A portrait in honor of a seagull

I photographed this seagull with a broken wing in front of my home today about half hour before it died.

Johnathan Livingston

I thought about the lessons of the book by Richard Bach that was so popular when I was a young teen. Johnathan Livingston Seagull was probably the first book I read at age 12 or 13 after my mother died. It would not be an exaggeration to say that book had more influence on my spiritual life than the Bible. The music of Neil Diamond reinforced those messages as I must have listened to hundreds of times as a teenager and into my 20s.

In honor of this seagull , I will pull the book off the shelf and listen to the music once again.

The meaning of Apollo 11, 1969

On this weekend in 1969, 52 years ago, the Sunday edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer, our local newspaper, included in its special edition, a large glossy color print of the astronauts landing on the moon on July 20. I taped that photo high on the wall, almost touching the ceiling of the farmhouse bedroom wall where brother John and I had our bunk beds. The unwritten but well understood message of that event and that era was that we, as a nation, could do anything we set our minds on. 

We saw that photo every day. The message of its meaning confronted us as we climbed out of bed each morning. We were the rural middle income kids of a single father, without any noticable social advantage or predictor of notable future achievement. But as I look back on that era and the parenting and societal mentorship of that era it could be encapsulated in that photo:
We, as individuals, can do anything that we set our minds on. 

As far as I know, that photo remained on the bedroom wall of the farm house until the farm was sold when I was in graduate school more than a decade later. Coincidently or not, both John and I went on to become national champion athletes in our own different sports and each of us launched separate businesses that were recognized as national leaders in their respective fields. Anecdotal coincidence? Perhaps, but it still feels like a compelling connection all these years later.

For younger generations who may not understand the psychological impact of this moon landing event had on millions of us then, I feel sad to think that their memories will be of multibillionaires efforts to exploit space. I feel sad that the nation has lost its way and ability to commit to common goals. I feel sad that the abilities of individuals to accomplish great things are limited by the widened gaps in wealth, income and community influence compared to our world of decades ago. 

Today we continue to march forward with the same values, influences and sense of determination. But my perception of the world’s opportunities has clearly changed.

The challenge of working with dead souls

“More and more I am convinced that you can not challenge a dead soul. Not with truth. Not with principle. Not with morality. A dead soul must be first brought back to life. And the only thing that can do this is tenderness.” – John Flynn

I can think of only a few rare occasions in my life where a dead soul has been affected over a long period of time through tenderness.

A powerful code of ethics

I can’t vouch for the source but the communication if powerful.

LAKOTA CODE OF ETHICS

  1. Rise with the sun to pray. Pray alone. Pray often. The Great Spirit will listen, if you only speak.
  2. Be tolerant of those who are lost on their path. Ignorance, conceit, anger, jealousy – and greed stem from a lost soul. Pray that they will find guidance.
  3. Search for yourself, by yourself. Do not allow others to make your path for you. It is your road, and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you.
  4. Treat the guests in your home with much consideration. Serve them the best food, give them the best bed and treat them with respect and honor.
  5. Do not take what is not yours whether from a person, a community, the wilderness or from a culture. It was not earned nor given. It is not yours.
  6. Respect all things that are placed upon this earth – whether it be people or plant.
  7. Honor other people’s thoughts, wishes and words. Never interrupt another or mock or rudely mimic them. Allow each person the right to personal expression.
  8. Never speak of others in a bad way. The negative energy that you put out into the universe will multiply when it returns to you.
  9. All persons make mistakes. And all mistakes can be forgiven.
  10. Bad thoughts cause illness of the mind, body and spirit. Practice optimism.
  11. Nature is not FOR us, it is a PART of us. They are part of your worldly family.
  12. Children are the seeds of our future. Plant love in their hearts and water them with wisdom and life’s lessons. When they are grown, give them space to grow.
  13. Avoid hurting the hearts of others. The poison of your pain will return to you.
  14. Be truthful at all times. Honesty is the test of ones will within this universe.
  15. Keep yourself balanced. Your Mental self, Spiritual self, Emotional self, and Physical self – all need to be strong, pure and healthy. Work out the body to strengthen the mind. Grow rich in spirit to cure emotional ails.
  16. Make conscious decisions as to who you will be and how you will react. Be responsible for your own actions.
  17. Respect the privacy and personal space of others. Do not touch the personal property of others – especially sacred and religious objects. This is forbidden.
  18. Be true to yourself first. You cannot nurture and help others if you cannot nurture and help yourself first.
  19. Respect others religious beliefs. Do not force your belief on others.
  20. Share your good fortune with others.

Americans care about our history

When a high ranking politician offhandedly calls a history book “fact free”, we have a problem.

The 137 year old American Historical Association points out that we care about knowing the truth when it comes to learning about history. This is true across all political persuasions, sex, age, race or other distinctions. Multiple sources confirm that we care about knowing the facts when it comes to learning history. Even people who are inclined to ignore facts and data in other fields like science, medicine and social programs still care about facts when it comes to history.

Nine states under Republican governments have already passed laws that restrict the teaching of historically accurate history when the true history would cause upset or division in some people. Republican governments in 17 more states are considering passing similar laws.

This week Texas state government took it a step further and pushed for the cancellation of a book signing and lecture event about a new history book published by accomplished historians. Ironically, a core theme in this new history book is how our modern culture has distorted the historical facts over time to suit our currents needs. When a high ranking politician offhandedly calls a history book “fact free”, we have a problem. That’s exactly what happened here. Texas state government is actively supporting propaganda and repressing the historical truths.

We’ve made a joke about the saying “Facts and data have a liberal bias”. But I’ve never really considered that well documented facts about American history would actually be so blatantly opposed by modern American governments. More often now we hear different versions of the theme ‘we will believe what we want you believe and make enemies of those who prove us wrong’.

To some of us accustomed to free thought and free access to academic learning, this Orwellian government action seems shocking, like something out of a sci-fi movie. I am quite surprised myself that I am writing something like this in 2021 in the United States of America. Where do we go from here?