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

Rain Garden
August 2010

Tomatoes & Basil
from Front Lawn
Garden 2010

Back Yard
Garden 08/02/09

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

Real Hope Is Doing Something - Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The last few days my postings have featured pictures of war victims and have been about the dark side of life. Today I was tired and felt the ‘shadow of death,’ but hope came my way with visits and calls from friends, and by way of an article by Chris Hedges called Real Hope Is About Doing Something.

I had talked about Chris Hedges in an April 26th posting. He had been a featured speaker at the Midwest Catholic Worker Resistance retreat in Chicago. He painted a bleak picture of the fall of the USA militaristic empire but offered a thread of hope in our resistance. In fact I called the posting Hope in the Nonviolent Cow.

The article which now is the Featured Article on this site speaks for itself of the hope we can find in these days. Check it out.


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Shock and Awe! - Monday, November 29, 2010

Ali Abbas was one of
the first victims of America’s
‘surgical strikes’ during
‘Shock and Awe’. Their family
farm outside of Baghdad
was not seen from computerized
bombers thousands of feet above
(beyond the clouds).

When there is a message people do not want to hear, facts do not seem to matter. Some examples of messages people do not want to hear: 9/11 Truth commission that questions the mainstream account of what happened September 11, 2001; US is fighting preemptive wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistani that are illegal by international law and immoral by standards of most religious groups; Marquette University is the only Jesuit Catholic University in the country that has military training schools of Army, Navy/Marines and Air Force on campus; The local Democratic liberal Democratic congressional representative has voted for more war spending than the local conservative Republican suburban representative. The list could go on but the simple facts are that when people do not want to hear a message there is no sense in giving them facts. Facts do not matter when a person is not open to changing his or her opinion or conscience.

How does one communicate facts and one’s ‘opinion of the truth’ to a person that does not want to hear the message? To take some words from the military, we might need some ‘shock and awe’ to wake people up. The ‘shock and awe’, like the ‘hit and stay’ needs to be nonviolent but nevertheless explosive enough to wake people up.

Today I heard about a group of veterans and other persons experienced in war who will go to the White House to give their message to “Stop These Wars” and refuse to move. In a statement on their web page they say:
There are children being orphaned, maimed or killed every day, in our name, with our tax dollars; there are soldiers and civilians dying or being maimed for life, in order to generate profits for the most odious imperialistic corporate war machine ever, again in our name. How long are we going to let this go on?”

When rational, factual words do not work it is time for “shock and awe” in word and action.


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Seek To Kill - Sunday, November 28, 2010

Child killed in Afghanistan

Where are the deer? Deer hunting season ended tonight at sundown. On the news they said this was a very slow year for killing dear. That is okay with me, but my son and his family were probably disappointed. This was the first year that my 12-year-old grandson could hunt with his father, my son. My son is a gun hunter but he did not get that from me. As a youth I did some hunting for rabbits and pheasants (unsuccessfully) with a bow and arrow, but never owned a gun. My son as a teen killed a dear with a bow and arrow and there was no stopping him from gun hunting.

Killing deer and other animals for sport and food does not present a serious problem for me. However, killing human beings for any reasons, in war, for greed, or a death penalty disturbs me greatly.

I just got word about four prayer vigils this week for homicide victims this weekend in Milwaukee. Politicians in Milwaukee say that most homicide victims know the person that killed them, but that does not excuse or explain this senseless violence. Daily, people are killed in wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Children starve every day all over the world.

I could go on with the senseless killing, much of it in our name, for the greed of a few. I have reported before on this web site that all this killing starts with us, the excessive militarism of our society today, as seen in games, TV, by allowing military training to kill at Marquette University, our lack of compassion and solidarity for the poor.

Like everyone else I want to numb myself from all this death and dying or to ignore it by saying “there is nothing we can do to stop it”. A friend of mine, who like I has lost a son, facing a judge Monday for her nonviolent act of civil disobedience at SOAWatch to stop the killing said: “I do what I do because I don’t want another parent to suffer like I have.”

This is now my main motivator to keep on going and do what I need to do to stop the killing of human beings. I need to start with myself and the institutions and structures here at home that seek to kill.


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Darkness Into Light - Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sunrise in India

“Although your people live in darkness, they will see a bright light. Although they live in the shadow of death, a light will shine on them.” (Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 4, Verse 16)

Tomorrow in our Church we start Advent, a time of waiting, a time of darkness before the coming of the Light, Emmanuel, and ‘God with us’. Advent is a symbolic time of darkness and waiting for the light of Christ but the experience of darkness and seeking the light is real.

We hear of wars, murders, pain and suffering on a daily basis. There is no amount of shopping or TV that will make these experiences of death go away. They can only be delayed or we can numb ourselves.

Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, an Oblate priest/writer and a friend of my friend Lorenzo Rosebaugh asks the question in a column of the local Catholic newspaper, what we can do when we face a deep loss, like I felt for my son Peter. He says that psychology finds itself helpless and there is not much we can do but stand helpless. He says time does heal but it sometimes takes a lot of time. Besides admitting helplessness and the healing of time, he suggests something the great visionary Pierre Teilhard de Chardin suggested when he suffered the loss of his sister. In a letter at the time he wrote: “I feel that a great void has opened in my life – or rather in the world around me – a great void of which I shall become increasingly aware…. The only way of making life bearable again is to love and adore that which, beneath everything else, animates and directs it.”

