, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

It’s the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. (books by this author), born on this day in Atlanta (1929). He is best known for his work as a leader during the civil rights movement and his commitment to nonviolence. On April 4, 1967, King delivered a speech called “Beyond Vietnam” in which he strongly denounced America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. He was concerned that the war was recruiting poor and minority soldiers, that it was draining resources from much-needed social programs at home, and that it was an unjust war anyway, targeting the poor people of Vietnam. He said, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
Throughout the next year he continued to speak out against the war and said that the civil rights
movement and the peace movement should come together for greater strength. He began a “Poor
People’s Campaign” to fight economic inequality. On April 4, 1968, exactly one year after his first anti-war speech, King was assassinated while he was standing on the balcony of his Memphis motel room. He was preparing to lead a protest march in solidarity with garbage workers who were on strike.
He said, “If a man hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live”
and he said:
“Here and there an individual or group dares to love, and rises to the majestic heights of moral maturity. So in a real sense this is a great time to be alive. Therefore, I am not yet discouraged about the future. Granted that the easygoing optimism of yesterday is impossible. Granted that those who pioneer in the struggle for peace and freedom will still face uncomfortable jail terms, painful threats of death; they will still be battered by the storms of persecution, leading them to the nagging feeling that they can no longer bear such a heavy burden, and the temptation of wanting to retreat to a more quiet and serene life. Granted that we face a world crisis which leaves us standing so often amid the surging murmur of life’s restless sea. But every crisis has both its dangers and its opportunities. It can spell either salvation or doom. In a dark confused world the kingdom of God may yet reign in the hearts of men.”

The Poetry Almanac 1/15/22

I am a temple of the Holy Spirit…



by Jim Harrison

They used to say we’re living on borrowed

time but even when young I wondered

who loaned it to us? In 1948 one grandpa

died stretched tight in a misty oxygen tent,

his four sons gathered, his papery hand

grasping mine. Only a week before, we were fishing.

Now the four sons have all run out of borrowed time

while I’m alive wondering whom I owe

for this indisputable gift of existence.

Of course time is running out. It always

has been a creek heading east, the freight

of water with its surprising heaviness

following the slant of the land, its destiny.

What is lovelier than a creek or riverine thicket?

Say it is an unknown benefactor who gave us

birds and Mozart, the mystery of trees and water

and all living things borrowing time.

Would I still love the creek if I lasted forever?
Jim Harrison, “Debtors” from Complete Poems. Copyright © 2011 by Jim Harrison. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC, on behalf of Copper Canyon Press, coppercanyonpress.org.

The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook…


He wrote a lot about the psychology of pragmatism.

He argued that a person’s beliefs were true if they were useful to that person and he said, “Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact.”

He also wrote, “Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds.

A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing.”

William James

It’s the birthday of the man who coined the term “stream of consciousness” and who said that “the art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook” — psychologist and philosopher William James (books by this author) (1842), born in New York City to one of the most prominent intellectual families in the history of America. His brother was writer Henry James, his sister was diarist Alice James, his dad was a famous theologian, and his godfather was Ralph Waldo Emerson.
He was tone-deaf, got motion sickness easily, suffered from depression and was suicidal for long intervals, had chronic back pain, recurring digestive ailments, and problems with vision. He told people he had “soul-sickness.”
He got an M.D. at Harvard but never practiced medicine; instead, he spent his life in academia at Harvard. There he taught physiology, then anatomy, and then, for many years, psychology and philosophy. Over the years he lectured to many future famous Americans, including Teddy Roosevelt, W.E.B. DuBois, and Gertrude Stein, a favorite of his. On an in-class exam he gave, Gertrude wrote, “Dear Professor James, I am so sorry but I do not feel a bit like writing an examination paper on philosophy today.” He wrote back, “Dear Miss Stein, I understand perfectly. I often feel like that myself.”
He was an enormously prolific writer. Scholar John McDermott put together a bibliography of William James’ writings that was 47 pages long. His most well-known work is probably the 1,200-page Principles of Psychology, published in 1890 after more than a decade of research and writing. While working on the book he did first-person research on the psychology of mystical experience, and to aid in this he sometimes used narcotics. He said that he could only really understand the German idealist philosopher Hegel when he was under the influence of laughing gas.
He wrote a lot about the psychology of pragmatism. He argued that a person’s beliefs were true if they were useful to that person and he said, “Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact.”
He also wrote, “Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing.”
He hung out with Freud, Jung, Helen Keller, Mark Twain, Bertrand Russell, and many other intellectuals. He once said, “Wherever you are, it is your own friends who make your world” and he said, “Properly speaking, a man has as many social selves as there are individuals who recognize him.”



