Labor Day 2020


Please allow me to share a few thoughts on a delicate subject on this cloudy and cool morning in Detroit, a city that for many reasons, prides itself in being a blue collar, factory town.  It seems that the population here has been convinced that laboring for the aristocracy is a good thing.  That sacrificing time, energy, and health for the benefit of those who see you as a commodity, is an heroic endeavor.

Today is Labor Day in America.  It is the one day out of every 365 days that we stop and celebrate the achievements of the individuals who make things happen.  If this seems a bit out of balance, a bit unfair, a bit condescending, then we have at least something in common.

We live in a country that is afflicted with an extreme case of OCD.  We are constantly reminded of tragedy and called to “Never Forget.”  In 4 days we will again hear that very mantra on the 19th anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center.  Today we will be deluged with online reminders, television clips, and every other media to “never forget” the front line workers who are saving innocent victims of the current pandemic.

Let us consider why we are deliberately herded into this thought process to never forget these catastrophic American events, and why they happened.  In doing so perhaps it is good to realize that instead of bringing the population together as one force to overcome the disaster, these events have divided the citizens of the USA into two opposing war camps.  Distrustful and antagonistic toward one another, the country is literally divided in half, politically, philosophically, economically, and otherwise. 

So, what is it that we are not forgetting?  Are we to remember that the administration in 2001 was forewarned of an impending attack and did nothing to avoid it.  Are we to remember that the current administration dissolved the facilities designed to protect the people from pandemic and then grossly mismanaged the response?

It seems, on the occasions requiring wisdom and strength, we are called to focus on individuals, and faces of hate and fear.

It is good that we focus our appreciation on the firefighters, the medics, and the heroic individuals who save lives and relieve suffering at the cost of their own safety.

Let us “never forget” why their services are required in the first place.

And, while we are never forgetting, perhaps it would serve us to recall what life was like for the factory workers, the farm workers, the coal miners, teachers, journalists, and laborers, before they were unionized.  Perhaps we should not forget the violence and murder perpetrated against them by the corporate mercenaries, that accompanied their efforts to bring forth fair wages and safe working conditions.  And, while we are remembering all of this, let us understand that it is possible to fall back into those same traps.

Like many Americans, I have worked like a dog for others, I have owned my own successful business, I have now retired into my art.  At every point, I have been forced into competition, that is an unavoidable reality in all of nature.

I suggest that while we are celebrating Labor Day this year that we stop for a moment to reflect on the worth and the value of the work that is performed all around us.  That we reward the workers, acknowledging  those who have devoted their time and discipline to education and experience, those who feed our intelligence instead of feeding upon our emotion, that we may hold them in the highest regards, as we do our athletes, actors, talking heads, and country music luminaries.

It is not necessary to deny anyone the opportunity for success.  There is more than enough treasure and resource in this great country and in this beautiful world, so that every person might enjoy a share.  Work does not have to be torture, it is not meant to be synonymous with misery. Any task is easier when we all work together.

A Dream That Never Dies – John Lewis and Elijah Cummings


With the death of John Lewis last night, and Elijah Cummings last October, the United States House of Representatives, and therefore, the federal government, has been gutted of progressive civil rights activists who were there when the fire hoses, police dogs, and billy clubs were the tools of the trade employed by establishment white supremicists who figured they could supress the freedom of fellow humans with fear, violence, pain, and death.

These men proved to the country and the world that this was not the case. Many were injured, many were murdered, people of color, and all who marched and protested injustice were targeted and attacked in any way possible. The attempt to annihilate a movement and a population, to replicate the cruelty inflicted upon indigenous tribes 100 years earlier, was an impossible endeavor.

These two, and others like them, peacefully moved forth through the blood soaked streets, marching and singing and celebrating their freedom and their humanity until their last day. They became educated, experienced, and effective in the eternal class struggle that has plagued the world from the beginning of civilization.

Every living creature will eventually cease to exist. We will all be dead sooner or later. What we do while we are breathing is how we will be remembered by history and by our own karma.

How we interact with others, our work ethic, our seeking of knowledge, our compassion for the suffering, our struggle for freedom, will determine our heroism.

We mourn and honor those who have come and gone before us.
Let it not depress and paralyze us. Let us not dwell in sorrow and apathy, for our time is short here. Let us rise up as a new nation in honor of those who wished the best for us, and spent their lives employed in that cause.

Today we are re-engaged in a street fight with the government pledged to protect its citizens. Instead, it conspires to create fear, hatred, distrust, and inevitable destruction among us.

Let us not be hypocrites crying alligator tears for those who had the will and the courage to confront and defeat the forces of oppression. If we truly care, and clearly understand what they stood tall for, and stood strong against, then it is our responsibility to accept the challenges of carrying on within our own nature and our personal capacity. It will be either that, or descend into a dark age of “domination.”

The families, the nation, the world, will continue to lose great men and women. It is our obligation as survivors, to accept our inheritance, and to step into the void left in their space.

