Observation – September 4th, 2019, Wednesday

Kitty is speaking to me

She wants to know where her taste of butter is

Her meow is simultaneously a question and a complaint

She moves of her perch by the window

Crosses the carpet to where I sit at my desk

She nudges me, to get me up

To go to the kitchen and lift the lid on the dish where

The stick of soft butter rests

Dab my finger into it and return

She has taken her spot on the arm of the couch

The place she receives her daily treats

She is speaking to me

It took you long enough is what I hear in her meow

She licks the butter from my finger tip

Lays down to clean her paws

Labor Day

Today is Labor Day, a great national holiday, a day to celebrate the American worker, to celebrate the ordinary citizen.

This day is meant to honor laborers, it is a day to honor work. It is meant to be a day of rest, repose and respite.

I am not working and that is unusual, though it is the third year in a row, so it may be that this is becoming a norm.

Prior to this time in my life, there were perhaps three or four Labor Days in the last twenty-five years, came and went where I has the day off. I cannot recall when, or what I did.

I spent most of my life working in the hospitality sector. There are many restaurants that close, giving their staff the day off, but there are many others who see this as an opportunity to “make hay,” as they say, never mind the lives of the staff whose labor the business depends on.

Forget about them, do not honor them, squeeze out a little more profit if you can.

The last restaurant I worked in, they were open on Labor Day, they are open today. It will see ten maybe twelve thousand dollars in revenue, double the haul for an ordinary Monday. It will busy, all hands on deck, there will be forty staff members toiling away; cooking, serving, cleaning.

The owners will promote the experience to the staff as an opportunity for binding, and team cohesion, I only see bondage in it.

Like most restaurants, that establishment sees ten percent profit or less on average, and the owners will not flinch at the prospect of ruining the holiday for forty people, to put about a thousand dollars in the bank.

They will pretend that the staff should be happy to work, on such a busy day, happy…to earn a little extra money…never mind having the opportunity to relax and reflect with family and friends

This is Labor Day in America, and many people are working, far too many people. Though, it is virtually guaranteed that the bankers, the office managers, and the whole white collar world have taken this day for themselves, while paying themselves too.

Well paid, well rested managers, and owners…I guess the world needs more of those, and while they are relaxing someone needs to be on task to pour their coffee, to serve their brunch to fuel their frolicking.

Happy Labor Day, you laborers!

Strike and Unite!
2019.09.02
Given 1st – 2016.09.05

Independence Day

I have always loved the fourth of July; the mid-summer holiday, the nostalgic look back at the victories of the Continental Soldiers, the American revolutionaries throwing off the yoke of tyranny and the oppression of kings.

I loved it.

I loved it uncritically as a child.

I loved it without thought or question.

A part of me still does.

As I grew older and I learned more about the real history of the revolutionary war, the real politics of the founders, the philosophies that drove them, the numerous ways in which they were morally and ethically compromised (compromised is too light of a word), compromised by war mongering and profiteering, compromised by slave-holding; as I learned more about these historical-truths, it became self-evident that the nation was founded on a carefully balanced set of ideals that the founders themselves did not have the courage to live up to.

America was founded on a compact of lies.

The preamble to the constitution states that all people are created equal, that all people inherently possess rights which we cannot be separated from, the foremost of which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

We hold these truths to be self-evident that these rights are inalienable, or se we are told. These rights do not derive from government, they derive from God, the creator of the universe, God the creator of every person in it, these rights do not belong to us because we are Americans, they belong to us because we are human beings, and the American purpose is to defend those rights, both within our borders and around the world.

This was never more than wishful thinking, and today within our own borders we are trampling all over these rights, rights which belong to everyone, including, the immigrant and the alien among us.

Instead of welcoming and protecting and sheltering the poor and the disenfranchised who have come to us for asylum, we are imprisoning them, denying them due process, dehumanizing them, abusing them, and it is breaking my heart.

We have always failed to live up to our ideals.

The expression of these self-evident truths in the Declaration of Independence, and its codification in law, in the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights, did not at the same time abolish the institutions of slavery, give women the right to own land, to vote and other modes of self-determination.

It did not outlaw wars of aggression against the sovereign nations of the First People. These self-evident truths, these inalienable rights, did not prevent the United States of America from entering a campaign of genocide and extermination against them.

