2-20-50

19 Feb
February 19, 2015

Give me Colors ! - original

As part of a new tradition, each year on February 20 — the day I entered this star system sixty-five years  ago through a portal at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton, New York, — I will no longer celebrate my birthday, but rather YOUR birthday and the birthdays of those individuals who, like you, have enriched the last 23,725 days of my journey and given it meaning.

Happy Birthday!

. . .and now, holding hands, let us enter the cool, refreshing stream of consciousness:

As we stand on the brink of extinction, we become mindful.

 In a Petri Dish, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with seven billion, we become mindful.

Living in a house of cards, whose foundation is the threat of terror and the fear of scarcity, we become mindful.

Watching children become joy-resistant strains of self-detonating predators, we become mindful.

In a country where 6% of the planet’s population own over 50% of its wealth – and are chronically unhappy – we become mindful.

In an Oval Office where the name of the Nazarene is passed around like Pez; and biblical scholars and theologians search in vain for the elusive reference to collateral damage, we become mindful.

In the offices of corporations who turn shares of Plough into swords; and men with tiny hearts live on glaciers of ambition, we become mindful.

Seeking refuge in the unity of nations, we turn to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, only to discover they are the world’s five largest arms dealers, we become mindful.
\\
In becoming mindful, we discover the pure, inexhaustible waters of compassion, and learn to turn that stream inward.

In becoming mindful, we open ourselves to transcendent hope: kernels of human potential and opportunity that exist in the vortex of challenge and adversity.

In time, mindfulness becomes an indefatigable commitment to wisdom, personal courage and self discovery despite the psychotic brutality of terrorism: the ultimate act of anti-evolution.

Mindfulness reaches out like an empty hand to remind us of a simple truth: the source of our greatest strength is without shape or form, subject neither to birth nor death. And that which is beyond birth and death is also beyond terror. And no anthrax spore or IED will ever alter that.

–Martin Bayne

 

OLDER IS BOLDER

14 Feb
February 14, 2015

MV5BNDY4MTQwMzc1MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzcwNTM5Ng@@._V1_SX214_AL_

 

“Once more into the fray . . .
Into the last good fight I’ll ever know.
Live and die on this day . . .
Live and die on this day . . .”
— The Grey (Open Road Films-2011)

When I first heard this poem, in 2013, read by a character played in the film by Liam Neeson, it literally took my breath away. I kept repeating the words to myself during the remainder of the movie, until every letter was indelibly etched in my brain.

Days later, as my cinema Epiphany continued to reverberate within this cloud of sub-atomic particles I call “me,” a direct understanding was born, and its birth written in the stars. An understanding that could be applied to virtually every adversity, hardship and fear I had ever encountered.

“A master archer hits a target at a hundred yards because he skill possesses, but to make to meet two arrows in mid-air, head-on, goes far beyond the skill of ordinary man,” states a masterful Buddhist prayer chanted by this author a lifetime ago as cold morning dew licked his toes through thick, leather Birkenstocks and he raced to find his place on tatami mats in the Zendo.

And what does all this have to do with the price of bananas in Berkeley?

Think of it as a preemptive soliloquy, created to introduce you to a new website designed to address isues of caregiving a smidge more directly than you may be used to.

Confused? Good. It’s meant to take you out of your comfort zone. Directly. With no buffer.

And what is the intended result? To remind us all that OLDER IS BOLDER.(which also just happens to be the name of the website). And it’s YOU that will determine whether I start the project.

That’s right. Based on the input I receive from YOU, I will make a decision within the next month re: the site.

Please, I urge you to take a few moments and drop me a short note. mkbayne@alum.mit.edu

 

Etc

02 Feb
February 2, 2015

calendar

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

  It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.” [for complete narrative see below]

  The excerpt above was originally presented as part of the Inaugural Address Nelson Mandela delivered as President of South Africa in 1994.

Many, including myself, found Mandela’s piece blinding in its simplicity, implications and conclusion.

In fact, tens of thousands have been moved by Mandela’s words–now included in hundreds of books, magazines and spiritual volumes.

The problem? The quote actually comes from the book ‘A Return To Love’ (1992) by Marianne Williamson.

Mandela never spoke or wrote the words.

