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By Ralph Walton Emerson

Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow, and, driving o’er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air
Hides hills and woods, the river, and the heaven,
And veils the farm-house at the garden’s end.
The sled and traveller stopped, the courier’s feet
Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed
In a tumultuous privacy of storm.

Come see the north wind’s masonry.
Out of an unseen quarry evermore
Furnished with tile, the fierce artificer
Curves his white bastions with projected roof
Round every windward stake, or tree, or door.
Speeding, the myriad-handed, his wild work
So fanciful, so savage, nought cares he
For number or proportion. Mockingly,
On coop or kennel he hangs Parian wreaths;
A swan-like form invests the hidden thorn;
Fills up the farmer’s lane from wall to wall,
Maugre the farmer’s sighs; and, at the gate,
A tapering turret overtops the work.
And when his hours are numbered, and the world
Is all his own, retiring, as he were not,
Leaves, when the sun appears, astonished Art
To mimic in slow structures, stone by stone,
Built in an age, the mad wind’s night-work,
The frolic architecture of the snow.

Twin Towers

I read in today’s Globe that a grade school teacher observed that teaching about 9/11 is like teaching about the civil war. The kids in her class didn’t experience 9/11 so for them 9/11 is history. Is it becoming history — in that negative way that Henry Ford evoked when he said “History is bunk” —   for us? Are we going to forget?

Have we already forgotten that none of   the issues related to 9/11 have been resolved? As a nation we still don’t know what hit us or why. We have fought and still fight wars without satisfaction and without settling anything. We’ve apparently learned little.

The terrorists knocked down two symbols of American financial might. Recently some of the greatest financial firms were knocked down by their own stupidity. 

I think these events are related. And unfortunately the destruction of financial institutions is out of the terrorist play book

That our financial system is structurally  unfair and leaves many people disenfranchised and without hope is difficult to refute. The American middle class and above has been living in a dream world, disconnected from the realities of life for most people around the globe. The death and destruction of 9/11 could have awakened us to that reality. But it did not. The unfair economics of greed is still our way of doing business. The cruelty of structural violence and structural prejudice that crushes millions of people every day is unfelt by most of us living comfortable lives in the States.

Paul Farmer is one American who has fought structural prejudice for all of his professional life. He does this in Haiti and right here at home. We need more Paul Farmers and fewer chicken hawks who want to send unmanned drones to kill enemies and let the collateral damage fall where it may.

We have a volunteer army that relieves most of our children of sacrifice. Is this sensible given our situation? Or is military power any kind of solution at all? The last 60 years of our history tends to teach us that it is not.  Perhaps instead of sending armies into places under distress we should be sending Doctors and agricultural and economic experts. Or volunteers like  Joyce Tannian  who learned from 9/11 that service to humankind would make her happy. She founded Water is Life Kenya and spends most of her time helping the people of Kenya live better lives by helping them have water; something both precious and scarce in Kenya. Before she decided to serve in this way, Joyce lived in Manhattan and on 9/11 learned a lesson — about what is important in life — well.

May God bless Paul and Joyce and may their numbers increase!

If our nation and people started to use  power to help the helpless in the world instead of  constantly trying to impose our will or “protect our interests around the world” — goals that reenforce structural violence against people —  we might find that we would be loved by the same people who now hate or distrust us. Sounds like a dream? I think it is our only way forward. The military solutions of the last 60 years have not produced good results. Isn’t time to try something new?

In any case let’s not forget 9/11 — not until we learn what Paul knew along and what 9/11 taught Joyce.

In 1963 Martin Luther King had a dream at the other end of the mall in Washington.  Now it seems that his dream has come true.Obama was judged by the content of his character, not by the color of his skin. Right here in America.

At the same March on Washington, Bob Dylan sung of the future as well. Listen to “When the Ship Comes In” and see if you agree that it has. The UTube video of Dylan singing the song is no longer available — but here is an excellent cover by Roy Buckley via zonkalbert — Roy says he just sings for fun but — anyway its fun for us too.




Poster created fr Mrs Winters 4th grade class. (Photo from US Senate web site, used with permission.)

Poster created for Mrs Winters 4th grade class. (Photo from US Senate web site, used with permission.)

I think today and tomorrow are the days of Dare to Dream. Barack answered Dr. Kings call from the mountain top. I am very please to have lived to see the day.

The kids in my wife’s class will sign the back of the poster (its 24″ by 36″ mounted on a 32″ by 40″ board) and we will mail it to President Obama.


Studs Turkel died at 96 recently. Larry Galizio –— is quoted in the Globe today saying: “It is perhaps ironic that we lost Studs when a faux-populist figure such as “Joe-the Plumber” is cynically trotted out to represent the salt-of-the-earth America. For Studs Terkel’s work was largely about interviewing ‘average people’ and mining their extraordinary experiences during times of great triumph and tragedy.”

Very well said.

