The Great Morality Question ~ Late Morning Thoughts

There’s the Pillsbury Bake-Off, the Pun-Off in Austin and a small town in Minnesota has started the “Think-Off.”

This challenging contest began (as far as I can tell) in 1993 with the question: “The Nature of Humankind: Inherently Good or Inherently Evil?” According to the website, a priest, a newspaper editor, a 15 year-old cheerleader and a former tribal police officer made such strong arguments that the audience couldn’t decide if mankind is good or evil, leaving the question forever unresolved.

Since then such questions have been “thought-off” as:

1994: “Does Life Have Meaning?”

1998: “Is Honesty Always the Best Policy?” (again from the wegsite) A record year, the 1998 Think-Off received over 820 essays, and the final debate was broadcast live on C-SPAN. As the country grappled with the spectacle in the White House, the Think-Off audience and the C-SPAN viewing audience, agreed with a soft-spoken priest from New York–honesty is not always the best choice

2002: “Is the Pen Mightier than the Sword? (and the web site says) Paul Higday of Richmond, Virginia said No. It’s not a matter of which has the right, but which has the might. In today’s world it takes the sword to change societies so the pen can flourish. In order for the pen to be mightier, the people in whose hand it lies must be ‘entirely great’, said Higday, referring to the 19th century novelist Bulwer-Lytton who said, “Beneath the rule of men entirely great, the pen is mightier than the sword?”

The event is organized by Minnesota’s New York Mills Regional Cultural Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding the cultural and creative opportunities of rural Americans. New York Mills is a farming town of some 1,200 people in central Minnesota, about 170 miles northwest of Minneapolis.

Anyone can enter by submitting an essay of 750 words or less. Four finalists will be chosen to debate the question on June 13 before a live audience.

Last year’s question was “Does immigration strengthen or threaten the United States?” The audience decided Craig Allen, of West Linn, Ore., was most convincing with his argument that the system of immigration and immigration policy is broken, that it encourages illegal immigration and poses a threat to the country.

Here’s how it works … go to –> this website <– and you can read previous essays and debates. There is a link to the entry form –> here <– . You compose a 750 word essay on this years question ~ “Is it ever wrong to do the right thing?” You submit the essay and it will be judged along with all the others received. And the four finalists will be chosen to debate the topic on June 13th before an audience that will decide. At least one of the debates has been broadcast by C-Span and given all that happened in 2008, I suspect this years topic will generate a lot of interest.

The prize for the four finalists is travel, lodging and $500. They also will appear in the parade on the 12th of June. The final prize(s): Gold, Silver & bronze medals and title of “America’s Greatest Thinker”.

From the website again:
“Entering the competition is easy. Just submit an essay of 750 words or less by April 1, 2009 (postmark date). You may send your essay in one of three ways: through the mail to Great American Think-Off, New York Mills Regional Cultural Center, P.O. Box 246, New York Mills, MN 56567 or email to (no attachments)”.

My challenge for this year ~ enter this contest . . .

Another Triplet ~ Early Morning Thoughts

I interrupt the scheduled posting to bring you these stories from a collection of stories that I quoted from the other morning. Having spent a little more time with the collection today, I wanted to offer one more triplet.
Any resemblance to current affairs, or current activities is purely coincidental.

Pleasing everyone ~

A man who decided to take his donkey to town to sell it, started off with his son and himself walking alongside the animal. they had not gone very far when they met a group of young girls returning from town. “Look at that old fool!” one of the girls cried out. “At least one of them could ride the donkey but there they are walking.” So the father put his son on the donkey and continued the trip.

Presently they passed a group of women who stood chatting outside a house. “There, that proves what I’ve been saying,” said one of the women in a loud voice. “Look at that young brat riding the donkey while his poor father is walking. We’re spoiling our children!” When the father heard this he thought perhaps he had better avoid further criticism by taking the son’s place on the donkey’s back.

As they neared the town they met an aggressive young woman who stopped and denounced the father as being cruel. “How can you ride the animal while your poor little boy has to grudge along beside you in the dust and heat!” With a sigh the poor man told the son to mount the donkey, too, and thus burdened the poor beast struggled along toward town.