Though the mistake appears to be an honest one, I was, nonetheless, jolted when I learned of its existence, in much the same fashion I was shocked and disappointed when I learned the truth of Santa Claus. Oh, well.

* * *

 

February 15, 2015 marks the completion of my 12th year spent as a resident in assisted living facilities in both New York and Pennsylvania.

Twelve years . . .

That’s 4,380 days of life in an environment of enhanced loneliness, disability, depression, dementia and death. In short, a tsunami of ambient despair.

And how is our financial, physical and emotional currency best spent addressing the issue of aging?  SEE HERE

 * * *

 

Aging Statistics

The older population–persons 65 years or older–numbered 39.6 million in 2009 (the latest year for which data is available). They represented 12.9% of the U.S. population, about one in every eight Americans. By 2030, there will be about 72.1 million older persons, more than twice their number in 2000. People 65+ represented 12.4% of the population in the year 2000 but are expected to grow to be 19% of the population by 2030. The information in this section of the AoA website brings together a wide variety of statistical information about this growing population.

Please select from the topics below to learn more:

 

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness,

that frightens us.

 

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant,

gorgeous, talented and fabulous ?

Actually, who are you not to be ?

You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.

There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people

won’t feel insecure around you.

 

We were born to manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us,  it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,

we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fears,

our presence automatically liberates others     Marianne Williamson.

 

 

The Day The Love Of My Life Went Missing

12 Jan
January 12, 2015

I still return to the mall where I last saw my wife. She was wearing a plaid skirt and blue windbreaker. I even remember the last conversation we had. We were standing outside of Florsheim Shoes and I was talking about the time I went fishing in Lake Ontario with the four nephews, and she was talking about the church social and how a nice pair of brown wingtips would go with the suit she bought me last summer. And right in the middle of the conversations, the mall sort of , well . . .disappeared, and I found myself on Lake Ontario, standing next to the nephews, in a black and red charter boat – just like the one we fished on last time. And I’m thinking, How cool is this? You just think of something and it becomes real. 
Heart

Well, at that precise moment in time, I turn to the wife to tell her about the boat and she’s gone. Just like that. Gone.

I don’t mind telling you that at that very moment, I was terrified. Worse than the time I was in that car accident and the firemen had to use The Jaws Of Life to free me. Even worse than the bad asthma attack Grandma had in ’68 when I had to carry her in to the hospital ER from the car. Worse, because you can wrap your head around a car accident, or even the possibility of losing a loved one to asthma, but to just disappear . . .

Oh, I hear the kids talking about it from time to time. To spare me from additional grief, they’ve apparently hired a look-alike house keeper to take mom’s place. And she’s convincing . . .she looks like mom, talks and acts like her too. She even smells like her!

I’d still like to know what happened to the real  mom, though, the woman I married 61 years ago. Like I said, I try and get to the mall whenever I can, to look for her. (The kids have a fit whenever I “sneak out” and walk to the mall. So what’s the worse that can happen to me? The Security Team at the mall knows me, so do the State Troopers. They’re good people. They all give me the same advise about listening to my children, then they drive me home.)

Oh, I’ll find her. Even if the children put me in one of those “facilities.” I’ll find her. Or die trying.

 

Thoughts From My Hospital Bed

29 Dec
December 29, 2014

Hospital surgery corridorMy hospitalization this time was my fourth this year, and a nasal swab identified the culprit as Influenza Strain “A”. I spent two weeks in an ICU step-down unit, then a week in a rehab facility.

With plenty of time for my mind to graze, I had a few ideas I’d like to share:

(1) TLC – Each time I have an acute care hospitalization, it’s followed by an indeterminate stay in a Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) for rehab. Thus, over the years, I’ve spent a fair amount of time in SNFs. As it turns out, there is a subset or cohort of this country’s  long term care population who need some level of long term care, but are too ADL-dependent for Assisted Living, yet for whom SNF is an expensive overkill. What to do? I suggest a Transitional Care Community.  An Assisted Living-SNF hybrid, TLCs would be less expensive alternatives for those who need physical, occupation or speech therapy, but without the full ADL support.

