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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Milk of Human Kindness

A few years ago, I posted nine of The 10 Things in the World That Amaze Me Most... and to be fancy, I used Roman numerals. Well guess what? I forgot Roman numeral X. Here's that list again, refreshed... and I'm proud of it because it makes a great case for the quality of life : 

I: The Pacific Ocean, II: Big Numbers, III: The Young, IV: Laughter, V: Nature, VI: The Power of One, VII: The Natural Laws of Physics, VIII: Us Humans, IX: The Heavens...

And finally, Roman numeral X: The Milk of Human Kindness...

 ...arguably the greatest human virtue, as in "...  love your neighbor as yourself." Kinda 'Golden Rule-ish' love.

In a world that seems increasingly filled with war, hate, revenge, anger, rancor and discontent... with acrimony, distrust and despair, we must remind ourselves that there is a light beyond our evening news.

Name your favorite movie... did you say Sleepless in Seattle, Princess Bride or When Harry Met Sally? Love as a theme is popular because that's where we choose to live.

Words of love can never convey the spirit of love that comes from the heart... but we keep trying. These are just a few of those:

"My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness."
-- The Dalai Lama

"The flower of kindness will grow. Maybe not now, but it will some day.
And in kind that kindness will flow, for kindness grows in this way."
-- Robert Alan

"Seek not good from without: seek it within yourselves, or you will never find it."
-- Epictetus (2nd century)

"Happy were men if they but understood
There is no safety but in doing good"
-- John Fountain.

"Be the change you want to see in the world."
-- Mohandas Gandhi.

"Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity."

"Life’s most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?"
--Martin Luther King, Jr

"How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world."
--William Shakespeare

"Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see."
--Mark Twain

"Don’t spend your precious time asking 'Why isn’t the world a better place?' It will only be time wasted. The question to ask is 'How can I make it better?' To that there is an answer."
--Leo F. Buscaglia

"Take away love and our earth is a tomb."
--Robert Browning

"Shall we make a new rule of life from tonight: always to try to be a little kinder than is necessary?"  --Sir James M. Barrie

"Either men will learn to live like brothers, or they will will die like beasts."
--Max Lerner

So many gods, so many creeds,
So many paths that wind and wind,
While just the art of being kind
Is all the sad world needs.
--Ella Wheeler Wilcox

"No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted."

"Where there is great love, there are always miracles."
--Willa Cather

"Live for something. Do good, and leave behind you a monument of virtue that the storm of time can never destroy.Write your name in kindness, love, and mercy, on the hearts of thousands you come in contact with year by year; you will never be forgotten.
No, your name, your deeds, will be as legible on the hearts you leave behind as the stars on the brow of evening. Good deeds will shine as the stars of heaven."
--Thomas Chalmers

""You will find, as you look back upon your life, that the moments when you really lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love."
--Henry Drummond

"Go out into the world today and love the people you meet. Let your presence light new light in the hearts of people." --Mother Teresa

"I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear."
--Martin Luther King Jr.

"Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves."
--James M. Barrie

OK... do you get it? Love is BIG! The Golden Rule is BIG!

So, for the grand finale: (I am not trying to send a religious message, though if you interpret is as such, that's fine by me... but while this verse is seen as secular, it is so commonly accepted on its face for its sentiment.

Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I lost a friend today...

Actually, he was my friend, but I don't think I was his at the end. He was 94.

I knew him fairly well for 35 years as a friend, then years after as his ex-friend because of a misunderstanding that did not lead to a discussed resolution. He was someone I closely worked with for most of those first 35. He was one of the guys that you would have seen in the movie, Saving Private Ryan. He was a combat infantryman in World War II... one of the guys who could say he walked his way through Italy... and it was not a vacation. He was one of those guys.

He fought every step of the way in what was called The Italian Campaign. It was no small thing. It is estimated that between September 1943 and April 1945, some 60,000 Allied and 50,000 German soldiers died in Italy.

He talked little about "The War," but one story he did tell: His platoon was being fired upon by the enemy from a farmhouse. In the encounter, the Americans stormed the house and my friend was the first to burst in, expecting enemy fire. Apparently the enemy had escaped out the back but he didn't know that. Hearing noise in the cellar, he assumed it was the enemy. He threw a hand grenade down the steps... and, as it turns out, it was an elderly couple, probably the farm owners, hiding in fear.

