A Man’s Success

“A Man’s Success” reflection by Mary E. Latela, March 6, 2017

Have you ever read something and it linked somehow to a memory or a saying that has touched your heart?  I read a piece today by my friend @AnneLParrish, about men who live “lives of quiet desperation,” and I recalled my Uncle Carl. He did not.

This was the kid brother: who was my first babysitter because Dad was away in the War, the man who married, fathered three strong, beautiful daughters, and kept on loving them, even after the divorce, who stayed with Grandma when she was failing so that she wouldn’t awaken during the night afraid. This is the man whose smile was beautiful, and he often smiled. This is the man who died too soon, of brain cancer, on a warm day in May.

When I first read the quote (attributed to R.W. Emerson), I thought of my uncle, and of others who did not worry as much about success as about offering a hand, a smile, an encouraging word.

“That man is a success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much;

Who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of children;

Who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;

Who leaves the world better than he found it, whether by an improved poppy or a perfect poem or a rescued soul; Who never lacked appreciation of earth’s beauty or failed to express it; Who looked for the best in others and gave the best he had.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson


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Freedom, Exercise of Rights

Civility in the Halls of Congress

Statement by Mary E Latela, Febuary 8, 2017

We who are engaged in the future of our nation are jolted by incidents like the silencing of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D, MA)   This was the hearing to meet with Jeffrey Sessions to be the next Attorney General of the United States in the Trump cabinet.

Senator Warren, whose direct and unapologetically honest view of the political aspect of our society can be surprising, was right on cue. She said she was going to read a message from Mrs. King, widow of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, and life-long activist for all citizens and the free and unencumbered practice of their rights.

The Republican Leader of the Senate, (McConnell, R) warned her in front of the assembly that she was “impugning the reputation of a member of that sainted body.” She asked for an exception, and was not granted an exception. She continued, and in the reading,  the sharp, true, heart-felt words of Mrs. King rang…. Until Ms. Warren was again interrupted. Mr. McConnell decided that she might not speak, nor was she to remain in the chamber.

I do not think people in general understand that when a group of honest folks stand up for the truth, they will not be deterred by setbacks. Senator Warren emerged as victor, because she dared to speak the words of Mrs. King in the Congressional setting. Mrs. King did not object.

Do you? Why? Or Why Not?

Comments are welcome.  

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The Harmful Effects of Disrespect

Reflection by Mary E. Latela, February 4, 2017

Based on statement from @jhalifax: (Roshi Joan Halifax) “I am concerned about what disrespect is doing to the fabric of our society; incivility is normalized & is eroding moral sensibilities.”

I decided to reflect on and write about disrespect from the perspective of what parents teach their kids, or Nanas teach their angelic grandchildren. I don’t encourage use of the Wiki from my adult students, but in this case the plain English is quite effective.

How to Be Respectful: Three Methods: Showing Basic Respect, Communicating Respectfully. Going Deeper, Community Q&A

When you want to be respectful, try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and behave in a way that shows you care. At its heart, being respectful means showing that you value other people’s perspectives, time and space.

Whether in the family or classroom setting or in the great halls of international forums, respect starts with showing kindness and courtesy. (Image, holding the door open for another person). Persons who are elderly are often disregarded, I supposed because they cannot work so many hours as they used to. (Image, grandma sitting with me on the back stairs where she taught me how to crochet.)

Treat others as you would want to be treated. Name-calling has saturated the media, TV, talk shows. In the tradition in which I was raised, the reminder is “You are fearfully and wonderfully made.”

2  Be polite. The concept of etiquette and good manners seems pointless when you’re a kid, but when you grow up you realize that these customs function as a way to keep society running smoothly. Small? but important points (image) don’t talk on your cell phone … everywhere, don’t cut in line, don’t cut people off in traffic, say please and thank you!”..

Throw away or recycle your trash instead of leaving it for someone else to clean up.

3 Don’t discriminate. Be respectful to everyone – not just people you know or those you perceive as having a higher status than you. Many people save their respect for people upon whom they want to make a good impression, and they’re rude to everyone else. But there is truth in the saying, “You can judge the character of others by how they treat those who can do nothing for them or to them.”[1]

This means you should be as kind to those who aren’t as “cool” as you as you are to the most popular people you know.

