Poseidon & 100 Demi-Gods Swim

paddle-web-2010Would anyone dare swim in the Charles River, the open gutter of Boston? Isn't the water polluted, cold, and filled with blue green algae? Talley ho. In the 1850s Boston alderman called the marshes around the Muddy River a cesspool. Yes siree. Swimming in Cambridge was outlawed in 1950s with the build-up of industrial waste. So sad. It's a disgrace that our oceans are dying. Yes. I plead to the oracles of water and wind, is it safe in 2011 to swim the Charles? Yes and No.

I joined 100 people in swimming a mile race on June 4th 2011 in the Charles. We all survived. We are all passionate about swimming and, all of us, are slightly nuts. The river in May is 58 degrees which is fine for seals and but not human waifs. The race is open water, no feet are allowed to touch the river bottom. The water quality is immensely improved in the last 15 years, but in rainy weather the channel receives excess run off. The floor of the river is caked with heavy sludge. Therefore, the entire swim is done in deep water.

My spouse asked me, "Why would you want to race a mile in muddy water?" I had selfish reasons. I wanted a physical challenge. I love the River and I want to dwell in it intimately. "Rolling in the Charles" is like having a little nooky and "a roll in the hay." Seriously, my body feels alive in water more than in air.

Charles River Basin
Charles River Basin

I started practicing early this spring. I needed to swim a mile in under 40 minutes to qualify for the race. At the end of March I swam a mile in 42 minutes, which was close. Close, but not true. Swimming in open water is quite different. Swimming in a constricted pool you must stick to a narrow lane and every 50 yards you get to push off from the side of the pool. When you get a leg cramp or swallow water you can hold onto the side and declare recess. I needed practice  for 3 full months so as not to embarrass myself.

Since 2006 the Charles River Swimming org has planned the mile race. Weeks ahead of time the water protection gurus measure the bacteria and sediments in the Charles to determine whether it's safe to swim. In 2006 the rainy days increased the storm drainage into the river and the race was canceled.  Bostonians wag their fingers and explain that in the 1970s and 80s if you entered the Charles, you had to get a tetanus shot. Swimming was worse than stepping on a rusty nail. In 1983 MDC claimed the Charles River would never be swimmable.

It appears we need to reverse our position. The tide is changing on water pollution. The new Boston holding tank system stops our sewer pipes from treating the river like a toilet bowl. Since 2006 six annual races were carefully planned and half were canceled due to water quality concerns. The water quality was good in 2007, 2008 and now 2011.I swim in the race for the splash effect to prove that our city's clean-up efforts are working.

I felt unsettled. Maybe I wasn't swimming for splash effect wasn't the right attitude.  I prayed to Osiris, Poseidon, and  Mark Phelps. Then my prayers turned to Moby Dick, and even Mother Goose. I can attest to the power of prayer. FYI, praying with Moby Dick did not help this swimmer. Choose well how you pray.

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Bolivian Quakers-Escuela Emmanuel de los [email protected]

February (summer) class Emmanuel School
11th graders at Emmanuel School February (summer)

El Alto is perched 1,000 feet above La Paz, the capital or Bolivia. When the sun glitters you stare down into a cascading spiral of lego-like houses. Once your lungs have adjusted to less oxygen, El Alto seems like Kansas City. Except everyone speaks Aymara or Spanish. Except there's no SUVs. Except instead of greasy hamburgers, open markets sell quinoa drinks and fish soup. And another extraordinary fact: teenagers in Bolivia are eager students. Education is fresh to them.

I fell in love with the Aymara students at Emmanuel Friends school. I met Flavia, Marta, Estevan, and Eduardo in 2011 when I volunteered for 6 weeks. Some classes had 7 students but most classes had 18 students. In high school Bolivians study English twice a week. It's usually their 3rd language and they can start it as early as 6th grade. Their class load is immense, and even 8th graders study philosophy and technical arts.

