there is a crudeness about us…while the devolution is busy at work

The ladder of success in Hollywood is usually a press agent,
actor, director, producer, leading man;
and you are a star if you sleep with each of them in that order.
Crude, but true.

Hedy Lamarr


(Hedy Lamar staring in Tortila Flats 1942)

1930’s film star actress Hedy Lamarr seems to state the obvious in today’s quote…
yet most of Hollywood has opted to hide this dirty little, yet widely and openly known,
secret for decades.
However, suddenly as if out of nowhere, Hollywood is now in an uproar and aghast
over such open knowledge…think Harvey Weinstein.

Everyone knew.
Everyone played along.
Most everyone either participated or turned a blind eye…
Until one day…not everyone wanted to keep playing.

Ms Lamarr was born in Austria in 1914 to Jewish parents.
At the youthful age of 18, she stared in an Austrian film that became famous for its controversy.
The film, Ecstacy, was way before its time as it was complete with nudity and
and for an added bonus provided an up close orgasm for good effect.

Lamarr became famous for this staring role although the film was rejected by
Feminist groups here in the United States while being hailed as extremely artistic
throughout Europe.

My how times have changed.

During that same time, the young Hedy married a much older and wealthy Austrian
ammunition manufacturer.
He was very controlling of his young wife, treating her more like a treasured doll.
He despised the racy film and actually forbade her from ever acting again.
Lamarr’s life now mirrored the very plot of that film.

Life imitating art, or so it seemed.

No longer able to feel as if she could breathe, Hedy eventually fled to Paris and
later London where she met Louis B. Mayer of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer fame,
who hired her for the American film industry.

Married 6 times, Ms. Lamar was more than just a 1930’s / 1940’s bombshell actress.
It seems that Ms. Lamar had a brain.
A rather highly functioning brain yet one that lacked formal training.

Although Lamarr had no formal training and was primarily self-taught,
she worked in her spare time on various hobbies and inventions,
which included an improved traffic stoplight and a tablet that would dissolve in water
to create a carbonated drink. The beverage was unsuccessful;
Lamarr herself said it tasted like Alka-Seltzer.
An unrelated effort resulted in Fizzies, which became a cultural icon of the 1950s-60s.

Among the few who knew of Lamarr’s inventiveness was aviation tycoon Howard Hughes.
Lamarr discussed her relationship with Hughes during an interview,
saying that while they dated, he actively supported her “tinkering” hobbies.
He put his team of science engineers at her disposal,
saying they would do or make anything she asked for.

During World War II, Lamarr learned that radio-controlled torpedoes,
an emerging technology in naval war, could easily be jammed and set off course.
She thought of creating a frequency-hopping signal that could not be tracked or jammed.
She contacted her friend, composer and pianist George Antheil,
to help her develop a device for doing that,
and he succeeded by synchronizing a miniaturized player-piano mechanism with radio signals.
They drafted designs for the frequency-hopping system, which they patented.

Although the US Navy did not adopt the technology until the 1960s,
the principles of their work are arguably incorporated into Bluetooth technology,
and are similar to methods used in legacy versions of CDMA and Wi-Fi.
This work led to their induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.

(Wikipedia)

Both smart and inventive, Ms. Lamar remained in the film industry for most of her adult
life until her career, along with her age, began to wane in the late 1950’s and early 60’s.

Sadly, in her older age, she was caught shoplifting twice.
It seems that Lamarr had fallen on dire financial straits.

Eventually, she shut herself away from any sort of public life or visible contact with
the outside world..including her own two children.
She died in 2000 in Florida at the age of 85.

And so whereas Ms. Lamar’s words continue to reach out to us from a distant past,
her words manage to shine a forgotten light on a continuing dark entertainment industry…
an industry our society and culture oddly continue to worship and adore.

We allow these paid performers to do and say things we would never accept from
anyone else.

Take for example the actor Robert De Niro….

The other day, my son and I had each read the latest brouhaha following that latest
gathering of all things elitist, Hollywood and entertainment.

It was the story of actor Robert De Niro’s expletive-laced tantrum while appearing on stage
at the Tony awards.

It seems as if he felt most compelled to do more than his part that evening which was to
simply introduce singer Bruce Springsteen.

Rather De Niro got on stage, and once to the mic, launched a foul-mouthed tirade regarding
the President of the United States.

“F” this and “F” that…he went on and on regarding President Trump.

Lord knows there have been plenty of presidents I’ve never cared for, but due to the fact that
I still hold respect for the office, not to mention respect for our country, I would never have
behaved as poorly as Mr. De Niro.

