Tuesday, December 23, 2014

With A Little Help From My Friends

Did He Ever Sing Out Of Tune?
Joe Crocker Dies At Age 70
Joe Cocker At Woodstock, 1969
Joe Cocker, one of the Icons of Our Generation, passed away yesterday. With his incredible energy and heart he had captured ours back in the day. With Joe's help (and that of the Beatles who wrote and originally recorded the hit song he covered) we learned that if we were just courageous enough to let our vulnerabilities be our blessings, we'd get by with a little help from our friends. 

That was an important teaching.

One of my cyber-friends, Luisa Capra, came across this wonderful YouTube video of Joe's appearance on German TV last year as he was being awarded the prestigious Goldene Kamera for 2013.  It touched me.  So I'm passing it along.

After being introduced to a lengthy standing ovation, Joe spoke for a bit.  (some of it being covered over by the German translator. Sigh.)  Then at age 69, he ROCKED THE HOUSE with a sizzling rendition of a recent release "I Come In Peace".  To Joe, 44 years after he took the stage at Woodstock, it was still all about Peace, Love -- and MUSIC!

As if that wasn't enough, Joe was then joined onstage by Jennifer Warnes (A spring chicken at age 66) to perform their 1982 hit "Up Where We Belong".  Written by a team that included Native American activist/songwriter Buffy Saint-Marie, the song had captured #1 on the Billboard Top #100 for several weeks that year, then won a Grammy and an Oscar for best original song. 

As the camera panned through the audience, I saw that I wasn't the only one in tears.

Thank you Joe. May You Rest -- and Rock On -- in Peace.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Lumps of Coal: An Open Letter to Family and Friends

(It's that time of year again.  Although I again risk being lumped in with Ebenezer Scrooge and/or having Santa cram a lump of coal into my stocking for making this announcement, I'll take my lumps.   

Although I'll be taking some time to remember Christmas Carols on the autoharp again, and I am certainly looking forward to spending some time with family and friends to share tidings of comfort and joy, , I can not, in good conscience, participate in the ritual of Christmas gift giving.  I believe this season's celebration is fundamentally flawed by the pervasive Mammon worship that increasingly characterizes our society today, and non-compliance is the only course of action that seems appropriate to me.      -- Brother Lefty)  

"Civilization, in the real sense of the term, consists not in the multiplication, but in the deliberate and voluntary reduction of wants. This alone promotes real happiness and contentment, and increases the capacity for service."
---Mahatma Gandhi

It is my firm opinion that Europe today represents not the spirit of God or Christianity but the spirit of Satan. And Satan’s successes are the greatest when he appears with the name of God on his lips. Europe is today only nominally Christian. It is really worshipping Mammon. `It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom.’ Thus really spoke Jesus Christ.
---Mahatma Gandhi

I was appalled -- but not all that surprised -- to see that Christmas decorations had become part of the Halloween displays at CVS this year.  Early birds and worms come to mind.  "The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out" quickly follows. (But, I digress...sort of....)

The Mad Dash really begins on Black Friday as crowds of people stream into stores.  Sometimes pushing and shoving, sometimes actually punching each other out, people race to grab the very latest toys that the gears of Rapacious Capitalism have ground out -- almost invariably through the outright exploitation of other human beings and the destruction of the delicate biosphere that sustains Life on this planet.  What in the world does this all have to do with the birth of Jesus Christ, with His gospel of Love, Compassion, and Service to the "least among us?"  What do our family rituals of wrapping, then ripping paper and ribbons and bows off more stuff, creating more mountains of landfill material in the process, have to do with Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Humankind?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Saint Jimmy Gets My Vote

"In order for us human beings to commit ourselves personally to the inhumanity of war, we find it necessary first to dehumanize our opponents, which is, in itself,
a violation of the beliefs of all religions."
-- President Jimmy Carter, accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, 2002

My Kind of Christian: President Jimmy Carter
Although I'm as much a Buddhist as a Christian, if I did manage to slip past the Swiss Guards to cast a vote with the Canonization Crew, I'd be pushing to add another Saint James to the fold -- once he arrives at the Pearly Gates.

I'd nominate President James Earl "Jimmy" Carter for Sainthood.

Although my candidate is still alive and well at age 93, in the world of politics ya need to start campaigning early, right?

Of course, I realize there are some hurdles here.  The Catholic Church may have to do some soul searching to canonize a non-Catholic.  Yet, it seems to me that Pope Francis might just be the guy to get the ball rolling.  He seems to be serious about trying to be a real Christian, not just the Godfather of an powerful and wealthy institutional bureaucracy, right!? 

The Christian Right, Isn't.