When they entered the town a bustling citizen dashed up to them and cried out: “You ought to be reported — two big healthy people sitting up there on that poor animal’s back. Why you two should be carrying the donkey instead of it carrying you!” The alarmed father dismounted with his son and they tied the animal’s legs and with a pole across their shoulders struggled along with the donkey, until they came to a bridge, where a number of people began laughing uproariously at them. This noise frightened the donkey and he fought to free himself. this increased the uproar of the crowd and in the midst of it all the animal slipped off the pole and over the bridge into the river below and drowned.

The Speckled Ax ~

My scheme of order gave me the most trouble. order with regard for places for things, papers, etc.,I found extremely difficult to acquire….I made so little progress in amendment, and had such frequent relapses, that I was almost ready to give up the attempt, and content myself with a faulty character in that respect, like the man who, in buying an ax of a smith, my neighbor, desired to have the whole of its surface as bright as the edge.

The smith consented to grind it bright for him if he would turn the wheel; he turn’d, while the smith press’d the broad face of the ax hard and heavily on the stone, which made the turning of it very fatiguing.
The man came very now and then from the wheel to see how the work went on, and at length would take his ax as it was, without further grinding. “No,” said the smith, “turn on, turn on; we shall have it bright by-and-by; as yet it is only speckled!”

“Yes,” says the man, “but I think I like a speckled ax best.” and I believe this may have been the case with many, who, having for want of some such means as I employ’d, found the difficulty of obtaining good and breaking bad habits in other points of vice and virtue have given up the struggle, and concluded that “a speckled ax was best”
— Benjamin Franklin

Appointment In Samarra ~

A merchant in Baghdad sent his servant to the market. The servant returned, trembling and frightened. The servant told the merchant, “I was jostled in the market, turned around, and saw Death.

“Death made a threatening gesture, and I fled in terror. May I please borrow your horse? I can leave Baghdad and ride to Samarra, where Death will not find me.”

The master lent his horse to the servant, who rode away, to Samarra.

Later the merchant went to the market, and saw Death in the crowd. “Why did you threaten my servant?” He asked.

Death replied,”I did not threaten your servant. It was merely that I was surprised to see him here in Baghdad, for I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.
–W. Somerset Maugham
(retelling an even older story – 1933)

Early Morning Thoughts ~ "But They Made Me Do It ~

Today, I read a news article that really stunned me.

A major U.S. AIDS treatment group plans to file a lawsuit on Monday that accuses drug giant Pfizer Inc. of illegally promoting recreational use of its blockbuster impotence pill Viagra.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) told Reuters it wants Pfizer to be barred from marketing Viagra as a lifestyle or sexual enhancement drug. The nonprofit organization said Pfizer’s actions had led to risky behavior by men and an increase in HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. (And they did not say gay or straight – just behavior by men)

“Pfizer has created and contributed to the perception of Viagra as a safe, sexy, lifestyle, recreational drug, to be frequently used regardless of the degree, or even existence of” erectile dysfunction, the group said in draft legal documents.

Pfizer, the world’s largest drug maker, said it was committed to appropriate Viagra use and urged men to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis. The drug is sold by prescription. (Of course, both straight and gay “party spots”of any kind, have various people that can make it available without a prescription.)

While I personally feel that ED has become the latest “fashion illness.” For a gay organization to blame the drug or its ads as causing unsafe behavior is a twist of logic that bothers me.

It’s not the fact that it’s available readily that troubles me, it’s the unwillingness for people straight or gay to accept responsibility for their actions that is the most troubling. In the sexually charged atmosphere of a circuit party or a night out at the bar or private party, it can be difficult to avoid the enticement of all that is available. It is still a matter of personal choice as to whether or not to participate – and willing participation should result in a willingness to accept the consequences of the actions.

As a person I really respect once said: If you’ve lit the fuse to the bomb, you can’t pray for someone to come along and blow it out…you either have to blow it out yourself, or decide not to light it in the first place.

But it seems that more and more, people want to avoid the responsibility for their actions/decisions and to try and find someone to blame. Someone to become the scapegoat. It would be easy for me to take this to the political arena, but that’s for another time I think. (Perhaps in a galaxy far, far away!) When I refuse to acknowledge that my actions have reactions, then I need to find someone to blame.

