Highlights of Declaration of Independence

The Fourth of July is upon us and I wanted to share some independent facts that many Americans may not have learned in history books or in their classrooms.*

The Declaration of Independence was first printed in a German-speaking newspaper and not an English one. The Colony of Pennsylvania had a large German population and when people of what became the Keystone State voted on which language to use, German lost by only one vote.

Thomas Jefferson finished writing the document within three weeks at the Graff House at 7th and Market streets in Philadelphia. Initially the famous phrase for “inalienable rights” included the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of property. “Property” was what the Enlightenment philosopher John Locke suggested nearly a hundred years earlier in his treatise on government, but Jefferson and Philadelphia resident Ben Franklin both suggested the more upbeat term of “happiness.”

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The oldest signer of the Declaration was Franklin, who was 70 years old. He also took part in helping to frame the Constitution written more than 11 years later. The youngest was 26-year-old Edward Rutledge. A lawyer from South Carolina.

When the document was read by the commander of the Continental forces in New York City, a raucous crowd cheered George Washington and later tore down a statue of King George III which was converted into 42,000 musket balls for the army.

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In 1989, a Philadelphia man found an original Dunlap Broadside copy of the Declaration of Independence hidden in the back of a picture frame he bought at a flea market for $4. One of only a few surviving copies from the original first printing of the Declaration, it was in excellent condition and sold for $8.1 million in the year 2000.

Only one-third of the colonies supported the rebels  Another third favored the Tories and the remaining third just didn’t give a damn, according to John Adams of Massachusetts and the first vice president. He later became the nation’s second president. That figure has been raised to nearly 40 percent support for the Revolution and only 20 percent for the British Loyalists. The others were either neutral or kept a low profile.

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died within hours of each other, on the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1826.

Adams’s last words were ”Thomas Jefferson survives,” according to historical accounts. Jefferson had passed away hours earlier but Adams did not get the text message and he had muttered the words before typhoid overcame him. (Only kidding about the text message!)

* — Contoveros holds a master’s degree in American history

 

D-Day Paratrooper falls prey to Covid-19

An American hero has fallen to the Coronavirus and the world may never see the likes of him ever again.
Ninety-eight-year-old George Shenkle, a card-carrying member of the “Greatest Generation” took part in the invasion of Normandy more than 75 years ago, freeing our universe from the evil of the Nazis. He served as a paratrooper with three combat jumps – including both D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge — and got a purple heart in return for the wounds he received after hitting the ground and running into enemy fire and explosions. Continue reading

An Officer and a Gentleman Recalled

I was commissioned a Second Lieutenant 50 years ago and looking back I see it as one of the greatest achievements of my life. Also, one of the luckiest ones and I’m so glad to still be around to tell about it.
Yes, by an Act of Congress I was made “An Officer & a Gentleman.” I don’t know where that title came from  —  Great Britain I guess —  but I tried to live up to it’s “ideal” while in the army and when discharged and choosing different career paths in my life. Continue reading

Seeing a Divine Hand in the Worst of Times

God works in mysterious ways.
Put another way, the Universe will conspire to bring about what you really want and need in life, even though you may not know it when the Divine Intervention takes place.
Or even like it. The intervention that is. And on first blush, it may even seem bad but you realize on reflection it had to have happened for you to progress in life. Continue reading

Karma enlightens Groundhog Day movie

Groundhog Day” is the movie starring Bill Murray who visits Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where he is destined to live each day over and over for what seems like eternity. It’s message is one of Karma and reincarnation, particularly when one realizes that the director and co-screen-writer was a practicing Buddhist named Harold Remis. Continue reading

GI Bill to celebrate its 75th anniversary!

I would not have gone to college had it not been for the GI Bill which is marking its 75th anniversary on June 22, 2019.
My father, who was born on a small Greek Island, never went beyond sixth grade. My mother, daughter of Hungarian refugees, was the first in her family to graduate from a high school in New Jersey.
And I had barely made it through Dobbin’s Tech, a trade school, having transferred from a Catholic high school after I got caught playing hooky and ordered to go to summer school for religion. No one – including myself — saw college in my lifetime.
Continue reading

‘Welcome Home’ this Veterans Day 2018

One hundred years ago peace-loving people throughout the world commemorated the “War to End All Wars” by institutionalizing a holiday that morphed into Veterans Day in America.

