Tag: Episcopal Church

Adieu Payson

The end of a treasured time in Payson, Arizona.

Today, Jean and I together with our 11 dogs and 5 cats start the 1,200 mile journey to Merlin, Oregon.  While we have only lived in Payson since February, 2010, it has been a time of fantastic experiences.  I had to work through the long process of getting a fiancee visa from the American Embassy in London.  Until that was issued my ‘residence’ in Payson was that of a British tourist with me having to leave the USA every 90 days.

The visa was issued in October, 2010 and I flew immediately to Arizona.  On the 8th November, 2010 Jean and I were issued with a Marriage License Certificate and we were married on the 20th November at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Payson.

Fr. Dan Tantimonaco with the newly weds!

We have made many very dear friends here in Payson but Oregon feels like the start of our home in every sense of the word, not just because it is the first home that Jean and I have bought jointly.

One of those dear friends here in Payson has been John Hurlburt, a devoutly spiritual man.  A little over a week ago, he sent me a very thoughtful essay and I wanted to include it today as a guest post in recognition of the way that John and many, many others have embraced these couple of Brits over the last 32 months.  Thank you all.



Everything fits together

The species of animals we know as human beings is a part of everything that exists. We are a very young consciously-aware species that does not begin to know all the answers. What little we do know has a Natural pattern. It would seem that there’s a lamplighter and a navigator in all of us. The lamplighter is our fundamental awareness of being and provides nature’s guidance along life’s pathways.

Our natural navigator is designed for evolutionary competition. There’s a biological survival kit in our DNA. Extreme demand for limited resources generates deadly combat; both within and between species. As a result of competition taken to wretched excess, our global economy is leveraged 22 times beyond any earthly foundation. The unspoken intent to destroy each other over what remains of our planet is becoming increasingly evident.

The human species is engaged in a global war over money, ideals and disappearing finite resources. Ninety-seven percent of the world scientific community has confirmed that the natural effects of heat and discharges generated by human machines and related human activities are the primary cause of recent rapid climate change.

These dedicated scientists are opposed in the media by three percent of their corporate energy-financed peers. An oppressive worldwide network of often offensive politicians is similarly supported and managed accordingly. Nature couldn’t care less about politics, emotions or idealistic arguments.

Human squabbles mean very little in the totality of universal life. The drumbeat of local natural disasters increases steadily. There are no two ways about it. No amount of human ifs or buts can or will change reality. Our human species is in deep serious trouble.

It has been six million years since the first humanoids emerged and two million years since the rise of human civilization. What a sorrow it is to realize what we have done to the earth in just the past two hundred and fifty years. We’ve reached the moon and are exploring Mars. It’s well past time to clean house and re-grow our local garden.

As an old navigator, there’s a sense of urgency regarding the course life on earth has taken. For those who continue to care about facts, the prognosis is not encouraging. We have the know-how for an alternative. We can avoid the perfect storm of going over the edge of an economic cliff and the crush of an environmental crisis in the midst of a war-fuelled, profit-driven, global, corporate fight to the end. The alternative is that we have the know-how to transition rapidly to a reality-based economy and a way of living that’s gentle to the earth. The solution is global, it’s industrial, it’s natural and it’s our best hope. It may well be our only hope. It’s time to light some lamps.

Conscious human awareness emerges as we relax, contemplate, meditate, and communicate openly. These are levels of awareness beyond the limits of our daily human musings. The wisdom which flows from enlightened awareness embraces humility, experience, knowledge, understanding, and faith. Life has never been easy. We’re fragile biological beings. Our mutual growth is the result of sustained efforts over millions of years.

Yet despite attaining a higher level of conscious awareness our human culture continues to operate on a material basis rather than a moral basis. We have become confused by our own importance or the apparent lack thereof. We all too often retreat into a rut, furnish it and turn on the electronics.

By definition, natural processes support species growth in harmony with all natural life. Those natural processes are indistinguishable from the planetary support systems within which all life interacts. Human interaction is local. We spend much of our lives unaware that we are unaware; initially as infants and throughout our lives in deep sleep. When caught up in the pressures of our daily lives, it’s easy to be unaware of being unaware.

It’s time to wake up. Cosmology is an eternal spring from which the waters of the earth still flow. When we turn ourselves inside-out and achieve higher awareness, we discover who, what and where we really and truly are. In a trinity of spirituality, nature and science, we’re cosmically energized beings; spiritual beings sharing a transitory human existence.