(2)Lately, I’ve observed a number of acute care nurses, and long term care med-techs with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome-like injuries. The common denominator in every case is the blister pack. After months of popping pills through the plastic “bubbles,” Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI) are inevitable.  With Pharma reporting record profits, you’d think they could design an RSI-free medication delivery system.

(3)I’ve never completely understood the demographics of America’s six living generations. Here is a breakdown courtesy of Dr. Jill Novak, University of Phoenix, Texas A&M University:

 

1901-1926  “The Greatest Generation”

Strong sense of personal civic duty, which means they vote.
Marriage is for life, divorce and having children out of wedlock were not accepted.
Strong loyalty to jobs, groups, schools, etc.
There was no “retirement” you worked until your died or couldn’t work anymore.
The labor-union-spawning generation.
“Use it up, fix it up, make it do, or do without.”
Avoid debt…save and buy with cash.
Age of radio and air flight; they were the generation that remembers life without airplanes, radio, and TV.
Most of them grew up without modern conveniences like refrigerators, electricity and air conditioning.

 

1927-1945  “The Silent Generation”

Went through their formative years during an era of suffocating conformity, but also during the postwar happiness: Peace! Jobs! Suburbs! Television! Rock ‘n Roll! Cars! Playboy Magazine!
Korean and Vietnam War generation.
The First Hopeful Drumbeats of Civil Rights!
Pre-feminism women; women stayed home generally to raise children, if they worked it was only certain jobs like teacher, nurse or secretary.
Men pledged loyalty to the corporation, once you got a job, you generally kept it for life.
The richest, most free-spending retirees in history.
Marriage is for life, divorce and having children out of wedlock were not accepted.
In grade school, the gravest teacher complaints were about passing notes and chewing gum in class.
They are avid readers, especially newspapers.
“Retirement” means to sit in a rocking chair and live your final days in peace.
The Big-Band/Swing music generation.
Strong sense of trans-generational common values and near-absolute truths.
Disciplined, self-sacrificing, & cautious.

 

1946-1964 “Baby Boomers”

Two sub-sets:
1. the save-the-world revolutionaries of the ’60s and ’70s;
and 2. the party-hardy career climbers (Yuppies) of the ’70s/’80s.
The “me” generation.
“Rock and roll” music generation.
Ushered in the free love and societal “non-violent” protests which triggered violence.
Self righteous & self-centered.
Buy it now and use credit.
Too busy for much neighborly involvement yet strong desires to reset or change the common values for the good of all.
Even though their mothers were generally housewives, responsible for all child rearing, women of this generation began working outside the home in record numbers, thereby changing the entire nation as this was the first generation to have their own children raised in a two-income household where mom was not omnipresent.
The first TV generation.
The first divorce generation, where divorce was beginning to be accepted as a tolerable reality.
Began accepting homosexuals.
Optimistic, driven, team-oriented.
Envision technology and innovation as requiring a learning process.
Tend to be more positive about authority, hierarchal structure and tradition.
One of the largest generations in history with 77 million people.
Their aging will change America almost incomprehensibly; they are the first generation to use the word “retirement” to mean being able to enjoy life after the children have left home. Instead of sitting in a rocking chair, they go skydiving, exercise and take up hobbies, which increases their longevity.
The American Youth Culture that began with them is now ending with them and their activism is beginning to re-emerge.

 

1965-1980   “Generation X”  

The “latch-key kids” grew up street-smart but isolated, often with divorced or career-driven parents. Latch-Key came from the house key kids wore around their neck, because they would go home from school to an empty house.
Entrepreneurial.
Very individualistic.
Government and big business mean little to them.
Want to save the neighborhood, not the world
Feel misunderstood by other generations
Cynical of many major institutions, which failed their parents, or them, during their formative years and are therefore eager to make marriage work and “be there” for their children
Don’t “feel” like a generation, but they are
Raised in the transition phase of written based knowledge to digital knowledge archives; most remember being in school without computers and then after the introduction of computers in middle school or high school
Desire a chance to learn, explore and make a contribution
Tend to commit to self rather than an organization or specific career. This generation averages 7 career changes in their lifetime, it was not normal to work for a company for life, unlike previous generations.
Society and thus individuals are envisioned as disposable.
AIDS begins to spread and is first lethal infectious disease in the history of any culture on earth which was not subjected to any quarantine.
Beginning obsession of individual rights prevailing over the common good, especially if it is applicable to any type of minority group.
Raised by the career and money conscious Boomers amidst the societal disappointment over governmental authority and the Vietnam war.
School problems were about drugs.
Late to marry (after cohabitation) and quick to divorce…many single parents.
Into labels and brand names.
Want what they want and want it now but struggling to buy, and most are deeply in credit card debt.
It is has been researched that they may be conversationally shallow because relating consists of shared time watching video movies, instead of previous generations.
Short on loyalty & wary of commitment; all values are relative…must tolerate all peoples.
Self-absorbed and suspicious of all organization.
Survivors as individuals.
Cautious, skeptical, unimpressed with authority, self-reliant.

