In memory of Amjad Farid Sabri

In the beginning, in the lands of southern Asia, there were the Riwat peoples. That seems to be as far back as we know. In the north of Pakistan there is evidence of a Paleolithic site, the Riwat, where people lived at least 45,000 years ago. That is a long time for threads of something like civilization to weave.

Over time the land came to be called India which at times included what we now know as Pakistan. Think civilization, culture, and conflict.

And then the British East India company said, let there be tea, and the sun of British colonialism rose over the India, and the British Empire brought its version of  western ‘civilization’ to the lands and the peoples of India, including what we now know as Pakistan.

And then Mahatma Gandhi and others stood up and said, “This land is our land.” And there was conflict, lots of conflict. Finally in 1947 the Union of India and the Dominion of Pakistan were created and gained their independence. This was followed by more conflict.

Throughout the lands there were Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs and Muslims.  And among these religions and peoples of peace there was conflict.

In Pakistan most of the people were followers of Islam, people we call Muslims. Among the followers of Islam, there are divisions. There are Sunni Muslims; Shi’ite Muslims; Sufis who some people understand to practice a mystical kind of Islam and who other people say do not practice Islam at all; Ahmadiyyas are an offshoot of Sunni Islam; Baha’is are an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam. And, yes there is conflict between and among all of these groups, even as each of these groups practice a religion of peace.

Among the Suffi’s there is a devotional music known as qawwali. Qawwali emerges from the conviction that, before the majesty of God and the span of Creation, reason fails; only art, only music can possibly evoke the deepest feelings stirred in the human soul. So you have a musical form that reflects, in its very effect on you, the nature of faith as Muslims once believed it to be: A deep, romantic love, between a dependent human being, and an all-powerful Divine.

Those who sing in this tradition devote their lives to singing the praises of the prophet Muhammad, continuing the centuries-long tradition of musical veneration, Poetry, often Urdu or Punjabi, is set to music, usually in praise of God or the prophet Muhammad. A band of singers joins together to deliver songs that ecstatically convey the deep love of God, which classical Muslims expressed in secular metaphor: an intoxicating beloved, or an intoxicant itself. Masters of qawwali, known as “qawwals,” are world famous.

Amjad Farid Sabri born on 23 December 1970 in Pakistan. Following in the tradition of his father, he became one of the most famous qawwals in the world today. On 22 June 2016 he was on his way to a performance in Liaquatabad Town, Karachi, Pakistan when he was gunned down by two motorcyclists who claimed to be part of the Taliban. The Taliban have banned all music. They killed Amjad Farid Sabri because his singing violated their ban on music. I say let the music live!

Amjad Sabri was only 45 years old.  He was a man who devoted his life to the praise of his God and to peace. I expect that he had his flaws, he was human after all. But still, he was a human being doing his best, giving praise where he could, honoring the awe that surrounds us. And for the gift of his music, he was murdered.

This madness has to stop. Hatred never conquered hatred. Only love can conquer hate. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me, and with you and with each of us. Let us each do one loving thing today in memory of all of the senseless conflict, violence and murder that is plaguing our world.

Let us remember, forgive, and do better. Let us all find a way to love our family, friends and neighbors, remembering that everyone is our neighbor.

God and the Professor’s Brain

I found this story on People for Others, Paul Brian Campbell’s blog. While I have not spend inordinate amounts of time pondering the link between God and college professors’ brains, this story shines a nice light on the parallels . . . illuminating, I think!


A college student was in a philosophy class, where there was a class discussion about whether or not God exists, the professor had the following logic:

“Has anyone in this class heard God?” Nobody spoke.

“Has anyone in this class touched God?” Again, nobody spoke.

“Has anyone in this class seen God?” When nobody spoke for the third time, he simply stated, “Then there is no God.”

The student did not like the sound of this at all, and asked for permission to speak. The professor granted it, and the student stood up and asked the following questions of his classmates:

“Has anyone in this class heard our professor’s brain?” Silence.

“Has anyone in this class touched our professor’s brain?”

Absolute silence.

“Has anyone in this class seen our professor’s brain?” When nobody in the class dared to speak, the student concluded, “Then, according to our professor’s logic, it must be true that our professor has no brain!”


