Four hundred feet at its highest elevation. No buildings, no roads and with the exception of huts, no infrastructure at all. No emergency responders, no sounds, no alarms. In fact, on North Sentinel Island in 60,000 years, not a single thing about it or its inhabitants – the Sentinelese – has changed. On December 26, 2004 an earth-rotation-altering earthquake and tsunami, that took the lives of one-quarter of a million people, on two continents in 13 countries, from 59 nations, yet somehow, the world’s most isolated neighborhood… yielded survivors.
from Brooklyn, New York
Asoh Black! w/ Joy
I have ventured inside of many houses of worship, a few I have joined, but most, for various reasons I moved on. So when I refer to my pastor, I speak of only one man, within a snapshot time frame, Pastor Dave Pitts of the Church of the Nazarene. I enjoyed the way he delivered his sermon, like an educational lesson, so that everyone could understand. I felt sincerity and comfort by the welcoming nature of the congregation.
But more than anything else, the sincere belief and absolute passion in his summation of a one on one conversation. “But in the end, this is what I believe,” looking down at the Holy Bible he clutched with both hands. No high horse, no judgement, yet sound in his faith; and I grabbed hold of that emotional, unconquerable belief. Though I no longer attend service, nor an unofficial member of the church, it is that walk with Pastor, within his walk with the Lord, that reminds me, that I am not alone, even when all of the air has been blown out.
But the mind, controlled by the imagination, led by free will can begin to play tricks on us, yet nourishing our mental health, does not often find its proper place in the conversation. And even as doubt begins to surface, causing our self-confidence to drain, and while we notice the difference, our minds may interpret it as something else. The stresses of life, the gravity of faith and an awakened mental disorder do not always intersect. Sometimes they merge.
Every so often, a larger than life personality captures the spotlight, and barnstorms over our lives. When it first started, the Michael Jackson craze was fun, until some radio stations turned MJ music weekends into every single day. Many jumped ship early, even before his darker days. But some became fanatics, and Michael became their world.
An entertainer is one thing, however, but what if crazy or God traps you in a false reality, until a zombie is all that remains of a healthy soul..
In churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and chapels all around the world, is where many of the civilized invest our faith. But only a precious few truly believe in the teachings of the word, for most of us simply follow the leader in blind or trusted faith. But time has proven, over and over again, that faith in man alone is like shooting at a moving target, when your life depends on it.
Consider the transformation of Jim Jones; from charismatic minister to stone cold nut, who in plain sight, walked his congregation into an unimaginable disaster. But it is a fair question to ask, how could we ever know, that the man we deem crazy, who shouts from the street corner, is not only sane, but an Apostle delivering the message we seek?
The answer is faith, but it must begin by trusting and having faith in ourselves. By diving inside our own private North Sentinel Island, for as long we need.
I did not know John Allen Chau, from near or afar. So any analyzation of who I think he was, would rest on good intentions, but empty words nonetheless, I will offer a few words. I do not believe for even a moment, that he was on a mission of God. What I do believe, is that he believed he was.
In the final seconds, that John Allen Chau had left of his life; with the spear piercing through the air, and a bullseye across his heart, what were his final thoughts? Did he scream out “Oh Lord I tried and failed you!” Or did regret overwhelm him with such a tremendous force, that he stared into the eyes of the Sentinelese who he claimed to love, now saw only an enemy? Was he sound in his belief, where there was comfort to be found, or was he a victim of religious bombasity, shocked into reality, only when death was imminent? “Why didn’t they tell me, to seek out help?”
For his sake, I hope that John Allen Chau held steady in his faith: that during the last terrifying seconds of his life, he remained steadfast and unwavered. But if he was nuts, then the question becomes a societal one, Did those close to him smile in his face, then cowardly laugh once his back was turned? Did his counselors and mentors, support his calling, but inside knew that something was wrong? And what shall we do now? Search for answers in his death or spin a tale to glorify or renounce religion, as historical records?
Rather our journey has taken us deep inside the vast unknown of belief in a Higher Power, or on the never ending quest of science we ride, to lower the boom on faith at last; or maybe its philosophy, and the centuries old search to find the answer to the meaning of life, is where we are most settled. But truth, as John Allen Chau learned, is not an individual endeavor. And perhaps, that is the difference. God says walk with him. Crazy says walk alone.