On the same page in the Globe is an article entitled “A poem for Election Day” written by former poet laureate Robert Pinsky. Most of the article is Walt Whitman’s poem Election Day, November 1884. Whitman makes the point that to him the election process is America’s most powerful and spectacular show — greater than all our natural wonders.

Here is the poem:

A Poem for Election Day

If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest scene and
‘Twould not be you, Niagara–nor you, ye limitless prairies–nor
your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,
Nor you, Yosemite–nor Yellowstone, with all its spasmic
geyser-loops ascending to the skies, appearing and disappearing,
Nor Oregon’s white cones–nor Huron’s belt of mighty lakes–nor
Mississippi’s stream:
–This seething hemisphere’s humanity, as now, I’d name–the still
small voice vibrating–America’s choosing day,
(The heart of it not in the chosen–the act itself the main, the
quadriennial choosing,)
The stretch of North and South arous’d–sea-board and inland–
Texas to Maine–the Prairie States–Vermont, Virginia, California,
The final ballot-shower from East to West–the paradox and conflict,
The countless snow-flakes falling–(a swordless conflict,
Yet more than all Rome’s wars of old, or modern Napoleon’s:) the
peaceful choice of all,
Or good or ill humanity–welcoming the darker odds, the dross:
–Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify–while the heart
pants, life glows:
These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,
Swell’d Washington’s, Jefferson’s, Lincoln’s sails.

Turkel and Whitman typify what makes us American. But so do Donald Trump and J.P. Morgan.

Today we get to choose between two extremes, I think. Some say the two are much closer than that. But in this election I think not. I think we are really getting a choice. Our nation needs to recapture the soul that Whitman and Turkel reflected so well. I hope and pray that we do.

Vote, vote, vote!!! Be part of our most spectacular show!

Who has been the freak of Wall Street? You and me?

Who has been the freak of Wall Street? You and me?

Now we are getting somewhere!

The excrement has finally hit the fan!

We are victims of our collective naiveté, gullibility and willingness to off load responsibility for our future. Conservative financial thinkers have long lauded the trickle down theory: if the top people get filthy rich the rest of us will share in the wealth the way the pariahs of ancient Rome did (wild dogs at the garbage dumps).

We believed this. So we put up with ridiculous schemes and bought securities that couldn’t be explained and weren’t based on anything of real value. You see it wasn’t just Wall Street greed that led to the mess we are in it was Main Street greed as well.

So what are we to do? I think and hope it’s simple — stop investing in stuff you don’t understand (Peter Lynch said it best years ago) stop believing in Wall Street magic and stop looking for a quick or extra special buck.

All of us need to face reality — everyday and in every aspect of our lives.

I watched the News Hour with Jim Lehrer last night. He had two ‘financial advisers’ on the show. They were in a panic because the trite ‘wisdom’ they dole out on a regular basis didn’t sound good to them anymore. Here is what I wrote in an email to the show:

“After listening to four very reasonable politicians (there were 4 members of Congress on earlier), I was stunned tonight to hear the panic stricken ‘advisers” speak to the issues facing individuals during our current crisis.

One said he hesitated to write a column about the wisdom of long term investments in the market. The other warned against putting money in the market unless you don’t need it for ten or fifteen years.

What nonsense!

The primary concern of individual investors aught to be the quality of what they buy for investment purposes. The garbage masquerading as blue chip securities created by Wall Street is at the root cause of the crisis. Investors need to know what they are buying and need to be working with conservative, honest and trust worthy institutions.

The last thing we need now is to listen to advisers who panic when their tired ‘wisdom’ fails to comfort even themselves.”

The investment industry has for a long time been populated by ‘experts’ who become so by taking a 3 week course in how to sell securities to those even more uninformed than themselves. The industry includes smart people who invent securities based on an offset from vague and almost indescribable assets. Most successful Wall Street workers — those who make $500K and up in a bad year — don’t make investments they make bets. Listen to them and you will hear them say so themselves.

Now we have a treasury Secretary who was CEO of Goldman Sacks, an engine of strange investments if there ever was one. He wants to bail his buddies out. ‘No!’ was the answer and I thank  our representative form of government for that. (One Congressman said his constituents were mixed on the issue — some said no while others said hell no!)

While I don’t oppose all government help on this crisis I want it to be applied where it will do the most good. None of the derivatives, concocted by Wall Street to attract money for worthless assets, should be bought by the government. Rather an agency designed to keep people in their homes should be set up. But not everyone can stay in the home they recently bought because some folks were foolish enough to spent way above their ability to pay. Greed and foolishness has been in evidence at every end of the economic spectrum and it must not be encouraged any longer. Greed is not good, not matter how many times the “Masters of the Universe” say it is.

What do you think? Am I just letting off steam? Or are we finally getting somewhere?

Did we lose our innocence on 9/11/2001? What did we learn? Did we learn anything?

I was dazed by the event not reacting until much later.  Did the bastards who did it even know what the impact would be? Did they care about anything but their anger, their own needs? Did they understand the death and horror they inflicted on strangers?

