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!

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Love, yes!

I haven’t shared any poetry here for a little while, and the other day I was reading BrainPickings, and came across this poem by e e Cummings. I found myself re-reading it, and just thinking … hmmm, yes. Yes. Love move and yes life. All places, all words. Love, yes. Yes! Love. So, I thought I would share the poem with you . . . what do you find yourself thinking?

love is a place by e e Cummings

love is a place
& through this place of
love move
(with brightness of peace)
all places

yes is a world
& in this world of
yes live
(skillfully curled)
all worlds.

On Being Certain, Certain People and Other People

Sometimes I just get a thought in my head and I can’t let go of it. This story is what I did with one of those thoughts . . .

 

Once upon a time in a place called Kenvilley the people were struggling to find their way to live in peace and justice with each other. In Kenvilley only Certain People were allowed to love each other and to make their homes together and build families. The Other People saw how these Certain People lived together, and they perceived that it was good. And so, they too wanted to be able to love whom they loved and to make their homes together and build families as well. These Other People had loved each other for a long time, and now they wanted to be able to live together and build families and to celebrate all that they had together.

These Other People went to the town leaders and made their case. But the town leaders said that it would be immoral for them to usurp the privilege of building families that by sacred tradition was granted only to the Certain People. The Other People were not deterred, they continued to work tirelessly side by side with all the peoples of the community, loving each other and becoming known as good citizens. One day, after many entreaties by the Other People, the Chief Leaders of the larger society proclaimed that that all of the peoples, the Certain People and the Other People,  who loved each other and who freely choose to do so could make their homes together and build families.

But the Record Maker of Families in Kenvilley refused to listen to the Chief Leaders. She said that she was certain that personal god forbid families among the others, and she would listen to no other.

Now, the founding citizens of Kenvilley and the larger society said that gods, goddesses and governance where all good things, and that they should be kept separate, so that all peoples would be free to choose and honor their own personal gods and goddesses, and there would be one impartial government for all of the peoples.

But the Record Maker of Families in Kenvilley said that her god told her she must be holy and moral, and to allow the Other People to make their homes together and build families would be immoral.

The Leaders and the Other People were angry and frustrated with Record Maker of Families. The Leaders put her in jail for a while, but she refused to change her mind because she was certain.  (And we all know that if you do not change your mind and your underwear pretty regularly, soon enough things begin to smell pretty badly!)

Some of the Other People tried to talk to the Record Maker of Families, but she would not listen to them, she said they were sinners, and she was certain.

The Other People got together to talk among themselves. They talked about what the registrar’s god had said about other things. They remembered pronouncements like, “you are forgiven for your sins. So is everyone else.” And they thought that even if the Record Maker of Families believed they were sinners, she should also recognize that she too was a sinner and they were all forgiven.  And the Other people wanted to remind the Record Maker of Families about the “Remember that love thy neighbor think?”  And they wanted to tell the Record Maker of Families that they were her neighbors too.

And they really thought they had her with this one, “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. Honor the laws of the land in which you live.” But then one of the Others remember that this whole problem with the registrar was because they got the Chief Leaders to change one of the laws of the land. Someone said, ‘but that law was unfair.’ Quietly someone else said, ‘but now she thinks the change is unfair.’

And they were quiet for a while thinking about this, wondering among themselves about the best way, the fairest way to decide what is fair for everyone.

Someone said, ‘love is the answer.’ And that sounded good. But someone else asked, ‘who gets to decide what love is?’

And someone else asked, ‘who gets to decide who gets to decide?’

And of course somebody asked, ‘who gets to decide who gets to decide who gets to decide?’

And they all scratched their heads (and other body parts), thought about it for a while, and then one quiet woman stood up and said, ‘we do, right here, right now. With our words, with our lives. We decide with every breath we take. Who we are, how we are. It all matters. Love is the answer. Our lives and our love will transform her hatred, her misunderstanding, her ignorance, one heartbeat at a time.’

Another of the Others asked her, ‘you mean love conquers hate? Like the Buddha said?”