Never to publicly and verbally bash any one of our presidents, be they good or be they bad…
and since we seem to live in a democracy, a place where folks actually get to vote for
the person of their choice, I’ve had to learn to just grin and bear it through those
years that it was obviously not my choice.

It’s what we do in a democracy.
We vote.
And then we in turn live with the results…be they good or be they bad.

Then as the next election rolls around,
we get out when the time is right and rally toward the hoped for.

We call such actions living with…restraint, decorum, and civility.
Three things Mr. De Niro obviously is lacking.

The same article in our morning’s reading next moved on the story regarding talk show
host Bill Maher and his own public proclamation that the best we can hope for is a recession.

Huh?

It seems that in Mr. Mayers skewed thought process a recession is just what the country
needs to get rid of the President.

A recession, really???

The unemployment rate is at the lowest it’s been in years–a 48 year low actually.
It is the best rate for both Blacks and Hispanics that it’s been in decades…if ever.
The economy is equally making great strides as it continues to grow as small businesses
are reporting a feeling of stability and even improvement.

And yet we’ve got an overpaid celebrity whining that we need a recession as that is the only
way we will be able to rid ourselves of the current sitting president.

A president who has negatively impacted our growth and stability how???

“Sure,” Maher says “because I think one way you get rid of Trump is a crashing economy.
So please, bring on the recession,” he said.
“Sorry if that hurts people, but it’s either root for a recession or you lose your democracy.”

Oh really?

Perhaps that’s easy for a multimillionaire elitest entertainer to say.
A recession would not hurt Mr. Maher nor Mr. De Niro not as it would hurt most of
middle to lower income America.

My 30-year-old son turns to me after having read all of this craziness and asks
“why would anyone want something bad to happen to this Country??”

And I’m left scratching my head because I’m lost for any sane answer.

Why shoot yourself in the foot?
Just like draft dodgers literally did…as a last resort from being drafted.

They were willing to risk a limb to save their life,
Maher is willing to risk others lives to cut what he considers
to be a bad limb.

The devolution of our society is in full swing.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him,
but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of
the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and
birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual
impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.
They exchanged the truth about God for a lie,
and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—
who is forever praised. Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts.
Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones.
In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were
inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men,
and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God,
so God gave them over to a depraved mind,
so that they do what ought not to be done.
They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.
They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice.
They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful;
they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents;
they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.
Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death,
they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

Romans 1:21-32

dubious

Jove weighs affairs of earth in dubious scales,
And the good suffers while the bad prevails.

Homer,
The Odyssey, Book VI, line 229. Pope’s translation


(a problematic flock of geese, Mackinaw City / Julie Cook / 2017)

Last night, as I was fast asleep,
with sleep being a relative term at this stage of age in my life,
my credit card mysteriously crawled out of my wallet and teleported itself
miraculously to Europe…
And of course with a few jaunts back and forth between the US, the UK and greater
Europe…all for good measure and long before I ever woke up.

It even made a stop in Luxembourg—

I’ve always wanted to visit Luxembourg.
I’m so glad one of us has gotten to go.

I discovered this near mythical adventure upon getting up this morning.

Bleary eyed from my usual tossing and turning, I stumbled into the kitchen to
start the coffee.
I picked up my phone and noticed a copious amount of messages regarding my
credit card.

Huh?

Rubbing my eyes and adjusting my glasses I grabbed my computer and pulled up
my email.

Sure enough…24 messages reporting suspicious activity on my card with
purchase after purchase being declined,
thank goodness…

A dollar here, a pound there and even a euro or two …
all of which was a dead trigger…

But then it became bold and went onwards and upward of $300 bucks to such places
as Domino’s pizza somewhere in Austria, some sort of FaceBook virtual store in Germany, nintendo of Europe, netflix somewhere in the UK….

As it seems as if my credit card was having a mid-life crisis and was attempting to
live someone’s youthful abandon all on another continent…
or perhaps in reality it was something more inline with sorry wonton
wastefulness….

I’ve ridden this merry go round before—seems like I just wrote a similar post..
but that was my debit card—this is now my credit card…
so we are officially 2 for 2.

And no, I don’t buy a lot nor do I order all that much on-line….

I called the nice folks at the credit card company.
She ran me through the gauntlet of security before I delivered my
tale of woe. And from her end, she could see just how busy my card had
been in its jet set ways.

She verified my last purchase—three books from Amazon…hummm I now wonder…
Next it was to all the latest 24 bizarre or so “traveling” purchases,
all of which had been declined, and were now seen for what they truly were—
stealing.

