Posted by: krmdgin | March 8, 2012

A Crooked Stick – Part Two…

Well, it’s been a couple of weeks since my first set of Melaleuca trees have been cut down, the bark stripped, and the walking sticks hidden within them discerned and teased out. A few of the sticks have been dried, cut to proper length, adorned with some woodburned images, and finally finished with numerous coats of tung oil. (you can click on these thumbnails to get a larger view of them.)

I picked up a simple wood burning kit online and I’m playing with it to help customize these Crooked Sticks. I’ve been adding images to the handle (above where your hand rests on the stick) like Muscadine grape vines,

or Black Bear tracks, (this is Deb’s new stick, by request…)

or a Swallowtail Kite.

With a short section that I had removed from a really long stick, I’ve created a 27″ ‘lil hiker‘ stick with a Monarch Butterfly on it. I’ve got another short stick planned that will go along with this one as a set – perhaps with an armadillo or rattlesnake.

One of the real ‘selling points’ for these Crooked Sticks is that they have all been created from invasive, exotic Melaleuca trees that were cut down in their prime (technically, slightly before their prime). To recognize and celebrate this added value, all Crooked Sticks come with a Death Certificate.

I have about 5-6 walking sticks finished and another 12-13 in production. I’ll be offering some at the silent auction at the CREW Concert on March 24th. If they seem to be popular, I might just have some for sale at the Wildflower Festival on the following weekend…

Posted by: krmdgin | February 20, 2012

A Crooked Stick – Part One…

Note – let this blog posting serve as official and legal registration for the trade name “A Crooked Stick” (…that’s all you need to do, right?)

Several years back, after many years of too much weight on my knees, and before some life-altering arthroscopic surgery, I had discovered the joy of a good walking stick. I was still willing and able to take to the woods on just about any occasion, but I had come to lean on (figuratively and literally) a good stout friend at my side.

After the surgery made the stick no longer necessary, I kept it as company. When hiking with friends it is great for pointing things out at a distance. It can help you find soggy ground (before your feet do), gives you one more point on the ground when navigating treacherous terrain, and comes in quite handy when you find yourself needing to move aside a thorny vine/irritating weed/poisonous snake.

My walking stick has the added benefit of having been cut from a Melaleuca tree growing in the fields behind our house. Melaleuca is the poster child species representing the harm that can be done by man when he attempts to control Nature without a clear understanding of how Nature works on her own. In an effort to help dry up the Everglades, to make it more hospitable to farming and settlement, seeds were scattered by airplanes in the 1930s, in hopes that the vast forests would help to dry up the land. While there may have been some drying, the vast monocultures of Melaleuca that developed had much greater negative impacts on the wildlife of the area. Native plant communities were moved aside and native animal species found nothing of value in the new invasive alien.

Today, millions of dollars are spent controlling the expansion of Melaleuca throughout south Florida. I decided that it was high time that I did my part. So I’ve started a new venture entitled, A Crooked Stick. And everything in A Crooked Stick’s product line is produced from Melaleuca. And each product comes with a certified Death Certificate guaranteeing that “the creation of this product was made possible only through the demise of a living Melaleuca tree”. There, doesn’t that make you feel better?

The process begins by locating and cutting suitable trees. Unfortunately, there are plenty of these Melaleuca sapling forests within a few miles of my home. Just a few minutes of walking will find a number of young trees that are the right height and diameter, reasonably straight, with just the right amount of ‘character’. (these pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them)

The bulk of the trimming is done with a retired Chef’s Knife – with long aggressive passes through the thick papery bark.

A common name for the Melaleuca is ‘paper tree’ and these pictures certainly show why.

After 20-30 minutes, the bark is almost completely removed. Whatever remains will be taken down with progressively finer grit sandpaper.

Here are half a dozen walking sticks-in-the-making, with the bulk of the bark removed. I won’t know exactly where the ends are until I’ve had a chance to explore the wood a little bit and find the right fit.

Now it’s off to the ‘drying rack’ for awhile (we like to multi-task around here and everything has to serve multiple purposes). After they have dried and cured for a week or two, I’ll start turning these naked trees into walking sticks.

More pictures will follow with those steps…

Posted by: krmdgin | September 15, 2011

Sure We Are… (revisited)

Deep breath…

I had thoughts about writing a whole post today, but that just isn’t going to happen. So, instead I’ve reposted an old Tygr post, and added a little bit at the end.

Thank you to all the folks who have already offered kind and supportive words.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Let me start by saying that Deb and I are dog people.