The Internet is littered with many stories about people who refused to accept the choices that they made, and seemed to get away with it. The burglar who fell through a skylight and wanted to sue because there was no warning label that warned him that falling through the skylight could be dangerous. The tourist that sued a travel agent because they weren’t warned that a coconut falling on their head could cause pain.

While laughable in some cases it points up a serious and growing problem. It’s an inability to acknowledge that what I do can/does have an effect, and that effect can be serious.

When my Father had a seizure and the resultant exams showed brain cancer – it was also discovered that he was addicted to pain killers, and had been for some time. I was impressed with my Mother’s reaction. She didn’t go after the doctor’s who wrote the prescriptions nor the several pharmacies that filled them. She went directly to the heart of the problem – my Father. Of course, by that time it was apparent that taking him off the addiction would be worse than treating the cancer. But at least there was control of the situation, and an acknowledgment from Dad that he had made some poor choices.

And that’s where the mountain seems to be…poor choices. And as far as sex is concerned, we know the correct choices. As far as some moments in our lives we know the correct choices. I know that hot coffee if it spills will hurt, that putting my hand through glass will cut…and the list could go on and on. But what about the subtle choices…the one’s that don’t seem that obvious.

the 2nd part of this tomorrow

Early Morning Thoughts ~ Poison to Medicine

Remember you’ve got a choice.
When you feel you can’t handle something,
you can either choose to feel miserable and helpless,
or maybe put your life in someone else’s hands to sort out – if they can be bothered.
Or you can decide to take charge ,
take full responsibility for whatever is happening,
even if none of it seems to be your fault,
and decide to turn poison into medicine.

– Geoff from the book, “The Buddha, Geoff and Me”
The spiritual journey does not consist in arriving at a new destination
where a person gains what he did not have
or becomes what he is not.
It consists in the dissipation of one’s own ignorance concerning one’s self and life
and the gradual growth of that understanding which begins the spiritual awakening.
The finding of God is a coming to one’s self
– Aldous Huxley

Sometimes the randomness of thoughts link together and drive the consciousness into places and patterns I have no intention of letting it go. I had a delightful phone call from a dear friend this morning, and several of the topics that we/he gently touched on took hold and roiled around all day. This was also brought to fruition by a chat at the bus stop with someone I know is having a very tough time – with no support system (inner or without) to help.
While this dealing with inner issues certainly is not a bad thing – it did manage to consume time, energy and spirit. As I approached the evening time, I realized I was fatigued. A mental kind of fatigue that at first bothered me – but then I realized it was a fatigue from actually having accomplished some mental/spiritual things.

So, that led to the consideration that over these nights of ideas is the concept of truth, self and love . Is what happened preventing me from being my true self, the self I am intended to be. Was the progression in this life going to change me in such a way that I will not be the me I know now and that the me I know now will not be the me that other people know.

That’s when I once again took a long hard look at a relationship that almost destroyed me. This time on paper – and to place it in public.

When I first met ZZ, he was – or seemed to be – a deep seeker. He also was delightful, charming, funny and in many was in need of support. We became friends. As the time went on I thought the friendship was deepening into a deep friendship. He was just getting over a very deep and prolonged long term relationship and looking, or so I thought, for support. I found out later that his relationship had been predicated on a lie – an absolute lie he created. He wanted me to just be a good deep friend. And I was willing to do/be just that. I didn’t know about the previous relationship being built on a lie, and when he maneuvered me into being something I was not – and this is hard to admit – I went along with it.

When I made that conscious decision, I set myself of a path of absolute destruction. I had allowed the lie to come in, to begin to grow and to make itself quite at home. For a number of years, this lie was as a stage director consuming more and more time for the stage. As I wrote the other night on fences and boundaries – I also believed that the friendship could possibly deepen even further – even though I was so far off ZZ’s radar I wasn’t even a blip on the screen. I began to tear down boundaries and fences and to lay myself open. As I also said the other night, in a relationship this is something that has to be done – but in the wrong situation can be very dangerous.

