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Diary of a Worm’s Life in a Home “Growing Power” Box and Garden

Rain Garden July 31, 2009

Front Lawn Garden 08/09

Garden 08/02/09

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Children and Puppies - Monday, November 30, 2009

Tristan and Puppies

Today I was looking over pictures from Thanksgiving where Pat and I spent with my daughter-in-law’s family, consisting of 11 children, 10 adults and 10 dogs. Pictures of my godson, Tristan, playing with the puppies caught my eye. Tristan is 1 year old, and the puppies are just two weeks, but both of them are out to enjoy life. Jesus said “Be like a child” to enter the kingdom of heaven, but he could have said “Be like a puppy”.

Small children and puppies both are completely dependent on others for survival but completely fascinated with life. They are full of awe, enjoy attention and do whatever they can do. They cannot do much for themselves, but they enjoy trying.

When life gets serious, when political leaders talk war, when many keep silent in the face of wrong, it is good that we have little children and puppies to lift our spirits.

Tonight I put on the web some Journal entries made by a member, Jim Harney, of the Milwaukee 14. The other night I put some more reflections from Guatemala about Lorenzo Rosebaugh, also a 14 member. Both men died within the last year, Jim from brain cancer at his home, Lorenzo murdured in Guatemala. I had lost contact with both of these persons for many years since 1968, but in the last years of their lives we had renewed our friendships. Although I have many memories of Jim and Lorenzo, my last memory of both was a few years ago when they were in town and the three of us sat around our kitchen table, telling stories, sharing memories and laughing. We were like children or puppies, fully present and enjoying life.


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Art Not Apathy - Sunday, November 29, 2009

Holly Haebig at Art Not Apathy

Family friends have a teen son who, with his girlfriend, have created an Organization for Inspiration (O4I) and produced three shows called Art Not Apathy. The show tonight of music, poetry and art was fantastic and truly inspiring. The music, what I would call modern day folk music, was original and unique. I have heard a few of the artists perform before, like Holly Haebig and Harvey Taylor, and there were many new voices.

The theme was the ecology; the poets spoke and the musicians sang the glories of mother earth and how we need to treat it as art not with apathy. Nature and art came together in song, word, crafts and paintings.

The most inspiring thing for me was realizing that two young persons put together this concert. They are the embodiment of art not apathy. The message, art not apathy, was the media.


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Humor In War? - Saturday, November 28, 2009

Wait a minute - They sent you all
the way to Afghanistan and
you didn’t ask why?

“War, we have come to believe, is a spectator sport. The military and the press have turned it into a vast video game. Its very essence — death — is hidden from public view.”
- Chris Hedges, author of War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning.

This was the quote to begin an email a friend sent out on a Peace Talk list-serve. The email was titled “Truth” and was about how we seek escape in frivolous entertainment and news rather than face the ugly truth of the war in Afghanistan. It was a very sobering thought.

Another person on the same list-serve wrote about the movie “Mash”. He said: “The movie was an anti-war masterpiece, in my opinion. Comedy is the best way to tell the truth. As Mary Tyler Moore said, ‘If you are going to tell the truth, it better be funny’!”

Is telling the truth serious or funny? I have a hard time finding anything funny about war but I have laughed at black humor like in “Mash”.

On the other hand I have been very serious when presenting persons with their accountability about war. A war may be “unjust, illegal and immoral” as the late Pope John Paul II declared about Iraq, but soldiers follow the orders of the politicians, and we support our country and remain silent.

Some people blame the Iraq war on Republicans. Now in Afghanistan, like Vietnam, the Democrats are ready to escalate a war. After 8 years, they are about to give us another reason ‘why.’ Our democratic congresswoman who was against the war in Iraq is not for the war in Afghanistan. The death and injury of soldiers in both wars, the loss of lives and suffering of civilians seem not to matter much to people in power and, as long as we are not directly affected, to many Americans.

I guess the fact that Republicans and Democrats, despite all their rhetoric, are pretty much the same as far as perpetuating wars, is funny and sad. It reminds me of the bumper sticker put out some years ago by Sojourners that still is on my car: “God Is Not a Republican or Democrat.” Many have smiled in agreement on seeing this bumper sticker. War is no laughing matter, but maybe if we laugh at it we can face the truth of it.


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Growing In Home - Friday, November 27, 2009

Growing In Home

Last night I talked about finding a treasure at home rather than afar. Today I got an email from a friend in Holland with a link to a New York Times article, a mix of words and pictures called ’Fast Food, Slow Food. This journal, or scrapbook, by Maria Kalman reminded of the beginnings of this Diary of the Worm and this web site. This site started as a result of my contact with Growing Power and the Milwaukee Renaissance. I begin these posts as observations on building a home model of Growing Power.