 

1981-2000  “Generation Y”

Aka “The 9/11 Generation” “Echo Boomers” America’s next great generation brings a sharp departure from Generation X.
They are nurtured by omnipresent parents, optimistic, and focused.
Respect authority.
Falling crime rates. Falling teen pregnancy rates. But with school safety problems; they have to live with the thought that they could be shot at school, they learned early that the world is not a safe place.
They schedule everything.
They feel enormous academic pressure.
They feel like a generation and have great expectations for themselves.
Prefer digital literacy as they grew up in a digital environment. Have never known a world without computers! They get all their information and most of their socialization from the Internet.
Prefer to work in teams.
With unlimited access to information tend to be assertive with strong views.
Envision the world as a 24/7 place; want fast and immediate processing.
They have been told over and over again that they are special, and they expect the world to treat them that way.
They do not live to work, they prefer a more relaxed work environment with a lot of hand holding and accolades.

 

2000+ “Generation Z/Boomlets”

In 2006 there were a record number of births in the US and 49% of those born were Hispanic, this will change the American melting pot in terms of behavior and culture. The number of births in 2006 far outnumbered the start of the baby boom generation, and they will easily be a larger generation.
Since the early 1700’s the most common last name in the US was ‘Smith’ but not anymore, now it is Rodriguez.
There are two age groups right now:
(a) Tweens.
(a1) Age 8-12 years old.
(a2) There will be an estimated 29 million tweens by 2009.
(a3) $51 billion is spent by tweens every year with an additional $170 billion spent by their parents and family members directly for them.
(b)Toddler/Elementary school age.
61 percent of children 8-17 have televisions in their rooms.
35 percent have video games.
14 percent have a DVD player.
4 million will have their own cell phones. They have never known a world without computers and cell phones.
Have Eco-fatigue: they are actually tired of hearing about the environment and the many ways we have to save it.
With the advent of computers and web based learning, children leave behind toys at younger and younger age. It’s called KGOY-kids growing older younger, and many companies have suffered because of it, most recognizable is Mattel, the maker of Barbie dolls. In the 1990’s the average age of a child in their target market was 10 years old, and in 2000 it dropped to 3 years old. As children reach the age of four and five, old enough to play on the computer, they become less interested in toys and begin to desire electronics such as cell phones and video games.
They are Savvy consumers and they know what they want and how to get it and they are over saturated with brands.

 

 

UNNATURAL ACTS

30 Nov
November 30, 2014

final bell

“The U.S. economy has grown at an annual rate of around 3.4 percent, adjusted for inflation, over the past 50 years. An important factor in achieving that pace of economic growth has been an increase of about 1.7 percent annually in the supply of workers. This relatively rapid growth in the labor supply has been the result of two factors: the entry of the baby boom generation into the labor force, and the increasing participation of women in the labor force. Those two factors are now poised to fade, and labor force growth will ebb as a large cohort of workers reaches retirement age and as women no longer swell the ranks of the labor force. For output growth to continue at its pace of the past half-century in the face of slower labor force growth, workers’ productivity will have to grow more rapidly.”  

The bell curve illustrates the population dynamics that will drive hundreds of thousands of Baby Boomers OUT of existing long-term care housing (Assisted Living, Skilled Nursing, Continuing Care, etc.) as family assets are drained in caring for parents, spouses or siblings.