You know, those personality surveys that ask, “vanilla/chocolate, morning/night, cat/dog? We had Lupus with us for the first 15 years of our marriage, and not an L.L. Bean or Cabela’s catalog goes through our home without reminding us that there will be another puppy (or three?) joining us as soon as retirement kicks in and we can give them the time they deserve.

Of course, if you’ve known us for the last 13 years, then you know about Tygr. She came into our lives when she was just 6-7 weeks old (adopted at the pound). She was tiny then and even at 13  remains small for a cat.

When we arrived home from our Christmas vacation yesterday, we sensed that there was something up with Tygr – or more precisely, not up. She seemed a little listless (if you know cats, especially 13-year old cats, you know that picking up ‘listlessness’ in a cat is not always an easy task) and it seems like she was having trouble lifting her head up. Our immediate diagnoses ranged from stroke (we know she has a heart murmur) to snakebite, to ‘sleeping on it wrong’. We decided that we’d call the vet first thing in the morning if it hadn’t improved. Meanwhile, Deb dashed an email off to an old college buddy that has been a vet for the past 30 years.

At the doctor’s office we discussed her heart, her thyroid, her liver, her kidneys, her respiration rate, neck fracture and x-rays, blood panels, and all the requisite procedures (and costs). They printed out a rough estimate for us that looked like they were simply testing all the available buttons in the software. We signed off on all of it and left her in their capable hands for the day. They would call us when they had some news. Just before we left, we mentioned what our vet friend had offered as his sight-unseen, remote diagnosis from 3,000 miles away – check her potassium levels.

We came home and went about our normal routine of household tasks trying not to think about the phone call to come. Three hours later, they called to let us know that the broad spectrum of x-rays and diagnostics tests were going to be avoided. Turns out her potassium levels were way too low, resulting in what is known as cervical ventroflexion (translation – she can’t raise her head). Our buddy nailed it. She’s getting some intravenous potassium, some pills for home, and she should be back to normal – at least until we get to the root cause of the potassium deficiency.

Dog people. Right.

I know a certain feline that would argue that proposition – and would probably win.

Here’s hoping that all of you and yours are happy and healthy as we enter into a brand new year.

Happy New Year – 2010!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Well, here we are a year and half later, and we’re putting in the final chapter to Tygr’s story.

About a week ago, I was driving home from work and I spotted a bushy ‘weed’ in one of the vacant lots that had burst into a spray of small white flowers. I had no idea what it was – still don’t – but I knew that I wanted it in my yard.

So here it is, where it takes a place of great significance. The flat stone in front of it was picked up in the mountains of North Carolina and has been lying around our house in various places for about the same amount of time that Tygr has been doing the same thing.

Tygr, it will be a long time before I stop waiting for the small thump that comes with your jump onto the bed to awaken us each morning.

Rest In Peace.

Posted by: krmdgin | September 8, 2011

I Heard The News Today… Oh Boy!

<cue music>
<roll opening logo>
<cue voice-over>

voice-over: “This is Nightly News, Tuesday, September 23, 2029. And now here’s your host, Brad Nailor.

<cue Brad>

Brad Nailor: “Good evening, I’m Brad Nailor.

“In a historic ceremony in the Rose Garden this morning, President Bieber signed into law a sweeping piece of legislation officially changing the name of this nation from the United States of America to the Loosely Affiliated States of America. This new name, L.A.S.A., reflects the changes we’ve seen in the last 20 years as states have increasingly stretched their governing powers in defiance of what many perceive as a federal government that has grown far beyond the powers delineated by our Founding Fathers.”

“We begin our team coverage of this historic event with our White House correspondent, Sasha Tart. Sasha?”

Sasha Tart: “Good evening, Brad. Historic indeed. This morning, after the signing ceremony, I spoke with Secretary of Commerce, Culture and Community Anita Pullinthred about the kinds of changes that we may be seeing as a result of this new legislation. Here’s what she had to say.”

<roll tape>

Secretary Pullinthred: “Well, right off the bat we anticipate seeing a number of states implementing their own forms of currency. The first such plan has already been submitted by Alabama. Their ‘BamaBuck’ will, of course, not be legal tender outside of the state of Alabama, but will trade at roughly the same value as the Dollar. And by offering deep discounts for purchases made in BamaBucks they will be encouraging folks to keep their money within their state. Of course, those states that adopt their own currency will be giving up all Federal monetary assistance and revenue sharing. However, this will be balanced out by the fact that citizens of those states will no longer have to pay any Federal Income Tax.”

