Economic Angst Did Not Cost Clinton the Election

The economy has now gained nearly five times more jobs under President Barack Obama than it did during the presidency of George W. Bush, and the unemployment rate has dropped to just below the historical average. Clinton was running on a promise to continue the legacy of President Obama.  That said, what the voting statistics suggest is that women, Millennials, voters between the ages of 30-45, African- Americans, Asian- Americans, and Latinos are not experiencing angst about the future. The numbers show that the one group which  is struggling with their position in a new America are white males between the ages 45-65+. 

Clinton did not lose because she was out of touch with the economic fears of most Americans. She won the popular vote by 2 million. The reason that she lost the Electoral College is because there is still a significant voting block in this nation who are unwilling to accept progress, change, diversity, and pluralism. If they would only open their eyes and hearts, they would discover that economic opportunities are available to them; but they must be willing to rethink their entitlements, retrain their skill set, and re-purpose their ideas about what it means to be a global citizen.

This matters because there is a danger in portraying Mr. Trump as a champion of the disenchanted blue collar worker. Attributing his win to his populism overlooks the role race and prejudice played in his campaign. In other words, pointing to the economy as the reason Mr. Trump was elected actually serves to legitimate and normalize hate.


Photo by George Payne

Trump’s Self Delusion Puts the World into the Hands of Madness

I am about to do something radical, dangerous, and nearly forbidden in our regulated and morally sterilized society. I am going to tell the truth as sparsely and as intrepidly as I possibly can. These are my observations. I could be mistaken. But I do not think that I am mistaken. I think that the man America allowed to hijack the Presidency is a lost soul who has been mired in a lifetime of greed, intolerance, swashbuckling, legal warfare, petty disputes, con jobs, poisonous dissent, exploitation, environmental destruction, aimless desires, sexual harassment, predatory behavior, corporate dehumanization, and a sickness that has been unofficially diagnosed as an extremely volatile form of chronic narcissism.

Here is the truth as I see it. When it comes to the charge of hating women, I do not think that this accusation is wholly accurate. Donald Trump has a voracious desire for women. He is clearly obsessed by the female body and appears to possess in an unending need to be surrounded by women who he finds attractive. Moreover, he has created his empire with the help of women, and he has gone out of his way to provide them with opportunities to advance up the corporate ranks. In Mr. Trump’s mind, he sincerely believes that he is someone who respects women because he treats them as equals. As his logic goes, the best way for men to respect women is to avoid being condescending to them. What they really seek is to be viewed as competent, deserving and trusted employees. But they must prove themselves just like men.

In Mr. Trump’s efforts to treat women as equals, he ends up perceiving them as outcomes of a power move. But this is how he sees male competition also. If they can not tolerate or match his aggression and domineering ways, they will be tossed out, defeated and ultimately forgotten. He thinks of himself as a killer; men are his prey. Consequently, as Mr. Trump tries to grant women authority and respect, he winds up treating them just like prey to be hunted, dominated, devoured, digested and destroyed.

Perhaps Mr. Trump will never realize that women do not need his approval or permission to have self respect in the first place.  He may never realize that they do not need his power in order to claim their own primordial strength as life bearers and caretakers of the planet. Trump’s equal treatment is useless and pathetic because it treats women as a way of measuring his own standards for success and power. As such, women in Mr. Trump’s orbit become simple means to his ends. They are like technological apparatus that he uses until they either break down or stop giving him pleasure.

Nor do I believe that Mr. Trump holds the type of racist beliefs that most people think he does. He has worked with and promoted people of color his entire life. I think he has tremendous admiration for thousands of black people across the world who have risen to the top of their profession. It is not his goal to diminish or demoralize African American communities. I think we can take him at his word when he says that black people deserve much better social conditions and economic opportunities.  I think he really does want to help “them” get out of poverty and achieve his form of success in the world. If only “they” had more opportunities to succeed like he did,”they” would realize that he is not against “them” but for “them.” Mr. Trump has stated on more than one occasion, “what do you have to lose? You are living in hell already!”

But just because Mr. Trump sincerely believes that he wants to help communities of color does not mean that he knows how to do it. The fact that he does not understand how millions of people can claim color as part of their identity and also choose not to live in the same communities is deeply problematic. In his effort to transcend identity politics and treat people of color as real human beings, he ends up trivializing their humanness and makes them into a monolith that is not rooted in actual fact. His language about people of color is inherently offensive to anyone that reserves the intrinsic right to define who they are for themselves. Trump, once again, sees people as mere objects to manipulate and manage rather than as individual citizens to acknowledge and appreciate.

I believe the same can be said for his stance on immigration. As far as I can tell, Mr. Trump has an authentic respect and awareness for the immigrant plight. For those who are able to make a career out of abject poverty or are just seeking a new experience, Mr. Trump is more than willing to applaud their effort. In his view, the purpose of life is to become the most successful person that you can be. In immigrants, Mr. Trump sees a prime example of what it means to pursue excellence at all costs. I do not believe, therefore, that he is a xenophobe in the traditional sense of the word. He has hired immigrants in the past and has staked his reputation on their quality of work. But Mr. Trump does not see these people as individuals. They are simply forms to him. Do they succeed or not? Are they productive or not? Do they help me or not? Are they making this country safe or not? These are the questions that Mr. Trump ponders. He does not wonder if they feel successful. Nor does he seem to care about how safe they feel. Where is his capacity to empathize with those who have been forced to escape their homes because of genocide, natural disaster, drug cartels, human trafficking, or tyranny? If Mr. Trump truly cared about immigrants as human beings, than he would refer to them in much different ways than he does now. Calling a human being an alien is sickening. Talking as if you have the right to break a family apart because of the need to build walls is repugnant. And scaring people with talk of deportation squads is malicious.

I could go on with observations of this sort. If liberals and progressives are able to confront the Trump agenda head on, they will first need to understand what the agenda really means. I am no psychologist but I do respect and rely on the science of analyzing human behavior. It is the only way that we can see how Trump’s supporters can be so easily misled by his rhetoric and tactics. Trump himself is hopelessly delusional about his own racists tendencies, xenophobic inclinations, and power issues with women. Perhaps the sole reason why he is so dangerous is not because he is a blatant and unapologetic bigot and sexual predator; on the contrary, it is because he believes that he is just the opposite. It is his own self- deception that puts the entire world into the hands of madness.


George Payne

A Message from Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Dear Students:

After the harsh and ugly rhetoric of the campaign, many of you are concerned about what might happen next.
Let me be clear: This is the State of New York, not a state of fear. We will not tolerate hate or racism.
We have been and always will be a place where people of many backgrounds have come to seek freedom and opportunity. Almost all who live here can trace their roots to someplace else.
We cherish our diversity. We find strength in our differences. Whether you are gay or straight, Muslim or Christian or Jewish or Buddhist, rich or poor, black or white or Latino or Asian, man or woman, cisgender or transgender, we respect all people in the State of New York.
The Statue of Liberty is a proud symbol of American values, and she stands in our harbor. We feel a special responsibility to make her offer of refuge and hope a reality every day.
As long as you are here, you are New Yorkers. You are members of our community, and we will stand up for you.
The State of New York has strict laws against hate crimes and discrimination and we fully and firmly enforce them. It is illegal in this state to target, harass or discriminate against a person because of his or her race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation. We are a tolerant people, and cannot and will not let our freedoms be undermined. 

