The Four Baskets of Life Needed on the Path to Happiness and Success

true happiness

We are all born with four baskets of life.  We are born with these baskets, and we will die with these baskets.  Our happiness and success will depend on how we fill these baskets and what we fill them with.  It might seem unfair, but no two people are born with the same size baskets.  Some of us have bigger baskets and some of us have smaller baskets.  Ironically, bigger baskets can be more of a burden than smaller baskets.

The four baskets are known as, mental, physical, socio-emotional, and spiritual.  When we are born, our baskets are almost empty.  We have rudimentary materials that are put in each basket at birth.  However, no human can grow to maturity without adding more into each basket.  Given the size limitations of our baskets, our challenge is to fill each basket with the appropriate goods that we need for a happy successful life.


Mental/Cognitive Basket

Some of us are smarter than others.  However, smartness or intelligence is not merely related to IQ.  Each of us can be smart at different things.  Some people are good cooks.  Some people are good mathematicians and others are good carpenters.  Regardless of what skill sets you may have; your mental basket needs some basic knowledge to help you navigate in life.  Many of the skills needed are gained in schools or by teachers who help fill your basket.  Many of the skills we need are gained by experience.  Regardless of whether you add to your basket by experience or formal learning in a school, the goods you put in your basket need to match your knowledge, skills, and abilities.  Your interests are the motivation for what you desire to find and add to your basket.  One should go through life adding stuff to their basket and occasionally removing stuff.  Knowledge is not static.  It changes with the times as well as with your own needs.  I used to tell my business students, that the only value they had to their company was between their ears.


Physical Basket

Clearly we are all born with different physical assets and abilities.  Nike says everyone is an athlete.  Unfortunately, too many people do not see any reason to add goods to their physical basket.  They admire people like Michael Jordan, Mikaela Pauline Shiffrin, Usain Bolt,  Michael Phelps, Misty Copeland, Anna Netrebko and Tom Brady.  If you asked most people, they would readily admit that they do not have the physical skill sets that these champions have.  However, too many people grow old with the nearly same basket that they were born with.  I know too many people who stopped exercising or practicing after they left high school or college. “Oh, I used to run but I gave it up.”  “I used to play the clarinet, but I lost interest.”

If any of the people I noted above had not practiced and practiced and never given up, they would not have achieved the greatness that they did.  We all have different size baskets particularly when it comes to physical attributes but without practice and more practice filling up our baskets, we can never know what we are capable of.  At the very least in terms of increasing our physical attributes, we might live to an older age still able to walk, run, hike, play, and sing.  Instead too many people can only dream about the days gone by when they still could do these things.

Socio-Emotional Basket

Covid 19 devastated many people who depend on emotional connections to help manage their lives.  It is true that some of us are less dependent than others when it comes to emotional attachments.  Some of us are introverts and some are extraverts.  Nevertheless, I know of no one who can go through life without a desire for love and friendship.  The socio-emotional basket may vary in size for many of us but it is still a basket that we must try to fill to meet our needs or we remain isolated and lonely.

A number of years ago, the idea of EQ or Emotional Quotient to measure how well people do at managing their interpersonal relationships entered the mainstream of social science.  “The term first appeared in 1964.  It gained popularity in the 1995 best-selling book ‘Emotional Intelligence’, written by science journalist Daniel Goleman.” — Wikipedia  The basic idea is that we all need to cope with our emotions and learn skills and techniques to help us better deal with the stresses of life.  Everyone has days of being up and down.  We all suffer from mild to strong depression at some time in our lives.  Thoughts of suicide are more prevalent than most people realize.  However, the goods that we put in our socio-emotional basket can determine how well we cope with these stresses.  Even the “greatest” of lives have succumbed to a weak basket and gone to drugs or drink to try to deal with the ups and downs of life.  History is littered with the deaths of good people who just did not have the socio-emotional coping skills to handle what life was throwing at them.  I have had two cousins who committed suicide and a best friend who also took his life.  Most people thought they had a lot to live for but apparently they disagreed.


Spiritual Basket

The spiritual basket is the most difficult to fill and the most problematic.  Unless we fill the spiritual basket we will never find peace and happiness.  It is the basket of fulfillment.  It is the basket of true love.  Without the right ingredients in this basket, we remain lonely and unloved.  It does not matter how much we put in the other baskets, we must put the right stuff and enough of the right stuff in this basket or we will lead a life of “quiet despair.”  There are two paths typically taken to fill this basket.  One path is secular.  The other path is sectarian.  There are problems with each path.

