Monday, September 29, 2014

Monday Music: Song of Celebration in India

Navaratri: Hindu Festival to the Mother Goddess

[Note: this blog post is being simultaneously posted today on The Music of the Spheres a new blog site dedicated to music]

In 2014, Navaratri starts on September 25 and lasts until October 3. Navaratri is the Hindu festival of nine nights dedicated to the glorification of Shakti, the feminine form of the Divine. The first three nights are dedicated to the goddess of action and energy. Her different manifestations -- Kumari, Parvati and Kali are worshiped during these days.


During Navaratri, we invoke the energy aspect of God in the form of the universal mother, commonly referred to as " Durga ," which literally means the remover of miseries of life. She is also referred to as "Devi" (goddess) or "Shakti" (energy or power). It is this energy, which helps God to proceed with the work of creation, preservation and destruction. In other words, you can say that God is motionless, absolutely changeless, and the Divine Mother Durga, does everything. Truly speaking, our worship of Shakti re-confirms the scientific theory that energy is imperishable. It cannot be created or destroyed. It is always there. (From  "Navaratri: The 9 Divine Nights" at http://hinduism.about.com/od/festivalsholidays/a/navaratri.htm)



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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Saturday Haiku: River Bend

 

at the river’s edge
wisdom of mountains and trees
in quiet repose

                     ~ CK








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Photo: Madison River Sunrise (Yellowstone National Park)
           by Scott Wright of Scott Wright Photography


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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The People's Climate March: Effective Change, or Day of Reckoning?

People's Climate March, NYC (Photo from Twitter)

Historical Precedent

There was a time when science, the television media, government, and the public all came together to address environmental issues and make a positive change in the way we do things – but that time rests in the past as a dim memory. That time needs to be resurrected. I am thinking of that time when I was growing up in the 1960s. Environmental pollution was becoming a problem. I can remember public service ads on television warning of the effects of pollution and educating the public on things that we could do to avoid dying in a polluted land. I recall seeing on the nightly news well-known news reporters speaking from the hills somewhere outside Los Angeles California where trees were dying on the mountainsides as a result of heavy automobile pollution. “Smog” was a new word that entered into our vocabulary to describe conditions in the city in which fog combined with air pollution to create health hazards for city dwellers.

As a result of the science of the day, the media attention, and a concerned public, legislation was passed in Washington, D.C. that resulted in the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. Regulations came into place that restricted the pollutants being emitted by industry. We saw in a relatively short time a reduction in pollution that allowed trees to begin to grow again outside of Los Angeles. The air and water became cleaner, reducing health risks to people in urban areas. The nation was confronted with a problem, and we came together to make some positive improvements.

The Current State of Affairs

Fast forward to present day, and we see a confounding social circumstance in which many are not believing the best science of the day,  elected government officials are paralyzed and ineffectual having become pawns of big corporations and servants to Wall Street. The television media has become a balkanized industry catering to the whims of advertisers and public consumers and demonstrating no investment in or commitment to the common good. This was particularly evident last Sunday when hundreds of thousands gathered in New York City to demonstrate their concern about climate change. The huge event received very little television coverage (see “Sunday News Shows Ignore Historic Climate March”).

By some estimates, there were 300,000 people participating in the People’s Climate March. The streets were filled with protesters calling attention to our failures to address the significant negative impact we are having upon the environment. It was a huge event, but barely even noticed – much less heeded – by the television media. Compare this to past events in our recent history. In 1964, approximately 250,000 people participated in the march on Washington for Jobs and Freedom to hear Martin Luther King's “I Have A Dream” speech. On April 15, 1967, 300,000 marched in New York in the "Spring Mobilization" to protest the Viet Nam War. These events rocked the nation with television coverage on the nightly news.

The silence on TV regarding the People's Climate March last Sunday was perhaps indicative that TV is now controlled by a few corporations which don't want to be bothered with real news, especially news that calls for effective change. When corporations are calling the shots, and when those corporations are where significant change must happen if we are to reduce environmental damage, you can be sure that those corporations will stand in the way of any changes or legislative action. Some say we have already passed the tipping point and that the reversal of the effects of climate change is no longer possible. There is still time, however, to make some progress toward sustainability, yet few in power want to hear or do anything that would challenge the status quo.  