After I formed the web site I added the aspect of nonviolence, first calling the site Nonviolent Worm. Recently, however, the nonviolent side of this site has been the major focus of posts and web pages. The article in the NYT reminded me it was time to regain some balance and move more toward the growing power side.

I remember that when I went to a disastrous peace action meeting I talked about taking a Pound of Composted Soil to any future type of similar meeting. Recently I have often talked about getting my hands dirty with nourishing soil in the sun room, my winter home growing space.

I did some things in the sun room. In fact most of the ingredients in tonight’s salad at dinner came from the sun room. However, busy with other things I did not develop its potential. So today, before I took to the internet or other projects I worked in the sun room. I cleaned about half and took some preparation to grow more in this space.

The picture shows the half of room with the growing box in it. There are salad greens growing in the top of box. The water drains to a lower level where some spouts and herbs will grow, and then the water, (tea) goes in a box to be collected and used again as fertilized water. On one side you can see the vertical grower where the basil from summertime still flourishes. In the days to come I will work on the other half of the room and plant much more. This small space has a lot of space, vertical and horizontal, that can be used for growing. The garden may be dead for now but growing in home goes on.


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Thanksgiving At Home - Thursday, November 26, 2009

After the Thanksgiving Meal

Today, Thanksgiving, my wife and I went to my son and his family’s home near Pulaski, WI. My daughter-in-law had invited her parents, her sisters and their families as well as her aunt and cousin. On their mother’s side, my grandchildren, Graf Kids, are three of eleven cousins, ranging in age from 1 year old to 16. We watched the Green Bay Packer football game, played with the many dogs, including six puppies, of the various families and, and of course, enjoyed a delicious Thanksgiving meal of Turkey and all the trimmings.

After the meal it was time to rest. Two year old Charlemagne found a good resting spot with his grandfather. Than it was pictures time for Grandma Diane and Grandpa Terry and their eleven grandchildren. I was the honorary photographer.

Reflecting on the way home with my wife my thoughts turned to our own family life. When I was talking with her about some of my recent writings my wife asked what I was going to write about next. My response was “Swadeshi”, the Gandhian term for the use and service of our immediate surroundings, at home, over those more remote or distant. The principle can apply to politics, religion, economics and all aspects of lives.

I have been thinking about this term a lot recently in terms of politics. For example, how can we expect to stop the war in Afghanistan when we cannot even stop the teaching of “principles of war” and “reflexive killing” at a local Catholic university?

However, the reason this term can to my mind probably because of the at-home celebration of thanksgiving today with all the children, dogs, adults and good food. This family get-together of my daughter-in-law’s family and us, who feel part of it, was a simple, fun event. Who needs video games, travel to exotic places and lots of money to enjoy life when you have family at home together? More on “Swadeshi” to come. For now Swadeshi is Thanksgiving at home.


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Life After Death - Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Bag from Guatemala

When I was at the SOAWatch at Fort Benning to Close the School of Americas last weekend I came across a person selling craft items made by women of a village in northwestern Guatemala. As I was talking with this person with an organization named SEPA it became clear that this was a village where my friend Lorenzo Rosebaugh OMI had served as a parish priest in his first assignment in Guatemala. It also was near the scene of where Lorenzo was killed last spring.

The people in the village believe Lorenzo was a martyr although it seems that he was killed in a senseless act of violence, something that is, unfortunately, all too common in this country of peaceful persons.

I needed a bag to replace the one I had purchased in my journey to Guatemala a number of years ago (See Buried in Guatemala) and the temporary one I was using from the Pilgrimage to India. I found it and found that the persons of the village had erected a small monument to commemorate the life of Lorenzo.

Right before I had left for the SOAWatch event one of Lorenzo’s dearest friends had sent me three English Translations to Accounts Written and Broadcast in Guatemala on Lorenzo’s Death. Tonight I just got around to putting these accounts on the Memorial to Lorenzo Rosebaugh web page.

Within the last week I have also received some written journals of another friend, and member with Lorenzo and me, of the Milwaukee 14 who has died in the last year, Jim Harney. They are wonderful reflections on life that I will share with readers of this web site.

These two friends from 1968 whom I just got to know again in the years before they died both served the poor, marginalized, the undocumented of Latin America. They both have died but their lives live on in their work, pictures, writings and actions. Presente Lorenzo, Presente Jim.


