Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Every Man’s Life Is A Fairy Tale

Few of us have ever realized that fairy stories have their counterpart in Nature. The world about us is filled with ugly step-mothers and half sisters who cannot wear glass slippers. It is true they are not living people but they are attitudes and thoughts; for our own dispositions, when perverted and soured, become hateful ogres and witches seeking to destroy goodness and kindness within ourselves.


Do you remember Beauty and the Beast-how, in spite of the sorcery that had turned the handsome prince into a hideous monster, the coming of Beauty into his life restored him again to human form and happiness? Through the lack of beauty in his own heart, many an individual has become a horrible, hideous beast, who while still in human shape has all the attributes of a ferocious animal.

Beauty of soul and beauty of life bring back happiness to the beast. In Nature we always see Beauty redeeming the Beast. Out in the forest the dark, dead tree is gaunt and bare; but Nature with her magic wand covers the tree with creeping vines, decking its giant limbs with mantles of flowers and urging the birds to build their nests amid its dark branches. A beautiful word, a beautiful thought, a beautiful life-all these are magic wands, which recall Prince Charming from the darkness of gloom and despondency.

All these stories have a meaning the child never suspects, but so deep the sage cannot comprehend it all.

Have you read the story of Sleeping Beauty? If not, go straight to the library and visit the children’s room. Sit down on one of those little chairs about ten inches from the floor, get out the book with its colored pictures and much-thumbed pages, and go with the Prince through the great forest of nettles and thorns which surrounds the palace of Princess Beautiful. The Princess is under a spell which causes her to sleep until she is awakened by the handsome Prince, who passes through all the obstacles of life in order to claim her as his own.

Have you ever realized that you are both the Prince and the Princess in One-that the Princess is your own better nature, the spirit of beauty lying asleep in you, hidden away behind walls of nettles and thorns of conflict? These thorns and briars are the struggles and disappointments and impediments of life, for there is a crown of thorns in every life.

We often fail in life because of the lack of inspiration which adds soul to the dexterity of the fingers. Every life must not only have the power to accomplish; it must also have the inspiration to lead it on.

Man longs for the beautiful and true, but he must always claim it from a heart of sorrow and sadness. Peace will never be found without labor, so go with the faith of a true prince into the world, which is the forest of nettles, for the world is filled with aggravating, pricking tearing and wounding things. But if you will go through life with the faith of the fairy prince, you will find that the thorns give way before you, that the nettles and briars part and let you through; for there is a reward for those who seek to beautify life and awaken the spirit of harmony lying asleep behind the briars of privation.

There is beauty in all things. If your life has been deprived of it, go forth like the prince and claim it. Remember, however, that happiness must always be reached through the forest of thorns and that every spirit must be a hero to attain it.

Live and Learn. We All Do.

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Filed under: Beauty, Culture, Nature Tagged: beautiful, Cinderella, egypt, Fairy tale, happiness, magic, nature

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Friday, December 25, 2015

My Very Muslim Christmas

TIME columnist Abdul-Jabbar is a six-time NBA champion and league Most Valuable Player. He is also a celebrated author, filmmaker and education ambassador whose life and career are the subject of Minority of One, a new documentary on HBO Sports.

‘The campaign against Muslim Americans spits in the face of everything Christmas stands for’

 Although I am Muslim, I have a deep affection and respect for Christmas. Affection because I was raised Catholic and the holiday season is a nostalgic hug as comforting as a warm crackling fire and hot apple cider. Respect because praising the significance of the birth of Jesus is an important part of the Muslim faith.


The Quran, Islam’s holy book, reveres Jesus as a great messenger of God, describes his virgin birth, and acknowledges the miracles he performed: “I have come to you with a sign from your Lord. I make for you the shape of a bird out of clay, I breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by God’s permission. I heal the blind from birth and the leper. And I bring the dead to life by God’s permission. And I tell you what you eat and what you store in your houses.” (Quran, 3:49).

Christmas time is a wave of good cheer that washes over most people, regardless of their religious affiliations or lack of one. It’s the time when we imagine the best person we could be—and then try to be that person. We hold more doors open for others, let people pull in front of us in traffic, pick up the lunch tab for co-workers. We feel good knowing that such a kind and gentle person lurks within us. And each year we try to coax that lovely person to stay a little longer past the season. Because without that person, baby, it’s cold outside.