GreedThe secular path is the path of the world.  It is the path that says you need to have more of the things of the world to put in your basket.  Getting more of the world’s stuff is heralded as the secret to filling your basket and achieving success and happiness.  Some of the things people try to get more of include:  Food, drugs, alcohol, fame, fortune, money, medals, accomplishments, status, power, knowledge, youth, health and titles.  While some of these things might be useful in your other baskets, in this basket they simply do not work.  The spiritual basket is immune to the things of the world.  It is a truism that all of the great prophets and philosophers and thinkers have extolled.  Sadly, it is a path that is promoted by too much of the world because it is driven by greed and financial profits.  Buy that new truck and you will be happy.  Buy that giant house and you will be happy.  Read the latest diet book and you will be happy.  How many times do people have to go down this path before they will realize that it only takes them in the wrong direction?

The other path to fill the spiritual basket is the sectarian path.  This is the sacred path or the path of religion and sects.  It is a path of meaning and purpose.  It is a path of prayer and meditation.  It is a path of Gods, prophets, and spiritual leaders.  These leaders tell their followers that the path to happiness and success comes from following their teachings.  Often they include meaning and purpose as tools necessary for your spiritual basket.  Some believe in the power of meditation and prayer for your spiritual basket.

prophetsThe great spiritual leaders like Mohammed, Jesus, Buddha and  Baháʼu’lláh all had followers and tried to teach their followers by various means.  It seems that the goal of enlightenment, samadhi or nirvana was achieved by each of the great leaders and even by some of their followers.  Unfortunately for humanity and for most organized religions, these gurus and religious teachers all missed one important truth.  “You cannot teach enlightenment.”  Enlightenment can only be learned by example.  We learn from our parents by the example they set for us.  We learn by observing how they treat other people.  We learn by what they do rather than what they say.  The followers of the great prophets and gurus were learning their spirituality from what their teachers were doing and now what they were saying.

The words that were left by some religious teachers like Thomas Merton, Mother Teresa, OSHO, Krishnamurti and the writers of the Old Testament and New Testament have no doubt inspired many people to try to reach heaven or nirvana.  For the most part, I doubt that many followers have ever achieved much enlightenment.  If they did, it was not by the reading of words but by the life that they led.

I think having had 39 silent Jesuit Retreats that prayer, mediation, solitude, and contemplation have a role in finding peace and happiness.  I do not think that they will lead anyone to nirvana or enlightenment.  Unless I am an extreme outlier, after 39 years of a three-day silent retreat full of prayer and meditation, I am still pretty much just your normal unsaintly unholy guy.  I am still waiting for most of my prayers to be answered and I am still waiting to sit peacefully in my car full of good will and cheerfulness when some jerk is tailgating me on the freeway.  I am much more likely to wish that I had an invisible ray gun that could make the impatient driver and his/her auto just disappear.

You can not teach how heat feels.  Description is futile.  You must feel it.  You cannot teach fulfillment or enlightenment you must experience it.  Words are useless.  The most important ingredient in a spiritual basket is love.  Love for yourself and love for others.  Love for all others and not just people who are like you.  Not just people who think like you.  If you do not feel love for yourself, you cannot feel love for others.  But there is a paradox here.  It is that love from others can help you feel loved.  Love for others, love for yourself, love for yourself and love for others are the Yin/Yang of a spiritual basket.  Purpose and meaning are good things, but they are transient.  They will come and go and change with the times.  Love never changes.  Jesus said:

“A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” – John 13:34-35 (KJV)


If you want enlightenment, follow a good person, do good deeds, be kind to all people and love yourself.  Being a person of integrity and honor leads to self-love.  Self-love leads to love for others.  We are all born with an empty spiritual basket.  In order to become complete, we must fill this basket with as much love as we can.


Karen Yvonne Persico


My wife is an average looking elderly woman.  If you saw her walking down the street you would not think that there was anything special about her.  But to me, Karen is the most special person in the world.  Perhaps, special most to me but special even without me.  Let me tell you why.  However, a little history and  background might help.

