Saturday, 27 September 2008

Sin?

I walk for about an hour most days at 6:00 a.m. or even earlier.

This means that I start my walk in the darkness, leading to morning twilight, and then to the light of day.


Last Wednesday as I walked into morning twilight, the street lights were still on. I saw a faint shadow moving alongside me. I turned to see who was behind me.


Then I realised that it was my own shadow, moving from behind me to before me as I walked passed a street light.


When we walk towards the light the shadows are behind us.


When we walk away from the light the shadows are ahead of us.


I suppose that this has something to say about the notion of sin.


Whe we walk away from the light (of G-d) the shadows are ahead of us.

This (for me) means that we are always walking into the shadows of our past - the failures, disappointments, hurts and miseries of yesteryear.

Repentance is to turn 180 degrees, and to walk towards the light (of G-d).

Then the shadows are behind us. Those failures, disappointments, hurts and miseries of yesteryear are absorbed into the light and love towards which we walk.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Miscellany

















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I was supposed to have a tooth extracted yesterday. My good Dentist decided that it was a job for an Oral Surgeon, and not for him.

The tooth broke off today. Only the root is left. I am in no pain, and the Oral Surgeon will take care of the root in a couple of weeks.
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I spent some time with “William” this morning. He is still very sad, but he loved it when we prayed together. We’ll get together for lunch on Saturday 27th
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Ben and David will join me for dinner tonight. I have prepared a “Fish Soup” (a new concept and recipe for me). It includes leeks, sweet onions, green and red peppers, mushrooms, and canned tomatoes, with catfish and shrimp. I like to try new recipes.
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The developed world is in a mess. Our “economies” are in a melt-down. The world’s environment is on the point of collapse.

We are entering the toughest time since the great depression.

I will cope. Folks of my generation will cope.

But coping is not good enough.

We should be creating.

What sort of world will there be when my 12 years old nephew is as old as I am now?

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Re an excellent adventure (3). (Historical note about "Sugar Country")

NAN FREEMAN (1953 - 1972)


On the morning of January 25, 1972, at about 3:00 a.m., UFW pickets were positioned at the entrance to the Talisman Sugar Plant on US HWY 27, about 20 miles north of Belle Glade, Florida.
The Farm Workers strike had been in progress at Talisman for two weeks
.
The plant is situated about 300 feet off the main highway with a side road leading to the main gate. Trucks hauling the sugar cane from the fields made a turn off the main road onto the side road and then pass through the plant gates. The trucks are large semis pulling two "cages" of cane - a double trailer. Loaded, the trucks weigh about 70,000 pounds.

The trucks had been a source of concern to pickets because most of the drivers were dangerously inexperienced scabs, who weren't used to handling the 70,000 pound loads.
And the Company was overloading the trucks in an effort to make as few trips as possible because the regular drivers were among the strikers.

For several days pickets had complained to the police about the scab drivers because they would speed by the picket lines in a deliberate effort to splash rain and mud on the workers. They went through stop signs at the plant gates and committed other violations of traffic laws, but local police took no action.

Nan Freeman and Pam Albright were two of the five young New College students who responded to the UFW strikers' call for help by going down to Belle Glade on Monday. They had both been doing volunteer work for the UFW at their college in Sarasota as part of the REAL program, a research program into Florida agriculture.

This morning at 3:00 a.m., Nan and Pam were helping Jose Romero at the plant gate. They were posted about 30 feet from the highway on the road leading to the plant gate. They had leaflets and their job was to talk with the drivers of the trucks to encourage them to join the strike.

At 3:15 a.m. a cane truck pulled off the highway onto the road leading to the plant gate. The driver stopped to talk with the pickets. Romero climbed up on the running board to talk with the driver while the two young women stood behind him on the ground.

As he was talking with the driver, Romero noticed a second truck coming down the highway about to turn into the entrance road. Since pickets were continually being told by the police not to block the entrance, Romero told the driver to move on, out of the way.
He jumped down off the truck and with Nan & Pam stepped back toward a guard rail, to the side of the truck. But as the truck started up, Romero noticed that the rear trailer would cut back toward them, too sharply and too close to the guard rail, because the truck and trailer had not been property aligned.
Romero turned and pushed Pam out of the way. As he turned to Nan, he saw the side of the trailer loaded with cane hit her and knock her into the guard railing. She lay on the ground, unconscious.