4 Respect differences. 5 Respect spaces. 6  Respect the earth and all who live here. Do your part to avoid polluting the environment. … 8 Respect personal space.

Method 2

Communicating Respectfully

1 Listen when someone is talking. When you’re having a conversation, being a good listener is a basic sign of respect. If you look bored or interrupt the person, you’re showing that you don’t really care what he or she has to say. Practice listening more intently and waiting until the person is finished talking before you respond.Process what the person is saying instead of just absently nodding your head.

2 Think before you speak. When it’s your turn to talk, try to formulate a respectful response. Take into account what the person was saying and voice your opinion without undermining theirs. Avoid insulting the other person by saying something rude or callous.

Try not to be condescending. Don’t be patronizing.

3 Be clear when you want something. People are often happy to help you, but they can’t help you if they aren’t sure what you need. Talk about your needs (physical or emotional) so that people aren’t left wondering what is going on with you.

4 Respectfully disagree. You can respect someone’s view even if you wholeheartedly disagree. The key is to disagree with what the person is saying without undermining the actual person’s worthiness. For example, you might strongly disagree with someone’s political beliefs, but you can still value the person as a human being, and that should come through in the way you argue.

Never resort to insulting someone during an argument. Don’t let “I don’t agree with your view on that” escalate to “You’re an idiot.”

If necessary, halt the conversation before things get too out of control and you say something you’ll regret. You’re not going to get anywhere by disrespecting the other person; you’ll just make a new enemy.

5 Practice patience and assume good faith. Communication can be difficult sometimes, and people may misspeak or struggle to find words that fit. Give them time, and when you aren’t quite sure what they mean, assume that they are doing their best to be kind and understanding.

6 Don’t stereotype other people. Don’t come to a conversation with assumptions about someone else’s opinions or background based on their race, gender, religion, nationality, or any other factor. Everyone is an individual with special life experiences and wisdom. Don’t make the disrespectful mistake of thinking you know someone before you’ve taken the time to learn about him or her as a unique person.

If you have nothing good to say, it’s better not to say it at all.

Politely object to continuing or starting such discussions, even if the person being gossiped about has done a bad deed towards you before. Remember, you reap what you sow, so do not indulge in bad habits for your own good and other people’s good. Keep in mind that the good or bad deeds you commit will affect you and others in the long run.

8 Apologize if you hurt someone. No matter how hard you may try, you’ll probably tread on someone’s toes at some time or another. Your hurtful mistake is less important than how you react to it. If you realize you did something unkind or upsetting, talk to the person about it to apologize.

Avoid saying “but” to justify your actions. If you wish to explain why you behaved the way you did, try “and” instead. For example, “I’m sorry I winced when you said you were autistic, and I was acting on a misconception of what autism is. I’m sorry I upset you, and I accept you for who you are.” This explains the action without excusing it.

9 Be respectful to others even if they’re not respectful to you. As difficult as it might be, try to show patience and humility. The other person may learn something from you. If the person is downright rude or mean, try to defend yourself without sinking to his or her level.

Method 3 Going Deeper

1 Show deference to those with rightful authority. Some people deserve extra signs of respect because of the position they hold. The school principal, the boss, the church leader, the mayor, the queen of England – these are people you have risen to leadership positions because they have exhibited qualities society deems worthy of respect. Show authority figures respect according to the proper custom, whether it means calling the principal “Sir” or bowing to the queen.

Elders are also deserving of extra respect. Respect your parents, grandparents, and other elders in the community for the valuable wisdom they have to share. “I praise you for  I am fearfully an wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

“In some cases … an authority figure is not deserving of extra respect and deference. If someone has broken your trust and you feel you can no longer respect them, that’s a personal choice you have the right to make… but don’t abuse your power. (wiki, what is respect).

Enough to think about for now.

