Wednesday, August 10, 2016

How I wish all America could have joined us……



…… as my college age granddaughter and I worshiped at a Muslim mosque.

Several months ago as the virulent anti-Muslim voices became even more pronounced throughout our country, I felt compelled to do something in support of those of the Islamic faith. Knowing that the Christian church I attend provides space each Friday for Muslim prayers, I felt that the least I could do would be to welcome these worshipers. As I stood outside the door to welcome them and was joined by a few young people, I could almost feel the apprehension of those men and women who were arriving. Upon noting that we were a "friendly mob," my heart was warmed by the exchange of greeting - not a handshake - but drawing each other into friendship by touching our own hearts.

As we continued to do this for several weeks, we invited the worshipers to share food and drink several times after their prayers. Several months now have passed and our friendship has waned somewhat because of summer schedules. How tragic, however, that the forces that divide us have continued unabated. Thus I thought I would not only greet the worshipers again, but also see if we could join in worship.

How I wish all Americans could've accompanied us! How very warmly we were welcomed.  Fellow human beings of all hues taking time from their noon lunch or work on Friday afternoon sharing a time of prayer. Young and old, men and a few women, well-dressed professionals, workers in overalls and cab drivers prostrated themselves towards the origin of their belief. My granddaughter with me in the rear of the room held the leash of the seeing-eye dog of the speaker, a trial attorney with the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. In a message of love, forgiveness and reconciliation, as he made equal reference to God and Allah, his sermon equaled any I have heard in a lifetime of attending Christian services.


We could feel the dedication and commitment to love in the room through the silence of worshipers in their prone position, I felt a oneness with all humankind as I bowed my head in joint meditation with them.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Something to really rave about at ninety!

I truly never thought I would live to see it! How much America has changed since I first left the womb in 1925!  REGARDLESS of any political affiliation, it was truly a miracle for me to hear the eloquence of an African American who has been president of OUR country for eight years speak on behalf of a woman who has been nominated to be president of our country.

It has been my privilege to volunteer for the past 7 1/2 years at the White House Visitors Center welcoming people coming to the White House expressing pride and interest in our country. I HAVE BEEN OVERWHELMED by the number of African Americans - from individuals to proud large family reunions - eager to enter the WHITE House where someone of their race is head of the house and the country.  

How remarkable now that I might also live to see a woman become president!  IT WAS BUT FIVE YEARS BEFORE I WAS BORN that a woman could even vote in a presidential election.

Whatever happens in this election, I have to remain confident that my country is continuing on the path of truly becoming exceptional in ways never before seen in this world.   

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Thoughts that come to me in the night!

Here's perhaps the best way to put the last year in perspective:
Thank you, Donald, you have made your point. Now go back to your sandbox. And let Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Kaine continue their lifelong commitment of working to solve the problems of the world. for ALL of us,

Sunday, July 3, 2016

It's too hot to rant and rave, but

I just HAD to do it!  I couldn't keep silent all summer.  While they aren't "earthshaking," a couple of items came to my attention this week that I just HAD to "have my say" on.  Any reaction?

About political correctness:

What a joy this morning in church to sing the stirring, patriotic hymn composed in 1882 by Samuel Augustus Ward, "Oh Beautiful for Spacious Skies".

Oh beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain. 
for purple mountain majesties, above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee, 
and crown like good with *brotherhood from sea to shining sea.
*Or "servanthood."

I first want to admit that I am an agnostic, atheistic Christian! But a vital portion of my life at 90 continues to be attending my various churches. And the hymns for me are a lusty and beloved part of the weekly experience. But how can I be expected to praise the "servanthood" that is listed as an alternative singing?  Something that so beleaguered so many of my fellow Americans for so many years as a blot upon our nations conscience.  Think how the rhythm of the tune would be destroyed were we to put all the various sexual references into the rendition.  Can't we sometime just sit back and enjoy a tradition for what it is?