Time of Reckoning

We can pay now, or we can pay later. There was a time when we paid attention to the science that warned us of the destruction we were causing to the environment. There was also a time when legislation could effectively regulate industries to reduce environmental degradation. Moreover, there was a time when the people’s voice could eventually be heard. Today we see how corporations are  controlling both the government and the media more and more. The corporation changes the way we address matters of injustice, health, and safety. When government was effective, changes could be made through legislation. That is how we historically made improvements in the workplace, in the environment, and in civil rights. Without effective government, however, we do not know how to stand up to the ever-growing corporation. Unfortunately, our best hope now may be in catastrophe. It may take a true catastrophe to convince us that change is necessary.

For anyone wanting more information about climate change, here is an article addressing some of the top issues and questions: Eight Pseudoscientific ClimateClaims Debunked by Real Scientists


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Monday, September 22, 2014

Monday Music: Catch the Wind (Donovan)

Donovan hit the music scene in the 1960s with a distinctive style that was a blend of folk, pop, and psychedelic. He was sometimes seen as a British imitation of Bob Dylan, but he had the style and the talent to make his own mark in the world of music. Donovan's hits in the UK in 1964 & 1965 were "Catch the Wind," "Colours," and "Universal Soldier," while in the US his hits during that time included "Sunshine Superman," and "Mellow Yellow."





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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Saturday Haiku: Moonlight on the Bay

 

quiet moon
waters on the bay
mind at rest

              ~ CK







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Picture: Whitby Harbor by Moonlight (oil on canvas)
              by John Atkinson Grimshaw
              courtesy of www.johnatkinsongrimshaw.org

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Beauty and Terror



Beauty and Terror

The beauty and the terror of the water 
May be intrinsic to human
Consciousness 
Yet I remember the moment
At an early age
When beauty and terror
Were knit together.

“You hear ‘bout Johnny Ray?”
I didn’t know Johnny Ray
I was six years old
My family new in town
But I soon saw a community gathered
In mourning.

“He got ‘lectracuted,”
My playmate told me,
“Down on the backwater.”
Johnny Ray must have been 18 or 20 years old,
The shock of a young life taken
Had rocked the town.

It wasn’t just the water
That took him,
Not exactly.
He was standing in the water building a peer
And using a power drill.
Maybe Johnny Ray was ignorant of the danger
Or just plagued with a youthful sense of
Immortality.
But the waters held no currency
For ignorance or delusion.

Henceforth, a young life taken would ensure
That beauty could not be viewed
Without terror.
Henceforth the two
Would be inexorably bound.

Recognition of beauty,
Beginning of terror,
Acceptance of the whole.

                               ~ CK

               *    *    *


“For beauty is nothing
but the beginning of terror, which we still are just able to endure,
and we are so awed because it serenely disdains
to annihilate us. Every angel is terrifying.”
                     ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Duino Elegies


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Photo: A view of one site on Lake Martin (Lake Martin Realty photo)
Lake Martin is the result of the construction of Martin Dam on the Tallapoosa River. The locals once referred to it as "The Backwater" before it became prime real estate.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Monday Music: Ezekiel Saw De Wheel

Years ago I wrote a poem that ended with the lines, "I don't know which is worse - to have sorrow mixed with such beauty, or to have beauty arise from such sorrow."  If we are alive in the world, we will surely find joy, sorrow, and beauty to be intrinsic to the mix. Negro Spirituals, which arose among the American slaves during the antebellum days in the South, certainly call to mind that tragic mix. White slave-owners instructed their slaves in the Christian faith, and those slaves in turn discovered stories of oppression and liberation that the white Christians did not even know were there. Songs such as "Let My People Go," and "Steal Away" reflected the hope that oppressed people can find in scripture.

"Ezekiel Saw De Wheel," performed beautifully here by the Breath of Life Quartet, is a musically spirited recalling of a vision that was seen by Ezekiel when he was among those who had been uprooted and taken captive into a foreign land, living under the oppression of an expansive empire.    






Saturday, September 13, 2014

Saturday Haiku: Summer's End

 

mockingbird sings new
songs in the old red bud tree
summer is ending


                               ~ CK








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Photo: Hanging branch of an Eastern Red Bud (Cercis canadensis)
Credit: Jean-Pol Grandmont
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Post 9/11: War-torn and Weary, Can We Cool Down the Conflict?