New York State has a toll-free hotline where people can report incidents of bias and discrimination. Our responsibility is to protect all who are here, whether native-born or immigrant, whether documented or not. The hotline strengthens our efforts. Contacting us will not affect your immigration status.

New Yorkers who have experienced bias or discrimination should call the toll-free hotline at 
(888) 392-3644 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday – Friday.

If you want to report a crime or fear for your safety, call 911 immediately.

New Yorkers feel a particular affection for young immigrants. For centuries, our state has thrived on the energy and ambition of the young people seeking to build their lives here. Your intelligence, your creativity, your idealism enriches us all. You are welcome here.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

A Moral Force of Opposition Rises as the Democratic Party Turns to Sanders

Mr. Trump lost the popular vote to Secretary Clinton by 1.5 million votes. There is no mandate when over 50% of the country does not support your agenda. Voters between the ages of 18-29 voted 55% to 37% in favor of Clinton. Women voted for Clinton by a margin of 12%. Blacks voted by an overwelming majority for Clinton-about 88% to 8%. Hispanics voted 65% to 29% for the Secretary and Asians voted for her 65% to 29%. (

Age 18 – 29 37 % Trump 55% Clinton
Female 42 % 54 %
Black 8 % 88 %
Hispanic 29 % 65 %
Asian 29 % 65 %

Furthermore, Mr. Trump was assured victories in battleground states such as North Carolina and Texas because of rampant efforts to disenfranchise minority communities. Long lines, harassment, confusing directions, and voter ID laws worked to make it extremely difficult for many people of low income to cast their ballot. Florida had its own issue which may have cost Clinton the election. According to The Sentencing Project, a prison-reform group, more than 1.6 million Floridians — about 9 percent — could not vote because they are a felon. If every American of voting age had an equal opportunity to be recognized as a free and worthy citizen, then Secretary Clinton would have defeated Trump soundly. Obviously that did not happen.

With all of that said, there is no doubt that Secretary Clinton is responsible. She could have communicated better to farmers in Iowa, Catholics in Indiana, soccer moms in the suburbs of Michigan, and to blue collar workers in PA. She could have fostered a genuine coalition with Senator Sanders that was built on an authentically progressive agenda. She could have included her husband more in the day to day campaign decision making. She could have run a smarter and more strategic campaign in general. Yet Clinton did not lose the election. She lost control of the process. There is a big difference. It is important to remember that half of the nation does not support or condone Donald Trump and what his election represents.
Now the only way the national nightmare of a Trump White House can be averted is for tens of millions of people to rise up and galvanize behind a democratic movement led by Senator Sanders. This movement must be organized by hundreds of thousands of volunteers from all over the world. Its goal must be to join forces spiritually, economically, politically and legally to challenge Mr. Trump’s eligibility to become POTUS. We only have two months.
Thank God that Senator Sanders has stepped up to the plate. He has been in front of the White House giving speeches on Standing Rock. He is on every national media program warning Mr. Trump to let go of Bannon immediately. He is simply taking charge. As a result of his courage and fortitude it no longer appears that a Trump takeover is inevitable. No matter what happens before the swearing in ceremony, the fight is far from over. Trump’s ignorance and delusion will not be socially normalized and legally codified if Sanders has anything to say about it.

 We are not a nation under siege. We are a nation of kindness, openness and profound freedoms. We are not a nation going broke. We are an engine driving the economy of the world in sometimes unexpected and unprecedented ways. And we are not weaker because of cultural diversity. The nation has always been devoted to diversity and pluralism as a foundation of our political system. Trump is wrong. Trump is blinded by his own greed. Trump is not aware that America is great because it allowed a man like himself to have a voice. Despite his insatiable discourtesy, strange compulsions and even fascist rhetoric, he was given a serious platform to espouse his ideas. The tolerance and goodwill extended to Mr. Trump has proven just how respectful, rewarding, resilient, robust, redemptive and recalcitrant this thing called American democracy can be. The very country that Trump spent an election year dismissing as garbage, is the same one that made him a billionaire. The same system that he accused of being rigged is the one that propelled him to temporary victory.

The fight is on. We must support Senator Sanders in his quest to enlarge and empower a revolutionary grassroots movement sustained by the will and hard work of diversity loving peoples from all over the world. If we come together there is still time to mount a moral force of opposition to Trump. His agenda can still be disrupted before the long national nightmare begins. Together we can expose him once and for all as being constitutionally ineligible to hold this sacred office. But to do this we must employ every spiritual, economic, political, and legal strategy available. We only have two months.

What we are saying to the American people is, no, Donald Trump is not right. A Mexican worker making eight bucks an hour is not the reason why the middle class is disappearing.

Bernie Sanders

Photograph by George Payne

On a personal level, please, give me the opportunity to defeat Donald Trump.

Bernie Sanders


And what somebody like a Trump is trying to do is to divide us up. A few months ago, we were supposed to hate Mexicans and he thinks they’re all criminals or rapists. Now we’re supposed to hate Muslims. That kind of crap isn’t going to work in the United States of America.

Bernie Sanders

Photograph by George Payne

The strategic adversary is fascism… the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us. Michel Foucault

Ford Street’s Reward: The Genesee Riverway Trail as Urban Sanctuary

Photography by George Cassidy Payne


For the past three years my wife Amy and I have lived in the Plymouth-Exchange neighborhood, otherwise known as PLEX. Behind our house on Exchange Street runs the Genesee River. Heading north to Lake Ontario, the section behind our home has been included and transformed as part of the Genesee Riverway Trail system. The trail has a pedestrian bridge that connects our neighborhood to the University of Rochester campus. The trail makes use of an old railroad line and overlooks a wetland sanctuary with herons, egrets, ospreys, hawks, vultures, and countless other marine and woodland lifeforms. Inside a bustling university campus and next to a quasi busy section of downtown Rochester, it is a unique and remarkable natural urban sanctuary.

Recently  I took my four month old son Mendon on his first GRT walk. He slept most of the way, so mission accomplished. After all, there is nothing quite like the fresh breeze of a late autumn morning in Western NY. The scent of milkweed and birch was a welcome tonic to us both.

As I walked along the trail- bathed in the radiant sunlight- I felt attached to this sanctuary in a new way. Like every other riverfront property in Rochester, people want to build here. But they haven’t yet. Not yet… Today the trees are still here. The ducks are undisturbed. The chickadees are settled. The deer are grazing in the thickets. The fox are roaming unmolested. Today it is perfect.


Rochester’s skyline


Baby Mendon catching some  gentle snoozes in the November sunlight.


Egrets soaring above a wetland on the trail


Still snoozing


One of the last undeveloped waterfront spaces in Rochester. But for how long? The UR is looking to develop in the next couple of years. 


South Plymouth

“South Plymouth resumes at Ford Street in the Plymouth-Exchange Neighborhood (PLEX), where it runs parallel with Exchange Street (Exchange Blvd. south of Ford Street) and the Genesee River. South Plymouth here is a bustling urban main street lined with businesses and residences. Though long considered a dangerous section of the city, this neighborhood in recent years has seen major development thanks to the University of Rochester’s expansion across the river. South Plymouth finally terminates for good in Brook’s Landing, at the intersection of Brooks Avenue and Genesee Street. “




 Who can catch fire without burning?


 Railroad lines once upon a time. Progress?





What anchors a community more than fresh drinking water? What sustains a people more than the right to live off the land? Who are we but residents of the earth? Without the planet we are nothing. There is no humanity without the soil. Without the grass there is no personhood. There is no meaning without the air and no purpose without the sky above. This is our time.