If the Original J.C. hadn't opted for Resurrection back in the day, I think He would be rolling over in His grave listening to the prattle of the contemporary Viper's Brood that proclaim that they are Christians these days while simultaneously expousing Intolerance, Warfare, and the Unbridled Greed of Free Market Capitalism.  As these folks continue to rant and rave about immigrants and cut public assistance to those in need, as they praise warfare and a militarized police force, I wonder if they ever really read that Bible they're thumping. 

Like, for instance Matthew 25:31 - 46 might be a good place to start.

Here the Divine Liberal tells it like it is, clearly proclaiming the sacred nature of compassionate action in the world.   As He'd already stated earlier in that chapter,  worshiping Jesus isn't the key to Heaven.  (Many will call me Lord, Lord).

What is that key?  It's simple.  It's how you treat your fellow human beings. 

In the imagery of a final Judgment Day, Jesus proclaims the moral imperative of unconditional generosity toward the stranger, the hungry, the thirsty, the naked and the prisoner -- and the karmic consequences of failing.  Be loving and generous? Your on the Team.  Treat the unfortunate shabbily? There'll be hell to pay.  Why?  Even in the King James version the bottom line is crystal clear: "Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me."  

The Bottom Line?

As many mystics, sages, seers and hippies throughout the ages have affirmed, Jesus wasn't just being metaphorical when he said that.  The great Hindu sage Mahatma Gandhi made the same point when he said, "If you don't find God in the next person you meet, it is a waste of time looking for him further. "  With an open heart and clear mind we see can see it for ourselves.  We are, each of us, interconnected rays of the One Love that pervades the Universe. 

Jimmy Carter seems to have clearly gotten the Word.  God is Love.  Unlike the folks on the so-called Christian Right, he has dedicated his life to actually following what Jesus was saying.   Pat Robertson, the Moral Majority, and their ilk?  IMHO, not so much.

So, how about it?

Time to go Ecumenical.   Let's do it!

Jimmy Carter for Sainthood!

Do I hear an "Amen"?
Yours in the Spirit of Truth and Love,
Brother Lefty

P.S. A Caveat:  Like Pope Francis, Bless his Heart, has said, "Who am I to judge? 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Passing the Torch...Passing the Hat

 " ...Indigenous people's are not the one's who are causing climate change... Indigenous peoples protect Mother Earth. We defend our mother because she is our Mother, because She gives us food. She gives us the air that we breath. She gives us the Amazon. And the Amazon is not just important to Indigenous Peoples, it is important to the whole world." --- Ninawa Huni Kui, President of the Federation of the Huni Kui.
On Democracy Now!, December 10, 2014

 Democracy Now! had been covering the UN COP Climate Summit in Peru and in her own inimitable style Amy Goodman is getting to the Heart of the Matter.  

For the past two days, Amy and her crew have given voice to the Indigenous People of the World, the people closest to Mother Earth who have always born the brunt of the Horror of Capitalist Industrialization as it has spread --and continues to spread throughout the globe in search of profit.  ( I ranted a bit about our history of that in the US in a Thanksgiving Day Rambling On: Thanks -- And No Thanks.).

Yesterday was Gender Day at the conference, and I'd like to share a stirring seven minute piece as Indigenous Women from throughout the hemisphere gathered to share their stories of hardship, and yet still envision a future free of the destructiveness of fossil fuel extraction and the other continued blasphemies of rapacious, earth-destroying, Capitalism run amuck.  

Then I want to pass the hat for Nolumbeka Project, a local Native American Advocacy Group intent on preserving the 12,000 year old legacy of Earth Connection and Sustainability of New England's First Peoples.  (The clock is running out on Valley Gives Day, an online fundraising campaign in this neck of the woods.)

So, here in Western Massachusetts, I've been involved with Nolumbeka Project for the past couple of years.  I won't ramble on too much about them at this point, but they are intent on passing the torch: Preserving the Tribal Heritage of this region's First People, honoring the Sacredness of our Mother Earth and al her myriad beings.  Please take a look for yourself at what they are up to -and throw a few bucks in the hat if you're so inclined. 

Time being what it is.  There is now 2.5 hours left in the Valley Gives Day Event.  But, who's counting -- unless it's you, and want to make your Gift count!
Brother Lefty

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanks --and No Thanks.

Some Personal Reflections on Thanksgiving Day, 2014

"Oh, Great Spirit whose voice I hear in the winds, and whose breath gives life to all the world, hear me, I am small and weak,  I need your strength and wisdom." -- from a prayer
by Lakota Chief Yellow Lark, 1887
(Entire Prayer)

"Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children." 
-- Ancient Native American Proverb

The three day feast that brought together 90 Wampanoags and the 50 surviving Pilgrims to a feast at Plymouth Plantation in 1621 has become part of the Mythology of American Democracy.  

