Insightful

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November 25, 2016, Chula Vista-  Son is steadily healing and uses a “space boot” on his left foot, so he’s more mobile than a month ago.  Still, this is not the time for him to go back to full-on hiking mode, and this weekend will find me taking short, but beneficial walks, as I did this afternoon, on a loop of Rice Canyon Trail and the parallel Rancho del Rey Parkway.  It was fitting that I began at Discovery Park and ended at Explorer Park, both named by children of Chula Vista, and geared towards families.

Another aspect of the day was that I finished re-reading “The Celestine Prophecy”, a novel which speculates on the evolution of the human spirit.  It postulates nine insights, which are summarized at:

http://www.gurus.org/dougdeb/Courses/bestsellers/Celestine/Insights.htm.

There is an interesting mix of profundity (the insights and the challenges they present) and hokum (“The Mayans went to a specific spot near Iquitos, in the Peruvian Amazon, and built pyramids”; Peruvian agents broke into an American scientist’s home and stole his copies of the first two insights).  Nonetheless, each of the insights is compatible with my own Faith.  What is also true, though, is that the state of human consciousness described by the ninth insight is probably a good thousand years in the making. We could easily achieve the goals described by the first eight, in the meantime.

I am particularly interested in the notion that children deserve more respect than many are willing to give them.  Adults are seen by Redfield as exemplars and mentors, not as controllers. Also, speaking about anyone in the third person, when they are present, is correctly viewed by the author, James Redfield, as an onerous practice.  So, too, is the notion that an authority figure is needed to interpret Scripture to the laity.  This cornerstone of the concept of clerical primacy is challenged by Redfield, in the nine insights, and is the basis for the conflict in the story.  The near-infantilization of the human race is viewed as outmoded and evil.

I have gone through many of the personal growth dilemmas presented by Redfield, including a host of what he calls control dramas (Intimidator, self-pitier, interrogator and aloof).  Entire decades have seen me in self-pity mode, and a fair amount of my life has found me aloof.  There is also his concept of “addiction to another person”, which he views as a misguided attempt to unite a person’s male and female sides, by attachment to a person of the opposite gender.  The eighth insight prescribes a person finding those two sides, and making peace with both, within oneself, and being a platonic friend to members of the opposite gender, first, rather than “rushing into romance”.

So, much of what is found in these pages is what many of us are already doing in our lives.  It would have a fine thing, though, if I had realized, and practiced, these concepts, a long time ago.

Charades and Illusions

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September 18, 2016, Prescott- Fall is coming.  Phoenix anticipates the last of its triple-digit days, for the year, will be this coming Wednesday.  That may, or may not, prove to be true.  We in Prescott have already had night temperatures below 40.

Fall was the season of my birth.  It is, thus, the main time of year that I take stock of who I am, as a human being, and what remains to be addressed, as I move further along, in the earthly classroom of living.

My parents were very much the voice of reason, and prepared each of us well, for the challenges they knew were going to throw themselves our way.  I was the one who had just a smidgen of faith in Deus ex maxina, supernatural rescuers and unicorns that one could ride to glory.  None of these ever got me anywhere. The rolled up sleeves, and willingness to watch, learn and work at least have enabled me to survive, to have had a loving marriage and to have raised a solid young man.

I did two things today, to give myself a push forward, in the reality department.  First, I moderated a faith meeting, helping to set short-term goals for our community.  Second, I called my satellite television provider, of 20 years, cancelled the service and boxed up the receiver and its accouterments. This last is an acknowledgement that a new television, right now, would be an extravagance, at a time when there are other priorities- such as exercise, service activities and my son’s preparation for a change of duty station.

Last night, I finished reading “One Hundred Years of Solitude”,  Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s tale of a family which wallowed in self-imposed isolation, incestuous relationships and delusions of grandeur.  It is  one of the most intense novels of the 20th Century, presenting a northeast Colombian town (fictional, of course), from the time of the country’s independence to the early twentieth century, in all its political acrimony and struggles to reconcile spiritual mythology and paranormal occurrences with the encroachment of international economics and trade.  No member of La Familia Buendia was ever really happy.

I thought of the illusions into which I bought, in my own life, and how much sweeter the ups and downs of reality have been for me, all through my married life and (for the most part) in the years since, than any of the flights of fancy that characterized my earlier years, or the brief periods, in 2011 and 2013, when I dealt with relapses into personal chaos.

