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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

Garden 08/02/09

Click below to read any post in full, and to post your comments on it.

Salad Bowl Day - Saturday, July 31, 2010

Salad Bowl Day

This was my first full day back from my week as a ‘soccer mom’, and I went back to my normal routine of purchasing and preparing meals, working in the garden, arranging rides for persons in need, and organizing nonviolent resistance.

Up early this morning to pick up food from SHARE, a nonprofit food buying club, I discovered what to make for dinner tonight. With my organic fruits, vegetables and meat from Share was a bag of small pieces of fully cooked chicken that I had ordered. The bag said it was ‘salad chicken’. At first I put the chicken pieces in the freezer but after picking cherry tomatoes, lettuce and other greens from our garden, I realized that the ingredients for a delicious dinner were present. So tonight I made a Caesar Chicken Salad. For a vegetable side dish I cooked up some of Kale that I had picked today. Every time I make a salad it is different, but they always seem to be delicious and enjoyed by all. We already had some homemade Pita bread from the local Middle East store so our dinner was complete.

The salad touched most of the bases of my daily life these days. Naturally there were the ingredients from the garden. The salad had feta cheese and olives, two ingredients in it — along with homemade salad dressing with olive oil and the pita bread — adding a reminder of the nonviolent resistance of the Palestinian people. Perhaps there was nothing from my ‘driving ministry’ in the salad that was obvious, but if I probed the salad deeper I probably could find something.

Some years ago on a posting on the Diary of the Worm I wrote an observation about my salad bowl friends. I guess today’s salad was a good symbol of my everyday life.


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My Week as a Soccer Mom - Friday, July 30, 2010

For the last week I played the role of a ‘soccer mom’ for my grandchildren as my daughter-in-law was at an educators’ conference for a week and my son had to work 11–7 or 9pm each day. Now that I am home, I can offer some thoughts on this unique experience. I am using the term ‘soccer mom’ to describe a unique role in life, not just a mom whose children play soccer.

First, most ‘soccer moms’ are moms, but some are grandparents, like me, or dads of children. Also ‘soccer moms’ do not just drive children back and forth to soccer games and practices but also to swimming lessons, summer school, baseball, basketball and football games, practices and camps, 4-H and Girl and Boy scout meetings and activities, music and dance lessons and a whole host of other children’s experiences.

A soccer mom keeps track of all the children’s schedules, which can be quite complicated if they have three or four children with each in two or three activities at one time.

A ‘soccer mom’ must motivate the children to do the sports or activities they are scheduled to do. Kids tend to like unscheduled time.

A soccer mom is responsible for the eating schedule of children and needs to balance healthy eating with quick food at uneven times.

Many soccer moms have jobs or other activities they must balance with kids’ schedules, not to mention their spouses’ schedules.

Children that are kept active and busy often seek down time, just to play video games or watch TV. A soccer mom must be aware of this need but keep it in control.

Good soccer moms need help. I was glad when my son was home to give me a break by putting children to bed, getting them up early in the morning or doing household chores.

Soccer moms do not have much time for watching TV, reading the newspaper or keeping up on the news. Their role is very demanding and does not leave much time for news and awareness of the world.

Soccer moms get to know each other at sports games or waiting for their children. They are supportive of each other and share rides for their children when conflicts come up with schedules.

‘Soccer moms’, especially in a rural area, need to drive a lot. A good car that holds a number of children is essential.

Coaches of sports are also taking more and more of time from children. For example, football for 5th graders now starts in late July or early August and many sports games are scheduled for Sunday morning, which is good for many coaches but not for families that want to go to Church together. ‘Soccer moms’ have a duty to keep coaches aware of family considerations.

It is not cheap to be a ‘soccer mom’. Everything — sports, summer school, dance lessons etc. — costs time, money and talent.

‘Soccer moms’ know well the old adage of any good worker: “The better you do your job the more there is to do in the same amount of time.”

I could go on with my reflections. But now I need to go to sleep, since being a ‘soccer mom’, if only for a week, has made me very tired. God bless ‘soccer moms’, but for me I am glad to get back to my regular job of cooking, driving people, education and nonviolent action and, naturally, gardening.


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Make A Difference - Thursday, July 29, 2010

Make A Difference
Breaking the Silence

When I was a youth minister there was a religious song that was very popular called: “Make a Difference.” Being a ‘soccer mom’ for my grandchildren this week, I have confirmed a lesson that I have been learning how to “make a difference.”

When in early July I pointed out that our Representative Gwen Moore voted for a rule change that that allowed 33 billion more dollars* for the war in Afghanistan, I was criticized by a ‘peace liberal’ that I was ‘bitter’ and did not understand the game playing that goes on in Washington.