She smiled and said, ‘well, the Buddha had it part right, and maybe it’s just a bad translation, but not conquers. No more violence. Love transforms hate. That’s what I mean. Like water transforms rock. We just gotta keep on loving.’

And since Kenvilley is where they used to grow a lot of tobacco, they all thought that the Record Maker of Families should put some sweet lovin in her pipe and smoke that a while.

 

Thich Nhat Hanh and love

For a GDI feminist it often surprises me how many heroes I cherish, and even more how many of them are men. I guess it just goes to show that none of us are as simple as we might seem to be on first glance.  So this week I am celebrating my hero Thich Nhat Hanh.

Brother Thay, as he is called by his students, Thay means teacher in Vietnamese, was born in Vietnam in 1926. He became a novice monk when he was sixteen. When the war began in Vietnam, monks and nuns had to decide if they would remain within their cloisters and continue to practice contemplation or if they would move outside their walls of protection and help those who were suffering the effects of the war and the bombings. Brother Thay committed to doing both and he founded the Engaged Buddhism movement, a practice that he continues to this day working to bring the benefits of inner transformation to individuals and to society.

In the 1960’s Brother Thay founded the School of Youth and Social Services, a grass roots relief organization of volunteers based on the Buddhis principles of non-violence and compassionate action.

In the 1960’s he traveled the world to make the case for peace, working to end the fighting in Vietnam. Because of his actions inciting compassion and peace, both North and South Vietnam denied him the right to return to Vietnam, and so he began life as an exile from the country that was his home, from the land that he loved. And exile that lasted for 39 years. During his exile he continued to travel and work to bring an end to the war. He led the Buddhist delegation to the Paris Peace Talks in 1969.

Brother Thay also continued to teach, lecture and write on the art of mindfulness and on living peace. In 1975 he established a community in France that came to be known as Plum Village. Plum Village flourishes today, with a community of resident monastics and with visitors from around the world who come to learn the art of mindful living, to practice living peace.

Thich Nhat Hanh has written dozens of books. They are all wonderful. One of his most recent books is called “how to love.”  Here is a quote from that book:

If you pour a handful of salt into a cup of water, the water becomes undrinkable. But if you pour the salt into a river, people can continue to draw the water to cook, wash, and drink. The river is immense, and it has the capacity to receive, embrace, and transform. When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer. We can’t accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings, and we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others. We accept others as they are, and then they have a chance to transform.

And the take away from this for me? Not only do we need to open our hearts to receive love, we need to open our hearts, to have big hearts if we will be lovers.

remember that commandment, the one that says, ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ so, the first part of that, the foundation of it is that we should love ourselves. so, have a big, expansive, forgiving heart for yourself AND for others.

simple, yes? so let’s go practice!

Accepting Others and Opening Your Heart

Back at the Cloister of the Good Sisters of Mary Magdalene, Sister Septimus and Sister Beatrix were strolling the cloister grounds during the after supper recreation hour. Sister Septimus was sharing some of her struggles in spiritual growth with young Sister Beatrix.

As you might remember from some of the earlier posts about the cloister, dear Sister Septimus has not always been the most empathic or compassionate member of the cloister. But the death of Sister Ludwicka in Hurricane Sandy was an epiphany for her and since then she has become evermore open to accepting the foibles that frolic within human beings.

As they walk, Sister Septimus says to Sister Beatrix, “you know Sister, I think that I have finally learned to be more fully accepting of people just as they are, whatever their eccentricities. However they choose to be in the world, loving or lascivious, optimist or pessimist, thief or philanthropist, I have come to recognize the common core of humanity within them all, they are all the same to me. But, Sister, I must confess to you, that on our special open days here at the cloister, I see a stranger walking down the path to the chapel, and I find myself murmuring, ‘Oh, Jesus Christ, is it you again?’ Dear Sister Beatrix, this is a long road we are walking!”