The K-12th grade Quaker school has 4 stories, standing tall between the Santidad Iglesia de los Amigos and the sports field.  Avenues are wide in 40 year old El Alto, known for its robust political activism and Bolivian modern music scene. Have you ever heard hip-hop in Aymara? Can you pronounce tuqitpachwa qillqanipxstani?

The students eagerly shared their stereotypes about the US and asked me lots of questions. Eduardo showed me his science project on "el Medio Ambiente." In 10th grade he was preparing to give a poster presentation on green energy. Before class, Flavia sang me the Bolivian national anthem and was learning to site read. I answered her question about the US national anthem by singing "Oh, say can you see..." wondering how I could turn the "Star-Spangled Banner" into a useful English lesson. Bolivian history, like the US has been a series of battles and domination. Nor did I want to tarnish my country as being the evil empire. I wanted to be a Quaker ambassador speaking even-handedly in English class about the positive and negative aspects in the US.

Did I feel that teaching English was difficult? Sometimes. Did I feel confused? Yes. Sometimes, classrooms would switch and as the bell rang I walked into the wrong group of students (They were polite enough not to laugh). Plus, I had to decide what kind of classroom discipline to use. I wanted students to use the Internet, dictionaries, and libraries. Emmanuel students had none of those, not even an English textbook. Was teaching a positive experience? Definitely!  I learned so much about myself and what Bolivians see as valuable. The students liked learning English lyrics from Mylie Cyrus and 50 cents on their MP 3s. But I was still puzzled as to whether teenage Quakers would understand the peace testimony when Northamericans sing.

"Oh,say does that star-spangled banner still wave,

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?"

Bridging the Charles River

river daffodil
admit it. The Charles River is a gem. I have been living in Cambridge for 25 years and the river is an effervescent, sentinel part of our life. We have River festivals and wildlife; cruisers and duck boats. The river is an artery cutting through Cambridge much older than Mass Ave. It's as royal as any wedding fruitcake.
Some lack an appreciation for the 129 km river. It starts in Hopkinton (just like the marathon),snakes through Waltham and rolls out broadly as it enters Cambridge.
Although not in tip-top health, the River is beauty queen material. I run 4 miles along the Charles River several times a week. I'm not an engineer, nor a Greenpeacer, nor a Harvard professor. Any foot soldier can enjoy the Charles in infinite ways. You can kayak along its shores, without falling overboard  (my son at 14 did this after a dare). Instead of bemoaning the dirty water , you can take litmus tests of Charles' toxicity every month. Harvard students jump off Weeks bridge into deep water after exams. Or go goggle-eyed watching Mallard drakes paddling against the current and geese laying eggs. Did you see the rare spotted turtle by the boathouse? Wave to our new neighbors: two swans like twin towers have moved in near the Western bridge.

What did original settlers call it before the royalists named it Charles? Boston was founded on Indian land:  a slinky little Shawmut peninsula jutting into a deep water harbor (1630). I say founded, but not without homage to the Algonquin people, Pequossettes and Wampanoags who thrived along the waters. The first name for this scarf of water was Quinobequin. Although no one knows how to pronounce this word, it means meandering river. With some shame and deep honor I remember the peoples that cared for the river 4 centuries ago.
When the Europeans first set anchor near the Shaumut peninsula; the South End, Fenway, and the Back Bay were mere tidal pools behind the expansive river. Boston in 1775 was a scrawny isthmus with a big lopsided head (789 acres). The peninsula's Neck was merely 100 yards wide, about twice the width of the street at high tide. This was so remarkable: imagine a goose's slender neck with head perched on top the size of a bear.  Boston was blanketed with forest.  Mr. Winthrop, Mr. Dudley and early settlers scrambled from Fort Hill, over to Charlestown and upstream to Cambridge looking to find clean water. The Charles River was slow-moving brackish sometimes with a distinctive fragrance.
The water was the beacon. Maybe the world watched Winthrop who settled in 1630 in Watertown near the Perkins School of the Blind. But the river was the attraction. Governor Winthrop, a pioneer and an aristocrat, Read more

Living with Anger, Never out of Anger

autum-lobsteryes-09I am angry every day.

