We started by building an 8′ X 2′ box in our three-season room, and (with help of good persons at Growing Power and some worms) grew, with mixed results, salad greens and seedlings for the first summer’s garden. As the seasons change, our focus shifts back and forth between the sun-room and its evolving Growing Power Home Garden Project Box, and our Growing Power backyard garden, where we use the rich soil, worm castings and worms from the indoor box outdoors. Same system yet different.
Digging in the earth can uncover all kinds of things, and so can digging deep in ourselves. In my online journal, I have been recording daily reflections on the progress of our efforts in adapting the Growing Power model to our home and garden, mixed with my observations about life, peace, justice, faith, family, community and friends. Enjoy. Thank you! — Bob Graf
A week ago I wrote a Letter to the Editor called What is a Parent to do?. I wrote about the experiences of two sets of parents, our friends, who have adult sons seriously ill but unable to get them medical attention. The letter to the editor was never published but neither set of parents was able to find health care for their severely ill sons. Both young men have brain illnesses which we call mental illness, where the young adult has to be of healthy mind to consent for medical attention, something nearly impossible when the young man has a mental illness. I heard from one of the couples today how they got their adult son three times to consent to hospitalization only to find the hospital releasing him in a day.
This last one, hospital releasing today, the son was prepared to stay for awhile but because he hesitated to take medication the hospital released him today. His roommates are finding his behavior terrible distressing and do not want him back. Taking him to their own house has been very hard on the whole family and not healthy for the son.
It is hard to believe that in this day and age where we are starting to learn so much more about the brain, persons with mental illnesses are treated this way. In the name of protecting a person rights they are taking the rights away. I know and written about this feeling of helplessness.
At a St. Vincent De Paul conference meeting tonight one of our members mentioned how a particular woman receiving a voucher for some basic human needs seemed to her to feel entitled to these things. I held my tongue while some agreed with her and one brave young woman said how we should not judge the person. Later in the meeting, on a completely different subject matter I had the opportunity to mention how the Constitution entitles all of us to rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. I went on to say how the Gospel says we all have rights to beds, stoves and refrigerators. People laughed as did I, but there is some small truth to the message.
Tomorrow I go to my pretrial on charges I was trespassing when I tried to used my Marquette Library card to do some research on Dorothy Day in the Marquette archives. No one has given me a reason why I was banned from this Catholic Jesuit Marquette University, after 57 years of Jesuit education and association. The only thing that comes to mind is my participation with others over the years to get Marquette to Be Faithful to the Gospel and not host military training schools on campus. I guess they were tired of ignoring us and decided to make an example of me.
The Catholic Church is doing the same thing, ignoring the poor, in our request to use the 1.1 million dollars resulting from sales of three Catholic Church in North Central Milwaukee to provide a sustainable fund for works of mercy. It has been two years since the closing of the merged Catholic Church of Blessed Trinity and most of the money is still in bank accounts, between 1 million and 1.2 million dollars depending on how you count and how much has already been spent. Proposals how to spend the money have been discussed behind closed doors by a very small group of ‘advisers’ to the owners of the money, the five person Corporation Board headed by the Archbishop.
Not offering health care for adults with mental illnesses, teaching war and killing at a Jesuit Catholic University, the Catholic Church ignoring the plight of the poorest and most vulnerable, what is happening to our world today? We have technology and Apps for everything but cannot figure out how to do the “right thing.” We need an App for that?
My body is getting old and tired. My eyes, ears and mind do not work quite right and need help. Yet I cannot stop from speaking and acting out whenever I see injustice or violence. It is just in my nature to resist war and to struggle for justice, human dignity and respect. It is natural just like a tulip in my garden coming up each spring to grace our presence.
I listened to a TED talk by a brain scientist describing having a stroke in her left brain, the part that orders things, makes sense out of things, adds meaning and definition to life. Living with her right brain active only she had felt a deep sense of peace and everything seemed to be one. She eventually got well but the experience made her think about what side of the brain is more valuable in today’s world. Naturally it is the right side, the creative and peaceful side of the brain, being fully in the moment, she concluded the world needs more of.
Like our brain nature is created with balance. It is only when we human beings mess with nature, like genetic foods or with our brain, by an educational system that values the left brain, reading, writing and arithmetic, do we get out of balance. Environmentalist tell us how out we have made nature out of whack and experiences of war and violence tells us how much we have messed with balance of mind.
How do we change the world? I do not know? But I know if we struggle to live in balance with nature and our mind, leaning on right side brain, we can change the environment to make it easier to be good. As the old saying goes “We are the ones we are waiting for”.
As we get older we need to learn more and more how to keep our balance.
