“love,” leo buscaglia’s

My daughter’s become as great a fan of author Leo Buscaglia, as I am. A man dedicated to teaching us about love, he lived his life extolling its virtues. So as you make your way through yours, keep his words in mind. Written in 1992, in “Born for Love-Reflections on Loving,” perhaps these words are even more relevant in today’s negative political and economical environment. 

PUBLICIZING LOVE

So much of our lives are overrun by hate, greed, violence and selfishness that we are tempted to overlook the fact that there is at least an equal amount of goodness in the world. The problem is that those who promote their negativity and hate seem to be far more vocal than the lovers and are certainly given more media time.

For years I have been promoting a television series celebrating good people doing good things. I have been told by the experts to forget it, that goodness doesn’t sell! Positive stories, like good people, it would seem, lack appeal. As a result, we are developing a whole generation which devalues loving one another and is drawn more to a negative view of life, to which it refers as the ‘real world.’

It’s not surprising that so many people are enticed by hate and violence and selfishness the way our society glorifies it. It seems to me that there has never been a more important time for us to fearlessly publicize goodness and display love, at any cost.

An accompanying thought was inscribed at the bottom of the page on which Buscaglia’s words appeared. My daughter brought it to my attention, explaining its appropriateness for how we should all live our lives.

out of the mouths of babes…hugmamma.

We suffer from seeing too much death and not enough life, too much sorrow and not enough joy, too much greed and not enough giving, too much loneliness and not enough love.  -ANONYMOUS

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“gays,” a rabbi’s viewpoint

Once again I’m reprinting the opinion of another author in my blog. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach interjects a very interesting and compelling argument in support of gays. None of us are experts, but those so inclined can try to infuse some logic and reason to level the playing field for those among us who have been relegated to society’s periphery.

I am familiar with the writings of Rabbi Boteach; I read his book The Michael Jackson Tapes – A Tragic Icon Reveals His Soul in Intimate Conversation. A compassionate man, the Rabbi felt he could help Jackson devote his talents to a greater cause than self-aggrandizement, in the hopes that his life would be more personally satisfying. Unfortunately, the two men went their separate ways, as it was difficult for the entertainer to relinquish his life in the spotlight. He returned to his fans, whose adulation forever defined who he was, even beyond death.

And so I commiserate with Rabbi Boteach’s empathy for gays. They should thrive as we do, for they are also the children of God.

My Jewish Perspective on Homosexuality

Carl Paladino, the Republican candidate for governor of New York, sparked controversy this week by declaring in a speech at an Orthodox synagogue that children shouldn’t be ‘brainwashed’ into considering homosexuality acceptable. He later apologized, saying that he supports gay rights but opposes gay marriage. The Rabbi who hosted Mr. Paladino’s speech then retracted his endorsement of the candidate.

Some people of faith insist that homosexuality is gravely sinful because the Bible calls it an ‘abomination.’ But that word appears approximately 122 times in the Bible. Eating nonkosher food is an ‘abomination’ (Deuteronomy 14:3). A woman returning to her first husband after being married in the interim is an ‘abomination (Deuteronomy 24:4). Bringing a blemished sacrifice on God’s altar is an abomination (Deuteronomy 17:1). Proverbs goes so far as to label envy, lying and gossip ‘an abomination to (the Lord)’ (3:32, 16:22).

As an orthodox Rabbi, I do not deny the biblical prohibition on male same-sex relationships. I simply place it in context. There are 613 commandments in the Torah. One is to refrain from gay sex. Another is for men and women to marry and have children. So when Jewish gay couples tell me they have never been attracted to members of the opposite sex and are desperately alone, I tell them, ‘You have 611 commandments left. That should keep you busy. Now, go create a kosher home. Turn off the TV on the Sabbath and share your meals with many guests. Pray to God three times a day for you are his beloved children. He desires you and seeks you out.’

I once asked Pat Robertson, ‘Why can’t you simply announce to all gay men and women, ‘Come to Church. Whatever relationship you’re in, God wants you to pray. He wants you to give charity. He wants you to lead a godly life.’ He answered to the effect that homosexuality is too important to overlook, as it is the greatest threat to marriage and the family. Other evangelical leaders have told me the same.

But with one of every two heterosexual marriages failing, much of the Internet dedicated to degrading women through pornography, and a culture that is materially insatiable while all-too spiritually content, can we straight people really say that gays are ruining our families? We’ve done a mighty fine job of it ourselves, thank you very much.

The excessive concern about homosexuality that is found among many of my religious brothers and sisters–in many Muslim countries being gay is basically a death sentence–stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of sin. The Ten Commandments were given on two tablets to connote two different kinds of transgression: religious and moral. The first tablet discussed religious transgressions between God and man, such as the prohibitions of idolatry, blasphemy and desecration of the Sabbath. The second tablet contained moral sins between man and his fellow man, like adultery, theft and murder.