Additionally, even a cursory look at our species through a social-anthropological lens defines the relationship between the three population cohorts in the bell curve. In other words, it is as  “unnatural” for a group of infants to live together as it is for a group of the elderly to live together.

What is the answer? Eliminate the homogeneous “facilities”  that currently exist, and replace them with heterogeneous communities that are made up of a combination of all three cohorts.

 

 

H. KENNETH BAYNE 1928 – 2014

26 Nov
November 26, 2014

To the man who watched me jump off the diving board at the country club swimming pool in 1962 . . .watched as I dropped like a rock, then jumped into the pool in his 3-piece suit to save me —

hkb To the person that, nearly every year from 1958-1968, would pack me and my six younger siblings in the back of a station wagon and drive 500 miles to my grandmother’s house in Virginia —

To the friend who never once took a day off from work because he had seven children to feed and send to Catholic schools  (ungodly expensive!) —

To the disciplinarian who marched me into Woolworth’s in 1959, straight into the Manager’s office to return the six ball point pens I’d stolen earlier that day —

To the sports enthusiast who went to every basketball game his son was in, despite the fact I sat on the bench the entire season —

To the Gate Keeper who protected his family 24/7, and when three men showed up at the front door, looking for my brother Gerry, and one made the mistake of saying, “I’d stay out of it old  man,” my father hit him so hard, the  man was launched like a missile off the porch.—

To my guardian who always got up with me when it rained, and helped me deliver my newspaper route.—

To the best friend a kid could have, and when he found out I skipped school and drove to Brooklyn and went deep-sea fishing and was suspended for a week by the Principal, he grounded me for a month, but made sure I had the keys to his new Oldsmobile on Prom Night.—

To my father; I didn’t always understand you, certainly didn’t always agree with you, but said to you on the day before you died . . .”If I had to do it all over again, I’d still pick you for my dad.”

Goodbye Dad. I will miss you.

OTIS — a short story

05 Nov
November 5, 2014

Iron tombs of darkness, mind stealers, paralysis pods – elevators

I hate elevators with an intensity few can muster.

Those hydraulic-driven, iron caskets – like thieves in the night – have taken the things in life most valuable to me: my home, livelihood – even my self-worth.

But it wasn’t always that way.

There was a time I’d wake up in the morning with fire in my belly – afraid of nothing. Born Salvatore Bentino Pasquale (Sal) to a large Italian family in Brooklyn, I worked my way up from the docks and a shabby office on Canal Street to 45,000 square feet of prime, commercial, uptown real estate and an executive suite at Trump Towers.

But that was before. . .

               I checked my watch. The night watchman would leave any minute now. I waited patiently, sitting on the curb, hidden nicely between two cars – the perfect place to keep an eye on the warehouse. I added another sugar to my coffee and waited.

. . .that was before the day I had lunch with Ed Koch.

The former mayor was an old friend of the family’s and lunch had been an annual tradition since the days he had served as a member of Congress.

“Do you get a new limo with every hairpiece, Sal?” he chuckled as he climbed into my twelve passenger coach.

“Let’s get ready to r-u-u-u-m-m-m-mble,” I shot back along with a trademarked Pasquale hug.

“Salvatore, you’re looking well. Grande la passion?”

“No such luck, Mr. Mayor. What’s your pleasure today?”

“I find myself in an erudite, playful mood. You could almost say academic.”

I paused, running my hand over a carefully trimmed beard. “Academia, eh?” I stared out my window at the city I had loved as long as I could remember.

“We’re not talking about Tartar of Bluefin Tuna are we?

I watched the miracle-like transformation from complex, powerful and sophisticated politician to a grinning school boy with a box full of puppies.

“And maybe a little Pate of Muscovy Duck?” Koch said, repressing a giggle.

I turned to my chauffeur. “Paul, it appears the Mayor’s in a Mediterranean mood today. Let’s head over to Terrace in the Sky.”

The restaurant, one of the Mayor’s favorites, was positioned atop Columbia University’s Butler Hall, with a sweeping view of the New York City skyline.

          It had been over an hour since the night watchman had left. The street, located in an old industrial park in lower Manhattan, was now deserted. I walked with measured steps, prepared for the worst, anticipating the best.