So, on I will go, honouring my family, being present for those around me and building new friendships, both in real time and online.  Happy Autumn, one and all.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Nearly a year ago, north of Watson Lake, Prescott

 

 

 

“Until All Death Is Gone”

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August 17, 2016, Prescott- The rain today, has been almost incessant, both at my workplace and around my neighbourhood.  Some dry spots exist,though, among the microclimates of Prescott:  The southwest forest, the grasslands around Glassford Hill and, at the far east end of our county, in Cordes Lakes.  I pulled bus duty, after school, and had a fine time juggling a handheld stop sign, a large umbrella and my waterproof bag, containing the clipboard on which I was to record bus arrival times.  All went smoothly, with parents, children and bus drivers following my instructions.

This evening, after our Wednesday evening devotional, I finished reading “The Shack”, a spiritually-themed novel by William P. Young, who tells the story of a man with a troubled past, whose youngest child is missing and presumed dead.  The man returns to the place where a serial killer is believed to have brought his little girl, and has an intense encounter with God, as a Christian might imagine Him.

There is a moment, towards the end of the man’s Divine experience, when God reveals a song, which He says was written by the child.   The song’s refrain is as follows:

Come kiss me wind and take my breath

Till you and I are one

And we will dance among the tombs

Until all death is gone.”

This morning, I experienced a dream in which I was in a retail work situation.  I was improperly dressed for the job, and somehow had driven my car into the store.  When I got into the car, to go back home and change, the Customer Service lady, standing with a clipboard, gasped “You can’t get away with THAT!”

I woke, and my mind went back to every time in my life that I had made a serious error in judgment.  Slowly getting dressed for the day, I took care to remind myself that things were slowly and carefully coming together in my life.  There have been many fine experiences, greatly overshadowing any setbacks.  The day went just fine, even with a few challenges, faced and overcome.

I mention these, as the main character in “The Shack”, one Mackenzie Allan “Mack” Phillips, was, like me, a person who spent much of his life focusing on his mistakes and on how deficient he was, compared with how he saw others.  Thus, the course on which his life proceeded was meant to lead to his encounter with God- Who is presented as a Trinity: the stern, and occasionally derisive, Father; the loving Son, Jesus the Christ and the inspirational, ever-present Holy Spirit.  Each added to Mack’s growth and presented a model of forgiveness and wholeness.

I think of my own relationship with God.  He has shown me, through experiences both glorious and jarring, that I am a worthwhile child of His, no less capable of doing good in the world, than anyone else.  Mack learned that his human icons were fallible; so have I.  None of us is any less lovable, to our fellow humans or to the Celestial, for that fallibility.

So, it is my wish, hope and desire that each of us can see the Day, when we work to establish unity in the world, with a view towards the time when “all death is gone”.

 

 

Dribs and Drabs, On A Final March Morning

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March 31, 2016, Prescott- I woke this morning, to an insistence from the Universe, that I not move too quickly, at first.  So, the shower was leisurely, a “hit the ground running” job request was declined (Throwing myself together, for a forty-five minute drive, at the last minute, would not have ended well, this morning.)

Some readers think I’m too self-centered.  I guess it can look that way, from a distance.  Truth is, not an hour goes by, that thoughts and prayers aren’t with someone less fortunate.  My thoughts right now are with a young lady whom I regard as a niece, dealing with her second severe loss, in less than a year, and with three young people, in different parts of this continent, whose financial woes are presented as intractable.  While I wish I had the resources to get several people straight, my inner Dave Ramsey gets channeled and I can best send them the spiritual energy to make do with what is, and build from there, as I have made myself do- thanks to two men named Dave.

The March lion is a bit tamer today.  It’s a bit cool, but that will change, drastically, as April arrives.  We’re anticipating temps in the mid-80’s here, next week.  Water conservation, at least in my apartment, continues unabated.

My Reading List for April is,at present:  Continuing, and finishing, “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself:  How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One”, by Dr. Joe Dispenza ( This is a “get out of your comfort zone” book, lent me by a dear friend); “Atlantis:  Insights From A Lost Civilization”, by Shirley Andrews (This one relies on actual science to extrapolate how things were, in that fabled place.); “Marco Polo:  The Journey That Changed The World”, by John Man (also relying on historical records to tell the story of the man who helped get Europe out of its medieval doldrums); “The Billionaire’s Vinegar”, by Benjamin Wallace (This is the last of the books given me, by my paternal uncle, and weaves a classic tale of fraud, perpetrated on a naive and greedy man of means); “All The Light We Cannot See”, by Anthony Doerr (This is a tale of two young people, in the Brittany of World War II, who are brought together, in the most harrowing of circumstances.)  These, and study of a Baha’i text, will take up my reading April.

The rest of today will be getting errands done, and catching up with friends in town.  The lamb is rearing its head, so I must get going.

2016 Winter Reads

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January 7, 2016, Prescott- I haven’t posted a reading list in quite a while, so here goes.