For many of us that force of life that “animates and directs” life is what we call God. So I pray this Advent, time of waiting for ‘God with us’, to be able to admit my helplessness and use this time to love and adore God and to express my affection to all the people around me in whom I find this spirit of God. I believe this is the only way to turn this deep darkness into a great light.


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Imagination Reigns! - Friday, November 26, 2010

visual art by Peter Graf

My grandchildren left tonight after a two day visit for two of them, and one for one. Today we made our annual trip to the science store, American Science and Surplus Store. It is a store meant for children, young of heart and science geeks with an imagination. It was established in 1937 and I can remember as a child enjoying things, like crystal radio sets purchased at the store.

My oldest grandson was disappointed to find the store no longer carries the toy soldiers that he keeps at our house for his epic battles in his imagination, but found other creative items. My other grandson found an eye that randomly moves along on the floor, the all seeing mobile eyes. My granddaughter found a bowl full of wondrous looking seashells. A young friend we brought along found interest in an old fashioned kaleidoscope. Naturally afterward we set out to the local frozen custard stand, the same place, with a new name, where I first enjoyed frozen custard when I was a child. Two of us had cones of chocolate pecan crumpled, two of butter pecan and our young friend, vanilla.

These two traditions of going to the science store and frozen custard stand brought joy to the four children and to me, a tired old man. It made up for me, somewhat, for all the stuffing of food and things these two days, Thanksgiving and Black Friday of Shopping have come to mean. It is good to know that imagination still reigns.


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Hunger For Good - Thursday, November 25, 2010

“Blessed are You who are poor”

How did Thanksgiving become a day of too much football, too much eating and a day of prep for shopping the next day, Black Friday? Today, I saw my wife and our six-year-old granddaughter going over the many ads that make up most of the newspaper, and marking ones of interest. My daughter-in-law is talking about going out shopping tonight, Thanksgiving, at 10pm and tomorrow morning again at 5pm for some early ‘deals.’

However, who am I to talk. After thanksgiving I felt like a stuffed turkey or newspaper stuffed with ads. Writing this I know that fullness does not entice creativity as fasting does. Today has given new meaning to the term ‘striving artist’. Creativity is based on a hunger for something new or old things aligned in a new way. Too much wealth, too much food, too much food stifles creativity.

My stomach is full and thus my brain says to my body slow down, and my body says to my brain go to sleep.

The brain and body are interconnected. I have a good friend whose brain is wired in such a way that she feels this heaviness and pain all the time in her chest. Four years of surgery and doctor’s appointments have failed to find the source of her suffering so now she is hoping to be part of trail of medication that will ease the pain.

Today on the TV news I heard about a scientific study that says human beings are hard wired to be kind. Scientists from Darwin on have found sympathy to be a natural emotion. I always believe we were wired to do good naturally although at times it does not seem that way. Too much riches, greed, that stuffed feeling of eating too much seems to get in the way of this natural urge to be good and sympathetic.

Science may soon prove what Jesus taught us many years ago: It is hard for the rich to get to heaven, the kingdom of God on earth, but the poor are rich, blessed sons and daughters of God. When science catches up to nature there will be heaven on earth. The hunger, search and struggle for good will finally end.


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A Third Way of Economics and Connections - Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Janice and Bill with supporters
after court hearing

Yesterday I talked about receiving copy of In Communion, the journal of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship. There was an article in it about Distributism, a third-way economic philosophy that sits between socialism and capitalism. The article, Distributism, a Primer for Orthodox Christians explains the economic system to Orthodox Christian but describes its origins as formulated by such Roman Catholic thinkers as G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc to apply the principles of Catholic Social Teaching articulated by the Catholic Church.

I had heard the term before but never really researched it. I probably heard the term from the Catholic Worker movement since distributist thought was adopted by the Catholic Worker Movement, conjoining it with the thought of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin concerning localized and independent communities.

A quote from Chesterton sums up some of the thought of this third economic system: “Too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few capitalists.” This is a third way economic philosophy worth exploring.

Speaking of a third way, I discovered today a three-way connection of friends. I found out why two friends of mine, who did not know each other, Father Bill Brennan and Janice Sevre-Duszynska, both Catholic priests, were connected in stories about the arrest at the School of Americas Watch (SOA) at Fort Benning, GA. Janice sent this story of their arrest and conviction together last weekend. See Witness of Janice Sevre Duszynska.

I am proud to call them both friends and now in the crucible of nonviolent resistance they are friends to each other. So I discovered a third way economic system and a three way connection of friends.