World War I, as historians have named it, did not end all of the wars and in 20 years the nations of the earth faced the worst world war mankind has ever known. Continue reading

August 22 — we’ll never forget Patty Ward

Patty Ward, a Specialist 4 with a helicopter gunship, was shot down 50 years ago while flying to the aid of US Army soldiers during the Vietnam War. He was one of four men who died when their helicopter was hit and crashed.

Patty was awarded the Silver Star for bravery in connection with helping to rescue other grunts wounded in another battle. His family in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia received the medal posthumously. Continue reading

Guidance from Above seen from a distance

Are there moments in our life when we can see God’s fingerprints or the Will of the Universe directing us along our path? I’m talking about seeing such a Divine event as it is occurring or upon hindsight years later.

That’s the question raised by a group of my friends at the Spiritual Sharing Circle that meets once a month at the Center for Contemporary Mysticism in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia. Continue reading

The printer’s life for Ben Franklin and me!

“Here lies Ben Franklin — a printer” is the message gracefully displayed at the gravesite of my favorite Founding Father in the City of Philadelphia.  He was ambassador to both England and France as well as a signer of the Declaration of Independence and contributor to the US Constitution. He was also an inventor, a philosopher and creator of the first library, the first zoo and the first fire company in the New World. Continue reading

Name that Tune; Five of my Favorite Ones

Songs have a way of taking me back to a time of my life that provided milestones for the path leading me to where I am today.

We all have them, those cherished ones that we hold dear. Some of which may cause a tear to flow, a shit-eaten’ grin to form. I recently thought of five of ‘em and simply wanted to share them with “old folks at home” who might also remember them. Continue reading

Father Koenig’s life lessons at St. Ludwig’s

Father Koenig put the gloves on me when I was ten years old and directed me toward the kid who was my same size but some two years older. That kid – Billy McLaughlin –  kicked my butt. But I never cried or gave up as I swung wildly at him in efforts to land my own punches. Continue reading

Big Moose bar helps wayward boys to grow

My mother hit me upside the head when she caught me drinking beer in the Big Moose bar up the street from where we lived.

I was 16 years old at the time and sipping a Ballantine beer with a friend from Dobbins Technical High School. Someone must have ratted me out as my good friend Joe Walsh and I — both young white guys — drank in the African American bar in a section of Philadelphia called Brewerytown. Continue reading

Expressway of a heart leads to equanimity

I wanted the driver who cut me off to crash and burn.

For a brief moment, I thought of praying that he would immediately die for cutting in front of me as I was doing 60-miles-an-hour on the expressway behind a car just five lengths in front of me. I beeped my horn and flashed my high beams at the driver. I relished in the hatred I felt burning inside of me. I loathed him from the bottom of my heart and wanted a bloody accident to befall ‘em. Continue reading

Satsang opens world of ‘loving awareness’

I heard the word “Satsang” yesterday and it reminded me of a journey I started a half a lifetime ago when I had hit rock bottom and sought answers to the meaning of  life.

Satsang is a Sanskrit word that means “gathering together for the truth” or, more simply, “being with the truth.”  According to sources from India, Truth is what is real, what truly exists. Continue reading

Thích Nhất Hạnh sees the suffering in us

Thích Nhất Hạnh looked at me from the most sorrowful eyes I have ever seen and I understood what it was like for a person to feel all the suffering the world is experiencing.

I had attended a five-day silent retreat at Blue Cliff Monastery in upstate New York with some thousand others who meditated morning, noon and night. Someone would ring a bell as you walked through the monastery grounds and just like clock-work, everyone would stop what they were doing and rest in the present moment. Continue reading

100 nations represented at Contoveros site

flag.pngSomeone from 100 different countries has viewed this site and my flag counter can attest to number of nations represented here.