This war spending bill, with all the sweeteners and disguises, passed the House of Representatives, despite the fact that all the Republicans and 38 democrats voted against it. The Senate refused to go along with the house manipulations and sent a straight up or down bill back to the House. This time all but 12 Republicans were set to vote for it so ‘peace liberal’ democrats, 102 of them like Representative Moore, were allowed to vote against it. The bill passed, was sent to the president, and more money for the war in Afghanistan, to kill or be killed, goes on.

I felt obliged to tell ‘peace liberal’ friends that Rep. Moore voted against this second bill. One person ‘suggested that everyone call Rep. Moore’s office to “Thank Her for Voting against the bill.” I did not think this was a good idea and said so. For this I was a criticized again and a ‘peace liberal’ organization sent out an email alert that everyone call her office to thank her.

This small experience confirmed something I have learned over and over again but fail to fully act on. With just a few word changes Martin Luther King Jr. said it best many years ago:

“I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the peace liberal. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the peace activist’s great stumbling block in his stride toward peace is not the ‘Tea Partu’ or the ‘Right’, but the peace liberal, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the peace activist to wait for a ‘more convenient season.’ Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” (See Continue for original quote}

Like Pogo, I say: “We have met the enemy and he is us.” One of my elder friends wrote a note supporting my “no thank you” suggestion. He said:

“I happen to think that you were quite right in advising people not to call Gwen Whatshername for voting the way she did! Some of your protest folks have got to realize that politeness is out of the question here. This is serious business…. very serious, involving the lives of troops and innocent folk who just happen to be in the way. Put aside the niceties of parlor etiquette (did I spell it right?) and think of the seriousness of the situation. Damn serious!!”

Sorry ‘peace liberals’, individuals and organizations, friends and critics, for saying all this about you. When it comes to a mentality of “kill or be killed” that pervades our country I have no choice but to say, in the words of Martin Luther King Jr. “Never again will I be silent on an issue that is destroying the soul of our nation…”

War is serious business and war is hell. Just like the fires of hell we cannot stop war with a sprinkling can of water. We need a mighty hose of water and even then we might not stop wars, but we will at least go down fighting and trying to make a difference.


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Free Swiming - Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My grandchildren and I were in two swimming places today. The first was at the local middle school when I drove them to swimming lessons. The pool was large, hot and humid. Parents, grandparents and siblings sat on bleachers while the children were put into groups by skill. My oldest grandson was in the highest skill level, my granddaughter in the lowest and my other grandson in a group somewhere in between. High school youth and young adults were the instructors. The water was clean and clear but full of chlorine. There were lots of people in and beside the pool, and swimming lessons before and after theirs. Each session was about 45 min. from bell to bell.

This afternoon we all went to a human-made swimming pond nearby. The beach around the pond was sandy; the water was warm and fed by springs of water. The water was clean but not clear and with no chlorine. There were not many people at the swimming hole today and the children and I all played together along with a few other children that joined us. I got to go in the water but was able to get out when I wanted to. There was a lot of silliness for my young granddaughter and a young boy in the pond when we played the “Do not wake the sleeping monster game”. The older boys were fascinated to see small fish under the water and my granddaughter commented that the water did not make her eyes hurt, like in the pool with chlorine.

I mention these two swimming experience since my observation today is that life is like these two places. Sometimes we need to be disciplined and focused to learn something new, like learning how to swim. Sometimes we need to be free, like seeing the water as a place for fun.

As we were leaving the pond my young granddaughter asked if we could come back soon. My older grandsons reminder her that we had other things to do, like soccer games and swimming lessons and could not go back this week. However, I thought to myself that we will return someday to free swimming.


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Unity Of Present - Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Kick into present

My life today was rich in diversity, so tonight I seek some unity of all the bits of life that made my day. As usual when I am babysitting my grandchildren, or more accurately when they are babysitting me, there was a lot of driving involved. There were rides back and forth to summer school, soccer games, swimming lessons and such.

I heard in the news and found out by the internet there was a crucial war spending vote today in Congress on Afghanistan. It was good news that our congresswoman who we were trying to hold accountable for her more war spending votes, voted No, but sadly the bill did pass and the war goes on.

When checked my email I read an article on a military site of how military suicides have increased and the military does not know why. I wonder if fighting an ‘illegal, immoral and unjust’ war has anything to do with it.

I did some work today on our experiment of turning cow dung to worm castings. I finally have a contact in India about this low tech way to turn cow dung to energy but have not acted on it yet.

I have been cooking Middle Eastern food for my grandchildren and son the last few days and hope to pick grape leaves and stuff them with my grandchildren’s help in the next few days. The children have liked the food so far but one of my grandsons did ask me if we were going to have the same type of meat in the dishes the next few days. Actually it is different type of meat but the seasonings are the same. I think tomorrow we will have a frozen pizza dinner night. With this cooking, a song about eating Grape Leaves has been running through my mind. I should write the words down.