He is Allah, other than whom there is no deity,

Knower of the unseen and the witnessed.

He is the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.

He is Allah, other than whom there is no deity, the Sovereign,

the Pure, the Perfection, the Bestower of Faith, the Overseer,

the Exalted in Might, the Compeller, the Superior.

Exalted is Allah above whatever they associate with Him.

He is Allah, the Creator, the Inventor, the Fashioner;

to Him belong the best names.

Whatever is in the heavens and earth is exalting Him.

And He is the Exalted in Might,

the Wise.

(Translation of Qur’an: Chapter 59, Verses 22-24)

free, efficient, equal…


It was on this day in 1790 that the first State of the Union Address in American history took place. George Washington delivered it in New York City which was the capital of the U.S. at the time. He spoke before the Senate and House of Representatives, giving a fairly short speech, about the equivalent of three single-spaced typewritten pages.
“Gentlemen of the Senate and House of Representatives:“… The welfare of our country is the great object to which our cares and efforts ought to be directed, and I shall derive great satisfaction from a cooperation with you in the pleasing though arduous task of insuring to our fellow citizens the blessings which they have a right to expect from a free, efficient, and equal government.”

The Poetry Almanac 1/8/22

And the first shall be last…


Art of Tibet


MarcinPiwowarski illustrations 1/6/22

round and round

the light creeps

then kisses

tips of tenderness

the next minute waits for you, unspoiled…


Gustav Fjaestad – Sunlight from Racken Lake, nd.

“The chief beauty about time
is that you cannot waste it in advance.
The next year, the next day, the next hour are lying ready for you,
as perfect, as unspoiled,
as if you had never wasted or misapplied
a single moment in all your life.
You can turn over a new leaf every hour
if you choose.”
Arnold Bennett

Elizabeth Strout said, “I write pieces, and move them around.

And the fun of it is watching the truthful parts slide together.

What is false won’t fit.”