I started to write a Blog some seven years ago and hooked up with a link that not only counted the number of persons viewing Contoveros, but determined which country that person was from. I placed the flag counter at the top of my Blog so that anyone — including myself — could readily see it on linking into Contoveros.It’s at my home site. (See Flag Counter for the latest count up to this minute. Trinidad is the latest country added to my list!) Continue reading

Meditation starts as you travel through life

I learned to meditate while riding on a train.

I had tried sitting mediation alone and with others, but was successful only once, and I really don’t know what I was doing. I was following a guru – a 15-year-old teacher from India — before I had turned 30 and I mingled with aspirants in an ashram in Philadelphia. I never touched Nirvana or reached the level that others seemed to rise to. Continue reading

Accepting the ‘As Is’ with Gratitude & Joy

There is a message I receive every time I travel to the IKEA store and visit the “As Is” department. I get a feeling that the Universe is telling me to open myself to the message the Swedish furniture store wants to share with the rest of the world.

Accept life “As Is,” it softly calls out to me. Continue reading

Sign language opens my heart to neighbors

My greatest concern when I placed the political signs on my lawn was whether they would offend someone in my neighborhood. I live in a working class section of Pennsylvania, some 15 miles outside of Philadelphia. It was dependent on steel and manufacturing for many years but eventually saw a decline as jobs left the little borough of Conshohocken for elsewhere. Continue reading

Cats & Dogs would come first in a do-over

If I had my druthers, I think I would have made cats and dogs more like people and make people more like the other animals.

Yes, as God, I would have changed the book of Genesis and created the dog first and then taking a rib from the first one, I would have created his loving mate and good friend, the cat. Continue reading

’12 Angry Men’ helps presume innocence

Twelve Angry Men” influenced my decision to practice law more than any movie I can remember while growing up in a working class neighborhood of Philadelphia and being the first in my family to go to college. The movie has done more for understanding the workings of our criminal justice system than any books or school classes could possibly provide. Continue reading

Immigrants unite against Trump out of love

I was unashamed of the tears that fell while watching the father of a young soldier describe the sacrifice his son made for America the other night. Khizr Khan, a Muslim immigrant, spoke with pride at the Democratic Convention and I couldn’t help but see my father in him and the love all parents felt for children called by our nation to defend it. Continue reading

LSD truthfulness speaks to past love lost

“I didn’t mean to hurt you. I just thought you needed to know, that’s all.”

Peaches said nothing as we sat on the floor of her vestibule. I saw her eyes water up a little and I wanted to cry myself.

“I still love her” I continued without looking at the young girl I had shared such an intimate moment with at the young age of  19.

“I guess I never stopped loving her, if you want to know the truth.”

“You were her best friend in high school and you knew her as much as anybody did” I said, asserting a belief that neither one of us could deny. “I would break up with her, but we’d always got back together every time. You knew that when we first dated.”

“I should have been honest with you. But I liked you, I still like you. And wouldn’t hurt you for anything. But I don’t love you. I love Peggy, and I guess I always will.” Continue reading

‘Instigator’ muse helps to open new worlds

Can someone become the “muse” of another?

Could my reckless and often unabashed “agitation” be the instigation for another person to find the voice she needed to speak directly from her soul?

I like to think so. I believe I might have sparked a keg of memories that were waiting for the right moment and touch to manifest and explode for the world to finally see. Continue reading

Mother recalls son’s last ‘earthly’ words

By TEA

It was Saturday morning, May the 19th of 2012. I awoke that early morning feeling well rested. Since the beginning of the new year I had started working Monday thru Thursday, having Fridays off. In the past, when working a full week my Saturdays were spent sleeping in and catching up on the many hours of sleep lost during the week. Continue reading

Congress protest makes me proud of USA

I’ve never been so proud of being an American as I was the past week when some forty members of the Senate held an unprecedented filibuster and it was followed up by Congressional Democrats who took the House Chamber hostage for a“sit-in” protest against our nation’s inability to halt the sale of high-powered weapons now being used for mass destruction. Continue reading

Anger starts out from my basic personality

Why is anger my “go to” emotion? Why does it crop up whenever I’m confronted with something I don’t understand or something I feel threatened by?