These are just some of the bits — Middle Eastern Food, songs, cow dung, worm castings, soccer, swimming lessons, military suicides, driving — that made my day. What do they have in common? Where, in this diversity, is the unity that I seek? I am not sure if I can answer this question but do know my presence of mind, body and spirit was there in all these experiences. Some say living in the present is the only way to experience the mystery of God. It is also is said that the ‘present’ is called the ‘present’ because it is a gift. The unity of the present, the now, brings all the diverse bits of life together.


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By Picture Or Word - Monday, July 26, 2010

Truth of War

They say the “Truth Shall Set You Free”. In a very small way we try to say that with our Freedom Marches, Breaking the Silence. In a very big way WikiLeaks did this with the release today of the Afghan War Diary, secret military documents telling us what we suspected but did not know for sure about the war in Afghanistan.

Today I put on the web the Freedom March at the Brady Street Festival pictures and today WikiLeaks released over 75,000 secret US military reports covering the war in Afghanistan. There is no comparison in magnitude, but both releases have the same message: Stop this terrible war in Afghanistan that is destroying our nation and the nation of Afghanistan.

By releasing a few insignificant pictures or by releasing many powerful words we all need to do whatever we can do to stop this war. By picture or word the “truth will set us free”.


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Political Patriotic Pulaski Polka Days - Sunday, July 25, 2010

Middle School Band at
Polka Days

Today I attended the parade for Polka Days in Pulaski. My grandson was marching with the middle school band. There was also a high school band and a couple polka bands on flatbed trucks. However, most of the groups in the parade were politicians, private businesses, fire and police units and military veterans.

I consider the fire sheriff and police departments to be socialist organizations, since they are paid by the people for the safety and welfare of the people. I know people do not like to call fire and police departments ‘socialist’ but that is what they are. Now our active US Military is a socialist organization designed for our defense, but those marching today were veterans of the various wars, World War I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

I could hear mothers saying to their children as the veterans passed, clap for them children since they gave us our freedom. Later in the day I challenged someone complaining about taxes on how much war cost and causes more war, but the person did not want to hear it, since ‘soldiers are fighting for our freedom.’ It was not a situation for breaking the silence about how we teach war and spend more money on war to create more war so I let it go.

The politicians and businesses were plentiful. They both operate, in my opinion, on the belief that more money is good for businesses and politicians. On the other hand the socialist organizations operate on the belief that sharing and sacrifice for the common good is more important.

As a child I attended many parades in Milwaukee. I remember the marching bands and floats as the main attraction, not the politicians and military. I did not associate waving flags with the military power of our country. I consider myself a patriot, but times change and we are now a much more military state. Now Polka days could be called Political Patriotic Polka Days.


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Friendly Festival - Saturday, July 24, 2010

Freedom March on Brady Street

Milwaukee, in the summer, is a city of festivals. On any given weekend there are many festivals. Today we took the Freedom Marches, Summer 2010 to the Brady Street Festival. Usually security for the festival stops us, and while most try to ignore us and our message, a few are hostile. Today we were met by friendly crowds and no one tried to stop our march. If fact, a number from the crowd joined our march as we went up and down Brady Street.

Why we march, although our message to stop teaching war and funding war is one many do not want to hear, is a matter of conscience. Today I heard that two US soldiers were missing from a base in Afghanistan and that five others were killed in the war today. After nine years of war, this July will be the deadliest month of the war for US soldiers. This is not to even mention the thousands and thousands of Afghans that have been killed during the US occupation of the country, on both sides of the conflict, soldiers and civilians. The more Afghans we kill, especially civilians, the more Afghans turn against our presence and the more danger there is for all. This math of war is simple and I have heard it expressed by some Generals in the military, yet we continue ‘to kill or be killed’.

One of the regulars that March is a veteran from the war in Vietnam. It was only after fighting in Vietnam, being seriously injured and going back to fight some more that he came home to realize what a mistake the war was. Like many veterans he struggles against these present wars.

Why do we continue to march to break the silence? We just need to. A friend sent me a few short quotes today that might shed some light on this question. She said: “There is a Zen saying that the seeds do not see the flowers. That, I think, is true of much of the work we do for peace. Bishop Oscar Romero was right: ‘We cannot do everything, but we can choose the thing we can do, and we can do it very well.’”

We march to bury the greed that causes war, violence and injustice when there are friendly crowds at friendly festivals or crowds that ignore us or are hostile at a festival. Who knows what seeds we may be have planted today?