Palm Beach County Sheriff's deputies, parked a few hundred feet away maintaining a 24-hour watch on the plant, came quickly over, covered Nan with a blanket, and called an ambulance.

They commented they could get no reflex responses and that her pulse seemed to be fading. About 25 minutes later, at 3:50 am, the ambulance arrived to take her to the Glades General Hospital in Belle Glade. She was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital at 4:19 a.m.

STATEMENT BY CESAR E. CHAVEZ

On Tuesday, January 25, 1972, Nan Freeman, a young Jewish woman from Boston, gave her life for Farm Workers. She was 18 years old when she died.

To some she is a young girl who lost her life in a tragic accident.
To us she is a sister who picketed with farm workers in the middle of the night because of her love for justice. She is a young woman who fulfilled the commandments by loving her neighbors even to the point of sacrificing her own life.

To us, Nan Freemen is Kadosha in the Hebrew tradition, "a holy person," to be honored and remembered for as long as farm workers struggle for justice.

How can we measure the gift she has given to our cause?
Will God give her another life to live?...God has given Nan Freeman just one life and now that life is ended.
Think of that, all who cherish our farm workers' union: Nan Freeman, our young sister has poured out her one life so that farm workers everywhere might be more free.

There is no way to repay her immeasurable gift. There are no words to thank her for what she's done. Some things we can do: our whole movement is declaring a period of mourning that will correspond to the traditional 7-day period of mourning.

We can remember Nan Freeman. We can honor her life and express our thoughts to her family.
We can give more of ourselves just because she has given everything. We must work together to build a farm workers' union that is worthy of her love and her sacrifice.

An excellent adventure, part three

This is the 366th entry on my blog. So I have been blogging for over a year.


Last Sunday Joyce and I drove back from Boca Raton to Sarasota.

Rather than taking the interstate we chose to drive over Route 27 which runs South East/North West.


This is the route of the belly of southern Central Florida. It is the route of Cattle ranches (yes we have many of them in Florida); of Orange Groves; and of Sugar Cane plantations (the latter using up far too much water, thus causing the impoverishment of the Everglades).


It is the Florida which is unknown to tourists: it is the Florida of rural poverty; rednecks; small towns and hamlets.


We drove through three of these towns: South Bay (on the south bay of Lake Okeechobee); Clewiston; and Arcadia.


In Clewiston we stopped at McDonalds (practically the only show in town) and encountered the most dysfunctional staff imaginable. They were having a loud and protracted “fight” even as we waited for our food. The Manager made things worse by entering the fray and screaming louder than any of the staff.


They were interesting towns to drive through! Do read more about them, especially the demographics, at the following Wiki sites.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Bay,_Florida

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clewiston,_Florida

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arcadia,_Florida

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Into the darkness

William (not his real name) is in his mid-twenties, and is a volunteer at Resurrection House.
He is possessed with great charm and friendliness, and the guests like him greatly. I often drive him to and from Res. House, and from time to time we have lunch together.



William is a recovering drug addict, and has been clean for two years. He lives in a safe house for recovering addicts.

Few know, or would even guess that he struggles with mental illness.

He grew up with a violent father and an alcoholic mother. He was sexually molested by a neighbour man when he was fourteen years old, and was threatened with death if he ever “told”.

This coincided with the onset of his illness: “schizoid affective disorder”.


William is faithful to his regime of meds., but they are often out of balance.

Yesterday, whilst I was at Bible study with other Clerics at St. Boniface Church, William took a long walk with my dear Joyce on Siesta Beach. I sensed that he needed some healthy “mothering”, and that Joyce was just the person to be with him. They walked for about an hour and a half, and it was a lovely walk for each of them.

After their walk, and my bible study, we took ourselves to “Sweet Tomatoes” for lunch.

William began to recount the horror of his few days in the Navy, days which coincided with a deep slump into mental unbalance. (The Navy treated him with great care and compassion).


The more he told his story, the more manic he became. He began to sweat and to tremble. I suggested that he should stop talking and take some deep breaths. This he did, only to re-enter his long, rambling and very detailed horror story. He was going back into the darkness.

I intervened again, and asked if he would like Joyce to hold him. This he did, and she held him tight for twenty minutes as she gently “talked him down”. At one point he looked across the table to me, which a look of sheer fear.