 Pray with the silence 


“Vacuum Oil was founded in 1866 by Matthew Ewing and Hiram Bond Everest, of Rochester, New York. The lubrication oil was an accidental discovery while attempting to distill kerosene. Everest noted the residue from the extraction was suitable as a lubricant. Soon after, the product became popular for use by steam engines and the internal-combustion engines. Ewing sold his interest to Everest, who carried on the company. Vacuum was bought by Standard Oil in 1879. It originated the Mobil trademark in 1899 (as “Mobilgas;” “Mobiloil” came later). When Standard Oil was broken up in 1911 due to the Sherman Antitrust Act, Vacuum became an independent company again.



A legacy looms in the shadows



Still dreaming…


of mallards perhaps…



“The big, black-necked Canada Goose with its signature white chinstrap mark is a familiar and widespread bird of fields and parks. Thousands of “honkers” migrate north and south each year, filling the sky with long V-formations. But as lawns have proliferated, more and more of these grassland-adapted birds are staying put in urban and suburban areas year-round, where some people regard them as pests.”



or of geese…







 Like a snake of leafs


Camp Fitz-John Porter was authorized on July 15, 1862. It was named after General Fitz-John Porter. The camp’s location was along the Genesee River across from what later became the River Campus of the University of Rochester. The entrance was at Cottage Street near Magnolia Street. The 108th and 140th New York Infantry Regiments trained there. Over 500 men were housed at the camp.



A Civil War monument will not stop the investors. It will only lure them closer.




Golden Apple Yellow


 River parts


North towards the city



 Brooks Landing


“The Erie-Lackawanna Railroad Bridge spans the Genesee River connecting the Genesee Riverway  Trail and the Plymouth/Exchange neighborhood on the west bank to the Genesee River Trail, Bausch & Lomb Park, and the University of Rochester River Campus on the east bank. Besides adding a beautiful view of downtown and the Brooks Landing area to people using the trail for recreation, it would also significantly shorten the pedestrian and bike commutes to the U of R from parts of the PLEX neighborhood.”


UR River Campus




A world class trail system. 

Genesee Riverway

The Genesee Riverway Trail (GRT) is an off-road trail for walking, running and bicycling along the Genesee River. It extends through the scenic, historic and cultural heart of Rochester, from the Erie Canal to downtown and Lake Ontario.The Genesee Riverway Trail is marked with a system of wayfinding and interpretive signs to encourage and guide public use. Most of the trail is paved and easily accessible. Steep, rough, or narrow sections of the trail are clearly signed.
GRT is a designated National Recreation Trail. Beyond the city, it links to the statewide Erie Canal Heritage Trail, and the Genesee Valley Greenway Trail.

The Trailblazers: Reflections from the Ancient Indian Trails of Western and Central New York

Photography by George Cassidy Payne

He who would do great things should not attempt them all alone. – Seneca

Rock along the Gorge Trail; a well trodden trail by Maplewood Park in Rochester, NY


“[Editor’s Note: The Senecas sold most of their remaining lands for $100,000 and individual cash payments to specific Seneca leaders. Held at Geneseo-then known as Big Tree-NY by Robert Morris with representatives of the United States present, the Treaty reserved twelve tracts of land. Two of these reservations – Squawkie Hill and Gardeau, were in the present boundaries of the Park, another, Caneadea, was a few miles south. The rest of the lands were now open to settlement. Horatio Jones and Jasper Parrish, Indians agents for the United States, interpreted the negotiations between the land speculator, Robert Morris and the Seneca Nation, represented by Red Jacket.]

Robert Morris, probably the richest man in America when he financed the Revolutionary War, was an old man in extremely dire straits when he squared off against the Seneca Indians negotiating the infamous Big Tree Treaty.

Morris, who owned all of Western New York at one time, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, a confidante of George Washington and a very rich man. He gained much of his riches operating privateer boats during the Revolutionary War. Privateers attacked and boarded English merchant ships and confiscated all their cargo.

After the war, he turned to land speculation with an overriding passion and it became his downfall. Historian Henry W. Clune, in his book “The Genesee,” said Morris was making his last stand for solvency when the treaty was negotiated in 1797.

Clune wrote, “He was 67 at the time of Big Tree; he had five more years to live, and three of these were to be passed in the Prune Street jail for debtors in Philadelphia.” Because of ill health, Robert Morris did not attend the negotiations, but sent his son Tom, who approached the session with great expectations.

The Senecas, likewise, anticipated the council session, but for different reasons. Most were now reluctant to give up any more of their land to the White Man, but converged on the hamlet of Big Tree expecting that “big kettles would be hung” and there would be “a feast of fat things” and much free rum.

Big Tree, now Geneseo, was located on the Genesee River just north of the present Letchworth State Park. The Genesee Valley was the traditional home of the Seneca Nation.

The land transactions of that period were quite complicated. While New York State eventually got sovereignty over state land, Massachusetts claimed title to it. Morris bought all of Western New York from Massachusetts, but the sale was contingent upon gaining title from the Senecas, the true owners.

Morris had struck the deal with Massachusetts, but still needed Indian approval. In the meantime, he sold much of the land to Theophile Cazenove, an agent for the Holland Land Company, but could not get his money until he had cleared the title from the Senecas. He hoped to make enough from the deal to satisfy his creditors.

Hundreds of Indians, many famous Iroquois sachems, or chiefs, attended the meeting and watched Tom Morris start the council fire as negotiations began. Robert Morris had written to his son to ply the Indians with food and gifts, but withhold the whiskey until a treaty was signed.

Tom Morris offered $75,000 for about 4 million acres of land. The Senecas, who had been bested in questionable negotiations by Oliver Phelps and Nathaniel Gorham when they sold most of their land east of the Genesee, were resolved to keep all of their land west of the river.

The negotiations were stalemated. A recess was called, and the next day Morris offered $100,000, but the great Seneca Orator, Red Jacket, said the Indians had already lost much of their traditional land and no amount of money could make them part with any more. The Seneca Chief Cornplanter asked Morris to check his Bible to see if the White Man’s Great Spirit directed them to intrude on Indian property.

Red Jacket, who was noted for his fondness for hard drink, remained a sticking point and the rest of the Senecas listened to his silver-tongued oratory against any land giveaway.”


“The Cayuga Nation is known as “The People of the Great Swamp”. Cayugas are one the original five members of the Haudenosaunee “The People of the Longhouse”. The Cayuga Nation’s homeland is found in the Finger Lakes Region of a territory now called New York. Cayuga Lake and its northern shores were the primary locations of many villages of the Cayuga people. They are said to be found between their two brothers, the Onondaga (to the east) and the Seneca (to the west). The Cayuga, Onondaga, Seneca, Onieda and Mohawk are the original members of the Haudenosaunee (or Iroquois Confederacy). Their way of life was admired by many of the founding fathers of the United States of America. Many goverance principles of the Haudenosaunee were installed into the American form of governance. These principles were given to the Haudenosaunee as gifts from the Peacemaker.”

George Payne


The United States having thus described and acknowledged what lands belong to the Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas, and engaged never to claim the same, nor to disturb them, or any of the Six Nations, or their Indian friends residing thereon and united with them, in the free use and enjoyment thereof.