Sasha Tart: “Also present at this morning’s signing ceremony was Grover Newhouse, President and General Counsel for the American Tea Cultivation, Manufacturing and Distribution Association. I asked Mr. Newhouse if he saw this as a major victory for his organization.”

<roll tape>

Grover Newhouse: “Well, Sasha, I think you’d have to look at it that way. If we look back twenty years, to a time when our organization wasn’t much more than a “Party”, I think those of us in leadership roles at that time would have been hard pressed to imagine the level of success we’ve had in influencing so much of what takes place in the political arena. And now, with the full and open financial and legal support from most of America’s Fortune 150, we’ve been able to assume our rightful place at the table. At the head of the table, that is.”

“And I don’t think we are even close to reaching our full potential – we’re only just beginning! In fact – and I hope I’m not letting the cat out of the bag here – we have something pretty special in the works we’ll be announcing later this week. Let me just tease you a little with this one word – “Teanessee!

Sasha Tart: “Well, there you have it. From the White House, this is Sasha Tart. Brad?”

Brad Nailor: “Thank you, Sasha. Now, with reaction from Capitol Hill, we turn to our Chief Congressional Correspondent, Chip Oatley. Chip, what are folks on the Hill saying in reaction to this new legislation?”

Chip Oatley: “The most common reaction among the Senators and Representatives that I’ve spoken with today has been fear – fear that their state won’t be able to move quickly enough to capitalize on this golden opportunity. They are scrambling to capture a significant portion of the economic growth and tourism dollars that are sure to be in play over the next few years. And as we approach our next national census in 2030, we can expect to see millions of Americans relocating to states that more closely align with their personal views and their political leanings. States will be entering into direct competition with each other for lucrative corporate sponsorships looming on the horizon. Towards that end, a surprising number of states have announced today that legislation is working its way through state houses to update their state mottos. Among those states already announcing new slogans are Vermont (The Leaves Are Gorgeous- And We’re Nude!*),  California (Whatever…), Texas (Don’t Even Think About It!), Florida (Get Off My Lawn!), and Arizona (Press 1 or 2 for Arizona!)

“And the changes don’t end there, Brad. Numerous state initiatives are redefining everything from education to health care. I spoke with House Finance Committee Chair Boozer “Boozer” McKenzie, a Republican from South Carolina about a movement underway in his state.”

<roll tape>

Boozer McKenzie: “I’m proud to announce that South Carolina (Hell No He Can’t!) is the first state in the country to put forward an amendment to the state Constitution that would outlaw any incoming Kindergarten student with an IQ over 98. We have a tremendous heritage to protect here in South Carolina. So much of what we know and love about our state is being threatened by those elite liberal institutions of high school and college. My Daddy never made it past his 2nd year of 7th grade and he went on to build the largest tire retreading business in all of Richland County. I’m proud of what he done. If we don’t protect our heritage, then we run the risk that our children won’t view the world they grow up in through the same eyes that we’ve been viewing it through for generations.”

Chip Oatley: “There seems to be no end to the diversity of approaches that our “loosely affiliated” states will go to differentiate themselves, and draw corporate and tourism dollars. Brad?

Brad Nailor: “Thank you Chip. We’ll take a short break but when we come back, we’ll be going to Stone Thackery in northern California for a story on the controversial effort to convert thousands of acres of virgin redwood forests into agricultural fields to supply the burgeoning medical marijuana industry in that state. Don’t go away – we’ll be right back.”

“This is NBC Nightly News…”

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* In Vermont, it is already legal to be naked in public, although it is apparently illegal to disrobe in public.

Posted by: krmdgin | August 28, 2011

Leaf Turning…

It has been several months since I posted something to this blog. I promised myself when I started this thing that I wouldn’t resort to any of those ‘blog-a-day’ idea generators just to fill the space and keep something in front of my readership. [by the way, thank you guys. The comments the three of you have been making have been most heartwarming :)]

I figured if the voices in my head weren’t literally screaming to get out, I’d just let them be. Lately, I’ve been wondering what it was going to take to get back to this blog – and now we know. You see, Monday is Deb’s birthday. And while you are reading this, so is she – one day early, since we’re having our celebration tonight.

So Happy Birthday, Deb! Don’t worry – I won’t let on how old you are. Just let me say that I am most fortunate to share my life these days with the hottest 39+ year-old on the planet. This post is for you – and we’ll look at several things related to your big day.