Blessings be upon their souls, and Peace to all who read this //oo\\

Sunny and the Deity


Yesterday at the breakfast table, after Cheerios & coffee, Sheila must have noticed a far away look in my eyes.  She asked me where I was.  She was right, I had been adrift for a few moments.  My thoughts were involved in the communion with the diety.  Last week I planted a row of sunflower seeds.  These were not ordinary sunflower seeds.  They were seeds that I had taken from one of the flowers that I had grown two years ago.  I kept them in a coffee container in the garage for that time.  The flower that they were pulled from was my favorite flower at the time, I named it Sunny.  It gave me great pleasure.  I kept it clean and nourished.  It lived a good life for its season and then it shriveled and died.  I did not require it to do anything.  It did not have to pray, it did not have to ask for forgiveness, all it ever had to do was exist, within the nature that it was born to.  I had the power of life and death over Sunny.  I picked it, and planted it, and watered it, and actually petted and talked to it.  Im not sure if it understood my words, but I am certain that it understood my intent.  In the end, it offered its seed back to me as a sacrifice to keep the circle of life revolving.  I kept my covenant. 

What I was contemplating at breakfast was the similarity between my experience with the sunflower, and my experience with my diety.  It is written in the holy books that God is personally involved in our lives.  I dont visualize God as the human father figure who spends eternity answering billions of prayers.  I see myself as Sunny.  I have been granted a beautiful garden in which to live.  I have all the water, sunlight, and nourishment I need to live a great life.  In that way, I am perfectly cared for.  I have been given memory, imagination, and forethought, not as weapons, but as tools to employ and mobilize progress and growth.  In return, all I need to do is exist in my own human nature.  It is not necessary for me to sacrifice other lives, or suffer pain, or allow my heart to be filled with guilt, regret, grief, anxiety, sorrow, in order to appease my creator who created me for its pleasure, as I did with Sunny. 

So, let us now plant the seeds that are harvested from education, nourishment, protection, peace, humility, mercy, generosity, harmony, and love.  Then let our creation give us the happiness and pleasure that surrounds us in the garden that we grow in unison and communion with all living beings. 

sunny the sunflower

Four Room Life


There must come a time in each person’s life when they stop the world to view this realm from a distance. In a field of vision that separates us into parts while at the same time it dissolves us into one. This time of isolation is a joy for some of us. It provides the necessary opportunity for review, for assessment, for recognition of where we live. I have come the the realization that I live in a home with four pillars that support the four rooms that I inhabit. The first room is Imagination – where I go to communicate, where I go to invent the future, and to create what is not. The second room is Conscience – where I go to identify, where I go to describe, where I go to judge all that I encounter, including myself. The third room is Will – where I go to employ callings, compulsions, obsessions, desires, fulfillments, enlightenments, and the gifts of virtue. The fourth room is Memory – where I am educated, where I recall that which is both real and unreal in languages that only I might understand. In these four rooms, I have always dwelt. Like each of you I live in a world of my own creation, although I did not create myself.
What I know is that I am here. I do not know what I am or where “here” is. When I am no longer here, each of you will remember a different “Joe”, depending on what we have experienced together. The world that I inhabit will end, and the “You” that I know will no longer exist. Now, let us all now walk out onto the balcony of our universe to sing in harmony, a loud and loving vibration that will echo for eternity.human brain

Crowning Glory


crown 3 15 2020Did you ever wonder how you were going to die? I bet you did.  As far back in my memory as I can go, I have visited my place of death.  I know that I will be alone.  I know that I will have long hair.  I will be fearless.  As much as we may want to deny it, we are all going to walk off of that same cliff.

It is now the case that whatever I experience, whatever I see, whatever I hear, I imagine that this is the last time I will be doing it, in this life.  

I could never imagine the cause of my own death.  I never thought it would be fire, drowning, plane crash, car wreck, or known disease.  I gave some thought to murder, but it never truly sank in.  

I have realized that in nature, there are two motivations that take up almost all concerns and activities.  One being food, the other being reproduction.  One creature must cease to exist in order for another to thrive.  It is the answer to the great question, “why are we here?”  It is to eat and to reproduce.  Thought, meditation, music, spiritual communion, love, are secondary and ultimately the servants of the primary two. 

The mother Wildebeest fights ferociously to save her calf against the hyenas, until overwhelmed and exhausted, she watches helplessly, the devouring of her offspring, and then turns and walks away.

When the Orca spots a baby sea lion on the surface of the water, it sees only dinner, as we might see a take out meal from a drive through restaurant.  There is no guilt, no mercy, in nature.  Those are supernatural burdens with designs on those who harbor evil intent and destructive, deceitful personalities. 

Tonight we are faced with anxiety and calamity.  We do not know its source or its destination.  It is moving through the population like the unnatural wildfires that incinerate all things in their wake.  

It is both a challenge and a measure of our species.  A measure of our intelligence.  That gift which provides us the capacity to affect realities far from our personal realm of influence.  That gift which encourages us to practice charity and compassion.  Yet it is a challenge not to freefall into the lower depths of our imaginations where horror and violence are the norm.

Perhaps I could not identify the cause of my own death because it did not yet exist.  Perhaps now it does.  Time will answer that question.