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Love Your Enemies - Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Liu Xiaobo

Recently I have been coming across many quotes with the Gospel message of “Love Your Enemies”. In the mail today I got the new copy of In Communion, the journal of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship, that has a whole page of quotes on these words. However, my favorite quote comes from Liu Xiaobo, this year’s recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in his 2009 “Final Statement” to the Chinese court that sentenced him to eleven years’ imprisonment for “inciting subversion of state power.” He said:

“I have no enemies and no hatred. None of the police who monitored, arrested, and interrogated me, none of the prosecutors who indicted me, and none of the judges who judged me are my enemies. Hatred can rot away at a person’s intelligence and conscience. That is why I hope to be able to transcend my personal experiences as I look upon our nation’s development and social change, to counter the regime’s hostility with utmost goodwill, and to dispel hatred with love.”

The Chinese Government will not allow him to leave prison to receive the award, but his spirit will be there. There is quite a contrast between Lu Xiaobo and President Obama, last year’s recipient of the award, who used his reception talk to justify war and violence.

It is dangerous to love our enemies. I find it hard at times to even love my friends. There is also all the suffering, stigma, prison and even death that comes along with it. Yet love of enemies remains a powerful force that even in defeat overcomes.


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Teaching War Kills and Harms - Monday, November 22, 2010

Scar of War in Sierra Leone

Our struggle to end military training at Marquette University and all Catholic universities came home to me today when I heard a few stories on America Public Radio on a show called The Story . The theme today was “Living with the Scars of War” The first story was an Iraqi woman who, while traveling with her husband to a family event was shot in the face by an American soldier in the turret of humvee. She nearly died and was badly disfigured. Some months later when American soldiers raided her house she told the military officer in charge her story. He reported back to her later that the young soldier who shot her in the face was having some ‘nervous’ problems and was no longer in Iraq. She never received any compensation or even an apology from the USA government. She and her family live in deep fear.

The second story was with a Captain in the military who was struggling with a decision he made to call in mortars on a suspected Al Qaeda house, only to find out later that the house belonged to a family with six children. On his return to the USA he suffered from post traumatic stress syndrome as a result of this incident and has met with other former soldiers from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan who have similar stories and suffer.

The ‘reflexive killing’, Killing without conscience taught in military training programs, like at Marquette, may have increased the rate of soldiers firing their weapon from 25% in World War II to 95% in the present wars, but it has wreacked havoc with the minds of soldiers and caused death and suffering to the innocent.

Also with the release on wikileaks of classified military records we have discovered there are a lot more stories of the suffering and death of civilians, like these two above, that have been kept from us.

I sent a ‘courtesy copy’ of the Letter to the Provost of Marquette University to all those that were named in the letter. The only named person that responded was CPT Pete Kilner, instructor at the U.S. Military Academy. Although I only used his definition of ‘reflexive killing’, which he wants the military to teach soldiers as justification for the policy, he was upset. It seems he is a Catholic, as I am, and did not want to hear my facts and “opinions of truth” on this subject which I believe are in accordance with the Gospel and Catholic Church teaching. Not knowing my extensive Catholic education and background as a religious educator in the church he told me to read the bible and the Catholic catechism. I wrote him back with a gentle message but doubt if it will be the beginning of a dialog as it has with other letters, largely complimentary, that I have received about this letter.

All our words and our mild nonviolent actions about teaching war at a university are merely words. Getting shot in the face or killing an innocent family are the realities and consequences of teaching war.


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Security - Sunday, November 21, 2010

Security in El Salvador?

I was wondering why Pat’s Picks of Peter’s Digital Art was not getting any ‘hits’ on . I found out this afternoon when my wife, Pat, was talking by way of Skype with our son and his family directing them to this slide show on ‘flicker’ and they could not get on. I finally realized that I had the ‘security’ settings on the set of pictures so only members of ‘flicker’ could see it. One small change and now all can view the pictures.

Security is in the news a lot these days. The invasive screening techniques at our airports are being justified under the name of ‘security.’ The president of the USA and NATO leaders just announced that the military, for the ‘security’ of the people of Afghanistan, will remain until there until 2014 not 2011 as previously announced. There will be a withdrawal there only if the people of Afghanistan on our side can secure their own country against the people of Afghanistan we consider the enemy.

When the president of Afghanistan, a person we hold in power, asked the US president to withdraw the private mercenary security forces we hire in Afghanistan, our president responded that they will stay until there is ‘security’ for American private companies and nonprofits in the country.

Security is big business in the USA. We have been for some time the number one country, per capita, to imprison its own persons in secured prisons. The fact that the majority of our prisoners are young African American males from backgrounds of poverty and lack of education and employment seems to be less important than the fact that the more we imprison, the more get out of prison with nothing and the more return back to prison.

This type of Security is based on fear. The more we fear, the more security we seek. But true security is not found in wars or prisons. I understand more and more why Jesus in the Gospels said over and over again “Be Not Afraid.” Without fear there is true security.


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Close the SOA - Saturday, November 20, 2010

Women weep for the
dead at SOA

Word comes tonight via the SOA Watch that two friends of mine, a ninety year old Jesuit and a Catholic woman priest, were arrested at the 20th anniversary of the effort to close the School of the Americas (SOA) at Fort Benning in Georgia, a military training center for soldiers in Latin America. Evidence abounds of violence of atrocious human rights abuses that have been committed against the people of Latin America by those trained at SOA. Details of the arrest today remain scarce as usually Sunday is the day that a few cross over onto the base in an act of nonviolence.