She canceled the card and has issued me a new one which will be arriving
post haste.

After we hung up, I continued receiving notifications that whomever was
out there playing me, hadn’t given up yet…
I don’t know, maybe it would take 30 tries before this idiot figured
declined meant declined.

For good measure I called the credit card company back letting them know I
was still receiving their fraud notifications—
of which they told me not to fret–
the card was no more and the notifications would stop when our rocket scientist
friend figured such out…as he, she, it would then most likely move on to the
next stolen card number…

In all the gallows humor here, there is a seriousness that really leaves me
angry because I loath those who steal…
particularly information, numbers and identities…
because if the truth be told, all of that is really lazy man stealing.

Sit on your arse as it were, hiding behind a computer screen,
trolling and taking….

Nice and neat, or so it would all appear.
No one is physically hurt.
Or so our arse sitting thieves would assume.

What’s a little free Dominos pizza somewhere in Austria or
some Facebook virtual-store crap in Luxembourg??
Or things I don’t even know of in New York???

So before I had even had my first sip of morning coffee, I was mad.

Like you, I try to live life as I would expect others to live theirs…
work, earn, pay….

But life is not easy like that.
Not everyone buys into doing the right things in life.

There are bad people, lazy people, violent people, bad lazy people,
bad lazy violent people…
People who would only sneer at my desire that we all do what is right
by one another.
Think psychopaths, think gangs, think MS13…

As in there are dubious and nefarious individuals who do not consider life
to be a gift, who do not hold love nor honor in their hearts and
who prefer only to serve a darker and more sinister side of life.

And as we now que those out there who will sing the song of lamentation
that this behavior is due to a poor childhood, a less fortunate history,
a lack of this or that, an unbroken cycle…….

The bottom line is choice.

A choice to do what is right and decent
or
a choice to do what is wrong and bad.

And it is those more sinister and heartless out there who scare me.

They scare me because they remind me that darkness continues to walk this earth.
That there is indeed a deep spiritual battle that rages all around us—
whether we are awake or asleep…it rages.

For despite my best efforts at keeping my little world nice and neat,
tidy and safe…
Satan and those who do his work, are busy.

We either choose to serve Light or we choose to serve darkness
It’s as simple as that.

Others would disagree.
There will be excuses…
There are things like victimhood…
and cycles, and disadvantage…
but in the end…
none of that matters because when we choose one over the other…
that choice is on us and us alone.

For no one is telling us which to choose…for the choice,
despite our circumstances is still up to us….
so perhaps then such poor choosing just makes us all victims does it not..?

A troublemaker and a villain,
who goes about with a corrupt mouth,
who winks maliciously with his eye,
signals with his feet
and motions with his fingers,
who plots evil with deceit in his heart—
he always stirs up conflict.
Therefore disaster will overtake him in an instant;
he will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.
There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

Proverbs 6:12-19

the saint, the sultan and a first in meetings…

DSCN0358
( modern grave markers within the ancient cemetery located within the grounds of St Kevin’s Monastery, Glendalough National Park, County Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

In 1219 a humble and simple Italian Franciscan monk ventured across raging seas and hostile lands with the hope of eventually crossing enemy lines in order to meet one of the most feared men of his time, Sultan Malik al-Kamil of Egypt… who also happened to be the nephew of the greatly feared Muslim warrior Saladin.

This was the height of the 5th Crusade. The Holy Roman Empire was embroiled, once agin with Muslim forces, as Jerusalem and what is known to Christianity as the Holy Lands, was under Muslim rule. Pope Innocent III and his successor Pope Honorius III, along with King Andrew II of Hungary and the Grand Duke Leopold VI of Austria launched a Holy Crusade to rid Christianity’s holiest city and her lands of Muslim rule once and for all. The irony here however is that Sultan Malik al-Kamil was actually one of the more tolerant Muslim rulers and allowed Christians living in and traveling to and from Jerusalem safe passage as well as greater freedoms than had previous rulers. Gone were the days of persecution and vast bloodshed. Yet the Catholic Church and most of Europe held the belief that the only good Jerusalem was a free Jerusalem.

Francesco Bernardone, affectionately known to us today as St Francis of Assisi, according to historical record longed to travel to the land of the Saracens not only to witness to the Muslims in the name of Christ but to broker peace. There is much debate over this encounter—had Francis simply wished to die a martyr in his hope to convert the Sultan as some historical documents record or had he hoped to intervene a peaceful solution putting an end to the ages of hostility, violence and bloodshed which had existed between these two religions for hundreds of years…scholars continue to debate these varying schools of thought.