However, recent events, from terrorist attacks to police killings of unarmedAfrican Americans, have heightened public awareness that America is in the midst of an identity crisis. On the one hand, Americans see themselves as the great international melting pot that welcomes huddled masses of all religions and ethnic backgrounds. On the other hand, they’re terrified that too much diversity mixed in the pot will dilute our white Christian majority.

The resulting American stew might be a little darker in appearance and a little less likely to display a nativity scene at Christmas. Statistics support this perception: over the last 50 years, the percentage of Christians and Jews in almost every denomination have decreased while the number of Muslims has increased to make Islam the third-largest religion in the U.S. At the same time, the number of non-religious people has increased to about 23%.

Our cultural identity is transitioning from a large white majority to a more mocha-shaded complexion. The non-Latino white majority (63% in 2012) has been decreasing every year. Four states—Hawaii, New Mexico, California and Texas—already have non-white majorities. By 2050, more than 25% of the population will be Latino. The African-American population, currently at about 13%, or 42 million, is also increasing faster than the white population. The fastest-growing ethnic group is of Asian descent, which increased from 10.2 million to 16 million from 2000 to 2013. By 2050, it will likely increase to 34.3 million. In true melting-pot tradition, America is becoming less white and less Eurocentric. According to the U.S. Census, by 2044 the white population will be in the minority.

The speed of change is disorienting for many Americans and makes them fearful that someday they, too, will be marginalized. This fear is, in part, behind the rising anti-Muslim sentiment in the country. A California State University research group, the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, has reported alarming increases in hate crimes against Muslims in America, including physical assault on the streets, arson and vandalism at mosques, and shootings and death threats targeting Islamic-owned businesses. Since the Paris attacks of Nov. 13, the average of 12.6 monthly suspected hate crimes against Muslims in America has tripled.

A Muslim cab driver was shot in the back. A hijab-wearing student was attacked and punched. A Muslim woman at a car wash was threatened by a man with a knife. Mosques have been vandalized. A bullet-riddled copy of the Quran was left outside an Islamic store. This is not the religious tolerance that Thomas Jefferson envisioned for America when he said: “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

It’s difficult to sustain outrage at the sad individuals conducting these attacks because they clearly aren’t intelligent enough to understand the impotence of their contradictory behavior. They don’t realize that each attack is like donating money to ISIS because it helps them recruit more followers while harming the people here who are just as opposed to the terrorists. To attack Muslim Americans for the actions of ISIS or any other terrorist would be like leaving bullet-riddled Bibles outside churches because Jim David Adkisson, a devout Christian, shotgunned a group of children in a Knoxville church, killing two and wounding seven, because of the church’s “liberal teachings.”

Or vandalizing churches because Dylann Storm Roof, a member of the local Lutheran church, slaughtered nine African-Americans during a church service in 2015. Or bullying Christian children because Anders Breivik massacred 77 people in 2011 in Norway, defending his actions in his anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and pro-“Christian Europe” manifesto. Like ISIS followers, these murderers have concocted a fantasy scenario in which they can be glorified through violence but which has nothing to do with the religion they pretend to follow.

These escalating attacks on Muslim Americans are not only un-American but they are also un-Christian. The people who perform these acts of violence and vandalism follow neither the Constitution nor the Bible, but they do represent the distillation of the anti-Muslim sentiment that is flowing across America like steaming lava, vaporizing our Christmas cheer.

The real villains here are the ones who knowingly create an atmosphere of fear and hate without taking responsibility for the inevitable violence that ensues. Private evangelical Christian Wheaton College, for example, is an institution of higher learning that should symbolize the sacred pursuit of knowledge. But when political science professor (and devout Christian) Larycia Hawkins wore a headscarf to show solidarity with Muslims because, as she said on Facebook, they share the same God as Christians, she was suspended.

A New Jersey Muslim-American high school teacher claims she was fired for showing a film about Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, even though a non-Muslim teacher had shown the same film several years earlier. She also alleges she was told not to mention Islam or the Middle East in class. So much for educating our children to think rationally.

The worst perpetrators are also the ones who hope to benefit most from amping up the paranoia level to DEFCON 1. The politicians’ alchemy is to transform fear into votes. Donald Trump has said he wants to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. and register those already here. Ben Carson, who has said he doesn’t think a Muslim should be president, has said he supports registering Muslim Americans. Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush have said they want only Christian Syrian refugees allowed into the country.

