Trailbrazing and the Hope for change.

The U S Media is not quite sure what to do with Bernie Sanders in this election, just like they did not know what to do with Barak Obama in the election eight years ago. Last time the preposterous notion of an African American claiming the white house was hushed, sidelined by the thought of Hillary Clinton claiming her rightful claim on history. This time we have an aging socialist senator of an unhearalded state, who is fighting the good fight against wealth inequality, is for universal medical care and numerous other radical ideas on taxation, and wealth distribution.
Just as not enough people would vote for Barak as per the media barons eight years ago, now we see a similar trend with Trump grabbing the most media time, followed by Hillary and then the others candidates in the field. from both parties. Bernie is lucky if he gets 2-3% of the media time on a good day, and is largely ignored on the other days, hoping he will go away. His punditry is so old school and so extremely left leaning, that the conservatives will not acknowledge his presence or take him seriously. There has never been a greater divide between the leading candidates of the two parties in ideologies and plans for the future as exhibited in the debates of this election.
If we go by the most individual Americans donating to a candidate it was Obama over Hillary last time, and this time it seems it is Bernie taking the lead again on Clinton. The hope for change which Obama brought to this troubled land, after two of the longest wars in American history is well known. He rightly won the Peace prize as has been borne out from his steely resolve to limit US force, going instead for tangible results like the end of Bin Laden. Now we have another maverick trying to establish another revolution in America and bringing a different cry of change. The young are interested in his message and listening and joining him in large numbers.
We live in an idealist land, where no matter what our differences; we allow progressive thoughts, to be dreamed. We allow certain trailblazers in economic, social and scientific thought into our highest office occasionally. It is the democratic spirit for justice, peace and brotherhood where we must put the fate of humans as our highest concern. This is often achieved by some of the most unknown citizens, who rise from our hinterlands. These leaders speak with a deep conviction on issues that matter. Their wisdom lies in their idealistic understanding of the human spirit.
So as I look out at the snowstorm and am reeling from the volatility of our markets bracing for another cold winter, I wonder. Is Bernie really saying something I can accept on universal health care, income equality, education liberalization, parental leave, climate change, LGBT rights and campaign finance reform amongst other things?
The man who marched on Washington in his youth, has now come to the gates of power, demanding a change. Will we allow a Civil Rights and Civil Liberties leader the power to making policy decisions, which may affect our future generations? If a man who has devoted his life to public service is now saying, that he has a better way in government, do we have to believe him? Is it time for a change from the same old compromises, to a concerned citizen who talks about a revolution in ideas; as the old ones, are no longer working. As ‘America’ (thanks Garfunkel) we may have to march forward, in choosing a leader who is a non-conformist, may not be such a bad idea after all. Change is coming either way, and in these troubled times after hearing all the rhetoric from either side, I put my faith in Bernie. Sanders said in his Post interview, regarding the excitement his campaign is creating, “We have the capability to have a very good voter turnout. When we have a very good voter turnout, we retain the White House, we regain the Senate, we do well in the House, and we win statewide elections.”

“The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists, who are dedicated to justice, peace, and brotherhood. The trailblazers in human, academic, scientific, and religious freedom have always been nonconformists. In any cause that concerns the progress of mankind, put your faith in the nonconformist!” -Martin Luther King, Jr., civil-rights leader (15 Jan 1929-1968)

Human treatment of the destitute and dependants


New York State has been taking care of its mentally disturbed, and those who are physically dependent on substance abuse, for over 150 years. Today our needs for this fair treatment, have become even more desperate, as now a a single sickness can destitute a family. The income disparity has made a very few able to afford the best care in the world, while the poor end up in Jail, or other inner city situations, not supported by the State any more. It is a shame that the hospital complex, that grew up so boldly over a hundred years in N Y State, is now closed. The the original 400 acres that were planned so grandly to be a haven for its inmates, have gone to waste. Where the industry of the inmates grew gardens, and ample crops and livestock, today there is a chained fenced blocking off a large institute of limestone and brick.