Karen was born in St. Paul, Minnesota on July 5th, 1944, to Myrtle and Raymond Blomgren.  She was an only child.  Her dad wanted five children and her mother wanted zero.  They compromised with Karen.  From the start, she was the most special person in her dad’s eyes since he knew he would not have any more children.

karen at sculpture parkKaren grew up with two sets of grandparents.  On one side the Misselts were Norwegian and on her dad’s side the grandparents were Swedish.  Karen was baptized at Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Frederic, Wisconsin where we now reside.  Karen went to public schools and was an average student.  She dreamed of becoming a nurse.  However, her guidance counselor had different ideas.  She advised Karen that she would never make it as a nurse because her math scores were too low.  Karen showed what I have since realized was a streak of determination or stubbornness (if you will) to get what she wants.  She ignored the counselor’s advice, went to nursing school at the University of Minnesota and a few years ago retired with fifty plus years of nursing experience.

20211002_163733Karen and I were married in 1989 but started dating in 1983.  Both of us were coming off of recent divorces.  We were on again and off again as I did not want to make any commitment.  After six years of dating, Karen finally said that she was tired of this off again and on-again business and either it was permanently on or permanently off.  I yielded to her logic, and we were married by my good friend Bill Cox at a Methodist Church in Taylor Falls, Minnesota.  The marriage of a good Lutheran and a quixotic Atheist.

IMG_4025 (2)From the start, we had a rather rocky relationship.  I was often temperamental.  Easy to anger and resort to verbal and emotional abuse.  I lost count of how many times I said that I was going to leave, and that divorce was the only answer.  Karen would ask me not to yell at her and I would say I was not yelling.  It seemed to me that any slight rise in my tone of voice was yelling to Karen.  Our discussions often made matters worse.  However, Karen never gave up on our relationship.  We went to counselling together to save it.  We have been to three Marriage Encounter weekends to improve various aspects of our lives.  Sometimes the improvements are more obvious than other times.  I still tend to be the pessimist and see the half-empty glass and Karen is the optimist who keeps assuring me that the glass is half-full and getting fuller.

You may have guessed by now why Karen is special to me.  People are always coming up to us and asking her how she manages to put up with me.  I am not an easy person to get along with.  Some might accuse her of enabling me, but Karen is not passive and is very proactive in standing her ground and expecting me to apologize or make things right when I am wrong.  But there is a great deal more to Karen than just putting up with me.

Karen and three childrenKaren was a single mom who raised four children after her first husband left.  She tried to be mom and dad to these kids.  She cooked, cleaned, sewed, and went to work each day and came home at night to help them with their homework or whatever they needed.  She took them on camping trips and vacations.  By the time we were married, three of her children had left the nest and we had one child left to raise.  Karen’s relationship with her children was never smooth.  Some of the kids seemed to blame her for their dad leaving.  I was the evil stepparent and I never fit in.  Her youngest daughter after many years of Karen and I together once asked me when their real father was coming back.

karen at concert

I saw Karen’s children as selfish and narcissistic.  Over the years together, I tried to stay out of the way of Karen’s relationship with her children.  Occasionally I would suggest some efforts to improve these relationships.  I often thought it was a waste of time, but Karen never gave up.  Karen continued to reach out to each of her children particularly when she thought they were in need.  She has treated her adopted daughter Susan with the same compassion as her biological children.

A few years ago, when we did a will together, she opted to divide any of our assets evenly between all four of her children.  I suggested that she pro-rate the assets based on how they have treated her over the years.  It was not always good.  She paid no attention to my suggestion as she said she loved them all equally.

Karen and Susan 3Peg, Karen and JeanineKaren is one of the most caring, honest, ethical, and thoughtful persons in the world.  She is patient, kind and compassionate with everyone that she deals with.  Not just me, and not just people she knows or people in our “tribe.”  Karen is always willing to go out of her way to help others in need. Karen has a wonderful talent for crafts and music and uses these to give back to the world.

20220317_152722Karen wanted to study music when she was younger.  Her parents had a piano in their house and Karen learned to play it.  However, she realized that she did not have the talent to be a professional musician and so she took it up as a hobby.  She started singing in a church choir when she was eight years old and still sings in a choir.  A piano is a rather cumbersome instrument to carry around, so Karen discovered the Mountain Dulcimer about fifteen years ago and learned to play it.  She takes it with us when we travel, and she plays with a group in Arizona called the Tucson Dulcimer Ensemble.  They practice weekly and play at nursing homes, churches, and special events.  About five years ago, she purchased a Ukulele and started learning to play it.  She now plays with a group in Centuria, Wisconsin and they also do free gigs for nursing homes, county fairs and churches.


