Saturday, November 13, 2010

Morning Choices

I'm in the habit of reading the newspaper the first thing each morning.

I'm convinced it's a bad habit. So today I turned first to a random page from "The Essence of Tao," an anthology brilliantly and inspiringly compiled by Maggie Pinkney.

Above is the page, a single Marcus Aurelius quote. I pondered it over coffee and Wheaties topped with banana and apple slices.

Beneath the book is the "news" from the New York Times. I left the Times for later. Much later.

When I finally turned to the paper, I saw its wrenching, haphazard chronicle as an infinitesimal part of a universe — one that is "a single life, comprising one substance and one soul."

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Considering Population & Sustainability

We Quakers have a practice known as "seasoning."

The idea is to let an proposal age and be discussed before it is formally put forward for final approval or rejection.

Note too that Friends don't vote on these matters but seek "a sense" of the Quaker community. That often — but not always — means unanimity. The term we use is "unity of the spirit."

A committee of our regional North Pacific Yearly Meeting has urged us to consider a formal "minute" that may be put before the annual session in July 2011. The committee invites comment from Friends in the Northwest.

But, as you will see, the proposal extends beyond our small community, so I invite your comments and consideration too.


WORLD population has been growing at the astonishing pace of over 75 million persons per year, over 200,000 persons per day, over 8,500 per hour.

Previously, world food production has managed to keep up with increases in human population. Now we are reaching the limits of arable land, ocean fish populations, fresh underground water, fossil fuels, and other resources. To accommodate the growing human population, forests are being cut down at the rate of 5,000 acres per hour, water tables are being drawn down at alarming rates, and human waste and pollution are poisoning the air, water, and land at an unprecedented pace.

Population growth is also a factor in persistent public health problems, poverty, crime, wars, and other social ills. In order to realize the Quaker vision of an Earth restored and a peaceful, just society, we must seek ways to stabilize human population and consumption at levels that are sustainable for humans as well as other species.
To do this, we encourage voluntary measures including:

(1) adequate funding for family planning services worldwide.

(2) raising the status of women, and better education for women and men, both of which are keys to smaller family size.

(3) support for those who choose adoption, shared child-rearing, or celibacy as alternatives to the idea that everyone needs to have biological children, while honoring parenthood for those who choose that.

(4) ) simpler lifestyles in high-consuming nations such as the United States, including fewer possessions, greater sharing, and reduction or elimination of meat consumption.

(5) increased research on sustainable methods of food production, energy production, and other ways to meet human needs throughout the world without sacrificing natural systems or the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

We believe that these and other voluntary approaches should be vigorously pursued now to avoid the necessity of more coercive measures in the future to maintain a needed balance of resources between present and future generations of humans, and other species.

We urge Friends everywhere to join us in pursuing these approaches to sustainability in our personal lives, and in our local communities, states and nations.

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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

You, me and the Beast of Balzano

My last name, Seifert, is just unusual enough that folks often ask me if I’m related to other Seiferts.

A florist in Denver often comes up and a car dealer in Iowa. I have no idea who they are.

And then there’s George Seifert, the famed San Francisco Forty-Niners’ coach. He pronounces his name See-fert.

I’m Sigh-fert. No direct connection but he’s no doubt part of the clan. Some may see a resemblance between George, to the right, and me, below.

Of course, if my name were as common as Jones, Cohen or Martinez, none of these "name" questions would arise.

I mention this because in today’s New York Times we learn that one Michael Seifert died Saturday.

I read with some shock that Seifert had been an notorious SS guard in Italy during the Second World War and had committed horrific crimes.

Some friends probably wondered whether he’s a distant relative, though I doubt anyone will ask.

We all have our little family secrets of course. Fortunately, Michael isn’t one of ours ... at least that I know of.

And yet ... .

The Times ran two photos of Michael Seifert. One was of him as a young man and SS guard. His crimes, which included rape and murder, earned him the grim appellation “The Beast of Bolzano.”

The other photo showed him as the old man who was extradited from Vancouver, B.C. after being tracked down there. He died at age 86 after serving close to three years of a life sentence in an Italian military prison.

I suppose I could read into those photos some family resemblance. Something around the eyes perhaps. The droop of the lids. Who knows?

The story got me thinking about “family” in a different way. Just where does family begin, and where does it end? When do we let go?

And what about names? Half of me is actually Welsh/English. The Welsh part is Lewis. But I’m never asked about being a Lewis because it isn’t in my name, though it is in my blood. Besides, “Lewis” is a common enough not to attract inquiries about whether I'm related to C.S., Meriwether or John L..

I do know that coal miners were three generations back on the Lewis side. The Seifert side produced doctors and dentists — and no prison guards that I know of.

But all this seems rather short-sighted. Names shouldn’t define us. Nor should families (although they do, for better or worse).

Let’s face it, somewhere eons ago, I became related to you, and you became related to me — names, “families” and race not withstanding.

If Michael Seifert’s gene pool can be more directly traced to me by name, it is all relative ... and relatives — mine AND yours.

Are YOU related to Michael Seifert, the Beast of Balzano?

Aren't we all?

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