Month: February 2022

Their turn

Using “We” in its most generous sense, with great humility (since I wasn’t at Independence Hall, Valley Forge, Gettysburg, Normandy or the Edmund Pettus Bridge), I dare say:”We inspired them.”

Ukraine brings new honor to Democracy. Using “Us” in its most inclusive sense (i.e., every freedom-loving or freedom-seeking soul), I say with respect and gratitude: It’s their turn to inspire us.

Many of Putin’s troops surely agree with anti-war demonstrations back home as they encounter Ukrainian bravery, which echoes timeless themes from Kennedy’s 1961 Inaugural Address, including:

Now the trumpet summons us again–not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need–not as a call to battle, though embattled we are– but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation”–a struggle against … tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself.

From “Ukrainians Fight Like Greeks: French Historian Glorifies Bravery of Underdogs,” by Tasos Kokkinidis, Greek Reporter, February 26, 2022


From “Flag of Ukraine” (first adopted in 1848), by Whitney Smith and Lubomyr A. Hajda, Britannica

“A Prayer for Volodymyr Zelensky,” by Franklin Foer, The Atlantic, February 26, 2022, 11:38 AM ET

Worse Than a Crime; It’s a Blunder,” by Harold Meyerson, Ryan Cooper, The American Prospect, February 25, 2022

Two articles provide a glimpse of some underlying cultural and religious issues: “Moscow Patriarch Kirill, Ukrainian Orthodox leaders issue calls for peace: Their characterizations of the conflict, however, are very different,” by Claire Giangravé, Jack Jenkins, Religion News Service, February 24, 2022; and “No, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow is Not Calling For Peace–In Fact, He’s Putin’s Accomplice,” by Katherine Keladis, Religion Dispatches, February 25, 2022

The authoritarian landscape

Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine calls me to (1) gain a basic understanding of Ukraine’s history and its current geopolitical context; (2) affirm solidarity with all victims of authoritarian rule as part of the fullness of loving relationships; and (3) engage in meaningful conversation about authoritarianism.

The words communist, fascist and nazi are weaponized by political leaders. Putin calls his action in Ukraine “denazification.” The word authoritarian can help us see beyond old labels. Authoritarianism is a growing global reality and this movement is making strong inroads in the United States.

The indiscriminate use of the word communist is confusing and destructive. Even worse is praise for Putin by Donald Trump and others, which is being broadcast in Russia. It must be confusing and disheartening for brave Russians who are protesting Putin’s aggression against Ukraine.

Anne Applebaum, Timothy Snyder, Heather Cox Richardson and Michael McFaul clarify the landscape.

From “McFaul: Attacks on Kyiv may be ‘turning point’ for Putin’s plan to rebuild Russian empire,” a 3-minute Lawrence O’Donnell interview with Michael McFaul on MSNBC, February 23, 2022 (linked above)

Niebuhr, McFaul and Putin

Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine is the focus of today’s weekly roundup. A 5-minute segment from yesterday’s Morning Joe on MSNBC included analysis from Richard Haass, Michael MdFaul and James Stavridis.

With deep emotion, McFaul described Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine: “It’s tragic. It’s irrational. It’s also evil. … There’s good and evil in the world, and this … will come back to haunt him. … It will come at a terrible price….” Madeleine Albright‘s February 23, 2022 New York Times guest essay, “Putin Is Making a Historic Mistake,” wrote: “Ukraine is entitled to its sovereignty, no matter who its neighbors happen to be. In the modern era, great countries accept that, and so must Mr. Putin. … It defines the difference between a world governed by the rule of law and one answerable to no rules at all.”

McFaul’s description of Putin’s action as an “act of evil” reminded me of Reinhold Niebuhr’s 1944 book, The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness. This moment challenges me to ask how we can discern right from wrong, healthy from unhealthy, and oppose injustice–while living into the fullness of loving relationships? I need to sleep on this one, and pick it up tomorrow.

From “Ukraine Isn’t the Only Target of Putin’s Aggression,” by Ian Kelly and David J. Kramer, The Bulwark, February 22, 2022

All night long

Son Rob invited me to read “The Nocturnals,” a 2/22/22 article in The Atlantic by Faith Hill. So, I’ve been humming Lionel Richie’s song, “All Night Long.”

Rob is nocturnal. We connect via email, text messages and (most days) for a 30-minute phone call around 7:30 to 8:30 pm, when his day begins and mine winds down. He always has been nocturnal. I tried to fix his circadian rhythm–just as some teachers tried to make my dad right-handed.

From Hill: “While most people are fast asleep, some … are going about their lives, reveling in the quiet and solitude. They challenge a core assumption of psychology: that all humans need social connection.”

“Social interaction among ancient humans (was) … mostly limited to relatively small extended-family groups ….” But, “communities … grew larger and more complex” and “in the industrial revolution … people flooded into cities to work in factories ….” This created more uniformity in daily rhythms.

“Many of the people I spoke with had felt trapped in contemporary life—depressed, on edge, and guilty for feeling that way in the first place. But then, each came to the realization: It doesn’t need to be this way. There’s already a time when the noise and chaos of society falls away. They just need to be awake for it.” Rob has helped me understand nocturnals’ challenges in our “9-to-5” world.