          The bolt cutters split the padlock on the warehouse side door effortlessly, and within seconds I was in. I dropped my nap sack and went to work.

 

          I already knew where the elevator was and had researched what type it was, so the shape charges I brought would be the most efficient possible. Charges in places I collected my tools and left the building. Only one more item. I removed three sealed envelopes and placed them under the wiper blades of cars parked near the warehouse.

           Now it was complete.

As we exited the car on West 119th Street I smiled at my friend of many years, looking forward to a splendid lunch.

We walked into Butler Hall and waited for the next elevator, sharing a personal joke about a particularly rowdy day he’d had as a City Councilman.

But when the next elevator opened, I just froze. I couldn’t move. My heart was beating so hard I thought it would split my chest and I was soaking wet.

“I can’t get on that thing, Ed.” I was terrified. I had never felt such a feeling of panic – of impending doom – in my life.

Ed took me outside, sat me under an oak tree and wiped the sweat off my forehead with his handkerchief. I could hear him talking on his cell phone:

“Josh, you’ll see him NOW, or do I have to remind you that the good folks at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine don’t normally take pre-meds from NYU with 2.5 Grade Point Averages, do they Josh? And if I didn’t love your parents                as much as I did, you little putz, you’d still be working for your Uncle Saul in the garment district. I’m sorry, what’s that you say . . . A cancellation? Gee, thanks.”

The first of more than ten psychiatrists I would see for my terror of elevators.

And things only got worse.

My fear of elevators became so intense that I ultimately had to give up my suite at Trump Towers, and even choose a profession that would make it less likely that I’d have to travel in those… moving graveyards.

And I tried everything: cognitive therapy, serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, meditation, biofeedback, hypnosis, Freudian therapy, snake handling, acupuncture, crystals, but with no luck.

My drinking increased and I became so self-destructive that one night I put a gun against my temple and considered taking my own life.

It was in that poverty of despair that I decided to fight back.

“It seems like it was only yesterday that we drove to Terrace in the Sky, Mr. Mayor,” I said as he slowly entered the limo, nursing a sprained ankle.

I lowered my voice, “Look, Ed, I’m sorry that I haven’t called, but…”

He rested his hand on my shoulder. “You’ve got a lot on your plate.”

“What’s your pleasure today, Mr. Mayor?”

“Hand me your copy of the New York Times, Sal, will ya’, lad

“OK,” he said, now off in his own little world, “well there’s that new Chinese place in SOHO… Oh, look what happened to the Knicks at the Garden last night… Or we could head over to Tribeca and catch that new American restaurant                 with the chef who’s a dead ringer for Gregory Peck, and they say he can cook up… Oh look who died last night.”

There was a long pause, Koch folded the newspaper and furrowed his brow, “Well, the Elevator Bomber is at it again.”

“You don’t say?” I mumbled.

“Yep, says he struck his ninth target in as many weeks. Last night’s was in a warehouse in lower Manhattan. Same MO. Leaves a note at the scene saying he’s grieving over the loss of someone who died in an elevator. Signs it, ‘Of Thee  I Suffer – an anagram for OTIS.’ ”

“What do you think about all this, Sal?”

“Have’t given it much thought really.” I said.

“No, I suppose not.” said Koch.

The Mayor reached over and poured himself a Coke.

“Would you like to hear what I think?”

“Sure,” I answered, “why not.”

“Yes I believe a person did die in an elevator; maybe not literally, but dead nonetheless.”

He raised the paper again obscuring his face. “But what do I know, I’m just an old man.”

As we drove along the Henry Hudson Parkway, the Mayor said, “OK, I’ve got it. Bayard’s, we haven’t been there in a while.”

“Paul, call and see if they’ll squeeze us in.” I said, smiling. Things had returned to normal.

“Warm Peekytoe Crab,” I said, reaching for a Coke and a chilled mug..

“Well you can be sure I’m looking forward to it but…”

“But what?” I said.

Koch gazed out the window at a refuse barge on the Hudson River headed for Virginia. “I could have sworn that lately you prefer most of your dishes served cold.”

I shot a glance at the Mayor, careful to keep my voice steady,  “How long have you known?” I asked.

