Monday, July 31, 2006

Sand and Stone

Today, I offer you a gift that I just received, and feel compelled to share with you. I know that the state of our world today has not escaped your notice. The highest virtues of love, acceptance, respect, and forgiveness are alien to the front pages of all of our News Proclaimers. So, when an Email from one of my life’s most treasured gifts arrived with the presentation of the following story, I knew that it was for all of us. Therefore, with my loving thanks to Carole, I offer the following (somewhat edited and slightly modified) story from an unknown originator… with my gratitude to you, My Dear Reader, for your attention.










Thursday, July 27, 2006

What School Are You In?

Here is a simple “handle” for a complex issue. Just remind yourself with this question: “What school am I enrolled in?” “What school…" repeat that for yourself… “what school.” For, you see, My Dear Reader, we are all living in some relationship to a learning experience in every moment of our conscious life. And it is at our option that we make ourselves available to “higher learning” or place ourselves in the role of a “Drop Out” (or in countless places of “instruction” between the two.) I have experience with individuals who pursue new vistas of knowledge and understanding constantly… and I , conversely, have personal knowledge of some who have opted to “be content” with what they know in the present. This is your choice to make for yourself… even now.

It is not possible for me to speak to this issue with an objective disattachment. I am one of those for whom each new discovery is but an open window to further insights beyond the presently understood. I was delighted, this week, when a little light-bulb illuminated a corner of my mind where a desire to understand Einstein’s General and Special theories of Relativity has resided for twenty years. This is an ingrained and innate aspect of my basic genetic makeup and temperament… to know “Why?” I know that I have never been more taken aback than I was when presented with “I have noticed that I am becoming a duplicate of that person who I never wanted to be even similar to. But it is a persona that I am familiar with (having grown up with it parenting me)… so I have just decided to accept it and be content.” I was (and am still, all these years after) stunned. Standing there before me was an intelligent, accomplished, and respected person who was declaring to me (and admitting to Self) a willing choice to assume a posture of irresponsibility for their life. To actually state that you are becoming someone… or something… that you do not like… even dislike… and then to sigh a sigh of resignation and acceptance… and quit… is something that I can simply not reconcile with a being a responsibly functioning human being. But I, simultaneously, respect that person’s right to make that choice.

So, Dear Friend, with that bit of a “snapshot” to set a background of perspective, I ask you… “What institution of instruction are you presently (at this very time of opportunity in your life) enrolled in? That is to say... what environment or setting are you working and living in? Who are the “instructors” (the people surrounding you where you live and work) in whom you have entrusted your open and receptive senses? What are the “credentials” that these people who are imparting opinions, views, beliefs, and dispositions to your mind and spirit hold? Are they worthy of your even listening to them? Are they individuals whose personage you desire to emulate and be associated with? What sort of “designation” or image do you aspire to see in the mirror of your self-appraisal at the conclusion of your lifetime? Or, stated differently, what opinion do you want to have of yourself in the future? Are those halls of influence... this setting... these influences touching you each day... flooding your intellect, attitude, and awareness with the illumination of enlightenment… or are you finding your thoughts progressing in deeper and deeper chambers of darkness as you advance in your current curriculum of choice? What is the effect of your life environment on your spirit... right now... positive and uplifting or negative and discouraging or degrading?

As you give consideration to this exposure of your present choices in this… your life-environment… I present the ever-present truth that you ALWAYS have, at your option, a “Transfer With Credit” available to you. You can change your environment as well as the individuals that you permit to have sway over your life without having to discard the valuable life experience that you have gained to this point. You NEVER, EVER, EVER have to “drop out” of your personal enrichment and enhancement curriculum in life. You are never compelled to acquiesce, settle, of accept a “contentment of compromise” by saying "This is what I know and who I am now... so it is thus that I will always and forever be." Please, I implore you, know that all that you have learned, to this very instant, is fully credited toward whatever growing and expanding of yourself you choose to pursue… If you will but apply it. Every element of who you are right now, is an asset that can be capitalized on if you choose to invest yourself in the enrichment and edification of your most valuable of assets... You.

That said, I look forward to your notes and messages telling me of your “commencement” of your next great adventure in learning and growth in an environment... a School, if you will... and with a "faculty" of people who will nurture and encourage your personal development… as I remain, your constantly caring Friend and faithful Servant,


Posted by Picasa IMAGES: through the gracious courtesy of (top 1 image) Jon Sullivan,; (3 following images) Ian Britton,

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


It appears to me to be a question of focus. Focus on you, or on me, or on “us.” I think (at this juncture) that those are the defining elements of any relationship. Where are you focused? Where am I focused? No other question is as critical to the definition of any association of parties. And, this world all around me makes me keenly aware of the results of unharmonious focus. Where you and I are both focused on you… we get along just fine… harmony… agreement. Where you and I agree to focus on me, we, again, have no conflict… hence harmony. Where the two of us have opted to focus on different elements of our relationship, we will be as destined to running aground, or crashing on life’s rocks as any ship being navigated by two separate navigators charting separate courses. It seems to me to be just that simple. Yet how complicated when considering the matter in our daily walk. So many voices urging us from so many divergent pulpits all declaring the righteousness of their ideology. And we find ourselves just “trying to be happy” in our simplistic naiveté and desire to experience a life of serene harmony that is not demonstrated by any living soul in our personal world of awareness.