“Crop up” is not the right phrase to use. My anger “erupts.” It goes from zero to sixty within the span of a mini-second. It always seemed to be that way, even as a kid. Now at last I think I know why. Continue reading

Touch at least one heart with Meet-Up now

If you could go back in time to attend a Meet-Up in Jerusalem with the famous rabbi from Nazareth to share some bread, wine and good conversation, would you sign up and go?

How about traveling back some 2,600 years to give a listen to the Four Noble Truths in northern India by a fellow who some claim had reached enlightenment? Would you agree to meet weekly to discuss life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Continue reading

A Course of Love is uniquely one of a kind!

Reading a chapter from the book, “A Course of Love,” is much like my study of the Jewish mysticism, the Kabbalah.

I get uplifted and carried to another place, a different state of mind where I feel closer to the Word. The Word of God, if you know what I mean.

Continue reading

Emergency hits home; order soon restored

My second wife stopped breathing shortly after they placed her in the emergency vehicle en route to a hospital some eight years ago. The day was six-months to date of her first bout with an emergency wagon when she fell in our Conshohocken, PA, home suffering a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

She remained in a coma for more than five days then. This time, however, they were more certain that she would not recover from her latest, unplanned date with Miss Fate. A nurse or a social worker at the Hospital suggested I contact a priest to say the last rites for Wendy. Continue reading

‘Love & Rockets’ explode near this veteran

My son, Nicholas, just didn’t seem to understand how much pain I suffered in Sutcliffe Park when I took him to see fireworks on clear and starry night sky on the Fourth of July some years ago.

At first, I enjoyed the rockets zooming into the air. They were a colorful red, white and blue explosions that took your breath away with gasps of wonder and awe.

Soon however, they took on a menacing demeanor, however, as each blast began to remind me of the Vietnam War and the rounds of mortar fire that fell on me and my platoon some 30 years earlier. Continue reading

Dissolving Pain through seeing differently

I’ve opened my mind to a new way of seeing and I am free as long as I can keep my peripheral vision on anything but the object of my focus.

What I do is distract myself from looking at the car in front of me when I’m cruising on the highway. I set my gaze off in the distance where I take in the beautiful blue skies interrupted now and again by a while cloud. Continue reading

‘Brewerytown Way’ Brought Back to Life

I see my life through the eyes of a kid who grew up in Brewerytown, swashbuckling my way through fights on the streets and later the jungles of Vietnam before finding my true calling as a spiritual clarion who wants all North Philadelphia children to return to their God-given Nature of Love. Continue reading

Trusting the Universe when ‘lost & found’

I lost the damn wallet again.

It was the second time in about a week it turned up missing. The first time was in Korea and I never detected it’s loss. The Reverend Lee, the WON Buddhist minister leading a pilgrimage in Korea last week, had approached me with a black object in her hand. She looked worried and I couldn’t figure out what caused her distress. Continue reading

Some ‘WON’ is in the kitchen with Julie!

Julie traveled all the way from Chicago and came to the Lotus Flower Island with a question about her life’s purpose. By the time she left the privately owned spiritual retreat, there was no doubt whatsoever that she found the answer she was looking for.

She’ll return to this rustic hideaway hidden away off the mainland of South Korea and, remain there, devoting herself to serving others from around the world who are searching for similar answers. Julie’s newfound happiness will be in helping others suffering from too much technology and not enough love. Continue reading

‘I don’t know’ — first step for my true path

“I don’t know” is soon to become my life-long mantra.

It has helped me immensely in calming the “monkey mind” after a wonderful Korean woman introduced it to me  and it took a full day for me to understand its profound ramifications.

