Monthly Archives: December 2015

Reflections on the Meaning of Christmas



I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.

~Charles Dickens~

What usually comes to mind as Christmas nears? Before we have a chance to think about it, ads bombard us from all directions, encouraging us to buy everything under the sun. We must wade through all the commercial trappings to get to the spiritual aspects of Christmas.

Christmas is about a birthday, that of Jesus. To some people, Jesus is the Son of God, part of the Trinity which constitutes God. To others, he was a good man who brought some new ideas about how to live peacefully with each other. To still others, Jesus is irrelevant to their daily lives.

Regardless of our beliefs, I think we can all agree that a baby named Jesus was born about 2000 years ago. The birth of any baby is truly a miracle. The study of embryology shows us the thousands of steps which must take place successfully in order for a fertilized egg to become a living, breathing baby.

If you know someone who has a baby and you visit the baby on two occasions a week apart, you will be amazed at the changes that have taken place between your two visits. The baby who once stared unresponsively learns to smile, roll over, wave, clap hands, stand and eventually communicate with you.

Holding a newborn baby brings us a sense of awe and a reverence for life rather than allowing us to take life for granted. It is a reminder of how far we have come since emerging from the womb. A baby’s innocence reminds us that we can look at things around us in a fresh way, no matter how jaded we have become over the years.

Babies hold great promise for the world. Alexander the Great, Churchill, Michelangelo, Mozart and Shakespeare all started out as babies. Who could tell, looking at any of them as babies, what their lives would hold? What do you think your parents imagined for you when you were born? If you have children, what did you imagine for them?

Sometimes we think we only have one chance in life. We feel trapped by how our parents raised us, how we have allowed ourselves to become mired down by our mistakes or by how others have treated us. We sometimes dwell on our physical or mental limitations or those imposed by poor health. Somehow, it seems easier to think about what we can’t do than about what we can do. I remember the story of a woman who had no arms but became an excellent office manager and private secretary using her toes. Sometimes our limitations point us toward our capabilities or ways of doing things.

What does all this have to do with Christmas? We have a chance to be reborn with Jesus, not just on Christmas but every day. What if we woke up tomorrow morning with none of the old thinking which keeps us from trying something new? What might we be able to do if we did not let our negative thinking hold us back?  Would you like to try it?


Life Lab Lessons

  • Remember your own birthday.
  • What dreams do you think your parents had for you?
  • What dreams did you have as a child?
  • Start a new phase of your life today.
  • Try to live in peace with everyone you meet.

From Commonsense Wisdom for Everyday Life

Sign up for free subscriptions to my post through Sliding Otter Publications

Where do human rights come from?

Online responses to my column last week were very interesting. News broke that the new Governor of Kentucky Matt Bevin, who was inaugurated into office last Tuesday, had announced his intention to issue an executive order to protect Kim Davis — the county clerk who was sent to jail for refusing to issue marrage licences to same-sex couples — and other conscientious objectors in that state. The development was hailed a political victory snatched from the jaws of judicial defeat.

Comments on the column ranged from encouraging and appreciative to questioning and condemnatory. No matter the comment, the result has been positive prompting, as it did, ongoing conversations about human rights. The discussion spilled over to social media and became quite philosophical with questions such as, “What are human rights?” and “Where do they come from?”

Excerpt from Helene Nicholson’s article in the Jamaica Observer- read more.

Where humanity lives, terror dies

Syrian Refugees

Why the US should accept Syrian refugees.

As the holidays approach, we remember the simple joys of giving to those less fortunate than ourselves. Millions of Syrians are fleeing their war-torn country in hopes of finding refuge in Europe. Families are being torn apart, parents killed, children sold into slavery and boys forced to become ISIS soldiers- these are just a few examples of how ISIS uses terror as a tool.

The attacks in Paris have left the world in mourning. As the leader in providing humanitarian aid, the U.S. has agreed to allow Syrian refugees into the country. However, the nation is split. Currently, 31 states do not allow refugees within their borders, for fear of subjecting its citizens to terrorist attacks. If we want to continue to have faith in humanity we must first show compassion towards those who wish to be seen and live as humans.

Excerpt from Brittany Yadao’s article in Ka Leo- Read more.

Myth, Religion and the Human Experience

looking out to sea

 A myth is essentially a guide; it tells us what we must do to live more richly.

 ~Karen Armstrong~

As early as people could communicate, they developed stories to explain their relationship with the world and cosmos beyond what they could see. They wondered at the divine mysteries in their surroundings, venerating them in their daily lives. From the beginning, people seemed to appreciate that there was something more beyond their experience of daily life.

With the development of communication, cultures developed stories which gave life and meaning to the mysteries which surrounded them. These are myths which date back in one form or another to the earliest civilizations. These days, we tend to think of myths as stories which are untrue. The original meaning was stories which put into words the larger context for human, animal and plant lives, indeed the lives of the earth and the universe. They were not meant as literal facts but as a reverent way to speak of our home and beyond.

The Koran and the Bible were both initially handed down through oral tradition and eventually published. This makes it difficult to know what was revealed as editions have changed over the years. Just one brief example. In current versions of the bible, the Angel Gabriel is said to have greeted Mary with the words, “Ave Maria”, or in English, “Hail Mary”. The Greek version which predated the Latin presents the angel’s greeting as “Kaire, kekaritomene” or “Rejoice, you have found favor.” Before that was the oral tradition in Aramaic.