This weekend my son, David, brought my grandson, Dustin, down for another weekend basketball tournament. This statewide tournament of the best of each grade is dominated by teams from Milwaukee. They are taller and more skilled but, most of all, they are tougher. Hustle and aggressiveness can pay off in basketball especially for 13 years old. This private league takes the best of players from all over the metro area and when picking the best players from a large area like Milwaukee metro and a small area like Green Bay metro there can be a true imbalance. Next weekend my grandson’s team, Green Bay Metro, is going to Chicago for a weekend tournament. This will be playing basketball on a new level. Playing tough teams can, in some ways, be good for him and his teammates. It forces them to get better quickly. Tough competition makes their team tougher.
With basketball dominated I did not have much time for gardening but I got some in. My neighbor across the street is really into growing plants of all times and each year has a weekend sale for what he calls Schuller gardens. He has become quite an expert on garden at has his own website for Schuller Gardens.
Last night Pat and I went to theater production called One Night with Janis Joplin at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater. Between songs the actor playing Janis Joplin talked a lot about the blues. She talked about blues being when you want something and not get it. The blues was the feeling when you cannot obtain what you desire. This thought reminded me of something at the root of Buddhist thought: Desire causes suffering. A person with no desire or wants would not suffer; but the person, without other attributes of Buddhism would not be a person with much feelings and certainly not a Blues artist.
My grandson’s team can learn a lot from this big city teams is they do not let their desire to be like these teams get in the way. Having ambition to play basketball better is good but too much desire to be like another team can cause suffering.
My neighbor of [[http://www.schulergardens.com |Schuler Gardens has gardening skills far beyond I possess. His front yard garden has won awards from the city. If I desire to be like him I will suffer but if I admire and learn from him I will benefit.
Desire, be it to be a better basketball player or gardener, can be good if we can separate the desire for the wanting. If our desire to be something we are not, it is sad and cause suffer. If our desire is to be all we can be than we can bring joy in our lives. Be it basketball or gardening
Mark with Houston at Houston’s
high school graduation in 2009
Last week I wrote a “Letter to the Editor” about caring for person with mental illnesses, What is a Parent to Do?. I did not bother to edit the letter to make it two hundred words or less since I knew it would not be published. The “powers to be” have decided to repeat the mistake of the 80′s by closing institutions and sending person with these brain illnesses to the community for care. It sounded good but when the money for community care they did not come people with illnesses ended up not in hospitals or community treatment centers but in prisons and homeless shelters. Now our neglect to treat mental illnesses as other illness like heart condition or cancer we are about, at least in Wisconsin, to repeat the same mistakes.
When I was listening to Hear and Now on Public Radio the other day a writer, Mac McClelland, from Mother Jones magazine talk about her article Schizophrenic. Killer. My Cousin. Below is a summary of the article from the Hear and Now web page and the article itself can be found at Mother Jones magazine at Schizophrenic. Killer. My Cousin. Tomorrow I will put the article on the Featured Article web page but for tonight read and learn from the past and pray, hope and work that we do not make the same mistake again. Read and the article Schizophrenic. Killer. My Cousin.
In the 1980s, mental health care transitioned away from institutionalization and toward integrating the mentally ill into communities, with the help of medication and community health centers.
The medications came, but community mental health centers did not. And budgets cuts have meant fewer beds for people with mental illness in regular hospitals.
The result is that often the only way to get help for a loved one who is severely mentally ill is by calling the police.
In a piece in Mother Jones magazine, journalist Mac McClelland writes about how the issue affected her own family.
Her cousin Houston had been displaying symptoms of schizophrenia. He was seeing a psychiatrist and was on medication, but he became increasingly violent.
Houston’s parents asked the psychiatrist what to do. He told them to call the police. For a number of reasons, the family was reluctant to do so.
One night in 2011, Houston stabbed his father 60 times.
McClelland writes, “It’s insanity to kill your father with a kitchen knife. It’s also insanity to close hospitals, fire therapists, and leave families to face mental illness on their own.” Read the article at article Schizophrenic. Killer. My Cousin.
Today was a good day to work outside in the Garden but I had a higher calling from a friend. My friend has been in terrific pain for many years, had many operations, seen many doctors, and tried a number of pain control treatments and remains in pain. Family and some friends have abandoned her and she now lives in some kind of apartment building with minimal care. She has a van she purchased before she got too sick to drive and now lays in the backseat of van when she needs to go somewhere. When she does get out it is many hours of many stops for her and her driver which nowadays is I.
When I became 70 last year I said I was going to do less driving of friends in need and it worked out for most friends but her. She tried many agencies and has some good caseworkers who find housing and care for her but cannot use any public and private services for transportation for lack of finances or because of the delay she would face. Today I spend 5 1/2 hours running errands with her or without her. If I sound like I am feeling sorry for myself and that is probably true. However, I do realize that with ever burden comes blessings that greatly outdo the effort.