Karen is very active at her church in Casa Grande, Arizona with the choir and other events and is also very active with her church in Frederic.  It is the same church that she was baptized at.  Karen helps make beautiful quilts and shawls which are donated to various groups and individuals.  She pays for most of the materials herself.  You can see the glow on her face when she finishes a piece and is able to donate it to the church.  Helping others this way is a labor of love for Karen.

As you have probably realized by now, particularly if you have read some of my blogs, I have a tendency for vindictiveness.  I don’t like 20211010_190249fools, greedy people, and bullies.  I find it hard to turn the other cheek.  I lack compassion, kindness and patience for racists, white supremacists, KKK, Neo-Nazi and many other groups.  Through it all, Karen stands by me.  I complain that she is too nice.  Minnesota Nice bothers me because I see it as wimpy and avoidance behavior.  Karen says it is caring and compassion.  I wonder what Jesus would say.  Regardless, I know I live a better happier life because I have one very special person that I admire, and love more than I can ever say.  She may look like an average old lady, but she is not average to me.  No average person could live with me for more than a week.

Why a Ukulele is Better than a Gun


I was sitting down tonight with my spouse Karen watching YouTube videos in our Frederic living room.  After watching our usual batch of eclectic YouTube videos, we generally finish off by watching some news reports and then finally some music videos.  My wife is an avid dulcimer player and has been playing it for more than fifteen years now.  About five years ago, she decided to start playing a ukulele.  She has taken lessons for both the uke and dulcimer and plays with a dulcimer group in Tucson and a ukulele group in Centuria, Wisconsin.


The two music groups that Karen plays in have a lot in common.  They are primarily older women players but there are some men in each group.  They practice weekly and occasionally do performances for various venues such as nursing homes, churches, county fairs and festivals.  They do not usually get paid for their performances, but the people who attend at these venues are very happy and grateful to hear the music and songs they play.  The music they perform in both the dulcimer and ukulele groups include a lot of wonderful old gospel tunes, Irish tunes, and country songs.  I have attended many of these performances with Karen.  I do not play but I help with carrying her instruments, amplifiers, and music stands.  Some of the other members call me her “roadie.”

Jake-Shimabukuro-Press-Photo-2185-1570-DPI-4267x6400-1-1080x720The ukulele is a four-stringed instrument that has its origins in Portugal but was adapted by Hawaiians in the 19th Century.  Its size can vary, with the larger instruments producing deeper tones.  Elvis Presley played a ukulele and so did Tiny Tim.  The ukulele became most popular in Hawaii but more recently with a player named Jake Shimabukuro its popularity has skyrocketed.  Karen and I have been to two of Jake’s concerts and it is beyond amazing what he can play and do on his ukulele.  He has done for the ukulele what the movie “O Brother, Where Are Thou” did for old time music.  He has created a renaissance for the ukulele with millions of people all over the world now taking up the instrument.


Tonight, we watched some of the videos for a ukulele group that we have watched many times before.  They are called the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.  They have nearly two dozen music videos on YouTube.  There are eight members in the group.  Two women and six men.

soprano-concert-tenor-baritone-ukulele-sizes They play a variety of ukes from soprano to tenor to concert to bass ukuleles.  In addition to playing, they also sing.  They are quite innovative and creative in their adaptations of the various pieces of music that they play.  They often invite ticket holders to bring their ukuleles to the concert and play along with them.  You can find out more about this group at their site Ukulele Orchestra.  Their website includes information on where they are playing next.  They tour all over the world and will be in various parts of Europe and America over the next two years.  By the way, National Ukulele Day takes place on February 2 each year when ukulele players from around the country will strum their favorite tunes to celebrate.  But I started this blog with the admonition that ukuleles were better than guns.  Following are my ten reasons why a ukulele is better than a gun.

  1. You do not need a Concealed Carry Permit to carry a ukulele in public. 

Most people will not feel at all uncomfortable if you pass them by in a Walmart with a ukulele.  Not so true with a gun.  Few places ban ukulele players from entering.

  1. There have been very few people killed with a ukulele.

Either intentionally or unintentionally, statistics show that ukuleles are relatively safe.  They are very light weight and even if you cracked a person over the head with one, it would probably hurt your ukulele more than the other person.

  1. Ukuleles do not have to be reloaded.

Ukulele strings do not break very often, and they are pretty inexpensive to purchase compared to most bullets.  In addition, stores seldom run out of ukulele strings whereas bullets seem to fly off the shelf every time a Democrat is elected.

