The Beat Goes On

The Beat Goes On" is a song recorded by Sonny and Cher. It was issued as a single and peaked at number 6 on the charts, January 14, 1967.

I awoke Sunday morning to see bruising on the palms of my fingers and hands, physical reminders of an afternoon of fun at the Episcopal Diocese of Delaware’s Parish Life Day.


I traveled half the world and back again only to learn to play an African drum in Middletown Delaware.

An afternoon within the circle.

I have long been in love with the beat of drums. Steady, solid, stomach thumping.

There is something to be said for losing yourself within the beat. Eyes closed, beating your drum, being lead by the facilitator who keeps the beat. At times you move away from the circle, change your beat, lose your way, but are brought back again by the steady rhythm of the mother drum.

The rhythmic drumming allows me to tune into the natural beats of my heart, soul, the movement of the earth, nature.

What a gift to be given.

Within the circle, part of life. Coming full around.

Other phrases come to mind.

Marching to the beat of a different drummer, The Little Drummer Boy, drum set, oil drums.

The novel Bang the Drum Slowly was written by Mark Harris (a relation?) and published in 1956. It was made into a movie starring Robert DeNiro.

In the book, Harris's narrator Henry "Author" Wiggen, a star pitcher, tells the story of a baseball season with the New York Mammoths (a fictional team based on the Yankee's.) DeNiro plays a the catcher who is diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease who struggles to play his last remaining season. Wiggen tries to be supportive of Pearson while concealing his illness. It is a story of courage, loyalty, friendship and death.

The title comes from the song, The Streets of Laredo, sung by one of the ballplayers at a team gathering. That song contains the lyrics, "O bang the drum slowly, and play the fife lowly...."

The opening scenes of the movie show the stars running the track at Yankee Stadium before its 1973 to 1976 renovation, though due to the renovation, the baseball scenes were filmed in Shea Stadium.

Loyalty, friendship and death.

To a New Yorker, the tearing down of the current Yankee Stadium to build another is like losing a friend.

However, it was an article by Tom Verducci, for Inside Baseball, printer September 18, 2008, that really summed it up for me.

What caught my eyes were the words "I am dying."

It continues with "It's O.K. You need not feel sorry for me. I have lived a full life. I was born in 1923, the same year as Maria Callas, Charlton Heston, Roy Lichtenstein and Norman Mailer. All are gone now. They did well in the time with which they were graced to strut about the stage. I'd like to think I have done likewise.

Besides, I really haven't been myself since 1973, when they cut me clean open and for two years rearranged most of my vital organs...., removed some of them and put me back together in such a way that I looked nothing like I did before."

"See, we're just like you, only without the bother of the respiratory and circulatory apparatus. We buildings have a life span too. Time is the undefeated antagonist that takes on all comers. We age and crack and wrinkle and, yes, ultimately die.

(Don't get me started on that darn Colosseum in Rome, which was the inspiration for my very being and even now doesn't look a day over 1,900.)

I don't like to blow smoke, but my death is unlike any loss seen before in America. I am tangible Americana, like Independence Hall, the Alamo or Graceland. I have been about more than baseball. The first papal mass ever celebrated in the Western Hemisphere? That was me. The first overtime game in NFL history? Me. The birthplace of the "DEE-fense! DEE-fense!" chant? Of the Bronx cheer? Of the triple-decker ballpark in this country? The electronic scoreboard, the replay video board, the "Win one for the Gipper" aphorism, what it means to get Wally Pipped, the standing applause on two-strike counts, the running leap onto home plate to punctuate a walk-off homer? Me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me and me.

It's not only the Babe and the Mick and Derek Jeter who played inside my walls. It's Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali, John Philip Sousa and Pink Floyd, Knute Rockne and Vince Lombardi, Billy Graham and Nelson Mandela, John F. Kennedy and George W. Bush."

The article is long and full of remembrances of times before my birth, my youth, and my middle age. About players I am sad to admit, I do not remember, but of those I will not forget.

I remember the summer of 1967, while working at one of the city parks, I happened to take a group of kids into the city to see the Yankees play ball. Oh, how naive I was to think that I could ride the train, get off at the correct stop and voila end up at the stadium.

The first stop was actually the Bowery. Yikes. The kindness of strangers turned us around, headed us in the right direction and we arrived for the game.