The one fact however greatly agreed upon is that the meeting was one of mutual respect and peace.
Both men departed company with a lasting impression of mutual admiration and an understanding that each honored God…albeit in his own way.

As the world sits and watches the daily violence and mayhem unfolding within the very same region of the encounter of Francis and the Sultan…in Northern Arica and the Middle East, there appears to be an endless rolling wave of violence and bloodshed that seems to have been relentless since the dawn of mankind…as those deadly ripples reverberate ever outward into a gravely unaware world.

And it is during these global dark days in which my thoughts often turn to the teachings of that humble monk from Assisi.
I wonder how St Francis would view the current crisis with the current global assault by ISIS…
As this rising new unbending rule within Islam seems to lack the wisdom and tolerance of the long ago Sultan.

There is a historic meeting which is soon to take place.
It is a meeting between the two leading men who sit on the ancient thrones of their collective branches of Christianity.
Pope Francis, the Sovereign of Vatican City and the Bishop of Rome, the leader of the western Latin Roman Catholic Church, who is the 266th pope to sit on the throne of St Peter, will meet with his Orthodox counterpart, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, the leading patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church.

This meeting is a first between these two branches of the same tree. Previous popes have attempted to meet with the Russian Orthodox hierarchy but the rift between these two “sister” churches is deep.
All of which indeed goes back to the Great Schism of 1054 when Christianity was divided between the Latin West and the Eastern Orthodox.

However with the Russian Orthodox the wariness seems to go even further as the Mother Church of Russia looks at the Latin Church as one who has long hoped to lure away the Russian faithful while the Catholic Church has long wondered how “close” the Russian Orthodox Church has been first with the ruling Tsar’s and then later with the Communist regime…with current continuing questions regarding the relationship and roll between it and Vladimir Putin’s government.

Yet it is with grave mutual concern over the rampant rise in global Christian persecution, especially in the region of Northern Africa and the Middle East, that these two holy men will put aside all differences in order to come together in a greatly historic and unprecedented union in hopes of creating a unified front, while the world watches and wonders how many more must die at the hands of barbarism before someone stands up and says enough is enough.

As the time of this historic meeting fast approaches, may our collective Christian families join together in united prayer for these two men as they prepare to meet later this month in Cuba.
May the Holy Spirit make His presence known and felt as these two men of deep Christian faith, who speak as representatives on the global stage for all of Christianity as well as humanity itself…may they find the necessary common ground within their shared faith, their love of Jesus Christ…may their two voices join as one as they speak for those who cannot speak.
May the world stop long enough to hear these two men’s collective wisdom which is steeped in the wisdom of the One True Spirit of God.
And may all Christians join together in support as we stand together as the Light shining in this every darkening world….

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35500973

What are we to do?

“Make up your mind,” Moab says. “Render a decision. Make your shadow like night – at high noon. Hide the fugitives, do not betray the refugees.”
Isaiah 16:3

DSC02486
(a morning glory found deep in the woods / Julie Cook / 2015)

Both Lucy Lipiner and Gerda Weissmann Klein have a tale to tell. . .

Each woman weaves a story steeped in the sweet innocence of childhood which is suddenly and unimaginably lost in the midst of unspeakable horrors. . .yet thankfully theirs is a tale of eventual survival and of small yet victorious triumphs.

There are a few differences between these two woman of which create two very individual stories. . .
Differences such as their age and the fact that they were each born in different small towns.
Yet it is to the similarities between them that inextricably binds them together for all of eternity.
I am pretty certain that these woman do not personally know one another nor have they ever met, but I somehow think that in many ways they have known one another very well for a very long time as they have both survived the unimaginable stemming from the same wicked source. . .

Each woman was born in Poland and each woman was born into a Jewish family.
Whoever would have imagined that those two seemingly insignificant factors would mark these women for the rest of their lives by placing them in the valley of the shadow of Death. Had they been born say, in America or Canada, or England, their stories would certainly have been less then memorable. Lives lived as mostly anyone else’s.
But because they were born in a country lying in the path of a very hungry and vicious animal, tragedy was to be their lot.

I have finished reading Lucy’s tale and have now begun Gerda’s equally gripping story.
As I waited in the dentist office yesterday, reading until I was called back, I had tears flooding my eyes as I read the story of an individual family, like my own family or anyone’s family, being ripped apart as they stood by helpless to prevent the rupture.