On Pauli Murray’s Dark Testament

I’ve been reading Patricia Bell-Scott’s “The Firebrand and the First Lady” which is about the friendship between Pauli Murray and Eleanor Roosevelt, Murray being the Firebrand, Roosevelt being the First Lady. Throughout the book Murray’s poem, “Dark Testament” is mentioned several times. Of course I had to go find it. And yes, as I read it I found myself struggling to catch my breath.  Have a look see for yourself.


Hope is a crushed stalk

Between clenched fingers

Hope is a bird’s wing

Broken by a stone.

Hope is a word in a tuneless ditty —

A word whispered with the wind,

A dream of forty acres and a mule,

A cabin of one’s own and a moment to rest,

A name and place for one’s children

And children’s children at last . . .

Hope is a song in a weary throat.

Give me a song of hope

And a world where I can sing it.

Give me a song of faith

And a people to believe in it.

Give me a song of kindliness

And a country where I can live it.

Give me a song of hope and love

And a brown girl’s heart to hear it.


Of the Many Ways Confession Can be Good for You

This comes from facebook, but it really is too funny not to share … along the lines of things are never quite what they seem to be ….

‘Bless me Father, for I have sinned. I have been with a loose girl.’

The priest asks, “Is that you, little Joey Pagano?”

‘Yes, Father, it is.’

“And who was the girl you were with?”

‘I can’t tell you, Father, I don’t want to ruin her reputation.’

“Well, Joey, I’m sure to find out her name sooner or later so you may as well tell me now. Was it Tina Minetti?”

‘I cannot say.’

“Was it Teresa Mazzarelli?”

‘I’ll never tell.’

“Was it Nina Capelli?”

‘I’m sorry, but I cannot name her.’

“Was it Cathy Piriano?”

‘My lips are sealed Father.’

“Well then, was it Rosa DiAngelo?”

‘Please, Father, I cannot tell you.’

The priest sighs in frustration. “You’re very tight lipped, and I admire that. But you’ve sinned and have to atone. You cannot be an altar boy now for 4 months. Now you go and behave yourself.”

Joey walks back to his pew, and his friend Franco slides over and whispers, ‘What’d you get?’

‘Four months’ vacation and five excellent Leads.’

Problems of the Heart

A visitor to an insane asylum found one of the inmates rocking back and forth in a chair cooing repeatedly in a soft, contented manner, “Lulu, Lulu…”

“What’s this man’s problem?” he asked the doctor.

“Lulu. She was a woman who jilted him,” was the doctor’s reply.

As they proceeded on the tour, they came to a padded cell whose occupant was banging his head repeatedly against the wall and moaning, “Lulu… Lulu…..”

“Same Lulu?” asked the visitor.

“Yes,” said the doctor. “He’s the one Lulu finally married.”

Lesson?  Be careful what you wish for! And keep your heart open to visitors, but be careful who you invite to live there?

I read this recently on People for Others, the blog of  Paul Brian Campbell, SJ. He cites Tony de Mello as his source. Where ever it came from, I’m still laughing!

Armadillo’s Song A Bolivian Legend

As retold by S.E. Schlosser

There once lived an armadillo who loved music more than anything else in the world. After every rainfall, the armadillo would drag his shell over to the large pond filled with frogs and he would listen to the big green frogs singing back and forth, back and forth to each other in the most amazing voices.

“Oh,” thought the armadillo, “Oh how I wish I could sing.”

The armadillo would creep to the edge of the water and watch the frogs leaping and swimming in a frantic green ballet, and they would call back and forth, back and forth in beautiful, musical tones. He loved to listen to the music they made as they spoke, though he didn’t understand their words; which was just as well – for the frogs were laughing at this funny animal that wanted so badly to sing like a frog.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” sang the frogs as they played. “Armadillos can’t sing.”

Then one day a family of crickets moved into a new house near the armadillo, and he was amazed to hear them chirp and sing as merrily as the frogs. He would creep next to their house and listen and listen all day, all night for their musical sounds.

“Oh,” sighed the armadillo, “Oh how I wish I could sing.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” sang the crickets in their dulcet tones. “Armadillos can’t sing.”

But the armadillo could not understand their language, and so he just sighed with longing and listened to their beautiful voices laughing at him.

Then one day a man came down the road carrying a cage full of canaries. They were chirping and flittering and singing songs that were more beautiful even than those of the crickets and the frogs. The armadillo was entranced. He followed the man with the cage down the road as fast as his little legs would carry him, listening to the canaries singing.

“Oh,” gasped the armadillo, “Oh how I wish I could sing.”

