Saturday, December 27, 2008

Two Buttons, Frenchtown, New Jersey

Today I ventured to "Two Buttons" in Frenchtown, New Jersey owned by Jose Nunes and Elizabeth Gilbert (of "Eat, Pray, Love" fame). Jose and Liz gather exotic treasures from their travels all around the world. When I walked in the door, Jose cordially greeted me with my choice of wine or hot chocolate (hot chocolate!). I was in awe of the amazing display of beautiful statues, scarves, purses, jewelry, wall hangings, Tibetan singing bowls and more. After I made my selections, I wandered to nearby Frenchtown and had lunch at the Bridge Cafe overlooking the foggy banks of the Delaware River.

A 6000 pound white marble Buddha meditates inside the doorway.

Shiva Nataraj dances creation and destruction, and stamps away the demon of ignorance.

Nandi, the bull which is Lord Shiva's faithful companion, looks on.

A yellow lion from Bali swings from the ceiling.

A face of calm composure

Beautiful colors are everywhere.

Gold lions and vases

Circumcision ponies (don't ask)

Lord Buddha in a gesture of compassion

Thai greeting ladies

A welcoming gesture

A serene Buddha

Beautiful golden Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and a Tibetan Singing Bowl

The witch Rangda from Bali

She is battled by Barong, king of spirits and leader of the hosts of goodness. His picture turned out a little blurry in the low light, but I simply had to include him for balance!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Uploaded on September 11, 2007 by hickory hardscrabble licensed under Creative Commons

Merry Christmas everyone! I love the sights and sounds and smells of Christmas, the lights, the carols, the scent of cinnamon and pine. I love the companionship of family and friends in the celebration of this joyous season.

It has become somewhat of a personal tradition to read the Papal Peace Message every Christmas. This year, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI chose to reflect on Fighting Poverty To Build Peace.

In this year's message the Holy Father addresses marginalization, moral and spiritual poverty, pandemic diseases, child poverty, disarmament and development, the current food crisis, global solidarity and the sense of human family, an ethical approach to economics, and justice. Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that all poverty "has at its root a lack of respect for the transcendent dignity of the human person". He urges us to recognize that "we all share in a single divine plan: we are called to form one family in which all - individuals, peoples and nations - model their behaviour according to the principles of fraternity and responsibility".

May you have a joyous and peaceful Christmas and may we all help to realize the vision of a united human family filled with respect for the inherent value and station of all people. Merry Christmas!

Full text of "Fighting Poverty to Build Peace" by Pope Benedict XVI here

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

It's Christmastime in the City

Today I spent some time enjoying the sites and sounds of Philadelphia during Christmastime. First we walked in charming Manayunk where I bought scarves from India and Nepal and music from Peru and Zimbabwe. For sustenance before braving the cold weather, we had a wonderful Thai lunch.

The Pad Thai from Chabaa Thai in Manayunk. It tasted as wonderful as it looks.

We went to Fairmount Park, but only stayed for a little bit because it was freezing!

Rittenhouse Square Christmas tree

Close up of Rittenhouse Square Christmas tree

City Hall

Lights downtown

Another beautiful tree

Red and white Christmas display

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Seizing the Opportunity: Redefining the Challenge of Climate Change

The United Nations Climate Change conference held in Poland concluded on December 12 with a commitment from participating governments to formulate a global and effective response to climate change. The Baha'i International Community issued a statement titled "Seizing the Opportunity: Redefining the Challenge of Climate Change". I have summarized the main points below, but I would encourage you to read the entire text of this powerful document.

According to the statement, the challenge of the destructive impact of global warming has also brought with it tremendous opportunity: "It is the opportunity to take the next step in the transition from a state-centered mode of interacting on the world stage to one rooted in the unity which connects us as the inhabitants of one biosphere, the citizens of one world and the members of one human civilization."

A need for new means to finding solutions is clear and calls for approaches based on justice and equity. Ethical questions include: Who is responsible for consequences of climate change? How do we determine target levels of greenhouse gas emissions? How can we maintain fairness in decision making? Our challenge is not only technical but moral, and we must transform our thoughts and behaviors to create economic and social structures which benefit all people.