Faith Hill describes how, for a nocturnal person, “finding 24-hour businesses can feel like a jackpot”

Think big

Vladimir Putin believes resource-rich Ukraine is a territory stolen from Russia. Joe Biden (and most of the world) sees Ukraine as a nation with a long history apart from Russia. If Putin prevails in this fundamental debate, the Baltic states and the old Warsaw Pact could be next on his agenda. Earth’s authoritarians push me to think big. Much of our planet’s trouble is caused by our inability to find a shared perspective large enough to have productive conversations.

Friends Ernie and Stephen, both with scientific minds, made thoughtful comments about yesterday’s Hubble telescope post. The James Webb telescope will bring more dramatic insights about the Universe. My friends’ shared enthusiasm for what’s ahead offers me a perspective that simultaneously clarifies and makes strangely dim the trouble caused by earthlings’ small thinking.

A NASA webpage, “Webb Telescope & the Big Bang,” asks, “Can we see the Big Bang?” Here’s a teaser: “The Big Bang is a really misleading name for the expanding universe that we see. We see an infinite universe expanding into itself.” To this science neophyte, that’s pretty big. Refreshingly big!

This is NASA’s all sky picture of the infant universe created from nine years of data from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe.

A moment in time

While living in Huntsville in the late 1980s, two friends worked on NASA’s Hubble Telescope project. When the first microscopically flawed mirror had to be replaced, the disappointment was palpable. Repaired, after all these years, Hubble continues to help us understand the Universe.

I’m excited about the possible discoveries the new James Webb Telescope will provide, as we learn more about our cosmic neighborhood.

Recently, the 1440 Daily Digest included a story about a “swirling Galactic trio” captured by Hubble. As I sipped a cup of morning coffee, I read that the Hubble had photographed a “distant galaxy merger” which is (or was) “681 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Cancer.”

Light travels 186,282 miles per second. A light-year, the distance light travels in one Earth year, is about 6 trillion miles. I can’t “fathom” that distance, nor that length of time. It’s humbling and awesome to know that we, who are so small and fleeting, are part of something so big. Here’s a NASA article about the Hubble photo below.

Nature journaling

My friend Ernie Stokely, retired after a long career in biomedical engineering, recently tried his hand at “nature journaling,” which is taking a sketching journal into the field on hikes and drawing observations of animals and plants encountered on the outing. Watercoloring can be included.

Ernie takes pictures and does the art work “off line” once he gets home. A couple of days ago, Ernie was looking online at watercolor paints and pencils, and it occurred to him that nature journaling in 2022 is a retro hobby! He realized that his grandson is learning to create art with a digital tablet, using sophisticated software, while Ernie was buying pencils and paints!

It reminded him of people who dig out old turntables and 33 1/3 vinyl records from closets, attics and basements, while mountains of free music are readily available. Ernie asks, “Is it nostalgia, or is it a rediscovery and fascination with old technology by recent generations?”

Cornell’s ornithology videographer (yesterday’s post) and Ernie have turned my mind toward nature and the creativity it inspires. I asked Ernie to share a sketch or two. What inspires you?


The Jewish day begins at sundown with a mini-Sabbath, a time of celebration and rest. A meal, family time and rest are preparation for the workday. Sundown Friday ’til sundown Saturday is a day of Sabbath. Some Christians continue the tradition of Saturday Sabbath. The earliest Christians, virtually all Jewish, gathered in synagogues on Sabbath, then met in someone’s home on the first day of the week (Sunday), which came to be called “the Lord’s day.” Whatever one’s practice, Sabbath celebration and rest is a source of renewal and a time of harmony with the earth and earth’s creatures.

In that Sabbath spirit, I offer Rita Clagett’s 2/10/22 post, “Hargila,” from her Morning Rounds blog. It’s about the endangered greater adjutant stork, and the work of Dr. Purnima Devi Barman, a conservation biologist in Assam, India also known as “Stork Sister.” The local people in northeast India call the bird Hargila. Barman and her women’s conservation movement are known as the “Hargila Army.”

Adult Hargila and their chicks in a tree-top nest, from the video cited below

Hargila: A Story of Love and Conservation,” is a half-hour video by photographer Gerrit Vyn and videographer Andy Johnson of the Cornell University Ornithology Lab. “The film reveals the awkward beauty of these birds, which may have evolved as far back as 15 million years ago, as well as their present peril.” A 100-foot bamboo tower was built to capture images from tree-top Hargila nests. They followed the birds to their feeding ground (a garbage dump) 10-kilometers from their nesting area.

Hargila scavenge for meat carcasses and other food while humans scavenge for recycled goods to sell, from the video cited above


Pronouns (he, she, and they) help us talk about other people. Proverbs (wisdom sayings) help us live. What if we expanded this word to describe our most passionate, most true-to-self actions? In this sense, a proverb is more than an answer to the perfunctory question, “What do you do?” It answers “What are you into?” “What are you about?” “Who are you?”

Moses learned that nouns and pronouns are inadequate. The Nameless One is pro-verbal, more verb than noun, not static but active. We, too, are more verb than noun. We learn; we engage; we take action; we “connect the dots.” One discovery leads to another. This “learning chain” energizes me. My proverbs are discoverer, dot-connector. I love the proverb: “be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” What are your proverbs?

The photo below is from a January 11, 2022 International Institute for Management Development article by Arturo Bris, “Happy people, happy economy? Moving beyond GDP in measuring economic success,” Bris wrote, “Bhutan’s legal code of 1729 … stressed that Bhutanese laws must promote happiness for all sentient beings….” What actions flow from your happiest, most authentic self?