Today our thoughts turn automatically toward the events on this day in 2001 when the World Trade Towers were brought down by a group of Islamic terrorists. Reams of material could be written about why we should not have launched a ground war in Iraq, and reams could be written about why we did. The tragedy is that thirteen years later, war continues to loom on the horizon while words of hate and threats of violence abound.

The Bitter Season of War

Unfortunately, a number of things came together to create war in the region that has gone on far longer that was imagined by those who beat the war drums following 9/11. There was, among other things, a wide-spread fear in our country and the desire for more oil on the part of US conglomerates. Decisions made out of fear and greed often reap unintended consequences. The best advice that went unheeded was then Secretary of State Colin Powell’s pottery barn caution, “You break it, you bought it.”

We have seen continuing struggle and armed resistance in Iraq, even as halting attempts to govern that country continue. One unforeseen consequence of our invasion of Iraq has been the ascendancy of the group known as ISIS which vows to create an Islamic state in the region amidst the chaos and uncertainty that is Iraq.

Unhealthy Religion

Last week there was some media attention given to one man’s mindset that the way to deal with ISIS terrorists in Iraq is to “convert them or kill them.” I do not want to give undue attention to the Duck Dynasty personality figure, but I also want to be fair and let him speak for himself. For anyone interested in seeing the entire interview of Phil Robertson on Fox News, go here

In the South, the Bible Belt where I hail from as does Phil Robertson, we have had a higher church attendance than other parts of the country, but we grew accustomed to a faith that was in line with the status quo and supported our lifestyle. Too often we Bible Belt Christians get upset when our ingrained presuppositions are challenged by a faith that does more than justify our own prejudices and support our limited views. If faith is authentic, it will challenge the status quo and it will question our acts of hatred and prejudice.

Moreover, I have a problem with self-proclaimed Christian spokesmen using faith to justify killing.  When we buy into that, we perpetuate hatred, whatever "side" we happen to be on. It has been pointed out that the view of “convert them or kill them” is frighteningly close to the views expressed by the Islamic terrorists groups. There are examples of healthy religion as well as unhealthy religion among practitioners of all faiths. In this case, we are seeing unhealthy religion of one faith responding to the unhealthy religion of another.

It does no one any good to see weak theology presented that justifies war. On the one hand, it may be true that the United States is considering military aggression – that is what empires do  and one can make an argument for military action from the standpoint of protecting the empire. On the other hand, to indicate that war is a Christian response is not a stand I am willing to take. When you wed God and Country, people of faith sometimes get the two confused. When we allow religious justification for killing we are doing more to ingrain violence and we are not contributing to a healthy faith system.

I am not one to favor war as a solution. For those who support further military action in Iraq and the surrounding region during this war-weary time, I only ask they take a couple of things into account:

·        Don't baptize national defense and call it Christian.
·        Don't forget that it was our military action that broke things in the region (in Colin Powell’s words, "You break it, you bought it"). There may be no good solutions, no good alternatives, but we bought what we are dealing with.

There are two dangerous things that occur during wartime: 
  1. We demonize the enemy in order to justify the killing of other human beings.  
  2. By the process of war we begin to look a lot like our own portrayal of our enemy. 
Those wartime factors are all the more reason why a religion that justifies killing and supports our own prejudices is a dangerous thing.

Healthy Religion

Healthy religion is able to separate faith from empire. It seeks to ground the individual by instilling a sense of wonder and a heart of compassion. A healthy faith seeks to build loving and ethical responses toward others. Last Sunday at my church I witnessed an example of healthy religion in the public prayers that were expressed. The public prayers called for us to pray for the leaders of the nations, that they may promote peace and reduce the anxiety levels of their people. We were also asked to pray for the media that prejudice and hatred not be reinforced. Later during the litany of prayers, we were guided in praying for those still hurting from the wounds and memories of 9/11. Peace, wisdom, comfort and justice are some of the goals that faith should promote.

In 2009, Karen Armstrong launched the Charter for Compassion in order to encourage people of all faiths to embrace their common and central value of compassion. That charter reads:

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.

We therefore call upon all men and women to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.

We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community. 