I have been present at a number of the SOA events and find the event moving and motivating to close all such military bases that train young men and women “to kill or be killed.” I did not go this year for a number of reasons but one is that I find the stories of victims of torture, human rights violations overwhelming. I do not want to become numb to these stories of horror but at the same time being aware of the constant news of violence, war and killing takes its toll.

Maybe I will hear more tomorrow about my friends, or maybe I will need to wait till Monday when people from Milwaukee return. The government and military have either ignored the SOA march or come down hard on those who protest its presence. I guess this year they are coming down hard.

The people in solidarity with people of Latin America, despite efforts to ignore or suppress them, have consistently kept marching to close the School of the Americas.

Here in Milwaukee we work to close the school of the Army, Navy/Marines and Air Force at our Catholic University. Rather than train soldiers from Latin America, Marquette trains young men and woman from the USA in the same way of violence, death and destruction. Be it the School of Americas at Fort Benning or the School of Army at Marquette we need to close the SOA.


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Seek the Sun of Life - Friday, November 19, 2010

As we fall into winter, the dark days without the sun become common. Although I am not a sun worshiper I do appreciate the sun and without it must seek more light elsewhere. Just like I need to put lights above the Growing Power Box in the sun room of my house in the winter, I need to put more lights around me in the winter. Light for me can be insights coming from reading, seeing and observing and from other people.

Looking for the lights of life can be difficult and sometimes mistakes are made. But then again, if you look carefully there is light everywhere. We just need the eyes to see the light.

Sun also provides heat for plants and we all need the warmth of heat in our lives. In my sun room I have five-pane inserts on the windows and a small heater on the floor to provide heat for the plants. In our life we find the warmth of the light in love, love of God, family and friends and even enemies. Like light the warmth is all around us if we can only feel it. Seek the sun of life and all will be well.


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Everyone Needs A Wiki Gnome - Thursday, November 18, 2010

Last night on the Charlie Rose PBS TV show I saw an interview with Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia, a free, web-based, collaborative, multilingual encyclopedia project. Since I am a user of Wikipedia and have a wiki website I was drawn to the interview.

From the interview I learned some things I knew and some things I did not. I learned that Wikipedia was supported by the Wikimedia Foundation. After seeing all these start up internet billionaires, like the creator of Farmland and Mafia games on Facebook, it was refreshing to see an interview for a co-founder of internet service that has meant so much to so many people and was dependent on volunteers and donations. There are over 16 billion articles on Wikipedia worldwide and they just opened a second office in India.

I learned that Wikipedia has nothing to do with other organizations like Wikileaks, an international organization that publishes submissions of otherwise unavailable documents from anonymous sources and leaks, except the prefix wiki. What all wiki websites, including this one, have in common is the wiki.

The wiki is a short cut way to create a website. More formally it is “a website that allows the easy creation and editing of any number of interlinked web pages via a web browser using a simplified markup language or a WYSIWYG text editor.” I am not sure what this all means but if you want to learn about, use or create a wiki website I recommend my Wiki Gnome Tegan Dowling. She designed and built this wiki website and many other great ones. A good wiki gnome makes the website easy to use and teaches her students how to do it themselves and how to help others do the same.

I have been doing this wiki website for nearly four years but still have questions for my wiki gnome, a few more today. Everyone needs a wiki gnome to guide them through the wiki web of life.


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The Person is the Message - Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I am starting to get the feeling that Peter Maurin was right when he said: “To blow the dynamite of a message is the only way to make the message dynamic.” As I blow the dynamite on the message: Catholic Universities, Teach War No More I am getting many messages, mostly positive, from around the USA. Interestedly enough they are from people I do not really know. The message is not getting confused with the messenger.

I believe that if the message is true, it will be heard no matter how weak or stigmatized the messenger may be. Now that I have a message that rings true without the baggage of the messenger I need to figure out how to make my life, as Gandhi says, my message: “My Life is my message. You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi. If I can figure this out maybe persons who know me will listen to the message.

Marshall McLuhan introduce us to the phase ”The medium is the message”, which means that the “form of a medium embeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived.” There is some truth to that since the message of “Teach War No More in Catholic universities” would be hard to communicate widely without the medium of the Internet.

Now it is time to move on or go back to Gandhi’s message: The person is the message.


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Facing Death, Darkness and Defeat - Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hell by Peter Graf

To face defeat, darkness and death is difficult. It is easier to numb one self, put on a happy face and suppress dark and sad feelings of loss and mistakes.

I have been reading a lot about the suicide of soldiers and war veterans. It is increasing at an alarming rate. On veteran’s day I wrote a post, Stop the Killing, that suggested the best we can do for our military to prevent suicide is to stop teaching them how to kill reflexively, Killing without conscience.

These dark thought come to my mind since I am having a difficult time accepting my son’s, Peter’s, suicide last summer. All I can do is to walk in the shadow’ of death or to numb myself with business and suppress my feelings. I am choosing the former, walking in the shadow of death, since it seems more real and more myself.