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Photo No Match For Experience - Friday, July 23, 2010

Yellow & Black Butterfly

Today while I was working in the backyard a beautiful yellow and black butterfly came to a rest on a plant in the vertical grower. My instincts were to just stop working and watch it. Then my mind kicked in and I thought I should photograph it. As I carefully made my way into the house to get my camera the beautiful butterfly flew away.

My tomato plants in the front lawn vegetable garden are thick growing up the trellises. I am afraid that maybe I planted too many tomato plants around each trellis. Thus, I have been careful to regularly prune the tomato vines that do not show promise of fruit. Always trying to learn more about how to grow effectively I thought I should take a picture of the plants and measure that up with the crop I get this year. But I forgot to take the picture.

Tomorrow when I go on another Freedom March I will take my camera since I am the unofficial web person and photographer for Breaking the Silence. When I think I may be in a picturesque situation I usually have my camera. However, I usually miss the random picture opportunity like the butterfly or the thick tomato plants.

That is okay. The picture I see with my eyes and mind is more valuable than any one I can snap with a camera. All the photographs in the world cannot match the experience of mind, body and soul.


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When It Rains It Pours - Thursday, July 22, 2010

It rained so heavily and fast again tonight that for the second time this week water came into the basement. Part of the problem is that the rain barrel I put in the back near the deck gets overwhelmed and the relief value is too small. I can fix that problem tomorrow but tonight discovered that I have some holes in the basement wall that water pours in when it rains so hard and fast. However, after watching some of the 24/7 storm news tonight on TV I realize how minor my water problem is. The heavy, fast rain has caused all kinds of flooding and damage throughout the area.

The old saying “When it rains, it pours” certainly applies today. People in need I know experience the meaning of this saying in human ways regularly. It seems like when one thing goes wrong many other things go wrong. For example, people lose a job and then find themselves losing their homes. People get sick and without health insurance their health gets worse and they soon have a severe health situation.

People doing the works of mercy and people suffering the works of war know how one disaster can lead to another. Dorothy Day, the co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement knew how the works of mercy were related to works of war. My friend, Jim Forest, who has written a biography of Dorothy Day, today sent me an excerpt from a letter he sent to a friend yesterday:

“Each of the sentences that Christ uses in Matthew 25 to describe ways in which the saved, knowingly or unknowingly, responded mercifully to him describes actions which are the polar opposite of what combatants are required to do in war. The text then becomes: I was hungry and you destroyed my fields, I was thirsty and you bombed the water works, I was naked and you burned the flesh from my body, I was homeless and you bombed my city, etc. But in the end we still have: What you did to the least person, you did to me.”

He adds: “In various ways, this was a point Dorothy Day — whose life centered on “the works of mercy” — made countless times.”

When it rains, it pours and when war wages the poor and weak suffer the most.


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Tickle, Tickle - Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Martin Luther King Jr.
and Malcolm X

Today one of my driving experiences was to drive a friend to visit his elderly mother at a community home in the outer suburbs, where no buses run. His mother suffers from dementia and although I knew her before she does not recognize me. So each time I go with my friend to visit her I introduce myself, usually as her son’s driver or “substitute son”. She just smiles when I say these names. But when I say “tickle, tickle” and pretend to tickle her she has a big smile of recognition and says “tickle, tickle” back to me with a light effort to tickle me. This has become our common sign of recognition.

While her son spends some time with her I usually go off to the sun room at the home and read. I am reading the “Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr.” Today I was reading the “letter from the Birmingham Jail”, something I have read before. The letter was to white clergy in the area who had been critical of him for leading nonviolent direct action and causing conflict in the community. All of sudden it dawned on me that with a few word substitutions King was expressing the problem with what I called “peace liberals”, who talk peace but want to avoid any confrontation or conflict. Here is the quote and I think you can see what few words or phrases, besides ‘white moderates’ to ‘peace liberals’ could be changed to make the quote speak today. If you don’t see it, just let me say “tickle, tickle”.

“I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season.’ Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.” — MLK


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Zen For Gardening But Not Driving - Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Back to work today, driving persons in need for medical appointments, I had a chance to read more of The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr. There are so many essential and core values and beliefs that run through the writings of King, Gandhi, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day and others whom I admire. With time and effort I believe I could write conversations between all these persons as I did with Conversation between Mahatma Gandhi and St. Ignatius of Loyola.

One element these great writers had in common is what I call a Zen quality. This quality of Zen is from a school of Buddhism that emphasizes direct experience of what we do. It is a type of mindfulness, focusing completely on the present moment.

For example, my friend from St. Louis who is a student of Zen told me on the golf course that practicing Zen golfing means allowing the golf ball to hit the club rather than the club hitting the ball. Zen is a type of emptying oneself, at least of intellectual experience, and just doing it. My friend pointed out how on this simple 9 hole par three course one could let thinking go and just play golf.