The founders applied these principles to themselves, and their “peers,” and used those principles to justify their separation from the dominion of the kings of England, they used these principles to protect their property after the war of independence had been won, but they refused to extend these principles to everyone within the aegis of American power, and we are still failing to do that today.

The 4th of July is Independence Day, it is a day to celebrate our freedom, and our victory in the revolutionary war, there is much to celebrate in that.

I am a veteran, I know that war and battle create many opportunities for selflessness and displays of courage that most human beings cannot help but admire and applaud, even though the antecedents of war and the causes of conflict are always unjust, morally vacant and abhorrent.

Always, without exception, war is a failure of human beings to live up to the purpose we were created for.

In my heart, I want to celebrate the revolutionaries, their courage, the flag which unifies us as a nation, but I find it difficult. The story of America, beginning on July 4th, is one that has many bright moments, but we are foolish, cold-hearted and ignorant if we do not at the same time recognize the millions of slaves who built our first cities, who farmed the plantations, who established our first industries, and the millions of people belonging to sovereign nations that we crushed in our westward expansion, starving and killing them without mercy, displacing them, outlawing their religion and customs, erasing their languages.

I find it difficult.
Who among us, knowing that history, finds it easy?

You would have to be a monster to be unmoved.

Today Donald Trump is breaking with all tradition to hold a political rally in the capitol, to put the military on parade at a cost of millions of dollars; to stroke his ego to cover up the blemish of his cowardice and erase the record as a draft dodger.

The 4th of July should be a time of soul searching and deep reflection and community, forget about the flag waving and jingoism.

Ask yourself what it means to be an American; immigrant, refugee, stolen people, enslaved people, conquered people, vanquished people, and the revolutionary. We are the descendants of them all, the immigrant, the refugee, the stolen, the enslaved, the conquered, the vanquished, and the revolutionary; we are their children and grandchildren and great grandchildren…we are one people with a common history, and a common set of ideals we should be continuously striving for.

We are a great nation, if and only if we remember it all.

Given – 2019.07.04
Given 1st – 2016.07.04

Memorial Day – A Reflection

Memorial Day is a day set aside for reflection. It is a day meant for us to honor our fallen dead.

The meaning of Memorial Day has changed a great deal since it was founded. At its inception, it was meant to honor African American soldiers who fought and died in the Civil War, both our soldiers who were born-free, as well as those who were former slaves; men and women, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters who gave everything they had to keep the union whole.

Memorial Day was created to honor those who died for an America which they only dreamed could exist. They died for these United States, for a vision of it that the prayed for, but was not yet real; they got something different, they got this reality, an America that is still in a state of becoming, one that is more or less just, depending on where you are born, what color your skin is, what class you belong to.

Those men and women died for us, for good or ill, they died for us. They died for promises that went un-realized.

We have yet to repay them, we have yet to fulfill their hopes for the America they dreamt of; America, daughter of liberty, America the true, and good, America the arbiter of justice.

Now, we honor our dead on this day; our soldiers and sailors and airmen, our police and firefighters; we honor them.

We honor all of our citizens who spent their lives, who gave their days to public service; we honor our doctors and nurses and teachers, the good works of our ordinary citizens, of our friends and neighbors, we honor everyone’s sacrifices; known and unknown, and those yet to come.

This year we must even children, who stood in the way of gunfire to protect their classmates and paid for it with their lives.

We must honor them, and their sacrifice, they died upholding our most cherished values, in recognition of the fact that we are one people, that we are descended from many nations, and that we each come into the world with the absolute right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that all other rights are subordinate to these.

On this day of all days, do not make the mistake of thinking that it is our service women and men who keep us free.
It has been at least sixty years since America faced an “existential” threat from a foreign power.

We are not kept free through armed conflict.

We do not face such an existential threat from beyond our borders and shores right now; not from Iran, not from North Korea, not from Russia, not from anywhere.

The real threat we face is from ourselves, from our ignorance and from our fear.

It is we, and we alone who can protect us from ourselves.

Our own apathy, our prejudice and hatred, these are the most dangerous forces aligned against us, that threaten our freedom. They are more deadly than any other worldly power.

To honor our fallen dead, you must do your part to keep us free. You must participate in our democracy.

Vote, stay informed, organize, build alliances and collaborate.