However, rain showers interrupted the game.

For reasons not understood by me, several of the boys decided to jump the fence and assist the groundskeepers in pulling the cover over center field. What mayhem.

What to do?

Jump the fence and get them, since at this point they were being chased by security.

Unfortunately, others had the same idea.

What happened?

I ended up standing in front of the Yankee dugout, staring at the players I adored. Mantle, Pepitone, Amaro, Ford, Howard, Stottlemyre.

Soaking wet and a stupid grin.

Or how about a day in October 2001. The 30th. When the world watched the World Series played out in NYC at Yankee Stadium.

"On that night, the wreckage and rubble of the 9/11 terrorist attacks were still smoldering at Ground Zero. People were afraid to fly. The comfort of routine was lost to the anxiety that another attack could come at any moment. People came to Game 3 of the World Series that night with great apprehension. President Bush was scheduled to throw the ceremonial first pitch. What unnerved the fans was that they knew they were either in the safest place in the world at that moment or the absolutely most dangerous place in the world, but they had no way of ruling out either choice with any certainty."

"Snipers perched on my rooftop. Special agents were everywhere, including one in an umpire's uniform gathered with the other umpires at home plate. Then the President came out of the dugout and bounded toward the pitching mound."

The people were crying. These were New Yorkers. They were in tears. ... The leader of the free world, when American soil suddenly felt strangely unsafe, stood alone on my mound. He thrust his right arm into the air and gave a thumbs-up sign. Then he reached back with the baseball, stepped forward, brought his arm around with a natural looseness and let go the most perfect strike you could ever imagine to Yankees backup catcher Todd Greene. The crowd erupted into a chant of "U-S-A! U-S-A!"

"It wasn't just the ceremonial first pitch of Game 3. It was the ceremonial first pitch to America's recovery."

So, I have rambled long enough tonight. I have come full circle, lead by the beat of my heart and soul.

And, as Thanksgiving approaches, I remember those who will not be with me this year; Mom, Dad, Granny, Granda, Greg, Jim.

However, I am comforted remembering the words of Jesus, paraphrased.

The Beat Goes On.

"The Beat Goes On" was sung at Sonny Bono's funeral, and the phrase also appears on his tombstone.


Out of the Closet

Enliven the faith communities of the world with a rebirth of welcome for all sorts and conditions of humanity, moving us to reorder our lives and our loves to such simplicity and goodwill as to preserve the earth and make for peace

From A Litany for Envisioning a New World, Bennett J. Sims, Bishop Emeritus, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Reorder our lives and loves.

Tall order. How do you start?

Step out in faith.

This weekend, my daughter took it upon herself to open all of her storage boxes that she had brought with her when she moved back home.

She rummaged through closets, cabinets. The result was lots of clothes taken to Goodwill.

A reordering of closets, using her logic, not mine.

This results in a mental exercie designed to keep my brain young. It will be a challenge trying to figure out where everything is now stored.

In addition, there were lots of questions about what is this used for? Do you really need this?

I thought that I had already simplified, a lot, but apparently there is always room for more.

And, I find that this new order brings peace of mind. I must remember to thank her, alot.

Someone else is sweating the "little stuff" so that I can concentrate on the larger issues.

Someone else is now recognizing that an orderly household allows one to be involved in more pressing concerns.

Can organizing closets lead to preserving the earth and make for peace?

I'll let you know.


Silent Amens

O day of peace that dimly shines through all our hopes and prayers and dreams,

guide us to justice, truth, and love, delivered from our selfish schemes.

May swords of hate fall from our hands, our hearts from envy find release,

till by God's grace our warring world shall see Christ's promised reign of peace.

(Hymn #597 The 1982 Hymnal Episcopal Church of the USA)

On November 12, I had the opportunity to hear The Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson speaking at Christ Church, Dover, Delaware. Bishop Robinson was in the Diocese of Delaware to meet with the clergy and he graciously opened the gathering to laity and other clergy to be in dialog with him.

I had purchased his book In the Eye of the Storm - Swept to the Center by God and was in the first stages of reading it.

In the introduction, Bishop Robinson writes that his Canon to the Ordinary gave him a piece of calligraphy that said:

Sometimes God calms the storm. And sometimes God lets the storm rage and calms his child."

Storms have been raging around me for the past couple of weeks. Lots of personal issues for those with whom I share my life.