But as the NAMI show, in which Peter’s art was displayed, said last week “Creativity Heals.” My form of creativity is with pictures and words. Today I put my wife’s Pat’s picks of Peter’s Digital art on flicker with a link on the home page and Peter’s art page. Sharing Peter’s art with the world helps with healing. I also intend to write an essay about “Letting Peter Go”. This will be hard since I am such a persistent person and do not accept defeat very well.

In nature around me, as fall leads into winter, I see death. It happens every winter in these parts and without it we would not have a beautiful spring. Perhaps my attraction to living in Hawaii was that there is so little change in the weather that I noticed there was not much of a weather report on nightly news. But I do not live in Hawaii geography or spiritually, so I much learn to face death, darkness and defeat.


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Blow The Dynamite - Monday, November 15, 2010

Peter Maurin

To blow the dynamite
of a message
is the only way
to make the message dynamic.
Peter Maurin

Today I created a new web page Blowing The Dynamite on . The name of the page comes from an easy essay, Blow the Dynamite, by Peter Maurin the co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement with Dorothy Day.

The name and the message of the page, to Teach War No More in Catholic Universities in the USA, is right for a web site called the NonviolentCow dedicated to bringing together two forces, the wonder and power of creation, and the wonder and power of the Spirit, or creative nonviolence. Peter Maurin called for agri–universities, farming communities that would bring together farmers, scholars and workers.

Together by Breaking The Silence we can blow the dynamite.


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Pruning and Prayer - Sunday, November 14, 2010

My wife and I pruned some of the vines in our backyard. My wife was especially interested in the grape leave vines that have enveloped two of the trees in the backyard. We had not pruned these vines for awhile. The vigorous picking of the grape leaves to make stuffed grape leaves has extended the vines in unruly ways. It is interesting how pruning and picking gives new life to vines and trees. It is like thinning the lettuce plants as they spring up in the Growing Power Box in the sunroom, less often means more.

I constantly try to do less in my life, but there always seems to be much more to do. Someone wrote me recently about the ‘discipline of prayer’ that persons like Dorothy Day or Thomas Merton practiced. I remember reading a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. some years ago to the effect that the busier his life was the more he needed to take time for prayer.

Making time for prayer, reflection or meditation is like pruning. The more you do them the fuller and deeper life becomes. Pruning, like dong less, makes for a fuller being. Without it, pruning or prayer, life can be unruly. Pruning and prayer are healthy for living.


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No Demons In Nature - Saturday, November 13, 2010

I read today that prior to the Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting next week there is going to be a workshop on exorcism for bishops and priests. Exorcism of demonic spirits has been around for thousands of years in the Church, since the time of Jesus, but Catholics like to keep exorcism low key since there are very few cases of real demonic possession. Most often what seems as demonic possessions is manifestation of a brain disease, like bi-polar, schizophrenia, post traumatic stress syndrome or Alzheimer’s.

When I was studying in Chicago for my graduate degree in pastoral studies in the 90’s I met a priest and a psychiatrist that were on the Chicago Archdiocese Exorcism team. The doctor told me that there were just some phenomena in patients that she could not explain by science. The priest gave me some books to read on the subject.

What I did discover is that there is a really a thin line between demonic possessions and brain diseases or what some call mental illnesses. In Jesus’ time there was no awareness of mental illnesses so all cases of strange behavior were treated as demonic possession.

In our scientifically advanced society some still treat mental illnesses as something different than a brain disease or any other disease like cancer. Last night at “Creativity Heals” performance of the National Alliance of Mental Illnesses (NAMI), there were parts of a play on mental illnesses and recovery put on by persons with mental illnesses. Each person in the play had the diagnosis — bi-polar, depression or post traumatic stress syndrome — that the person they played in the drama possessed. One similar line stood out in the monologue of all three actors: “I am not bipolar”, “I am not depression” or “I am not post traumatic stress syndrome.” They are who they are as human beings, not their diseases, just like a person with cancer would not say “I am cancer.”

For years I have been struggling to rid the words “mentally ill” from my vocabulary and those around me. My argument goes like this: If a person had cancer you do not call the person cancerous; if a person has a mental illness, why would you call them mentally ill?

Awareness by a person with a brain disease or mental illness that they are not the disease or illness is the first step in the recovery or healing process. Sadly our society often fails to recognize that fact, making it even harder for a person to accept his or her illness.

In nature we can accept illnesses and diseases of plants and animals, even those of the brain as just that. There are no demons in nature. In human life there are rare cases of actual demonic possession; most people that see, hear or act in ways we do not understand simply have a disease. There are no demons in nature and rarely any in human life.


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Man on a Mission - Friday, November 12, 2010

‘Another’ by Peter Graf

Tonight there was a fine arts and stage performance showcase sponsored by NAMI, the National Alliance for Mental Illness, of Greater Milwaukee. There were displays of artist’s, including our son’s Peter’s art work, some moving poetry, a ‘hoop act’, and scenes from a very creative play on mental illness. The theme of the show was “Celebrating the healing power of creativity” and it was good to enjoy with friends.

