About Me

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Los Angeles, CA, United States
I am a writer, photographer and musician living in Los Angeles. In the last few years, new written work--numerous plays, screenplays, and two novels--have demonstrated this to be the most productive period of my life. The journal I have also kept for thirty-five years has, of late, become a personal sounding board for my thoughts on peace and the state of the world...about which I remain hopelessly optimistic! My writing here will be in tandem to video "Peace Talks" I have recorded, and which will be released throughout 2011. You're welcome to visit my website, the "Studio 5" link, to see my photographs. As a classically-trained pianist, I have been composing music all my life. Two guitar re-mixes of piano music are attached here, as well as several music videos, including "Consider Peace" the title track of an up-coming CD. Balancing writing, photography and music has been a long and challenging path...not to be recommended! Yet this very Aries diversity reflects an enthusiasm for the modern world of which I feel very much a part.

Monday, January 31, 2011

If I may quote....

Just in case you missed it, allow me to quote a new reader of this humble blog who added his comment to my "Liberty and Justice for All" post.

"Peace maintained by threat of force is an impostor, a cork in a volcano.
US aid is used by our "allies" to keep their domestic indifference and diplomatic failings from spilling over onto our balance sheets and out of our headlines [emphasis added], and those seem to be the only criteria by which its success is measured."

Clearly, Egypt is not the only country we call our friend, whose people are held down by threat of force--yes, like a cork in a volcano.  These policies are NOT the way to the peace we say we want. Sleepers awake! It really is time to "own" our policies; admit we're NOT necessarily helping by propping up tyrants and dictators just so we can be the "success" we look like on the surface. What price are we paying in our heart of national hearts? It's a tough thing to admit, but until we really see it--that supporting dictators may not be the road to true and lasting peace (or liberty and justice for all)--we'll continue to be surprised that people want to hurt us; and we won't make the changes that could stop the pain...the world's pain.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Liberty and justice for all...and our friends, too?

Perhaps the most interesting thing about what’s going in Egypt right now is the light it is putting on what’s going on here at home. What our government officially calls “foreign assistance” has $1.5 billion dollars earmarked for Egypt in 2011, the fourth largest recipient of US aid. Only Afghanistan ($3.9 billion), Pakistan ($3.1 billion) and Israel ($3 billion) have more aid requested for them. And those are just the “official” numbers.

In fact, according to our government’s own Web site, www.foreignassistance.gov, Uncle Sam doles out “more than $58 billion a year in foreign assistance”. Presumably, all these recipient countries, like Egypt, are our “friends”.

It’s hard for us to deny the Egyptian people’s desire to be rid of a dictator. But what about our other “friends”? Are they the models of the “liberty and justice” we pride ourselves on being? More to the point, how worthy--by what criteria--are they being recipients of our "assistance"? What if even more countries decide to rise up against their corrupt and repressive governments? Will a change to more equitable policies for the people still qualify them as our friends?

Which begs the question: How do we judge our friends? Apparently not the same way the people in the countries we befriend do. Most of them are living in oppression. And as in Egypt, they want out. Considering the world's present policies and trad-offs, that's a pretty sticky dilemma.

Real, self-sustaining peace and harmony just ain’t gonna happen if we don’t mean what we say we mean, or practice what we preach. Our focus on the “bottom line” does not include the human cost. Like the products we buy and sell, like the planet we exploit, people, too have become expendable commodities. Close a giant factory here to find cheaper labor somewhere else? It's just business! Health care for all in the richest country on earth? Socialism!

We equate “peace” with the stability to insure the uninterrupted flow of corporate profits, and that most assuredly includes the flow of oil. And for that, we tolerate the intolerable—-especially if it’s in our “friends’” back yard—-paying billions in dollars and priceless national treasure for the luxury.

Friends, consider this a blessed opportunity to start considering peace.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Decision Time: Whose side are we on?