Article IV of Canandaigua Treaty 1794

SUNY Brockport students cleaning up Seth Green Trail
Seneca Lake
Seneca Lake in Watkins Glen, NY

A good chief gives, he does not take. – Mohawk

Buttermilk Falls in Ithaca, NY

“Following the Revolutionary War, in 1779, General George Washington commissioned General John Sullivan and James Clinton to destroy the Cayugas and other members of the Haudenosaunee. These two Generals led 6,200 troops into many villages and crop fields of the Cayugas and the Haudenosaunee and destroyed them. There was no complete victory over the Haudenosaunee. Although many tribal members and bands of each tribe were scattered (to Ohio, Canada and Buffalo Creek) because of this campaign, there remained a few to negotiate a Treaty with General Washington. Cayugas that relocated to Ohio were later moved to a territory now called Oklahoma. Cayugas that relocated to Canada now reside on the Grand River Reservation at Six Nations. The Cayugas that remained, negotiated with the first president of the United States of America.

On November 11th, 1794 the Cayuga Nation along with the other members of the Six Nations (or Haudenosaunee) signed the Treaty of Canandaigua. This Treaty established peace between the United States and the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee. This treaty established peace for needs of the United States, but it also provided for the sovereignty for each Haudenosaunee Nation within its lands. It established explicit Federal Powers of the United States over the state of New York. It grandfathered previous treaties made between the state of New York and Haudenosaunee Nations, but also established jurisdiction over the state of New York as it pertained to Indian Affairs and Indian transactions. This treaty remains in full force today.

Over a series of illegal land transactions and treaties, the New York State has taken all the lands of the Cayuga Nation. In accordance with the Treaty of Canandaigua and the Constitution of the United States of America, the State of New York neglected to seek Federal approval for these land transactions and claimed powers of the state in Indian Affairs, for which they have none. As a result, the State of New York still claims that the Cayuga Nation has no reservation and will not permit the Cayuga Nation free use and enjoyment of a Treaty established reservation. The Cayuga Nation continues to fight for its Treaty Rights today and will continue to seek to have these rights upheld by the State of New York and the United State of America.”

Rochester maps of yesteryear outline the routes of a trail system that began hundreds of years before the arrival of Europeans.
Mendon Ponds in the early morning

“Mendon Ponds Park is the largest Monroe County Park with 2,500 acres of woodlands, ponds, wetlands and glacially created landforms. In 1969, it was named to the National Registry of Natural Landmarks due to its geologic history and presence of significant kames, eskers, and kettles.”

Bottom of Seth Green Trail (an ancient Seneca trail)

The Haudenosaunee rejects the claim by the United States that we are its citizens. We remind the United States of the Two Row Wampum and the Canandaigua Treaty, stating our sovereignty as a Nation

Onondaga Council letter to President Coolidge 1924 Citizen Act

Peering out behind the pines in Ellison Park

Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me, and I may not remember. Involve me, and I’ll understand. – Tribe Unknown

Thousands of arrowheads and tools have been found along these ancient footpaths

Modern day footprints cover the same trails that our ancestors did 10-15,000 years ago


Man has responsibility, not power. – Tuscarora

Crow feather at King’s Landing in Rochester, NY
Native American fisherman would have recognized this scenery

Native American Ten Commandments

  1. Treat the Earth and all that dwell therein with respect
  2. Remain close to the Great Spirit
  3. Show great respect for your fellow beings
  4. Work together for the benefit of all Mankind
  5. Give assistance and kindness wherever needed
  6. Do what you know to be right
  7. Look after the well-being of Mind and Body
  8. Dedicate a share of your efforts to the greater Good
  9. Be truthful and honest at all times
  10. Take full responsibility for your actions
Red sandstone cliffs along the Genesee River gave shelter and inspiration to Seneca hunters

“Red Jacket (known as Otetiani in his youth and Sagoyewatha [Keeper Awake] Sa-go-ye-wa-tha because of his oratorical skills) (c. 1750–January 20, 1830) was a Native American Seneca orator and  American Revolutionary War,  when the Seneca as British allies were forced to cede much land, and signed the Treaty of Canandaigua (1794). He helped secure some Seneca territory in New York state, although most of the people had migrated to Canada for resettlement after the Paris Treaty.

His talk on “Religion for the White Man and the Red” (1805) has been preserved as an example of his great oratorical style.”




Today we have gathered and we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now, we bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as People. Now our minds are one.

Excert from Thankgiving Address that the Haudenosaunee recite whenever they gather.



Seneca Park


I have uprooted The Great White Pine Tree. In this cavern we shall toss our weapons of war and bury the hatchets of hatred as we replant the Tree of Peace. On top of this tree a will place an eagle to watch for any dangers that may come to endanger this peace. I will also send out 4 white roots of peace. If anyone seeks peace, they can trace the roots back and find shelter here.

Peacemaker to the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca.




“The Seneca Trail started/ended in western New York near present-day Niagara Falls; it had been used for centuries by the Seneca of the Iroquois and previous peoples around the Great Lakes. In 1775 the twelve united colonies entered into an agreement concerning the use of Native American paths and the roads:

Brothers: It is necessary, in order for the preservation of friendship between us and brothers of the Six Nations (Iroquois) and their allies, that a free and mutual intercourse be kept between us; therefore we, Brothers: The road is now open for our brethren of the Six Nations and their allies, and they may now pass as safely and freely as the people of the Twelve United Colonies themselves. And we are further determined, by the assistance of God, to keep open and free for the Six Nations and their allies, as long as the earth remains.



The Expedition you are appointed to command is to be directed against the hostile tribes of the Six Nations of Indians, with their associates and adherents. The immediate objects are the total destruction and devastation of their settlements, and the capture of as many prisoners of every age and sex as possible. It will be essential to ruin their crops now in the ground and prevent their planting more. I would recommend, that some post in the center of the Indian Country, should be occupied with all expedition, with sufficient quantity of provisions whence parties should be detached to lay waste all the settlements around, with instructions to do it in the most effectual manner, that the country may not be merely overrun, but destroyed.

General George Washington’s orders to destroy all Haudenosaunee men, women and children, 1778




Letchworth State Park
“The beautiful Genesee River Gorge runs through 17-mile Letchworth State Park. Anyone who has hiked within the park has walked in the footsteps of the Senecas, where many trails were created by these native people as they hunted, fished and went about their daily lives in villages nestled among the woods. Now known as the Grand Canyon of the East, the park was once called Sehgahunda, or “Vale of Three Falls” by the Seneca people.

One of the region’s inhabitants was Mary Jemison, who was captured at age 15 by a French and Shawnee raiding party during the French and Indian War, then adopted by the Seneca tribe. She became Dehgewanus, and was later known as the “White Woman of the Genesee.” Jemison lived in the park for more than 60 years until, in 1831, she moved to the Buffalo Creek Reservation, where she passed away in 1833.

William Pryor Letchworth, an industrialist and early conservationist, fell in love with the Genesee Gorge, where he bought property and built his Glen Iris Estate in 1858, now known as the Glen Iris Inn. Letchworth was respected by the Senecas for his efforts to protect the land and its native people.

After her death, Jemison’s grandchildren contacted Letchworth, who had Dehgewanus’ remains returned to the park, and erected a granite marker and statue as a memorial. He moved the house she built for her daughter, Nancy, next to the marker, and when he discovered a Revolutionary War-era Council House in Canadea, New York, he moved it there as well. At his invitation, the last Seneca Council fire was held in that Council House in 1872.”

These remarkable landmarks can be seen on the bluff above Middle Falls.