I awoke this morning with an insight painted across the canvass of my awareness. An awareness that was, by no means, a new revelation. A reminder of long known truth. And an unpleasant reality. (What a lousy way to start a day!) Yet… I have been, since my waking moment, compelled to embrace that old, unpleasant truth… and deal with it! I was reminded (by the author of all truth) of my role in the myriad relationships of my life… youth to present… business relationships; religious relationships; community relationships; and yes (the most disappointing of all) personal relationships. My present states of personal aloneness; dismal economic status; religious separateness; and social isolation will give ample testimony to my success in all of the aforementioned. Hence I can speak, with some degree of authority, on the subject of divergent focus in a relationship… of any kind. Yet, My Dear Friend, please be aware… these are all the result of my own conscious and willful election. I have chosen to Be… to physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually Be that person that was specifically created to be who I am, with my focus where it is… as my own responsible and intentional determination. But that knowledge does little to mitigate the occasional pain of solitary confinement… even though it is by choice.

So, Dear One, I am telling you from a place of living truth… please be mindful of where your focus, in your life, is. I promise you that there are inescapable consequences to your election of focus. Pay heed to the focus of that organization with which you are affiliated. If it is your intent to remain with that group… ask yourself “Do we share the same focus?” Then determine, from that insight, what the likelihood of long-term harmony is for you there. And (yes… I know that your mind has already raced to the following applications ahead of my ability to type the words… but here it is) apply that same test to all of those people, places, and things that you are entertaining hopes or aspirations of being part of today… and in your tomorrows… and permit yourself the healthy and constructive examination of comparison focuses.

Though I know that all of this can seem vague and somewhat generalized to the point of scattered… I also know that there are some for whom this perspective is exactly where they are in readiness… at this very moment. For them in their readiness, I offer this next step in growth… for you. If these considerations seem somewhat abstract and foggy, I offer this seed for your planting until such time as your life is ready to utilize its germination. As I remain;

Your constant Friend and Servant,

Monday, July 24, 2006

A Dry Well

In response to your caring inquiries... I have written nothing because I have had nothing to say and I will not betray your confidence by publishing something simply for the satisfaction of a routine. My Spirit is, at this moment, a "Dry Well." So, to illustrate and communicate that state, for your benefit, I have employed a work of art entitled "Dry Well" by Reza Karimi that you can learn more about by clicking on his name. I have added, to his work, the first stanza of "Going for Water" by Robert Lee Frost and you can read his entire work by clicking on his name (as well as the applicable copyright information.)

The well was dry beside the door,

And so we went with pail and can

Across the fields behind the house

To seek the brook if still it ran

So, My Dear Reader, 'til I have replenished my spiritual well from the "brook" of Life's inspiration, I bid you the best of this moment in your own life's journey.

Posted by Picasa IMAGE: Reza Karimi

Friday, July 21, 2006

Life's "SWEET SHOPPE" People

There are few places, in the course of our lives’ travels, where we enter in with the foreknowledge and predisposition that we are there for the express purpose of indulgent fun and pleasure. The Sweet Shoppe (also known as the “Candy Store”) is, without question, one of my favorite of those places. Even the anticipation accompanying the opening of that door brings a moment of giddy delight. Then, upon immersion in the surrounding sensory overload of fragrances, colors, shapes, and possibilities I find that I can be quite sated with just that experience alone (though I, admittedly, never stop at that.)

And so it is with some of the “Sweet Shoppe People” in my life. These are individuals who stir a smile at even the notice of their name in my address book. A momentary consideration of all of the treats incumbent to their individuality brings a delight not unlike that momentary giddiness (yes, even in the soul of a crusty old relic like me) at the door of the Sweet Shoppe. And, then, in the environment that surrounds contact with them, I am brought to a completeness of satisfaction that begs no activity, nor exchange beyond that gift of that presence.

So… when, after several hours of contemplation, solitude, and meditation (one of the gifts of my life-style choice) this morning, I permitted my inner voice (that is the voice of Life) to speak clearly to my waiting spirit... I was reminded of that treasure that is my life’s assortment of “Sweet Shoppe People.” And then, a sense of urgency to bring this thought to you, My Very Dear Reader. Take a look about you… spend a moment in reflection over that cup of coffee, or during that boring meeting or class (you didn’t hear it here), or with your own address book… and relish an appreciation of your own Sweet Shoppe People.

Then give your heart license to respond to that appreciation in some way (a phone call: “I appreciate you”; a potted plant sent w/a note of appreciation; a passing squeeze of a shoulder or other gesture of acknowledgement.) Open your heart’s window of expression to the beautiful light of opportunity. Present a “Sweet Shoppe Moment” to that person.

Indulge your Soul’s “Sweet Tooth.”

Posted by Picasa IMAGES through the gracious courtesy of Ian Britton,

Thursday, July 20, 2006

This World of Theophanies

"We live in a world of theophanies.

Holiness comes wrapped in the ordinary.

There are burning bushes all around you.

Every tree is full of angels.

Hidden beauty is waiting in every crumb.

Life wants to lead you from crumbs to angels,

but this can happen only if you are willing to unwrap the ordinary by staying with it long enough to harvest its treasure."

Macrina Wiederkehr

Posted by Picasa IMAGE through the gracious courtesy of Ian Britton,

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

What If

I am fully aware of the jaundiced eye that is cast upon my physical and material circumstances by a world that measures all by standards and systems abandoned by me. In considering how I might clarify my rationale for life choices that I have elected, and with an appreciation for the unique and sacred opportunities that Life has afforded me because of my choices to date… I have this to offer:

What If

What if it has always been about you? Would I have ever opted to have any of it different?

Would I have ever wanted less pain… knowing that the lessons learned through that pain would, today, been unavailable to the lessening of your discomfort?

Would I have chosen to have the cloak of doubt lifted from my shoulders in the understanding that I would be passing it onward to be borne by you?