A hundred years before my birth American Dr. J Edward Turner did research in Europe and on return to his New York, entreateds the State legislature to pass funding and finally,  “The United States Inebriate Asylum for the Reform of Poor and Destitute Inebriates” is chartered by the New York State Legislature. The institute a picture of true American largess is built in a stately Tudor castellated architecture style institute on 250 acres and is 320 feet wide and 82 feet deep made of solid stone and brick, to last a thousand years. The motto was “The object of the institution is to provide an asylum for the poor and destitute inebriate, where his physical and moral condition will be alike the care of the physician and philanthropist, and where his labor may be rendered productive and of service to his family. With the asylum will be connected Workshops to make the institution self sufficient and relieve prisons and almshouses.”

The institute under Dr. Turner provided large rooms with modern gas heat and running water all the ameneties know for a fine and healthy living over a century and a half ago. This temple to the destitute had many patients over the years and one was described in its violent ward as “ The patient used to call himself: “ZZZ Wafe Rainmaker Father Mother Simon Joseph Francis Carl”. He said he was the maker of Heaven and Earth. He sat in his chair in the hallway and shuffled all day. He sat all day in a chair and shuffled his feet back and forth and wore a considerable size depression in the wood” Those indentations into the wooden floor remain as a reminder to this day. It is an amazing fact of history that the good Doctor converted a tax on Liquor to fund such a pioneering institute, where the destitute were cared for in style and even treated..

In a testimony to his own treatment at the fine institute after a 100 sessions of shock treatment, first electro-convulsive, then metrazol, then insulin shock therapy William was pronounced cured. William upon his release went on to write “’The Mind in chains” Autobiography of a schizophrenic’. He published his memories in an autobiography, concluding to his readers: “So the dream which led me to the State Hospital still has possession of me, and where it will lead me only the future can reveal. I go forward in hope… my whole future is in your hands, at your mercy. I can only give my life, and you must make it or break it for me.”

In modern day such a frank discussion of a topic so dark, is not possible as a lot of the disturbed in today’s society, find no ready place to be fairly incarcerated, till they become productive members, of our human family again.  I am truly stunned at William’s words, and what he must have just survived, at the institute to modern treatment methods, of mind control. His hopes are the hope of all mankind, his whole future is at our mercy to offer his whole life, to be made, or broken, by our trust. Today young Williams would be found in a prison, or homeless, with no hope, or dream. Has our society become so divided, that common human consideration, has been lost, in the wealth, of those; who have and no longer, care. Callous modern life has forgotten the basic needs of a society to take care of its weakest and most vulnerable citizens.

Such a pure raw emotion of hope and mercy, and to talk of a future hope, which will lead him on, is pure heroics, of a superior man. I salute his thinking as often times, a dark shadow comes over my soul also, and I am lost in this world. I can well understand how important it is at such times, of brief hope; to find mercy and compassion, in this world. Else there is only the dark sub conscious that grips me, and drags me to places I have been, but never acknowledged, even to myself. These are experiences I bury so deep in my mind, which it is best, that they be left to disappear. And may the darkness, shroud them in its veil, to be forgotten; as the dream that possesses us, has to be left at the State Hospital. The dream as he says still possesses us, and so we must go on into our future, wishing for hope and Mercy, but our mind is now in chains.

Dr Turner showed the way that a caring person can provide a way to care for the destitute and we must learn from his example. Our best hope in the future will be on how well we treat our weakest members now, else it grows dark.and realizatioin is lost.

A holiday celebration

vfw hall

The laughter bubbled up slowly as if deep from within an ocean and rose in spurts, as I ate my lunch in the university cafeteria. I pretended not to notice and looked down at the book I was trying to study, for the upcoming class. They were the popular group of young and beautiful people, and as always my old nemesis John, was there leading the laughter. His booming laugh finally broke forth as it was wont to do, at a particularly funny recollection, and it was infectious, and the others joined in. The hall rang with their merriment and I tried to burry myself deeper into my book. Jenny besides me poked me and pointed, and I looked up just in time to see John stand up and act out a scene, which had everybody around him in stitches.

The scene reminded me of one of our last classes together, and I became embarrassed that John may be showcasing my utter incompetence to his group, as I had stumbled especially hard in that class, trying to explain an esoteric question on values and relationships. My sandwich turned to cardboard in my mouth, and I grabbed my soda to swallow it down, fascinated by John’s antics. Giving up on my reading, I closed my book, and gathered my bag and things, and got up to leave.