Ninety-eight percent of the human population believes in a power beyond species and self. The simplest understanding of this belief is that we humans did not originally create ourselves. All human wisdom and understanding leads to the conclusion that human beings don’t own the earth. We’re caretakers and we’re only passing through. Given that we have a systemic crisis, what do we have to work with?

We have a species that’s squabbling over diminishing resources, an environment and an infrastructure which both desperately require attention, a sustaining objective of equitable global employment, a world economy that’s about to collapse for lack of any real foundation, a burgeoning population which further strains the system and the clear need for a unifying purpose.

Put it all together and what do we have? The navigator is our guide to growth. The navigator shares our wholeness. The lamplighter is our guide to unity. Everything fits together. Each of us is a part of the unity of life. Unity has a natural purpose. It’s time to build a life boat.

John Hurlburt is a former U.S. Navy aviator and successful corporate executive who presently serves as a senior Christian educator and a founding member of an international Transition Town in Payson, Arizona.


Don’t know about you, dear reader, but I find those incredibly powerful words.  Words that provide the truth. A truth the whole world needs.  John set out in a personal email to me the three simple fundamentals of our lives. Just a few more words to sum up the truth.

There’s an environmental crisis.  There’s an inevitable global economic abyss touching us all on a daily basis.  The need for a green economic transformation is obvious.

Thank you, John.

A study of man’s behaviours.

A reflection on why living in harmony with Planet Earth seems so challenging.

John Hurlburt is the ‘mover and shaker’ behind a series of talks and discussions under the overall title of Everything Fits Together, part of the adult education umbrella of St Paul’s Episcopal Church here in Payson, AZ.  John generously asked if I would lead the discussion tonight (19th) along the theme of Nature and Faith.  I plan to close the session with these words and the compelling video that was on Learning from Dogs last Friday A planet worth protecting.


Man – a study in behaviours.

The relationship between Planet Earth and man goes back a very long way. But what of today?

There is little doubt that many people, even with the minimum of awareness about the world in which we live, are deeply worried. On so many fronts there are forbidding and scary views. It feels as though all the certainty of past times has gone; as if all the trusted models of society are now broken. Whether we are talking politics, economics, employment or the environment, nothing seems to be working.

Why might this be?

It would be easy to condemn man’s drive for progress and an insatiable self-centredness as the obvious causes of our society failing in widespread ways. But in my view that’s too simple an explanation. It’s much more complex.

I propose that the challenges we all face today have their roots in the dawning of our evolution. Let’s remind ourselves how far back that goes.

The earliest documented members of the genus Homo are Homo habilis which evolved around 2.3 million years ago. Homo habilis was the first species for which we have positive evidence of the use of stone tools.

A theory known as Recent African Ancestry theory, postulates that modern humans evolved in Africa possibly from Homo heidelbergensis and migrated out of the continent some 50,000 to 100,000 years ago, replacing local populations of Homo erectus and Homo neanderthalensis.

Thus for tens of thousands of years, the behaviours of humans have served our species well, by definition. Ergo, mankind has evolved as the result of mankind’s behaviours. Behaviours that may have changed little over those countless years.

So one might speculate that these behaviours have been potentially damaging to the ultimate survival of our species, perhaps hugely damaging, for a very long time. But because man’s population footprint has been so small for 99% of eternity the consequences have not impinged on the planet until now. Let’s reflect on those population figures.

Until the development of agriculture, around the 11th millennium BC, the world population was stable at around one million persons, as man lived out a subsistence hunter-gatherer existence. By about 2000 years ago the global population of man had climbed to around 300 million. It took another 1,200 years for that global population to reach the first billion, as it did in 1804.

However, just 123 years later, in 1927, the two-billionth baby was born. The three-billionth baby was born in 1960, just 33 years later! Only a further 14 years slip by for the four-billionth baby to be born in 1974. Another blink of the geological eyelid and 13 years later, in 1987, along comes the five-billionth bundle of joy. Around October 1999, the sixth-billionth baby is born! It is likely that we are in a world where there are now seven billion people! Indeed, the world population clock estimates that on September 12th, a week ago, the world population was 7,039,725,283 persons.

About a billion every decade. The equivalent of a growth of 100 million each and every year, or around 270,000 every single day! Or if you prefer 11,250 an hour (Remember that’s the net growth, births minus deaths, of the population of humans on this planet!)

Combine man’s behaviours with this growth of population and we have the present situation. A totally unsustainable situation on a planet that is our only home.

The only viable solution is to amend our behaviours. To tap into the powers of integrity, self-awareness and mindfulness and change our game.

All of us, no exceptions, have to work with the fundamental, primary relationships we have with each other and with the planet upon which we all depend. We need the birth of a new level of consciousness; of our self, of each other and of the living, breathing planet. A new consciousness that will empower change. We need spiritual enlightenment. We need a spiritual bond with this beautiful planet.