I have shied away from discussing politics here simply because I believe we won’t find answers for the world’s problems through the very means that have put us in the mess we’re in. As a race, we’re at the brink of Decision Time as to how we want to proceed on this planet, and all signs—financial, social, ecological, religious, and political—speak to the fact that what we are doing simply cannot take us to a road of peace and harmony we’ve longed for. We’re running out of time; isn’t that perfectly clear?

But some things are hard to avoid addressing. Take the latest events in the Middle East. Nothing I’ve seen recently portends more to “Decision Time” than the snowball effect of change that is suddenly rising, first in Tunisia, now Egypt and Yemen…and who knows where next. People, most of them young and educated (and male, of course), are taking to the streets demanding an end to the tyrants and dictators who have run their countries for decades. These majority demographics of 15 to 29 year olds are saying No More to corruption and repression—in other words systems maintained by state-supported torture at the hands of not-so-secret security forces or "morals police".

And, oh, how they’re squirming in Washington!

On the one hand, our official stance is to support the peoples’ right to speak out. Yet we can’t quite say we oppose our own long-standing policies of supporting repressive regimes we’ve either propped up financially, owe billions to, or have depended on for oil for as long as their corrupt governments have been in power. So whose side are we on?

Change for them would obviously be a good thing. But keeping “stability” (the bedrock of corporate prosperity) under the conditions rightly being protested---well, it’s all getting kind of awkward, isn’t it?

Do we support upsetting their cart of rotten apples? If we do, won’t that mean our own applecart of relative comfort and stability may also be upset? And then, who knows? Maybe OUR disaffected will start looking at the disparity between rich and poor (1% owning 95%) and start protesting, too. And how would our leaders respond to that? It’s a scary thought, especially since we spend more on our military than all the other countries in the world combined. Would “we” start turning that might on ourselves? And in whose name? For “our own good”? Excuse me; for whose own good??

Do the people know best or the corporations? Oh, but wait; corporations are officially people now, too. Well, what if we the people start protesting corporate policies? Who do we complain to, our Congressman? We know who they're working for. So who’s going to save us? I’m really confused...and a little scared. Whose side should I be on? I’m an American!

Yes, folks, it’s decision time.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What do we want to be when we grow up?

You probably heard it when you were a kid: "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Some of us are still asking that question...I know I am. Every day is a process of "growing up"; of finding out who we are, and how we can express that call from within that is always encouraging us to be "ourselves writ large", to quote author Jean Houston.

In so many ways, our world IS growing up. Our science and technologies are leaping forward, literally taking us into a future that we couldn't have dreamed of just fifty years ago. Even what we've learned from some of the mistakes we've made--I'm thinking ecologically, here--mean we're better prepared to respect sustainable principals going forward. We welcome new ideas; indeed, our governments and industries support development and insights with the goal of "improving" our lives.

Yet there's one area that's strictly "hands-off": our religious constructs. Our holy books are, essentially, written in stone, and there seems to be no room for even considering that it might be time to re-evaluate what is and is not working according to books--and interpretations--conceived eons ago.

As such, we're stuck. We're stuck in our beliefs about the unfailing rightness of these great books, and it is that righteousness that is closing our minds to the possibility that maybe--just maybe--what we're continuing to pass on or believe as "fact" isn't actually working to take us to a place of loving, peace and harmony.

Now, let me be clear. I am NOT advocating the dismantling or abolishing of religion. ALL of humanities great books (not only the "religious" ones) exist to address that deep and timeless voice in each of us. We created them to do just that, and on a personal level, they have always been a source of inspiration and enrichment. But at the level of society at large, these same books have been--and still are!--justification for some of our most "ungodly" suffering...in the name of all that's holy!

Clearly, something's amiss. To say my book is more right than your book...well, what works on that level should be plain enough. The seeds of destruction are planted right beside the seeds of hope, and one only has to look around to recognize the fruit of that field. In fact, out perceived differences have escalated right along side our technological abilities to literally destroy ourselves. Some progress!