 

I read a version of this story in Jan Phillips book, “No Ordinary Time” and once I stopped laughing, I found myself thinking about how much the story resonated with my efforts to human rights and to recognizing the basic dignity in everyone. And then I remembered the words of one of my most favorite professors in college, Father Jim Finegan, who would oft opine, “Everyone is redeemable, but some folks are more redeemable than others.” And indeed, I think everyone is loveable, some are more easily loveable than others. And of course it is those who are more challenging to love who are most in need of loving. So, today, for ten minutes, go out there into the world with your heart wide open and accepting, and give it a try!

 

Everything possible by Fred Small

 Everything possible

 The other day we were in Provincetown on Cape Cod and Jon Arterton was performing at the Unitarian Church. We had heard him before, and love both his voice and his choice of songs, so in we went. As always, what a wonderful treat!! This night it was Broadway songs with depth and meaning, and a few old favorites thrown in to round things out. Of all of the tunes, this one stayed with me the most. It is the lullaby that we all wanted to hear when we were little ones … (check out the link at the bottom to hear an early version of the song by the Flirtations, an a cappella group Jon sang with in the 1990’s).

This is just one of those songs that nests in my heart, and leaves me with a tear in my eye and a smile on my face.  I hope it brings a bit of joy and hope to you as well.

 Everything Possible by Fred Small

 We have cleared off the table, the leftovers saved,
Washed the dishes and put them away
I have told you a story and tucked you in tight
At the end of your knockabout day
As the moon sets it’s sails to carry you to sleep
Over the midnight sea
I will sing you a song no one sang to me
May it keep you good company.

CHORUS:
You can be anybody you want to be,
You can love whomever you will
You can travel any country where your heart leads
And know I will love you still

You can live by yourself, you can gather friends around,
You can choose one special one
And the only measure of your words and your deeds
Will be the love you leave behind when you’re done.

There are girls who grow up strong and bold
There are boys quiet and kind
Some race on ahead, some follow behind
Some go in their own way and time

Some women love women, some men love men
Some raise children, some never do
You can dream all the day never reaching the end
Of everything possible for you.

Don’t be rattled by names, by taunts, by games
But seek out spirits true
If you give your friends the best part of yourself
They will give the same back to you.

 CHORUS:
You can be anybody you want to be,
You can love whomever you will
You can travel any country where your heart leads
And know I will love you still

Here are the Flirtations performing it on their 1990 album. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VA8DFFNQFA

Ropa Vieja

Bread may be the staff of life, but in my family food was surely the stuff of life. When you walked into my parents home, if you were friend or family (in my parents world, there were family, friends and strangers, if they knew you for 10 minutes and liked you, you were immediately friend); so, if you were family or friend you went to the kitchen where the entire contents of the refrigerator appeared on the table. We all sat and ate and talked. But there was no talking before there was eating. No one ever left my parent’s home hungry! So, I fell in love with the story of ropa vieja the second I heard it.

If you know any Spanish at all, you know that ropa vieja means old clothes. So, what does that have to do with food? Just this: old clothes plus love (lots of love) equals food.

In the Canary Islands, Venezuela, Cuba and Mexico the story is told of a man whose family was coming to visit him. He loved his family deeply and wanted to prepare a grand feast to welcome them to his home. But he was a poor man and could not afford to buy food for them. But he deeply wanted to show them his love and to feed them. So, he went to his closet, gathered some of his favorite old clothes (ropa vieja) and imbued those clothes with his love. He then put the clothes in his stew pot and cooked them with the herbs and some vegetables from his garden.  By the time his family arrived, the clothes turned into a wonderful beef stew!

Alchemy at its best — the nurturing transformative power of love.

And today, Ropa Vieja is a well loved family meal in the Canary Islands, Cuba, Venezuela and Mexico. The dish might (or might not) have chickpeas or potatoes; sometimes it is just the shredded meat (beef, chicken and/or pork) in sauce. It is often made with mint, garlic, tomatoes, onions and green peppers. It is often served with beans and rice and sweet plantains. For families today, ropa vieja is much like old clothes: warm, comforting and familiar.

Love, let us bask in it. May it flow through all of our lives in abundance. May it nurture us body and mind, heart and soul, even as it knits us ever more closely in the hearts and arms of family and friends.