The fabric of life is strong but fragile. And beside the forces of nature at work, we contend with human actions, thoughts, words, and feelings in keeping harmony, unless we have tossed that notion aside. I cannot control the actions of another person. I certainly can – slowly and up a steep hill, learn to be my better self.  And this starts with the every day plodding up and down through the paths of life …. BUT NOT ALONE. I have to help others. I owe my own passage to their help as well. Interdependence characterizes the healthier communities. I wish to keep working on my own communities – near and far, with love and courage. Come along, will you?





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Kwan Yin, Goddess of Compassion

Kwan Yin – Compassionate Mother, Attending to those who are Suffering, the Feminine Face of Compassion

Reflection by Mary E. Latela, M.Div., January 29, 2017

Two bunches of reeds, leaning against one another long enough they become connected. When Grandpa tended his grape vines, he carefully wound the little tendrils close to one another… about the time the grapes were ripe, the vine looked like a mass or purples or green, depending on the variety

After the busy quality of last weekend, the D.C. politics, the marches, there is a natural kind of quiet that settles in. It is a bit lonely, unless we see that this perception of loneliness is just that, perception. Perhaps the emotions were too much, or perhaps we are a bit exhausted from what appears to be a roller coaster of emotions. That is our perception, but we don’t need to get stuck there.

That’s okay. Some strands of Buddhism teach that our lives are constantly developing in a dynamic way, in a synergy of the internal causes within our own life (our personality, experiences, outlook on life and so on) and the external conditions and relations around us. Each individual existence contributes to creating the environment which sustains all other existences. All things, mutually supportive and related, form a living cosmos, a single living whole.

Our lineage went through periods of dualism – two main streams – physical and mental, where even the deep thinkers could not quite explain – and total wholeness of one separate, yet integrated self, always putting off regular self-care.

I don’t remember when I bought my Kwan Yin statue. A friend had given me a little book, the story of Kwan Yin. The human story is about a selfless woman who gives all of herself to help others who are suffering.Through time and practice, many Buddhists began to think of her as a feminine type of goddess, though she was a fully human entity.

We all know women like this who take on the suffering of others, not because they are unbalanced or wanting to have suffering, but because they see that there is a seed of compassion which connects one person to another, and each of us to all others. After all, equilibrium leans toward a balance of self-care without damaging others to get a better spot at the spa. The legends about Kwan Yin say that all this compassion was too much for one woman to carry, so she was given additional arms to carry the suffering of brothers and sisters, human beings, to help them to get through the hard times and to relish the delightful sunny days.

This manifestation moves me. I must spend some quiet time with Kwan Yin this week.

Porcelain figure by Chaozhong He,

photographed by Mountain at the Shanghai Museum, photo modified.


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Internat’l Holocaust Remembrance Day

Remembering the Holocaust, January 27, 2017

In 2005 the United Nations declared that at the end of January each year the world would mark Holocaust Remembrance Day. Elie Wiesel survived the Holocaust and he was known for leading others to remember the Holocaust, to talk to survivors, to make a record of their stories. With Simon Wiesenthal and Steven Spielberg, he led the Fortunoff Foundation, a huge library of resources, including first person accounts.

It is with profound grief that we share that Elie Wiesel – teacher, husband, father and grandfather – passed away on July 2, 2016 in Manhattan. A public memorial will be announced at a later date. Those seeking to honor his memory can make charitable donations including to the Elie Wiesel Foundation’s work supporting children in Israel or the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.
Marion Wiesel said: “My husband was a fighter. He fought for the memory of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust, and he fought for Israel. He waged countless battles for innocent victims regardless of ethnicity or creed. But what was most meaningful to him was teaching the innumerable students who attended his university classes. We are deeply moved by the outpouring of love and support we have already seen in the wake of his passing.”


Elisha Wiesel said: “My father raised his voice to presidents and prime ministers when he felt issues on the world stage demanded action. But those who knew him in private life had the pleasure of experiencing a gentle and devout man who was always interested in others, and whose quiet voice moved them to better themselves. I will hear that voice for the rest of my life, and hope and pray that I will continue to earn the unconditional love and trust he always showed me.”