Had it been possible for my seasons of fear and apprehension to have been dissipated with the understanding that you would, today, be caught in their rip-tide… might I have elected that option?

Knowing that this earth’s benefit would never be counted to me for all of the effort and expense of educating myself… would I have contemplated discarding that illumination with the understanding that to do so would create an impediment to your growth today?

Is it conceivable that I would have ever knowingly spared myself any of my life’s trials, losses, inconveniences, torments, or misgivings... in the knowledge that some potential benefit, gleaned from those experiences, and available to you now, would be denied you had I so spared myself?

Without hesitation, I resoundingly and emphatically declare in response to all the foregoing “No… never!” For, you see, “No greater love hath any man, than that he lay down his life for… You.”

Thus, I remain, Your faithful and devoted Friend and willing Servant,
John-Michael/ 18 July 2006

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Take Another Look

With a bit of liberty taken in paraphrasing, I offer you a thought from Dale Carnegie.

All of us tend to put off living.

We are all dreaming of some magical garden over the horizon…

instead of enjoying the blossoms outside our windows today.

Posted by Picasa IMAGE throgh the gracious courtesy of Ian Britton,

Monday, July 17, 2006

She Is Back

She’s back! And just as has been true with each of her past appearances, she has occupied every part of my consciousness. For she is (always has been, and will always be) the one Presence that fills every recess and contour of the ever-present Absence in my personhood. She is the core that, when inserted into the “reactor” of my energy source, brings life, light, and vibrancy to my life. And here she is, once again, finding refuge, solace, and nurturing in the bosom of our eternal relationship… not knowing, herself, why she is here. But I know… I understand her need for renewal, healing, and strengthening that are the result of her most-recent forays into her world. And my love for her is ever-welcoming to her.

It is with the certainty that to revitalize her is to make her ready to leave again, that I am beset with an incompatible blend of joy and agony in my heart. Joy in her presence… agony in the ever-present awareness that it is but for a while. Yet… the genuine character of my love for her is validated by my desire to see her fulfilled and happy in her own life designs… knowing (as always has been true) that those designs can never include me. So, I lead her gently, carefully, and patiently through the progression of steps necessary to come to an understanding of the dynamics that brought about the demise of her last relationship. I guide her understanding to an awareness of the involvement of her own innate qualities in that unfulfilling venture. I encourage her acknowledgement of her marvelous gifts of character while illuminating the shadows cast by the characteristics of other value systems and practices. And I watch and listen as her voice grows stronger in her reclaiming of her Self.

She will again, when she feels ready, launch forth into her fields of endeavor. And I will, yet again, ache and mourn in the daily
awareness that I must assume a place of unrecognized anonymity and invisibility… unless needed again. To love the creature is to derive ones joy from knowing that that creature is flying free in happy realization of life’s promise. So it will be, once again, with me.

Posted by Picasa IMAGE at Top: Craig Birkle, IMAGE at Bottom: Skip Ambrose

Sunday, July 16, 2006


There is noise all about us. Men clamoring to make their voice louder, their weapons more pronounced, their cause more justifiable, their faith more believable… and all is a cacophony of vicious rejection of any other voice seeking the same consideration. Enough!… at least for this moment, let us slip away to a simpler, quiet, and respectful voice from yesterday. Let’s listen to the sane and reasonable voice of a woman of the mid nineteenth century as she presents her version of a meaningful measure of behavior. And together… you and I… let’s allow ourselves to look for nobility in ourselves, and in the world that we touch. I welcome you to “Nobility” by Alice Cary.

True worth is in being, not seeming,…
In doing, each day that goes by,
Some little good… not in dreaming
Of great things to do by and by.
For whatever men say in their blindness,
And spite the fancies of youth,
There’s nothing so kingly as kindness,
And nothing so royal as truth.

We get back our mete as we measure…
We cannot do wrong and feel right,
Nor can we give pain and gain pleasure,
For justice avenges each slight.
The air for the wing of the sparrow,
The bush for the robin and wren,
But always the path that is narrow
And straight, for the children of men.

‘Tis not in the pages of story
The heart of its ills to beguile,
Though he who makes courtship to glory
Gives all that he hath for her smile.
For when from her heights he has won her,
Alas! It is only to prove
That nothing’s so sacred as honor,
And nothing so loyal as love!

We cannot make bargains for blisses,
Nor catch them like fishes in nets;
And sometimes the thing our life misses
Helps more than the thing which it gets.
For good lieth not in pursuing,
Nor gaining of great nor of small,
But just in the doing, and doing
As we would be done by, is all.

Through envy, through malice, through hating,
Against the world, early and late,
No jot of our courage abating…
Our part is to work and to wait.
And slight is the sting of his trouble
Whose winnings are less than his worth;
For he who is honest is noble,
Whatever his fortunes or birth.

Alice Cary
(born 26 April 1820; died 12 February 1871)

Posted by Picasa IMAGES through the gracious courtesy of Ian Britton,

Saturday, July 15, 2006


Religion provides the braces and crutches…
the support mechanisms…

to enable the spiritual introduction, development, and illumination for propping up the young Believer...

as he initially emerges and unfolds his sense of individual spiritual responsibility and identity…

But can, if continued reliance is allowed and dependence is established…

create an atrophied “failure to develop” that will result in that Believer becoming a retarded Spiritual Cripple.

/ Tuesday, 11 August 1998

Posted by Picasa IMAGE through the gracious courtesy of Ian Britton,

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Reach Out and Touch

There is something strangely powerful in the word “touch.” Consider, with me, the significance stirred by such phrases as “It was very touching” and “I’m touched by ___” or “I think that I am a bit touched in the head sometimes”. Do you see what I see in this little word’s weight? It communicates a “getting through the barriers” or “cutting to the core” even “affected at the most sensitive.” So why do I mention it to you… especially you today?