Until today I wasn’t sure . . .”

“Do you think I’ll do time for this?” I asked, my throat caking as I spoke.

Koch ran a hand over a freshly-barbered head. “”My friend, you are still in the ‘forgiveness stage.’ No one has died in these . .  .these temper tantrums, yet! That will weigh heavily in the court’s decision. But I must warn you; everything I say is contingent on turning yourself in today.”

“I don’t think I could handle prison, Ed,” I said, feeling a wave of nausea pass through me.

“Sal, let’s enjoy the hors d’oeuvres before we worry about settling the check.”

That was our last conversation.

At my arraignment I was held without bail and remanded to Rikers.

And  despite the horror stories I’d heard about the overcrowding and violence in New York City’s largest jail, I have yet to see a single elevator.

Story Telling

28 Oct
October 28, 2014

Lyons

In 1999 Dr. Bill Thomas and I were invited by Chief Oren Lyons to visit The People of the Six Nations, also known by the French term, Iroquois Confederacy. The Native Americans call themselves the Hau de no sau nee (ho dee noe sho nee) meaning People Building a Long House.

The purpose of the visit was to discuss long-term care options with the elders of the Six Nations.

Located in the northeastern region of North America, originally the Six Nations was five and included the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas. The sixth nation, the Tuscaroras, migrated into Iroquois country in the early eighteenth century. Together these peoples comprise the oldest living participatory democracy on earth. Their story, and governance truly based on the consent of the governed, contains a great deal of life-promoting intelligence for those of us not familiar with this area of American history. The original US representative democracy, fashioned by such central authors as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, drew much inspiration from this confederacy of nations.

And although I drew great inspiration from the ceremony and camaraderie that day, it was not the Native Americans who proved to be the most impressive – but rather Bill Thomas.

As a lunch of buffalo finally settled in an otherwise courageous stomach, and the winter sun began to drop behind the mountains, one of the young Native American women who had attended the event stood, pointed her finger at me, and with a pronounced scowl, demanded to be recognized.

You could have heard a tobacco pouch drop.

Seconds later she launched into an indictment of “the evil white man” circa 1700-1970. It wasn’t pretty.

And the more I tried to extinguish the fires of anger, the uglier it got.

Suddenly, from behind me, a firm yet forgiving voice cut through the angst and confusion with five simple words: “Let me share a story.”

Then, with a unique mix of Mark Twain and Rumi, Bill Thomas wove a short narrative into a tapestry. Even the tribal elders, who spoke no English, were smiling at each other. Truth is, I don’t think I ever adequately expressed my appreciation. So, “Thanks,” Bill – for everything.

Post Script: What follows was culled from an interview I had some months later with Chief Oren Lyons.

“Martin…We’ve always been a very spiritual people. Much of our culture revolves around ceremony and thanksgiving, and when an elder speaks they carry an authority and wisdom that only comes with age and experience – when the sharp emotions of youth are worn down and rounded. 

There is a standard in the Natural World, where the elders always are, in which they are perceived as leaders. In a buffalo herd, the eldest is the leader. In the forest, the oldest, largest trees are the most fruitful and productive. They are the great seed bearers. If you look only to the Natural World, you will see the value that nature places on aging.

There is a standard of law and authority that we live by, and we call it the Natural Law, and that law prevails. And we understand this.

In many of today’s industrial nations, they generate their power and authority from youth – they build their foundation on the strength of their young, and this is a great loss; a great disconnect between that society and their elderly”

Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper, Turtle Clan, Onondaga Nation, Haudenosaunee, Six Nations, Iroquois Confederacy – 2000 interview

 

ISLAM – a primer

18 Oct
October 18, 2014

NOTE: With the memory of 9/11 still in the American collective subconscious, and the recent homicidal, horrific violence of ISIL, Islam and its greatest prophet – Muhammad – are often the subject of intense discussions. Thus, I’ve created a small “primer” on the subject, in an effort to aquatint the reader with a brief, but comprehensive introduction.

mosqueIslam Demographics

There are an estimated 1.6 billion Muslims around the world, making Islam the world’s second-largest religious tradition after Christianity, according to the December 2012 Global Religious Landscape report from the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Muhammad (prophet of Islam) 570–632, the name of the Prophet of Islam.