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Killing Human Beings - Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Usually I do not call the White House comment line. But today after a few emails encouraging me to call the president and ask him not to escalate the war in Afghanistan, I decided to call. I called the White House comment line and after a wait was put through to a volunteer operator. I made my request to the president not to escalate the war and the operator thanked me. I asked if he did not want to know my name or where I was from. He said it was only the comment line and it did not matter who I was and the call was ended.

I thought of my observation in last night’s post that someone I know said when challenged, “I am a human being” as a statement that who he was as a being was more important than a comment he made. So I did what was suggested by the electronic voice while I was waiting to make my comment: I went to the White House contact page on the web. I wrote:
“My name is Bob Graf. I am a human being. Your comment line operator did not care who I was, not even my name. I called to plead with you not to escalate the war in Afghanistan by sending more troops. The people of Afghanistan are also human beings like me with names, families and friends. We are not killing nameless persons and the killing on both sides is not by nameless persons. In the name of humanity please stop this ‘crime of humanity’ and stop the killing. Why are we fighting a war in Afghanistan and sending persons to kill or be killed? Please honestly answer this question of why and listen to response of the people of USA and Afghanistan.”

Tonight on the news the president announced he will announce a major escalation of the war, sending a large number of American military to Afghanistan. I guess he did not consider the thousands and thousands of comments he received today or, most likely, they did not make a difference. He probably will give us a rationale for sending more troops in this eight year war and occupation of Afghanistan which, like Iraq, seems to have no end.


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Wordless - Monday, November 23, 2009

Face of Death at SOAWatch

Words can be like seeds that are planted in soil and grow into plants. Words can be like pebbles that fall on the ground and produce no life. Words can insult or compliment. Words can be useful or wasted, helpful or harmful. Words cannot substitute for action, no matter how hard we try. Words without action do not mean much. Words can heal or injure.

We need words to talk and write but words are not what we are talking or writing about. Someone I know, today when challenged said “I am a human being.” This statement was in response to a person who was trying to define and describe this person with words.

Plants and animals, life forms, cannot talk or write, thus cannot use words. They are what we describe them as; a brown cow is a brown cow. However, a human being is beyond any description. A rich or poor person, a white or African-American person, a man or woman are all human beings.

In war and conflicts we often talk about our enemies in words that ignore that they are human beings. At SOAWatch last weekend, in the horror stories of victims in Latin America from soldiers trained in the School of Americas, I heard about the terrible results of lack of respect for human life and dignity.

In this busy world we throw out so many words and hear so many words, we forget how to hear and see beyond the words and see each other as human beings.

Too many words tonight about words. Let this face of death on a puppet from the march onto Fort Benning and the School of Americas say the rest. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. A human being is wordless.


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Close SOA Everywhere - Sunday, November 22, 2009

SOAWatch 2009

I spent the last three days in Columbus, GA at the SOAWatch at Fort Benning to Close the School of Americas that trains Latin American soldiers to kill their own people, who are struggling for freedom and human rights. The fact that such a school can exist in the USA that has caused so much suffering, torture and death in Latin America is hard to accept. However, I found it harder to accept that some of the very same schools, especially Jesuit high schools and universities, which fight to close the School of America at Fort Benning, host similar programs to train persons in reflexive killing and other tactics and values that contradict their religious faith and human values.

At this event I distributed my article on The Militarization of Catholic Jesuit Universities but felt sometimes persons just took it out of courtesy and would not read it seriously and act on it. However, there were some that took it seriously and some for whom going to the gates of Fort Benning was just more than a protest and show.

I took many pictures during the march on Fort Benning, but the faces of these three women as the names of the dead were being sung followed by the crowd chanting ‘Presente’ shows the deep sorrow that some felt at these horrendous crimes that were committed in our name.

Many thoughts of my friend Gordon Zahn and the Blessed Franz Jägerstätter who dared to break the silence of Hitler’s wars crossed my mind. There are many more pictures and words to share but for now I need to believe that from all this death and sorrow life will triumph, and more will wake up to the fact that what they are protesting, the teaching of war and violence, is happening in their own schools and universities.

We do not want to wake up someday to find the School of Americas at Fort Benning closed but many new SOA’s around the country. We need to close the SOA wherever we may find it, at Fort Benning or on own campuses.


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Silence In Action - Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I did not get my hands dirty in the soil today but still had a good day. I completed the article The Militarization of Catholic Jesuit University Education and had some positive comments.

I packed my bags to go to SOAWatch tomorrow for the yearly effort to close the School of Americas, the Army training school for Latin America soldiers who have been suppressing human rights in their countries. This year, hopefully, we can get out the message that the same type of military training that so many find repulsive at the School of Americas is going on in our universities and colleges.