The people living on North Sentinel Island, whom we call the Sentinelese, have an unbroken lineage, that is 60,000 years long, catapulting them back to the Stone Age. But this time, it is not the story of the Sentinelese that has drawn us in, but the story of us and a not so subliminal longing, to live as free, even if only for a moment.
this is… The Neighborhood
from 2012… Let Her Go by Passenger
“In the real world there is no nature vs. nurture argument, only an infinitely complex and moment-by-moment interaction between genetic and environmental effects” ~ Gabor Mate
Nurture Versus Nature
by Kendall F. Person
There are irrefutable differences between nature and nurture. Nature is passed down through the blood and especially prevalent in the wild, it is the instinct that enables animals to survive. In us, it may be the way we think, or how we relate to the world, and according to Professor Paul Bloom, a researcher at the Infant Cognition Centre at Yale University, it may dictate our moral code. Nature just happens, all by itself. But nurture, on some levels, is much harder, more complex. Nurture must be taught and it must be learned. It is what a child sees in his immediate world, during the all to important formative years.
The fortunate are raised by parents who are wise, healthy, ambitious and caring. They also are nurturing, instilling within us self-esteem and whatever nature may have left out. Giving their offspring a chance to grow up knowing right from wrong, and understanding, that we are someone. But when nature has not gifted us a fair shot, and when we are not born into nor arrive at the doorstep of a nurturing home, than how do we learn to live a fulfilling life; and is there a way to keep from tearing ourselves apart?
In the United States of America, we celebrate Thanksgiving Day. It is the busiest travel day of the year as family comes together, bonding over a traditional dinner. Most will offer thanks in prayer, either for good fortune or simply because we are here. But to those who are able, we should also use this time, to assist a child in need, so that they too may be thankful, and enjoy the innocence of their younger years.
We each have our own struggles and our own pain, but most still have something left.. We may think because we have achieved, all can do the same, but what we ignore, is that there is life on every level, and some of our kids are in need of our help. If we each offer a little, nurture will fill the gaps of nature, giving all of the children, at least a fighting chance.
I understand if you are thinking “Why so thanksgivy?” Because without reminders, the meaning of the day gets away from us and becomes another opportunity lost, for what I have no idea.
this is… The Neighborhood
“We must stop and find time to thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” – John F. Kennedy
by Kendall F. Person
On November 12, 1985, she was 13 years old, so most likely in middle school, about the 8th grade, I assume. She and her brother Alvaro, lived in the prosperous agricultural region of Tolima in the city of Armero, with their parents Álvaro Enrique & Maria Aleida, along with her Aunt Maria Adela. There was some concern among the elders, about Nevado del Ruiz, a volcano that last erupted 140 years before, as it was starting to make noise. But at 13 and an only girl, Omayra Sánchez Garzón was probably more concerned about her mother who had traveled 100 miles southeast to Bogota on business, but she made it home before the morn. And no doubt, there was some comfort blanketing the villages that lived in the volcano’s shadow, for the federal government had sent experts to monitor the activity and establish – I assume – precautions for the citizenry, as an eruption was imminent, for erupt is what volcanoes do.
On November 6th – one week before the world would be introduced to Omayra – a beautiful and courageous teenage girl – a guerilla organization known as M-19 would storm The Palace of Justice in Bogota, by deadly force. They seized the chambers, capturing all justices of the Colombia Supreme Court and held over 300 hostages, in a two-day seige, that demoralized the country, and depleted its resolve, leaving the calvary running on fumes, just when Omayra would need them most.
On day two in Bogota, the order came from the top. Led by General Jesús Armando Arias Cabrales, commander of the Thirteenth Army Brigade, the government would counter attack in what became one of the bloodiest shootouts in Colombia’s maiden voyage in domestic terrorism. When the Army finally retook the building, over a hundred people including 11 Supreme Court Justices were dead. Before the nation could sort through what happened, one hundred miles northwest, the volcano erupted. It was not the initial explosion, but the combination of mud, rock and lava, that laid waste to 85% of the city of Armero, killed 21,000 of its 29,000 residents, and trapped 13 year old Omayra Sanchez Garzon under hardened sediment, that the would be rescuers could not cut through. For 60 hours she held on, dazzling the world with her courage and charm. But before her departure – with peace and grace – she told her supporters to go home and rest. And the arrival of death came soon after.