Whenever someone asks me about Peter, our deceased son, and how we are doing I do not know what to say. The shadow of death seems to be lifted a little bit but whenever I direct my attention to his memory it returns. One friend, who suffers the suicide death of her son 37 years ago, told me the shadow of death never leaves.

My recent research into the teaching of death and killing at Marquette University, the only Jesuit Catholic University in the USA to host all three departments of the military on campus, Army, Navy/Marines and Air Force, in some strange way is uplifting. It somehow feels like I am doing something about the senseless violence and killing that war, street violence and suicide bring into our lives. Peter in some untold way has given meaning to my mission of stopping killing and violence.

When one has a ‘mission’ in life it gives life more meaning. I am blessed to be a man on a mission.


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Stop The Killing - Thursday, November 11, 2010

Today, slowed down by a colonoscopy, was a day of writing. I wrote a brief statement on the peace listserv on how we could honor veterans by stopping the teaching in our military what is called ‘reflexive killing’, Killing without Conscience.

CPT Pete Kilner, an instructor at the U.S. Military Academy presented a paper to the military giving reasons why the justification of ‘reflexive killing’ should be taught in military training programs. (Military Leaders Obligation to Justify Killing in War.) I quote part of his argument to teach the justification of ‘reflexive killing’ to give my reason why it or its justification should not be taught, especially at Christian universities. Basically, using his words, I am saying ‘reflexive killing’, no matter how you justify it, goes against our conscience and nature as human beings.

“The problem, however, is that soldiers who kill reflexively in combat will likely one day reconsider their actions reflectively. If they are unable to justify to themselves the fact that they killed another human being, they will likely—and understandably—suffer enormous guilt. This guilt manifests itself as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and it has damaged the lives of thousands of men who performed their duty in combat.”

The other piece of writing I did today was to write an email to Catholic Workers, Peacemakers, Friends and Enemies saying how I was wrong in classifying some schools with ROTC programs and how very few Catholic Colleges and Universities choose to have military training (ROTC) on campus. Now I have two letters out waiting for a response. One is to the Provost of Marquette University giving academic, ethical and moral reasons to Close the School of Army at Marquette University and the other one is the one I sent today. I do not expect a response from the Provost but do hope people of peace respond. I will probably eventually put both of the letters on the web site Teach War No More.

I know and preach that actions speak louder than words but keep hoping that words, especially facts and ‘opinions of the truth’, will matter. Being ignored and marginalized rather than having ones message listened to can drive a sane person crazy. Fortunately I am not too sane.

I do not know how to stop all the killing and the teaching of killing but I must, in words and actions, try.


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The Lesson of the Bird Bath - Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bird bath or shower

Last week I was making compost and I noticed how hot the compost pile was although it was a cool day. That is natural for when the carbon, like that of the wood chips or leaves, combines with the nitrogen, like that of the coffee grounds, the compost starts cooking. Spring, summer and fall, water is needed. Snow and ice take care of the winter months.

When I got out the hose to spray down the compost pile and the worm depository I filled up the bird bath, something I do often in the summer when I am watering the garden, but not much in fall. As soon as I left the garden I noticed through the windows from my office the sparrows descended on the birth bath and were splashing the water around. I had forgotten that the lack of rain this fall has tough on these birds.

So yesterday making and watering more compost I filled the birth bath up again. This time I went into my office and got out my camera with a zoom lens. I was unable to capture all the excitement of last week with sparrows in the water but did catch a few splashing away.

The birds need water for cleansing and drinking, like we do.


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Creativity Heals! - Tuesday, November 09, 2010

“Drums” by Peter Graf

Some time ago I featured an article on the web site about the healing power of working with soil. This weekend the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) of Greater Milwaukee will feature a fine arts and stage performance show called: Creativity Heals, Celebrating the Healing Power of Creativity. It will be Friday, Nov. 12th, 5–8pm at Turner Hall, 1034 N. 4th St., Milwaukee.

Our deceased son Peter will have ten pieces of his art on display. The director of NAMI turns out to be someone who as a student knew Peter at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He witnesses the creativity of Peter and saw changes in Peter after he got ill. However, he, like us at the time, knew little about mental illnesses.

The name of the show “Creativity Heals” fits Peter’s art well. He used art as means of healing. We have discovered nearly a thousand works of art, digital, drawings and paintings since his death.

I have personally experienced the healing power of working with the soil. Although I am not an artist I have found healing in writing, like this Diary of the Worm. Creativity does heal!


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Turn Off theTV and Read a Book - Monday, November 08, 2010

Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, was born 113 years ago today. A friend of mine, Jim Forest a writer sent me two emails commemorating this birthday. Jim is an author of biography of Dorothy Day called “Love is the Measure” and will have a new book coming out about her in the spring called “All is Grace”. The first email was a number of quotes from Dorothy Day that can be found on this web page on . The second email was The Writer’s Almanac by Garrison Keillor.

One quote from Dorothy Day stood out for me: “Turn off your radio. Put away your daily paper. Read one review of events a week and spend some time reading good books. They tell too of days of striving and of strife. They are of other centuries and also of our own. They make us realize that all times are perilous, that men live in a dangerous world, in peril constantly of losing or maiming soul and body. We get some sense of perspective reading such books. Renewed courage and faith and even joy to live.”