Despite the fulfillment of today I do miss the ground and green of the garden. When I return Sunday I need to plant, beautify, and grow in the sun room. If I can create in the sun room a place of quiet refuge from the ways of the world I will be better able to enter the world of conflict and noise in a creative way.

There is a time for action and a time for silence. Hopefully the next few days I can find silence in action.


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Pound of Composted Soil - Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I need to get my hands dirty with composted soil working in the sun room garden tomorrow. I worked today on the draft of the new article about the The Militarization of Catholic Jesuit University Education, but that not is why I need to get grounded in the soil of salvation. It is because I went, at a friend’s request, to a membership meeting of Peace Action tonight.

The important votes, like electing the steering committee members, were done by consensus but the insignificant vote of changing the by-laws to add term limits, went on and on. A small group of the present steering committee fought hard to delay or derail the vote by the membership. They basically tried to “filibuster the vote”. Finally, one of the founding members spoke and said this vote was not that significant and the members should be allowed to vote. Although many members had left by the time of this vote the term limit vote won by 2–1.

Now I know why eight staff members have resigned or been fired from Peace Action over the last year or so of the present board. Now I know why some past and present staff members had asked me to attend and be nominated for the steering committee.

Also I realize why normally I do not go to such meetings which are more about power struggles over petty items and keeping control rather than action for peace. The slate, including myself, was elected by unanimous consent of those left in the room. How long I last on the board will be determined by how much healing soil I get in my body and whether the steering meeting can move from talk and talk to action.


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Old Friend, New Article - Monday, November 16, 2009

Tonight an old friend, from high school days at Marquette University High school, called. Although we had not seen or talked to each other in over 47 years it was surprising how much in terms of values and life experiences we had in common. There will be more to this story.

When he called I was working on a new article about The Militarization of Catholic Jesuit Education. It is not final yet but you are welcome to a sneak preview of this new article.

Talking to an old friend and working on this article took my computer and person time tonight. Any Diary of a Worm observations I made today are lost in my head for now. Stay tuned, old friends and new articles do not come every day.


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Editor Of Truth? - Sunday, November 15, 2009

Everyone has an editor, newspapers, TV, movies, radio or publisher. Sometimes they are known as gate keepers or censors. Sometimes, like my dear friends, they basically correct grammar and spelling mistakes, leaving the meaning of the writing clearer. Sometimes editors take out or add stuff, changing the meaning of the communication or record. History is editing also. We have heard it said that victors usually write the history.

Most of us do some self-editing, selecting what we want to hear and see and how we communicate it. I have friends who say I could do better at self-editing. Usually they mean that in talking I am tactless, undiplomatic or childlike, saying exacting what I am thinking, sometimes before I even think.

Who edits Nature? Who controls tornadoes, hurricanes and sunny days? We can say no one, but deep down we know that humans can affect changes in nature. Just look at the tragedy of New Orleans a few years ago, or the climate changes that are going on right now.

My feeling is that if we could live with nature, not edit or change it as we do, we, human beings, would be better off. We could still use nature — plants and animals for food, rain and sun for energy — but using something is quite different from changing it.

A friend today sent me links to a couple of “YouTube” videos by an “Anonymous Truther” saying how evil the Jesuits, the Society of Jesus, Catholic religious order, were. This person took bits of history and facts and wove them together to make the Jesuits look like Lucifer or the devil personified. Now I know a little about the history of the Jesuits so I found some of the stuff sad or laughable. However, I could see how for many persons these misrepresentations and editing of history might seem to make sense. This person had a goal in mind, making the Jesuits look evil, and by editing made that goal true in the eyes of viewer or him or herself. (Probably a white male)


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Time To Hibernate - Saturday, November 14, 2009

GP Box 11/14/09

I am not sure what is the first day of winter, but decided that, for the home model growing power gardens, today was the day. It is time to hibernate.

All is ready outside for the winter months. In fact I needed to add some water today to the compost pile full of worms, the worm depository. With all this mild weather and lack of precipitation this compost pile full of worms was starting to heat. up. Worms do not like it too cold or too hot. And with no real cold weather and no rain or snow the pile was getting too hot.

I worked some today on the sun room, the winter growing power home model garden. I did not get that solar roof top box I was hoping for on the roof this year, but with the mild weather, sun, and five-pane window inserts, the small radiator heater should be enough this winter. The salad greens in the growing power box are starting to grow. The basil and sage brought in from outside are growing and ready to harvest once again. Now I need to do some planting on the lower shelf, where the water drains from the box; in the planters hanging from the ceiling; planters on a shelving unit; in the small green house I brought in from outside. As I plant more the space will hold its heat more. The sun room may be small, but with intensive growing power methods and using vertical and horizontal space, there is much more growing to do for the winter months.