As it turns out, it was not her choice alone to give up the ghost. Bogota was still in a state of shock from the Palace of Justice massacre and was unable to immediately regroup; to respond to a SOS, thereby would be survivors perished under blankets of mud. On the ground, the region did not own the type of machine needed to break through the lahar and were helpless, so they talk and fed Omayra. But even if she had been freed, her broken legs were caught under a door made of bricks, with her aunt’s arms clutched tightly around her legs, leading medical personnel to the realization, they were not equipped to deal with a double amputation. So they announced to her mother, a recent widow herself, that it was best to let her die.
What if the resources used to fight and argue with one another, not just the money, but the time and the brain power and the shared imagination of united countrymen, had been put forward in planning for a natural disaster, that they always knew one day would come? Perhaps, it would not have ended in a double national tragedy, both of epic proportions. And maybe if the arrival of help had come in time, Omayra Sanchez Garzon’s departure would not have been so breathtakingly tragic at only 13 years old.
So what do we do upon the arrival of Thanksgiving Day? Do elevate our hearts above all else and give a dollar to a poor or lost or lonely soul? Do we drop to our knees and thank our Higher Power or the trees for what we have accomplished? Or do we seek out to please me, myself and I like any other day? An individual choice that affects the world.
Happy Thanksgiving and may our choice shine a light.
this is The Neighborhood
Before a return to an angry world, we reached back into the archives for the perfect post to share on this day. With the stress of the 2018 midterm elections now behind, we celebrate the absolute success of not just the resistance and the congressional power the Democrats hold high, but of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. which came full circle 52 years after the historic legislation gave all Americans the right to vote. And while the shenanigans down in Georgia serve to confirm, that 52 (big smile) is not all that much time, it should give us reason to smile that voter participation in the 2018 Midterms elections, was sky high, matched only by the midterms of 1966.
Crooked Smile by J. Cole
What Makes You Smile?
by Kendall F. Person &
A Collaborative of Friends.
The smile – a mood lifting, contagious reaction, free to give and beautiful to receive – gesture and expression. How we love when babies smile. It is the one sound or expression they make, that lets us know everything is okay. A natural reaction, it is created with ease. A frown creates tension and if our Grandmothers are correct, hold on to one long enough, and it will become your permanent expression.
Smile, and less an occasion or two, the person you smiled at, will smile back at you. Smile in the mirror and you will like the person you see. Smile in the morning, and welcome in the new day. Smile when your world is crying and find the strength to see it through. A downside to smiling? I have no idea. I did not search for that answer, for the smile should remain untouchable, free from the trials and tribulations attached to so many of our expressions of emotion.
His name was Rod Serling and from 1959 – 1964, he created original episodes of the legendary anthology television show, The Twilight Zone. I was born after the series had ended, but I am not alone in claiming it as one of the all time great shows. Each episode is of its own creation. There were no recurring characters, other than his monologue, nor did any story lines continue until the next week. No subplots needed to add complexity. The foundation was laid, events executed, and our minds were blown. all in less than 30 minutes. He created worlds, time periods and in arguably, the absolute best episode ever To Serve Man, he introduced humanity on earth to “humanity” from outer space. The shows were tense, compelling, and directed with such skill and finesse, we would always forget how ruthless he could be in flipping the script. Every episode was a motion picture and Rod Serling was a master of the performance.
On October 16, 1987, 12 years after Serling’s untimely death, a future music producer would be stillborn, pronounced dead at birth. But while the infant displayed no outward signs of life, there lived a fighting spirit inside. When efforts to revive him were successful, there was little hope that a young Keith Montgomery of Baltimore, Maryland would make it through the night. But there was fortitude in that infant child; he would defy the odds and after what must have been for his mother, a long and painful night, his survival gave her reason to smile.