If you add TV and the internet to this quote, two media not significant in her day, the message hits home. I certainly am guilty of using the TV, magazines,internet and daily papers to consume time that would go to reading. In fact, today when I had two opportunities to read my book, waiting for a child and her mother on a dentist and doctor’s visit I felt good. However, the time I send watching TV, movies and sports, checking emails and internet sites is huge compared to the little time I spend reading books. Now I realize I am not alone in this behavior but would like it to change. I would like to follow Dorothy’s advice and turn off the TV and read a book.


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Cleaning Up - Sunday, November 07, 2010

Cleanup in Old North St. Louis

I did a little more fall cleanup work in the gardens today. There is more to do but the weatherman says that the sun will shine and the weather will be warm the next few days. Outside of three rides for Doctor’s appointments and one to the airport, my schedule seems open the next few days for more cleanup.

Also a friend just finished editing or cleaning up a long letter I wrote to the Provost of Marquette University detailing academic, ethical and moral reasons for closing the base school of the Army at Marquette. If facts matter I hope to get a response.

I am also working to clean up a list my wife made for me of things to do around the house. And of course there is always the cleanup of my office that still hangs over my head.

Perhaps it is the extra hour of daylight savings time we got today that enables me to do so much clean up. But maybe not, since looking at a clock in the kitchen not set back, I had dinner ready today one hour before my wife came home. I used the extra hour by cleaning up some of the mess I make in the kitchen whenever I cook.

If fall is to prepare us for winter it is good to clean up before the fall sunny days turn into dark, cold winter days.

I still feel, since my son’s death, that I am walking in the ‘shadow of death’. However, cleaning up takes away some of the sting of the darkness of death.


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No Third Parties in the USA - Saturday, November 06, 2010

Someone reminded me today that yesterday was the birthday of Eugene Victor Debs, pioneer industrial unionist and Socialist presidential candidate. Eugene Debs was an elected Democrat who was self educated after he was put in jail for refusing to obey an injunction for a strike he had organized. After being released from jail he helped found the first Socialist political party in the USA, the ‘Social Democratic Party of the USA.’ He ran as the Socialist Party’s candidate for the presidency in 1900, 1904, 1908, 1912, and 1920, the last time from his prison cell. He was in prison for a speech denouncing American participation in World War I. Debs died in 1926 not long after being admitted to a sanatorium, or what we would now call a behavior health facility.

I mention the Debs story because today I received two other emails from young men trying to build a 3rd party movement in Wisconsin. One was for a candidate for the Green Party, an international political party, who had run for the State Assembly from Madison, WI. He was defeated. Third parties in the USA have had little success in recent years. Another email was from a young man in Milwaukee who was trying to revive the Green party movement here. It has faded away in recent times.

Most countries have multiple political parties. The fact that a third party cannot take hold in the USA today, like the Socialists did in the 20th century, says a lot to me about the state of politics in America. In my opinion we have one major political party with two sides to it, which pretend to feud but in reality are controlled by the same ‘powers that be’ and push similar agendas on us.

Milwaukee has a history of great socialist mayors and governments, but not in recent times. In fact in local bipartisan elections in the city it is hard to tell a Republican from a Democrat. By their actions on the regional and national scenes it is hard to distinguish the difference between a Republican and Democrat.

Where is a Eugene Debs of our time? I think it is impossible today to have one. Convicted criminals, like Eugene Debs (or myself — see Milwaukee14), cannot even run for office in Wisconsin. The one party system of Democrats/Republicans, financed by the rich and powerful, will not allow it. No third parties any longer in the USA.


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Not Precisely is Okay in Nature - Friday, November 05, 2010

Precise Technology

My friend Joe was working on a bathroom project today at our house. Around 6pm he took time out to enjoy with us a delicious dinner of stuffed Grape Leaves my dear wife had made. After dinner he said he had just a little more to do on the bathroom, and asked if that was it. We remembered a small project adjusting some bi-fold doors on the bedroom closet. It seemed like a project that I could do by myself, but since my friend had helped get the right parts he said he would do it with me.

We soon discovered that the set screw purchased for the slider on the top door was not precisely made to fit the hole. He had to be innovative and make a new one. My friend mentioned that in today’s world the quality of hardware parts was poor. I had heard about this issue before from another friend, and it seems to be particularly true with parts purchased from China. What I learned tonight was that a small miscalculation of a small screw can lead to big problems. My friend had to make a new screw and adjust some other parts to make the door work. What was supposed to be a simple project took us almost two hours. At the end all was well, but one small thing that was not precisely right cost the two of us a lot of time.

When I was planting lettuce seeds the other day in the Growing Power box in the sun room, the directions said to plant the seeds about 1/8 of the inch deep in the soil, and so far apart. I did not need to be precise in my planting or spreading the seeds. I can always plant more seeds in empty spots and thin the plants out that were too close together.

In small technology, like the closet door, and in big technology like a space vehicle, exact precision is needed to make things work easily and safely. Technology is good, but is no substitute for good old Mother Nature where “not precisely” is okay.