All things come to a certain end.  The acknowledgement of that undeniable truth is one of the uniquely human characteristics.  The more important question to ask now is whether or not we have caught sight of the exinction of another great species.  Our own.


On The Night Before


… Brothers & Sisters … Can i tell you a story?

Its about truth & life and its about me and the world that has called me forth.

When I was young and living in Detroit, I was prone to chronic earaches. they would last for several days and they would be excruciatingly painful. I cried and gritted my teeth and rolled in bed with the pillow under my head and then over my head as they were especially devastating at night. i learned at a young age how to go without sleep and how to project out of my body in order to survive. i didnt know what i was doing, i just knew that “the other place” was pain free.

on one particular night when i was 11 years old, i was in the middle of a very painful night when the tears and silent cries for mercy had given way to the comforting embrace of “mother sleep”, i was awakened by the sound of the loudest explosion i had ever heard. i woke up in the darkness of my bedroom, my brother john sleeping in the twin bed on the other side of the room. i was sure that the house was on fire or worse. i cried out for my mother a number of times, i couldnt understand why nobody was rushing in to save us. finally my mother opened the door and said “whats the matter, jojo?” i said “what was that loud banging noise?” she told me that she had heard nothing and that i probably had a dream. then she came over to tuck me back in. she asked me what that wet spot was on my pillow and pajamas and i told her i didnt know. when she turned on the bedroom light, she looked at me and gasped. my pillow and my pajamas were covered with blood! i freaked out and started crying and she just held me and changed my clothes. she called the doctor and made an appt for the next day.

it turned out that the ear infection that i had been harboring, had finally erupted in my head and that was the explosion i heard in my sleep.

the next day at the doctors office he showed me a needle about 12″ long and told me that if the infection hadnt burst when it did, that he would have used that needle to go into my ear and burst it himself. i hated the sight of him and never saw his face again.

i was told not to go to school for the rest of the week and to stay on the sofa and rest. while i was resting, my father bought me books to read, and puzzles to play, and a lot of cool stuff to do. on the next afternoon i was reading one of those books titled ‘the moon’. as i was reading, there was a strange sound coming from my brand new little green transistor radio. the dj was screaming “the beatles are coming – the beatles are coming” in perfect paul revere fashion. i had no idea what he was talking about. it was at that instant that i first head the opening chords to ‘i want to hold your hand’. it was a moment that without prior warning, became unforgettable. i turned the radio up full blast. when it was over, i just laid my head down and wondered what it was. i couldnt wait to hear it again. i didnt know what they looked like, nothing. just the sound of that one song ringing in my wounded ear.

when i look back on this, i see it as a series of events that were inevitable. i see the ear explosion as a clearing out of the muffled noise that had become so familiar. i see it as a blowing away of the old sounds that were to become instantly obsolete the next day. i see it as a somewhat frightening bloodletting for my parents who had no idea how this music and this band would influence my life and theirs in the years to follow.

john lennon wrote “was she told when she was young that pain would lead to pleasure”.

my threshold for pain is extremely high.

my appreciation of pleasure equally powerful.

thanks to my ears

and special thanks to the beatles …


Regarding this day in the light of the assassination of Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr …


joe sheila antiqueSo much has been written, so much said about Dr King, when he was alive and since his death. Many of us were young on that day, for many of us it is a day marked only in the history books. My intention today is not to write about the work, the struggle, the pain endured as an age old national way of life was violently torn from its foundation in the 1960s, but rather, how we have responded to it in the current political and religious climate. “all men are created equal” is a powerful statement sewn into the fabric of our origins. While that may be true, it would be impossible to add “all men are treated equal” to that document. So we ask, what good is creation if it is not nurtured and allowed to grow and prosper? It is said that the USA is founded upon Judeo Christian principles that include the 10 commandments and the teachings of Christ. In the Torah we are told that the planet and all that it includes is our responsibility to care for. Jesus told us to love one another as we love ourselves. With that, we are called to be cautious of self destructive actions. When we review the commandments, the beatitudes, the parables, we see a clear explanation of Dr King’s mission. We see a clear explanation of the utopia that the founders of this nation envisioned, but did not exercise. Therefore, that vision was left to future generations who were obliged to fight the destructive forces of slavery, poverty, prejudice, hate, social divisions of every kind. That is where we come into the picture. It is well and good to remember the heroic men and women who were courageous and wise enough to defy those destructive forces. It is good to celebrate those lives and those lives lost in that struggle. But it does no good to gather and sing and cry and eat cake and shake hands and tell one another how radical and revolutionary we are, and then go home complaining, and forgetting, and putting off until tomorrow, what could have been done yesterday and celebrated today.

So while we look back upon the history of our heroes and our prophets and our mystics, let us not use our time lamenting, but rather planning and creating a new history for our legacy. Let us become the ancestors that our spawn will write about and celebrate 100 years from now, knowing that we were part of the liberation of humanity from the oppression and division of lies. Let us find our own wisdom and bravery in the silence of our hearts and minds and in the faces of our brothers & sisters everywhere to make that dream a reality that all men are not only created, but at long last treated, equally … Blessings upon all people …