Zen can be practice for doing most anything. However, one area where Zen does not work is in driving the car. As I found out the last couple of days, driving a car requires constant vigilance and thinking. Due to construction, distractions, or lack of signs I have made a few wrong turns recently.

But in most areas Zen can be practiced. Hearing my friend talk about Zen I realized that is what I was doing when I work in the garden. In the garden, I feel just present and fully engaged in what I am doing. It is not an intellectual experience but one that is physical, emotionally consuming and in the moment.

Being present fully where you are at may sound easy but it is not. To truly have a Zen quality takes lots of what is called meditation. King, Gandhi, Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day all practiced prayer and meditation. Meditation is a holistic discipline that empties the mind but places one fully in the present.

Being present to the moment does not leave out the past or the future, but is the Zen moment. It is the divine essence of all things which we need to see by being fully present to it. Now Zen works for gardening and playing golf but not for driving.


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Protest Or Not - Monday, July 19, 2010

My Walden type friend from St. Louis told me today that the large mystery plant that reigns in my rain garden was just a ‘weed’. This designation verifies my wife’s view of the plant and suggestion to remove it from the rain garden. Actually, whether it is categorized as a weed, flower, bush or tree does not matter or detract from its beauty in my eyes. Like a child who looks at a dandelion the same way as a flower, so do I look at this plant, no matter what it is.

This experience reminds me of my distaste for stigmas, categorization, labels put on human beings. Often we judge people not by their present actions but by the labels we apply to them or the categories we put them in. Although there is usually some partial truth to the category, label or stigma, it does not really represent who the person is or what he or she may do.

An example of labeling came today in my life when my friend and I went to visit a mutual friend in Milwaukee. He referred to me as a “protester” and someone who likes to “protest”. In reality, for years after I got out of prison in 1970 for the Milwaukee 14 action, I could support but not participate in “protests”. Although I have softened my stance in recent years I still do not consider speaking truth to power in word or nonviolent action and by Breaking The Silence to be protests. I like to think of myself in some very small way following in footsteps of persons like Lorenzo Rosebaugh, Gandhi, or Dorothy Day, all of whom I would not consider “protesters”. I do not pretend to be great persons like these three or others, but like the great persons I quoted in last night’s post or like Martin Luther King I cannot be silent in the face of injustice or oppression, or as King says on “an issue that is destroying the soul of our nation…”

Perhaps I protest about protesting too much. Like the mystery plant in the rain garden, does it matter if it is called, weed, flower, bush or tree — does it really matter if what I do is called protest or not?


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No Neutrality On Injustice - Sunday, July 18, 2010

Elie Wiesel

During my recent ‘peace break’ I attended the Pax Christi conference in Chicago. There I met some old friends and some new ones; I heard some inspiring talks and just had time to be with people closely traveling the same road I am. I heard some great speakers talk about the Spirituality of Nonviolence but one quote, from Elie Wiesel, writer and holocaust survivor, by one of the speakers stood out and speaks to what we are trying to do in some small way with our Breaking the Silence movement in Milwaukee.

When I went to the Pax Christi page in writing this post I found a similar quote from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a spiritual leader in South African that says the same thing in more earthy language.

In this day and age where no one wants to take sides yet there are extreme sides on every issue, where there is conflict but a lack of creative and civil conflict, these quotes will be my observation for today.

“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” —Elie Wiesel

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” —Archbishop Desmond Tutu


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The Best We Could Get - Thursday, July 15, 2010

Struggling for the Best

After Democrats in Congress voted a 33 billion dollar supplement for the war in Afghanistan by using a procedural move in congress I criticized the vote. A ‘progressive’ Democrat wrote back justifying this move, which our local congressperson voted for, as “the best we could get.”

Progressive Democrats voted for the Federal Health care bill, although they had said it was inadequate and not a significant change, again saying it was “the best we could get.”

All the Democrats and three Republicans voted today for the Financial reform bill in the Senate, although they admit it does not go far enough in financial reform. You guessed it; they said it was “the best we could get.” Maybe we should just call the Democratic Party the “the best we could get.”

I guess this is what they call the ‘art of politics’ settling for “the best we could get.” Often it is said this is the first step and we will get other changes we seek in the future, but that seldom seems to happen.

Politicians say we will stay in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan till we get a victory, or, as I would translate it, till “the best we could get.”

People say that by insisting on core values and principles I am not tactful. They are right, since I believe that in some areas of belief and values “the best we could get” is not acceptable.

I know people who do not live up to expectations they or others have and say “I am doing the best I can do”, even if they are not.