  1. The sound of a ukulele playing will not generally make people dash for cover and cower behind closed doors.

Ukuleles are fun to play and fun to listen to.  The music written for ukes as well as much of the music played by ukulele players is heartwarming and upbeat.

  1. Ukuleles are relatively inexpensive.

A good gun (if there is such a thing) will set you back several hundred dollars.  You can buy an excellent carbon fiber ukulele for $100 dollars.  Many people prefer a wood ukulele but carbon fiber ukes are waterproof and humidity resistant.  In addition, they have an excellent tone.  More and more acoustic instruments are being made out of carbon fiber.

  1. You do not have to lock your ukulele up to protect your children.

As a matter of fact, many parents like to encourage their children to play an instrument by leaving it around for them to pick up and experiment with.  (WARNING) You do not want to leave your gun around for your kids to play or experiment with.

  1. Ukuleles do not malfunction and blow up in your face.

Where there might be some “bad” ukes, there are no reports of any ukes blowing up or exploding and killing anyone.  Ukuleles are thus much safer to play than guns.

  1. Ukuleles are bipartisan.

You can be a Republican or a Democrat and still play a ukulele.  There are no official designations limiting who can play a ukulele.  Unlike Covid masks, playing a ukulele will not denote your political affiliation.

  1. Ukuleles can be carried on a plane and stored in the overhead bins.

The small size and light weight of most ukes make them ideal for traveling.  They will easily pass through most metal detectors and unlike guns will not sound alarms and have people scurrying for cover if you forget to mention that you have one in your luggage.

  1. They are more inclusive than guns.

When anyone draws a gun and starts firing it, most people will run away as quickly as possible from the shooter.  The exact opposite is usually true with a ukulele player.  Take out your ukulele and start playing it and people will soon come around and if you are a half-way decent player, you will have a crowd of people listening to you.  If you are really good, open your uke case and you can pick up a few bucks in tips by being a busker.  When was the last time, you saw any gun owners making money by shooting their guns in public?

So there you have it.  10 good reasons to buy a ukulele today and learn to play it.  There are oodles of free lessons on line, and it seems just about every town now has a uke club.  My wife plays weekly with a friend in Canada and her group in Centuria.  Members of uke groups are friendly and hospitable.  To date, none of the mass killers in America have been uke players.

“What the world needs are more ukuleles and fewer guns.”  — Socrates, 457 BCE

“Sir, I have had new thoughts on the Second Amendment.  I believe we should change it as follows:  ‘A well-disciplined ukulele band, being necessary to the peace and harmony of a free State, the right of the people to keep and play ukuleles, shall not be infringed.’”  Thomas Jefferson, 1789 CE

A good uke site if you are interested in getting started:

My Favorite Ukulele Sites (2022 Edition)








A Forgotten Native American

I think it is fair to say that Ti-bish-ko-gi-jik or Father Philip B. Gordon of the Ojibwe tribe in Northern Wisconsin was not forgotten since he was never really remembered.  I have lived in Wisconsin and Minnesota since 1965 and I never heard of the first North American Catholic priest who was also a Native American.  A friend of mine told me about the attached article which is a compilation of stories and a short biography of Reverend Gordon written by Paula Delfeld in 1977.  I am always amazed by the lack of history for Black Americans but it is probably true that Native Americans are equally forgotten in our American educational system.  Call me naïve but I always thought history was supposed to be unbiased and objective and inclusive.  I am still waking up to the fact that it never was.  The following link includes some interesting pictures and some excerpts from old newspapers which are well worth reading to find out more about Father Gordon.

On first thought, one might assume that Father Gordon was a sellout to his Indian heritage.  An Indian who adopts the Catholic religion to preach to his tribal members.  However, as this article makes clear, the good reverend stood up for native rights and fought the good fight against a system that was bent on appropriating as much as they could of Indian land and destroying their culture.  

“He built missions, organized the life of the local communities, actively fought for their rights against the authorities and the private companies who wanted to expropriate the lands and forests of the Indians. He became member, and then president of the Society of American Indians which fought for the emancipation and rights of the Native Americans. By denouncing the burning crosses as defamation of religion, he successfully defied the Ku-Klux-Klan; thanks to his perseverance, the sheriffs and other official persons, and even Baptist preachers who were members of the Klan, were dismissed or moved, so that the Klan could never put root in Wisconsin. He carried out a great missionary work not only among the Ojibwe, but also among their ancient enemies, the Sioux; it was his merit that the two people finally made peace with each other.”