And dozens of governors announced they would refuse Syrian refugees in their states. It’s like the country has a bruised rib and politicians keep poking the bruise while claiming only they can make the pain stop. They’ve gotten the country so riled up that a recent poll showed 30% of Republican voters want to bomb Agrabah, the fictional kingdom in the Disney movie Aladdin. In the same poll, 54% agreed with banning Muslims from entering the U.S., and 46% agreed with registering Muslims in the U.S. Both proposals are so unconstitutional that they actually do more harm to the country than the actual terrorists.

This campaign against Muslim Americans spits in the face of everything Christmas stands for. Peace on Earth. Good will toward others. Being the best person we can be. Fortunately, there are many Christian organizations that still live by their religious principles as a guide to what Christmas, and Christianity, stands for. World Relief, a non-profit organization started by group of evangelical churches, is helping relocate Syrian refugees in the U.S. “Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors,”

Amy Rowell, director of the Moline, Ill., office of World Relief, told Quartz. “The parable of the good Samaritan comes to mind, making it absolutely clear that our neighbors cannot be limited to those of our same ethnicity or religious traditions.” The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans also discussed his church’s support for the refugees: “Today, we face new challenges as we answer the Gospel call to welcome the stranger and care for the vulnerable…. Catholic Charities is a grantee agency that receives refugees from many parts of the world, including the Middle East.” Pope Francis even warned U.S. politicians that: “To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place.”

Last Sunday, a group of 200 Muslims, Jews and Christians in Washington, D.C., walked together in what they called “Faith Over Fear: Choosing Unity Over Extremism.” Led by Imam Lyndon Bilal, Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig and the Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the head of the Archdiocese of Washington, the group walked from Washington Hebrew Congregation to Washington National Cathedral to the Islamic Center, stopping at each to offer prayers for interfaith unity: “Compassionate God, free us to love.”

These faithful remind us all of our spiritual—and patriotic—duty.

Muslims, Christians and Jews worship the same God, just in different ways. Those differences can make each group wary of the other, until they realize that a fundamental teaching in all three religions is to co-exist in peace with others. True, we can all dig into each other’s holy texts for isolated quotes that seem to contradict this, and we can all air each other’s historical dirty laundry when each acted contrary to this teaching. But Christmas reminds us all that what really matters is how we behave here and now toward each other.

One popular Christmas song that best embodies the spirit of the season is “Christmas Time Is Here,” from the 1965 TV special, A Charlie Brown Christmas. The final lyrics are “Oh, that we could always see/Such spirit through the year.”

Now, that would be a Christmas miracle.


Live and Learn. We All Do.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Organic is Normal

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Where Common Core Went Wrong

There is a big discussion in the educational community between teachers, administrators and parents on the value of a common core curriculum. While our country might need an army of scientists, technicians, engineers and mathematicians in the near future to stay competitive our approach to education has severely missed the mark.


The other day my son was given a homework problem that was literally circulated among the parents because we as parents couldn’t figure out how to solve the problem you were asking an 8 year old to solve.

This has become commonplace among parents and children trying to conform to the new Common Core standards.

Each day I am dumbfounded at the amount of information that is forced into my children’s thought process without giving a thought about how a child really learns.

What we have done instead of bringing “children” up to learning we have brought learning down to them.  A very grave mistake.


I’d like to ask what will happen in a decade or two when we realize that the problems of today are still the problems of tomorrow and that the population needs yet, another skill set for it’s survival. Did we kill off the soul and life-blood and the creativity of those future generations because we needed them to conform and perform according to “our needs”?

This is short-sighted thinking.

The Common Core we are all searching for but are afraid to discuss is religion.

And, let’s be clear that I mean religion, not theology. Religion in the proper sense of the word, is spiritual ethics, and its foundation is the teaching of broad principles of right and wrong, absolutely indispensable to constructive and successful living.

Theology, on the other hand, divided as it is into innumerable sects and isms, cannot be taught in public schools of any democratic or liberal-thinking country. Let’s make that clear.


Our highly diversified background complicates the religious problem in the United States. Parents representing over two hundred and fifty sects and creeds, send their children to public schools, and must be assured that nothing will be taught to these children that will conflict with the creedal religious training they receive, or should receive, in their homes.