Heaven, Hell and Eagles

Living is a curious endeavor. Living on the banks of the Delaware River is particularly intriguing. Alexandra and Sasha’s home sits on the New Jersey side of the river, on the top of a crest, nestled in a sweet wooded area. They always thought it was about as close to heaven as you could get in this world. That is until one morning when they were both startled awake by the most gawd-awful blood curdling cry they had ever heard. Their heavenly paradise was instantly rendered into a hellacious pocket of terror. What was that sound? Where did it come from? What kind of creature uttered it?

 Alexandra and Sasha looked at each other, eyes very wide open, their hearts pounding, and they crawled out of bed, and ever so quietly opened the door to their deck. They crept out onto the deck, looked out over the river. There was nothing in the water. They looked up into the trees, and they saw it. Their hearts stopped. Literally, holding each other’s hands tighter then they knew they had strength, their hearts stopped, they held their breath as they saw it. A spectacular bald eagle was perched in a tree just beyond their deck. That hellacious sound had summoned them to an even more glorious moment of heave.

 Over the spring the eagle regularly came to perch in their tree, and over the season they noticed that the eagle had built a nest in another tree just a bit further into the woods, but still in their line of vision. It was the biggest nest they had ever seen, a good five feet across maybe more. And one day they that their eagle was actually two when they notice both eagles in the nest together.  In early June they started to notice that at least one of the eagles was always in the nest. By mid July the first eaglet hatched.  And a day or so later they could just make our a second little eaglet in the nest.  As Alexandra and Sasha stealthily watched, it looked to them that their eaglets were growing exponentially. They seemed to be noticeably bigger every day. Within three weeks, they looked about a foot tall!

 Then in early one morning September Alexandra was standing on the deck, dreaming, meditating, and watching over her family of eagles. It looked like both adults were off hunting for breakfast. As she watched, one of the young eaglets stretched her wings. Alexandra held her breath. She and Sasha had done enough reading to know that 40% of eagles do not survive their first flight. She held her breath and watched. The young eagle opened her wings and soared out of the nest. She soared off to the west, circled around back to the nest, overshot it, and it felt to Alexandra like the eaglet was headed directly toward her. She could see those massive talons, the beak was getting huger by the second. And yet, Alexandra stood transfixed, somehow connected to this massive, magnificent bird whose growth she had witness each day. As the bird came ever closer, Alexandra could see its eyes. For one moment they looked each other squarely in the eye. Eye to eye, heart beat to heart beat, time stood still for an instant. They were held in time and space, transfixed.

 Before Alexandra could exhale, the eagle soared up and away and returned to the nest. Alexandra heard Sasha come onto the deck. Sasha looked at her, saw the awe writing on Alexandra’s face, and the tears in her eyes, and she waited. Alexandra turned and looked at Sasha, smiled, hugged the love of her life, and sighed. She knew that moment had touched and changed her life. And she knew she would never have the words to describe it. As she smiled, she felt her heart open and her spirit soar. And there was peace in their place of heaven on the Delaware River.

 Peace, love and justice visited the home of Alexandra and Sasha as they learned to bear witness and listen. Their eagles taught Alexandra and Sasha to be present to life as it presented itself to them. Over the season of the eagles they learned to love life fully with open hearts and wise minds as they watched and read. In the quiet of their home their love grew. In the public spaces of their lives that love quickened into the ways of justice.

Give Yourself to Love: a tribute to Kate Wolf

No big story this week, just a short story about a life, maybe an average kind of normal life, but a special life none the less: a tribute. This is a tribute to Kate Wolf. For no particular reason other than I found myself remembering Kate Wolf and thought you might want to know her , celebrate her, remember her too. So, here are some extracted elements of a Kate Wolf Biography, originally written by Max Wolf and Jamie Keller in the Kate Wolf Songbook (© 1987 Owl Productions) … go check her out! http://www.katewolf.com/archive/biography/index.htm

Kate Wolf was in San Francisco on January 27, 1942. She died far too early at the age of 44 on December 10, 1986 from complications of leukemia.  She was strongly influenced by the music that wove its way through her life. She loved the Weavers, Rosemary Clooney, and Dylan and the Beatles, the Kingston Trio, Merle Haggard and Lefty Frizell, and Hank Williams.