Take the time to review this article, then share it with others.  It is way past time to include heroic Native Americans in our history books.  The first part was written in 1912 so you might excuse the pejorative stereotypes of Native Americans held by the author.  The second part covers an article written later in which the original article was used as background.  

First Part written in 1912

Bácsmegyei Napló, 4 January 1912
A Native American seminarist in Szabadka

“Yesterday afternoon an interesting young man walked about the streets of Szabadka. His clothing was the blue cassock of the Catholic seminarists, so he was not conspicuous for anybody.  This seminarist is a red-skinned Native Indian from America.  He is called Philip Gordon, and came from the state of Minnesota in Northern America. His grandfather may have hunted for scalps, his father was perhaps still a nomad roaming the endless American plains, and the son will probably become a bishop. Philip Gordon was baptized, and took a liking to the priestly career. Now he sailed across the ocean to the Old World, and will go to Innsbruck to learn theology. He got to Szabadka by having got acquainted with a seminarist from the village of Bajmok, Ernő Rickert, and he invited him now to us. The Native American speaks in English, French and some German as well. Whatever he has hitherto seen from Hungary was very pleasant to him, and he feels quite well here.  Philip Gordon remains in Bajmok only a few days, and then he goes to Innsbruck. And a few years later he will  spread Christianity among his red-skinned siblings.”

This Second part was written in 2013 by Paula Delfeld and is excerpted from her book. 

download (1)

The Indian Priest
Father Philip B. Gordon
Chapter 1 – The Indian Priest Reminisces


“The aging Indian priest sat, as his ancestors had, beside the war drum. A stiff breeze whistled through the tops of the tall pines, but beneath their sheltering branches, the eagle feathers in his war bonnet were barely ruffled. Although the priest was a Chippewa, the headdress he often wore was Sioux; he received it while he was doing mission work in the western states. Along the sandy river bank a campfire, adding its glow and warmth to the cool June evening in the north woods, accentuated the priest’s Indian features and his ample figure. Around him sat twenty St. Paul, Minnesota, Boy Scouts, eagerly waiting for the proceedings to begin. Friends of the scouts and the priest had gathered at the camp the scouts called Neibel to witness the presentation of the Chippewa war drum and peace pipe to the troop by Reverend Philip Gordon (Ti-bish-ko-gi-jik). The Calumet or peace pipe had always been sacred to the Indians, and like the drum, its presentation was attended by strict ceremony. Among the spectators was Luther Youngdahl, Minnesota’s governor and a friend of Father Gordon. He had invited the priest to drum out a song.  For forty years the drum had been used for tribal ceremonies and it was said that on a calm night it could be heard for ten miles. But now the sound reverberated through the dense woods, one of the few stands of virgin timber remaining in the once heavily forested area.” 

“Philip B. Gordon was born on March 31, 1885 as one of fourteen siblings in Wisconsin, the Great Lakes region, in a commercial station called Gordon, which was founded and named after their family by his uncle. Both of his parents belonged to the Ojibwe (Chippewa) tribe, but in both lineages there was also a French ancestor. Hence they inherited the name Gaudin, which was anglicized for Gordon by his uncle. Philip, who at birth received the name Ti-bish-ko-gi-jik, “Heaven Viewer”, still grew up in the traditional Native American culture, but he also fluently spoke in French and English. The railway arrived to the Great Lakes region in Philip’s childhood, and Philip witnessed the radical changes it had brought: the clearance of the forests and the destruction of the traditional Indian way of life. Depression, alcoholism and suicide rapidly spread among the Indians deprived of their living space and livelihood.” 

“Philip, who first went to a military college, felt obliged to devote his life to his Native American brothers, thus after two years he went over to the seminary of the local Franciscan mission. There he excelled with his intelligence, physical and rhetorical skills, and so after the first year he was sent to the American College in Rome. From there he went to the theology of Innsbruck, where he remained for two years, until finishing his studies. This is the period when he also came to Szabadka. Philip enjoyed traveling and spent two summer vacation periods in France, Germany, Hungary, Austria, Switzerland, Holland, Belgium and made one trip to England. Some of these were walking tours. In the land of his French ancestors, he learned to speak the language fluently and spent much of his time in the French department of Loir-et-Cher. Besides English and French, he spoke fluent German, Italian and numerous Indian dialects.”