It is because my spirit tells me that there is a specific someone (or some ones) [and your spirit is telling you, right now, if you are one of them] who is open to and listening for this thought.

For, you see, Dear Reader, not all of us are designed with a nature that is hospitable to or comfortable with touching. This is a psychological/physiological fact. So, please do not beat up on yourself if this is true of you… and, just as importantly, do not show disrespect to one whose natural temperament is disinclined to tactile communication. But we can all benefit by enhancing our awareness of the wonder and magic of touching available to those who have the gift of reaching through the barriers of separateness… who can cut to the center of core emotions not available to the spoken language… and touch.

Now, I am, mind you, just your ordinary slice of untrained and unschooled individual who has nothing more than a few score years of observation and only limited experience in these matters. But I feel the topic worthy of raising as a matter for thoughtful consideration and hopefully, some communication between all of us who have significant others. Others, in the form of family (children, uncles, aunts, grandparents, cousins, and certainly spouses or lovers) who have the potential need for communication beyond the verbal. Then we have friends, associates, neighbors, and passing strangers whose spirits could possibly be bolstered by a “high five” on occasion. Recognizing, appreciating, respecting and responding to these gifts (each person) in our lives is what I am addressing today.

A grasp of the hand in a way other that the habitual handshake can convey sentiment and significance that words would never be able to “touch.” A squeeze of the shoulder of one dealing with the pain of loss or despair “says” more than a box full of greeting cards. Fingers lightly placed against the cheek accompanying silent eye contact “speaks” volumes of understanding and empathy. These and many other forms of expression, through our touch, are resources that I fear languish in disuse to the detriment of our better knowing and appreciating each other every day. And it is my wish to bring this neglect to the surface of our awareness.

I cannot think of touching without reflecting on my favorite painter of old. Rembrandt cemented a place in my heart when I learned, through a PBS documentary, of his use of touch in painting the love of his life in his last years. He was, I was told, passionately and fervently in love with this young woman who went from a role as his housekeeper, to his model, then to his common-law wife. He doted on and adored everything about her and his sentiments (by all record) was reciprocated. He loved to paint her image… every feature of her was an inspiration to him.

And the fact that won me over to his camp as an ardent admirer of him as a man, was the method used by him to translate her image… the details of all that he adored as he gazed upon her… onto the canvas. He applied the oils with his fingers. Think about that. The sensing touch that so craved the feel of the love of his life as she modeled before him… that force that drew his hands to an appreciation of every line, curve, and element of the object of his desire and joy… was expressed on the canvas through the oils that he blended, spread, and textured there. Now, you can see why I have written this article interspersed amongst his paintings of her. And perhaps you too can appreciate, with me, his communicated messages in his work with a fuller depth of satisfaction.

So… My Dear Reader… you have, before you, some new material for your contemplation. I do sincerely hope that my sharing some of the nuggets of my interests serves to open the windows of your mind and soul to new breezes of possibility.

And, perhaps you will, in the words of an old telephone company advertisement, “Reach Out And Touch Someone”… as I remain;

Your constant Friend and willing Servant,

Posted by Picasa IMAGES: Top (hand); Maria Brandstetter, BBC: Rembrandts; Public Domain

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Common Denominator

Today began as a sparklingly fresh offering. Last night’s heavy rains had given the world a cleansing that, when combined with the clear sky and nearly full moon, made the chorus of all of the birds greeting the day even grander. A brief visit with a friend as my newspaper delivery path and his trash-to-the-curb path intersected, reminded me of the similar visits shared with a friend now moved to another area. The conversations shared with (we will call him Bill) were extraordinary moments of spiritual and intellectual intimacy that I miss sorely. One of our significant discussions centered around the idea of Be-ing (yes… this is a part of my vocabulary even in the pre-dawn hours while attending to my daily task.)

Bill made this statement “In my work as a registered nurse, I have had occasion, countless times, to observe men in their “last days.” And until you and I began discussing this BE-ing thing, I didn’t have a context to put a common behavior shared by almost all of these men in their decline. They are all removed from their social roles, their career roles, their family roles, and their civic and religious roles and placed in an environment of commonality with every other man in the hospital. Thinking about it now… here… removed from the demands and distractions of the hospital setting… I can see something that I had never thought of. They have all been brought to a state wherein they have nothing more in their life to be other than to simply, just… Be. My present awareness of this consideration of “Be”ing gives a definition to the sense of anxious, frustrated, even near-panicky behavior in these men that I did not understand before. They were all brought to a point, by Life, where they could no longer “Do” and could only “Be” and they had no prior experience in simply Be-ing who they are. So they were having their first confrontation with being themselves… and there was no “Self” there… just a collection of titles, roles, positions, and labels that were meaningless at that point.”

(Yes, My Dear Reader, these are the kinds of thoughts and reflections that just may be occupying the mind of that strange person hurling newspapers through the window of that vehicle crawling through your neighborhood each morning. Unnerving isn’t it? )

But, back to the point. This business of “Be”ing. Why so important? I can offer a glib (albeit accurate) answer. It is important because no one else can Be you. There! You are the only You ever created, and if you do not take the responsibility to be You… You will never Be. It is important because, while you may Do much to fill many posts, bear many titles, answer to many role demands and respond to the tugging of many family ties, you will never Be anyone other than… You. And (as “they” say) at the “end of the day”, you, My Dear You, are going to hold yourself… and eternity will hold you... accountable for the quality of the job that you did in representing… You.