I wish the fall would flow right into spring but in Wisconsin we cannot avoid winter. Instead of the outside gardens, the sun room garden spot will need to be my place of green refuge for the winter months. Like the squirrels still chasing around the yard getting ready to hibernate I need to prepare the sun room for growing in the winter. With enough sun there might be enough heat and light in the sun room for me to hibernate on some of those long winter days.


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Living with Paradox - Friday, November 13, 2009

The Paradox of the Cross

I remember being 13 on Friday the 13th. In those days, long ago, it was the custom of the local newspaper, Milwaukee Journal at the time, to publish the pictures and names of youth that were 13 years old on Friday the 13th. Since that birthday I have considered Friday the 13th and the number 13 my lucky date and number.

Having an unlucky date and number as your lucky date and number is a paradox. This small paradox reminds me of the larger paradoxes we need to live with each day. In today’s news there is a military mental health report that the mental health problems of soldiers has decreased and increased. It has fallen in Iraq and risen in Afghanistan. Perhaps considering that the war in Iraq is declining the one in Afghanistan is escalating this is not so much of paradox.

But these wars do provide larger paradoxes. The more we occupy these countries and fight our ‘enemies’ the more persons there resent our presence and the more enemies we have in these countries. War always results in more war, but in these two wars it is even truer.

I remember a military officer saying of the war in Vietnam that “we must destroy this village to save it.” That is one paradox I would rather not live with.

However, there are some paradoxes we must learn to live with. Like a seed we need to die to live. Rain is good for the earth but too much rain can ruin the earth. Sometimes the least amidst us is the greatest.

Living with the tension of paradoxes is a skill we need to learn. Nature is a helpful guide in this respect. If we live with paradoxes, just accept them as the way things are, as we must do with the weather, life become easier. One’s curses may become one’s blessings; a loss can be a gain.

The beatitudes of the Gospel are paradoxes. E.g. “Blessed are the poor for they will be rich.” A paradox cannot be explained but can be appreciated. Living with a paradox is healthy.


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Simple As Air - Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fall weather is being extended, at least for a few more days, offering me a chance to insulate my windows. A few years ago when I discovered, in the process of making the five-pane window inserts for the sun room, that it was the ‘Air’, not the plastic, that was insulating the windows, I set out to add plastic on each side of the storm windows in my house. Thus there were two more air pockets to the windows transforming them from double-pane, regular window and storm window, to four-pane windows.

However, now after two years of service the layer of plastic on the outside of some of the storms is getting loose. I had materials to do a couple but had a hard time finding the cold clear plastic needed to finish the job. I noticed that some of the plastic insulation kits for windows say save up to $20 a window by adding one layer of plastic. If that is right by adding two layers as well as the storm I should be saving $40 or more a window.

The idea that air insulates has been around for a long time but I still find it fascinating how people think it is the plastic or insulation, not the air pockets that insulate. I need to pull out my children’s story about the Hare, Hair and Air and perhaps now try to get it illustrated.

Insulating by air pockets is not too exciting and is simple, but it works. As the authors of Super Freaknomics have shown that often the most complicated problems can be solved simply. It can be simple as AIR.


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Enjoy the Encore! - Wednesday, November 11, 2009

David Cook

After high school, from 1961–1968, I was a member of the Society of Jesus, a religious order. It was a serious time for education, prayer, politics and service. There was not much time for rock n roll during these young adult years of 18–25. But it certainly was a time of a lot of rock n roll.

Flash ahead 41 years and I found myself going to a rock n roll concert tonight. For my wife’s birthday I cooked her a nice dinner and took her to a rock concert by her favorite singer, David Cook. David was the ‘American Idol’ TV winner the season before last, and my wife became one of his big fans. Tonight was his 142nd concert since last February and according to my wife, who has seen four of them, this was the best.

I have come to enjoy the rock n roll of the sixties but have difficulties with today’s rock with the heavy beat and, for me, the inability to understand the words of the song. But I must admit his and the band’s energy and the energy of the crowd was outstanding.

In the sixties I remember we were energized by music and by politics. These days I find young adults, 18–25, very energized by music but not much by politics. I thought tonight how if there was a fraction of the energy in the theater tonight about this rock n roll concert directed against the teaching of war and violence at Marquette University, we could easily eliminate the military bases on campus.

I am probably too old to get into the music of Dave Cook or other modern rock n roll singers but I am impressed by the enthusiasm he and his music invoke.