 About leaders::

How very fascinating to have The Washington Post this week on the front page of the Style Section include in a lengthy article on my boyhood hero, Charles A. Lindbergh! Of course many of the younger generation are not aware of the exploits of this national, worldwide hero who was the first to cross the Atlantic alone in his simple aircraft, "The Spirit of St. Louis". Honored by President Hoover at the White House, he was showered by events in our country and lionized throughout the world. And today I prize the two-sided ancient phonograph record that was the hit of the day and was a part of our family collection.   In order to get a feel for how great was the adulation, I'd like to recommend that you take a few minutes during this holiday week to listen to

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9U7SAOovBY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q54VvSVk7f4


But what a lesson on how gullible we can be in selecting our heroes.  History has not been kind to him as it has divulged the full life story of this man:
  • his blindness in eulogizing  Adolf Hitler before World War II
  • his Antisemitism, and
  • his betrayal of his wife, distinguished poet Annie Morrow Lindbergh, as a bigamist maintaining a family in both the United States and Germany.
I truly believe that the choice facing us in the presidential election this year is more critical than any I have participated in during my 90 years.  While my generation - and previous ones - made grievous mistakes and tolerated heinous atrocities through the years, I truly believe the "Arc of Justice" has maintained a positive direction.   I was thrilled to see the commitment of so many to a candidate "promising" to enlist more voters seeking to hasten change.  I trust they will not be led now by a candidate whose only plan is built around empty promises and whose entire life's work has shown a disdain for  values I hold dear.  And while the other candidate may have made errors of judgment, I perceive a lifelong commitment to all those values I find commendable.  Dropping out now in disappointment would negate years and years of arduous progress.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

I couldn't help it - I just had to Rave!

And I did so on two new venues: Amazon Books evaluation and Reddit's religion page on the Internet. I felt so strongly about Corinna Nicolaou's book, "A None's Story: Searching for Meaning Inside Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, & Islam" that I wanted to do everything I could to stir up interest, and, hopefully conversation. I'm only publicizing this through family and Facebook, so I am counting on you to spread the word. This is what I said:

As she approaches middle-age, Corinna Nicolaou, who has NEVER been exposed to ANY religious doctrine, wonders if she has missed anything in life by never being a part of a faith community . The reader accompanies her on her four-year odyssey from coast-to-coast exploring Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam both as an academic exercise and as a participant as a sincere neophyte. With humor and sympathy, she participates in the practices of a variety of sects of each religion not only at formal services but with nascent friends. As a nonagenarian who has also taken a rather unique course in assessing religion myself, I highly recommend it for any young person who seriously contemplates religion, spirituality and the questions of existentialism. The chapter on Islam alone – particularly as she practices that faith in an unusual setting – is particularly poignant. And her conclusion provides a thoughtful coda to her study.
I personally chanced upon her presentation at a local bookstore and HAD to buy the book! I found the book as compelling as her delightful presentation.  How remarkable that Columbia University Press saw fit to publish a "first book" by an unknown author.who gives such thoughtful consideration to one of the most important topics of the day.

But in addition to the review, I want to add for my personal viewers:

I do think her "assessment of religion" lacks one thing, what the WORLD misses by HER not being a part of a faith community.  I truly believe that this is one of the Hallmarks of our American democracy, the citizen groups, agencies, etc. that work voluntarily for progress in our society.  Alexis de Tocqueville cited this in the early days of our republic and it has been a strength throughout the years,  Yet most all such agencies are in serious decline today - and I think it is clear that faith groups have played a major role in bringing social progress.  Thus the two books of Robert Putnam, "Bowling Alone" and "Our Kids" would be companion reads for anyone seriously looking to help our country overcome the problems and division we face today.

And now it is off to NYC, Santa Fe and Michigan during the next four weeks.

Ron

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Two interesting religious views - and plans for my summer sabbatical

It's been my great fortune to learn so much in the past twenty years or so that I have been retired in Washington, D. C,   Most of it has been a result of being able to afford the FREE cultural events in the city.  From the privilege of attending the birthday parties of notables like Stephen Sondheim at the Library of Congress to George McGovern's at the National Archives to a front row seat for Stevie Wonder's performance on the mall, I've been entertained and heard from outstanding speakers.