But getting old and with some physical and psychological needs of myself I will try to find her some other person that can share the burden/blessings of being her friend.
Society is becoming less and less concerned about its most vulnerable citizens, poor, alone and ill. We have relegated help and aide to agencies and organizations, especially for those who are most vulnerable.
In the Judgment of Nations parable in Matthew 25 of the Gospel, Jesus tells how nations will be judged in the last judgment by how they treated the least of the people. By that standard the USA is not doing so well. Making home visit to people in need in our St. Vincent De Paul conference, seeing how hard it is for persons like my friend to struggle with life and knowing how persons with brain disorders are treated, mostly in prison and jails, makes me sad and wanting to despair. However, in a way these experiences help me appreciate my life, family and privileges more and drives me to persist money from sales of Catholic Churches in Milwaukee in the poorest, most segregated area be used for the Cry of the Poor and to stop the local Jesuit Catholic University to stop teaching war and killing.
So the garden can wait; today it was a time to reap some blessing.
MAPS - Wednesday, May 15, 2013
more than 80% Black
more than 80% white
other populations mix
With the help of a friend and researcher I am hoping to start a new project call MAPS, Milwaukee Area Poverty and Segregation. In the 2000 and 2010 census Milwaukee was the most segregated city in the USA. Also Milwaukee has be designated the fourth poorest city in the USA. What I tried to show in my essays The Catholic Church in North Central Milwaukee is the most segregated area of Milwaukee is also the poorest. Related maps, like the imprisonment and release rate of persons, or unemployment overlap the same area.
All this might seem obvious to someone looking at Milwaukee from the outside but many people, especially those in power, seem to ignore this information. When some talk about segregation they often think about the open housing marches of the 60’s that ultimate got an open housing law passed. However, Milwaukee is the more segregated than it was in the 60’s. The great war against poverty has been diminished and now when people need basic help like a bed to sleep on, a stove to cook food or a refrigerator to keep food there is only the St.Vincent De Paul society and due to closing of Churches in poor and segregated areas they are limited and cannot serve all those in need.
All this did not happen naturally, As mass transportation was limited, as individuals, business and churches moved out, as the quality of public education was lessen and politicians ignored the area, the area got poorer and more segregated. This naturally lead to more crime and was a self fulfilling prophecy. The more the area was neglected, the worst conditions become and the more it was ignored and feared.
Milwaukee prides itself in being an ethnic town. We have ethnic festivals for Irish, Italians, Polish, Native American, Germans, Greeks and other ethnic groups, including a big one for African Americans. This is great but festivals and parades do equal integration and equality.
I cannot change people. If they do not want to hear or see what is happening I cannot change this. However, I and others can show in our personal life and decisions and by projects like this one, MAPS, what is really happening.
I believe that deep down in all human beings and in nature there is drive for equality and dignity of all persons. “We are who we are looking for” if only we can see and hear. The MAPS project might be a small way to grow awareness of what is happening to our beloved city and help us to have the courage to change it
Black spots on butterflys
are called stigmas
The day is done and I have moved forward and backward. Forward movement was in faith sharing and working in the garden. Backward movement was in responding to two emails to activities taken my parish council to secretly deal with 1.1 million plus received from closing of three Catholic Churches in North Central Milwaukee. It was clear from one of the parish council members he had not read or ignored these three essays, the Parable and the draft proposal for a sustainable works of mercy fund that he had been given. I understand why now Jesus said often, usually after telling parables, “Let them hear who have ears to hear and see if they have eyes to see.” It is difficult or impossible to discuss, especially by email, with a person who sets his or her mind on an attitude and will not discuss or dialog on information. I responded, hopefully not reacted twice today to the secrecy and ignoring of parish council to the message to use money inherited form closing church in this area for a sustainable fund for persons and families in need.
We touched on this issue of people making up their mind and not wanting any criticism or dialog this morning in Faith Sharing. It is hard to argue with such a person who puts you and/or message in a box and then stigmatize it or you. Yet not to respond to misrepresentation is not right and plays into the hands of those who want to ignore the message. Striking a balance between taking in personal blows and sticking to the message is difficult. Reacting to a person is easy but just makes the stigma grow. Sticking to message, not reacting and keeping an open mind to listen to others, is difficult. It is that old “Love your friends as you love your enemies” thing all over again.
I had a chance to work in the gardens outside today. If you make a mistake in gardening nature, in time, will let you know. If you do something successful Nature lets you know. Nature just listens and communicates by responding not reacting to our gardening work.