Angerr. G r owl ing. I am. Grr ow ing.

Anger.  An' grrrrr.

I am not angry all day, but every- EVEry,  e-very-day.
This is not a rant, so hear me out.

Anger is a spiritual teacher but can be poisonous.  I can't live out of anger, and I can't live without anger. Anger is confounding and usually a compound like asphalt not a simple element like copper.

I am striving to create peace more than anyone I know. So every day I meditate to carve myself into a vessel of peace. Still I'm furious. I'm mad at the soda and water bottles that blow onto my front yard. I'm pissed that for centuries women are second class citizens. I'm rip-roaring angry that the US car industry keeps designing gas guzzling cars.

Should I point the finger at Mitt Romney, a supreme capitalist? Should I blame the parents for trash in our streets? The kids? I had a beer last night, so should I be angry at the plastic cups I use? Yes we all recycle plastic, but it isn't sustainable, is it? Many mornings I see 6 or 8 rovers sleeping near bridges along the river. My father calls them tramps. Their brown bags and dirty paper is an eyesore. I'm disgusted we can't offer them a house. I'm angry at the tornadoes, at the endless war blitz, at the discrimination against immigrants,  the tragedy in Haiti, and the war authority act in Congress. I'm hyperventilating.

Golly gee willikers. Can rage be healthy?  At least my anger staves away depression. I'm serious. Women get depressed in this country and men get aggressive. And me? I refuse to be aggressive nor will I allow myself to slip into depression.

What's a Quaker to do with anger? Praying to stop anger is banal. Of course I seek to live out of Loving Mystery. Anger and love must become like the inhale and exhale of the same breath.  James Nayler, the eminent Quaker, explains how to pray when angry. "Art thou in the Darkness?" or in other words are you consumed with fury and confused by negativity. I'm defining Darkness as hurt and anger. He says, "Mind it not. But stand still and act not and wait in patience, til Light arises out of Darkness and leads thee." Anger motivates, anger points to injustice, anger is righteous. But when it comes to how to respond to anger, Nayler  says be patient and act not out of the Darkness.zach-gaprideyes-091

I work and give money to groups like the Homeless Empowerment Project. More than giving money, I spend a day a week teaching immigrants, half of these adults only have a 4th grade education. More than volunteering, I meet with others who have spare time and legal rights, to discuss how to change our behaviors in these cataclysmic times. More than organizing people of privilege to work for a just world, I ask our Higher Power to show me the way. So channeling anger uses these steps: giving of yourself, teaching the illiterate, organizing to stop injustice, and praying. I'm looking for ways to create what followers of MLK call the Beloved Community.

To me the Beloved community includes Pat Humphries, Desmond Tutu, Lady Gaga, Dennis Kuchinich, Melinda Gates and Rupert Murdoch. In this community we want Pete Seeger singing This Land is Your Land, this Land is My Land.

Who is the Beloved Community? My older brother tried to trip me as a child going down the stairs. I need to include him, the people who hurt me. And definitely we belovedly reach out to Barack, Michelle, Michelle's mother and the two girls living at the White House. But would we be willing to live next to Muamar Quadafi and his family? The Community has many doors and is welcoming to all. I know that. Accepting even those I'm upset with as children of God, as worthy, as my brother is so elementary but important. Maybe I've passed to 4th grade in the peace achievement test scores. Anger and peace aren't opposites, but they sure are painted to be enemies.nanc-niagrayes-091

Horses on Wings in Libya 2011BC-2011AD

This March, the US and Europe entered into the Libyan civil war. Western civilization has a long history with Libya and only a pittance is studied in classrooms today.Libya plays a stellar role in ancient mythology. Does Libya play the dark cousin to Greek and Roman philosophy?