Perhaps in a garden we can accept the “best we can get” but in issues of war and peace, justice and injustice I cannot accept this compromising position. Perhaps this is the way politics are played but I do not need to play this way.

I believe in comprise but also in conflict and persistence to keep working for the best. We may never get or be the best but the struggle to be and achieve all we can be and achieve is more important than getting the best or accepting “the best we could get.”


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Mystery Plant and Road - Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mystery Plant:
Weed, Flower, Tree?

A mystery plant has appeared in our rain garden. I am not sure if it is a weed, flower or tree and where it came from. It must be what is called a ‘volunteer’ plant, someone that just flew it and seeded itself. But it sure is big. Do you know what it is?

Living life in the present and awake is full of mysteries. Everything is new and a source of wonder. One needs to move slow, be prepared, yet open to the unexpected. Like the mystery plant one cannot always know what every experience means but just accept it and go with it.

Tonight I called a couple ill friends. I suspected they might need my driving services and both did. They probably would not have called me, thinking they were a burden, but when I called them, as I felt I needed to, they did ask for help getting places.

As I was driving friends the last few days on the highway to Madison and Oak Creek and back I noticed lots of construction on roads going on. This is also true for city roads. I guess it is the ‘stimulus’ money creating jobs.

However, for a country trying to get out of our dependence on oil, 20 million gallons a day consumed, it makes little sense to create bigger and better highways and roads for more and more cars using more and more oil. Poor and ill people usually do not drive cars so all this highway spending does not really benefit them.

At the same time we build more roads for more cars and more oil used, we lack the infrastructure for a mass transportation system in this area for buses and trains that would allow more people to get around without cars and oil.

We live in a society that talks less dependence on oil, yet spends more money to be dependent on oil. Now that, like this new large plant, is a mystery.


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The Himalayas and Front Yard Garden - Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Front Yard Garden Today

This morning I drove my friend Prasad from India to Madison to meet with a Gandhi scholar from Mumbai, India. The elderly man and his wife were visiting his daughter in Madison. The three of us had a fascinating discussion about Mahatma Gandhi, his life, thought and work. He told us how Gandhi was an ordinary person, but with a spark of the divine inside that we all have, had worked hard and suffered much to be the great person he is in history. When I called this person a Gandhi scholar he objected. He said Gandhi was too great a person and a saint for anyone to call himself a Gandhi scholar. He said Gandhi was like the Himalayan Mountains, too big, 2000 miles wide and long, for any one person to grasp.

He suggested that a person can only study one aspect of Gandhi and from probing this one element one could gain insight into the whole person. His field of study of Gandhi was politics, and he has written a book on Gandhi’s political struggles in South Africa called “Agony of Arrival.” We came away from our visit with him with a lot to think about.

I told Prasad he was like Johnny Appleseed, spreading the seeds of Gandhi’s life and thought in his travels throughout the USA. He did not know the story of Johnny Appleseed but smiled when I told it to him. When we got back to our house Prasad took a picture of our front yard vegetable garden to take with him on his journeys in the USA and back to India.

After Prasad left I thought if Gandhi was the Himalayas, so large and vast, I could be like my front yard vegetable garden, small but packed with tomatoes, basil and eggplant plants. If I worked hard, listened to my inner voice like Gandhi did, I can hope to be a front yard garden, a symbol of hope and work.


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Birthday of Henry David Thoreau - Monday, July 12, 2010

Henry David Thoreau

Opening my email this morning from a friend in the Netherlands I was greeted with a reminder that today is Henry David Thoreau’s birthday. With the reminder came this quote:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” — Henry David Thoreau (born in July 12, 1817) Walden

Henry David Thoreau has always been one of my favorite persons. He was a writer, did not pay unfair taxes, practiced nonviolence and civil disobedience and, as the above quote says, went to nature to become fully alive.

His life and writings influenced many other heroes of mine, most notably Dr. Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. Thus it was only right that my friend Prasad, a follower and scholar of Gandhi was here today. He was here to meet some persons on the last Pilgrimage of Peace to India and a few new persons interested in the one coming this January.

After our lunch and gathering a number of persons from Indian descent came to our house to visit with Prasad. There are a lot of Indians living in the USA who share in the vision and insight into life that Gandhi represents. The more Prasad travels in the USA the more persons are aware of his mission to spread Gandhi studies and understanding around the world and to especially link interested parties in the USA to followers of Gandhi in India.

One of the young women who came to visit Prasad was from India but now was in the USA looking to build her career as a medical doctor. Prasad and her father knew each other but she had never met him. She called Prasad ‘uncle’ which reminded me of my friends from Sierra Leone who call me Uncle Bob. I guess calling elders ‘Uncle’ or ‘Aunt’ is a term of respect in India as well as Africa. Both Indians and Africans seemed to have deep respect of the brotherhood and sisterhood of all peoples.