After his set he and the band left the stage. However, we in the audience kept clapping and shouting for we all knew he would come back for an encore. It was a long wait but he and the band came back to play some more rock n roll.

I might have missed the rock n roll years of the early sixties but now can be part of the encore in my life. Rock n roll is here to stay. Enjoy the Encore!


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Desire to Be Natural? - Tuesday, November 10, 2009

“The cause of suffering is desire”

Buddhism says suffering is caused by desire or attachment. I can certainly understand this for the human mind. I worry about what other people may think, want something in the past changed, desire something in the future or feel ignored, all which can cause myself suffering of the mind.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, taught that detachment from all things except God was important. Poor persons in our society suffer more from being poor than in poor societies since there is so much wealth around them to desire.

In nature, outside of human beings, I do not find such suffering. Animals or plants may suffer from injury but it is it certainly not of the mind and not from desire.

Over the years I have learned through failure that reaching results or goals is not what brings peace of mind. It is detachment and not imposing suffering upon oneself that brings peace of mind.

Father Anthony De Mello, the deceased Indian Jesuit, told stories about persons facing sure death who were happy since they lived in the present moment and did not worry and fret over what they could not control.

All this is easier said than done. But from other persons, and our own mistakes and failures, we can learn how to be more detached, live simply and desire less.

A child running naked into a room of adults can bring some laughs. The child, unaware they are laughing at him or her, will laugh with the adults; a child that thinks they are laughing at him or her will cry.

Be natural, like a child doing something silly for adults or a like a large tree shedding leaves in the fall. Just do not desire to be natural.


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Beyond Meat and Potatoes - Monday, November 09, 2009

Silence of Nature

On this Diary I have talked a lot about my Indian or Middle Eastern food cooking. Tonight, for the first time, I made meatloaf and mashed potatoes, a good old fashioned American meat and potato meal. We three, my wife, son and I agreed it was good.

Sometimes it is good to go back to the basics. For American food dishes this might mean meat and potatoes; for education it can mean reading, writing and arithmetic; for the growing power home model garden it can mean compost and castings; for Christians it could mean going back to living the Gospel, respect for dignity of each human, working for the common good.

For spirituality it can mean silence. Silence, the absence of words and thoughts, allows the Spirit to roam free. In this busy world of high tech, silence is hard to achieve. But in nature we can find it more easily. Silence is like the gentle breeze. We do not see or hear it but we know it is there. Silence is beyond meats and potatoes, education, growing, Christian faith. It is where God, or whatever we call a being beyond ourselves, dwells in us.


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Inconvenient Truth - Sunday, November 08, 2009

Ceasar Chavez Speaking Truth to Power

My wife and I took four persons in two cars with us today to Church. Two in my car were long-time members of our parish who had no way to attend Sunday mass without a ride. One is a man with a disability who lives in housing on the other side of town and the other is his mother, who now has dementia and lives in an assisted living home in the southern suburbs.

During Mass today my friend and his mother left the Church. I thought she was not feeling good and they went outside for some fresh air. After Church I looked for them and found him in distress and her sitting down in front of the Church. He said she was suffering from a pain in her chest and could not stand up. I called 911 and the fire department ambulance came.

They did not find anything immediately wrong with her but because of her age and medical condition decided to take her the hospital. My friend rode in the ambulance with his mom and I followed in my car. I soon lost the ambulance and proceeded to the hospital they said they were going to. They were not there but I did find them in a nearby hospital.

After many hours and many exams they could not find any problem and released her. I drove them both back. I felt a little inconvenienced but had done what I had to do. After dropping off his mother at the assisted living place and while driving home the son, whose disability is a mental health disease, he told me how much he appreciated my believing in the truth of what he had to say. I responded that I had no reason not to believe he was speaking the truth. The truth, that she might be in danger, was very inconvenient for me, taking up my whole Sunday afternoon, a nice sunny day at that. But his gratitude made me realize how valuable it is to face the truth as we see it, no matter how inconvenient it may be.

It also made me realize how important it is to speak truth to power, like our message to Marquette to eliminate Military training on campus, despite how inconvenient it is. As Dorothy Day says, our conscience may be misinformed but we need to follow it. Whenever the Truth is convenient or inconvenient, it is the truth as we know it


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Call To Action - Saturday, November 07, 2009

Today at the Call To Action conference in Milwaukee some of us did a session “Remembering Lorenzo Rosebaugh”. It is constantly amazing how many lives this simple holy man affected.