Unfortunately, this idyllic tale doesn't portray the stark reality of the Holocaust that ensued as European colonists descended on this continent bringing with them a harshly judgmental Christianity and the European concepts  of Private Property and Capitalism.

Although the set of Democratic Ideals set forth in the Preamble to the US Constitution reflect humanity's universal quest for a just society, "our forefathers" also brought forth on this continent disease, death, domination, and the destruction of a Way of Life that understood and honored humanity's relationship to Mother Earth, to the Great Spirit and to the Circle of All Life.   The Indigenous People's practiced a more advanced Spirituality, an Ethos of connection and sustainability. Our forefathers brought with them, instead, the Unbridled Greed buried in the belly of Capitalism, and the myopic worldview of fundamentalist Christianity with its mindset that reinforces our separation from one another, from the natural world, and from our spiritual connection to all that is.  Through force of arms (including germ warfare and the power of "law"), the bad guys won.

Unfortunately for Mother Earth and her myriad beings, they still are.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Lest We Forget: It Seems the Good Die Young

(I'm sitting here in tears listening to soul singer Marvin Gaye's rendition of "Abraham, Martin, John" as I write this.  
You may want to as well.)

My fingers were fumbling at the keyboard in typing class that day in 1963, exactly 51 years ago, when the teacher from across the hall came into the room and whispered in Miss Jefferson's ear.

Her face turned white.

The other teacher left and Miss Jefferson broke into tears as she announced that President Kennedy had been shot and taken to a hospital in Dallas.

No one said a word.

Moment's later the other teacher returned. He didn't have to say a word.  His face, a portrait of horror and helplessness said it all.  We knew.  He knew we knew.  Holding back tears, he shrugged awkardly, turned -- and left. 

The unimaginable had happened.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A 1950's Housewife Drops Acid -- For Real !

 (Researcher finds archived footage of clinical LSD research interview)

I haven't dropped acid since 1994. On a steamy day in mid-August that year, I ending up tripping my brains out for hours as M.C. of the smaller of the two stages set up at Yasgur's Farm for the 25th Anniversary of Woodstock.  These days, content with the benefits of a longtime meditation practice, I rarely even partake of magic herb.  Yet I still have a deep gratitude for the seers, saints and sinners of  the Psychedelic Spiritual Revolution of my youth.

Although names like Ram Dass, Timothy Leary, and my favorite Hippie Spiritual Teacher, the late Stephen Gaskin, are relatively well known, there were millions of us who participated in that Revolution.  (You know Who you are, right?)

Exploring the realms of human consciousness through myriad medicines, mushrooms and herbs,  a bunch of us turned on, tuned in, and dropped out -- at least for while.  I believe it may have been one of the most widespread outpourings of Mystical Consciousness ever experienced by humankind.
By the time I graduated from college with the infamous class of 1969, it was well underway.  

I'd forgotten that LSD began being produced commercially by Sandoz as a therapeutic agent that "appeared to show great promise" in 1947.  Before LSD came out from behind closed doors to dance in the streets with flowers in its hair, our collective unconscious was already being dosed.  During the 1950's, there was growing interest in mind altering substances in the psychiatric community and among prominent British intellectuals like Aldous Huxley (author of Brave New World and The Doors of Perception) and Gerald Heard. Even the CIA was running clinical trials hoping to use it as a mind control agent in chemical warfare.  (As it turned out, that didn't work out for them so well.  Psychedelics helped fuel the peace movement, including the whimsical attempt to Levitate the Pentagon in 1967.) 

Although I don't spend much time scrolling through my Facebook news feed these days, Sweet Serendipity allowed me to surf to a video clip of a housewife who "dropped acid" as part of clinical trials of LSD at the VA hospital in Los Angeles in 1956.   Being interviewed by a researcher as she was tripping, her responses were Wonderful.  The internet being what it is, I had to do some research to make sure that it wasn't a very well produced spoof. 

It wasn't.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Democratic Demise

Robert Reich
Damn! Once again, my Lilliputian Brother Robert Reich nails it -- at least on the level of common sense.  Although President O stepped up to the plate and claimed "mea culpa" for the midterm election democratic debacle, Robert Reich disagrees. 

Why did they -- perhaps I should say We (the People and Democracy) -- get our butts kicked?

It seems that Reich and I almost see eye to eye on this one.  I'm only 5'2" -- so in my case this is relatively easy.  