Our collective failure as citizens of the Unites States has allowed a criminal, autocratic, demagogue to hold power in the White House, allowed the Supreme Court to state that corporations are to be treated as people, and money regarded as free speech, while those same justices have told ordinary American’s that their right to free speech does not include the right to be heard, and that our right to vote does not include the guarantee that our votes will be counted.

This rank cynicism is more dangerous to our freedom than any rag tag group of militants half way around the world, more dangerous than immigrants looking for a better life on our side of the border we share, they are only seeking the same thing as my own forebears did when they came here a little over a hundred years ago.

Honor our fallen dead. Not with cards and flowers and barbeques (but do those things because they are good), honor them by standing up to racism and bigotry, to religious zealotry and corporate greed, to scientific ignorance and xenophobia, to corruption in our public officials in our highest offices, and to the notion that the right to keep and bear arms does not include our responsibility to regulate them.

Honor them by participating in public discourse. Do not lose heart, and do not give up.

Stand up, and be counted!

We must rebuild America, reform our institutions, we must do this for the sake of all Americans and our future generations. We must take responsibility for our own freedom.

We will have nothing to protect if we let our freedom be stolen from us while we are busy watching TV, posting pictures on social media of the last meal we ate, and arguing with one another about who is the most liberal, most progressive, most concerned about the common good.

Honor the fallen, in this way.

Participate!

Jay P. Botten, Veteran, U.S.N., Hospital Corps, 1990 – 1994

Given 1st 2015.05.25

Revised 2019.05.27

Earth Day is my Birthday

All of our eggs are in one basket, I have said it before.

We live here, all of us-all-together and we have no place else to go.

The world is a big place and it can take a lot of damage, but the ecosystems we depend on are specialized and fragile. The world itself will survive many things that we individually and our bio-systems collectively cannot.

We are in peril.

We are responsible for the care of this world. It is a sacred obligation, we have been charged with its care by our holy books, and more importantly under the aegis of common sense.

The care of this world is a categorical imperative; if we do not care for it, the world may just shrug us off, or shrug just enough that a calamity will ensue that will alter us forever, changing our cultures, our languages, even our DNA.

Listen!

There are natural disasters pending, they are built into the structure of the planet, into the thinness of the mantle, caused by the heat emanating from deep within our planet’s core. There are massive volcanoes, and there is continental drift, the geological forces at work in these could easily destroy us all.

If we allow it.

There are calamities heading our way from outer-space, celestial bodies sailing through the void. They are already on a collision course with Earth. There are asteroids and comments that we will collide with us, if we are unable to work cooperatively to change their course, these eventualities will overwhelm us..

These are baked in, such disasters are existential threats.

Foreseeable events also represent opportunities for the advancement of science, and the unification of humanity. Given enough time, it is possible that we could even harness the power of the greatest volcanoes, turn their destructive energies to the benefit of humankind, or move the near Earth objects that threaten us from our path, capture them for their mineral wealth.
We need time, more than that we need a willingness to rise to the challenges.

We face other threats right now, immediate threats, threats of our own making.

We are changing the climate, the planet is warming.

Our oceans are becoming acidic, we are changing their salinity.

We are filling our atmosphere with toxins.

Glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising

We are polluting our freshwater lakes, rivers, and streams.

We are losing topsoil, our forests and our coral reefs.

Our stewardship is failing.

We are divided, against each other…by greed which drives a short sighted political mindset, seeking and succeeding at turning people against their long-term interests.

Politicians and their wealthy patrons, silence and undermine our scientists, they cast doubt on any field of inquiry which might lead to a curtailment of their industrial enterprises, or their short-term profits.

They treat the Earth and all of its resources like it is a grab-bag full of goodies, opened for them to plunder, like children with a big stick whacking at a piñata.

Our stewardship is failing.

We are failing.

It is Earth Day 2019, and all of our eggs are in one basket, the basket is fragile, and there is no other.

Earth Day is my Birthday.

04.22.2019

New Year’s Day 2019 – A Holiday Reflection

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Today is a day of beginnings.

A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct, the Princess Irulan said, in her biography of Muad’Dib

A small miscalculation at the outset, a subtle deviation from the plan will cause you to miss your mark by a wide margin, it may cause you to never reach your end, or to end in a place you never intended to be.

Great care must be taken at the beginning.

Be mindful of your aim.

Today it is a day of resolutions.