There was a point, in my somewhat distant past, at which I was frequently plagued with feelings of frustration, self-condemnation, anger, and even despair at the mounting accumulation of what I saw as failures in my life. Then, I was blessed with a challenge that required me to be far more of a Me than I could have ever imagined myself capable of being. I was given a son who is handicapped. And I knew that his best chance to be all that he could possibly be… was to have a dad who was all that he could possibly be. And I was elected! So I began to frantically and with an astronomical sense of urgency (because he [my son] was HERE and I was not yet ready to be Super Dad.)

Now, as you can imagine, I devoured all sorts of books, tapes, lectures, psychological tests and evaluations (to help in defining just who the hell this Me guy is), and counseling (to help in implementing what I was learning.) And, in the midst of all of these efforts, Life reached out with some simple and easy summations, into which I could plug the vast amounts of input, thereby permitting a comfortable adaptation to newly discovered insights. And Pogo was a notable one of those. Yes! You heard correctly. Pogo, the cartoon character. For it was in one of those cartoon strips that I saw Pogo, standing at the bow of his pirogue, one foot up and one hand inserted in his jacket in a Napoleonic pose. And the caption read “We have met the enemy… and de is us!” Read that again. “We have met the enemy… and de is us!” Listen to what that told us… you and me. It said (to my receptive and waiting spirit) “You, John-Michael, are the common denominator to all of your life’s past, present, and future accomplishments, frustrations, and mishaps. (I have already learned that failure can only be determined at the end of the race… and I don’t hear any nails being hammered into my box quite yet.) So be the best You that you can possibly be!” That was the message derived from the application of Pogo’s message.

So, Dear Reader, two things today… recognize and accept your responsibility in your position as the “common denominator” of everything in your life… and BE the very best You that you can enjoy being. You have a resource that I did not have in your quest. An ally… that is my pledge to you… I will provide everything in my power to encourage, reinforce, edify, and support you.

And, in those moments when DO-ing is no longer an option… you and I can smile together in the shared awareness that we gave BE-ing “us” our very best shot.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Day Is Done

It is at the end of another day that I feel the need for respite. And those of you who have read me even a bit know that one of my favored places of respite is in the words of my favorite poet… Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Tonight, I ask a consideration of you, Dear Reader. Please give some thought to selecting someone (or even a group of family, or roommates, if available) and do something long lost in time. Read (aloud, and with thought and focus on these lovely ideas presented by this very human poet of old) this poem to them (or... I do this occasionally... read it to someone special over the phone). There is a connection made in doing this that is special… and I wish that special-ness for you as you share… The Day Is Done.

The Day Is Done
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The day is done, and the darkness
Falls from the wings of Night,
As a feather is wafted downward
From an eagle in its flight.

I see the lights of the village
Gleam through the rain and the mist,
And a feeling of sadness comes o’er me
That my soul cannot resist:

A feeling of sadness and longing,
That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
As the mist resembles the rain.

Come, read to me some poem,
Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
And banish the thoughts of day.

Not from the grand old masters,
Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo
Through the corridors of Time.

For, like the strains of martial music,
Their mighty thoughts suggest
Life’s endless toil and endeavor;
And tonight I long for rest.

Read from some humbler poet,
Whose songs gushed from his heart,
As showers from the clouds of summer,
Or tears from the eyelids start;

Who, through long days of labor,
And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music
Of wonderful melodies.

Such songs have power to quiet
The restless pulse of care,
And come like a benediction
That follows after prayer.

Then read from the treasured volume
The poem of your choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
The beauty of thy voice.

And the night shall be filled with music
And the cares, that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.

Posted by Picasa IMAGES: Both BBC, Top two, Christine Gardner, Bottom two, File

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Reach Out... Touch

"It is the individual who is not interested in his fellow men who has the greatest difficulties in life and provides the greatest injury to others." ALFRED ADLER

Many years ago, I found myself kneeling at the finish line, on a track with six lanes of “runners” coming toward me… my camera at the ready… cheering the Runner progressing toward me in the lane that I occupied… and feeling the tug at my heart-strings as I saw him falling further and further behind the competitors in the five other lanes. The runner was my son. The event was one of several that he was competing in as part of the annual Special Olympics (a version of athletic competition tailored to the special limitations [all mentally impaired to differing degrees… some physically impaired] of its participants.) My son has cerebral palsy and the portions of his brain effected result in a moderate impairment of his intellectual functions as well as a minimal impairment of his hips, and legs. He was, on that day, the only participant in that race who relied in the services of crutches. And it was due to this limitation that he was losing ground to the other competitors.
My role, in all of this, was to subtly assist him in maintaining a focus on his own lane so that he would not drift off into the adjoining lanes. I accomplished this (without causing him the embarrassment that would accompany an obvious display of my intentions) by appearing to be intent on photographing him as he raced. I could see the growing dismay in his eyes as he recognized the inevitability of crossing the finish line well after all of the others had. Then a wonderful thing, that (even at this moment, all of these years later) still has my eyes brimming with tears, at the recollection. The runner in the lane to my son’s right looked over his shoulder… saw the sadness and frustration on my son’s face… and stopped… and waited… and ushered my son… ahead of him… across the finish line. And then applauded my son (while also cheering him.)
Need I say anything more? Is there anything that my words could add to the eloquence of that young man’s sermon in demonstrated compassion and self-sacrifice? Can the poetry of one person’s obvious generosity of spirit be enhanced by anyone else’s commentary? I think not! So rather than speak to that young gentleman’s nobility, I will speak to us… you and me.
Would it take so much for us to step aside and allow the one struggling along-side us to move ahead? Will our position in our own life-race be jeopardized by a spirit of generosity and sacrifice? Is that “finish line” of immediate gratification worth the loss of the higher goal of betterment of our shared environment? Will we be any “better off” as a people if we insist on focusing on our own agendas to the exclusion of a sensitivity to the plight of our neighbors? Did that young man not demonstrate, to all of us, the noble value of assuming responsibility for and taking action to benefit those who (while doing all that they are capable of doing) are falling behind?
No, My Dear Reader, I can not add to, nor do I wish to detract from the beauty of the message delivered by that wonderful human being’s behavior. So, in this, the first installment in several thoughts on reaching out and touching others, I will dry my tears of recollection… and send these considerations to you… as I remain;
Your faithful Friend and Servant, John-Michael