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Executive Orders without Footnotes

Executive Orders without Footnotes

Reflection by Mary E Latela, 1/26/2017

In keeping with commitment to writing about post-March developments and inviting readers to share on Twitter, I scanned t


he twitter pages. It followed the weekend’s stunning women’s marches: “At least 3.2 million people apparently participated in all 50 states, amounting to 1 percent of the U.S. population. In a slap at all who marched, Trump this week signed an order that will cut off access to contraception to vast numbers of women, particularly in Africa.” Nick Kristoff reminds us.

Opposing views of women in the March on Washington this past weekend cried out to be explained and addressed. Nicholas Kristoff, Pulitzer winner at the NY Times, characterized this morning’s activities: as Trump’s War on Women Begins.”  Father Dwight Longenecker, Catholic priest, wrote on patheos, “Ten Reasons Why the Women’s March will come to Nothing” ( http://www.patheos.com/blogs/standingonmyhead/ten-reasons-womens-march-will-come-nothing.) 

Father Longenecker says of the March, “It is fake, a big show put on by people behind the scenes with big money. If it’s Fake, It’s a Lie, because this was a pro-abortion campaign. The crowd was made up of women, specifically liberal, pro-abortion, anti-Catholic. It’s about abortion and money. It’s about rage.” (No evidence included in the post.)

He seems to be saying that real women wouldn’t participate. “They are busy getting on with their lives, their careers, their families, their children, their life of giving their tremendous gifts, resources, intelligence, beauty and power.”  What’s missing?  He omits the power engendered when people unite in a common bond, when women (and men) may speak out, may walk peacefully, as all US citizens are permitted to do.

Nick Kristoff points out: “New action on women’s health will cost women’s lives around the globe. I’ve seen too many girls and women dying unnecessarily because of edicts applauded by clusters of grinning men in suits. “In poor countries, the most dangerous thing a woman can do is become pregnant. I’ve seen too many women dying or suffering in filth on stained cots in remote villages because of childbirth.”

With this new order, Trump will inadvertently cause more of these horrific scenes. Maybe “war on women” sounds hyperbolic, but not if gasping, dying women are seared in your memory

Add to this the President’s memorandum on Monday, freezing federal funding to health providers abroad who discuss abortion. [Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times] Worse, Trump expanded this “global gag rule” which bars groups from mentioning abortion — and therefore covers all kinds of health services, including efforts to tackle polio or Zika or H.I.V., even programs to help women who have been trafficked into brothels.

Later today Huffington Post published comments from John Halstead, writer and blogger, who accompanied his family from Indiana to D.C. When asked why, he said “Marching Changes the Narrative, particularly as viewed by skeptics who expect the energy and commitment to fizzle out. It’s worth checking out at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-halstead/10-things-the-womens-marc_b_14380660.html




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To Tell the Truth

To Tell the Truth by Mary E. Latela, January 23, 2017

Finally, a growing number of people agree that lying is not okay. As a result of the heated election period, those who listen closely have noticed that the truth cannot be assured.

What is a lie? According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, lying is a complex subject. In early religion classes, a child is taught that one of the directives requires: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor,” which means you must not lie.

We often use euphemisms to discuss heavy topics. Instead of saying “death” we might say “passes away” or “has passed” or “has gone home to God.”

Sissela Bok, brilliant ethicist, published a striking book:  Lying and Moral Choice in Private and Public Life. It was popular in the academic and political spheres. (1978) Lying remains in print today, nearly thirty years after its initial publication, and is widely used in the classroom. Its continuing broad readership pays tribute to the book’s lucidity and good sense. According to :http://infed.org/mobi, Bok’s work has no peer as a serious treatment of a central, but neglected, dimension of moral life.
Telling lies is nearly always morally wrong. Repeated name-calling, boldface untruths, and exaggerations are modes of lying. When our political leaders lie, what should our reaction be? Not to listen… discount whatever that individual says … It is not necessary for the private citizen to fact check information from the government, corporations, churches and institutions of higher learning.

Finally, what if your job situation depends on passing on lies from your superior to others, individuals and groups? Start seeking other employment.