The politicians, military and gun supporters admit it is not natural to shoot a person yet they keep promoting wars where young men and woman need to “kill or be killed”. If something like killing is not natural it means that no therapy or medication will solve the problem of teaching people to kill without conscience or by remote control with Killer Drones.
At Faith Sharing this morning someone reminded us of the lessons in the book “I learned all I need to know in kindergarten.” In kindergarten we learn how to share and the wonder of nature and life. Seeing and hearing the wonders of nature is all we need to know.
Pat’s Grass - Monday, May 13, 2013
Pat’s Grass Today
My friend in Texas, a wonderful lateral thinker sent me some cotton seeds today. He is usually giving me a tough time about my praise of Mahatma Gandhi so he sent with the seeds a picture of Gandhi using a spinning wheel making Khadi from cotton. Khadi is handspun and hand-woven cloth. Gandhi making Khadi was a symbol and real way of independence for India since was it was a big market for the mills of England. Growing cotton and making your own clothes was an act of rebellion and sparked the nonviolent revolution resulting in India’s independence.
My gardens front and back are already dedicated to flowers, herbs and vegetables. The gardens in front, rain garden full of perennial flowers and raised garden, are the only areas that get good sun. So in the raised garden in front is for tomatoes, basil, eggplants, peppers, all the plants that need sun and water. In the back I have plants like lettuce, mint and kale that do not need as much sun. The back of the house faces south but large trees, garage and houses block sun for some of the day. The front gardens is on the North side of the house but the high sun of spring and summer allow the sun to shine over the house onto the gardens.
There is a strip of grass in front of the house, between raised vegetable garden and house. When my wife had objections about tearing up grass for front yard gardens I dedicated that grassy area to her. I call it Pat’s grass. When I gently showed her the gifted cotton seeds tonight she read over the packaging and suggested I plant the cotton in pots which I can bring in sun room in spring and fall so the cotton plants can have four months of frost free warm sunny area they need. I have some sun lights in the sun room over the Growing Power box which I am using now to start tomatoes plants. So that may work and we can keep Pat’s grass.
Gradually I have been working on Pat’s grass, pulling dandelions and planting new seeds so it looks pretty good right now. So neighbors may have more grass to cut but Pat’s grass is doing great and growing cotton will need some creative thinking.
Watching Basketball is a Slow
My brother from Iowa was in town for a visit this weekend as were two of my grandchildren with my daughter-in-law. My brother was here for a visit and for the stuffed Grape leave dinner we planned. My grandson was here for a basketball tournament as he plays for a 7th grade private team out of Green Bay Metro. Next weekend he will be here for a basketball tournament again but this time just with his dad, my son. There are just too many things going on these days for all three grandchildren to visit at one time, as they did when they were young. My young granddaughter was busy teaching my brother and my wife how to use a new app called Voxer which turns you cell phone or, in her case, I Pod, into a walkie talkie. Between all their activities and their smart phones, pads and computers and of course school and some TV there is not much time for my grandchildren to be just hanging around.
I am not complaining, or maybe I am, since some of the activities seem like healthy and fun ones. My granddaughter wanted to go out for a run and I was the only adult to say okay. We ran up the street and on the bike/walking trail through the park across the street. Fortunately she has small legs so between my fast walking and slow running and her running in place I was able to keep up with her. She told me about a running club she has twice a week after school. She likes running a lot. Since my son’s family live in a rural area and take bus to and from school I asked her how she got home after running. She told me two of the boys on the dairy farm across the road also run and their mom takes her home.
As I get older and my my senses are not too sharp I feel more a need to slow down. My grandchildren and their parents are going in the opposite direction with more and more to do, at play, school and church.
My grandson was bemoaning the fact that he might need to miss “Bible Camp” this year, which he really enjoys, because of this basketball team, soccer team, refereeing soccer and other activities. Can too many activities be harmful as too little activity for a child? I do not know but know my desire to be childlike does not go too far after three years old.
I did sneak a little work in the garden today. No one wanted to go out with me. My granddaughter did for a little awhile but wanted to get back into the kitchen to help Grandma with the grape leave meals. It is was good visiting with my brother, watching basketball games of 7th graders and enjoy a good Middle Eastern meal with family. But if we could only slow down a little?
We have been struggling for years to have persons with mental health illnesses to get treatment as persons with other illnesses would receive. Recent events compelled me to write this Letter to the Editor of our newspaper.
May 10, 2013
In the last few days family friends have told us of severely ill adult sons who hospitals would not accept. These young men were not involved in car accidents or had stokes or heart attacks. In those cases 911 could have been called and they would be taken to hospitals. These two young men suffer from brain diseases and thus, unlike other acute illnesses, need to consent to hospitalization. Brain diseases, mental illnesses, are not treated the same as other diseases like cancer or heart disease.