Thursday, July 06, 2006


I have found myself discussing relationships lately. Several friends have raised issues, questions, uncertainties, and dilemmas stemming from what they struggle with in their efforts to define, sustain, and develop what they consider to be their “relationships.” In the vortex of all that society, family, friends, religion, and community offer as definitions and opinions… I tend to want to simplify. And, for me, the most simple place to start defining and understanding something is in the name given it. So I refer to “relationship”... that defining word applied to that thing that we so desperately want to get right.

Re-la-tion-ship/ noun:
1.The condition or fact of being related; connection or association.
2. Connection by blood or marriage; kinship.
3. A particular type of connection existing between people related to or having dealings with each other.

Did you notice the repeated use of one word in each of these definitions? There is the presence of a “connection” in all three aspects of relationship mentioned. Telling us that a connection (a “being joined, fastened, or united together”) is integral to the existence of a relationship. Hence, I frequently terminate discussions about supposed relationships by pointing out the often obvious fact that there is no relationship to discuss; inasmuch as there is no "unity, fastening, or state of being joined" existing between the parties in question. “Cold!” you say... I say realistic. Call it what it is… or in those instances… is not. Why beat yourself up with the imposition of a set of expectations and requirements applied to a situation labeled “a relationship” when a simple and honest look at the facts evident would demonstrate the reality that the supposed relationship simply does not exist? The parties do not “relate” (“establish or demonstrate a connection between”) with each other.

Does “going out with”, or being “engaged to be married (betrothed)”, or even being “legally married” establish a relationship? (I can hear the “delete” buttons clicking already) I say "no!" Why do I say "no"? Because I pay attention. I see. I hear. I take note of the countless afore-labeled situations that demonstrate the glaring absence of any connectedness. “Two people walking alone… together” is the quote that applies to far too many who are going about (please pay attention here) DO-ing the stuff, the activities, the scripted performances expected of those in “relationships“… all the while, never BE-ing connected in a dynamic of relating to one another.

So, My Dear Reader, I humbly ask that you… today… in this moment that is ours… you reading what I am writing… stop worrying about how you can “work on your relationship.” Please, I beg of you, look first to the question of your having a relationship within which to “work.” Stop searching for what you can DO to improve something that must BEgin with BEing related… that is being connected (joined, fastened, united.) For, as those of you who are familiar with that old drum upon which I so often beat the cadence of my soul’s message know… this thing, known to us as life, is more about what we BE and far less about what we DO. Remember… we are human BEings not human DOings. So, let us first consider being related; being joined in purposeful and accommodatingly respectful union; being fastened together in an agreed upon oneness of purpose… and then, as life serves up its inevitable assortment of opportunities, we can do those things that are made easier… even pleasurable… in a healthy and joyful relationship.

And a note to those of us (myself certainly included) who catch ourselves all too often envying those about us who are in a relationship. Look again… more closely… and listen to a voice with the scar tissue of experience on its soul… when I ask you “Are they really joined together in a relationship with its fundamentally required unity, or are they two people walking alone together?” And is anything more painful than being that kind of alone?

It all begins with BEing that particularly wonderful individual that you were specifically created to BE. BEgin there.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

4th of July at Saint Joseph's Emergency Room

Many of you know of my retirement plans. For two specific reasons, I plan to make my residence outside of the USA. The first reason is purely economic. I can not afford to live here with any measure of dignity on the retirement income that will be mine. The second reason is my disillusionment, even discouragement, with the state of the growing mean-spirited, self-focused, unkind, materialistic, disrespectful and generally fractious atmosphere that pervades our culture. I want out! I want kindness… consideration… respect… care… gentleness… even harmony in the last decades (if I am so blessed) of life on this orb. Well… brace yourself… I had an “out of reality” experience today that was initiated by Elaine (my ’gift from Life’ sister) when she showed up at my front door and asked “Can you please take me to the hospital right now?” And here is what unfolded.

We went to Saint Joseph’s Hospital’s emergency room. Now all of you are thinking what I was thinking… “This is going to be a complete pain in the… well in every conceivable place.” I was certain (based on recent experiences with my Dad’s hospitalizations and news accounts of mergers of hospitals to improve corporate “bottom lines”) that we would be cast onto some industrial-style “conveyer belt” of herding through excruciatingly frustrating forms to be filled, uncomfortable seats to be sat in while enduring the interminable waiting… and waiting… and more, and more (you know… just what you expected when I mentioned “HOSPITAL.”)

Surprise!… Surprise! We were met at the entrance (you heard me correctly… THE DOOR!) to the emergency room by a courteous and engaging staff member who asked the nature of our need. And REALLY focused on us and displayed genuine interest and concern. Well, I must say that I was quite taken aback. We were then handed off to a person behind the desk who was… I hope that you are seated… efficient, and gracious… I know… knock me over with a feather! We were escorted with a group of three other patients, through several sections of the emergency department with each patient being deposited in their respectively appropriate place, with Elaine and I ending up in the CDU (Clinical Decision Unit.) It was there that we were to spend some six hours while the staff tried to discover the genesis of Elaine’s pain. And it was here that I received the blessing of having my cup of appreciation and admiration filled to overflowing.