Despite the fact that these two lady’s stories took place over 70 years ago, I have been struck by the similarities of the worldwide current plights now littering our news.

Each was a young girl when The War broke out–when Germany marched forth seizing Poland as its own.
Each girl came from a prominent family within their respective towns. They were loved, nurtured and happy living their lives as innocent children.

I think it is Lucy’s story that I have found to be most relevant to any story I might read in today’s paper—that of any number of families fleeing Syria or Egypt or Turkey or Somalia or Tunisia, or Eritrea, etc.— each seeking refuge from the unspeakable horrors of the upheaval of what was an average life.

Lucy’s family was on the run for almost 10 years. Starting when she was 6 years old when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939– they became just another statistic of families in the throng of the displaced as they sought refuge in the Soviet Union and later Tajikistan then briefly back to Poland and ironically to Germany and eventually to the US.
There was death, violence, sexual abuse, grave hunger, incapacitating illness, loss, sorrow, separation and near madness.

They had been a family like any other family–they had a nice home, nice clothes, nice jewelry. They went to Temple. They enjoyed their extended family. They attended school. They had jobs. They played music as they lived, loved and laughed—-

Suddenly life took a turn beyond their control and they lost everything–they became hunted, like animals. They were reduced to wearing clothes turned to rags as there was no longer choice. They lost weight. They were hungry. They were infested with bugs, inside and out. They ate rotten trash and drank fetid water to quell an endless hunger. They were dirty, they smelled. They were sick both physically, spiritually and mentally.
They were shells of human beings.

Miraculously the family remained intact but it came at a tremendous cost to each member of the family. They survived in part due the kindness of those strangers and individuals encountered along the long and arduous journey who were willing to offer aid, shelter and comfort, as meager as it was. . .to dirty and seemingly unsavory subhuman individuals who were considered enemies of every state simply for being Jewish.

Yesterday’s news ran a story about the discovery of a lorry, or tractor trailer, abandoned on a road in Austria containing at least 70 dead bodies of migrants, or refugees, who were on what they thought to be a journey to freedom.

Today there was the story of another capsized ship losing possibly 500 individuals–men, women and children drowning while on their way to freedom.

There have been the stories of the Chunnel being overrun and shut down, day after day, by the thousands of migrants in Calais seeking asylum and freedom.

There was the story of an arson attack on a migrant shelter in Germany, as Angela Merkel was booed by those Germans not wanting to see Germany overrun by the hundreds of thousands of refugees seeking safe haven.

It is said that the current influx of migrants from both Africa and the Middle East is the largest exodus of people since World War II.

A humanitarian crisis of epic proportion.

The worry– how will the small European Nations absorb the millions of people running away from tyranny, abuse and horror. . .how will they be able to provide for all of these “other” people as they continue providing for their own. . .?

These refugees are different–culturally, religiously and ethnically.

Later I read a story about the marking the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
The story told the tale of how one group of New Orleans citizens did not want the “other” New Orleans citizens, those who were the evacuees coming from the more disadvantaged areas, to cross the bridge bringing them into the more affluent neighborhoods.

These citizens were afraid of being overrun with what was thought to be unsavory individuals bringing with them drugs, crime and violence—those citizens coming from the areas which were known to be rife with such—
And I suppose some of those feelings may have been justified after we heard the stories of the rapes and murders taking place within the Superdome when it was opened to those evacuating the lower 9th ward.

Is it fear that keeps us weary, holding our arms outward not as arms offering a welcoming embrace but rather as arms pushing away and repelling those who come seeking aid and assistance?

How can we take on an endless sea of people in need–economically absorbing the astronomical costs for healthcare, housing, education, employment and assimilation?

What of the hidden terrorists among the masses?

Are we not told to be hospitable and welcoming–offering sustenance and aid to our fellow human beings who are in desperate need?

Would we not want someone to do the same for us?

One country closes its borders.

Is that fair to the other surrounding countries?

How do we feed them all?

Where will they stay?

What of those who are criminals?

What of the illness and disease they bring with them?

What of the myriad of language barriers?

What will happen to our own way of life when it yields to the incoming masses?

Do we lose ourselves, our identity, while giving of ourselves to the “other?”

I don’t know the answers to these hard questions and I don’t think the rest of the world knows the answers either–
yet I simply keep hearing these words. . .

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25: 35-40

Lusia’s Long Journey Home
A young Girls’ Memoir of Surviving the Holocaust
by Lucy Lipiner

A Memoir
All But My Life
by Gerda Weissmann Klein

Show us the way oh Lord. . .