Kathleen Eilers, the former and present administrator of the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division of Milwaukee County, calls for in a MJS opt-ed piece a “community-based system of services for people with mental illnesses” where people with acute hospitalization needs would be getting services in community hospitals. A community based system of services sounds great just like it did in the 80’s where thousands of personal with mental illnesses were released from institutions. However, without sufficient community funding many of the ill ended up in jails, prisons or homeless shelters. The country jail and House of Correction house are the largest institutions for peopele sick with brain diseases. Does anyone really think that in this day and age of “no more taxes” we can build a good community recovery system?
Also what will happen to person very sick like the sons of my two friends? Part of mental illnesses often is that people do not realize they are sick; yet hospitals will not accept them unless they voluntary agree to treatment. What are loved ones to do? A ‘three party commitment’, which is difficult, usually results in a temporary fix and jails and prison only makes the illness worst.
What are parents to do? Wait for a tragedy like the Kuester family in Waukesha did as reported in today’s MJS. Wait for the adult to take his own life as my son did at the age of 39. All ill persons have rights to health care despite their delusions or types of mental illnesses. Let us start a new civil rights movement for persons with mental illnesses and their loved ones.
On a news report today about living longer it says that optimist leave longer than pessimist. For most of my life I have been called an optimist but probably now many would say I am not. Part of the reason was a change in myself and part a change in society.
In the society being critical used to be considered an asset. Questioning things, debating, critical conversations were a sign of respect and good will. Now days if you criticize too much or enter into a creative conflict of differences you are seen, often, as a troublemaker. You can criticize conservatives or liberals, Democrats or Republicans but to criticize both sides of one or the other is considered being negative. “If you cannot say anything nice just do not say anything.”
The other change has been in me. After the shadow of death descending upon me I have been more aware of the communion of people and more sensitive to death destruction wherever it occurs. Being aware of death can be peaceful but people do not see it this way. If you remind them of the terrible deaths “Killer Drones are causing in Pakistan you are being a pessimist and people do not like to listen to a pessimist.
So as society changes to avoid personal conflict among friends and loved ones and I change to be more aware of suffering and death in the world around me some would say I am no longer an optimist.
But I believe I am the same old optimist. On the other side of death and destruction is life and wonder. Part of the criticism and pointing out flaws comes out of love and respect for the other person or institution. If I did not care about a liberal friend who are silent when Democrats do things they would criticize if a Republican did the same thing or about the Catholic Jesuit institution of Marquette University training killing, I would simply be silent and indifferent when they do things I find going against the values or standards they stand for. As Elie Wiesel said: “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”
The above is not to excuse myself from being negative. Being negative as a reaction to something is not good. It is better to take in the negative, as nonviolence teaches, and keep on moving ahead, if that means taking positive action, resisting or criticizing. A person with a positive and optimistic attitude will live longer, I believe, as long they are true to themselves.
While waiting for some wiki help to change the cover picture on this web page and make some other changes, I have thought of two project that, if I have the time and ability, might be worthwhile. One is the Works of Mercy Vs Works of War project which will highlight the research and writing done on two projects. The Works of Mercy will be on why the Archdiocese of Milwaukee should use the 1.1 million dollars it received from closing the merged parish of Blessed Trinity to establish a sustainable fund to provide beds, stoves and refrigerators for persons in need in North Central Milwaukee.
The second project is related. It will be the MAPS (Milwaukee Area Poverty and Segregation) which will visually demonstrate how the public and private neglect for North Central Milwaukee, the most segregated part of the most segregated city and the poorest part of the fourth poorest city in USA is in part responsible for high homicide, unemployment and imprisonment rate of this area. We cannot change persons but we can build an “environment which it is easier to be good”.
The Works of War will highlight the role Marquette University, Jesuit Catholic, is a major contributor to Works of War. I will try to highlight lots of research and action done on this issue over the years to get Marquette to Stop Teaching War and Killing.
One can say that both of these issues are Catholic Church related and ask why I, a Catholic, am picking on these two issues for Works of Mercy Vs Works of War project. There are many reasons why but the best one for me is something I learned from the lives of ‘saints’ I admire, like Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Dorothy Day.
In the essay Conversations Between St Ignatius of Loyola and Mahatma Gandhi I have Gandhi describe what he means by ‘Swadeshi’ which is somewhat like our word sustainability. In his autobiography he says “Swadeshi is the use and service of our immediate surroundings over those more remote or foreign.” In other words, as our Moms taught us, “charity starts at home”. If we cannot love and make our immediate environment more just and peacefully doing the works of mercy and resisting the works of war how do we expect to do it in other places.