Early Life

Muhammad was the son of Abdallah ibn Abd al-Muttalib and his wife Amina, both of the Hashim clan of the dominant Kuraish (Quraysh) tribal federation. Muhammad was orphaned soon after birth, and was brought up by his uncle Abu Talib. When he was 24, he married Khadija, a wealthy widow and merchant, much his senior; his position in the community became that of a wealthy merchant. Muhammad had no other wife in Khadija’s lifetime. Khadija’s daughter Fatima was his only child to have issue.

Call to Prophecy

When he was 40, Muhammad felt himself selected by God to be the Arab prophet of true religion. The Arabs, unlike other nations, had hitherto had no prophet. In the cave of Mt. Hira, N of Mecca, he had a vision in which he was commanded to preach. Thereafter throughout his life he continued to have revelations, many of which were collected and recorded in the Qur’an. His fundamental teachings were: there is one God; people must in all things submit to Him; in this world nations have been amply punished for rejecting God’s prophets, and heaven and hell are waiting for the present generation; the world will come to an end with a great judgment. He included as religious duties frequent prayer and almsgiving, and he forbade usury.

Enemies and Converts

In his first years Muhammad made few converts but many enemies. His first converts were Khadija, Ali (who became the husband of Fatima), and Abu Bakr. From about 620, Mecca became actively hostile, since much of its revenues depended on its pagan shrine, the Kaaba, and an attack on the existing Arab religion was an attack on the prosperity of Mecca. While he was gaining only enemies at home, Muhammad’s teaching was faring little better abroad; only at Yathrib did it make any headway, and on Yathrib depended the future of Islam. In the summer of 622 Muhammad fled from Mecca as an attempt was being prepared to murder him, and he escaped in the night from the city and made his way to Yathrib. From this event, the flight, or Hegira, of the Prophet (622), the Islamic calendar begins.

Muhammad spent the rest of his life at Yathrib, henceforth called Medina, the City of the Prophet. At Medina he built his model theocratic state and from there ruled his rapidly growing empire. Muhammad’s lawgiving at Medina is at least theoretically the law of Islam, and in its evolution over the next 10 years the history of the community at Medina is seen.

Medina lies on the caravan route N of Mecca, and the Kuraishites of Mecca could not endure the thought of their outlawed relative taking vengeance on his native city by plundering their caravans. A pitched battle between Muhammad’s men and the Meccans occurred at Badr, and the victory of an inferior force from the poorer city over the men of Mecca gave Islam great prestige in SW Arabia. More than a year later the battle of Uhud was fought but with less fortunate results. By this time pagan Arabia had been converted, and the Prophet’s missionaries, or legates, were active in the Eastern Empire, in Persia, and in Ethiopia.

As he believed firmly in his position as last of the prophets and as successor of Jesus, Muhammad seems at first to have expected that the Jews and Christians would welcome him and accept his revelations, but he was soon disappointed. Medina had a large Jewish population which controlled most of the wealth of the city, and they steadfastly refused to give their new ruler any kind of religious allegiance. Muhammad, after a long quarrel, appropriated much of their property, and his first actual conquest was the oasis of Khaibar, occupied by the Jews, in 628. The failure of several missions among the Christians made him distrustful of Christians as well as Jews.

His renown increased, and in 629 he made a pilgrimage to Mecca without interference. There he won valuable converts, including Amr and Khalid (who had fought him at Uhud). In 630 he marched against Mecca, which fell without a fight. Arabia was won. Muhammad’s private life—the fact that he had nine wives—has received a vast, and perhaps disproportionate, amount of attention. His third wife, Aishah, was able and devoted; he died in her arms June 8, 632.

Legends and Veneration

The traditions concerning Muhammad’s life, deeds, and sayings are contained in the hadith. Islamic dogma stresses his exclusively human nature, while presenting him as infallible on matters of prophecy. He is considered by most Muslims to have been sinless, and is regarded as the ultimate subject of emulation. Many believe that he will intercede for the Muslim community on the day of judgment. Muhammad is probably the most common given name, with variations including the W African Mamadu and the Turkic Mehmet. He was known to medieval Christianity as Mahomet.