Inside the cage, the canaries twittered and giggled.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” sang the canaries as they flapped about. “Armadillos can’t sing.”

The poor tired armadillo couldn’t keep up with the man and the cage, and finally he fell exhausted at the door of the great wizard who lived in the area. Realizing where he was, the armadillo decided to beg a boon of the man.

Timidly, the armadillo approached the wizard, who was sitting in front of his house and said: “Great wizard, it is my deepest desire to learn to sing like the frogs and the crickets and the canaries.”

The wizard’s lips twitched a little in amusement, for who had ever heard of an armadillo that could sing. But he realized that the little animal was serious. He bent low to the ground and looked the creature in the eye.

“I can make you sing, little armadillo,” he said. “But you do not want to pay the price, for it will mean your death.”

“You mean if I die I will be able to sing?” asked the armadillo in amazement.

“Yes, this is so,” said the wizard.

“Then I want to die right now!” said the armadillo. “I would do anything to be able to sing!”

The wizard and the armadillo discussed the matter for many hours, for the wizard was reluctant to take the life of such a fine armadillo. But the creature insisted, and so the wizard finally killed the armadillo, made a wonderful musical instrument from his shell, and gave it to the finest musician in the town to play.

Sometimes the musician would play his instrument by the pond where the frogs lived, and they would stare at him with big eyes and say: “Ai! Ai! The armadillo has learned to sing.”

Sometimes the musician would play his instrument by the house where the crickets lived, and they would creep outside to stare at him with big eyes and say: “Ai! Ai! The armadillo has learned to sing.”

And often the musician would visit the home of his friend who owned the cage full of canaries – who was also a musician – and the two men would play their instruments together while the little birds watched with fluttering wings and twittered in amazement: “Ai! Ai! The armadillo has learned to sing.”

And so it was. The armadillo had learned to sing at last, and his voice was the finest in the land. But like the very best musicians in the world, the armadillo sacrificed his Life for his Art.


I kind of like this story because it reminds me about the power and the cost of dedication to one’s life passion – literally, it costs your life. but then, what is life without passion and commitment?

A mid winter montage

(Oh, please let it be MID winter! We’ve already had a winter’s worth of snow in just one go . . . )

“One kind word can warm three winter months.”  Japanese proverb

“The snow doesn’t give a soft white damn whom it touches.” E. E. Cummings

“If there were no tribulations, there would be no rest; if there were no winter, there would be no summer.” St. John Chrysostom


“January is the quietest month in the garden.  …  But just because it looks quiet doesn’t mean that nothing is happening.  The soil, open to the sky, absorbs the pure rainfall while microorganisms convert tilled-under fodder into usable nutrients for the next crop of plants.  The feasting earthworms tunnel along, aerating the soil and preparing it to welcome the seeds and bare roots to come.”  Rosalie Muller Wright, Editor of Sunset Magazine, 1/99


“Every gardener knows that under the cloak of winter lies a miracle … a seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to the light, a bud straining to unfurl.  And the anticipation nurtures our dream.”  Barbara Winkler


Clichés for the Cold:

Dead of winter.
Cold hands warm heart.
As pure as snow.
Now is the winter of our discontent.
Left out in the cold.


On job security

So, one day a few years ago I was walking across campus early in the Fall Semester. One of the maintenance guys was in the quad raking leaves. Now, the quad had quite a few trees in it, so raking leaves was a pretty monumental job, and he was out there on his own tackling it.

I stopped, said hello to him, and went on to say something about what an arduous, thankless job raking the leave was. I looked around at all the trees, and said something about how many leaves were still up there, and how interminable it must feel to him.

He smiled at me, looked up at the same trees and leaves and said, “Oh no, Miss. That there is job security.”

It’s all how you see it. I’ve never looked at raking in quite the same way.

That brief conversation helped to nudge me to see more of life and the world around me as a gift – if only I have the eyes for seeing!

Life Lessons

We are kind of on the cusp of the New Year’s resolutions moment. And that got me to thinking about things I/we might have learned over the course of a lifetime. As I was web surfing, I came across this compilation of life lessons and I thought I would share it with you.  Enjoy!!