In an article sent to me this morning, Who is my neighbor? the prosecutor of the three persons protesting nuclear bomb manufacturing asked the three if they “ protested nuclear weapons by traveling to nuclear powers other than the United States.” They gave various good answers but I would say “I did it out of love for my country.” As St. Ignatius of Loyola says, “Love is best expressed in deed over words”. Thus before we can preach to other countries about not building new nuclear weapon factories we must stop doing it in this country. These three persons called The Transform Now Plowshares are pointed a basic truth of humanity, change starts with self and country. How do expect people to respect us when we send Killer Drones to destroy their homes and lives.
Often doing the works of mercy can be inconvenient and difficult and resisting the works of war can bring hardships. But what is new? Anything worth struggling for is that way and without working on it, doing the works of mercy and resisting the works of war, it does not happen. We can start with the war and mercy at home.
Today while shopping at Aldi’s grocery store, where many people using food stamps shop, I purchased something they cannot buy with food stamps, marigold flowers. Each year I plant marigolds around the raised vegetable garden on our front lawn. A long time ago someone told me that marigolds repel insects. This seems to be true for some plants, although my research says it attracts some insects. But it works for me as the tomato, pepper, basil and eggplants I plant in the front garden seem to flourish bug free. I planted the twelve marigold plants I purchased today but will need some more to place them on all four sides. Another good thing about marigolds is that they get larger as spring and summer goes on and stay in bloom till late fall.
We all need some pretty flowers like Marigolds in our lives and they are really appreciated if they repel the insects that bug us. I got to thinking of marigolds I can plant in my everyday life to protect me from stuff that bugs me. One thing I can do is be careful, very careful of what I write in emails. Emails are good for communicating information but, for me at least, are poor for expressing opinions and ideas. They, like a literal evangelical interpretation of the bible, can easily be misrepresented. Articles, blogs and essays seem like an easier way to communicate opinions and ideas. In person to person communication by face or phone one can always have an exchange back and forth to clarify thoughts but not so in email.
Another marigold in my life is limiting my time at talks and meetings. Over talking, something I know a little about is bothersome but so can be over listening. To really listen takes energy and focus. To hear things deeply and not doing or being able to do anything about what you hear can be frustrating. There is no need to hear the same thing over and over again.
Music can be a marigold. Relaxing music soothes my mind and keeps the insects of life away.
Reading a book, especially a novel, is a good marigold. It involves use of the five senses of the imagination something TV does not do.
Prayer, Meditation, Mindfulness and other means of quieting the mind are marigolds. There are enough marigolds in life to surround the garden of ourselves.
The last few years I have noticed a lot of similarities between groups that are normally opposed, liberals vs. conservatives, Democrats vs. Republicans. For example take Israel’s bombing raids in Syria. The democratic president says it is self defense and the Republicans agree.
There was an article in the newspaper today saying how diverse parties want a bill restricting what people in Wisconsin can purchase with Food Stamps. All parties agree there is no solid evidence of what people purchase with Food Stamps but antidote stories say it is not as healthy as it can be. Waiting in line at Aldi’s where I shop I have noticed many people pay for qualified food and drink with food stamps. To me and my anecdotal story they seem to purchase about the same balance of food than I do, a few chips or unhealthy snacks but mostly basic items. In fact, there are many articles that seem essential for healthy living that do not qualify for food stamp purchase, like dental creme, paper towels, soap, laundry deterrent etc.
I have also noticed that almost all parties ignore the poor and marginalized, although some talk more about them. I have been trying to point out how North Central Milwaukee has been neglected and marginalized by the four P’s, personal, politicians, private and public factors. Some groups might talk about the neglect of the poor but talk is cheap and does nothing to change the situation.
More military spending, more neglect of the poor, avoiding conflict knows no differences between people.
Garden crops and Growing 2012
Working in the garden again today brought back my focus. That seems strange to say but it is true. Our minds wander at times and it is hard to stay in the present and in focus. I find some church services, for example, very hard to stay focused on what is happening. But the garden, maybe because it captures the attention of all five senses, makes it easier to stay in focus.
In the garden you hand touches the rake or ground. Your eyes see what you are doing. Ears hear the cars driving by or the birds chirping. The smell of earth, flowers and grass are in the air. The taste of the drink of water or of a dry thought is there. Working in the Garden is an activity that uses all five senses and maybe that is why it is easier to in the present.
St. Ignatius of Loyola had a way of praying that uses all five senses of the imagination to pray. I wrote and used this method and the past and probably need to dust it off, publish it on this site and, above all, use it. When I was using it I noticed that I found the Gospel stories in everyday life, like reading the newspaper. By uses the five sense of imagination in prayer I was able to more easily read the Gospel in my everyday life.
