Wednesday, December 31, 2008

As The Earth Turns

One rotation of the Earth around the Sun has been completed, though the Earth does not mark the passage. Its inhabitants do, although not always on the same day. It would not really matter what day you chose, but given the calendar, we choose January 1st to mark the New Year.

And we resolve to do better, each and every year. Lose weight. Be more charitable. Be more tolerant. Work harder. Play harder. Spend more time with our kids.

And these resolutions fail.

They fail, mainly because though the pages on the calendar change, we do not. Those thoughts, predilections, and predispositions we carry with us every day follow us into the next year, ready to wreak havoc again, even as we get our new year off to a good start.

Of course we are also beset by forces we cannot control. When last year began, who was actually prepared for the coming recession? How many of us had plans for new homes and new cars derailed by the economy? How many of us thought when the year ended that we would have no job?

For all that we bemoan the passing of the old year and celebrate the coming of the new year, the things that truly affect us remain. Turning the page on the calendar does not magically wipe away all that came before.

If we are to give this ritual meaning, if we truly want to change, then it is not enough to resolve to do these things, we must do them. We must stick with them. We must weather all the vagaries that come because of the changes we make. We must not let others derail or deter us from changing course.

If we take anything at all from 2008, let us remember that change happens, but not without effort, drive, and desire. For change to take place, we must will it into existence. We must expend all the energy we can to strive for our goals. If we do that, expend maximum effort and rebuff those things that would alter our course, then maybe, just maybe, we can finally change the world.

I wish all of you peace, prosperity, happiness, and above all, hope, in the coming year. May we all be richer for this trip around the Sun.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


We know they are not coming home
And we care not one bit
We keep their fire in our hearts
And we keep their candles lit
They let us share their world
And so to thank them we must
Keep them in our memories
As they slowly turn to dust
Mingling with the turning Earth
To find their peace again
And we hope to meet them all
Though we're really not sure when

First posted on

Monday, December 8, 2008

Tis' The Season

His name was Jdimytai Damour, he was 34, and you probably do not know who he was, because he was not famous, not a spokesman for anything, not a politician, sports star, or celebrity. He was a big man -- 270 pounds -- and everyone who knew him liked him.

And he died.

He did not die the heroic death of a firefighter struggling to save people from a burning building, or that of a soldier fending off the enemy while his comrades were evacuated to safety. He did not even die the regrettable death of Sean Bell, in a hail of police bullets.

He was trampled. Crushed. Crushed by an insensitive human mob, bent on getting the best holiday deal on toys, TVs, or clothing. A tsunami of humanity, surging into a Valley Stream, NY Wal-Mart as if they were an infantry division hitting the beach at Normandy. And in the end, Jdimytai Damour was a casualty, along with human decency and intelligence.

We sit in the economic crisis strangling this country precisely because of the rampant consumerism that brought about this tragedy. The desire of the masses to possess the latest and greatest merchandise led to the overspending of credit, the purchasing of homes beyond the means of money, and the attempt to spend money that did not exist, in the form of home equity. People have been told repeatedly, daily, by Madison Avenue, that they must possess more and better things.

And this striving for the latest and greatest has overwhelmed the spirit of the season we are now in, a season which creeps closer and closer to Summer as every year passes. The lessons of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and even the Winter Solstice have been swept under the rising tide of holiday sales and bargains galore. In a time of need, when families are watching their greatest asset, their homes, being taken from them, when job cuts leave many on unemployment, unable to pay their bills, and when the need for charity is at its greatest, thousands line up outside stores at obscene hours of the day, all to pinch pennies on gifts for themselves or others. Pennies which do not find their way into the coffers of the charities that could so desperately use them.

While not all people ascribe to Christianity as their belief system of choice, it is interesting to note that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of a man, the Son of God for those who believe, who preached a simple message: we are all in this together. We must reach out to each other, help each other, no matter who we are or what our place in life. We can gain great peace in knowing that we have striven to not only help ourselves, but our fellow human beings. We must come together, and we must be willing to put all differences aside, for the greater good. Also interesting to note that he died at the hands of his fellow men, as was ordained, in order to hopefully save their souls.

Jdimytai Damour's death cannot be said to be as dramatic as that of Christ, but it should carry no less powerful a message. If a man's life must be forfeit, let it be for the good of all, rather than a mere pittance for a few. Let us choose to be better than mere rabble. Let us take the energy of our lust for goods, and turn it to a lust for good. Let us be pained when we cannot help others in their hour of need. When anyone falls, let a hundred hands reach out to pull that person up. Though we may have little money to give, let us give as much of ourselves as we can. Perhaps if we do these things, there can be some redemption for this man's pointless death.

Friday, December 5, 2008

What I'm Wishing For

It's the holiday season again, though with retail creep, the rush toward Christmas is taking on the stature of the latest Presidential campaign, starting way too early and wearing everyone down. Combine this with the recession (which authorities just got around to realizing, started last December), and the job cuts going on, and this promises to be a difficult month to get through for many. For some of us though, we can't help but take the essence of the holiday and make use of it to place some well-intentioned wishes:

1] Here's wishing President-Elect Obama smooth sailing in the first months of his administration. He's going to need help, because the economy is dying a lingering death, the world is still a pretty dangerous place, and there are plenty of people who, unable to deny him his place in history, are rooting for him to fail.

2] Here's wishing the Detroit auto industry does not get its bailout. Oh, I know, there will be economic devastation, even longer unemployment lines, and a general failure of Western civilization. But the hand-writing was on the wall in the mid-1970s, when OPEC made it quite clear that they ran our country, and since then, the Big Three and the UAW have done very little to create cheap, economical transportation, even as the Japanese continue their excellence in that arena. It's time for the old to be swept away.

3] Here's wishing the government would pull the plug on this $700 billion bailout of the financial industry. See 2] for the same basic destruction of our way of life, but do the phrases "Savings and Loan Crisis," "Tech Bubble," and "Enron" ring a bell? If we're not going to bail out Detroit, then Wall Street doesn't deserve it either. Let those firms fail, as any business that is mis-managed should. I don't think my pocket, or the pockets of my children and grandchildren, need to be picked so some CEO can continue to get rich running his corporation into the ground. Take the money and fund everyone's unemployment benefits for a year, spend money on retraining workers, rebuilding our infrastructure, and invest in industries that will take us into the future (renewable energy, fusion research, clean transportation, recycling).

4] A wish for peace in Iraq. May it come in the form of a cloud of dust being raised as columns of Humvees and M-1A1s head for the ports and the airports, carrying our weary soldiers home for the rest and the accolades they so richly deserve.

5] A wish for Osama Bin-Laden to wake up one morning to find a gun muzzle pressed against the side of his head by a United States Marine.

6] Here's wishing an end to intolerance, in all its forms (racism, sexism, religious zealotry, etc.). We are all humans; we are all together in this, like it or not. We need not like each other, but we must learn to tolerate each other and to work together to ensure that our world is safe from destruction at our own hands.

7] A special wish: that in this season of caring and giving, that each of us digs a little deeper into our pockets, our closets, our pantries, to ensure that no one has to be cold and hungry. It should not take the devastation of a hurricane or an earthquake or a tsunami for us to do what we can to eliminate want from this world.

8] A wish that everyone, no matter their circumstance, no matter what hard times they face, no matter what pains they have endured, have some peace as this year comes to a close.

These are just some of the things I am wishing for.