“Call to Action” is a Catholic movement working for equality and justice in the Church and society. Since 1976, progressive Catholics have met once a year to hear inspiring speakers and be renewed to their commitment to reform in the Catholic Worker Church.

My wife and I used to go regularly some years ago when it was located in the Chicago area. Now that it is in Milwaukee we seldom attend. Listening to one of the speakers today I was reminded why we stopped going. She said that the movement had been stressing the “Call” for many years and maybe it was now time for action. However, she gave no specifics and on their web site it is clear by “action” they means more talk and discussion on issues such as women’s ordination and married priests. This is not my understanding of action.

Checking the “Call to Action” web site for pictures for this post I really could not find many or even one that was right for this posting. Perhaps the lack of pictures on their web site reflects the lack of imagination of their use of the word “action.”


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Why of Violence? - Friday, November 06, 2009

Sit Down to Stand Up for Conscience

Today was our Sit Down to Stand Up for Conscience action at the Marquette library, celebrating the lives of two persons of conscience Franz Jägerstätter and Dorothy Day. We had a motley crew of peace makers, some Marquette Alumni, but no students or members of the Marquette University Center for Peacemaking, present. Also Marquette authorities, outside of a security guard watching us, once again ignored us. The message we communicate to stop teaching values and methods, like reflexive killing and priority of Army values over conscience is something a Catholic University does not want to hear. So instead of reacting or responding to our message, they ignore it. What does a person need to do these days to communicate a message?

However, our message is slowly leaking out. Persons who read our flyer today and talked with us were surprised that Marquette hosts schools of the Army, Navy/Marines and Air Force and contributes in such a significant way to the militarization of our society. Starting with Starbase, a Department of Defense program for ‘at risk’ grade school children, to Junior Reserving Officer Training Programs in high schools through the Department of Military Sciences at schools like Marquette, our educational system has slowly but surely become militarized.

Often when they interview soldiers about why they joined the military, the ability to go to college is mentioned. If education were free here as it is in many other countries, our military would need to come up with a valid reason why. For the real ‘why’ we are fighting present wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is difficult if not impossible to answer.

Just like the senseless homicides that take place in our city streets, or the tragic killing rampage at Ft. Hood yesterday, the why of violence haunts us. Can we afford to ignore the why?


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All Is Well! - Thursday, November 05, 2009

Ella’s Corn Muffins

The sun was out all day.
My computer was working.
We had a wonderful pot luck Latin American dinner for persons going to SOAWatch,
And there were lots of people present, who were interested in our direct action tomorrow,
The Sit Down in Library so Marquette can Stand Up for Conscience.
There was a great flavor at the Frozen Custard Stand;
Got some coffee grounds from a coffee shop for compost and worms;
Had a little help cutting up cardboard for compost.
And best of all my friend Ella made us some homemade corn muffins.
Yes, All is Well!


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Detached From Technology? - Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Deep down in our home computers, a computer virus may reside. Or maybe not? My wife’s computer was very sick, repaired and now sick again. Mine was sick for days but after some time on the phone with technical support persons seems to be better.

Until these extreme difficulties I did not realize how computer-dependent I was, writing and answering emails, posting on and writing flyers, articles and such. I like to feel I am a “detached” person but just discovered an area of weakness.

In researching the life of Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker, for the web page Catholic Workers and the Military on Catholic Campuses, I discovered Dorothy Day was a prolific letter writer. She spent a couple hours a day writing personal letters. The letters I saw in the archives were typed or handwritten. Words were crossed out, corrected, even misspelled or with poor grammar.

I like to feel that if Dorothy Day were alive and writing today she would use a computer and maybe even email. Maybe not. But at least I can feel some comfort in her spelling and grammar errors since they are something I do. However, without spell and grammar checks on the computer and an excellent wiki proofreader, I would make Dorothy’s mistakes in writing look saintly.

When I was young it was said that technology would give us more leisure time. Now that I am old, I can see that technology makes us busier with less leisure time. Technological mistakes can make our life very frustrating.

We can learn from human mistakes in writing, but all we can do with technological problems is eliminate or correct them. In the meanwhile if we can stay detached from technology we can survive with fewer frustrations while things get fixed.


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Dying Leaves and Lives - Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Fall scene at today’s homicide site

Raking leaves today from the street into the front yard garden was using the dead leaves to enrich the soil in the garden. The dead leaves will decay and add new life to the soil. Dying is an everyday thing in the fall, even on a sunny today like today.

The blanket of the colorful leaves will keep the soil below warm. The air between the thin leaves will insulate the soil. With sun and rain or snow, however, the leaves will eventually become part of the soil. From the dying of the leaves renewed soil grows.