On this site before I have listed the blessings of a garden. Here is another one to add: in the garden we learn how to live in the present.
Sometimes the sadness, suffering, violence, despair of life and my own frailty and faults are overwhelming. There seems to be nothing I can do about it yet do not want to sink more into hopelessness. At these times something seems to come along, if I am looking for it, to show me the way out, at least for now.
Tonight it was an email with an article from Frida Berrigan called A Place Where It Is Easier To Be Good. I was blessed to have met Frida once at a Catholic Worker event and to have known, in the past, her father, Phil Berrigan and her uncle, Dan Berrigan. She talks about her experience living at the Catholic Worker House, Maryhouse, in NYC and how that experience was a real education for her. She writes:
“Dozens of times, I have seen people ask my uncle Dan for a recipe to stave off despair and hopelessness in the face of almost inexorable pain, suffering, institutional callousness and inertia. I think they are looking for the next Catonsville Nine, the next Occupy, the next Pay it Forward, the catalytic thing that will change everything. He does not play this game. He does not prescribe actions for others. Rather, he speaks very simply. He says that he only reads the New York Times about once a week, and he pours over the Catholic Worker newspapers that come in from around the country and the world.
Reading about the modest efforts of earnest, real and imperfect people to care for their neighbor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner, care for the sick, bury the dead in their midst, to see Christ in each person — this is the news that lifts his heart and gives him the strength to keep going.”
This is the second time this week a wise person has told me how he watches very little news and seeks out all the good things that are happening around him.
Being a news addict I can see how ‘too much information’ on what is happening, like the second bombing of Syria by Israel today, violent accidents and acts, the destruction of our public school system is just too much if I am trying to be sensitive to life around me. I can even go back to walking through life asleep and cut back in the bad news and focus on the good news, like the new flowers in the rain garden. News addictions like any other addiction feeds on itself. I do not think I can go cold turkey but can clearly cut back. In the news watching time I can read, reflect or, like a Catholic Worker be with persons struggling to survive. Less bad news might mean more awareness and perspective on what is really happening in my life and world around me. It will take some discipline but it is worth a try. Good news heals while bad news hurts.
Spring Around to Daffodils
Into the hollow hole of my heart
I drop deep down
Into the land of dreams and silence.
It is scary here but I stay as long as I can.
Finally I need to breathe, go up
And talk and talk till I cannot stop.
In 1969 as we were applying for marriage license I was asked for my job or profession. At the time I was unemployed and about to go on trial for the Milwaukee 14 nonviolent action. I thought awhile and wrote on the form, ‘poet and politician’. The poet was more accurate a description although I wrote very little poetry but the politician description was how I was describing acting on my conscience, not what we think a politician would do.
As I grew older I had many jobs and professions, advertising sales magazine publisher, teacher, youth minister, community organizer. Now, at 70, I feel I am turning back into a poet and politicians. My poetry is different, much darker and my politicians label remains the same, the need to act on conscience.
The more we go around the more we go back to the beginning.
Time rushes forward and around
Yet we must stop talking to hear
Where we are.
Tonight by way of the web I heard that Israeli planes had attacked people and things in Syria and had flown over the airspace of Lebanon, the country of my ancestors, in clear violation of United Nations rulings.
Marquette University reported tonight on TV news that 11 cases of alleged sexual assault were reported over the last month.
I am a person who likes to connect things, even if it sometimes means oversimplification. I have met people with keen minds that can connect events, some suffering from mental illnesses.
Earlier today, before hearing of the Israeli attack and the sexual assaults, I thought what connects many of the peace and justice issues that concern many people of good faiths, politics and cultures? I think I can break it down to one general category.
Do Peace and Resist War and Violence and treat creation with love and respect.
Peace does not mean an absence of violence or is not something passive. It is an active love and respect for all of creations and in particular poor, outcast and marginalized. With respect for all human life and consciousness that we are all connected would there be this violence we see in the world today.
Militarization of our culture and our schools would fall under this characterization as well as harm to our environment and killing persons by the remote control of Killer Drones. Love, respect and dignity for all would demilitarize our world. The power of nonviolence, if we believe, is much more powerful than any bomb.
In an environment that rejects war and violence and when all are love and respected,no matter who they are, can sexual assault survive? In nations that respect life would violence be used to create peace?
I know I am oversimplifying, like saying that the “means does not justify the end” or “violence begets more violence” but maybe there is something to simplification, like a child who naturally loves and needs to be taught hate, violence and prejudice. Maybe God did create all creation to be good and if we have eyes to see and hearts and ears to hear we can find God in all creation, simply saying all is one and one is all.