Over eons of time, Planet Earth has favoured our evolution. Now, today, not tomorrow, it is time to favour our beautiful planet with our love and with our faith. It is the ultimate decision for our species.



If you need a reminder of how beautiful our planet is (and I’m sure the majority of LfD readers don’t require that reminder) then go back and watch David Attenborough’s video and voice-over to the song What a Wonderful World.

I will close by inserting into this post, the video that Martin Lack included in a recent comment to my post The wind doth blow!

The power of shine!

A delightful presentation by Terry Hershey.

Regular followers of Learning from Dogs will recall that in March we had the pleasure of a visit to St Paul’s Episcopal Church, here in Payson, of the well-known Terry Hershey.  He is a great inspirational speaker, based on deep and sound personal values.  Terry’s website is here.

Well it seemed like a nice idea to offer some more of TH.  Here is his presentation on World Communion Day, October 4th 2009, at the First Community Church, Columbus, Ohio.  Letting the light that is in each one of us shine out.

Part One

Part Two

Some old reminders for a New Year!

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Buddhist quote.

A number of thoughts and experiences came together to prompt the writing of this Post.  It’s a much longer and more reflective post than usual but is offered in the loving hope that there can be no caring without sharing.

Firstly, good American friends, Gordon and Linda, whom Jean and I got to know in Mexico, recently sent us a Happy New Year

George Carlin

email, that included a slide presentation entitled Philosophy of Old Age.  It was based on the writings and wisdom of George Carlin, one of the all-time great comedians of the world.  But George Carlin (1937-2008) was much more than a great comedian.  Much of his humour was a playful but very sharp form of social commentary on the ‘big world’.  (P.S. George Carlin’s website is here, a rather strange experience in the sense of a virtual life after death.)

Anyway, back to the slide presentation from Gordon and Linda.

The slide presentation felt worthy of a post on Learning from Dogs but, thankfully, it was available in a better format for a WordPress Blog, a YouTube video.  Here it is.

You can see that there are some very deep but simple messages about what, in the end, are the really important things in life.  Top of the list is ‘love’.  Especially unconditional love.

That takes me to second element of what motivated me to write this piece.

Just 14 days ago, I participated in a memorial service described as ‘A Memorial Service For the Lives of Loved Ones Lost‘ at our local St Paul’s Episcopal Church here in Payson.  The idea came out of a comment from friend, mentor and fellow Blog author, Jon Lavin, who had noted that the language that I used when speaking of my father, now dead for well over 50 years, was the language of a child who hadn’t been ‘released’ from that event (I was just 12 at the time) rather than that of an adult who accepts that death is part of the natural order of the world.

Losing a loved one is tough, incredibly tough, and full of pain and anguish in a very deep-seated and personal manner.  That’s the perspective from the loved ones left behind with more life ahead of them.  But if one thinks of it in reverse, what is the one thing that we would want to leave behind when we die?

It is, without doubt, that our death does not leave in the hearts and souls of those left behind, whom we loved and who loved us, pain and anguish that isn’t embraced and dealt with healthily.

It was that collective unresolved pain and anguish that brought all of us together at that Service on the 20th.  It was a wonderful release for all present.  During the Service the Advent Wreath candles were lit.  Here are selection of the thoughts that were voiced and released as the four candles were lit.

This first candle we light is to remember those whom we have loved and lost.  We pause to remember their name, their face, their voice, the memory that binds them to us in this season.

This second candle we light is to redeem the pain of loss; the loss of relationships, the loss of jobs, the loss of health.  We pause to gather up the pain of the past and offer it to God, asking that from God’s hands we receive the gift of peace.

This third candle we light is to remember ourselves this Christmas time.  We pause and remember these past weeks and months and years; the disbelief, the anger, the down times, the poignancy of reminiscing, the hugs and handshakes of family and friends, all those who stood with us.

This fourth candle is lit to remember our faith and the gift of hope which the Christmas story offers us.

Light defeats darkness.

Go back and see those words that accompanied the lighting of the third candle. It included “to remember ourselves“. Once again, it’s loving ourselves, accepting that we spend our lives doing our best; in other words the answers to the unresolved issues that can haunt us is simple acceptance of who you are and being at peace with you!

Now I’m conscious that this is running on a bit but I pray that this is reaching out to others – we all need better clarity at times in our lives.  So before I go on to the third and last element which has me in front of this keyboard, let me share what I wrote, privately, a few days before the Service on the 20th in trying to make sense of my own feelings about the loss of my father.