My personal feeling is that we're on some kind of brink. Whether one finds that frightening or inspiring could mean the choice between growing up as a race, or death by the hand of our current beliefs. Our religious ideas have so permeated the way we construct our societies and our systems that any kind of resolution according to the rules we've been playing by simply cannot take us to the place peace and harmony we long for.

I say it's time we advance our religions as we've advanced in so many other ways. Expand our spiritual wisdom as we've expanded our knowledge of the material world. Let's recognize what isn't working within our belief systems, and yes, within our religious books and teachings. Let's find in them that which unites us. Because it is only our IDEAS that are keeping us separate. In the sphere of Life Itself, there is only one energy, and we're all part of it...no exclusions; no "better". There is only Oneness; it is our fundamental and most natural state. We CAN make a better world. We KNOW it's possible if we could only get out of our own way. In the name of our very survival, we have to grow up as a race. Let's start by embracing Oneness as a way to peace. I can't see any other way.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

G.W. Bush said it: "It's about peace."

Our former President was asked what the war in Iraq was really about. His answer: "It's about peace."

To my ear, that's about as Orwellian as it gets. Looking for solutions to the world's problems by applying the same action that contributed to the mess we're in--then calling it something else (peace?)--won't take us to where we say we want to go.

War is not peace; pretty obvious, no? But hating war is not the same as loving peace. Those are two entirely different paradigms. Loving peace, then making decisions--political, social, financial, ecological and spiritual choices--with truly peaceful goals as the desired result...that's the road to lasting peace.

A race whose goal, like a corporation (and remember, they're people, too!) is simply to "have more" will never have enough. Maximum consumption will only end when resources run out. The systems we've created are so dependent on exploiting all available resources--people included--for maximum profit, that the kind of change this world needs could only be considered "collapse" in the eyes of the very few percent who hold the wealth and make decisions for so many.

Yet "having" more, and "doing" what we're doing is actually killing us, and of course there will be consequences. Change is inevitable; the question is, what kind of "brave new world" do we want to experience? Survival means a paradigm shift in the way we see ourselves; what we mean when we say "me" and "you" and "us". I believe that only a deep recognition of our innate connectivity, all man-made constructs aside, will change our world. Only an epiphany of global scale will bring this about...or when we're faced with a literal life or death decision about how we'd like to go on. Well, folks, we're there now! And like G.W. Bush said, it IS about peace; only not by expending what life we have to make war, or tolerating the scale of global poverty that Gandhi described as a form of violence.

We KNOW we can do better. We CAN change. But like any journey, it will start by taking the first step. How about we start considering peace.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Peace Talk # 2

Are we believing in what's killing us?

There are a whole lot of teachings out there, in books that go back thousands of years, that have plenty to say about death and doom. They even say that killing and suffering is the right thing to inflict on ourselves and others...in the name of "all that's holy", if you please. Well, I just don't believe it!
I DO choose to believe what will nurture my soul and the souls of others are words--anyone's words--of love, compassion, patience, forgiveness and non-violence. These are the things I KNOW are going to lift us up and be the source of healing and redemption in a world crying out for answers.

Some beliefs simply will not take us to the place of peace we've dreamed of for so long; peace which I truly believe is possible if we listen to our hearts, not what we've been told to believe about God and the "evil" nature of human beings. Does your heart--not your learned constructs, but the voice inside you--say inflicting pain on others is the right thing to do? (And consider Gandhi's words, that poverty is a form of violence.)

The truth is, we're all One family; Life itself excludes no one. We can all be angels and saviors for each other. Let's not be making political, financial, ecological and social decisions that lead to a quicker death. Let's choose life.
And these choices can begin by considering peace.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Haiti, one year later...and our global future.