Twice today rain prevented work in the garden. The first time was the rain in early afternoon after I got home and the second time was a hard rain later after I was working raking the rain garden. I guess rain is better for gardening than the snow other parts of the Midwest.
I finally got the tomato plants started in the unheated sun room but had to put the heater on at night when temperatures drop into the 40’s. Some say that the very early spring in March last year was not normal but I say the very late and cold spring in May is not normal. With man-made climate change the normal of nature will never return.
I still find myself addicted to news on TV when I know that most of it is just entertainment and does not really tell the story of what happened. Like the weather I have been manipulated to believe that news is normal and real, not fake and censored. There is also the web and a site you can trust and has good gatekeepers to get the news, but it is not as entertaining. Naturally the news we do not want to hear, like all the children in the world being killed by USA, is news we do not hear on the news.
A few years ago the local newspaper had some stories on the crisis intervention program police officers were taking how to handle persons with mental illnesses. After three recent reports of police shootings of persons with mental illnesses that were lightly reported in the news I callwd to the agency who was doing the training and wrote to the reporter who wrote the articles asking what was the story on these homicides. I have not heard back yet.
I have been criticized and marginalized by leaders in my own Catholic Church for requesting a dialog about using the 1.1 million the church received from closing churches to do the corporal works of mercy in the same area where the money came, North Central Milwaukee. A friend told me today not to bring it up any longer at our church since I have been associated with this issue and it gives those who marginalized me a chance to ignore the message more by dismissing the messenger.
Marquette University, by banning me for the message that Marquette be faithful to the Gospel and no longer teach war and killing on campus. By denying me rights to use the library they are taking away the one thing Marquette had a value to me, the right to do research in the Catholic Worker archives.
What to do? My research on the life and journey of Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker, gives me a hint of what to do—keep struggling to do the works of mercy and resist war and violence in a nonviolent way. This means no violence of words or actions and a willingness to suffer insult and perhaps injury and acting on one’s conscience. When Dorothy Day took a strong stand against World War II a number of Catholic Worker house of hospitality disbanded, including the original one here in Milwaukee because they could not agree with her. She did not react but keep on doing the works of mercy and works of resistance and now there are more Catholic Worker houses in the world than ever and she, dismissed by many in the Catholic Church is now being considered for sainthood. Dorothy Day did not look to the hierarchy of Catholic Church or institutions like Marquette University for guidance. Instead she looked to the lives of the Saints. I have my own group of saints that I look too: Dorothy Day, , Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., St. Ignatius of Loyola, Frederick Ozaman, founder of the Society of St. Vincent De Paul, Blessed Franz Jagerstatter and my friend Lorenzo Rosbaugh. You will notice that I have quotes or web pages for eight of the nine of them on this web page www.nonviolentcow.org.
I do not need to know more or attend more talks and events to know “What they do”. I have enough wisdom and grace from these ‘saints’ and from my own life to last me forever if I can only hear the message and see these persons in my own life. All I need to know is in the lives of these saints.
Martin Luther King, Seeking Justice
or Receiving Justice
May 1st means a lot of things to many people. It is a pagan holiday, a day to honor Mary, the Mother of God, a Workers rights day, a day to show off military might and here in Milwaukee a day to focus on Immigration reform.
The meaning of May 1st changes from where you are and who you are. So does the meaning of words. I used to use “family values” to describe basic human values of concern and love for all people. Than the conservatives took it over and made it stand for conservative values only.
I thought of myself as a person for peace and justices. However, now when one says they are “seeking justice” they usually mean punishment or revenge.
“Peace through strength”, war, violence and nuclear power sure messed up the word peace. Government existing for the “common good” is gone these days that now government exist for the individual.
Human rights and dignity are now often due to like persons, like Americans, but does not seem to apply to most woman, children and men in places like Pakistan or Palestine.
During the Vietnam War a famous general said that “to save the village we had to destroy it”. This makes no sense to me as the police officer who just shot eight times and killed a person with mental illness as the person was attempting suicide.
Another word change was thrown at me today by a friend. He used the word “patience” to mean keep silent about an issue with poor and Catholic Church which was supposed to be resolved over two years ago. Patience now seems to mean, in certain instances, keeping silent.
One reason I am attracted to poor, ill, children or many elderly person is that say often what they mean. I like that and have little patience for word games. A family without a bed, refrigerator or stove does not use the word “patience” to describe waiting and frustration for “justice”, the old kind of justice.
Sometimes I think people can misrepresent words or other people, even change the meaning and think it makes a difference. When will we ever learn words are just symbols to describe reality and by changing the meaning of words changes nothing in reality.