The Seneca Among the Finger Lakes



The Masks of Eternity: a montage on the art of idolatry

Dali statue at ABVI


“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”
Anne Lamott




In Hinduism, a murti  typically refers to an image that expresses a Divine Spirit (murta). Meaning literally “embodiment”, a murti is a representation of a divinity, made usually of stone, wood, or metal, which serves as a means through which a divinity may be worshiped.  Hindus consider a murti worthy of serving as a focus of divine worship only after the divine is invoked in it for the purpose of offering worship.  The depiction of the divinity must reflect the gestures and proportions outlined in religious tradition.


“I inquired what wickedness is, and I didn’t find a substance, but a perversity of will twisted away from the highest substance – You oh God – towards inferior things, rejecting its own inner life and swelling with external matter.”
Augustine of Hippo, Confessions


“You can’t, if you can’t feel it, if it never
Rises from the soul, and sways
The heart of every single hearer,
With deepest power, in simple ways.
You’ll sit forever, gluing things together,
Cooking up a stew from other’s scraps,
Blowing on a miserable fire,
Made from your heap of dying ash.
Let apes and children praise your art,
If their admiration’s to your taste,
But you’ll never speak from heart to heart,
Unless it rises up from your heart’s space.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust: First Part

Downtown Rochester, NY

You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; —Exodus 20:2–5

Riverside Cemetery

“If God created us in his own image, we have more than reciprocated.”

(Notebooks)” ― Voltaire

Downtown Rochester

“The denigration of those we love always detaches us from them in some degree. Never touch your idols: the gilding will stick to your fingers.”
Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

Niagara University




Eastman Business Park

“I was in misery, and misery is the state of every soul overcome by friendship with mortal things and lacerated when they are lost. Then the soul becomes aware of the misery which is its actual condition even before it loses them.”
Augustine of Hippo, Confessions


“We always pay dearly for chasing after what is cheap.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

St. John Fisher College


Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the Lord your God. —Leviticus 26:1

Climate Justice Rally in Rochester, NY

“Your god, sir, is the World. In my eyes, you, too, if not an infidel, are an idolater. I conceive that you ignorantly worship: in all things you appear to me too superstitious. Sir, your god, your great Bel, your fish-tailed Dagon, rises before me as a demon. You, and such as you, have raised him to a throne, put on him a crown, given him a sceptre. Behold how hideously he governs! See him busied at the work he likes best — making marriages. He binds the young to the old, the strong to the imbecile. He stretches out the arm of Mezentius and fetters the dead to the living. In his realm there is hatred — secret hatred: there is disgust — unspoken disgust: there is treachery — family treachery: there is vice — deep, deadly, domestic vice. In his dominions, children grow unloving between parents who have never loved: infants are nursed on deception from their very birth: they are reared in an atmosphere corrupt with lies … All that surrounds him hastens to decay: all declines and degenerates under his sceptre. Your god is a masked Death.”
Charlotte Brontë, Shirley

GBS bust at Niagara University
Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester

“The tiny Lilliputians surmise that Gulliver’s watch may be his god, because it is that which, he admits, he seldom does anything without consulting.”
Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels

Iona College

“Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God, your functional savior. ”
Martin Luther

Genesee Valley Park


“This is the even-handed dealing of the world!” he said. “There is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty; and there is nothing it professes to condemn with such severity as the pursuit of wealth!”
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Iona College

Forms of idolatry include:

Fetishism, or the worship of trees, rivers, hills, stones, etc.

Nature worship, the worship of the sun, moon, and stars, as the supposed powers of nature.

Hero worship, the worship of deceased ancestors, or of heroes.

Lower Falls Park

“Everyone should be respected as an individual, but no one idolized.”
Albert Einstein, Einstein on Politics: His Private Thoughts and Public Stands on Nationalism, Zionism, War, Peace and the Bomb



The avoidance of the use of images for religious reasons is called aniconism. The destruction of religious images within a culture is called iconoclasm, of which there have been many major episodes in history.


Finger Lakes Community College
Amy Lowell
A face seen passing in a crowded street,
A voice heard singing music, large and free;
And from that moment life is changed, and we
Become of more heroic temper, meet
To freely ask and give, a man complete
Radiant because of faith, we dare to be
What Nature meant us. Brave idolatry
Which can conceive a hero! No deceit,
No knowledge taught by unrelenting years,
Can quench this fierce, untamable desire.
We know that what we long for once achieved
Will cease to satisfy. Be still our fears;
If what we worship fail us, still the fire
Burns on, and it is much to have believed.


Lamentation on Progressivism


Photography by George Payne

Lamentations 1

How deserted lies the city,
    once so full of people!
How like a widow is she,
    who once was great among the nations!
She who was queen among the provinces
    has now become a slave.

 Bitterly she weeps at night,
    tears are on her cheeks.
Among all her lovers
    there is no one to comfort her.
All her friends have betrayed her;
    they have become her enemies.


Sanders Rally in Rochester, NY


“These times are too progressive. Everything has changed too fast. Railroads and telegraphs and kerosene and coal stoves — they’re good to have but the trouble is, folks get to depend on ’em.”
Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Long Winter

Climate Change Rally in Rochester, NY


Sanders Rally in Rochester, NY


“In America, progressivism began as a social movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and grew into a political movement, in what was known as the Progressive Era. While the term “American progressives” represent a range of diverse political pressure groups (not always united), some American progressives rejected Social Darwinism, believing that the problems society faced (poverty, violence, greed, racism, class warfare) could best be addressed by providing good education, a safe environment, and an efficient workplace.”


Anti-drone Rally in Syracuse, NY



Sanders Fundraiser in Rochester, NY


“Even the sober desire for progress is sustained by faith—faith in the intrinsic goodness of human nature and in the omnipotence of science. It is a defiant and blasphemous faith, not unlike that held by the men who set out to build a “city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven” and who believed that “nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.”
Eric Hoffer





“A great democracy has got to be progressive or it will soon cease to be great or a democracy.”
Theodore Roosevelt, New Nationalism Speech by Teddy Roosevelt


Education Rally in Albany State Capital 


“The Progressive movement accommodated a diverse array of reformers—insurgent Republican officeholders, disaffected Democrats, journalists, academics, social workers, and other activists—who formed new organizations and institutions with the common objective of strengthening the national government and making it more responsive to popular economic, social, and political demands. Many progressives viewed themselves as principled reformers at a critical juncture of American history.”



BLM Rally in Rochester, NY



Albany State Capital Educaton Rally





Frederick Douglass Mural


“Fame is fun, money is useful, celebrity can be exciting, but finally life is about optimal well-being and how we achieve that in dominator culture, in a greedy culture, in a culture that uses so much of the world’s resources. How do men and women, boys and girls, live lives of compassion, justice and love? And I think that’s the visionary challenge for feminism and all other progressive movements for social change.”
bell hooks


Austin Steward Mural


Climate Change Rally in Rochester, NY




BLM Rally in Rochester, NY


“the problem of life was as simple as it was classic. Politics offered no difficulties, for there the moral law was a sure guide. Social perfection was also sure, because human nature worked for Good, and three instruments were all she asked — Suffrage, Common Schools, and Press. On these points doubt was forbidden. Education was divine, and man needed only a correct knowledge of facts to reach perfection:

“Were half the power that fills the world with terror, Were half the wealth bestowed on camps and courts, Given to redeem the human mind from error, There were no need of arsenals nor forts.”
Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams



Ferguson, MO


“When I talk to anyone or read the writings of anyone who has any axe to grind, I feel that intellectual honesty and balanced judgement have simply disappeared from the face of the earth. Everyone’s thought is forensic, everyone is simply putting a “case” with deliberate suppression of his opponent’s point of view, and, what is more, with complete insensitiveness to any sufferings except those of himself and his friends.”
George Orwell, Facing Unpleasant Facts: 1937-1939



Frederick Douglass Monument in Highland Bowl



Ferguson, MO



BLM Rally in Downtown Rochester, NY


“What came in the end was only a small war and a quick victory; when the farmers and the gentlemen finally did coalesce in politics, they produced only the genial reforms of Progressivism; and the man on the white horse turned out to be just a graduate of the Harvard boxing squad, equipped with an immense bag of platitudes, and quite willing to play the democratic game.”
Richard Hofstadter, The Age of Reform



Frederick Douglass Monument in Highland Bowl


[Asked by an audience member at a public Q&A session]Considering that atheism cannot possibly have any sense of ‘absolute morality’, would it not then be an irrational leap of faith – which atheists themselves so harshly condemn – for an atheist to decide between right and wrong?
[Dawkins] Absolute morality…the absolute morality that a religious person might profess would include, what, stoning people for adultery? Death for apostasy? […] These are all things which are religiously-based absolute moralities. I don’t think I want an absolute morality; I think I want a morality that is thought out, reasoned, argued, discussed, and based on – you could almost say intelligent design. […]
If you actually look at the moralities that are accepted among modern people – among 21st century people – we don’t believe in slavery anymore; we believe in equality of women; we believe in being gentle; we believe in being kind to animals…these are all things which are entirely recent. They have very little basis in Biblical or Koranic scripture. They are things that have developed over historical time; through a consensus of reasoning, sober discussion, argument, legal theory, political and moral philosophy. These do not come from religion. To the extent that you can find the ‘good bits’ in religious scriptures, you have to cherry-pick. You search your way through the Bible or the Koran, and you find the occasional verse that is an acceptable profession of morality – and you say, look at that! That’s religion!…and you leave out all the horrible bits. And you say, ‘Oh, we don’t believe that anymore, we’ve grown out of that.’ Well, of course we’ve grown out of it. We’ve grown out of it because of secular moral philosophy and rational discussion.”
Richard Dawkins



Susan B. Anthony Mural in the Susan B. Anthony District

A Higher Learning is Needed: Balancing Corporate Interests and Civil Rights at Syracuse University




Photography by George Payne


Ernie Davis statue outside the Carrier Dome. The Heisman winning running back is a legendary figure at SU.

Located in upstate New York, Syracuse University is a private research institution that was founded by members of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1870. Today it is nonsectarian but affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Syracuse offers more than 200 majors across 13 schools and colleges. The S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications is ranked among the top communication schools in the nation. Syracuse is also introducing the first sports analytics major in the country. The campus is home to a large pool of student media organizations, with a broad range of student-run magazines, radio and TV stations, newspapers, PR groups and ad agencies. The school recently opened a campus in New York City, where students can spend a semester completing internships and specialized coursework. The Syracuse Orange have produced seven football Hall of Fame members and have one of the most successful NCAA Division I programs in the country. Significant Syracuse alumni include VP Joe Biden, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, journalist Megyn Kelly, authors Joyce Carol Oates and Alice Sebold, and NBA star Carmelo Anthony.


  • Student Population: 21,492
  • Undergraduate Population: 15,224
  • Student to Faculty Ratioa: 16
  • Total Annual Costc: $61,242



The school prides itself on being at the cutting edge of technology, business, communications, architecture, and political science.


“A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library.”
Shelby Foote



 Syracuse is looking to become more sustainable. These gardens are a small scale example of how SU is working to green its campus and promote climate change awareness among students and faculty.


“The principle of academic freedom is designed to make sure that powers outside the university, including government and corporations, are not able to control the curriculum or intervene in extra-mural speech.” Judith Butler


Syracuse is a university town. These hallowed halls have paved the way for Nobel Laureates, Peabody recipients, Pulitzer Prize winners, Vice Presidents, astronauts, Emmy winners and more.


 The exhibit below can be found in the foyer of a residence house across from Hendricks Chapel; it houses rare artifacts such as the cast fossils of ancient creatures and trees.





“We live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups. I ask, in my writing, ‘What is real?’ Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms.”  Philip K. Dick


Crouse College of Fine Arts

In 2014, students occupied  a residence hall to protest discrimination, hate crimes on campus, and the overall corporate direction of their school. The sit-in gained national coverage on Democracy Now and other progressive media outlets. The chancellor eventually agreed to adopt a number of platform suggestions made by the student demonstrators.




“If then a practical end must be assigned to a University course, I say it is that of training good members of society… It is the education which gives a man a clear, conscious view of their own opinions and judgements, a truth in developing them, an eloquence in expressing them, and a force in urging them. It teaches him to see things as they are, to go right to the point, to disentangle a skein of thought to detect what is sophistical and to discard what is irrelevant.”
John Henry Newman, The Idea of a University




“One in four corporations doesn’t pay any taxes.” Bernie Sanders





“Last Monday, students gathered on the steps of Syracuse University’s Hendricks Chapel for the Diversity and Transparency (DAT) Rally, organized to draw attention to issues facing diverse groups at SU and accusations that the school’s administration is not embracing diversity.

At the conclusion of the rally, protestors entered Chancellor Kent Syverud’s office and handed a member of his administration a 40+ page grievances and solutions document, saying they would sit in the lobby until all of their requests were addressed.

The students haven’t left the building since.

“There’s been a lot of decisions made without transparency,” says senior Laura Cohen. “Ever since May with the new chancellor, there have been a lot of closed door decisions, so we decided to form a coalition that united all of the different campaigns and groups that have been affected.”

From closing the campus Advocacy Center to fossil fuel divestment to defunding minority scholarships without any warning or student input, groups that have been impacted by these decisions have rallied around the DAT Movement. It is spearheaded by THE General Body, a student organization that calls itself “a united front of student organizations at Syracuse University.”







SU Partners with JPMorgan Chase & Co

“Twenty-five years ago, financial services firm JPMorgan Chase & Co. was locally processing paper-based transactions. Today, trillions of dollars pass daily through systems that are fully automated and global in scale.

Unfortunately, the skills needed to manage these systems are in short supply. Realizing that it needed a pipeline of technologists who could thrive in such a multifaceted, integrated environment, JPMorgan Chase began looking for a partner—a like-minded university that could help train this new generation of information professionals.

A reputation for academic excellence and a strong belief in Scholarship in Action made Syracuse University the ideal choice. So in 2007, JPMorgan Chase and SU launched a collaboration that’s as broad as it is unique. The 10-year, $30 million commitment to SU is creating a financial services technology curriculum and training program that will benefit students throughout the region…

Perhaps most important, SU and JPMorgan Chase have demonstrated a new kind of university-industry collaboration. “This close working partnership between a world-class company and a leading research university is an exciting new model for designing a curriculum in an emerging field,” says Ben Ware, SU’s vice president for research. “It’s a model that can be applied to a wide range of curricular reinventions.”




 “In feudal times the aristocracy had sent their sons to university, conferring superiority on the institution. Nowadays it was the other way round: the university conferred superiority on the man.”
Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed




 Sports continue to be the school’s hottest commodity. The SU basketball team is one of the most profitable and nationally recognized brands in New York State. It brings in tens of millions of dollars to the university. As long as big sports continue to play such a vital role in the university’s budget, other initiatives, programs, and campaigns will take a backseat in terms of prioritization.