For me, saying “I don’t know” is a way of humbling myself and admitting that I know very little about the world I live in and what really matters in the scheme of life. No matter how hard I try to “get it right” through searching and throwing myself into one spiritual path after another, the end result brings me no closer to any definite answer and it’s okay to let it go and simply say “I don’t know.” to the world

I don’t know how electricity works, but I know that it exists and provides for so many of our heating and transportation needs, not to mention that hair dryer that vain men (some women, perhaps) depend on for their appearance. I don’t know how God (or some other Source by a different name) created us, or how many days it took for Him to create the world, but I know that it manifested from the same substance that you and I are made of and will one day return to.

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First Phase of Evolution:               “I Don’t Know!”

Yes, I believe in a force that is higher than myself, a divine spiritual “something” that ties us all together like the atoms that we share and the oneness we truly are. It is this small kernel of faith I have been fortunate enough to cultivate that allows me to now say with a firm conviction: “I don’t know.”

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The woman that shared this phenomenal truth was a WON Buddhist minister who served as mentor for the minister of the WON Buddhist Temple of Philadelphia. She appears angelic although there are a few silver strands in her dark hair that’s pulled straight back and tied up in a professional-looking bun in the back of her head. Wearing glasses, nothing seems to separate the love that shines from her eyes for other beings like me who are lucky enough to have come into contact with her.

Like all female ministers, she wears a black gown or dress (or whatever you call the lower part of clothing covering a woman’s torso). The top is covered by a pure white blouse with a big white bow tie. At first glance, it reminded me of the outfit worn by the Catholic nuns of a by-gone era, but without the heavy starch and the tough, drill sergeant demeanor and firmness that could scare a kid with eternal damnation for speaking out of turn in second grade.

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“I don’t know” is also a state of mind. It is similar to the “beginners’ mind” that Zen Buddhist monks recommend practitioners assume when studying the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha, also known as  Siddhartha Gautama.

But “I don’t know” surpasses that in WON Buddhism, in my opinion. Once you truly admit this, you’re better able to tame the mind. To rid it of unnecessary thoughts that plagued you day and night.

Once that occurs, you can move into the next level, which is “no mind.” It is the “emptiness” that you hear talk of by holy men and women – the sages of all walks of life and forms of religion – who experience life without any judgement whatsoever. You become void and see things through the eyes of equanimity.

I have a long way to go, and I may not reach that high mountain top of a enlightenment, but I’ve learned to take the first step, thanks to those I’ve met during the 100th anniversary this week for WON Buddhism.

It’s a baby step, one I am proud of announcing to the world when I assert that “I don’t know!”

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“I am the wisest man alive for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.”— Socrates
“I know nothing.” — Sgt. Schultz, of Television’s Hogan’s Heroes

 

 

Majestic feeling opens me to another world

I’ve been to some ten different Buddhist temples in the mountainous regions of Korea taking in the rustic, centuries-old magnificent works of art and spiritual creations of man. I felt uplifted when entering doorways that millions, perhaps billions, of others walked through in search of peace and calm on their way to a potential enlightenment.

None however, have inspired more of a majestic feeling inside than the new WON Center in Seoul, Korea, where a bolt of soft and pure lightning once again struck me with what I can only describe as a divine presence that’s humbling and elevating at the same time. Continue reading

Chanting can cure what ails your busy mind

“Namuamitabul” is a Korean Buddhist chant that means “The Buddha of infinite light, infinite life, and infinite wisdom.”

This chant is recited numerous times by participants in a WON Buddhist meditation as part of a routine that involves chanting, sitting meditation and walking meditation. Continue reading

Serving graciously as a St. Ludwig altar boy

Ad Deum Qui Laetificat Juventutem Meam!

That’s one of the prayers I would recite as an altar boy at St. Ludwig’s Roman Catholic Church and I’ll never forget it ‘til the day I die. Don’t ask me what it means. I never figured it out, but I loved to say it! Continue reading

Korea calling me to seek answers within

Korea awaits me next week as I travel more than a thousand miles to find myself and discover reasons why I am still here on planet earth.