To say that she was an American folk singer and songwriter is just to skim the surface of her life, but those were important contributions that she made to her world, contributions that continue their resonance in our world. Many musicians continue to cover her songs. Some of her best-known compositions include “Here in California,” “Love Still Remains,” “Across the Great Divide,” “Unfinished Life,” and “Give Yourself to Love.” Her songs have since been recorded by artists such as Nanci Griffith and Emmylou Harris

Kate once said: “I live for a sense of a feeling of purposefulness in this world, you know, that I could stop my life at any point and feel that my life has been worthwhile; that the people I’ve loved and my children have all reached a point where their lives are now going to come to fruit. And as far as something I live by, it’s to try to be as alive as possible and feel free to make my mistakes and try to be as honest as I can with myself.”

Give yourself to love is my favorite Kate Wolf song:

 

Give Yourself to Love – Kate Wolf

 

Kind friends all gathered ’round, there’s something I would say

What brings us together here has blessed us all today

Love has made a circle, that holds us all inside

When strangers are as family, Loneliness can’t hide

chorus:

You must give yourself to love if love is what you’re after

Open up your hearts, to the tears and laughter

And give yourself to love, give yourself to love

 

I’ve walked these mountains in the rain I’ve learned to love the wind

I’ve been up before the sunrise to watch the day begin

I always knew I’d find you though I never did know how

Like sunshine on a cloudy day you stand before me now.

 

Love is born in fire; It’s planted like a seed

Love can’t give you everything, but it gives you what you need

Love comes when you are ready; love comes when you’re afraid

It will be your greatest teacher, the best friend you have made

 

Thinking about Kate always reminds me that 1) we never know how long we have; 2) we can always do something with the time we have; 3) to give myself to love, to open my heart, that love is really, ultimately all there is.

 Give yourself to love! Enjoy the alchemy of laughter and tears that will ensue. Love will find a way to respect for dignity and fairness. Love is the way. Give yourself to love!

Would you work in the mines for your brother? Albrecht Dürer and the Praying Hands

The Praying Hands is one of the more widely reproduced art works. Many people who are not aficionados of art and who don’t know who is responsible for the work could still describe the picture. There is an interesting apocryphal, mythological story about the image and the artist, some credit the telling of the tale to Og Mandino; Og credits Rabbi Louis Binstock for the story. Here is my version:

Albrecht Dürer is the German artist who drew the praying hands, probably around 1508.  Mythology has it that Albrecht and his twin brother Alexander were a pair among 15 siblings. Albrecht’s father was a hardworking goldsmith who took on any additional work that he could find to keep food on the table for his large family. Early on Albrecht and Alexander both showed considerable artistic skill. But early on it was clear that their poor struggling father would never be able to afford to send either of them to the academy to study art. The family barely had the ability to keep food on the table.

But their father recognized his children’s abilities. One Sunday, after church services and the noon mean, their father summoned Albrecht and Alexander and set out a plan. He proposed that they would toss a coin. The winner of the toss would be trained in painting and would have the opportunity to develop his artistic skills. The other would stay at home, take a job in the mines, and would support his brother’s education and apprenticeship. The boys thought about it for some minutes, looked at each other, and then both nodded in agreement even as they both exhaled a breath of hope and anticipation.

Alexander called heads, Albrecht took tails. Their father flipped the coin. It swirled high into the room, twirling for interminable seconds as it wound its way downward. They let it land on the floor, where it spun on its edge for seconds more before it finally came to rest, with the tail side up. Albrecht looked at his brother with tears in his eye, and promised to hone his skill to excellence. Alexander took his brother’s hands, squared his own shoulders, and promised to work diligently. “Come back to us, Albrecht, I will be waiting.”