Five thousand years ago, Libya was covered by lakes, forests, and grasslands.pegasus Now it’s 90% desert with nomadic Berbers. Eastern Libya in 500 BC, with its famous 5 cities (near Benghazi), was a magnificent mecca for fine arts, learned academies and medical schools. Can we appreciate the magnificence of this civilization where we currently drop cluster bombs? During the Roman Empire, Tripoli reached a golden age about 200 AD. Tripolitania and Cyrenaica were part of a cosmopolitan state with language, Roman forums and legal courts. Libyans exported olive oil, wines, horses and ivory to European cities. Libya has been ruled by Greece, Rome, Turkey (Ottomans), and Italy. Finally in 1952, the UN declared Libya to be a sovereign nation.

According to the Pelasgians (who are early Greeks), the goddess Athena was born in the womb of Lake Tritonis in Libya. How fascinating. I found that Athena, Medusa and the magical horse Pegasus all were born in Libya. Athena was raised by three nymphs there. Tritonis means Three Queens or the Triple Goddess. Was she Libyan? According to an ancient tradition (Herod, Apollon), a nymph of Lake Tritonis in Libya and Poseidon were the parents of Athena.Later Greeks claim Athena sprung full-grown out of Zeus’ head, after Zeus swallowed Athena’s mother, Medea aka Medusa.

What about Medusa? She also lived in Libya, which in Homer’s time meant the land west of Egypt. We are taught only that she was a fearsome gorgon monster who turns men to stone. She was a power house and a ravaging beauty. Medusa means “royal female wisdom” in Sanskrit. Libyans worshiped Medusa and Athena. The earlier stories from Libya show Medusa with snakes curled around her waist, in a sacred knot. Snakes refer to healing like the spiral snakes formedicine Athena was a warrior and also a symbol of wisdom. Athena punished imedusa-snakeMedusa. Her dred locks turned to snakes, her beauty to a hideous face according to Homer. All who look at her directly turned to stone (as happened to enemies of White Witch in Narnia).

Perseus, on a quest, beheaded Medusa and bags her head as a trophy. But the myth has 2 interesting births from her beheading. First, at her death, the winged horse Pegasus is born. Second as Perseus flies over Libya, blood drips from Medusa’s severed head. Drops of blood become poisonous snakes infesting the Mediterranean coast of Libya. The horse, white with bright wings, carries off Perseus who delivers the head to Athena. Death does not defeat Medusa. She retains the power to paralyze others (stonewall them); even in death she gives birth (a horse).

Fast forward 3,000 years. In 2011, NATO has entered into the fight of a desperate dictator with Tomahawkmissiles and GPS guided bombs. Why? We are not on a humanitarian issue, there is no threat to the US. Obama says, “We are answering the calls of a threatened people” and he claims that “it’s for the good of all.”How can I believe such pig slop? It’s clearer every day that our stage entrance 6 weeks ago in Libya ago was to wage war against Muammar al Gaddafi. Gaddafi has been in office since 1969. Many Libyans want him to exit. But under what authority can NATO bomb a proud leader, a senior citizen, and the father of 8 kids. We have bombed his compound several times, and killed his grandchildren. We bombed his compound again in May 2011 with the death of his youngest childSaif al-Arab.

Stephen Hadley, former national security adviser warned against the assassination of Gaddafi. "The narrative we want to come out of this is that the Libyan people overthrew a dictator – not that the UN toppleda despot," he told CNN.

My plea is that the US let go of bullets and bombs. I plead for respect. I plead that we stop turning our children into murderers of strange people. Can the US stop dropping blood which turns the land into a place of plague. If Libya is filled with writhing snakes, it’s the snakes of European missiles. England, Italy and France sell millions of weapons to Libya. Now we are sending troops to Libya to be killed by those exact same weapons. NATO is strapped alongside its own weapons, rather like suicide bombers.