Let me start with what I learned about Andrew (a gift from Poland)(learned solely through observation and only the briefest of verbal interaction.) Andrew is a professional health-care giver (I know neither his title nor his level of professional education or rank… I would surmise that he (at minimum) is a registered nurse or nurse-practitioner). He has an uncanny gift of being able to focus on some intensely demanding document or form whilst being completely in tune with all of the dynamics of an ever changing environment all about him… and responding to that environment with efficient and compassionate care and humanity. He earned my unbridled admiration and respect within the first of what was to be many hours of observing him in action. Humor without pandering, care without pampering, efficiency without disattachment, all are tools wielded with aplomb by him. If ever I had to choose one individual to face a challenge with, I would choose an Andrew.

Then there was Angie… a registered nurse (of fifteen years [if I recall correctly]) at St. Joseph’s Emergency Room. Angie struck me, initially, as somewhat detached from the ebb and flow of the combined energies of that section of the operation… then I began to understand the reason for the “detachment.” Angie was embroiled in a battle with an unknown assailant trying to steal away the life of the patient just on the inside of the door that Elaine’s bed was parked outside of (there seemed to be a rather full house and each room had a bed outside of it that was occupied as well.) The lady inside of that room was in a battle with death, and Angie had allied herself with that woman to fight the best of possible fights against the unknown weapon being used against that lady. I watched, and listened, as Angie discussed with other staff possible tactics and methods (responding to many suggestions with “I’ve already tried that.” It was obvious to me that this was someone who was determined to leave no stone unturned in searching for a remedy to the lady’s (Angie referred to her as “My Patient”… not a room number or formal last name… but a very personal “My Patient“) decline. When the Adversary ultimately won, all eventually left the lady’s room… save Angie… for a long time. When she emerged, it was in tears… tears that were with her in despondent and agonized loss until Elaine and I left. Here was a woman… a trained and committed professional… who genuinely cared. I heard her say “She begged me all morning to not let her die” and I knew, without question, that Angie gave every measure of herself to meet the request of that woman… “Her Patient.”

And all the while, I watched others of that facility's staff, go about their calling with concern for and involved interest in the needs not only of their charges… but each other. The nurse who reassured Angie that she need not be concerned about medical charts that required her attention during the time that she had her focus demanded by the needs of a woman facing the ultimate conflict. This unnamed nurse told Angie that she had attended to the administrative requirements for her, and that there was no need for concern. Un-asked… just sensitive to and caring for another. And at the center of all of this meshing of operational gears… in the midst of a quietly humming mechanism of intricately blended personalities, talents, needs, egos, and responsibilities was a man of Gibraltar qualities who moved smoothly from one situation to the next with near-invisibility. He moved within an environment of unstated, but clearly evident respect from each participant in that symphony of instruments known as the CDU. So unassuming was he that I had to enquire as to who, exactly, he was and what his official status was. As I had surmised, he was the conductor of the orchestration that was meeting the needs of so many people in so many varied ways today. He is Doctor Lyon. An Emergency Room Physician who has chosen a professional path, that he has served in for thirty years, ministering to the physical requirements of every imaginable sort and kind of individual with every imaginable (and some unimaginable) variety of health complaint. No “Specialist” he. No pedestal does he look down on the throngs from. He is at the heart of the day-to-day fray, balancing all of the resources available against all of the demands brought against those resources. An amazing man who spoke to us with involved interest, intelligence, humanity, and care. How refreshing!

So, today, in the midst of this cultural desert of uncaring, unconcerned, self-absorbed Me-ness… I found an unlikely oasis. I drank from a well-spring of refreshing compassion and genuine concern. (Made more real and less metaphorical by Angela… who came by several times during our visit and asked if she could get us any refreshment, more comfortable chair for me, blanket for Elaine. Thank you Angela for the cranberry juice.) My parched spirit was relieved by the shade of caring hands outstretched to unknown strangers seeking relief. I am renewed by a visit to the little outpost known to our community as St. Joseph’s Hospital Emergency Room. And, for the first time in a very long while… I am encouraged about… us!

I thank you Saint Joseph’s Hospital Emergency Room Staff… named and un-named… all.

Your admiring and inspired Friend and Servant, John-Michael

Posted by Picasa IMAGES through the gracious courtesy of Jon Sullivan,

Monday, July 03, 2006

The "Rear-View Mirror" Couple

Back in another time and in another space… my children listened to me. They were still what we like to call “impressionable.” And I was aware of the limited window of opportunity that was mine to influence the formation of their life values and sense of perception. So I played little games with them. One of those games involved counting and involvement. As we rode along, in the car, together, I would challenge them to count the faces of passing motorists (passengers and drivers included), pedestrians, and persons engaged in any endeavor. One limitation… the face had to be smiling to count.

My intention was to get them to involve themselves in noticing and evaluating passing life. We would then award the “winner” title to whomever had counted the largest number of smiling faces. The game was VERY short lived. We could find so few smiling people, that searching for them became a discouraging chore. People driving together were not smiling. People walking together were not smiling. People working were not smiling. People alone, in groups, passing each other, or talking with each other were not smiling.

I tell you this story to illustrate my own involvement in noticing the demeanor of the world that I pass through. Hence the story of the “Rear-View Mirror Couple” that I eluded to in a previous writing. You have asked that I recount this encounter with you… so, here ‘tis.