“The Olympic Games are highly commercialised. They purport to follow the traditions of an ancient athletics competition, but today it is the commercial aspect that is most apparent. I have seen how, through sport, cities and corporations compete against each other for financial gain.” Ai Weiwei


The Carrier Dome, a cathedral to corporatism. (Stock image)


George Saunders’s Advice to Graduates

The entire speech, graduation season or not, is well worth reading, and is included below.

Down through the ages, a traditional form has evolved for this type of speech, which is: Some old fart, his best years behind him, who, over the course of his life, has made a series of dreadful mistakes (that would be me), gives heartfelt advice to a group of shining, energetic young people, with all of their best years ahead of them (that would be you).

And I intend to respect that tradition.

Now, one useful thing you can do with an old person, in addition to borrowing money from them, or asking them to do one of their old-time “dances,” so you can watch, while laughing, is ask: “Looking back, what do you regret?” And they’ll tell you. Sometimes, as you know, they’ll tell you even if you haven’t asked. Sometimes, even when you’ve specifically requested they not tell you, they’ll tell you.

So: What do I regret? Being poor from time to time? Not really. Working terrible jobs, like “knuckle-puller in a slaughterhouse?” (And don’t even ASK what that entails.) No. I don’t regret that. Skinny-dipping in a river in Sumatra, a little buzzed, and looking up and seeing like 300 monkeys sitting on a pipeline, pooping down into the river, the river in which I was swimming, with my mouth open, naked? And getting deathly ill afterwards, and staying sick for the next seven months? Not so much. Do I regret the occasional humiliation? Like once, playing hockey in front of a big crowd, including this girl I really liked, I somehow managed, while falling and emitting this weird whooping noise, to score on my own goalie, while also sending my stick flying into the crowd, nearly hitting that girl? No. I don’t even regret that.

But here’s something I do regret:

In seventh grade, this new kid joined our class. In the interest of confidentiality, her Convocation Speech name will be “ELLEN.” ELLEN was small, shy. She wore these blue cat’s-eye glasses that, at the time, only old ladies wore. When nervous, which was pretty much always, she had a habit of taking a strand of hair into her mouth and chewing on it.

So she came to our school and our neighborhood, and was mostly ignored, occasionally teased (“Your hair taste good?” — that sort of thing). I could see this hurt her. I still remember the way she’d look after such an insult: eyes cast down, a little gut-kicked, as if, having just been reminded of her place in things, she was trying, as much as possible, to disappear. After awhile she’d drift away, hair-strand still in her mouth. At home, I imagined, after school, her mother would say, you know: “How was your day, sweetie?” and she’d say, “Oh, fine.” And her mother would say, “Making any friends?” and she’d go, “Sure, lots.”

Sometimes I’d see her hanging around alone in her front yard, as if afraid to leave it.

And then — they moved. That was it. No tragedy, no big final hazing.

One day she was there, next day she wasn’t.

End of story.

Now, why do I regret that? Why, forty-two years later, am I still thinking about it? Relative to most of the other kids, I was actually pretty nice to her. I never said an unkind word to her. In fact, I sometimes even (mildly) defended her.

But still. It bothers me.

So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it:

What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.

Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded . . . sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.

Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope: Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth?

Those who were kindest to you, I bet.

It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.

Now, the million-dollar question: What’s our problem? Why aren’t we kinder?

Here’s what I think:

Each of us is born with a series of built-in confusions that are probably somehow Darwinian. These are: (1) we’re central to the universe (that is, our personal story is the main and most interesting story, the only story, really); (2) we’re separate from the universe (there’s US and then, out there, all that other junk – dogs and swing-sets, and the State of Nebraska and low-hanging clouds and, you know, other people), and (3) we’re permanent (death is real, o.k., sure – for you, but not for me).

Now, we don’t really believe these things – intellectually we know better – but we believe them viscerally, and live by them, and they cause us to prioritize our own needs over the needs of others, even though what we really want, in our hearts, is to be less selfish, more aware of what’s actually happening in the present moment, more open, and more loving.

So, the second million-dollar question: How might we DO this? How might we become more loving, more open, less selfish, more present, less delusional, etc., etc?

Well, yes, good question.

Unfortunately, I only have three minutes left.

So let me just say this. There are ways. You already know that because, in your life, there have been High Kindness periods and Low Kindness periods, and you know what inclined you toward the former and away from the latter. Education is good; immersing ourselves in a work of art: good; prayer is good; meditation’s good; a frank talk with a dear friend; establishing ourselves in some kind of spiritual tradition — recognizing that there have been countless really smart people before us who have asked these same questions and left behind answers for us.

Because kindness, it turns out, is hard — it starts out all rainbows and puppy dogs, and expands to include . . . well, everything.

One thing in our favor: some of this “becoming kinder” happens naturally, with age. It might be a simple matter of attrition: as we get older, we come to see how useless it is to be selfish — how illogical, really. We come to love other people and are thereby counter-instructed in our own centrality. We get our butts kicked by real life, and people come to our defense, and help us, and we learn that we’re not separate, and don’t want to be. We see people near and dear to us dropping away, and are gradually convinced that maybe we too will drop away (someday, a long time from now). Most people, as they age, become less selfish and more loving. I think this is true. The great Syracuse poet, Hayden Carruth, said, in a poem written near the end of his life, that he was “mostly Love, now.”

And so, a prediction, and my heartfelt wish for you: as you get older, your self will diminish and you will grow in love. YOU will gradually be replaced by LOVE. If you have kids, that will be a huge moment in your process of self-diminishment. You really won’t care what happens to YOU, as long as they benefit. That’s one reason your parents are so proud and happy today. One of their fondest dreams has come true: you have accomplished something difficult and tangible that has enlarged you as a person and will make your life better, from here on in, forever.

Congratulations, by the way.

When young, we’re anxious — understandably — to find out if we’ve got what it takes. Can we succeed? Can we build a viable life for ourselves? But you — in particular you, of this generation — may have noticed a certain cyclical quality to ambition. You do well in high-school, in hopes of getting into a good college, so you can do well in the good college, in the hopes of getting a good job, so you can do well in the good job so you can . . .

And this is actually O.K. If we’re going to become kinder, that process has to include taking ourselves seriously — as doers, as accomplishers, as dreamers. We have to do that, to be our best selves.

Still, accomplishment is unreliable. “Succeeding,” whatever that might mean to you, is hard, and the need to do so constantly renews itself (success is like a mountain that keeps growing ahead of you as you hike it), and there’s the very real danger that “succeeding” will take up your whole life, while the big questions go untended.

So, quick, end-of-speech advice: Since, according to me, your life is going to be a gradual process of becoming kinder and more loving: Hurry up. Speed it along. Start right now. There’s a confusion in each of us, a sickness, really: selfishness. But there’s also a cure. So be a good and proactive and even somewhat desperate patient on your own behalf — seek out the most efficacious anti-selfishness medicines, energetically, for the rest of your life.

Do all the other things, the ambitious things — travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers (after first having it tested for monkey poop) – but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness. Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial. That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality — your soul, if you will — is as bright and shining as any that has ever been. Bright as Shakespeare’s, bright as Gandhi’s, bright as Mother Teresa’s. Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place. Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.

And someday, in 80 years, when you’re 100, and I’m 134, and we’re both so kind and loving we’re nearly unbearable, drop me a line, let me know how your life has been. I hope you will say: It has been so wonderful.

Congratulations, Class of 2013.