“Hey, wait for me,” Jenny cried at my imminent departure, as she was quite used to my sudden change in moods, and started to pack up her tray for disposal.

“I have to go,” I mumbled as I saw John look across at my sudden movement, and then he raised his eyebrows in recognition, as if asking me what was up.

Jenny followed me as I turned away heading for the exit, almost dropping my bag and clutching it up at the last moment, and swinging it over my shoulder, as I balanced the tray in my other hand. We dropped off our trays and I hurried off, with Jenny calling out after me “Hey what is the rush as we still have twenty minutes for the class?”

The bright sun blinded me as I entered the green of the quad where other students were enjoying the springtime sunshine. The brick structures of the college rose all around and the beauty which had brought me here, was lost on me, as I walked under the tall and ancient oaks, which lined the walk. This was my college and my father’s before me, and my study of philosophy which I had felt is my calling, was giving me second thoughts, as the rest of junior year loomed before me. I felt I had more questions about my own abilities now, than when I had joined the school, so many semesters before.

In the winter break the realization had suddenly hit me when I was enjoying the holidays with my parents, that all was not as it appeared in the world, and all my learning was not enough. Ours was a typical middle class family with my mother working at a bank, and my father at an insurance company. We were well off but by no means wealthy, and lived in the desirable part of the Philadelphia. My sister and I had gone to all the right schools, before moving on to the universities of our choice; which was me to Dad’s, and my sister to Mom’s college.  Life was good and one day John had called for me to visit with him, as I had become infected by his gregarious personality at school, and discovered he lived just a few miles away from me in Philadelphia.

I borrowed my Mom’s car and drove to John’s home to meet him and it was in the seedier section of town, that I was not familiar with. I got lost and came upon this blighted inner city homes, with boarded up windows and doors, and some burned down structures. I stopped on the side to fire up my GPS, as I knew I was totally lost, as all the streets looked the same. On a nearby brownstone steps, there were some tough kids hanging around listening to some rap music, and seeing me parked there, one of them walked up to me, and knocked on my window. I rolled it down and he asked me what he could do for me, and looked down at my phone. Just then the GPS kicked in and Sarah my phone mime, started to read out the directions. I hurriedly thanked the young man saying I did not need his services, and drove off in John’s direction.

John lived just a few blocks away and the street was slightly better, with fewer abandoned houses, but still the people looked like they were living a hardscrabble life. Grandparents sat on the steps watching the children play in the street, as I found a spot to park. I got out and found John’s home and rang the bell and a woman’s voice asked who it was, and I announced myself, and a buzzer rang and I pushed the door open. I followed the instructions and took the stairs to the second floor walkup, where I found John waiting, smiling and welcoming me with open arms. He introduced me to his mom who was sitting on the kitchen table busy shelling some peas, and getting ready to prepare a meal.

“Ma – this is Peter and he lives close by, and I asked him to come and help me with our holiday celebration today,” John said in introduction.

She stood up and wiped her hands on her apron and shook mine, and said that she was glad to meet one of John’s college friends, and her face broke into that wide easy smile, which her son had obviously inherited. “I know who he is, as I just buzzed him. Peter, it is good to meet you, as John has told me how good you are at the school, and have helped him meet so many new people. I was afraid he would get lost, being the first in our family to go to the big University you know.”

“Glad to meet you too Mrs. Brenner,” I replied feeling her calloused hands as she was obviously a working class woman, “John is quite bright and settling in well at our school you know.”

“Aye, he was always a smart lad, as his High School swimming coach always said, ‘He swims like a fish and reads, questions and talks like a philosopher.’” Mrs. Brenner said wrinkling her eyes as she giggled, and all the laugh lines appeared again on her round face. I smiled back as her memories came alive and I could feel their happiness in that little kitchen, begin to overflow into me.

“Ma, we have to go or we will be late,” John said and he started to pick up the brown paper bags, which we were apparently supposed to take with us. “Come give me a hand Peter, as we have to carry all of this down to your car, and then take them with us.”

I got busy and gathered up some of the bags and noticed that they contained food items, that John must have been collecting for some time. His Mom also arose and gave us a hand and we made two trips down to the car loading up the food and drinks, into the trunk and back seat. She told me to be careful with the bags containing the casseroles, as she had cooked them herself that day, and she had been busy since last night in preparing the meals with one of her neighbors, a Mrs. Smith apparently. She waved us off saying “You boys be good now and don’t get up to any mischief and Peter, you drive slowly and don’t spill the food, ya hear.”