As I slowly progressed through one of the busiest intersections in our community, I noticed the couple in a modest mid-sized sedan that turned the corner and took up position behind my car. There was something irregular about them. Curious, I watched them (in my Rear-View Mirror) as we drove slowly along. It was the most beautiful thing. These mature, and obviously well-ensconced in a long relationship, people were enjoying each others’ company. There was that air of “first-date” engagement in each other that was displayed in a quiet, comfortable, and completely natural way. I was so taken with their extraordinary harmony of inter-relating that I found myself enchanted. When it became evident that we were headed for the same grocery market, I decided to speak to them. As they parked and make their way to the store, I remained in my vehicle in a position that necessitated their passing.

“Please forgive my intrusion, My Friends” I spoke from my car’s window “but I could not help but notice the lovely inter-play between the two of you as you rode together in your car. Your obvious affection for and enjoyment of each other compels me to thank you both for encouraging my heart and making better the world that I live in. Bless you both.” I then returned their smiles and quick expression of thanks while slowly driving away (to reassure them that I did, indeed, respect their right to privacy and security.) I did not see them again until something around a year later.

On that occasion, I, again, looked into my rear-view mirror… and there they were. Now, mind you, there had, in the interim, been myriad faces in the view of that mirror. But these two… these among the certainly hundreds and possibly thousands that I had seen there… stood out like that well-clichéd lighthouse on the shore. And, as before, I could not let the opportunity to let them know that they had touched someone‘s heart pass. So, inasmuch as the traffic light had just turned red, I told my son (my passenger on the occasion... and well-accustomed to Dad's spontaneous expressions) that I would be back directly, and got out. Quickly moving to the driver’s window, I expressed my sentiments and turned to leave… whereupon, I heard the lady exclaim “Oh Dear… it’s the “BEING ME” (the license number that I chose for my vehicle) guy!” It pleased me that they recalled our earlier meeting as we exchanged farewells and I hurried back to my car.

So, what in all of this is of value to you at this reading? A few considerations. First… there are, sadly, so few in our world that share obviously healthy and openly dynamic relationships that they are easily spotted. Secondly… there is hope and encouragement to us all that there is possibility for just such a blessed union. Then, there is the encouragement, that I offer you, to do what I prompted my children (and frequently demonstrated before them), so many years ago, to do. Pay attention to your own world… notice… care… involve yourself… speak the message that Life puts in your heart (lest you have one of those frustrating “I wish that I had” moments later.) Encourage! This is something that every one of us can do. And allow yourself to reflect on the You that is projected into that environment effected by you. Is there a joy within you that is obvious to your world? If “yes” I celebrate with you… If “no” you have my heart’s wish that you discover where that joy lies… and claim it!

No sermon here. Just an opportunity to consider.

Posted by Picasa IMAGES (Top to Bottom): Ian Britton,;R&K4everloved_TheLensFlare; Anonymous (They know that I consider them a "Rear View Mirror" couple)

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Love, Adoration, and Romance

Love: A feeling of strong personal attachment induced by a sympathetic understanding or by ties of kinship.

Adore: To feel or express reverent admiration for; to regard with fervent devotion and affection; to idolize.

This whole thing with me is about Adoration…not love. Do I love you? Of course I can have a feeling of strong personal attachment to you. You have presently or in the past instilled a sense of understanding and kinship in me. But do I adore you? Ahhh… there is a question that goes to another place entirely.

Must I be inspired, energized, motivated, even awestruck by my love for you? I think not. The awareness of my love for you may compel me to behavior only because of a sense of obligation or responsibility or some other uninspired yet worthy dictate of conscience. What cranks my motor… charges my batteries… launches my rocket... is Adoration. Give me only that and I will be with you more than you could ever have dreamed. I maintain that that is what was asked in “Fiddler on the Roof” when the question was posed (by the lead character, of his wife); “Do you love me?” What the character really wanted to know was “Do you adore me?”

Hence, it is my deduced conclusion, drawn from very personal experience, that what have, in my past, been encounters of mutual enchantment have encompassed neither the personal attachment of love, nor the fervent devotion of adoration. While on a pedestal of prominence, popularity, power, or influence, I may have been what was desired... I was fleetingly Enchanting (if you will.) Then, when brought down to the level ground of rational intimacy, with all of my foibles exposed, the option of Me didn’t look as appealing as it had before.

Just as the performer on film, or stage looks so desirable… then offstage the performer is seen as a person… not an icon, I have known (in many past circumstances) the attentions of admirers. Then, with the onset of recognition of the mortal Me, cold logic and personal agendas were applied and the scales of overall life preferences exerted influence much more heavily than those on the side of intangible fancy. While I may have inspired a momentary “WOW!” factor… I did not establish that more preferred and quietly elusive (and whispered) “oh my!“ of appreciation. And it is for that shared sigh of blissful recognition… that reverential gaze of wonder that I wait. That reflexive adoration expressed by two lovers mutually worshiping each other in an idolatry expressed in inspired union. This is what I hunger for. For it is my conviction that adoration is the life-blood of a living and thriving romance. And I am, undeniably, a romantic.

So, “Why share all of this with me?” you ask. Certainly not to present answers...but to, instead, place considerations… definitions… perspectives in new unused vocabulary… before you. To offer you exposed thoughts and feelings that you would otherwise not bring to the surface of your awareness. To allow you to explore and discover fresh vistas of yourself that will peel back curtains of uncertainty that have, heretofore, not allowed you to appreciate all of your capabilities. To breathe into you a fresh breath of living borne of awareness of more of your Self. This is my desire for you, Dear Reader. That you will “Know Thyself” better through your consideration of this gift of my little reflections. Enjoy!

Posted by Picasa IMAGE: Mary Russell, BBC
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