Now, understand this relationship between ZZ and I was never physical. But it took me quite some time to realize/admit that it was a relationship non-the-less. But there were several things wrong on my part – 1) Who/what I was to him was based on a lie of his choosing and my own accommodation of that lie, 2) I was trying to be what I was not and 3) I was giving up myself piece by piece – belief by belief. I also 4) was hiding my own lies about feelings, beliefs, dreams and hopes. And, of course, when that happens, the well can and will run dry at some point.

Mine ran so dry that I ended up by giving up on everything including life. However, from that lower depths came a wondrous journey … that has me where I am today. To quote what I posted at the top: The spiritual journey does not consist in arriving at a new destination where a person gains what he did not have or becomes what he is not.

Chapter two of the story or as a famous radio commentator/author might say: Tomorrow the rest of the story!

Tulip from Triumph Tulip by Steven N.Meyers (

Togas? They Are So Last Century

Published: January 7, 2007

In the unforgiving fluorescent light of Rosenfeld Hall, a dormitory on the periphery of Yale’s campus, students crouched in a hallway and quickly stuffed their clothes into plastic grocery bags. Shirts were left inside out, socks balled in pant legs. Giggling, they hurried into a basement storage room, where some 40 people stood around, under stone arches and gargoyles, wearing nothing but shoes.

. . . another senior, says the party changed her idea of what an attractive body looks like. “We’re used to the naked bodies we see on movie screens,” she says, “not natural, typical bodies. I found that people who would have been considered heavy with their clothes on actually looked better naked. I’m not sure why. And definitely the gaunt look was a lot less attractive. Visible hip bones looked alarming. It was a nice reality check.”

. . . “You find yourself accepting people in a completely different light. For me, there’s something totally captivating about it. It reinforces in a really profound way this common thread of humanity. Everyone is bared in all their glory, but it turns out no one is actually that glorious.”

As for the rest of the outfit, just leave it at the door — this party’s naked.

Rachel Aviv is a freelance writer in Brooklyn.

Early Morning Thoughts ~ The Winter Of Discontent ~

Recently I had the opportunity to tell someone that I had been where they were…that I had experienced the moments they were dealing with. It was not an easy conversation, not an easy moment to talk about, or to relive. It pulled truth from me that I had not wanted to look at or even discuss. But, if it could make a difference in someone not making a final decision they didn’t have the privilege to make – my own mental anguish over telling my truth would be minuscule in the long run.

And actually, it helped me gain even more in my journey. It started me toward this blog, toward re-evaluating many things in and around my life.

I doubt that there is anyone who hasn’t reached a winter of life. In my case, it became more than just a winter – it became a dark night of the soul.
I felt as a tree stranded in the middle of absolutely nothing. As if there were no leaves of any part of my life left.
That I was
faced only with the glares of
my failures. That was all
that was left of what might have
been, could have been. I was
ready to actually make it Final.

But, just as in this picture, something
stirred within me. I didn’t realize it at
the time, but it was as a child’s swing on my tree. Awaiting a new ride and rider. At that time, I began to replant my garden of tomorrow and the garden of possibility!

I am grateful for this picture from my friend Chris in Pennsylvania. He had no idea what I had in mind for it, but graciously gave me permission to use it as I saw fit. It may NOT be used without his permission. While he is by far one of the sweetest internet friends I have,
he certainly could be provoked.

One kind word can warm three winter months.
– Japanese proverb

I read a large number of blog postings each day (I’m not going to tell you how many, or you’ll think I have no life what-so-ever!). And I am continually reminded just how important we as people – and even more so – as gay people are to each other. We get so caught up in the “gayness” of our lives, that sometimes we forget the “humanness” of it. When that happens we start to lose leaves off our tree, and the bareness begins to show through. And searching for something to fill that void, we begin to frantically search for anything that will cover it up, create a distraction or numb it for a time.

