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

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*