I never know what to get you for your birthday. As you know, I’m much more of a ‘buy-it-whenever-I-feel-like-it’ kinda guy. But this year, you indicated early on exactly what you wanted for your birthday. Halleluhiah! And after doing some extensive research, you confirmed that the ONLY one that would meet your needs was in the $700 range. So you made me promise NOT to buy you one. So, as promised, you are NOT getting one. You’re welcome.

We have more than a few cookbooks in our house, and many of them espouse the benefits of a vegetarian/vegan diet. We have a few favorites we make from time to time, but I’m kind of a die-hard carnivore – despite your (and Kennedy’s) attempts over the years to convert me. My attitude is usually best described as ‘the comfortable skeptic’. Well, this time you win. We’re on a 30-day trial run – and fully committed. Since you have been doing so much research on this ‘nutritarian’ diet, I’m putting myself in your capable hands. And since I’m usually the cook ’round here, it means not just eating differently, but preparing food differently as well. For starters, the ‘meat and cheese’ drawer in the fridge is being converted into the “third vegetable drawer”.

Of course, we should keep in mind that I’ve never been fanatically devout about anything in my life, so if you guys out there have any suggestions for ovo-pisco-lacto-poulto vegetarian recipes or cookbooks, please send them my way.

You have always been better at staying in shape than I have (one look will show you that). You’re still running through Aikido warmup exercises and walking 3-5 miles most mornings. I walk out to get the mail 2-3 times a week (on a good week). Sure, I’m active at work – but we all say that, don’t we? So when I say that this is your present, it’s kind of like when you get a big box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day. Sure, they’re yours, but we all know who’s going to eat most of ’em. Anyway, your present here is membership to the local gym – for both of us. I need more structure to my workout regimen if I’m going to get myself back into shape. And we’ve got plans for the future that will require that I do.

I think this new gym workout routine will be a really good thing for us. When I checked it out the other day, the place was full of tanned, long-legged hotties in tank tops and spandex, sipping protein smoothies at the juice bar. And the guy behind the counter said that sometimes women even come to work out there.

I’m making a promise right here and now that there will be no more long Sunday afternoons sitting in front of a football game with nothing but a plate of hot wings and a 12-pack of Budweiser. To be perfectly honest, this has never happened in the past. Still, it seems like good opportunity to promise that it won’t happen in the future, right? Besides, we have those 4 cases of $3 wine we bought at Whole Foods last week. It would be a shame to let that go to waste. So, alcohol in moderation – in medicinal dosages, if you will. I’m searching the Internet for recipes like grilled tofu, Swiss Chard and pine nuts, braised in a Pinot Noir reduction…

This may just be the hardest one to work on. You see, while a piece of my mind can appreciate the Zen-like tranquility that comes from open and austere simplicity, I haven’t yet fully internalized this belief that enlightenment will come when I’ve divested myself of all the ‘stuff’ in my life. Yes, I’ll admit that I’m still hung up on my attachments. But now I’m making a start.

First up – my ‘mid-life crisis’ red and gold, semi-hollow-body Schecter guitar. Watch for it on Craig’s list – it will be a bargain. Then we’ll move on to our collections (CDs, DVDs, books, half-full paint cans, etc.). The eventual goal is that when the time comes to move on from here into our retirement phase (wherever, whenever that comes…), we’ll be able to put all of our belongings into the cars we take with us – instead of the 28-foot U-haul in which we brought it all here.

Thank you Deb for all that you’ve meant to me for these last 30 plus years. I am looking forward to another 30 more. With you alongside me, the wonderful ride goes on.

Hope you have a wonderful birthday – you deserve the very best.

Posted by: krmdgin | February 27, 2011

And Now, For Something Completely Different…

This week, we find ourselves in the midst of historic turmoil in the Middle East, an international revolution which contains almost equal parts of hope and fear. Closer to home we have conservative forces in Wisconsin (and elsewhere) trying to bring American labor back to the glory days of the robber barons. And, barring some seemingly impossible compromise in Washington, we may well see our government come to a close at the end of the week.

So, of course, this week’s blog post features a music review.

In my last post we played with polling technology, now we’re playing with embedded audio. Enjoy the music.