Green thoughts emerge from some deep source of stillness which the very fact of winter has released.
– Mirabel Osler

This has been a fairly long journey for me. Having lost almost all, to begin to gain things back. But, having been to the point of almost losing everything (and I do mean everything – including life-!) I value now what I am finding/creating inside. And no, there is nothing perfect as it goes along. I’m still an – how did that one blog put it? Oh yes, “elderly frights” (older man – thanks Troll At Sea). But having been “there” and back, I also know the value of being able to wrap my arms around someone (or have them do it to me) and say “It will be ok” in a way that the words carry the meaning they are supposed to.

In a way Winter is the real Spring – the time when the inner things happen, the resurgence of nature.
– Edna O’Brien

So – using the nursery rhyme – Oh Mary, Mary. Quite the fairy – how does YOUR garden grow?

More on this for another post….

Late Night Thoughts ~ It’s MORE than just a new year

As the clock hands move toward the midnight hour when one day ends and another a officially begins … This one is special as it marks the end of one year and the beginning of another. What a delight! A chance to look at the new day with a new resolve and new ideas. One of the blogs I follow says in his profile — I’m bursting with ideas. That’s what I want to do tomorrow – I want to wake up simply bursting with ideas. Ideas that will goad my day into being even better than I imagined!!

I shared this wonderful poem with a number of people this year about the new year:

How beautiful the turning of the year!
A moment artificial yet profound:
Point upon an arbitrary chart
Passing like a breath upon the heart,
Yearning with anticipation wound,
New hope new harbored in old-fashioned cheer.
Even when the boundary line is clear,
We recognize the oneness of the ground.
Years, like circles, do not end or start
Except we lay across their truth our art,
Adjusting dates as they go round and round
Revolving to a tune long sung and dear.

As the time moves forward to what we call the “new beginning” I realized that we are actually always IN a new beginning. We have the choice to live with what was, tolerate what is or move into the exciting, terrifying world of what may be. As for me, that is where I want to “hang my hat” and dig in to live.

It’s always been easy for me to simply get comfortable with the now, and accept what is as the way it is. I’m regaining something else I had lost over the last few months – the realization that I don’t have to tolerate what is, that I don’t have to accept less than my best – or anyone else’s for that matter. (watch out friends!)

While I’m looking forward, I will need to acknowledge and celebrate the past. However, as the old country saying goes: “You can’t plow straight furrows by looking back as you’re going forward.” And trust me, I want straight furrows in the field of my life!

And now, it’s almost the time … Morning is almost officially here1

New Year’s Morning

Only a night from old to new!
Only a night, and so much wrought!
The Old Year’s heart all weary grew,
But said: “The New Year rest has brought
The Old Year’s hopes its heart laid down,
As in a grave; but trusting, said:”
The blossoms of the New Year’s crown
Bloom from the ashes of the dead.”
The Old Year’s heart was full of greed;
With selfishness it longed and ached,
And cried: “I have not half I need.
My thirst is bitter and unslaked.
But to the New Year’s generous hand
All gifts in plenty shall return;
True love it shall understand;
By all y failures it shall learn.
I have been reckless; it shall be
Quiet and calm and pure of life.
I was a slave; it shall go free,
And find sweet pace where I leave strife.”
Only a night from old to new!
Never a night such changes brought.
The Old Year had its work to do;
No New Year miracles are wrought.

Always a night from old to new!
Night and the healing balm of sleep!

Each morn is New Year’s morn come true,
Morn of a festival to keep.
All nights are sacred nights to make
Confession and resolve and prayer;
All days are sacred days to wake
New gladness in the sunny air.
Only a night from old to new;
Only a sleep from night to morn.
The new is but the old come true;
Each sunrise sees a new year born.

Helen Hunt Jackson

Early Morning Thoughts ~ leaving

I will be gone for today (12/24) and tomorrow (12/25). I will be staying with dear friends who are becoming family to me (see yesterdays early morning thoughts). As they have no computer, I will have no access to post.

So let me take this time to wish you and yours the best of the holiday!!! May the spirit that should be a part of all throughout the year be with you!!!

And as the new year bears down … it is a good time to begin to evaluate:

Stretch ourselves in new directions:

And finally soar where we never thought we would be able to go:

and what’s the most exciting – it is ALL up to us individually.

Enjoy days of christmas, enjoy those around – make the most of the opportunities presented to us to be part of someone’s life and to make a difference in their life and in our own!!