“On December 8, 1913, the feast of the Immaculate Conception he was ordained a priest in Wisconsin. His Czech bishop, Koudelka wanted to send him to an urban parish, but he successfully begged to be left among his Ojibwe brothers. In the coming decades he accomplished a huge organizational work. He built missions, organized the life of the local communities, actively fought for their rights against the authorities and the private companies who wanted to expropriate the lands and forests of the Indians. He became member, and then president of the Society of American Indians which fought for the emancipation and rights of the Native Americans. By denouncing the burning crosses as defamation of religion, he successfully defied the Ku-Klux-Klan; thanks to his perseverance, the sheriffs and other official persons, and even Baptist preachers who were members of the Klan, were dismissed or moved, so that the Klan could neve put root in Wisconsin.”

“He carried out a great missionary work not only among the Ojibwe, but also among their ancient enemies, the Sioux; it was his merit that the two people finally made peace with each other. He was an exceptional organizer, an excellent orator, and, moreover, “a charming personality, highly educated and possessing a natural humor which made his remarks very entertaining as well as interesting and instructive.”


“Philip Gordon died in 1948, after thirty years of intensive work, and two years of serious illness. With the last of his strength he organized the Ojibwe Inter-Tribal Organization, which claimed hundreds of millions of dollars against the government for the lands taken away from the Indians. He was buried in his native village Gordon. His tomb is still highly respected, and, as the Indian Country News writes, it is an obligatory element of every documentary on the Native Americans of the region.”

I hope you are inspired by this story of a man who deserves to be remembered not only by Native Americans but by all Americans.

Why Gun Control is Not Enough!

The Good Guy with a Gun Myth

Gun control is only a first step.  Some of the Second Amendment advocates are right about one thing.  There are some of us who want to take their guns away.  Not all of their guns, but some of their guns.  Licensing, background checks, restrictions on types of firearms, restrictions on clip size, none of these will stop the mass killings in America.  There is a simple reason for this.  There are too many guns in America available.  Look at it this way.

Assume that there were 100,000 cars in a given area.  Assume that for every 100,000 cars there would be an average of 100 accidents per year.  This assumption can be verified by statistical analysis of car accidents in a given area.  Some places will have more accidents than other places, but all places with cars will have some accidents. 

There are many factors governing who will have an accident, when they will have an accident and where they will have an accident.  No amount of statistical analysis can precisely predict when, where or who will be connected with an accident.  We use licensing, registrations, vehicle checks, drivers tests and still we have a current death rate in 2020 of 12.9 deaths per 100,000 vehicles.  This is a 58% improvement from the motor-vehicle death rate in 1937 with 30.8 deaths per 100,000 population.  Cars have become safer with airbags, better brakes, seat belts and other safety devices.  Yet we still cannot prevent an accident from happening.  —Historical Fatality Trends

Now if we increase the number of cars from 100,000 to 1 million and assuming all other variables stay equal, than we can assume that there will be ten times more accidents or that we will go from 100 car accidents per year to 1000 car accidents per year.  Or with a death rate of 12. 9 deaths per 100,000 vehicles, we will now have a total of 129 deaths per year.  Applying this same logic to firearms explains why the number of mass murders and firearm fatalities is increasing.  However, the statistics are more difficult.  Part of this has to do with the congressional oversight protecting the gun industry in the USA. 

Let us assume that for every 7500 guns in America that there will be 1-gun related fatality.  This statistic is derived from the fact that in 2020, there was a total of 45,222 deaths related to firearms in America.  The number of guns in America is estimated at about 340,000,000.  (The wide variances in registered guns by state, the lack of information on unregistered guns, the extreme variability in guns per capita make a definitive statistic nearly impossible.)  Dividing the total number of guns (a rough estimate) by the number of gun related deaths gives us 1 fatality for approximately every 7500 guns.  

“A new report from the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions analyzes Centers for Disease Control and Prevention firearm fatality data for 2020—a year that saw the highest number of gun-related deaths ever recorded by the CDC and a sharp increase in gun homicides.  Among other things, the report concludes that states with the most robust gun laws have lower gun-related death rates.  The Center for Gun Violence Solutions is based at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.” —- John Hopkins School of Public Health

Applying the same car logic to guns in America, if we have 1 death per every 7500 firearms available then increasing the number of firearms will increase the number of deaths and injuries.  However, we already know that increasing the number of firearms has increased the number of deaths and injuries.  Three hundred and forty million firearms are now causing over 45,000 deaths per year.  Double the number of firearms and we can have nearly 100,000 deaths per year.  Of course, we could do the opposite of what we did with cars and make firearms even more lethal.  (Something that many gun owners relish).  Making guns more lethal would up the death toll.  Bumper stocks was one example of this increasing lethality.