I stumbled across Hayes Carll while listening to NPR the other day (imagine that). What I heard in 10 minutes had me connecting to iTunes when I got home. His songs are described in one LA Times review as ‘delightfully crafted tales of life in the bars and side roads of rural America… a rootsy, country-based stew thick with roadhouse blues”. Yeah, that’s about right. The brief review on NPR was for his latest album – KMAG YoYo (Kiss My Ass Guys, You’re On Your Own). But I bought his first album, Trouble In Mind, thinking that I would do best to explore this new musician (to me) by starting where he started. All but two of the songs on this album are written or co-written by Carll.

In listening to Trouble In Mind I hear hints of John Prine, snippets of Bob Dylan, and great honkin’ chunks of Todd Snider. Here are a few samples…

The album opens with Drunken Poet’s Dream, where we get to meet Carll’s muse. “You be the Sinner honey, and I’ll be the Sin”. What more could a down and ever-so-close-to out poet need?

A Girl Downtown, a simple and poignant ballad (with John Prine dripping all over it) brings us Katie and Billy, a couple of kids looking for love in a small town, and perhaps finding it.

A Bad Liver and a Broken Heart (written by Scott Nolan) contains one of my favorite verses on the album. One isn’t quite sure if this song is talking about the trials of life on the road as a musician or someone simply trying to make sense of life and love. 

Doesn’t anybody speak about truth anymore?
Maybe that’s what songs are for.
You’re the wind and I’m on fire.
In this line of work no one retires.
Come in clean, leave torn apart.
A bad liver and a broken heart.

A gently rolling ballad follows with All the Way from Beaumont. A story about lost love. Well, not so much lost, as left behind. One begins to think that Hayes Carll has had some problems with love in his life (that would be unusual for country/blues road musicians).

With I Got a Gig, Baby, Carll paints a gritty picture of a musician’s life on the road, bouncing from one rowdy roadhouse bar to another. And he introduces us to a few of the regulars along the way.

In A Lover Like You, Carll channels early Dylan for us, in an ode to the vast difference between friendship and lust. If Robert Allen Zimmerman had fronted a country blues band in a honky-tonk in his home town of Duluth, Minnesota in 1960, this tune would have been on his playlist.

The final track on the album, one featured in the NPR review, may be the most ‘sing-along-able’ tune on the record, that is unless and until you discover how offensive you find it. She Left Me For Jesus tells the sad tale of a young man who simply can’t compete with his girl’s new love.

If you’d like to see and hear more about Hayes Carll, check out his website.

You can find Trouble in Mind and Hayes Carll’s other music on iTunes. I suspect I’ll be back for his latest album shortly…

Posted by: krmdgin | January 29, 2011

A Practice Poll…

I’m curious to see how this works. Can you give me some feedback, for practice?


Posted by: krmdgin | January 24, 2011

Build a Bigger House…

Here’s an interesting idea, and one that I’m exercising my brain muscles on at the moment.

In Sunday’s NY Times, Dalton Conley and Jacqueline Stevens wrote an Op-Ed piece that goes against much of what we’ve been hearing in the news lately. They are arguing for Bigger Government – at least in terms of the number of members of the House of Representatives.

Pop Quiz One:  How many members do we have in the US House of Representatives?
(the answer is 435)

Pop Quiz Two:  Why? 
(uh… )

A fair number of folks might think that something like this would be spelled out in the Constitution (where it DOES say that we should have exactly 2 Senators from every state). But they would be wrong. The Constitution only says that we should have ‘some’ number of Representatives (at least one, and not more than 1 for every 30,000 residents) and this number has changed since our first Congress convened back in the late 1700s. Since that time, the number of Representatives has grown from the original 65 to its present 435. Every decade or so, after the Census numbers came in, Congress would pass a new law increasing the size of the House of Representatives.

But we reached 435 in 1911, and we’ve not added a single Representative since.

Today, each House member speaks for approximately 700,000 residents in their state. In contrast, in 1913 he or she would represent just 200,000 residents. If we were to aim for that same ratio today, our House of Representatives would require 1,500 members (NOTE – if we were to try to match the representation ratio of the Founding Father’s Congress, we would need as many as 5,000 members). If you were to compare our numbers to other representative democracies, we are woefully underrepresented in our Congress. (Canada, for example has 308 members in its ‘lower’ house of Parliament with a national population of approximately 34,000,000 – a representational rate of 1 per 110,000 people. The British House of Commons has 650 members for a population of 61,000,000 – a rate of about 1 per 94,000 people.)

So, is it reasonable for the US to increase the number of members in the House of Representatives?

The authors suggest that it would have these kinds of impacts.