“Others have seen what is and asked why.
I have seen what could be and asked why not. ”

― Pablo Picasso

DSC01159
(a statue of Christ on the Charles Bridge , Prague, The Czech Republic / Julie Cook / 2012)

What is it that sets us apart form the other creatures on this planet our ours?
Other than that opposable thumb business?

What is it that makes us greater, wiser, better. . .?

Is it perhaps our ability to be compassionate and kind?
Perhaps to reason and analyze?
Or is it is our capacity to be creative. . .that ability to dream, to imagine, to think and therefore to compose, to construct, to paint, to sing, to sculpt, to dance and to build. . .

The ability to even take that which has been ruined and destroyed, even by our own hands, and to remake, rekindle and renew. . .?

I had not intended to have such a serious minded post again this week but it appears that forces beyond my control thought better of my initial decision. . .

Today’s news is laced, once again with the heinous beheading by ISIS of another innocent bystander–another victim to their ravenous thirst for innocent blood. This time it was an 82 year old Archeologist taxed with preserving and saving the ruins of Palmyra.
It seems they held this gentleman for the past month, torturing him in an attempt to discover where the vast treasures of this ancient, and to some holy, site were hidden. He never shared that information with his captors, who knows if he even was aware of hidden treasure, so it was another case of “off with their heads”. . .

Here you may find a link to the full story as found on the BBC . . .
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-33984006

In Charles Kaiser’s book “The Cost of Courage” which I shared in yesterday’s post, Mr. Kaiser retells the story of the Vichy Parisian Mayor, Pierre-Charles Taittinger who, following the invasion of Normandy which was the telling realization for the Nazis that their time of Occupation in Paris, as well as all of France, was drawing dangerously to its finale, approached the Nazi’s high commander, General Choltitz, with his final plea for the Germans to spare the city.

It was well known and documented that if Hitler had to relinquish the City of Lights back into the hands of the Allies, then they would not receive a city at all but rather one that had been razed and burnt to the ground. Every bridge crossing the Seine, as well as every monument from the Eiffel Tower to Napoleon’s Tomb had been wired with explosives. The fleeing German troops were to detonate and burn everything in their wake as they left the city.

Monsieur Taittinger implored the General one last time:
“Often it is given to a general to destroy, rarely to preserve,” Taittinger begins.
“Imagine that one day it may be given to you to stand on this balcony as a tourist, to look once more on these monuments to our joys, our sufferings, and to be able to say, “One day I could have destroyed all this, and I preserved it as a gift for humanity.’ General, is not that worth all a conqueror’s glory?”
The General replied, “You are a good advocate for Pairs. You have done your duty well. And likewise I, as a German general, must do mine.”

History tells us that the General was wise enough to know that by now Hitler was indeed a madman and that the war, with the Soviets now advancing from the east, was all but over and that it would not serve the furture of Germany, whatever that further may now hold, to destroy what the French held so dear. There is more to the story, a series of interventions and seemingly miraculous moments which spurred the Allied forces to march upon the city in the nick of time, but I suggest that you read that story on your own as it makes for fascinating reading.

When the church bells rang out echoing across the city, with the deep baritone bells of Notre Dame leading the way, sounding the joyful news of the liberation of Paris, the General was heard to say, “that today I have heard the bells of the death knell of my own funeral. . .” He had sent the troops out from the city with having detonated only the bombs of one of the train stations.

What is it about our splendors and our glories, those monuments we construct, build, make and craft from generation to generation. . . those tombs and treasures we hold so dear and so ever important? So much so that we feel the urgency and need of being tasked with their care, their maintenance, their upkeep and their eventual preservation?
Is it because we see that these manmade wonders are some of the tangible evidence of the better part of our nature? That despite our ability to destroy, to kill and to promote war. . .deep down we know that we strive for the good, the beautiful and the enduring?

These wonders of ours link us to our past civilizations. These monuments of glory, grandeur and beauty of both joy and sorrow allow us to see from where we have come, and in turn we are afforded the opportunity to show future generations the part of us which is better, kinder, gentler, more humane —that side which chose to give rather than to take?

So on this day, when another has fallen victim to a dark and evil menace spreading outward from the Middle East, I am left with the simple prayer, “Oh Lord, show us the way. . .”