I have much respect for the visionaries, whose legendary status does not define me as yet. I have much love for the arts and individual artistic expression, but I believe it is possible to push the envelope too far. And Rod Serling flung said envelope, way over the cliff in his creation of The Twilight Zone episode It’s a Good Life. Forced to smile at all times, in the face of death, destruction, and the systematic elimination of all mankind. It did not matter if your loved ones were disintegrated or your emotions were overwhelmed, stop smiling even for a minute, and a little boy would make you disappear. With no silver lining or message to be learned, and the perversion of smiling in the face of unspeakable things, was not entertaining and was the one performance I wish I had missed. Smiles should be untouchable after all.
Keith aka Fiyaman (Montgomery) would win the fight for his life but would not emerge unscathed. The lack of oxygen to his young brain, during the moments he did not breathe, would cause a speech impediment and a learning disability, he would carry for the rest of his life. During elementary school, when young children can be so cruel, his difficult speech made him a target for childhood bullies. But one day he would stand up for himself, and would force his bully to stand down and from that day forth – with the support of his family – he would find a way to live a purpose driven life. He spoke slower, and concentrated on the pronunciation of his words. He would study longer, forcing his brain to catch up with stealth. A lover of literature, who dabbles in the visual arts, but at the young age of 26, he has found his calling in the recording arts. A talented and creative producer, he imagines rhythmic sounds and lays down the tracks that will one day become songs. It is his music that is heard in My Heart, The Neighborhood’s first original song. And it is in his music, where he finds the most joy, only eclipsed by the joy he feels in, “Making other people smile.”
As we go through the day, let us offer a smile as our first reaction to a friend, a family member or coworker who is having a bad day. Let us smile at the homeless family we pass on the street, allowing dignity and humility to rain down as peace. Perhaps today is the day that we need a smile, to calm the anger or bitterness or rage of our emotions, instilling an inner peace, if only for today. And if all else fails, look in the mirror or close your eyes, and find a reason to smile.
this is… The Neighborhood
Unfortunate circumstances forced The Neighborhood to part ways with Keith Montgomery, but his personal story – published prior to an unrelated faux pas – still makes us smile.
And Dec 30… SMILE AGAIN
“True silence is the rest of the mind; it is to the spirit, what sleep is to the body: nourishment and refreshment.” – William Penn
Kiss Me Deadly
by Cho Young Wuk
“Silence is the source of great strength.” – Lao Tzu
ALONE WITH SILENCE
by Kendall F. Person
On the clearest night, when the clouds fail to appear, clearing the stage for the performance of the stars. And when the weather is just right, and all the day’s responsibilities are behind us; not on a day reserved for our favorite show, for our mind will be preoccupied. But on a night when we have no excuses, no way out of being alone with ourselves, under the vast expanse of a starlit sky. And once our minds are captured, by what we will later call surreal – but it was not – see where it takes you, all on its own. When the imagination takes control, our minds produce beautiful performances.
Yellowstone, the Sierra Nevadas, the Rocky Mountains, the Florida Everglades or most places in Alaska, or right outside our door, nature has a way of establishing order. It gives us back both inner peace & serenity, although for the animal residents, what we call peace, for them it is a constant struggle. And no matter how at ease our minds become, a constant state of inner peace we simply do not want, although when we have it, we do not want it to go.
We accept quotes of Eric Burdon – Inside each of us there is the seed of both good and evil… – believing we are bonded to hate and anger and evil, inhaling words like these, as if they in fact, are the gospel we seek. We wear our shields to ward off temptation, and drop to our needs in prayer, for strength to be a better person. We talk big, watch films and make plans to find positive, resourceful solutions to defeating hate, before it can spiral to the point of no return. But blame becomes the tool, that makes us feel as if we have done something, and we disperse without any progress made, on stopping the pendulum from swinging.
Silence. Just look into the sky and think real hard. Use your imagination, it is the key to all progress, and picture our world where the emotion of anger and the need for vengeance have been banished and now archaic. But if we cannot imagine it when we are all alone, embraced by the wonders of nature on a night of utter perfection, than we cannot achieve it, and by default accept, that we are good, but evil lives in equal parts within us.
this is… The Neighborhood