Doing is being, is what Ray Bradbury said:

To have done is not enough.
You cannot lie about, and lie about the things you might just do someday.
But do, and win the game.

Great things are accomplished (and by great I mean great on any scale; socially, professionally, personally, spiritually, privately), arrived at, built, discovered, in a series of small, regular and consistent steps.

With the steady application of effort, we can learn to do, and do just about anything.

Resolve to do something; be resolute.

Know this, if life is a river, it is a confluence of contradictions.

The process is just as important as the goal.

The archer is not only concerned with the object of her aim, but with drawing of her bow, with the tension in the string and movement of her goal.

2019, it is an odd number. I mean it is both odd as a numeral, and odd in that it portends to be a year marked by a chaos in the fabric of American life; in our politics, in our markets, in the environment which sustains us all.

We must be prepared.

2019 marks the continuation of a new era in American politics, in the American social order, in the American vision and the American experience, the truth, and the understanding of what truth is will continue to be assaulted, the assault will be constant, and heightened.

We must stand against it.

2019 calls for the expectation of hope to return to our cultural norms, a hope for the future of America’s promise, and the extension of the promise to the whole world.

2019 will be the year for justice with compassion, and for holding our leaders accountable for their crimes.

It is the first day, it is a day for unity and finding common purpose. We will need to stand together, both to support one another in our individual aspirations, and to support the advancement of the common good.

Mirror

A mirror is a silvered plane
A portal to another world
Polished clear, bright with luster
An open door, the lighted way

Stand in its aperture, witness
The reflection is dissolving
Fear, slips into the darkened void

A mirror warps reality
Bending the reflection toward doubt
Twisting the gaze into self-loathing
Appearances are not what we are

The lucid vision becomes dim
The lights go out, nothing remains
Bereft, we cling to memories

Vanity is malevolent
It comes in violent wave, crass
A tsunami of illusions
Crashing in self-opposition

Sorrow

Mother Theresa of Calcutta, The Patron Saint of Doubters

Sometimes I get ahead of myself, I think we all do at times, projecting what I want to see, over and against the reality of what is, as in the title of this piece.

Saint Mother Theresa of Calcutta; the patron saint of doubters.

In truth, the Church has named the Patron Saint of World Catholic Youth Day, and that is fair. In her time she inspired many young people, through her life of austerity and selflessness. She inspired many of us to good things, to want to be good people.

She was a tiny woman, but she was strong. She inspires me for her strength, for her commitment to her ideals, despite the reality that she understood, that the suffering she sought to ease would never cease. The suffering of the world has no end.

Mother Theresa was sainted for her life-long commitment to the good, to serving the poor, for setting an example of patience and endurance; for setting such a strong example that if each of the rest of us were only to approximate a small degree of her fundamental stance toward justice and compassion, and give just a small part of ourselves over to the healing of the world, the world might stop spinning in its spiral of violence.

Pope Saint Francis “the Good” (you see I just did it again; projecting), canonized Mother Theresa on September the 4th, 2016, on the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time of that year, her feat was celebrated for the first time, and from that day forward, on the 5th of September, Christians of every stripe, and non-Christian alike, in keeping with her embrace of all people, no matter how flawed or marginalized they might be, will remember this brilliant woman, servant and sister, this theologian; her brilliance grow greater in her afterlife.

Mother Theresa is famous for her service and her impressive life, and the inspiration she gave to millions of people.

For me, it was her memoirs that had the greatest impact.

Saint Theresa struggled, like all of us do, with the sense that God had abandoned her, and that God had abandoned the world. She managed to do the good works she did, to serve the Church and all of its members, to fulfill her commitment to her order, to lead them; to make of her life a daily sacrifice even in the midst of her own profound doubt, her personal suffering, the suffering of other’s which she shared, and her sense of alienation from God.

To persevere in goodness, in the face of her doubts, to admit to the pain that she brought to others, even as she tried to serve them, to confess and ask forgiveness, and to lead them. To bear witness to the suffering of the world, hold God accountable for it in her heart, and still follow the calling of the Spirit despite that indictment, that is why she will be known as the Patron Saint of Doubters.

Her example of how to fulfill the Christian life in the face of the deepest doubts is what makes her life exemplary, a life that will continue to shine on us long after the sun has collapsed and human beings are scattered through the galaxy.

We will carry the memory of Saint Theresa of Calcutta with us, she will be a light for us in the darkness.