We drove off and John gave me directions on where to go, as we were headed to the VFW hall which was in the next neighborhood. He talked casually about our friends at school as we drove, and also discussed the last semester where we had both been in an introduction to philosophy class together, and I had become his friend. He would often sit next to me in class, and he was struggling with some of the concepts, and I had invited him to join our study group, and he had been happy to do so. Soon he had become a regular and we had become close, and his easy outgoing nature had quickly made the others in our group comfortable, and he was invited to their outings also. He was tall and athletic and on the varsity swim team and quite popular with the girls, and they would hang out together in the cafeteria being loud and boisterous.

We got to the hall and pulled into the lot and parked near the back entrance. John jumped out and we started to unpack and carry the packages into the hall. John directed me to the kitchen area as he was familiar with the place, and some of the veterans obviously knew him and referred to him as Junior, and slapped him on his back and said they were happy to see him again. There were two old ladies there who also helped us with the casseroles and took them and popped them into the oven for heating, in the aluminum pans that they had come in. There was another large oven and I could see two large turkeys baking. There were other trays of food heating up in the oven, brought by the ladies. There was a lot of canned food that they started to open and prepare.

Having unpacked the car, John led me into the main halls where there were these old and tired men and women, who were steadily trickling in for the evening. John quickly got me pulling out the folding tables and chairs and setting them up at one end of the large hall away from the entrance. He had some white plastic table cloths and paper napkins and plates and plastic cutlery, which we started to arrange. Another man helped to bring out the drinks and one of them started off the hot water for the tea and the coffee percolating and soon the smell of coffee, started to take over from the stale smell in the room.

We then started hanging up the banner for Happy Holidays and decorations to bring some cheer to the dreary room. The ladies joined us and hung up some more holiday banners and soon the room started to look more festive, as the people continued to come in from the street. A man brought in and hooked up the music system and soon holiday music flooded the hall, and the place seemed to cheer up at the sound of the Christmas Carrols and some of the couples even started to dance and others were enthusiastically asked by John, to sing along to the music. He grabbed my hand and dragged me along and introduced me to some of the old folks, and they grabbed my hand and talked to me excited to meet one of Junior’s friends, from the big university.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith, John’s neighbors were there and they put their arm around me, and invited me to their table. Mr. Smith had been with John’s father in Vietnam and he started reminiscing about their old times, when they would get up to all kind of mischief in their High School days. He told me that John and his son Marty had grown up together and Marty had moved away now and was somewhere in St Louis, working as a mechanic as his new girlfriend was from there. Marty had swum with John in school but had no head for college, and just loved automobiles, and tinkering with them since he was a kid.

“That boy is a wonder under the hood of a car, and can fix almost anything,” old man Smith told me proudly about his son.

“Yes we miss him, but he is a young man now and all grown up and gone away,” Mrs. Smith said.

“Your friend John here is a proper young man,” she continued, “he takes after his Pa, always ready to lend a helping hand and always there for the poor and needy. He helped organize this affair, just as his Pa used to do when he was alive. His coach used to say he will go far, as he has a good heart in him, this boy. Your friend is a gem in the rough ..” She stopped midsentence as her neighbor Mrs. Brenner had arrived and she waved to her, to join us at the table. Just then John came and grabbed me and led me away to help him entertain some young ladies, who had been reluctantly dragged in by their parents, to the holiday celebration.

I shook hands and John introduced me as his philosopher friend, and soon rattled off a joke from one of our classes, and the girls giggled. John was called by the others and soon took off for the dance floor with Ruby, and I followed him with the other pretty young lady, as the music became lively and we joined the other couples dancing and talking on the floor. The place by now was bubbling with the holiday spirits, and there was a shine in my companion’s eyes, as she obviously enjoyed the music and the dancing. We danced for some time and then John pulled me away to help serve the food from behind the tables.