Today we had prayer vigils for two young men who were killed in our city in the last week. We pray at the spot they died that they their death will bring new resolve and life for people to stop the senseless killing that takes place every day in our cities. Our prayers seem to fall on deaf human ears, as the root causes of violence are not addressed, only the symptoms. These two deaths seem to offer little hope of bringing a time of renewed life and peace.

US government officials are now struggling with the ‘why’ of sending young men and women to Afghanistan to kill or be killed. It seemed clear to some, eight years ago, after 9/11 to send US soldiers to Afghanistan. Our president now says we will not pull out, but struggles with the ‘why’ of the war and sending in more troops. As he figures out the justification for more deaths on all the sides of the war we continue to lose the war. My prayer is that this dying, as with dying in Vietnam and Iraq, will finally teach us that we cannot win a war when the cause of the war is our occupation of the country. Death in war seems to only bring more war and more deaths.

Leaves die and bring new life. Young men die in our city and we pray and hope for an end to these senseless killing. Soldiers and civilians die in war and it only leads to more death.

When will we ever learn to be like leaves and slowly die each day, and not kill human beings on the street or in war? Dying leaves are okay but not dying lives.


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Blow The Dynamite! - Monday, November 02, 2009

Dorothy Day

Franz Jägerstätter

“To blow the dynamite of a message is the only way to make the message dynamic.” Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement

Today two emails came from a Catholic Worker in Iowa who maintains his own list of Catholic Worker houses and interested persons like me. One was a lost manuscript from Dorothy Day, an article she sent in 1933 to “America” magazine that went unpublished. It was called ”Our Brothers, the Jews and called for solidarity with the Jews. Unlike any other Catholic writer at the time, Dorothy Day saw Adolf Hitler’s emerging policy toward the Jews as a moral problem for Catholics, “two years before he combined the office of chancellor and president to become Führer and almost four years before Germany adopted the Nuremburg Laws that stripped German Jews of their citizenship and human rights.”

In doing research for Catholic Workers and Military Training on Catholic Campuses I ran across a statement how Dorothy Day, co-founder with Peter Maurin of the Catholic Worker movement, admired Franz Jägerstätter. Franz went unnoticed until Gordon Zahn discovered his heroic act when he was doing research for a book on “German Catholics and Hitler’s Wars.” Publication of this book, which concluded that the church had provided moral support to the German war effort while rejecting the evils of the Nazi regime, forced him from his tenured position at a Catholic university. However, he went out to write the work on Franz, “In Solidarity Witness”, and to become close friend and an advisor with the Catholic Worker and the peace movement.

I did not get to know Gordon until he was beginning to suffer from Parkinson’s disease and started to lose his memory. He was at an assisted living center where some of my elderly Jesuit friends lived. He did not remember his books but did remember Catholic Workers and the fact that he was a conscientious objector from Milwaukee in World War II. He was truly a man of conscience and it made sense that he had written about other persons who believed in the priority of conscience and persons like Dorothy Day who professed the same belief.


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Green and Gold - Sunday, November 01, 2009

A View of Green and Gold Playing Today

Before going to the Green Bay Packers, the green and gold, game today I checked out the cow dung to worm castings piles on the land at my son’s house. I saw that the worms in the cow dung compost were alive and well and that the existing compost pile had some fresh garden waste on it. I told my daughter-in-law, adult son who lives with us and had come up with us, my wife and grandsons about it, saying there was gold in their backyard ready to be dug up. I did mention it was ‘black gold’ in form of rich castings worms were making and could make from the cow dung and other compost. Since my wife could not do the shoveling due to her back, my daughter in law was going to the game with me, my older son was at the game working as a police officer and my other adult son has shown no interest in the ride up there, I did not expect the work to be done.

To my pleasant surprise when I returned after the game I found that my 12 year old grandson had given up most of the football game on TV to go out to shovel the worms, castings and composted cow dung onto the regular compost pile. I jokily told him that if this experiment of turning cow dung in worm castings works it could pay for his college education. He is now a straight A student in 6th grade in middle school. He smiled back at me and said “I don’t think so,” But who knows? Regular worm castings from compost now go for a high price in organic stores. How much more should worm castings coming from the rich composted cow manure be? My hope that young persons will discover the green and gold of life, which surrounds them, was renewed today.

On the way up my adult son and I got into a good conversation about politics, philosophy and economics. For some reason I started talking about “usury”, making money off of money not work. Like most young adults he was not too familiar with the word but once I explained it to him by using a simple example he understood and appreciated it. In my view excessive use of usury is at the heart of what is wrong with our modern form of capitalism.


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