Homosexuality is a religious, not a moral sin. A moral sin involves injury to an innocent party. Who is harmed when two unattached, consenting adults are in a relationship? Homosexuality is akin to the prohibition against lighting fire on the Sabbath or eating bread during Passover; there is nothing immoral about it, but it violates the divine will.

I am in favor of gay civil unions rather than marriage because I am against redefining marriage. But gay marriage doesn’t represent the end of Western civilization. The real killer is the tsunami of divorce and the untold disruption to children who become yo-yos going from house to house on weekends.

I have countless gay friends whose greatest fear, like that of so many straight people, is to end up alone. Should we just throw the book at these people? The Bible says, ‘It is not good for man to be alone.’ All I ask from my religious brethren is this: Even as you oppose gay relationships because of your beliefs, please be tortured by your opposition. Understand that when our most deeply held beliefs conflicts with our basic humanity, we should feel the tragedy of the conflict, not find convenient scapegoats upon whom to blame America’s ills.

Wall Street Journal, 10/15/10 (Rabbi Boteach is founder of This World: The Values Network, a national organization that promotes universal Jewish values to heal America. His latest book is ‘Renewal: A Guide To The Values-Filled Life’ (Basic Books, 2010).)

 hugs for the rabbi…hugmamma.

“freddie the leaf, the fall of”

The only author I can wholeheartedly call my favorite is Leo Buscaglia. Otherwise, I select books according to their subject matter. But I’ve enjoyed reading every one of  Buscaglia’s books. A postscript to one of my favorites, reads:

“Leo Buscaglia approached life with joy and enthusiasm. He pursued a path of perpetual learning that took him to places of wonder, excitement, and enlightenment. His sense of urgency to live life now and explore all that is possible was contagious to all who knew him. His life was dedicated to the single concept of ‘Love’ and all the beautiful and positive elements that it encompasses. …He died of heart failure on June 29th, 1998, at his home in Lake Tahoe, Nevada at the age of 74. A note was found on his typewriter the next day. It read, ‘Every moment spent in unhappiness is a moment of happiness lost.’

In 2004 I was in Chautauqua, New York, visiting my daughter while she danced in a summer program. Browsing through the bookstore housed in a charming building, I happened upon “The Fall of Freddie the Leaf” by Leo Buscaglia. Tucking myself away in a corner, I read it. A lump formed in my throat for the story was written to assuage a child’s loss of someone special, to death. The book, in its 20th edition, is a “beloved classic that has helped thousands of people come to grips with life and death.” I’d like to share it with you now, in the hopes that it might someday do the same for you.

Spring had passed. So had summer. Freddie, the leaf, had grown large. His mid-section was wide and strong, and his five extensions were firm and pointed. He had first appeared in Spring as a small sprout on a rather large branch near the top of a tall tree.

Freddie was surrounded by hundreds of other leaves just like himself, or so it seemed. Soon he discovered that no two leaves were alike, even though they were on the same tree. Alfred was the leaf next to him. Ben was the leaf on his right side, and Clare was the lovely leaf overhead. They had all grown up together. They had learned to dance in the Spring breezes, bask lazily in the Summer sun and wash off in the cooling rains.

But it was Daniel who was Freddie’s best friend. He was the largest leaf on the limb and seemed to have been there before anyone else. It appeared to Freddie that Daniel was also the wisest among them. It was Daniel who told them that they were part of a tree. It was Daniel who explained that they were growing in a public park. It was Daniel who told them that the tree had strong roots which were hidden in the ground below. He explained about the birds who came to sit on their branch and sing morning songs. He explained about the sun, the moon, the stars and the seasons.

Freddie loved being a leaf. He loved his branch, his light leafy friends, his place high in the sky, the wind that jostled him about, the sun rays that warmed him, the moon that covered him with soft, white shadows.

Summer had been especially nice. The long hot days felt good and the warm nights were peaceful and dreamy. There were many people in the park that Summer. They often came and sat under Freddie’s tree. Daniel told him that giving shade was part of his purpose.

“What’s a purpose?” Freddie had asked. “A reason for being,” Daniel had answered. “To make things more pleasant for others is a reason for being. To make shade for old people who come to escape the heat of their homes is a reason for being. To provide a cool place for children to come and play. To fan with our leaves the picnickers who come to eat on checkered tablecloths. These are all reasons for being.”

Freddie especially liked the old people. They sat so quietly on the cool grass and hardly ever moved. They talked in whispers of times past. The children were fun, too, even though they sometimes tore holes in the bark of the tree or carved their names into it. Still, it was fun to watch them move so fast and to laugh so much.

But Freddie’s Summer soon passed. It vanished on an October night. He had never felt it so cold. All the leaves shivered with the cold. They were coated with a thin layer of white which quickly melted and left them dew drenched and sparkling in the morning sun. Again, it was Daniel who explained that they had experienced their first frost, the sign that it was Fall and that Winter would come soon.