epiphany for you…


As a child, I obsessively needed a nightlight, so afraid was I of the dark. My brother and I, who shared a bedroom, would often argue over that nightlight. They claimed not to be able to sleep with it on. I was convinced I couldn’t sleep with it off. Of course, we were all wrong. What was it about that light that so comforted me? What was it about a tiny light, twinkling like a star in the midst of a darkened night that still gives me comfort as an adult?
Matthew tells us in his Gospel that Magi from the east saw the star at its rising. They followed it to Jerusalem, where they went to Herod, asking to see the newborn king of the Jews. But Herod knew nothing of this king. He knew nothing of this star. And the news the Magi brought of a newborn king filled him not with the same joy with which they sought the child but with murderous rage. Herod knew nothing of this star because he was blind to its light. He was unable to recognize the light which this newborn king would bring to the world. Rather, he could see only the darkness of his own desires and the fear that this king would be his undoing. He was blind to the star because he was blind to the power of God’s love. He lived his life guided not by light and love but by his desire for power. He lived his life guided by darkness and fear.
In the feast of Epiphany, we celebrate the revelation of God’s light to the nations. In doing so, we celebrate our belief that salvation is not meant for a mere chosen few but for the whole world. God’s light is revealed to all who are eager to open their eyes to see that light for what it is. God’s love is revealed to all who are willing to open their hearts by a star shining in the darkened sky. God’s power is revealed in the person of a tiny, defenseless infant, whom Herod and the other rulers of this world would seek to destroy. God’s mercy is revealed the act of total, self-giving love, in which all is given and nothing is asked in return. And that mercy is still revealed to us today every time we give of ourselves for others—every time we show mercy to those around us—every time we lift the cross for those who are unable to carry the cross on their own—every time we are willing to see in another person the presence of the living God.
But in celebrating Epiphany—in celebrating God’s manifestation to the nations, we are not celebrating a light that has come and gone, like a flash in the night. We are not looking back with nostalgia to a better day that can never return. When our first reading on Christmas Eve told us that a people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, it wasn’t just referring to a people who lived two or three thousand years ago. We are that people who walked in darkness. At times, we are blinded, like Herod, by our disordered desires for power, pleasure, or prestige. We are people who at times give in to rage because we have forgotten who we are and who God has created us to be.
And yet, despite of all that blinds us, our eyes have been opened. Our eyes have been opened by God’s grace, which allows us to see, which allows us to believe. We are that people who have seen a great light, upon whom the glory of the Lord shines even today. We are that people to whom Christ manifests himself, revealing his love to us in unexpected ways. We are that people who are called to search not the darkened skies but our hearts for a sign of God’s love revealed to the nations—of God’s love revealed to us—that God is still alive and active in our world, giving of himself to us, emptying himself of everything so that we might be filled.
If we can see God’s light revealed in the symbol of a star in the sky, set to guide us and lead us to salvation, then we can certainly see God’s light revealed even in a world darkened by sin and suffering, by poverty, by cynicism, by sickness. If we can see God’s power revealed in a defenseless infant born into the poverty of a stable, then we can certainly recognize God’s power revealed in our weakness, in our sorrow, in our suffering. If we can believe that God emptied himself two thousand years ago to be born into the world as one of us, then we must believe that God continues to reveal himself even today. We see God’s image in the face of friend and stranger. We see God’s hand in acts of kindness, in selfless acts of love. We recognize God’s abiding presence in ourselves—in you and in me and in every human being—in every person who, through the waters of baptism, is called to bear Christ’s image to the world and to share his love by giving of themselves, by allowing themselves to be poured out so that there will be no more hunger, no more poverty, no more war, no more hatred, so that the kingdom of God can be established not in some mythological time gone by or some dreamed of day in the future, but today—in our world—in our very midst.
You and I—we must reflect the light of Christ shining on a darkened world to give hope to those who are hopeless. We must reflect the light of Christ shining on a world that is cynical, to be a sign of love to those who have never known love. We must rise up in splendor, to give witness to the great light which has overwhelmed the darkness of our world and shows us the glory of a God who loves us so much that he became one of us, in order that we might even one breath at a time, one heartbeat at a time, become ever more and more like him, in order that we might no longer be afraid.
Image credit: Heinrich Hofmann, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
* Tags: Epiphany, Fr. John Keehner, Magi, Three Kings
The Writer’s Almanac for Wednesday, January 5, 2022

one breath and then another…



Be unapologetically authentic.

Share your inner world with your surroundings.

Don’t ask for permission to follow your heart’s desires

and prove to yourself that you have more to share with the world.

East meets west…


New York Subway

by Hilda Morley

The beauty of people in the subway

that evening, Saturday, holding the door for whoever

was slower or

left behind
(even with

all that Saturday-night

& the high-school boys from Queens, boasting,

joking together

proudly in their expectations

& power, young frolicsome


& the three office-girls

each strangely beautiful, the Indian

with dark skin & the girl with her haircut

very short and fringed, like Joan

at the stake, the corners

of her mouth laughing

& the black girl delicate

as a doe, dark-brown in pale-brown clothes

& the tall woman in a long caftan, the other day,

serene & serious & the Puerto Rican

holding the door for more than 3 minutes for

the feeble, crippled, hunched little man who

could not raise his head,

whose hand I held, to

help him into the subway-car—

so we were

joined in helping him & someone,

seeing us, gives up his seat,

from us what we had learned from each other.

Hilda Morley, “New York Subway” from To Hold My Hand: Selected Poems 1955-1983. © 1983 Hilda Morley published by The Sheep Meadow Press.

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