Conversely, if the logic holds, decreasing firearm lethality should decrease both deaths and serious injuries.  But an even better strategy would be to decrease the number of guns in America.  The logic here is that there is no way that we will be able to prevent the carnage that is happening daily with background checks, mental health clinics, psych screenings or any other suggestions that have been offered.  As long as we have 340 million guns available to any individual that suddenly loses his or her sanity, there is going to continue to be daily incidents of mass gun violence. Given the right circumstances, we all can become potentially bad guys.

Increase the number of guns or the lethality of guns and you will increase the number of people who die from firearms. 

Decrease the number of guns in America or decrease the lethality of guns and you will decrease the number of people who die from firearm deaths. 

Its that simple folks.  But the difficult part is developing the will to fight a battle against a mindset driven by fear to buy ever more guns and an industry bent on selling ever more guns.

More guns = more deaths.  No amount of “GOOD GUYS” with a gun is going to change this fact.

What does the 4th of July really mean?

Happy Family Standing On The Hill And Watching The Fireworks

happy family standing on the hill and watching the fireworks

Happy 4th of July! The 1st of July is the 182nd day of the year. As you watch the fireworks tonight, consider that today is now the 185th day of the year. This probably will make little or no difference to your enjoyment of the display you go to see.  Each year, the fireworks displays seem to be longer and more spectacular.  The loud explosions, dazzling sparkles and bright flashes of color contrasting with the grey smoke really bring home to me the vision that drove Francis Scott Key to write the “Star Spangled Banner.”

O! Say can you see by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

The American Flag, the 4th of July, the Declaration of Independence and the “Bombs” too many of our soldiers have seen are more than just images of a unique US Brand.  They are more than just symbols of our heritage. They are down payments on a legacy that is part of our fundamental American dream.  Our Forefathers created a system of government that was based on the belief that all men (and eventually this included women and African Americans) were entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  This was the most positive, uplifting and life affirming message the world had ever known.  It became the great American experiment.  The only other country to ever come close to America in creating an entirely new life affirming belief system for its citizens was Greece.  The Greek experiment failed to continue but its message helped to form a foundation for every other experiment in democracy the world over.

There are those who argue that the “ascendancy” of the American experiment is over.  It is opined that just like Rome, France, Great Britain and many other empires, America is on the downside of its greatness.  China, India, Japan and Brazil are noted as possible successors. Perhaps from a military or economic view this will be true.  But taken from the perspective of the belief system that under-girds America, there are no countries that are even close.  We do not always practice what we preach.  Moreover, in many areas of life, we seem to have lost our way.  Our politicians are often guided more by party politics than by what is good for the American people or the world.  Today our nation seems fractured into two countries.  One is red.  The other is blue.  It is questionable whether they can ever be reunited into a common nation.

As you enjoy your barbecue, your picnics and your fireworks today, rest assured, the core of the American experiment, the dream and ideals that has brought and continues to bring millions of immigrants to the shores of America will ring forever through the halls of history.  The world will never forget that someday and in some place called America, there was once a people who lived, worked, fought and died for the belief that “we”, the people, including the rich, the poor and all minorities have a set of inalienable rights.  These American values have become values the world over.  It matters little whether the USA is still true to them.  Democracy may be under siege in many nations but there are still millions of people who live under a democracy today and millions more who yearn for the Democratic values espoused by our Founding Fathers.

America became a great nation because we once practiced and believed in this message for all people.  We remain a nation that is great in spirit and great in heart though many of us appear to have lost our way.  If we can find the ability to care more about others than we do about ourselves, our nation can still be a spiritual and moral beacon to the oppressed and downtrodden of the world.  Greatness cannot be measured in economic and monetary terms.  We must measure the greatness of a people by the greatness of their vision.  By that standard, America is the greatest nation that has ever existed.  If only we can find that vision again.

Time for Questions: 

Do you believe in the American Vision?  Do you believe it is for all people, or just for Americans?  When was the last time you actually read the Declaration of Independence?  Do you know the difference between Patriotism and Jingoism?

Life is just beginning.

The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.”
James Madison

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