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(Duomo di Milano / Milan, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

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(The Bascillica di San Antonio / Padova, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

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(Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore / Firenze, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

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(Basilica Papale di San Francesco / Assisi, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

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( Basilica Papale di San Pietro / The Vatican / Roma, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

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(stain glass windows in The Basilica of the Holy Blood / Bruges, Belgium / Julie Cook / 2011)

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(Notre Dame / Paris France / Julie Cook / 2011)

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(détail, Notre Dame / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

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(Eiffel Tower / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

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(the cross that sits atop the Eagles Nest or the Berghof overlooking Berchtesgaden, Bavaria which was once Hitler’s private mountain retreat / Julie Cook / 2013)

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(St Stephens Cathedral/ Vienna, Austria / Julie Cook / 2013)

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St Vitus Cathedral / Prague, The Czech Republic / Julie Cook / 2013)

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(Rose window, St Vitus Cathedral / Julie Cook / 2013)

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(A section of the Berlin Wall / Berlin, Germany / Julie Cook / 2013)

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(a section of the Berlin wall / Berlin, Germany / Julie Cook / 2013)

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(The Brandenburg Gate / Berlin, Germany / Julie Cook / 2013)

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(The interior of the new German Chancellory, the Bundestag / Berlin, Germany / Julie Cook / 2013)

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Exterior of the Bundestag / Berlin, Germany / Julie Cook / 2013)

Farewell to Sir Nicholas Winton

***Sir Nicholas Winton, the young British stockbroker, who in 1938 changed forever the course of his life as well as the course of the lives of 669 children, passed away peacefully yesterday at Wexham Hospital, Slough.

He was 106 years old.

Sir Winton has been the featured topic of several of my posts after I was privileged having caught Bob Simon’s 60 Minutes interview with Sir Winton which aired last April.
(sadly we have since lost Bob Simon in a tragic car accident earlier this year)
I thought it a fitting tribute that I should repost my original posting about this wonderful unassuming hero and most humble human being. . .the world was all the better for Nicholas Winton

(see yesterday’s BBC story about his death– http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-33350880 )

When does 669 equal 15,000?

“The soul is healed by being with children.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“I work on the motto that if something’s not impossible, there must be a way of doing it.”
Nicholas Winton

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(Nicholas Winton in 1938 with a young Jewish boy in Prague)

The year is 1938.
You’re 28 years old, a young British stock broker—successful and living the good life.
You’ve been keeping up with the current events throughout Europe, with a particularly keen interest in Czechoslovakia.
Hitler is on the march.
The Czechs, particularly the Jews, are trying to get out while they still can.
The war drums are beginning to echo from across the English Channel.
You’ve got two weeks vacation saved up.
Seems like a perfect time for a trip to Prague. . .

Fast forward to Sunday evening, April 27, 2014—time for 60 Minutes.
Correspondent Bob Simon hosts the story “Saving The Children”
He introduces us to 104 year old Nicholas Winton.

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(Sir Nicholas Winton today)

I was just in the process of finishing up the dishes when the story started. Intrigued with the story’s intro, I immediately stopped what I was doing in order to give the story my full attention.

By the time the 60 Minute story ends, tears are streaming down my cheeks.
A tale of heroic action by one who simply thought he had to make a difference.
He had no corporate financial backing.
He had no Governmental backing.
He was not a member of the military.
He was merely a young man with a big heart.
A young man who simply knew that there were people, in particular families with young children, who were now in trouble. Never mind that these people were on the continent proper, hundreds of miles from his own home.
He had no clue as to what he would find.
He had no idea as to how to he could “fix” the current “bleeding”
He simply knew in his heart that he had to go and he had to try to help.
Hitler and his dreaded Nazis were coming, as was now Nicholas Winton.
The two were on a collision course with destiny.
One to save lives, the other to take lives.

I’m providing a link for anyone who would like to view the original story here:
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/saving-the-children-during-world-war-11-60-minutes/

Mr. Winton, who is actually Sir Winton, is a most unassuming 104 year old British gentleman. He has a gentle, soft spoken demeanor, with an ever so sly smile. For nearly 50 years, Sir Winton never actually spoke of the life changing events which took place during a trip to Prague in 1938. Had his wife not found an old faded yellow and long forgotten scrape book in their attic, filled with the grainy black and white photographs of hundreds of young children, the world may never have known of the difference one young Englishman had made so very long ago.

When asked by Bob Simon as to why he never told any one of his most heroic feat which spanned 1938-1939, Sir Winton replied that it wasn’t that he kept it secret, he just didn’t find it important to go on about it.
That was then.
This is now.
And he currently has other irons in the fire.

At 104 Sir Winton is currently involved in working with the elderly mentally handicapped of London as well as for building homes for senior citizens. Interesting that a man of 104 feels a deep need to take care of those who are a bit younger than himself when it seems as if he would be the one in need of care.