I stood and served the people as they came and took the plates and stood by John, as he smiled and talked with the folks, and welcomed them in his bright and easy manner. As I served them I noticed the frayed sleeves, the ill-fitting suits, the worn Sunday dresses, and tried to smile and keep up the cheer like John besides me. We kept the line moving and Mrs. Benner came by and told me proudly, that a lady had just complimented her on her casserole. Mr. Smith was down the line busy carving up the turkeys and serving them, asking loudly white or brown meat to anyone who pushed their plate for helpings?

We must have served over a hundred people and still more came by, and John kept up his enthusiastic welcome and banter with his folks. They were opening up the canned food and filling the serving trays as the freshly cooked food started to run out. Now they started to roll out the apple, pumpkin and pecan pies for dessert which had been heated in the ovens, once the Turkeys were done. Someone had brought those large tubs of ice cream to go with them, and he came and slipped John back some money saying, that it was the change left over. John leaned across and winked and whispered to me that his summer work at the library had come in handy, to help pay for the ice cream.

We were tired by the time the line ended and John and I finally grabbed some plates, and we joined Mrs. Brenner and the Smiths at their table to eat. Mr. Smith had a big slice of some hot apple pie and a big blob of vanilla ice cream on top and Mrs. Smith was reminding him of his diabetes but he just ignored her and said “Look it is Johns’ feast and I have been working hard all evening helping him, let me at least enjoy my well-deserved dessert, woman. John come on you tell my old lady to lay off for once, as I know she will listen to you.”

John just gave Mrs. Smith one of his lovely smiles as he was busy eating, and she smiled back and patted him on the shoulder lovingly. Mrs. Benner asked me if she could make me a plate of dessert as she was going to get John his favorite pumpkin pie, before it all disappeared. My mouth was full and I just pointed to Mr. Smith’s apple pie a la mode, and she nodded in understanding, and left to get me some before all the ice cream melted or disappeared.

The music was still playing but there were fewer people dancing now, as they must be getting tired now, and some had started to leave having eaten their fill. Others came up to say bye to us at our table. John knew a lot of them by name and they would call out to junior and pass a remark or invite him over to their house, when he was free. He would respond cheerfully with a joke or a smile and there were a lot of hugs exchanged and hands shaken, even with me.

When the folks had left John grabbed me and we started to clean up the hall. We took down the banners and cleaned up the tables, and folded them away. Some of the diehard veterans had stayed behind, and helped us stack the folding chairs and sweep and mop the floors.  Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Brenner had taken up the cleaning of the kitchen and taking out all the trash to the dumpster outside. We were finally done and John, Mrs. Benner and the Smith’s piled into my mother’s car and I drove them home. John and Mrs. Smith started singing and I realized they were both quite good at carrying a tune, and the other clapped along with the beat.

After dropping them off I drove off to my house making sure the GPs was on this time. I looked at my watch and realized how late it was as I entered the driveway to our home. I pulled up to the garage and parked and sat and though about the evening, and how John had introduced me as his philosopher friend. I saw his life and mine and realized there was emptiness in mine, which I could not fill. I went in and my sister was watching TV in the living room and my parents had already gone to bed. She turned to me and said, “What kept you out so late?”

“Oh nothing much, just a holiday celebration,” I said.

“Did you have fun and which club was it at?” she inquired ever the social butterfly.

“The casserole was nice.” I said, as she turned back to her show. I shrugged and headed to the books in my room.