There is something deeply significant about her relationship to her doubt, insofar as the history of Christianity in India has always been connected to the missionary work of the Apostle Thomas. Saint Thomas the doubter, who did not believe that Jesus had risen from the dead until he placed his own fingers into the wounds Christ bore, the wounds which still marred his body even after he was raised from the dead.

Never mind the historical realities of the origin of the Church in India, set aside the legends held closely by the faithful in India. It is not important that Thomas, the disciple of Jesus, never travelled there, the myth that Christians in India have believed this for centuries. The beliefs of the Church in India are themselves a historical reality, a reality that cannot be ignored, one that has shaped their communities for as long as those communities have existed.

There is no doubting that, or ho the character of Saint Thomas the doubter shaped them.

Thomas is the patron saint of doubt, Theresa is the patron saint of doubters. Saint Thomas tells us that doubt is an integral part of faith. Saint Theresa comes to aid us in the midst of it.
09.05.2018

Given First 09.03.2016

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a day set aside for reflection. It is a day meant for us to honor our fallen dead.

The meaning of Memorial Day has changed a great deal since it was founded. At its inception, it was meant to honor African American soldiers who fought and died in the Civil War, both our soldiers who were born-free, as well as those who were former slaves, men and women, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters who gave everything they had, to keep the union whole.

Memorial Day was created to honor those who died for an America which they only dreamed could exist. They died for these United States, for a vision of it, but they got something different, they got this reality, an America that is still in a state of becoming.

Those men and women died for us, for good or ill, they died for us.

We have yet to repay them, we have yet to fulfill their hopes for the America they dreamt of; America, daughter of liberty, America the true, arbiter of justice.

Now, we honor our dead on this day; our soldiers and sailors and airmen, our police and firefighters; we honor them.

We honor all of our citizens who spent their lives, who gave their days to public service; we honor our doctors and nurses and teachers, the good works of our ordinary citizens, of our friends and neighbors, we honor everyone’s sacrifices; known and unknown, and those yet to come.

This year we must honor teachers, in Santa Fe, Texas; in Parkland, Florida; and elsewhere, who stood in the way of gunfire to protect their students and paid for it with their lives.

We must honor them, and their sacrifice, they died upholding our most cherished values, in recognition of the fact that we are one people, that we are descended from many nations, and that we each come into the world with the absolute right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that all other rights are subordinate to these.

On this day of all days, do not make the mistake of thinking that it is our service women and men who keep us free. It has been at least sixty years since America faced an “existential” threat from a foreign power.

 

We do not face such a threat right now; not from Iran, not from North Korea, not from Russia, not from anywhere.

The real threat we face is from ourselves, from our ignorance, and from our fear.

It is we, and we alone who can protect us from ourselves.

Our own apathy, prejudice, and hatred, these are the most dangerous forces aligned against us, against our freedom. They are more deadly than any other worldly power.

To honor our fallen dead, you must do your part to keep us free. You must participate in our democracy.

Vote, stay informed, organize, build alliances, and collaborate.

Our collective failure as citizens of the Unites States has allowed a criminal, autocratic, demagogue to hold power in the White House, allowed the Supreme Court to state that corporations are to be treated as people, and money regarded as free speech, while those same justices have told ordinary American’s that their right to free speech does not include the right to be heard, and that our right to vote does not include the guarantee that our votes will be counted.

This rank cynicism is more dangerous to our freedom than any rag tag group of militants half way around the world, more dangerous than immigrants looking for a better life on our side of our border, as my own forebears did when they came here a little over a hundred years ago.

Honor our fallen dead. Not with cards and flowers and barbeques (but do those things because they are good), honor them by standing up to racism and bigotry, to religious zealotry and corporate greed, to scientific ignorance and xenophobia, to corruption in our public officials, in our highest offices, and to the notion that the right to keep and bear arms does not include our responsibility to regulate them.

Honor them by participating in our public discourse. Do not lose heart, and do not give up.

We must rebuild America, reform our institutions, for the sake of Americans and our future generations. We must take responsibility for your own freedom.

Honor the fallen, in this way.

Jay P. Botten, Veteran, U.S.N., Hospital Corps, 1990 – 1994

Given 1st 2015.05.25

Revised 2016.05.3, Revised 2017.05.29

Revised 2017.05.28