I learned that I like my teacher because she cries when we sing “Silent Night”. Age 5

I learned that our dog doesn’t want to eat my broccoli either. Age 7

I learned that when I wave to people in the country, they stop what they are doing and wave back. Age 9

I learned that just when I get my room the way I like it, Mom makes me clean it up again. Age 12

I learned that if you want to cheer yourself up, you should try cheering someone else up. Age 14

I learned that although it’s hard to admit it, I’m secretly glad my parents are strict with me. Age 15

I learned that silent company is often more healing than words of advice. Age 24

I learned that brushing my child’s hair is one of life’s great pleasures. Age 26

I learned that wherever I go, the world’s worst drivers have followed me there. Age 29

I learned that if someone says something unkind about me, I must live so that no one will believe it. Age 30

I learned that there are people who love you dearly but just don’t know how to show it. Age 42

I learned that you can make some one’s day by simply sending them a little note. Age 44

I learned that the greater a person’s sense of guilt, the greater his or her need to cast blame on others. Age 46

I learned that children and grandparents are natural allies. Age 47

I learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. Age 48

I learned that singing “Amazing Grace” can lift my spirits for hours. Age 49

I learned that motel mattresses are better on the side away from the phone. Age 50

I learned that you can tell a lot about people by the way they handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. Age 51

I learned that keeping a vegetable garden is worth a medicine cabinet full of pills. Age 52

I learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you miss them terribly after they die. Age 53

I learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life. Age 58

I learned that if you want to do something positive for your children, work to improve your marriage. Age 61

I learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. Age 62

I learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back. Age 64

I learned that if you pursue happiness, it will elude you. But if you focus on your family, the needs of others, your work, meeting new people, and doing the very best you can, happiness will find you. Age 65

I learned that whenever I decide something with kindness, I usually make the right decision. Age 66

I learned that everyone can use a prayer. Age 72

I learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. Age 82

I learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love that human touch-holding hands, a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. Age 90

I learned that I still have a lot to learn. Age 92

Author unknown


Lanterns in the Church

Sometimes you find a story within a story. This story is one of those. I heard it nestled within a story called “Christmas has a secret” by Michael Drury.  The larger story left me kind of wanting. It was about giving bread to others while you are comforted by the knowledge/hope/expectation that in your time of need you will be given all that you need – and more. For me that is kind of like the platitude that the measure with which you give you will receive in turn, and you will receive it back pressed down and flowing over.  I KNOW I am missing something with those stories, but I keep hearing them as teaching that you should be generous because of what it will do for you in the long run – generosity as self-serving and selfish.  Call me old fashioned, but I want to be able to find it in myself (and others) to be generous just for the sake of being generous! Altruism for altruism sake.   But, that is another blog.  So here is the story that really resonated for me (of course with my own little quirks and tweaks:

Once, many years ago, outside a small village in the Tatra Mountains in Poland a lone Gypsy woman heard the bells of a church ringing. Intrigued and cold, she followed the sound thinking she might find some warmth in the church.  When she found the church, it was dark and she could not see anyone else around. But she decided to wait for a while and watch. What else did she have to do that evening?

After a short while, she began to see lights like fireflies in the surrounding woods. As she watched the lights grew brighter, and soon she could tell that those lights were lanterns carried by the families of the congregation as they assembled for the evening’s service. As each family entered the church they would hang their lantern on an iron hook secured within the church’s stone walls. As the families arrived, the church began to glow with the brightness of each and all of the lanterns. After the service, each family removed it’s lantern from the hook and set off through the woods back to its own home.

The woman lingered after the service and asked the pastor about this practice. It was after all a unique way of lighting the church.

The pastor shrugged and said, “it is the only means that we have of lighting our church. When the church was built, it was far too costly for the parish to provide candles to light the church. But it was usual for families to carry their lanterns with them to services. Our church has chosen to carry on that tradition. Now, even to this day, if one of our families does not come to a service, we all feel it. The church is darker by one lantern.  The light and brightness of each family contributes to the whole.”

In the dark night when the earth sleeps – in the time of the winter solstice, of Chanukah, of Christmas, lights dance, the air is scented with hearth fires and spices, homes are polished and decorated. Bells ring and voices are raised in laughter and song. People greet each other and exchange gifts and more freely share their love – all because each human being makes it so. It is up to each of us to shine our light and brighten the darkness.

This time of year is a poignant and powerful reminder of the importance of each lantern, of each light, of each act of loving kindness.

Indeed, if everyone lit just one little candle . . . if everyone gave just one little smile . . . if everyone shared just one act of kindness . . . ah, if!