Baptist parents do not want their children to be taught Methodist doctrines. The Presbyterians will have no Mormonism inculcated upon their children, and the orthodox Jewish families will court no Roman Catholicism influencing the formative minds of their offspring. This has been a stalemate in religious education.

The trouble has been, first, that the religious education which the school is not permitted to give, is also (in the majority of cases) neglected in the home and presented in such narrow, sectarian terms that the children themselves revolt against the bigotry of the older generation, and so have no religious ethics to direct their codes of living. As is clearly evident by many first generation children.

It is a mistake to believe that religious education needs to interfere with the theological limitations of any personal perspective. No matter how narrow and intolerant a person is in religious matters, he will generally uphold the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule. There is sufficient religious material common to all the sects of Christendom, Judaism and other religious groups, to permit of sound religious education that conflicts with nothing and can only accomplish good.

All religions worthy of the name of religion acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Principle of good, which control the universe with the law and order and decrees that men shall live together honestly, justly, and benevolently. All religions commonly concur in the teaching that a virtuous life is acceptable and necessary; and that justice and honesty preserve human society.

A beautiful religious outline could be formed acceptable to all, and be the common denominator we really all are searching for, instead of what we have currently adopted.

No individual who does not understand the several great religions of the world has any right to regard himself as educated, for in spite of all the industrial and mechanical emphasis of the last few generations, religion and religious thought are still the greatest moving forces in humanity – the greatest living power of the world.

To study the Greeks and not their religion is foolish. To study India, China, Egypt and Rome, without mastering their history, their ethics and esthetics, is to leave out of education the very soul and essence of it.

Yes, involved problems of comparative religion belong, of course, in the higher grades of education; but the beginnings of inter-religious understanding should be included with the ABC’s and the three R’s.

We need to end the bigotry and the intolerance that is plaguing our country and the world. The spiritual ideals of the human race must find some common denominator from which to work. A simple but vital truth, such as the Golden Rule, should be that common denominator not science and math.

Live and Learn. We All Do.

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Filed under: Education, Uncategorized Tagged: children, Common Core, Common Core State Standards Initiative, Dr. Duke Pesta, education, ethics, generations, Morals, Religion, The Golden Rule

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Nothing Can Cure The Soul But The Senses

It is generally acknowledged that we human beings have five sensory perceptions: Sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch.


These senses are bridges between our external world and the reflective centers of the human soul. In their natural functions all these sense perceptions are constructive, helping us to understand the nature and substance of the environment in which we exist. All of the perceptions contribute to the health of the body and the normal functions of the nervous system.

In our current materialistic world we are suffering from a greatly intensified pollution. Almost every aspect of our daily living is affected, resulting in increased physical illness and social confusion. Most present-day physical pollution is due to overpopulation and the inability to dispose of toxic wastes. And, every effort to rid the world of contaminated substances up to now has been largely ineffective.

Short Film: “Assault on the Senses”

The most dangerous waste of today is associated with nuclear weaponry, but over the years industrial waste has also become more and more dangerous. Chemical waste receives some consideration, as evident of the Honest Company’s success, but that which is due to other types of pollution is passed over lightly or with unrealistic optimism.

Why do we assume all things will be solved by time? At this present moment in time the passing days and years are adding to the dilemma and anxiety is now at an all time high.

If we follow the Hermetic axiom “As above, so below,” we see the world around us gradually deteriorating as a result of pollution. But, we still have no practical way of remedying the situation without a disastrous collapse in our standards of living. And, what’s worse, we are in no way inclined to curb our own propensities for freedom of action.

As the human body is a little planet, it is a miniature of the outer world and is also exhibiting serious evidence of pollution. Perhaps, on the physical level we are attempting to improve nutrition; but we are told, without the additives, preservatives, and chemical substitutes there would be grave difficulty in providing the food necessary to feed the population explosion. Whichever way we turn we find ourselves in danger of creating two difficulties for the one which we have found a partial solution.

The sober, hard to hear truth is we actually do not want to be reminded that we have created a way of life dangerous to our own survival. While toxic waste may bring us obvious sickness and interfere with our pursuits, we only make a half-hearted effort to remedy its deadly effects.

Live and Learn. We All Do.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Tell Me Why #MuslimLivesMatter

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Filed under: Islam, Politics, Religion Tagged: America, islam, Israel, life, love, muslim, Palestine, Presidential Election 2016, War, Why, world

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