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Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell - Thursday, November 04, 2010

In writing a research letter/paper today on all the academic, ethical and moral reasons why we say: Marquette, Close the School of Army on campus, I discovered once again that the main reason why major academic institutions will not allow a base ROTC school of army on campus is discrimination. Yale, Columbia, Harvard, Stanford and others cite the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy as discrimination against Gays and Lesbians.

While I agree that the military does discriminate, I believe there are other important and moral reasons why military training for war should not be on a university campus, especially one like Marquette, that espouses Catholic faith and values.

While I was thinking about this today, a Catholic Worker friend from Iowa sent me this editorial cartoon which says this point better than words. The cartoon is too small to fully read on top of this page so below I have enlarged it. The cartoon, about 50 years after the repeal of this law, was sent with the CATHOLIC WORKER STATEMENT CALLING FOR CONFESSION OF AND REPENTANCE FOR HETEROSEXISM.

I post this cartoon with the same disclaimer. It is a comical comment about the senselessness and obscenity of war, with or without this discriminatory policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Here it is:


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Be Like Nature - Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Fall Cactus in California

A friend came by today and wanted to see a worm in my new planted Growing Power Box in the sunroom. So I dug a hole in the dirt and pulled up a worm. He jokily asked me if the worm had a name and I responded that worms are not much for individualism and were more community conscious. I wish I could say the same for those who participating in the election yesterday.

Although I am a conscious non-voter I still got caught up in the drama of the elections. As expected the “all you need is cash” crowd won big. In this election, more than any other one I remembered in my lifetime, money mattered the most, but issues and facts did not.

In trying to convince others on my ‘opinions of the truth’ I have written many papers, like The Militarization of Catholic Jesuit University Education with facts and footnotes. The facts did not seem to really matter. Those who agree with me like the papers and those that did not either did not read them or did not agree with me. I spoke the truth as I saw it. However the facts did not really matter and I thought I should not do it again. But I am. Now I am writing a letter to the Provost of Marquette University about why Marquette University should close the School of the Army on campus. I cannot help myself. I believe that if people are open minded and seek the truth they will either show me how my opinion of the truth is wrong, see it my way, or else, via conflict of ideas, we can all reach a new position. But that is not how it is in today’s world of politics and struggling for the truth. As the election proved, perceptions of the facts, as seen in the negative advertising, matters more than facts or the reality.

Working a little in the garden today, doing some cleanup work, I realized that in nature “perception of reality” was not as important as reality. Like worms, nature knows no reality except what is. There are conflicts in nature but they are not made by decisions of nature. Conflicts just happen; there is some kind of reconciliation and nature moves on. Why can’t we be more like nature?


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Can You Do the Math? - Tuesday, November 02, 2010

On this election day when we count the numbers my challenge to people on a peace list service was this math challenge.

Folks I have a math problem for you below. Can you help me solve it.

One of the commentators on early results of the election tonight said the results showed so far that “All You Need is Cash” as a takeoff of Beatles’ song.

Today I heard over 3 and 1/2 billion dollars was spent by candidates just for TV advertising. I figure another 1 1/2 billion was spent on other stuff like the four calls I got from President Obama (he does not listen too well) and the many phone calls my deceased son got from Republicans and all that mail, staff etc.

A progressive liberal said last night at the County Board budget hearings that there is 100 billion in waste in the defense budget. I do not always agree with this person but found this statement easy to believe.

On the other hand I am discovering that everyone is ignoring one big thing in providing food and encouraging healthy eating for people in need. Many poor need refrigerators to preserve the food and stoves to cook it. (See Where Is the Fridge? ).

So here is the math problem. A decent used stove or refrigerator costs about $200. So for the 105 billion dollars spent on wasteful military spending and elections, how many used refrigerators and stoves could be purchased for people in need as a way to preserve and cook food?

The race is on!

I have received a few different answers already. Now my challenge is how to I know which one is correct?


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Death of the Fence - Monday, November 01, 2010

The other day I reported the death of our fence boarding our driveway. The wind blew it down which was okay since I had already planned to tear it down and rebuild it next spring. The wind saved me some labor, although I still have to deal with the dead parts of the fence.

Death sometimes seems easier than struggling to live. With life we have no other choice but to choose to live. However, with many other things we can just choose to let it go rather than frustrate ourselves with trying to change it.

For many years I used to go to the county budget hearings nearby to voice, with many others, my support for mass transit and mental health service. Every year some of the disastrous budget cuts proposed by the County Executive were restored but every year we lost some ground.

I stopped going till tonight. A good friend had sent me a request to attend. I went and heard concerns on the same issues: the quality of park system, trying to stop the cuts to transit system, and restoring good mental health care to the county. The speakers spoke each for 2 minutes and the Supervisors listened. I gave two stories about my friend who must spend 4 hours waiting and on a bus for a one hour class five days a week at the local university. I also told the story how my deceased son Peter had his medicine taken away from him when he was moved from the County Health System to the county House of Corrections. It was the right medicine, but not on the ‘approved list’ at the jail.


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