaders'.
I just swallowed a Snowflake
from My Montclair blog
Poetic Personal Testimony of Connectedness
From a very interesting website that contains personal accounts by scientists of paranormal experience is this one about butterflies, despair and Buber (this being a deliberately vague yet I hope interesting way to entice you to read the story).
NTD's pernicious effects-how to do something about it
The tropics are home to some powerful, pervasive, occasionally downright creepy parasitic diseases, which severely impact the chances of those countries' development, and which blight over a billion lives. This site talks about how just a small investment can provide obvious, tangible benefits to poor people. This is just one of the initiatives being helped by the annual Clinton Global Initiative. You may not care for the man himself, but he is using his celebrity to some good effect.
A Positive Response to 9/11
As we all know, there was a tremendous outpouring of generosity and good deeds in response to the horror of that day, but usually this dies down as people get on with their lives. This web site seeks to build on that positive response, and keep it alive, year after year.
A Sacred Space in New York City
St. Paul's Chapel , at 209 Broadway, is near City Hall, the Brooklyn Bridge, and South Street Seaport, but its proximity to a site of national tragedy proved to be its most important geographical attribute, and made it possible for this already consecrated space to be a place of special grace, extending a healing hand to those who worked at the World Trade Center rescue/recovery site. These blue collar heroes, working in uncomfortable and ofttimes dangerous confines, might find a tragic human remnant, or a particularly poignant one, like photos and children's toys, and to be able to find if only temporary solace in that war zone was a daily blessing.
St. Paul's suspended services, and turned their staff energies, and those of hundreds of volunteers, into a resouce center for recovery workers. Inside the space, the pews were turned into sleeping places, and the entire outer wall of the Chapel was devoted to various stations of care, whether it be the kindly volunteer who dispensed Chapstick and gum, or the 24-hour shifts of masseurs, masseuses, chiropractors, podiatrists, counselors, and others. Food was often donated to the huge team. Over the months following the conversion of the rescue phase to the recovery phase, sentiment poured in from around the nation and the world, often captured in a poster, placard, personal letter or personal item. Sentiment also poured within, as, at least for that short season of grace, it was OK for grown men to cry.
Services have resumed in St. Paul's, but an ongoing exhibit pays constant testimony to those days which changed a nation and a world. For example, it has a large collection of paper cranes from Japan, and personal testimony of the parishioners, clergy and staff. One prelate relates how, in the hours after the collapse of the buildings, they went out to look for survivors, but found none. There were not even bodies to be found in that 'nuclear winter', as one person put it.
Think on these things, if you would: Firstly, the fiendishly clever and, yes, thoughtful way the terrorists planned and executed their years-long plots, thoughtful in the sense of giving some thought to the plot, not being considerate of others, obviously. This reminds us that talent without a moral compass can be like a torpedo loosed into an innocent population. Think also, and more importantly, of the spontaneous outpouring of caring, sacrifice and love of our fellow inhabitants of Earth. The generous immediate response of the firefighters, police and other responders to the attacks was done without deliberation, and often with no thought of one's own safety. It is a tribute to the power of individual citizens, and witness to the presence of love in everyday life. During a recent re-visit, I saw the hushed reaction of the people to the display, and hoped with all my heart that no-one among the attendees took the memory of the hurt of that time and twisted it towards simple-minded hatred of the 'other'.
St. Paul's is very moving, and truly worth a visit; it is a positive coda to a Ground Zero visit.
Red Cranes and Land Mines
For over 50 years, a large swath of the Korean peninsula has become somewhat of an inadvertent experiment in what can happen to our world if we just leave it alone. The demilitarized zone between the two competing regimes on the Korean peninsula is zealously kept free of human intrusion (with some exceptions 1). The consequence of this is that a two-and-a-half mile portion of land in a fairly crowded part of the world is essentially kept wild and undeveloped.
In gentle riposte to the stupidity of violence, Red Cranes lightly touch down in an area infested with land mines, and they do not detonate because the cranes weight does not trigger them. An endangered whooping crane population annually winters in this zone, and its survival is at least helped, if not guaranteed, by this bizarre sanctuary. This to me is hauntingly poetic. Thanks to the recent book by Frederick Wiseman for reminding me about this special, spooky place. Let's hope that, with the eventual end of hostilities between the two Korean regimes, this area is kept sacrosanct as a peace park, or at least a wildlife reserve.
Man on a Mission
There's a family named Notredâme in Belgium, which has lived in Flanders for many generations. The last several generations have dealt with the fearful legacy of the many bloody and pointless battles which raged "In Flanders Fields". World War I was a study in how otherwise (or at least ostensibly) civilized societies could be plunged into war by a manipulative elite, and Europe guaranteed its twilight with the blood that was shed on those battlefields, and all the bloodshed necessary in World War II to essentially return a status quo ante.