Henry Thoreau was a person who espoused self reliance. That is true just like Gandhi espoused Swadeshi, self reliance of community. As Thoreau, Merton and Gandhi said and did, we need to simplify and go to nature to wake up and become fully alive. The Birthday of Henry David Thoreau is a good day to renew this commitment.


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Pilgrim In the Garden of Life - Sunday, July 11, 2010

Tonight I present to you some of the pictures from the freedom funeral march at the Bastille Day festival.

Today my wife and I made stuffed grape leaves for dinner tonight and for lunch tomorrow when our friend from India Prasad will join some of pilgrims from the Pilgrimage of Peace of the past, 2009 and of the future, 2011.

The gardens of resistance that surround my house connect these two events, Freedom March on Bastille Days and the visit from Prasad, a present-day disciple, in word and action, of Mahatma Gandhi. For I feel like a pilgrim traveling in a circle through a beautiful garden. As I travel through the garden my senses, eyes, ears, nose, taste and touch are deepened by the beautiful trees, plants and flowers in the garden. My pilgrimage through the garden helps me to understand things I need to do, like Breaking the Silence and enjoying my extraordinary experiences like the Pilgrimage of Peace to India and my ordinary ones, like making grape leaves.

A few people in my life have called me ‘pilgrim’. I was never quite sure what to make of this tag but now feel blessed to be a pilgrim in this garden of life.


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Storm The Bastille - Saturday, July 10, 2010

Today we had our second Freedom March of the 2010 summer. It was at Bastille Days, one of the many Milwaukee summer festivals. We did not exactly storm the Bastille but we did raise quite a storm with a few of the security guards. We had just started the New Orleans style funeral march when a few security guards stopped us. They said we could not march on the public sidewalk around the festival. In a not so nonviolent matter I started arguing with them that we had a right to use the public sidewalk as others were on the sidewalk and on the closed off street. They vehemently said no. They threatened to call the police on us and I said please do. From previous experiences I knew that as long as we stayed on the public sidewalks and were not disruptive we were within our rights. A crowd started to form around us wondering what was happening. We started passing out flyers to the crowd but the security guards stopped us.

Before the police could arrive one of the top officials of the festival arrived. He said he did not want to cause a commotion and that as long as were not disruptive we could have our funeral march. We said we did not want to be disruptive and continued marching.

Security guards stopped bothering us and we marched on to our New Orleans funeral music over a boom box and the beating of drums. Near the end of the first round the official appeared again to say we could not play the drums and boom box. We complied and made another round this time walking right down the middle of the street where the crowds had gathered.

We did not hand out many flyers on this march but there was a strong curiosity about our funeral march. Our message was in the jazzy spiritual music and drumming, the coffin covered with messages we carried, with the death masks some wore and the two signs giving our message of Teach War No More and No More War Spending.

At the end I told the group that by music, signs and actions we had sent our message, of the death and destruction that greed and endless wars bring — a message many did not want to hear. But it is a message that someone needed to say to Break the Silence. In a small way, I guess, we did storm the Bastille of Silence, Apathy and Death.


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Natural or Technology - Friday, July 09, 2010

It had two experiences that were opposites. One was delicious, the other was sour. One was easy, the other was hard. One was fulfilling and the other was frustrating. One was natural and one was technology. One was positive and the other was negative.

The positive experience involved buying, cutting and eating a watermelon. In my shopping for delicious watermelons I noticed ones sold by a company called Bea in Alabama were consistently the best. Yesterday shopping I found a good looking Bea watermelon on sale. Today I cut it up, enjoying it as I cut it up. Tonight for dinner we had some, and it remains in the refrigerator as a delicious, juicy, cool snack.

I needed a piece of this sweet watermelon tonight after the second and negative experience. This experience started off as a simple task, downloading some New Orleans Funeral music for our Breaking the Silence Freedom March tomorrow at Bastille Days. This simple task turned into a technological nightmare. Broken CD players, scratched CD’s, right and wrong format of CD, error messages on the computer and everything that could go wrong made the experience a frustrating one. I still do not feel comfortable with the CD and will probably need to work on it tomorrow.

The positive experience was natural — purchasing and enjoying a good watermelon. The negative experience was technology at its worst, frustrating and complicated. I will take the natural experience over the technological experience any time.


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The Decision - Thursday, July 08, 2010

The ‘King’ Decides

There was much ado tonight about the decision of LeBron James on which basketball team he will play with next year. In fact ESPN dedicated the night on TV to the decision. Five cities were dejected by his choice and one rejoiced.