What should we care about now? Anger? Defiance? Revenge? Or should it have driven us to our core? Should we have learned what to care about? Yes but did we?

Should it have taught us that we are one with the terrorists? Reminded us that our nation has used terrorist methods against our enemies?

Why are we enemies with Muslim extremists? Must we hate them? Should we? Or is love the answer, all we need?

Our leaders tell us we were attacked because of jealousy and hate, because our enemies hate us for our freedom and are jealous of our life style. Is that it?

Are we too quick to defend “our interests abroad (oil)?” Too ignorant of the needs and lives of brothers and sisters around the world? Yes? But if so does it justify what was done?

Baha’ullah wrote that there must be a spiritual solution to the economic problem or words to that effect. But that leaves it up to us. What does it mean anyway? What are we to do, live for the benefit of others? Maybe that’s the key.

Baha’i’s, many of them wait for ‘the calamity’ foretold by Baha’ullah to teach mankind a final lesson and drive us all to God. But we have had calamity after calamity and yet we seem not to learn. And will some may have turned to God, others just turn away. Calamity seems not to be our salvation (for which I am grateful.)

So the West spends billions on space exploration and particle accelerators — we want to know where we came from. And the West spends millions on aid to the needy — we want to feel as if we are helping.

Don’t we have our priorities backwards? Our interests come first, second our science and exploration, a distraction from work to feed and heal the poor — which seems to be our last priority — and build a safe, healthy world for everyone not just for Americans or ourselves.

Sorry this is a ramble. I will try it again if I ever have a moment of clarity. But right now I think the lesson is that we in the West are too selfish and cut off from the world. And that people are capable of anything — the holocaust and WWII should have taught us that.

The Twin Tower destroyers and their leaders were and are unspeakable bastards but we have been behaving like spoiled children.

Do you think we have learned anything from 9/11? If so please tell us what you think it is.

Shortly after the Twin Towers came down

Shortly after the Twin Towers came down

Troubled Sky

Troubled Sky

Simple question — is “Country First” the right motto in a world that is so small and interconnected?

How about this — “Humanity first?”

Could any politician in any nation win an election if he or she said Humanity First? If not why not.

What do you think?

Leaves and Branches

(Nature, like politics can be very complex and confusing. Photo above taken in Westford conservation land)

Last night we watched the republican debate on CNN. It was worse than useless, Depressing and a waste of time.

The front runners McCain and Romney had at each other, partly because the questions set them up. The two others sounded a bit better but had trouble getting a word in edge wise.

CNN should be asshamed of itself for asking the wrong questions. McCain and Romney should be ashamed for falling into the trap set by CNN.

We will probably watch again tonight as the Democrats go at each other.  But we don’t expect anything better.

No Choice

A street scene during an election year. We do have choices, don’t we?

The new movie about the life of Bob Dylan — “I’m not here” — has gotten raves. Dylan is played by 6 actors including a 14 year old black actor, Ricard Gere and Cate Blanchett. The movie apparently shows Dylan as a nonexistent shape shifter who changes as soon as his persona becomes intelligible.

Yep — that’s our Bob.

Would that we could learn from his life performance. Would that the rest of humanity could be like Bob, Norman Mailer (currently stirring things up in heaven) and Muhammad Ali who said something like “I don’t have to be like all you people want me to be — I can be whoever I want to be.” He said that after he became the Champ.

But we can’t be like that. We are stuck in the structure of society and economics. We must be who we are supposed to be because we got to live out our lives that way somehow (a little Dylan derivative text).

This is called structural prejudice by sociologists and other learned types. I’m going to delve into it and try to understand what that means and what if anything an individual can do about it.

Bigotry is pretty close to dead. It’s still alive but very subtle and not at all PC. The force that keeps people down is the force of the weight of the years and traditions that impel us to behave in ways that are counter to our better nature.

We are so damn smug and self centered. We are sure that we are God or no-god’s chosen bunch. Each ethnic group tends to feel this way — at least the ones I have experience with. We middle class types put real estate values above almost everything for god’s sake but do we do it because we can’t help it? Maybe, yet we must help.

Last Sunday Reverend Cindy challenged the congregation at First Parish Church to do something about racial inequity in Westford. Blacks earn 40% less than whites she said and there are only 62 whites in Westford. She asked two questions: “How can that be?” and “What are you going to do about it?”

Her suggestion was to give away 10% of our earnings. That might work — certainly if everyone did it it would help even things our.

But it got me thinking (thanks Cindy!) What is really wrong? I think it has to do with were we find ourselves today and our inability to reinvent ourselves. That’s what we need to do — reinvent ourselves – each and everyone of us.

Traditions are good unless they aren’t. We should question our traditional values all the time. Like Emerson taught. Face life each day and question our motives and what we feel we must do. Reinvent ourselves as often as possible.

I think this is what Henry Ford meant when he said “History is bunk!” Yeah, we need to learn from history but as soon as we feel it dictates our actions and thoughts we need to forget it and move on.

Just like Bob Dylan did/does.

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