In my words, not his
(Reich's article on truthdig is linked below)

The Freakin' Democrats didn't campaign on the real issues:  
$$$ Gross Income Inequality $$$

$$$ Abuse of Power  $$$
the unlimited money corrupting our democratic process 

$$$ Propaganda and Mind Control $$$
mass media dominated by huge corporations 
and advertising dollars


Monday, June 23, 2014

Notes on the World Cup: A Good Sport...?

I enjoy a good soccer match.  The athleticism and teamwork are, at times, awe inspiring.

Yet, the patriotic jingoism emerging during the World Cup is deeply disturbing. As I sense it, the emotional excesses of nationalism that continue to erupt in this spectacle, like those that increasingly pervade the Olympics these days, are just tragic manifestation of what Spiritual Teacher Eckhardt Tolle terms the  "collective ego". As J Krishnamurti notes in the meme to the right,  the "us-them" mentality of nationality and religion are a  fundamental source of violence. The mind state that is fanned and inflamed and exploited (and commercialized) during these sporting events is the psychic structure that supports ongoing warfare and senseless bloodshed.

It seems to me that it has gotten a lot worse over the years in the culture of sports.  I used to roll my eyes when my dad talked about "the good old days", but...

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Iraq Then and Now

In the commentary below, Bill Moyers reflects on a headline as the US invaded Iraq in 2003. 

Like so many of us back then, Moyers cast his gaze on the Big Picture as US troops poured into the desert of Iraq:  the cruel cost of senseless hubris and thirst for empire strewn along the sands of time in the MIddle East.

A decade before, though, during the 1st Persian Gulf war, George Bush the First had chosen not to invade Iraq. His advisors knew that toppling the Iraqi Ba'ath regime would create region-wide havoc, the empowerment of radical Islamist forces, civil war, and uncontrollable sectarian bloodshot.

In their zeal for the "New American Century" of US world domination, however, George W and the Neo-cons disregarded that advice.

And there's been hell to pay -- mostly on the part of innocent civilians.

Don't let Fox News and the Right Wing blame the current situation on today's administration. What is happening is the direct result of the invasion of Iraq. It was predicted by a wide array of middle eastern scholars and diplomats -- not just us old hippies and peaceniks and the millions of others worldwide who demonstrated against the imminent invasion.

Don't let Fox News and the Right Wing craft our response today as they did back in 2003. 

Addressing the situation today through another round of military action will only add more fuel to the fires of a continuing nightmare. Our resources should be turned to fostering region-wide diplomatic solutions instead. 

Casting our gaze at the Big Picture, have a look and a listen to broadcast journalism at it's best as Moyers contemplates US Marines Crossing the Euphrates:

Thursday, May 15, 2014

"It should be a matter of conscience for us all"
-- Nolumbeka Project's Diane Dix in Greenfield Recorder

Dear Friends,

Within the next week the Annual Commemoration of the Infamous Great Falls Massacre of 1676 and a historic vote by the Greenfield (MA) Town Council will take place. The efforts to protect the Ancestors at White Ash Swamp hang in the balance.

This is a unique opportunity to make an important choice. We can either turn our backs on the tragic history and current reality of the encounter between our region's Native Americans and the Europeans who colonized the area -- or take action.

Please support the Nolumbeka Project in its efforts to heal the wounds of our shared past and move into a future that respects the rich cultural and spiritual legacy of New England's First Peoples.

It's time.

Join Nolumbeka Project on Saturday, May 18 at the Great Falls Discovery Center, Turners Falls, 11-3 PM for the Annual Commemoration and/or please support their efforts to pass the Native American Burial Ordinance at the Greenfield Town Council Vote on Wednesday, May 21, 7 PM, GCTV Studios, 393 Main Street, Greenfield.

I encourage you to call or write the members of the Greenfield Town Council and to attend the May 21 meeting to show your support if you can. 

For more information on each of these events and a contact list for the members of the Greenfield Town Council please visit the Nolumbeka Project website:


Still Rambling On,
Brother Lefty

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

"An injury to one is an injury to all." -- Industrial Workers of the World

 "Love your neighbor as yourself.”-- Jesus

 "True charity occurs only when there are no notions of giving, giver, or gift." -- Buddha


We all know that there are some folks out there who picked up the phone today and called a few of their friends and were able to send tens of thousands of dollars or more into the coffers of some right wing candidate or PAC.   A few others walked into a congressional office and had conversations today that protected or increased their corporate welfare subsidies to the tune of millions.  

Meanwhile, countless other Americans are going hungry or homeless.