But I've also had the great opportunity to explore provocative and timely topics on Reddit and a variety of other internet sources.  For the rest of my two year celebration of my 90th birthday, I want to explore some topics in more depth.  Thus until the fall I'm ending my weekly blogs.  I hope you will tune in occasionally to see if I've Ranted or Raved (as the "spirit moves me") about topics I find interesting.

I've been challenged recently by two activities (that have been on my culture blog):  And not surprisingly they have related to a topic of great  interest to me - Religion.  In these perilous times (and I feel in many ways they equal that of WWII) I believe that while religion has caused hostility and war, I also believe that it MUST play a significant role in bringing harmony and peace.

First, my first attendance at a book review at Kramers and Afterwords Bookstore enabled me to hear Corinna Niolaou review her new book, A None's Story: Searching for Meaning Inside Christianity , Judaism, Buddhism & Islam.  As someone approaching middle age without any religious exposure, she devotes four years to both a study and first hand participatory experience to see if she has "been missing anything".  Her skillful, humorous writing approach (accentuated for me by her presentation) accompanies her scholastic portrayals (why else would Columbia University Press see fit to publish it).   I'll soon finish my review of it for Amazon and share information about it on some future blog.

And how fortunate I felt last week during DC's Embassy Open House to learn about several Asian and African and African nations I have never visited and have a "fellow traveler" hand me a booklet on Islam.  Certainly I've regretted and been embarrassed as devout folks of Islam have faced the scorn of some of our prospective leaders.  I've tried to show a personal friendship to Muslims who use my church for their prayers, but I feel I have so much to learn.  This brochure has presented me with material to study further.,

Indeed I was skeptical at first because I've seen too many handouts from religious extremists imploring me to "follow THEIR way as the only way .. And this one is entitled

"Join us in reviving True Islam

True Islam is a religion that….
holy rejects all form of terrorism
believes in nonviolent jihad of the self and of the pen
believes in the quality education and empowerment of women
advocates freedom of conscious, religion and speech
advocates for the separation of mosque and state
believes in loyalty to your country of residence
encompasses the universal declaration of human rights
believes in all verses of the Quran and forbids lying
recognizes no religion can monopolize salvation
believes in the need for unified Muslim leadership
holy rejects the concept of a bloodied Messiah."


 "If you agree with these eleven points, you can join us by endorsing them at TrueIslam.com

I'm looking forward to my "summer sabbatical" to study this topic further and another on a jazz project .  As usual I'll welcome comments and suggestions.   

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Ron's plan for world peace and a poet looks at two of America's greatest concerns: racism and immigration

The plight of refugees in the Middle East has been an overriding concern my entire lifetime. I well recall that during our college years in the 40's (then fiancee) Regina saying, "This horror MUST be stopped!"  Yet it continues!  How ironic that such misery seems endemic in that part of the globe where three of the world's most popular religions were cradled: religions  concerned with the welfare of ALL humans. How many generations of Palestinians have wallowed in refugee camps with little or no hope for the future.  And their Jewish neighbors suffered untold horrors in recent times solely because of their religious views.  Christians too have seen the "Holy Land" as the sacred birthplace of their Prince of Peace.

Isn't it time for the true nature of religion to exert itself and renounce the divisions of the past?  Yes religious doctrine has been divisive.  Extremists in most all faiths have espoused selfish doctrine and and followed murderous practices with false claims.

What an opportunity for the world to unite through these religions in standing together to renounce selfish claims with a message of peace, love, justice and opportunity for  for all.   Religions in each sector of the world have developed different practices and customs in trying to explain the source and meaning of life.  Sensitive and enlightened people recognize, respect and appreciate the differences.

The creative intelligence of humans has made astonishing, bewildering progress in expanding the possibilities of enriching life on earth.  It is time for a world-wide meeting of religious leaders to use the same energy and skill in bringing peace in the most troubled part of the world as an example of what is possible.

Think of it!  A meeting of the religious leaders of the world initiates a process for having Palestinians and Israelis live together in peace !  All the world would be united in standing together against the forces of evil.  

I may be a naive idealist, but as the good books of one of those three religions states, ".....your old men shall dream dreams, and .............it shall come to pass."

*********

Slam poet Will Smith has a dramatic message about race and immigration that everyone should listen to. 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izf8ADh6ymY