Royalty Free RF Clipart Illustration Of A Boy Sitting And Touching His Growing Liar Nose

(royalty-free clipart)


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From the Left

FIRST THOUGHTS Wednesday January 11, 2017 by Mary E. Latela

I recall that Julia Cameron suggested a morning exercise of about 10 minutes of free writing. As I woke up, so many thoughts blossomed. I am captivated by the story of The Barefoot Lawyer about which I will later write. At the same time, TV buzzes as members of the new Cabinet are being questioned by the committee.

But last night, I experienced one of those rare and beautiful moments while watching and listening to President Obama’s Farewell Address.

I feel so blessed to be an American on this night January 10, 2015, as President Obama ends his term of office. The subject was democracy.  See the quiet dignity of people at work. See the power of teachers to mold and support bright children with challenging, powerful goal. Notice the way contentment comes to ordinary people working together to demand it.

This is our living experiment in self-government and there is nothing like it. Our strength comes from the power of free people. We come from a more perfect union and we are called to expand and solidify that union.

We have individual goals and dreams – unalienable rights. And we have shared goals and dreams – to work together for the greater good for the common good.

Those who fought on the beaches of OMAHA, Iwo Jima, Iran, Afghanistan – fought to build upon our commitment to democracy. People still march on Selma, the freedom riders, those who to this very day “march to Jerusalem” – to a state of comfortable, true friendship, free of deep animosity, loathe to take up arms.

We have the capacity to change. Otherwise, our first Fathers might not have been so dedicated to forming this morning perfect union. Democracy is not a simple path or a simple goal, because it means that ALL, not just SOME will participate and reap the benefits of neighbor plus neighbor, protection from vile selfishness.

We are called to be citizens, first. Democracy involves understanding that this government by the people, of the people, and  for the people, shall not perish as long as we look around, look from side to side, and help one another to achieve their most precious goals.

It’s true. We need to awaken to any attempts to weaken our foundation of democracy.

At the end of last evening’s magnetic talk, there were tears, there were farewells from all – the first family – Barack, Michele, their daughter, and Joe and Jill Biden – and the many who took in this precious event. For this brief moment in time, all is well, and hope is evident.

In our heart of hearts we believe that together, working for justice, helping other lands where justice and denigration of citizens has halted progress, forging dangerous alliances, built on might and not on community, we must remember who we are. We are not the world’s police force. We are – as it were – guides for the blind, teachers for the uneducated, role models for our young people, sometimes lost in a sea of violence and fear. We live and work in the real world, and little by little, we can change our own self-interests, widen into compassion for all.

Yes, WE CAN!


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A Child Comes to Us

Reflection by Mary E. Latela, December 25, 2016

Christmas is full of paradoxes. A baby is born of a poor couple, far from home,
in the bustle of a registration or census.
Bethlehem is the city of the family of Joseph, a carpenter, and his espoused is
Mary, pregnant with child.

In ordinary times, she would give birth at home, surrounded by her mother and aunts, her brothers and uncles seeing to the fire and water, walking, walking, breathing in this miracle, filling their lungs, emptying them to catch the breath of God.

When the time is right, the baby is borne, and Mary and Joseph, huddled in a shed –
because the inn has not room for them, are filled with intense love, passion, unity, wholeness, oneness. The “holy family” is not closed to visitors; they are open still to you and me.

The children are fascinated with the statues. Hannah asks, “Is this Mama Mary?” and hugs the angel form. And baby Jesus is brought out for a moment, otherwise hidden in the closet until Christmas morning. Joseph looks tall and powerful to children, though he is carrying the power of the whole world in his arms. Even the cows, the sheep, move in close. They are named. Young shepherds hush one another at the sight. The sky opens up to the power of the wind and the warmth, God’s protection of all Creation.

A Child is Born in Bethlehem, Alleluia!

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Already; Not Yet

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Reflection by Mary E. Latela, December 24, 2016 It is Christmas Eve, 2016, and I have just returned from a candlelight Service with Pastor Bradford Bray preaching a stunning sermon on the birth of Jesus, and how that is a sign of … Continue reading

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