The refusal of the House Republican leadership to even allow another vote to extend unemployment benefits to 2 million Americans whose benefits expired in December has caught the attention of many of us. Being caring people and good progressives, many of us have dutifully let our voices be heard through petitions and calls to Congress.  Although this is certainly a good thing, there is more we can do.

Recently, that got clearer to me.   I found out that one of my friends Maure, a passionate activist and 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

How Can I Keep From Singing?

"God sent his Singers upon earth
With songs of sadness and of mirth,
That they might touch the hearts of men,
And bring them back to heaven again."
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

" It's a song about love between my brothers and my sisters all over this land"
 -- Pete Seeger, If I Had a Hammer

Pete Seeger 1919-2014
I awoke this morning to the sound of Pete Seeger singing  "How Can I Keep From Singing?".  In tears by the time I had descended the stairs, I found a moist eyed Betsy sitting at the computer in the office having found Seeger's version of this 19th century Christian hymn on YouTube.  (I've embedded it below.)   

With a simple accompaniment on his 12 stringer, in a voice clear and true, the spirit and heart of his delivery was as pure as the life of service he led.  His life, and his death at age 94 this week, touched countless millions of us.

If I was the Grand Dude in Charge, I'd immediately canonize this humble and courageous man.   I'd then have him replace that other guy at the Pearly Gates.  They wouldn't even have to change the name plate at the Gatehouse, right?  With harp in hand and a song on his lips, I'm sure that this Saint Peter, like all Bodhisattvas, wouldn't be satisfied until everyone had entered and was singing in the Heavenly Choir.  Tyrants, plutocrats, bigots and hypocrites, of course, might have to work a lot harder at it, but I'm sure Saint Pete ultimately would have them singing in harmony with the rest of us.  Buddhanature is Universal, after all.  

Although some strains of fundamentalism have consigned "singing and dancing" to the hell realms, Sacred Sound in the form of chanting, music and song has always played an important role in the world's religions throughout the ages.   As anyone who has entoned the Sacred Syllable AUM knows, certain sounds resonate with certain chakras.  That AHHHH goes right to the Heart.  It's pretty Universal as a Sacred Sound. (to wit: Allah, Krishna, Rama, Jahweh, Wakan Tanka, Dao, Buddha, Alleluia, etc. -- Amen.)

Over the years, whether listening to the soul stirring call to prayer of a Muslim Muezzin or dancing 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Brother Lefty Tells it Like It Is -- On the Radio!

In a special two hour episode of "Spinning Tales From All Walks of Life", Brother Lefty Smith, S.O.B.* joins host Michael Pollitt on WMCB to share two hours of songs and stories about his journey as an Unrepentant Peacenik and Itinerant Rabblerouser.

Rambling through the terrain of an unusual childhood and his coming of age in the 60's into the world we live in today,  Lefty delivers what Pollitt describes as "heart songs."  His stories are full of the insights drawn from his experiences with the people encountered along the way and his devotion to the examples of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesus, Buddha --and the Hippies.

Claiming "You don't have to die to go to Heaven.  It's not a place, it's a quality of consciousness, a condition of the Heart," never far from a quip or chuckle about the world we live in, Lefty characterizes his music as "Hippie Folk Gospel Music".   Although rusty, even stumbling through the lyrics of his own songs on occasion, the two hours fly by. 

Michael has already asked him to return for more.

The show airs on the web at http://www.wmcb.net/Listen.html :

Friday, January 24 at 4-6 PM
Saturday, January 24 4-6 AM
Sunday, January 25 at 1-3 PM
Monday, January 26 at 1-3 AM

(Dates and times are USA EST)

My Humble Take on the Real Deal

I believe that the movement for peace, economic democracy and social justice is a Spiritual Quest. No mean feat, what is called for is a True Revolution of the Heart and Mind--and it starts with each of us.

This revolution has to be Peaceful. The Hippies (and Jesus and Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. King, et al) had it right. It really is all about Peace and Love. Besides being a total drag, violence just doesn't work. It keeps our wheels spinning in fear, anger and pain. Who needs that?

Besides some hard work, I think the Revolution also calls for dancing, plenty of laughter, and some sitting around just doing nothing. (Some folks call it meditation.)

As Stephen Gaskin, proclaimed years ago:

"We're out to raise Hell--in the Bodhisattvic* sense."

Doesn't that sound like some serious fun?

(*The Bodhisattva Vow is a set of commitments made in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition. It basically says I vow to get my act together and figure it out well enough to really help out--and I ain't gonna stop until everybody is covered.

I've found that doesn't necessarily have to happen in that order. It's best to try to help out even before you have it all together! Like right now.)

-----Brother Lefty Smith, Founding S.O.B*