Shortly Albrecht set off for Nuremberg, and Alexander went into the mines and worked to finance his brother’s study. Albrecht learned quickly, and very soon his work surpassed that of his teachers. His sketches, woodcuts, and oil paintings quickly became a sensation, and he was soon collecting commissions and earning considerable fees for his works.

As he concluded his studies, Albrecht returned home, and the Dürer family celebrated his return with a feast. They had roasted meats, and stewed vegetables, and freshly baked breads. There was much banter and laughter among the siblings. All were delighted to see Albrecht after his years away. And Albrecht was delighted to be home again among his much loved family. As the meal neared completion, Albrecht lifted his goblet, and proposed a toast to his brother, Alexander. Albrecht stuttered and stumbled over his words as he tried to express the depths of his gratitude. And then his stood a bit straighter, squared his shoulders, and pledged, “And now, Alexander, it is my turn. Now you shall journey to Nuremberg and begin your studies in earnest. And I will support you with the commissions of my work.”

Tears flowed down Alexander’s face as he shook his head. “No, Albrecht. It is too late for me. My dear brother, look at my hands. Every finger had been broken in the mines. My right hand pains me so badly that I cannot even hold a glass in it to return your toast. To hold a pen or a brush, to draw delicate lines on parchment or canvas, these are beyond me now. My brother, the inspiration and the art must flow through you. For me it is too late.”

When Albrecht looked at his brother’s hands, he too wept. He knew the debt that he owed his brother could never be repaid. In tribute to his brother, he meticulously drew his brother’s hands as he remembered them before the mines, palms together, fingers pointing to heaven, a simple, powerful tribute to love. Albrecht simple called this work “hands” but it quickly came to be known as “the praying hands.”

Over 500 years have passes since Albrecht Dürer’s painted “the praying hands.”  His paintings, sketches, woodcuts and copper engravings are in museums across the world. Nothing is known of Alexander’s life. But if it were not for the generosity of Alexander’s heart, Albrecht might never have become the artist he was. This story reminds us that no matter who we are, no matter how unique and powerful our gifts and skills might be, still sooner or later, we all need help. We all need someone who believes in us. We are all but threads in Indra’s Web . . .

No man is an island. Indeed, it does take a village. It is inspiring to look at Albrecht’s work, and to appreciate Alexander’s sacrifice. But, it is not so easy to stand in Alexander’s shoes and to see Albrecht’s life. And yet, there may well be inspiration to be found  from Alexander’s standpoint as well.

As I think about this story I find myself resonating first with the ‘working in the mines’ element, as I think about my own family. I grew up in Northeast Pennsylvania where anthracite strip mining was the primary source of employment for my grandparent’s and my parent’s generations. There are family stories of one of the mine shafts flooding, my uncle being in the mine wearing the new boots that he bought just the day before. As the tunnel started to take on flood waters the floor turned to muck — serious quicksand like muck — and he and his boots began to sink into the muck and stick. He was bending to unlace his boots to get a better grip on pulling them out of the muck, even as he sank deeper into the muck and the water lever began to rise. Two of his buddies grabbed him by the arms and carried him out of the mine kicking and screaming that he would make them pay for the boots they were forcing him to abandon – penny wise and pound foolish? and gratitude? Hmm. Well, and then the story about my father refusing to work in the mines, rather he enlisted in the army. My dad choose fighting in World War II rather than work in the mines. That kind of gives me a bit of a sense of what working in the mines must have been like – more dangerous than a war. And Alexander willingly agreed to work in the mines for his brother.

Bask in the love between brothers for a bit, and then since I really do intend for the blog to eventually come around to alchemy for justice,  think for a few minutes too if you will … Do you think this was an ethical plan? Why is it that we recognize and remember the brother who benefited from the love but not the one who made the sacrifice? What would render these actions ethical or unethical? Did Alexander really have the freedom to say ‘no’? If justice is fairness, what would be justice/fairness for Alexander? From Albrecht?  What would you have done in this situation – if you were the father? If you were Albrecht? If you were Alexander? Who would you go to the mines to support?