The US and its allies are re enacting a long battle of murder. We are not under Athena’s orders to kill any monster in Libya. We have spilled blood in the dessert. Our moral compass is lost in the Libya and the Middle East. The people cry- Get NATO out of Libya. We are not rescuers in Libya.  Let’s fly out of there. Let's transform our venomous weapons into winged horses. Like Icarus NATO has too much hubris flying so close to the penetrating North African sun.

EU Arms Exports to Libya

Value of export licenses granted. ---- All figures in €m. SOURCE: EUROPA




















































Weeping After bin Laden's Death

As a Quaker I vehemently disagree with Obama's killing of bin Laden. It is immoral and believe it or not, illogical. Barack Obama said on May 2, "The world is safer; it is a better place because of the death of Osama bin Laden. ...Today, we remember the sense of unity that defines us as Americans."

First, the world is less safe now. Was it a death? No. It was murder, even an assassination. Secondly, there is no unity." I and thousands of other Quakers cry out, "Stop. Treat your enemies justly, even if you do not follow Jesus' example of loving your enemy." Venomous violence against anyone contributes to a world living by vengefulness. If blood has been spilled by bin Laden, why not take him to the world court for justice? The Pentagon is not just nor do its actions speak for me. I as a person who yearns for justice I see no fairness in the furtive killing of a charismatic leader. By knocking off him with his wife, son and associates, I only see more pain. First of all, his loved ones witnessed the bloodshed, his followers have more reason to hate the US, and our country is continuing the chain of violence. If Al Queda kills US citizens, our Navy can't unilaterally kill Al Queda. That's the law of thugs and gangs. Our killing gives Al Queda more reason to retaliate. Is that not obvious? Bin Laden is not the anti-Christ. Vipers and moles act with more moral courage than the Navy Seals and its generals."

I used to think when watching the world news the US had a mob case of ADHD. Like a child with a Christmas stocking of GI JOEs and cowboy holsters, our army invades Iraq, in 2010 it pours in troops to Afghanistan, and then gleefully adds its deadly cluster bombings to Libya. We are mad buffalos tramping over the middle east. Starting in 1950s for 30 years the US stayed in the quagmire of the Korea-Vietnam-Cambodia war bringing poverty and habitat demolition. Now the US bounces around the Middle east firing the first shots and adding fuel to the wildfire. In 2011, we are involved in 3 countries, while supplying Israel annually with $3 billion for its arsenal, the biggest powder keg in the region.  I am angry. I apologize if I'm ranting. I'm not ballistically violent. I'm trying to use words, not Tomahawk missiles.

Didn't Christians in the US just honor Jesus on Easter 10 days ago? Now we want to return to barbarian ways of destroying someone demonized as an enemy. All those memories of forgive 7 times 70  and Thou shalt not kill. Does the bible say, Don't murder except in cases of terrorism? Does killing a murderer repair anything? Nope. It increases hatred and makes the US the murderer.water-drops1

The USA is built on the principals of Life, Liberty and a pursuit of Happiness. This started in 1775 with a group of scattered patriots up and down the Eastern Atlantic Seaboard. The patriots were largely (exceptions like Crispus Attacks) Europeans who were illegal aliens. We were poaching on Algonquin land. In our land grab, didn't we kill and pillage the Indians for decades?  But we weren't terrorists, we were moral citizens. How fickle is history. Do murderers get forgiveness?

I hope so because many Americans seem to think killing is a good punishment. Secondly, Obama implies that all Americans are enthusiastic at this violent act. Really? The murder is wonderful and it's time to celebrate. It seems a bit bizarre almost gluttonous to cheer because of killing. I would like to mourn for all of us, especially for how far we've fallen from our beliefs that all humans are able to pursue happiness, work for Liberty, and LIFE. When there's life, there's hope. Death, like zombies and phantoms, only destroys. What Jesus says is -- attacking the attacker only destroys us. Get it? Please send me your response.