Especially during these difficult times, it is important for all people of goodwill and good faith to promote compassion over hatred, and to build peace rather than call for war. You can read more about the Charter for Compassion at http://charterforcompassion.org/the-charter


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Photo: After 9/11, the American flag raised at Ground Zero, site of the World Trade Towers
Photo Credit:World Pittsburgh Files





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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Prayer for the City

Here is another of my submissions to Pray Like a Gourmet! in response to my friend David Brazzeal's challenge to find a favorite photo taken this summer and compose a prayer to go with it. it was posted on David's blog last week.



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Monday, September 8, 2014

Monday Music: The Last Farewell, Roger Whittaker

Roger Whittaker was born in Kenya in 1930 while the British colonial system was still in full swing. Whittaker had phenomenal success worldwide as a singer, with hits such as "Durham Town," and "New World in the Morning," and "Streets of London." His music is a mix of folk and pop. "The Last Farewell," like many of his hits was written by Whittaker himself and it became a hit in the U.S. (Elvis was so impressed with it, he recorded it as well). You will note the colonial flavor to the song, and the video below includes scenes form Old England as well.




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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Saturday Haiku: Bluebird



                                      late summer earth tones
briefly interrupted
bluebird dancing

                            ~ CK







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Photo: Eastern bluebird by Ken Thomas, Public Domain
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Pictures and Prayers



It began with Phos Hilaron, an ancient hymn that was first written in Greek dating back to the 4th century. Sometimes translated, “Oh Gladdening Light,” it is said to be the oldest Christian hymn that is still being sung today. Sometimes it is used as a liturgical prayer at vespers (evening prayer which also marks the beginning of a new liturgical day).  It is one of my favorite prayers, and is included in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer as “O Gracious Light.” Not long ago I saw the prayer posted along with a photo of a beautiful sunset on Penelope Nash’s blog, One Cannot Have Too Large a Party. I thought my friend David Brazzeal, who has a blog on prayer, would appreciate it, so I forwarded it to him.

David featured the post on his blog, Pray Like a Gourmet, and issued a challenge to his readers to select a photo taken while on vacation and to compose a prayer to go with the picture. I thought it sounded like a good idea, so I took two of my favorite photos, spent some time with them, and came up with a prayer for each one. You can see one of them on David’s blog here. To see his “post-vacation challenge” blog post, with information about how you can participate, go here.

Here is the prayer as found in the Book of Common Prayer:

O Gracious Light (Phos hilaron)

O gracious light,
pure brightness of the ever living Father in heaven,
O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed!

Now as we come to the setting of the sun,
and our eyes behold the vesper light,
we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices,
O Son of God, O Giver of Life,
and to be glorified through all the worlds.




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Photo: Sunset over Lake Bolsena
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Monday, September 1, 2014

Monday Music: Woody Guthrie, Ludlow Massacre

Woody Guthrie with his guitar
bearing the slogan,
"This machine kills fascists"


Labor Day is more than a three-day weekend. It's not just a day for one more trip to the beach or one last hot dog at the end of summer. It is a time to remember the benefits that the labor movement has brought to our country.  Many today seem to have little or no knowledge of the past struggles with the industrial corporations for better working conditions, even as workers rights have slowly eroded in our day. Rights for working men and women have been hard-won in our society and without labor unions, much of what we take for granted in the workplace today would not have been put into place.

Woody Guthrie, known for his influence in American folk music, wrote over a thousand songs about "the common man." Many of those songs had to do with labor relations. "Ludlow Massacre" is a song commemorating an incident in 1914 during a coal miner's strike (See note below*)


*From WikipediaThe Ludlow Massacre was an attack by the Colorado National Guard and Colorado Fuel & Iron Company camp guards on a tent colony of 1,200 striking coal miners and their families at Ludlow, Colorado, on April 20, 1914. Some two dozen people, including women and children, were killed. The chief owner of the mine, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., was widely criticized for the incident...

...The Ludlow Massacre was a watershed moment in American labor relations. Historian Howard Zinn described the Ludlow Massacre as "the culminating act of perhaps the most violent struggle between corporate power and laboring men in American history". Congress responded to public outcry by directing the House Committee on Mines and Mining to investigate the incident. Its report, published in 1915, was influential in promoting child labor laws and an eight-hour work day.

And here is another "one of Woody's old songs" sung by Billy Bragg & Co. at Pete Seeger's 90th birthday celebration ...




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