I listened to TV in the kitchen in the background as I washed, cleaned and dried a new batch of basil and mint from the garden. When it came around to LeBron’s live announcement I thought wouldn’t it be nice if this “King of Basketball” would say something first about a moral issue like the wars our country are fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan or about the large sums of money we spend on war compared with what we spend on education. But I guess we do not mix our sports and politics (what moral issues are called) any more than we mix religion and politics. Would a minister or priest dare bring up a political issue, besides abortion, in Church?

During the patriotic holidays I think our founding fathers, like George Washington or John Adams, would be sad to hear how we separate all things, sports, politics, morality, religion into their own boxes. When they wrote the amendments to the Constitution they said “freedom of religion” not “freedom from religion”. I think they would have considered sports, morality and politics in the same light. There can unity in diversity and conflict of principles can lead to growth and understanding.

Could there be another athlete today like Mohamed Ali, who said no to the military draft and the war as being against his religion and thus lost his heavyweight boxing title? I doubt it. We have become a nation of individualism where paying lower taxes on all things but war is more meaningful than the common good. LeBron kept saying that he made his decision on what was best for him. I guess that is the American way. Where is Ali when we need him? Can we work together and made a decision for the common good?


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Good, Better and Best - Wednesday, July 07, 2010

American Players in Spring
Green, Wisconsin

Taking in Shakespeare with my wife in Spring Green, I met an old friend, someone I had not seen for awhile. He was there with his wife. We shared retirement doings and adventures. Going to Church on Sunday in the Spring Green area we met our former associate pastor priest, someone we had not seen for fifteen years. These old friends were of similar age to my wife and me, and it was comfortable talking with them.

Yesterday I took my three grandchildren and one of their cousins, ages 6–12 to America’s Largest Water Park, Noah’s Ark. Being with these four children I was comfortable but did feel my age. Like all children of their age they seem to have one speed, high. I guess with age comes other speeds, like slow.

The last four days were a good break from the “same old, same old” but I am glad to get back home to my garden, driving ministry and making trouble on social issues.

A change of pace is good, be it to slow down or speed up. However, when I returned home, to my normal pace and familiar ways, it was better. After good and better comes best, but probably I will need a lot more good to turn better into best.


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Kick The Funk! - Friday, July 02, 2010

Holidays like the 4th of July are difficult for me. On one hand I am happy to honor our country and its peoples. On the other hand the close association of the holiday with violence and wars makes me sad.

I respect and honor soldiers yet do not find solace or comfort in the death and destruction they face or caused, especially in a preventive war that I consider “unjust, illegal and immoral.”

To honor the soldier and condemn the war is difficult, despite all the intellectual arguments for doing so. I cannot find an observation from the garden to help explain this paradox.

As I mentioned in this week’s postings on the Diary of the Worm, I am feeling down and tired. My writing probably has reflected this lack of inspiration. So the Diary of the Worm will take a few off and I will take some time to take in some Shakespeare, spend time with my wife, take my grandchildren to a water park and work on the garden. Maybe a few days away from routine and I can kick the funk.

The Diary of the Worm will resume Wednesday, July 7, 2010


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It is Time to End this War! - Thursday, July 01, 2010

I read an article today in Sojourner’s online magazine by Jim Wallis called “It is time to end this war”. This war is the war in Afghanistan. Now if we could only get half the people who believe this to do something about ending it.

A friend of mine that came for dinner tonight was at the U.S. Social Forum last week in Detroit that drew over 20,000 activists. There were hundreds if not thousands of issues considered. I asked her if there was a consensus of activists to work on ending the war in Afghanistan. She said no but there were some new issues brought to the attention of the activists.

Call me old fashioned and a person of the sixties to think that if we could all work together on one or two issues, like we did in the sixties with ending the war in Vietnam and Civil Rights, we could be more effective. The response usually is that there are many more issues now and they are worth it. I agree with that but by spreading ourselves thinner I believe we are less effective on all issues. Ending the war in Afghanistan by soldiers refusing to fight and stopping spending on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would do a lot more for the environment, immigration policy and all the many issues that concern us.

If the people could win on one or two issues it would mean unleashing the power of nonviolence that would affect other issues of concern. But instead, with the encouragement of the ‘powers that be’ or as Thomas Merton called them “the unspeakable powers”, we stay scattered and not united in action.

The dinner, cookout, tonight was a time to evaluate our last “Freedom March of Breaking the Silence” and to prepare for our next march. We talked about persons we can invite for the next march. Someone mentioned there were almost a thousand members of Peace Action that was the leading organization in ending the war. Now the organization is involved lightly in many actions and we feel that if we could get only about 10 or 15 members of Peace Action at the next march we would be successful. It is time to end this war but can we work together to do it?


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