Of course, the decisions made in councils of power are beyond the influence of the commoner/citizen, but they usually bear the brunt of those decisions, as they cannot usually choose where they live, and are suddenly engulfed in conflict. Yes, I'm alluding to some current battlefields, where the dogs of war run rampant.
Believe it or not, to this very day, Belgian farmers in Flanders run the risk of turning up munitions from World War I with their plow, and every year on average several Belgians lose their lives to this antique ammunition. There is actually a special unit of the Belgian Army which is charged with traversing the roads in that part of the country, and picking up the shells, weapons, and other paraphernalia of that time. Several museums in the neighborhood are festooned with these sad souvenirs. Apparently, during the battles which took place there during two years in the war, there was a very rainy season, and literally millions of artillery shells rained on those relatively few, extremely muddy acres , and many of those shells burrowed into the mud, to turn up decades later.
The offspring of that family, Lode Notredâme, with the able and loving assistance of his wife Sandi, has made it his mission to promote his passion, and I tell you, friends, it is a downright pleasure to see someone, anyone, pursue their passion, because they are, at least at times, the best they can be.
What inspires and supercharges Lode is the hearfelt need to share with the world the story of what happened there, and how our actions can have repercussions which echo down the generations. This is literally a matter of life and death for this person (to stretch a point, admittedly). The stories about the day to day experience of the men in the trenches was at times heart-rending. As an easy gift, he passes around an old helmet with cartridges and shell casings from the battlefield, and believe me, they won't run out for a while. Our ingenuity at creating such weapons is, fortunately, offset at times by our tremendous compassion and ability to get off our duff and do the right thing, at least in this author's experience.
Anyway, once the Euro-Dollar exchange rate has improved somewhat, consider signing up for the Quasimodo Tour of Flanders Fields. It is a memory waiting to happen.
Hindus believe that the entire Universe is a dream; Courtney Brown (remote viewer and author of a fascinating book called Cosmic Voyage) maintains that throughout the universe, humans are famous, and relatively rare, for our ability to dream. I had a dream the other night. In my dream, the entire world had a generation of children that grew up and were not abused, and the world changed into a paradise. Let's make that dream come true.
The Seven Corporal Works of Mercy
When I was a kid, we learned a song in parochial school, that taught us some of things we should strive to do. This list of 'shoulds' is called the Seven Corporal Works of Mercy, namely:
Give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, shelter the homeless, visit the sick and bury the dead.
Now that's a fearsome list. The recent tragedies of hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts and tsunamis have provided ample opportunities to live the service enjoined upon us. One gentleman in Colorado is helping the imprisoned, and also illustrating two of the Seven Spiritual Works of Mercy, namely, 'counsel the doubtful' and 'comfort the sorrowful'. Bill Karelis has been meditating for 33 years, and for the last 12 years has volunteered in prisons, teaching inmates to use this natural and peaceful means of centering oneself and improving concentration, sleep and stress management. I find it interesting to hear these reflections of his:
"There is a great similarity between my own path and the path of the inmates ... we share the ability to appreciate our life's circumstances as a vehicle for the spiritual journey. The ... thought-based confusion that we project upon our world can imprison all of us. Likewise, we all possess the capability and means to realize fundamental freedom. ... We cannot skillfully help others free themselves from bondage of the mind until we notice our own agenda. We must constantly reexamine our motives... Do we really know how to tell others how to live?"
1There was an incident back in the 70's or 80's when a pair of US officers who were coordinating some work with North Koreans in the DMZ were set upon and killed by the Koreans by being struck by shovels.
About Grace Notes:
One dictionary definition of 'Grace Note' is:
and in that sense, the contents of this personal page might often be embellishments of the news of the day, or just something I hope you find interesting or diverting, in a deliberately brief yet I hope comprehensive way. On another note, (if you will), I want to provide at least one place for grace in this hectic and often coarse world. I want to also emphasize the civilized notes in the symphony of the human drama, and there are many of them, and they are found worldwide, but they are, after all, grace notes, not trumpeting themes, or brassy sordid depictions of human weakness and spiritual degeneration. This is a very stressful time, as many changes are taking place in interlocking areas, such as the rapproachement between science and religion in certain areas, and the multiplication factor of live video over the internet coupled with age-old grievances and lack of opportunity worldwide. Truly, Alvin Toffler was prescient when he wrote Future Shock.
I see the power of grace in people's lives, but the individual's progression toward enlightenment is not 'news' in the "if it bleeds, it leads" orientation of the tawdry nightly news of the 'Age of the Feuilleton', pace Hesse. I hope to share with you good news from the everyday front of everyday people trying to live life with grace, one day at a time. This area will be updated as the inspiration presents itself, and my professional schedule permits.