Economic fears, traveling fears, relocation of or health concerns for a parent, couples that breakup, memories that intrude from previous Christmases, fears of being alone, fears of dying.

So, why am I so calm? Must be God.

If I were to actually take the time to reflect on what is happening, or what my "tasks" are, it would be a different story.

But I do not. I have become comfortable, for the most part, with "it is what it is"

I play Christmas music, at work, in the car.

I look forward to the emails that speak to The Birth and Promises.

Or, those that pass along the most current Santa and reindeer jokes.

(BTW, the reindeer are reported to be female, since Santa never gets lost, because they will always stop to ask directions.)

I am sending out Christmas cards, but mostly to Sudan.

Do not think that I have buried my head in the snow. I am aware, and I am praying.

Whether it is quiet or noisy, I pray. For all of you.

For those in the storm and for those whose storm has not yet arrived.

For those who made it through the storm and see the Son.

I pray that your burdens become lighter, your relationships more loving, your work more fulfilling.

I pray that your passions can be central in your life.

Finally, I pray that I continue to pray


A Beatles Revival

"All you need is love

Ta, Ta. Ta, Ta, Da

All you need is love, love,

All you need is love."

Recently, I had the opportunity to read an excerpt from the Dalai Lama's letter to the world on September 11, 2001. I bring it before you now:

Dear friends around the world:

Today the human soul asks the question: What can I do to preserve the beauty and the wonder of our world and to eliminate the anger and hatred-and the disparity that inevitably causes it- in that part of the world which I touch?

Please seek to answer that question today, with all the magnificence that is You.

What can you do TODAY... this very moment?

A central teaching in most spiritual traditions is: What you wish to experience, provide for another. Look to see, now, what it is you wish to experience in your own life, and in the world.

Then, see if there is another for whom you may be the source of that.

If you wish to experience peace, provide peace for another.

If you wish to know that you are safe, cause another to know that they are safe.

If you wish to better understand seeminly incomprehensible things, help another to better understand.

If you wish to heal your own sadness or anger, seek to heal the sadness or anger of another.

Those things are waiting for you now. They are looking to you for guidance, for help, for courage, for strength, for understanding, and for assurance....

Most of all, they are looking to you for love.

My religion is very simple.

My religion is kindness.

This excerpt was the second reading during the 5th Sunday in the Season of Creation: World Peace.

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.

"Where there is hatred, let us sow love: Being Peacemakers in the created order"

A Season of Creation 2008 - brought to you by St. Francis.


Favorite Addition

In the past few weeks, I and others have been able to listen to the 10:30 AM Worship Service at my church, The Episcopal Church of Sts. Andrew and Matthew.

When I was recovering from my surgery, this turned out to be a god-send. I could hear the organ, the choir, the congregation and the sermon. The prayers of the people. It was joyous.

So, for those of you living outside of northern Delaware, please click on the link and take a look at SsAM's. Click on the hear the recent service.

I hope you find it as inspirational as I do.


Scheduled Bleeding

There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein. Walter Wellesley "Red” Smith—a now deceased sports writer.

I seem to have a problem scheduling time to write.

While in Sudan, I did my writing each Sunday before church. I actually looked forward to the time alone to reflect on what had happened during the week or the day.

Back in the States, I have yet to find that scheduled time.

I accumulate lots of pictures, sayings, and impressions during the week. I actually have them all stored in Word. or in an actual file on my desk, or written on pieces of paper, the backs of bills, the only thing available when inspiration hit.

Church is a big source.

So, when I heard Keith Olbermann talk about "Red" Smith and read the quote above, I thought "Voila".

All I need is a knife. But, what kind? Too small and my thoughts might be incomplete. Too large, and I might not stop typing.

Or possibly, I need to install an on and off valve that will open and close the appropriate vein. A valve that could be put on a timer.

Instant inspirational insights.

Being honest, I have not yet learned to be apart from the world while being a part of the world.

It was much easier in Sudan.

And, my surgery has put a damper on typing at any time of the day. I have had difficulty in finding the right position for the keyboard.

Tonight, I remembered that Mark had loaned me his spare laptop. He had given it to me to take to Sudan, but I knew that I would probably want to leave one behind in Sudan.

So, I am now sitting upstairs, laptop perched on pillows at the right angle for my shoulder.

Paring knife in hand.