Darkness, light and black holes


“When you emerged from the black hole, was it God who pulled you out, or was there another great force that was pushing you out, from the great contraction of mass?” the teenager asked me with wide eyes in his excitement, as I spoke at my old Alma Mater on my latest adventure. I had returned after a harrowing mission and we had brought back elements that fitted into the missing pieces of our atomic table, which had not been found before our mission.
“Well it really started when I used dark energy to propel my spaceship many years ago, while still working on my research at this very school, but that is all an old story and I don’t want to bore you all with that,” I responded to the class of eager new space cadets, who had much greater heroes than me; to look up to. Our mission had lasted many years and I had returned a much wiser man after the journey there and back.
“Well nobody has ever returned from a black hole in our milky way, so what was it that made you enter it in the first place? Why everybody says it is a miracle that you are still alive to be here with us today?” the boy continued adjusting his mind prompter, to focus more clearly, on my thoughts. I could feel him probing into my deepest consciousness and opened the neurons to my memories of that day, when I was hurtling almost at the speed of light, and time was almost standing still; and great distances of space, rushed by. He was with me, as I guided my spacecraft to find that elusive gateway, out of the black hole, that my professor had theorized about in our research together. I let him peek in to finally see the portal, which led out of the densest of dark matter out into space again.
“Oh the pressure and the weight is so incredible, that you and your spaceship are almost crushed. What a horrible and strange way to die.” The boy’s broken and fearful thoughts communicated, breaking out in fear, from the memory of that moment. All the others turned to look at him, and the teacher turned his mind to him, and chided him for being so inquisitive, and to probe my mind in such a blatant manner. I turned my mind to happier thoughts, and spoke to the larger crowd, “Never give up on your dreams, as each day brave new horizons, open up to us. We are only what we dream and think and you are our hope now, and with you a new more equipped generation will enter space. I was lucky to have lived my years realizing my dreams, and I wish you to remember that everything you imagine will be possible, in the future. Just believe in yourself and have courage in your beliefs and nothing will ever hold you back from your goals.” I ended looking fondly at the young student whose wide smile and bright eyes, were our best hope for our future.
“We are all proud of this great traveler, who has so kindly graced us, with his presence today,” the teacher said, obviously embarrassed by the probing incident, that one of his students had carried out; against the norms, of our civilized society. “We should thank him for taking time out of his busy routine, to come and talk to us today.” He continued to keep the students from dwelling on the incident that had happened, and clicked through the images from my journey..

Ever since we had started inbuilding these capabilities into the new generations, we had also developed codes of conduct, on how to curtail the obvious abuses of privacy and mind control; that were possible, using these new capabilities. It had taken many generations to curb the enthusiasm, which the young boy had demonstrated. I remembered similar incidents from my youth when I had misbehaved in similar fashion, and smiled at his indiscretion, as he reminded me of a younger me; with his awe, and thirst for knowledge.
“We have all to explore new frontiers and develop new materials and for this we have to enter the crucible of a black hole or a super nova or pulsar, where new elements may be created for everyone’s benefit. It is a treacherous journey in our history, and many brave thousands have died attempting it, in our recent past. I and my crew was just one of the lucky ones to have survived, and for that I am eternally grateful” I said remembering the great alumni who had come from this school and gone on bravely, to carve out new fields of science, for modern humanity to survive and prosper.
Just then the commander who was the principal of the academy came in, and I knew at once that something was not right. He quickly addressed the class and thanked me for coming and told the students to work hard, and try to achieve what I had achieved in my short life. The students stood and cheered as I waved bye to them, as they had made posters and studied my exploits before my visit, and made a kind of hero out of me. As the commander took my elbow and guided me out of the hall, I could see that he had closed his thoughts, and I knew that there was more here than I could see. I followed him quietly to the secured room used for the secret communication channels, with external resources.
When we entered the room, all the secure walls were put up, the main communicator of the universe was opened and I noticed that some of the highest security codes, were collaborating in this project. The commander opened his mind and I saw my greatest fear in his mind. We were under attack and the forces of darkness that had been expanding the universe, were taking a pause it appeared and turning inwards, and the world as we knew it would be forever changed. After a thousand years of peace it appears that war is upon us at a scale, that the forces of the universe can scarce control, and the survival of our humanity is at stake. The opposing forces of darkness and light, are poised to turn on each other, and we are entering an area, that we have no idea about, in our long and storied existence.

“The great council has been assembled from across our universe, and the deliberations are about to begin,” the commander said, enabling some more communication devices for us, as we entered this new virtual reality meeting. We saw the assembly of leaders from across the lands gathering together and scientists showing the results of their investigations. I saw the troubled looks and heard the troubles thoughts of our friends and companions, as they reviewed the dark evidence being presented to them.

“We have been summoned at short notice to address a threat, which can wipe out all our civilizations, as we know them today,” continued the commander and I collapsed into an armchair suddenly very tired from my recent trips. “We cannot possibly head back to war again, after a thousand years of peace?” I though worriedly to myself, as I immersed myself into this new virtual reality..
‘The most important discoveries will provide answers to questions that we do not yet know how to ask and will concern objects we have not yet imagined.’ -John N. Bahcall, astrophysicist (30 Dec 1935-2005)