He would become quite angry when there was critical post war talk from a newsman or congressman... or anyone...  about soldier atrocities, saying unless you were there, no one could ever know or judge the life or death circumstances that led to any incident.

He once told a reporter: "Ambivalence about civilian deaths during war is resolved while peering down the sight of a rifle, heart pounding, finger tightening on the trigger. No one who has not lived through combat can judge that moment."  He fought in five major campaigns in Europe during World War II and grappled with memories of death and carnage. He riled about criticism and the morality of soldiers in war from anyone who has never been in that position.

My friend grew up in The Great Depression of 1932-33 watching his parents struggle, as so very many did. He was a young man when Pearl Harbor was attacked and he became one of the many who fought the ground war in Italy and France and wherever else the horror of war sent him. These events marked many for the rest of their lives.

Today we recognize post traumatic stress disorder as a very real syndrome that is estimated to affect as many as one of three veterans. Whether my friend was one of those, I do not know. but for someone who has never experienced what that was like, there is no possible understanding other than, how could one go through so much, see so much, live in such circumstances and conditions and not be, in some way be impacted?

Today the media is recognizing the 10th anniversary of our war in  Iraq. There was NPR talk on the historical value of that war... or any war. One commentator said that, in his opinion, so many died in vain. But another... much, much wiser, countered... no American military person has ever died in vain if they fought for our country. No soldier ever chose the battle, they just did what their country needed at that time... and so many gave the ultimate sacrifice in doing so. And an even greater number of wounded and survivors lived with the memories... and the consequences.

They are all heroes... all of them. As was my friend. 

Thank you friend, for the opportunity to know and respect you. I was honored.         

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Please leave a message...

Like A Puppet on a String

… Please leave a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. BEEEEP…

Look, you told me to call so I know you’re there… I just don’t know where THERE is… this phone number is new to me. Where are you?

So don’t pick up! Maybe you’ll listen to me this way since you haven’t listened to me yet.

We’ve talked about this. Don’t be a blockhead… just listen.

Show business is a hard, compromising life. Nothing is real. Sure, you’re good now but they’ll string you out. That old song and dance wears thin. You are floating on air one-day and swallowed up the next. They’ll say you’re one of a kind… the best... anything to make a buck at your expense. They don’t give a damn about you… you’re just their meal ticket. They’ll suck the sap out of you, I promise.

Those so-called friends of yours… don’t they have a home? That’s a bad bunch you’re hanging out with… bad influences, all of them. The world isn’t your own private carnival. And that con man you call the big boss… he’ll make a jackass out of you, ears to tail.

You smelled of smoke when I last saw you… SMOKE.  Don’t you know cigars will kill you? I knew you were drinking too… I saw it in your eyes… heard it in your voice. Sometimes I think you’re dumber than a stack of sticks.

You are adrift now… and soon you’ll be swallowed up by a monstrous ego; overwhelmed in the belly of the beast you call the real world. Is that what you want? I can’t believe you would say yes.

You wouldn’t say yes, would you?

Are you listening to me? Pick up if you’re there… or not.

And don’t be sticking your nose in everyone else’s business. That nosey thing of yours will bring you nothing but trouble. These people don’t care about you… but we do. I’m your best friend. We are family.

The path you are on will NEVER set you free. It will never make you real. I’ll promise you one thing for sure… if you don’t change your ways, you can kiss your maker goodbye.

You are so naïve…  greener than a limb from that fruit tree in your own back yard. Look… I don’t want to be your conscience. I want to be your friend… no strings attached.

We’re worried sick about you… waiting for you to sand away those rough edges of your life and get on with it. We pray you’ll find your way home. We’re going crazy looking everywhere for you, but we really don’t have a clue.

So a little help please. Give us a hint… where are you? It hurts to know you’re awash on stormy seas and totally sucked in. Talk to us… if you can.


Geppetto, Figaro and Cleo miss you terribly…  and I do too. I remember the first time we met:

“Did you say your name was Jiminy Cricket?” you asked. “I didn’t know crickets could talk.”

And up to then, Pinoch, I didn’t know puppets could either.

It’s time to get real Pinocchio. We love you. We miss you. Come home.