Almost at once, the whole tree, in fact, the whole park was transformed into a blaze of color. There was hardly a green leaf left. Alfred had turned a deep yellow. Ben had become a blazing red, Daniel a deep purple and Freddie was red and gold and blue. How beautiful they all looked. Freddie and his friends had made their tree a rainbow.

“Why did we turn different colors,” Freddie asked, “when we are on the same tree?” “Each of us is different. We have had different experiences. We have faced the sun differently. We have cast shade differently. Why should we not have different colors?” Daniel said matter-of-factly. Daniel told Freddie that this wonderful season was called Fall.

One day a very strange thing happened. The same breezes that, in the past, had made them dance began to push and pull at their stems, almost as if they were angry. This caused some of the leaves to be torn from their branches and swept up in the wind, tossed about and dropped softly to the ground. All the leaves became frightened. “What’s happening?” they asked each other in whispers. “It’s what happens in Fall,” Daniel told them. “It’s the time for leaves to change their home. Some people call it to die.” 

“Will we all die?” Freddie asked. “Yes,” Daniel answered. “Everything dies. No matter how big or small, how weak or strong. We first do our job. We experience the sun and the moon, the wind and the rain. We learn to dance and to laugh. Then we die.” “I won’t die!” said Freddie with determination. “Will you, Daniel?” “Yes,” answered Daniel, “when it’s my time.” “When is that?” asked Freddie. “No one knows for sure,” Daniel responded.

Freddie noticed that the other leaves continued to fall. He thought, “It must be their time.” He saw that some of the leaves lashed back at the wind before they fell, others simply let go and dropped quietly. Soon the tree was almost bare. “I’m afraid to die,” Freddie told Daniel. “I don’t know what’s down there.” “We all fear what we don’t know, Freddie. It’s natural,” Daniel reassured him. “Yet, you were not afraid when Spring became Summer. You were not afraid when Summer became Fall. They were natural changes. Why should you be afraid of the season of death?”

“Does the tree die, too?” Freddie asked. “Someday. But there is something stronger than the tree. It is Life. That lasts forever and we are all a part of Life.” “Where will we go when we die?” “No one knows for sure. That’s the great mystery!” “Will we return in the Spring?” “We may not, but Life will.” “Then what has been the reason for all of this?” Freddie continued to question. “Why were we here at all if we only have to fall and die?”

Daniel answered in his matter-of-fact way, “It’s been about the sun and the moon. It’s been about happy times together. It’s been about the shade and the old people and the children. It’s been about colors in Fall. It’s been about seasons. Isn’t that enough?” That afternoon, in the golden light of dusk, Daniel let go. He fell effortlessly. He seemed to smile peacefully as he fell. “Goodbye for now, Freddie,” he said. Then, Freddie was alone, the only leaf left on his branch.

The first snow fell the following morning. It was soft, white, and gentle; but it was bitter cold. There was hardly any sun that day, and the day was very short. Freddie found himself losing his color, becoming brittle. It was constantly cold and the snow weighed heavily upon him. At dawn the wind came that took Freddie from his branch. It didn’t hurt at all. He felt himself float quietly, gently and softly downward. As he fell, he saw the whole tree for the first time. How strong and firm it was! He was sure that it would live for a long time and he knew that he had been a part of its life and it made him proud.

Freddie landed on a clump of snow. It somehow felt soft and even warm. In this new position he was more comfortable than he had ever been. He closed his eyes and fell asleep. He did not know that Spring would follow Winter and that the snow would melt into water. He did not know that what appeared to be his useless dried self would join with the water and serve to make the tree stronger. Most of all, he did not know that there, asleep in the tree and the ground, were already plans for new leaves in the Spring.

The Beginning.

Having purchased the book as a keepsake for my daughter, I turned to the first blank page and penned the following inscription.

Summer 2004

Dearest daughter,

I discovered Leo Buscaglia in Chautauqua this summer. Reading his  words was like looking at my soul through a mirror. He wrote, and lectured about, and lived a life of love, always having a positive attitude. “The Fall of Freddie the Leaf ” continues Buscaglia’s outlook thru to the final stage in life. 

 Live each day to the fullest, love hugely and passionately, strive always to have a positive attitude toward yourself, others and life. These are what I leave to you, when I fall from the “Tree of Life.” And I know you will do the same for your children, when your turn comes.

I will always be with you in spirit until we are together again, where all leaves spend eternal springtime together. Think of me as your “Daniel.”

All my love, forever…Mom

my sentiments for you, as well…hugmamma.

another book suggestion

More wonderful readers suggesting I’m a “blooming author in their midst”, and “a writer, not a blogger, needing to publish a book.” Again, from their lips to an agent or publisher. Maybe someday I’ll take their advice and supportive words and do something more with my writing. Until then, I’ll continue scribing for you, faithful readers, people who care what I say. No matter the size, an audience is still an audience to be appreciated. 

and I do, tremendously…hugmamma.