  • It would reduce if not eliminate the dominance of the two-party system. With smaller districts would come more regionalized and localized representation, bringing a greater diversity of ideas to the House.
  • It would reduce greatly the need for excessive cash expenditures in elections since campaigns would be run on a more narrow and focused geographical area.
  • It would greatly increase the number and effectiveness of  ‘citizen-legislators’ and reduce the number of ‘lifers’ in the House.
  • It would increase the level of contact between the Representatives and their constituents while simultaneously reducing the impact of lobbyists and special interest groups.
  • It would reduce the level of bureaucracy in government by providing more elected officials to do the work that is currently being done by appointed staff who are not accountable to the people.

So, assuming enough folks decide that this is a good idea to pursue, how do we go about making the change? There’s the sticky part. It would require the sitting Congress to amend the current law – essentially getting a majority of the membership to agree to weaken their own personal powers.

That’s a tough one – but grass-roots efforts have brought about all kinds of changes that seemed daunting at the time.

Is this idea worth considering?

What do you think?

Posted by: krmdgin | January 16, 2011

Honoring The Fallen…

What a week.

We have witnessed the absolute worst of humankind, juxtaposed with the very best we have to offer. Bravery and steadfast determination alongside demonic evil. Thoughtless and gutless comments from leaders and neighbors and strangers at one moment, and comforting and healing words from others in the next.

Each of us is finding our own way of dealing with the events in Tucson last weekend. We are all looking for some way to make sense of a completely senseless act. Talk radio and TV commentary is full of detailed analyses reminding us all that we really don’t know anything yet – and may never.

Monday afternoon I listened with particular interest to an interview on NPR. Neal Conan was interviewing Karen Armstrong, a renowned author and speaker who was discussing (among other things) her recently published book, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life“. ( Here’s where you can hear the interview.) In 2008, Ms. Armstrong was awarded the $100,000 TED Prize, an award which she used to bring together religious leaders from around the world to help build a framework for what has become The Charter for Compassion. (Here’s where you can view a video of her TED Speech).

I stopped at the bookstore on the way home and picked up the book. I’m working my way through it right now (I must admit, given the events of the previous days, I was compelled to jump ahead to The Eighth Step – How Should We Talk To Each Other?).

What struck a chord with me during the interview was Ms. Armstrong’s focus on the Golden Rule. We all know this rule, in either its positive or negative form (different cultures focus on slightly different versions).

Do unto others as you would have done unto you.


Do not do to others that which we do not want them to do to us.

Ms. Armstrong made reference to a number of examples in her interview, including Nelson Mandela’s courageous decision, after his release from 27 years of imprisonment, to seek reconciliation rather than retribution. This was clearly not an easy choice for him, but I presume that his thinking was along the lines of the civil rights activists of America in the ’50s and ’60s – the idea of “keeping your eyes on the prize”.

So, here’s what this group of world leaders have come up with.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Charter for Compassion

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.

We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.

We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

That evening, after listening to Ms. Armstrong’s interview, and just two days after the horrendous events of Tucson, I walked out into my backyard and picked up a small stone. I rubbed it clean of the sand that encrusted it, rolled it over a few times in my palm and then placed in it my pocket – where it has been ever since.

I remove it each night, setting it next to the sink and return it to the pocket the next morning. And throughout the day, I am reminded of it from time to time when I reach for keys, or change, or anything else I might need.

It turns out, it may be this stone I need most of all.

Because I know what it means to be compassionate. I know what it means to place the welfare of others before my own. I know what it means to make the extra effort of understanding the thoughts and deeds of others, even when those thoughts and deeds are at odds with my own. I know it, but I may not always remember to act upon it.

This small stone is my reminder – a tangible totem that helps me remember the completely intangible value that comes from bringing my compassion to the forefront. It reminds me to act in ways that heal rather than hurt. And to speak to, and about, others in ways that I would like for them to speak to, or about, me.

In the last week, we’ve seen some wonderful examples of this. And we’ve seen far too many non-examples as well. If there is any possible good that can come from this tragedy, let’s hope that it is this – that we’ll all grow just a little more compassionate in our dealings with others.

The next time someone says something that sets you off, or does something that makes you grind your teeth, resist the temptation to strike back with harsh words or deeds.

Instead, go pick up a stone.


Posted by: krmdgin | January 15, 2011

Paddling Lake Webb…

Deb and I spent a few hours on a new lake for us – Lake Webb, about 30 minutes north of where we live. It’s part of a large wildlife management area.

Here’s a short video that gives you a taste of our adventure…

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