I wish you great happiness, all the luck in the world, and a beautiful summer.

“What else can I do? Once you’ve gone this far you aren’t fit for anything else. Something happens to your mind. You’re overqualified, overspecialized, and everybody knows it. Nobody in any other game would be crazy enough to hire me. I wouldn’t even make a good ditch-digger, I’d start tearing apart the sewer-system, trying to pick-axe and unearth all those chthonic symbols – pipes, valves, cloacal conduits… No, no. I’ll have to be a slave in the paper-mines for all time.”

Margaret Atwood, The Edible Woman


The Clouds that Shroud God: a post-scientific rumination

Clouds symbolize the veils that shroud God.

Honore de Balzac

Photography by George Payne
Breckenridge, CO
Ideas rose in clouds; I felt them collide until pairs interlocked, so to speak, making a stable combination.

Henri Poincare

Rochester, NY

In meteorology, a cloud is an aerosol comprising a visible mass of minute liquid droplets or frozen crystals, both of which are made of water or various chemicals. The droplets or particles are suspended in the atmosphere above the surface of a planetary body.[1] On Earth, clouds are formed by the saturation of air in the homosphere (which includes the troposphere, stratosphere, and  mesosphere). The air may be cooled to its dew point by a variety of atmospheric processes or it may gain moisture (usually in the form of water vapor) from an adjacent source. Nephology is the science of clouds which is undertaken in the cloud physics branch of meteorology.

Rochester, NY
We can speak without voice to the trees and the clouds and the waves of the sea. Without words they respond through the rustling of leaves and the moving of clouds and the murmuring of the sea.

Paul Tillich

Alabama, NY
Breckenridge, CO
Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.

Rabindranath Tagore

Rochester, NY

Autocumulus (below)

White and/or gray patch, sheet or layered clouds, generally composed of laminae (plates), rounded masses or rolls. They may be partly fibrous or diffuse.

When the edge or a thin semitransparent patch of altocumulus passes in front of the sun or moon a corona appears. This colored ring has red on the outside and blue inside and occurs within a few degrees of the sun or moon.

The most common mid cloud, more than one layer of Altocumulus often appears at different levels at the same time. Many times Altocumulus will appear with other cloud types.*

Rochester, NY



(ca. 446–385 B.C.) was born in Athens, a member of the Deme Kydathenaion, and produced most of his plays during the great war between Athens and Sparta (432-404). His family seems to have owned property on the island of Aegina (colonized by Athens in 431). He participated in political life: an inscription (IG II/III2 1740) names him as a prytanis.

He is the only surviving representative of ‘Old Comedy’—which was political and satirical and ribald in the (sometimes) extreme. The comedy performances were part of a competition in honor of the god Dionysos, three playwrights each contributing one play for an occasion (the City Dionysia or the Lenaia). His first play, The Banqueters (428/7), was produced when he was under-age, and won the Second Prize. The Acharnians belonged to the Lenaia of 425, where Aristophanes won First Prize over Kratinos and Eupolis. The Clouds was produced in 423 B.C. (Socrates would have been about 45 at the time). His last play, Ploutos, belongs to 388 B. C. Forty-four plays were attributed to Aristophanes by the scholars of Alexandria (a critical edition of Aristophanes was published by Aristophanes of Byzantium), but at least four were by others; eleven authentic play survive.

Historical Note

Clouds was first produced in the drama festival in Athens—the City Dionysia—in 423 BC, where it placed third. Subsequently the play was revised, but the revisions were never completed. The text which survives is the revised version, which was apparently not performed in Aristophanes’ time but which circulated in manuscript form. This revised version does contain some anomalies which have not been fully sorted out (e.g., the treatment of Cleon, who died between the original text and the revisions). At the time of the first production, the Athenians had been at war with the Spartans, off and on, for a number of years.


Dramatis Personae

STREPSIADES: a middle-aged Athenian
PHEIDIPPIDES: a young Athenian, son of Strepsiades
XANTHIAS: a slave serving Strepsiades
STUDENT: one of Socrates’ pupils in the Thinkery
SOCRATES: chief teacher in the Thinkery
PASIAS: one of Strepsiades’ creditors
WITNESS: a friend of Pasias
AMYNIAS: one of Strepsiades’ creditors

[Scene: In the centre of the stage area is a house with a door to Socrates’ educational establishment, the Thinkery.* On one side of the stage is Strepsiades’ house, in front of which are two beds. Outside the Thinkery there is a small clay statue of a round goblet, and outside Strepsiades’ house there is a small clay statue of Hermes. It is just before dawn. Strepsiades and Pheidippides are lying asleep in the two beds. Strepsiades tosses and turns restlessly. Pheidippides lets a very loud fart in his sleep. Strepsiades sits up wide awake]

University of Buffalo

Cumulus Clouds (below)

Detached, generally dense clouds and with sharp outlines that develop vertically in the form of rising mounds, domes or towers with bulging upper parts often resembling a cauliflower.

The sunlit parts of these clouds are mostly brilliant white while their bases are relatively dark and horizontal.

Over land cumulus develops on days of clear skies, and is due diurnal convection; it appears in the morning, grows, and then more or less dissolves again toward evening.*

Breckenridge, CO
I have always wanted to become a saint. Unfortunately, when I have compared myself with the saints, I have always found that there is the same difference between the saints and me as there is between a mountain whose summit is lost in the clouds and a humble grain of sand trodden underfoot by passers-by.

Thérèse of Lisieux

Tiffany windows in Lockport, NY

“There was a star riding through clouds one night, & I said to the star, ‘Consume me’.”
Virginia Woolf, The Waves

Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes of Western NY
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting. Not in entire forgetfulness, and not in utter nakedness, but trailing clouds of glory do we come.

William Wordsworth

Rochester, NY
There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds.

Gilbert K. Chesterton

Rochester, NY
Gray skies are just clouds passing over.

Duke Ellington

Rochester, NY
My films are like clouds: their meaning keeps changing every minute.

Alejandro Jodorowsky

Alabama, NY

High-level clouds form above 20,000 feet (6,000 meters) and since the temperatures are so cold at such high elevations, these clouds are primarily composed of ice crystals. High-level clouds are typically thin and white in appearance, but can appear in a magnificent array of colors when the sun is low on the horizon.

Rochester, NY
Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life. The evening beam that smiles the clouds away, and tints tomorrow with prophetic ray.

Lord Byron

Rochester, NY

“To make myself understood and to diminish the distance between us, I called out: “I am an evening cloud too.” They stopped still, evidently taking a good look at me. Then they stretched towards me their fine, transparent, rosy wings. That is how evening clouds greet each other. They had recognized me.”
Rainer Maria Rilke, Stories of God: A New Translation

Omaha, Nebraska
The myth of unlimited production brings war in its train as inevitably as clouds announce a storm.

Albert Camus

University of Buffalo

“And from the midst of cheerless gloom
I passed to bright unclouded day.”
Emily Brontë

Rochester, NY
O wise man! Give your wealth only to the worthy and never to others. The water of the sea received by the clouds is always sweet.


Alabama, NY

Low clouds are of mostly composed of water droplets since their bases generally lie below 6,500 feet (2,000 meters). However, when temperatures are cold enough, these clouds may also contain ice particles and snow.

Watkins Glen, NY
It is better to have your head in the clouds, and know where you are… than to breathe the clearer atmosphere below them, and think that you are in paradise.
Henry David Thoreau
University of Buffalo
Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.

Saint Augustine

Rochester, NY