Yes, I’m joining a group from Philadelphia, New York and Chicago that will fly to Seoul, South Korea, to take part in the centennial celebration of the WON Buddhism founding by its master on April 28th, 1916. Continue reading

A Course of Love awakens love inside & out

The Beatles got it right in the 1960s.

“All you need is love.”

“Love is all there is.”

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I couldn’t agree with them more, particularly after experiencing the warm glow and gentle caress of a bunch of  lovers who helped me to open my foolish heart to “A Course of Love.Continue reading

Equanimity for anticipation & expectations

Carly Simon sang it . . .

The Heinz ketchup bottle illustrated what it could look like . . .

And I have fallen victim to it whenever I try something new and start to visualize what could possibly go wrong. Continue reading

Nothing found when seeking Love within!

I went within and felt nothing this morning. I knew this day would come, but I thought I would put it off until the day I’d die. Yes, I thought I’d have enough juice within to tell my story until I took that last breath.

But Life fooled me. It hit me upside the head, showing me you can’t take anything for granted. All things are subject to change. All phenomena is transitory, all is impermanent. The only permanence that exists is the Love I believe that energizes us and the world we all live in. Continue reading

Name three things that inspire a better you

Day 7 – Total Balance Is Natural Balance

Question 1 of 4

Describe three sources of inspiration in your life that keep you aiming to be a better you.

— Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra’s Free  21-day Meditation
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My calling in life is to help others come closer to the Light. I firmly belief that we all came from the Light, and that we all want to return to it. I want to share my experiences with the Divine so that others can see how Love’s energy can raise from life’s difficulties a simple schmuck like me.

Continue reading

Create a life of magical renewal with Love

If I had a magic wand I would wave it and remove all of the hate in our land. It would take away the hurt all felt throughout the ages of man from the beginning of time when Cain killed his brother and when a stupid Esau sold his birthrate to his brother Jacob for a lousy bowl of soup. Continue reading

Message from lower world: lighten burden

My host in Freiburg, Germany, escorted me and her husband on a shamanic journey as we laid on the carpeted floor in their guest room and she guided us to the “lower world.” She drummed for a good 15 minutes, never letting up the beat as she walked around us covered by blankets with eyes closed and our hearts open. Continue reading

The back of the heart offers ‘Will to Love’

We’ve all experienced love in one form or another. Most remember the romantic love that may have flourished when we were young and felt the longing to receive the touch of love from another person.

Love also appeared in our lives as infants as our loving mother held us, cradling our small bodies with her hand behind the back of our necks. She held the spot where the brain and skull come into contact with the spinal cord, the neck area.

Jaya Herbst, a lecturer certified by the European Association  for Transpersonal psychotherapy – Eurotas, said there can be healing in the touch of one person upon another. But first there must be an intent, a “will” to love to help with the touch, be it to smooth the crying of a child or to hug a grown up who needs the physical contact to know all will be just right in that moment. Continue reading

Calm the wandering mind & feel happiness

A wandering mind is an unhappy mind.

Don’t take my word for it. Scientific research has discovered that the active conditions of anxiety and agitation causes unhappiness. Becoming quiet and stilling the mind lowers blood pressure and relieves the stress that’s produced in our busy lives. Continue reading

Journey into self opens possibilities for me

I manifested as an African American riding a horse as a cowboy in the old American West.

Next, I felt the chains on my legs as I rowed in a galley ship as a Greek slave in a land governed by the Romans in some year BC.

Sand. Lots of sand with its rich mixture of roughness and tan properties became my next existence.

That was followed by my essence being made up as a piece of glass. A clear glass with a tint of green like the old-fashioned Coca Cola bottles.

Finally I envisioned myself turning into a Soldier of Love with healing powers I never knew existed. Continue reading

The Shadow helps in Spiritual Maturation

What is healing?

Those words in German jumped off the page from a brochure I couldn’t read, but by the end of a presentation in Freiburg, Germany, I got a better handle on who does the healing.

I do! And you do! Continue reading