I will briefly delve into only the general specifics of Sir Winton’s heroic act of 1938, as you may certainly visit the 60 Minute link or peruse the Web for a more in-depth story of this remarkable man— I will however whet your appetite with a few of the highlights.

As the Nazis rolled into then Czechoslovakia, wanting to literally take the Sudetenland, which they felt was rightfully their own, just as they had rolled into Austria and soon Poland and Hungary, the citizens of Czechoslovakia began to panic, especially the Jews. Nicholas Winton was reading about these disturbing unfolding events in the daily news with keen interest. He decided to use his time saved for holiday for a trip to Prague to see what, if anything, he could do to help.

The short end of story is that Sir Winton decided to get out as many children as possible from the impending falling death ridden curtain which was quickly descending not only over Czechoslovakia but over most of Europe. He had no particular resources except for his own ingenuity and creativity laced with a bit of deception. He orchestrated the deportation of eventually 669 children. He had even written to President Franklin Roosevelt asking if the United States would help by taking in some of the children.

When explaining all of this to Bob Simon, Sir Winton rather nonchalantly recalls that the United States refused to be of assistance and what a pity that was as he suspects they may have been able to save many more children.

The truly sad part of the story was the interview of Mr. Hugo Meisl. Mr Meisl was 10 years old in 1939. He vividly recalls the day Adolph Hitler rode through the streets of Prague. He along with the other children of Prague were lined up along the street route and were all told that as soon as the Führer rode past, they were to give the obligatory raised arm salute of Heil Hitler.

He was one of the 669 children that was saved during Nicholas Winton’s deportation scheme. Bob Simon asks if he remembers his parents taking him to the train station to send him to what was to be a journey to the safety of a new life in England. Mr Meisl recalls as if it was yesterday his parents taking him to the station that fateful day. They were not emotional but had told him that he was to go to England on a 2 month holiday, at which time they would then come join him.

Bob Simon presses Mr. Meisl asking if he had believed his parents. “Of course” Mr Meisl answers “We had every reason to believe our parents.”
As the interview continues, we all painfully realize that Mr. Meisl never saw his parents again. Bob Simon interjects “After the war you went back to Czechoslovakia… Was there one instant where you accepted the fact that your parents were dead?”

At this point, Mr. Meisl becomes quite emotional (as do I) explaining that for the next three years following the War, as the trains returned from Siberia, Russia, returning back to Czechoslovakia those who had fled or who had been taken prisoner, he searched for his parents.

I was personally so taken by the raw emotions of this man, who is now nearing 90, as he recalls the day he said good-bye to his parents and then of the 3 year search and wait for a return and reunion that never took place.

As a parent myself, I am hard pressed to imagine having to send my young child away to what I hoped was safety, knowing I most likely would never have seen him again. The total lack of control over my very life and that of my child’s life is something I simply cannot wrap my brain around. I find it a tragedy that so many free Americans and Europeans today have no true cognizant or emotional concept of the price paid by so many of our parents and grandparents during a time the majority of us have no understanding of—

We think that we would not tolerate such action taken against us or our family, and yet, the citizens of much of Europe in 1938 most likely felt the same as we do today.

In 1939 War was declared and the trains, with their cars full of young hopeful futures were all stopped, no longer being permitted to leave for the promise of safety and a future. A train was actually loaded up and was ready to depart the station just as the War was declared. It was in just a few short months that those same trains, now full of more children along with their parents, did indeed again depart Prague, but this time it was for a one way trip destined for what was to be Hitler’s final solution.

That 669 number of saved children, who were given the chance of freedom and life, went on to grow exponentially. The 669 married, having children, grandchildren and now great grandchildren. 669 saved young lives grew to 15,000 lives–all full of hope, dreams, love and thanks to Nicholas Winton, life.

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“The heart knoweth its own sorrow and there are times when, like David, it is comforting to think that our tears are put in a bottle and not one of them forgotten by the one who leads us in paths of sorrow.”
― Hannah Hurnard

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(detail of an image of Christ—holy napkin or veil of Veronica, from a side altar reliquary /The Basilica St. Michael / Mondsee, Austria / Julie Cook / 2015)

Tears are falling like the rain
Tears of struggle and tears of pain

Filled with loneliness and despair
A cry for help now found in prayer

“Hear me please” is all that’s heard
As life and death’s fine lines are blurred

A knowing comfort, none more so true,
That I have shed my tears for you. . .

And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
Revelation 21:4