Versions of religious stories appear to have changed over the centuries to reflect the civilization in which the great religions were practiced. We now take for granted, at least in the United States, separation of church and state which until several centuries ago was not even a consideration.

Since the industrial revolution, we have moved toward scientific explanation of everything in our world and away from a mythical explanation which took into account our values, emotions and personal experience of the world. Many religions have also taken the position that they are the one true religion and the others are of no account. God has not ruled on this debate, at least not yet.

The major religions have also suffered distortions of their teachings to justify inhuman treatment of each other. The crusades and inquisition are historical examples. The jihad which is geared toward killing random civilians is a more recent example.

When we return to the core teaching of all religions as originally intended to be followed, we find that the common denominator is to treat others as we would wish them to treat us. The challenge now is to return to the basics of our various religions or commonsense beliefs among people of no particular religion. We can treat each other with compassion although this requires us to release our hatreds, rivalries and competition with each other on a human level.

Life Lab Lessons

  • Decide how you would like to be treated by others.
  • Try treating others that way.
  • Be open to how others would like you to treat them.
  • Try acting in a way they would like you to act.
  • Be aware of the brotherhood and sisterhood of your fellow human beings.

For free email subscription to these posts, sign up at

End of an era


The column I have written for the Daily News in Batavia for the past fifteen years has been discontinued by the paper for reasons unknown to me. It does not appear that my column will be published there although I have been unable to talk with anyone for an explanation as to why. I wish I could at least have said goodbye to my readers after all these years but was not afforded this opportunity. I will continue to distribute my writing through my website, newsletter and social media.  If you know of anyone who would like to receive my writings in newsletter format through a free email subscription, this is available at Thanks for your help getting the word out.

Peace be with you.

Why We Love to Hate Villains, According to Science

It’s no lie that everyone loves a villain. Admit it, even if you don’t consciously love a Darth Vader or a Voldemort, the most evil villains of modern culture still fascinate us more than they repulse us. After all, they’re a very necessary contrast in movies and video games. What would Batman be without his Joker? Or Professor X without a Magneto?

But that’s not the only reason evil villains are so appealing. According to a new study in the journal Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, there’s a scientific reason we gravitate to bad guys: we desire what we don’t understand, even when it repulses us.

Excerpt from Zeynep Yanisey’s article in Maxim – Read more

Fear of refugees is unworthy of American ideals

The longstanding crisis of Syrian refugees fleeing the excruciating violence that has consumed their country collided in the streets of Paris with the security crisis posed by Islamist terrorists. No, that’s not quite right. None of the terrorists was a refugee. Nearly all, if not all, were French or Belgian nationals and some second-generation immigrants from the Mideast. It was not in the world of facts, but in the world of fears, that the two crises collided.

Excerpt from National Catholic Reporter Editorial- read more

The Holidays, Stress and Your Kids

Processed with VSCOcam with f1 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with f1 preset

The Holidays are a very stressful time because there’s so much going on! From gift buying to going to parties to hosting family get-togethers…Tensions can run really high!  So as parents, what can you do to manage things better for you and your kids? Child and family therapist Dr. Larry Curry was here with his advice.

Excerpt from Seth Gregory’s post and video from KDVR- Watch video

The Hard Work of Being a Family


There is no such thing as a perfect family. Behind every door there are issues.
The difference is accepting and encouraging each family member as they are,
not as we would like them to be.

~Catherine Pulsifer~

Are you at peace with everyone in your family? If so, congratulations! Be thankful for your family and for your ability to listen to each other and talk about your differences. No two people are the same.  Our values and perceptions are all at least a little different. It is inevitable that from time to time we will see things in a way which conflicts with the views of even those closest to us.

If you find yourself in conflict with an acquaintance, it might not trouble you. What that person feels or believes might not matter that much to you and you just go on your way. There are plenty of other people in the world. Disagreeing with a few of them is no big deal. What they think does not affect your daily life. You just let it go unless you are one of those people who think everyone must agree with you.

What about conflict with a family member? Did you grow up in a family where your parents were able to listen to each other, digest what they heard and respond lovingly? I have never met a family which approaches conflict in this way one hundred percent of the time, including my own. You might have been lucky enough to have had parents who handled most conflicts this way. If so, you most likely learned good ways to handle conflict most of the time.

You might have had parents who weren’t so good at managing conflicts. If you never saw good ways to handle difficulties as you grew up, you might find yourself at a loss for how to manage your own conflicts. There are a few ways to improve your ability to handle conflict. Here are a few suggestions you might want to try.

  • Find out what is important to the other person and why. Learn how he or she feels about the issue and why.
  • Next, think about what is important to you and make sure you understand your own feelings.
  • Look for areas of agreement. Share these with each other.
  • Share what you love and respect about each other.
  • Make sure you understand the other’s viewpoint.
  • Agree to hear and respect each other’s opinion even if you don’t agree with it.
  • Understanding might lesson the conflict but in the end you might need to accept each other as you both are.

Life Lab Lessons

  • Make sure you understand your own position and feelings about areas of conflict.
  • Get some help understanding yourself if you need it.
  • Do more listening than talking.
  • Try to understand your relative’s position and feelings.
  • Look for ways to support each other regardless of your differences.