"Rebuild Haiti," was the battle cry, one year go, January 2010.
A year later, well over a million people are living in tent "cities", where disease and rape gangs are a constant threat; and the rubble from collapsed buildings still litters the streets. The recent election was as much a fraud as elections in Haiti have ever been. For a century, one whiff of a truly populist movement was stamped out by thugs and torturers paid for by the ruling elite. If Haiti's generous neighbor to the north (that's us), really wanted to "rebuild Haiti", we would have allowed it decades ago. Instead, in the face of great wealth amongst the top one percent, subsistence living for the masses remains the status quo--much as it has in Central America and other countries around the world for all the same reasons. Who are we kidding?

But this blog is about considering new answers. The history books speak for themselves (depending on who's doing the writing, of course!), so one need not rehash here. I think it's safe to say there won't be any real political solutions designed to better everyone's life acted upon any time soon, in Haiti or in this country. Religious solutions either, given the righteous stance dividing us further. As far as sharing the wealth, the very great wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer...well, we can forget about that, too, right?

The "answer" will only come from a fundamental shift in the way we see ourselves as individuals in relation to each other. The fact is, we're all One. We're one energy, part of one all-inclusive gestalt called Life, which dismisses no one as less important than someone else. It is our sad constructs that are bringing the world to its precarious state. I don't believe we can look outward any longer for meaningful, long-lasting solutions. A new religion? Some other political hope? For all our best intentions, what we're DOING isn't working to take us to where we say we want to go: to a world of peace, love and mutual understanding.

Hating war is not the answer. Loving peace is a start, then acting in loving ways. In other words, "being loving". We need to BE something else. Embracing our Oneness will automatically put us in a loving place because what we would want for ourselves and our families would extend to every other living being. Such a change will only come from within. What will it take for loving awareness--embracing Oneness--to fill the heart of every man? Yes, "people say I'm a dreamer; but I KNOW I'm not the only one." Join me. Join us. Let's Consider Peace.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

So, here it is...

Below is the first of my "Peace Talks", twenty-six of which, with the help of my most capable friend Matteo Zanetti, have already been recorded, and will be released bi-weekly through the year, both here and on YouTube.

As I've said before, all this is just a shout into the darkness; one lone voice with a few ideas suggesting ways to heal our ailing world. Because one thing's for sure: as one observes the political shenanigans in Washington (and in most places, alas), whatever they're doing is not about solving fundamental problems. They best any of us can hope for from our politicians is another shaky buttress to forestall collapse of the entire house of cards--social, political, financial and ecological--which we've created from beliefs and constructs that clearly are NOT taking us to where we've always said we want to go: to a world of peace, love and unity.

We know we can do better. We know there is another way. We just can't seem to decide on what...and how. I suggest we start not by DOING anything. For all our best intentions--even in the name of God!--we can't seem, as a race, to head off a trajectory of tragic consequences. But by BEING loving; by recognizing and embracing our inherent Oneness, then acting on that new sense of Who We Are, the healing we crave, and its beautiful results, will come...naturally. All this could start right now if we start considering peace...at least consider it!

Peace Talk # 1

Thursday, January 6, 2011

"Making matters."

Artist Ann Hamilton said it. "Making matters." Just talking about doing something is not the same as the experience of actually doing it. Life, lived to its fullest, is the experience of living, not sitting around waiting to respond to outward circumstances. "Making it happen" is what activates our imaginations and our souls. BEING that which we want to be is, ironically, the state from which what we want to happen WILL happen. (What is faith, after all, but putting the cart before the horse!)

But as I always say, "Life is a life's work." To "have it now" (as the actress Cloris Leachman told me forty years ago about realizing my dreams), can sometimes take a lifetime. It sure has for me! Like everyone, I'm still in a state of becoming. Hell, we're all just making it up anyway, aren't we? Sometimes our best laid plans fall flat as a pancake. Yet another day unfolds, and that's the meaning of "World Without End". There's no shortage of time in the universe, or in our souls. Sure, life is short, but from a soul standpoint, there's no end in sight. Go boldly! Be that which you aspire to be--not aspire to have, but BE--now!
All the best for 2011. Good luck....we'll need that, too!