The Baha'i International Community proposes that "the principle of the oneness of humankind must become the ruling principle of international life." This is more than a call for cooperation, it requires a remolding of unjust patterns of human interaction that "reflects the relationships that bind us as members of one human race."

In order to respond to climate change, profound changes are required from individuals, communities, and nations, along with progress in science, technology, economics, and policy. The statement then addresses some of the changes required.

On the individual level "a fundamental component of resolving the climate change challenge will be the cultivation of values, attitudes and skills that give rise to just and sustainable patterns of human interaction with the environment." It is critical to engage children and youth in this process, because during this time new ways of thinking and habits can be cultivated. In fact, principles and practices of sustainable development must be incorporated into all aspects of education and learning. More than just an abstract exercise, youth must be given concrete skills which will enable them to translate awareness into action. Public service should be an integral part of curricula, thereby encouraging students to "to initiate projects, to inspire action, to engage in collective decision-making and to cultivate their sense of dignity and self-worth." Individual progress must be linked with service to the community.

On the community level we must provide a setting which encourages peaceful decision making and channeling individual capabilities into action. The gender dimension of climate change cannot be ignored. Scarcity of resources usually impacts women more, but we must not forget that women are a source of untapped potential in meeting our challenges because of their role and responsibilities in families and communities and as stewards of natural resources. Our solutions must include and encourage the participation of women in all areas of human endeavor.

Religious communities also have an important role to play because of their capacity to mobilize public opinion and their reach to all corners of the globe. Indeed, faith communities are already lending their voice and efforts to mitigating the effects of climate change by educating their members, providing a scriptural basis for action, and leading and participating in environmental activities. We must encourage an increasing conversation between science and religion because both are needed to direct human energies to a solution. Science provides an objective and systematic approach to the problem, and religion can motivate action for the common good. We must examine religious doctrines: those which encourage social exclusion, passivity, and gender inequality will fail to inspire solutions, while qualities of "justice, compassion, trustworthiness, humility and generosity" will be urgently needed.

At the national and international level our perspective "must now evolve to reflect the essential connectedness and common fate of humanity that for too long has struggled against a worldview that emphasized sovereignty, ascendancy and competition". We need a shift in consciousness towards a realization of global solidarity inspiring the full cooperation of all nations, each according to their capacity. Developed nations need to commit to significant emission reductions and developing nations must transition to cleaner development pathways.

If we follow these suggestions, not only will we effectively respond to the climate change crisis, but we will usher in a new paradigm of an interconnected world and a true realization of our membership in one human race.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Baby It's Cold Outside!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Geocaching in the Poconos on a Very Cold Day

Today we went hiking and geocaching in the Cresco Heights region of the Poconos on state gamelands. The temperature was in the low thirties, but I had on many layers and we had some uphill hiking, so as long as we stayed out of the wind and kept moving it was surprisingly comfortable. By the end of the day, however, the weather was quite brisk and we were happy to complete our last find. We successfully found three geocaches today!

On our way to the trail we stopped to say hello to some curious friends.

Actually, there was a reason they were so friendly.

My new found friends

Heading to the top of the trail

Vista and view of the Delaware Water Gap. We saw snow falling in the distance.

All bundled up and on the mountain top

Our first find! We left green beads and a mini flashlight, and took a golf ball and a Buck Hill Falls key chain. There was also a disposable digital camera, we took our photo for posterity.

Our second geocache of the day! There was only room for a scrolled piece of paper where we put our "geocache nicknames".

Now the day was getting a lot colder. Our fingers were frozen. This geocache took us to a beautiful view of a stream with some rhododendron.

Third geocache taken out of its hiding place. We left a poker chip and some blue beads, and took a toy dinosaur.

We hiked down to the stream.

While driving out we saw a flock of wild turkeys. There were many more than this, probably about fifteen or twenty, but turkeys move fast!!!!

The three geocaches we found were GC1F8J9 Mountaintop Oven , GC1HNQ1 The BKW Rock , and GC1HNPM Devil's Soup.

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