    If we don’t embrace who we are and why we are who we are, i.e. real self awareness, we are condemned to being emotionally dysfunctional to a greater or lesser degree for a long time.  If we understand and love ourselves, avoiding the ‘easy’ route of constantly reminding ourselves what is ‘wrong’ with us, not being a victim to guilt, and on and on, then we see a better, softer, more loving world though our eyes.  Then the world reflecting back what we think about most rewards us with a better, softer, more loving world. 

    Loving ourselves, letting go, opening our arms to peace and joy is the true gift that we have really been given by the ‘loss’ of the loved one.

What I am embracing is that the emotional consequences of my father’s death, all those many, many years ago, created degrees of emotional dysfunction that went on for far too long.  Being free to walk clear of those emotional ‘hooks’ is not only so much better for me and those who love me, it is exactly what my father would have wanted!

Being clear of deep emotional burdens allows us to love ourselves and from that comes the greatest personal gift of all – unconditional love for others.  There’s that love word again!

OK, now to the third and final element!  Wake up at the back there!

The year 2010 was for me and Jean the epitome of a joyous journey that started, coincidentally, on a December 20th, this one in 2007.  On that evening in a bar/nightclub in San Carlos, Mexico, six days after I had arrived to stay with friends who had known Jean for many years, that I asked Jean for a dance, put my arm around her waist, and experienced something mystical – I knew she was the woman I would love to my last breath.

Thirty-five months later, on November 20th 2010, Jean and I were married in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Payson, Arizona.  We had been living together in Mexico since September 2008 and in Payson since February, 2010.  In Payson we have found a wonderfully interesting, generous and supportive community and our 13 dogs just love our rural home tucked into the forest; it is a very beautiful existence.

Frankly, I find it almost impossible to get my head around in any rational way as to how life can be so randomly alluring – we really have so little control over it all!  Save for how we accept and love ourselves.  Thus my own haltering and challenging steps to better self-awareness have given me more than I could ever have dreamed of.  This realisation has left me feeling pretty emotional over the Christmas period.

From those emotions has come, for the first time in my life, the awareness of mortality.  Not in some sort of intellectual homage to the notion that it doesn’t go on forever.  No, this is a real, hard-edged, realisation that I am going to die! It’s a clear vision, as clear as those beautiful stars shining out from the brittle cold, night sky over Payson very early on New Year’s Day. My mortal life is going to end.

And that, my dear readers is that.  Go back and watch that video from George Carlin, think about those past loved ones in your life and what they gifted you and, above all, feel your own love for you, savour it, and share it around.

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Buddhist quote.

Welcome to America

A meaningful Thanksgiving at so many levels.

In September 1620, a small ship, the Mayflower, left Plymouth, England carrying a 102 passengers.  After a difficult crossing lasting 66 days, the Mayflower anchored near the tip of Cape Cod. One month later, the Mayflower crossed Massachusetts, where the Pilgrims, as they are now commonly known, began the work of establishing a village at a new Plymouth.

In November 1621, having produced a successful corn harvest, the settlers organised a celebratory feast.

The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth" By Jennie A. Brownscombe.

In December 2007 a Virgin flight pushed back from the stand at Gatwick Airport in England en route to Los Angeles airport.  On board was yours truly. Two days later, a Aeromexico flight, again with me on board, pushed back from the stand at LAX for the short flight down to Hermosillo Airport in the State of Sonora, Mexico.

That same afternoon, around 2pm, I was met by Sue at Hermosillo airport ready for the relatively short drive down to San Carlos.  I was there for a Christmas holiday courtesy of Sue and Don, her husband.

With Sue to meet me at the airport was Jean, a good friend of many years standing.  Jean was originally a Londoner, having been born just a few miles from where I was born.  Now she was settled in San Carlos after her American husband died in 2005.

Sue and Jean

We all headed off in Sue’s car for the journey to San Carlos.

Little did I know that just a few days later at a local dinner and dance spot in San Carlos when I got up and asked Jean for a dance something magical would happen when I put my arm around Jean’s waist.  That evening was a 20th.

Fast forward 35 months, not only to the day but practically to the hour and that magic in our lives is still there in abundance.

For Jean and I were married in St Paul’s Episcopal Church, Payson, Arizona on the 20th November in front of the Reverend Dan Tantimonaco.

Mr and Mrs Handover

That marriage gives me the right to apply to the US Government for Resident status and so, today, Thanksgiving Day 2010, Jean and I will also have our first celebratory feast in gratitude to starting our married lives as new Americans.

By Paul Handover