Of course Joyce was wonderful and entirely skillful, and once she was sure that William was settled we drove him home, and ‘phoned the house manager so that William could not be alone.

Going back into the darkness is fearsome, scary stuff. Re-telling awful history is to re-live it.

I thanked G-d and the Universe that Joyce was there for William, to walk him out of the darkness, back into light and life.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

My excellent adventure, part two








Waldorf Towers Hotel, South Beach
Whilst my friend Joyce was in Boca Raton (upscale) with her stepmother, I stayed in Pompano Beach (downscale).

The Hotel was on the beach front and I awoke early on Saturday to catch the sunrise. Just before Old Sol emerged the clouds on the far horizon were bathed in pink, looking like a gorgeous forest of wild and wonderful trees on a distant island.



Pompano Beach is litter strewn and was badly in need of a cleanup and grooming. The Hotel also rested in a former magnificence. It was dated, and shabby. I took extra care to check for bed-bugs!


I drove the 35 or so miles south on Route A1A towards Miami. A1A hugs the coastline, but you would never know it. I drove through endless miles of high rise condos and hotels both sides of the road.

There was some relief in Fort Lauderdale where there was no “development” on the east (coastal) side of the road, with easy beach access.

The City of Dania Beach was another exception. (Dania was named by its original Danish immigrants – hence the name). Dania Beach is an island of clear poverty in a sea of wealth. There were no high rises to be seen here.


My destination was South Beach, Miami. (The City of Miami proper is west of the intra-coastal waterway). South and North Beaches are part of the City of Miami Beach which is on a barrier island, east of the waterway.



I went to South Beach to enjoy the wonderful and colourful art deco architecture. It is just great. The story goes that South Beach was getting run down until the “gay community” discovered it, and began to renovate and renew the wonderful buildings.

South Beach is a gay heartland, but I might never have known it. For I was there at 11:00 a.m., when only tourists and homeless people were out and about.

(I am sorely lacking in some gay genes! I am not good at interior decoration; I am not a gourmet cook; and I do not believe that the day begins at 2:00 p.m. and ends at 4:00 a.m.!)


I wandered around for a few hours, taking in the architecture and enjoying it immensely. I also visited the very moving Florida Holocaust Memorial. Sadly I forgot my camera, so the one picture today is taken from the internet.


(See http://fcit.usf.edu/FLORIDA/photos/arts/sbdeco/sbdeco.htm for more photo's)

I drove back to Pompano Beach via Route 1 - 35 miles on unmitigated strip malls - I kid you not.

Monday, 22 September 2008

An excellent adventure, part one

Joyce and I spent the weekend on the east coast of Florida. Joyce was with her step mother Theresa Vidal in Boca Raton, and I stayed in a Hotel at Pompano Beach.

On Saturday I drove south to the Miami area. I’ll write more about this tomorrow.

But for today I’ll relate that I went to “Little Havana”, the heart of Cuban life and culture in Miami.
I was there during the hot early afternoon – siesta time – so the streets were not exactly hopping with life. I had imagined narrow streets and alleyways, such as one would find in an old European or South American City. That was a bit of foolish imagination for Miami is very much a twentieth century City. So Little Havana is an area of straight avenues and streets, laid out in a grid.

I wandered around for a bit, and when I returned to my car I noticed that I was parked outside a Cuban barber shop. I need of being shorn I entered the shop, only to be greeted with surprised looking faces - surely this gringo had entered the shop by mistake.

But no, I wanted a haircut. My barber was a gentleman in his seventies, with a huge and impressive shock of pure white hair.

He spoke no English. I speak no Spanish.

It turned out that he was the owner, and the two other barbers were his sons, one of whom spoke English. So he translated my request for a “buzz”.

My barber set to work with great care and skill, and I was delighted with the results when he was through.

Mid hair-cut a Cuban father and son entered the store. The 12 year old had gorgeous hair, and he was very grumpy, for he was there to be shorn for Catholic School and for his baseball team.

Dad spoke excellent English and we chatted in a friendly and animated way.

As I was leaving I asked him to tell the older barber that I had come all the way from Sarasota so that he could cut my hair, and that he was very famous.

The old man beamed with laughter, and I left the shop with a spirit of bonhomie in the air.