Reads in progress:  Terra in Cognita, William Barnes;  Extreme Ownership, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin; Keep Moving, Dick Van Dyke; The Dinosaur Heresies, Robert T. Bakker; The Witches:  Salem, 1692, Stacy Schiff.  The last two are tomes, so they will take longer than the others.

January-February:  The Disappearance of the Universe, Gary R. Renard; Marco Polo, John Man; John Adams, David McCullough.

March- Sphere, Michael Crichton; All The Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr; Prairie Erth, William Least Heat-Moon.

These are all fascinating books, of various lengths and levels of intensity.  I will also be adding books to my Kindle, the efforts of Carsten Aretz and Ally Larkin, as well as anything that Jeff Markowitz and John E. Glaze come up with, in the near future.

 

The Road to 65, Mile 285: Kombucha and Quixote

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September 8, 2015, Prescott- I have a couple of pieces of starter for kombucha.  It is a sort of fermented tea that, combined with organic, unrefined sugar, and mixed with the starter, will be a very strong digestive aid. Penny and I made it, around 2006-7, and used it for both of our abdominal well-being.  I will do this again.

This, and milk-based kefir, were the topics of a Slow-Food Prescott gathering, this evening.  Of course, there were a wealth of GMO-Free and organic dishes, as part of the festivities.  Given the pressure that our U.S. House of Representatives, and various conservative judges, around the globe, are putting on us to force the public to buy Genetically-Modified products, I think we need to have more events like this, to safeguard our health.  Someone asked, not long ago, if I would go to jail for my beliefs.  This is one area where I would do so.  No one tells me what to eat.

I heard on the radio that this year marks the 400th Anniversary of the publication of “Don Quixote de la Mancha”.  Miguel de Cervantes wrote of the consequences of a belatedly examined life, and of how a man’s not living his dream, until late in life, leads to so many bouts of foolishness.  Don Quixote’s idealization of the chivalrous life is not so different from the modern day fascination with Super Heroes. I was surprised, as an adolescent, when none of the Classics Illustrated comic books, which I relished, included a version of “Don Quixote”.  I didn’t read the novel until my third year in university, and I read it in Spanish.

I wonder at times, whether all we do to counteract the power structure in this world is actually a tad quixotic.  My heart, though, tells me “No, keep going.  Our children deserve a better, less materialistic system.”  So, onward I will tilt my lance.

The Road to 65, Mile 229: “Looking for Alaska”

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July 15, 2015, Prescott- Summer is road time, and also, reading time.  Heck, all time is reading time, for me.  Maybe that’s why so many of my  friends tend to be women.  We share a love of reading, and thought, and caring.

Alaska Young was a fictional character, yet larger than life.  John Green presented her as a blend of every schoolboy’s dream, every teacher’s model student and a nightmare in her own mind.  What a mind, though!  In a literary-real world mashup, I’d have taken a very quick liking to Ms. Alaska.  The wit, the razor-sharp intellect and the take-no-prisoners swagger, blended so deeply with her self-doubt, her vulnerability- which no male classmate saw, made for one of the most searing characters I have ever encountered.

A real life friend remarked this evening that men and women are tasked with trying to understand one another, precisely because we are fundamentally different.  Yes, men and women; young and old; wealthy and impoverished; landed and homeless; across “racial” and ethnic lines; differences of sexual orientation; differences of temperament; differences of opinion- all such barriers must be crossed.  Spaceship Earth is a Mashup of universal proportions.

Yet, Alaska Young, seen first by her boy peers as a gorgeous creature, was a toweringly complex being.  So it is with each of us.  A thoughtless man, just a bit more than a year ago, called me a woman-hater, for having used the word “beautiful” too many times, with reference to women.  Beauty is far beyond physical, though.  Without a shining, searing spirit, bursting from the eyes, the most appealing of symmetric features lose their allure, in a flash.  Alaska Young’s deeper appeal was her Force of Nature aura.  This was a woman who did not miss a trick, and but for her angst, her guilt, she would have conquered the world.

Each of us is given the goods, and the burden.  Shall we not use the former, to cast off the latter?

The Road to 65: Mile Two- and The Books That Guide

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November 30, 2014, Prescott- This was a quieter day than I expected.  The invited house-guest never called, or showed up, despite my TM and follow-up phone call.  It was a good day anyway, though.  I had breakfast with fellow American Legionnaires, courtesy of our Riders (veterans who ride motorcycles and do a wealth of charitable work on behalf of other veterans).  There has been plenty of time today for me to indulge in rest, and in healing foods and beverages, along with my essential oils.

An online friend noted, with regard to my post from yesterday, that my life couldn’t possibly be that organized.  He’s right- plans and goals are worth making, but none of us should be overwrought if the plans and goals don’t all get met.  After all, last year, eastern Canada was on my planned itinerary.  Life happened, and the area  will be a goal for another year.  The bottom line is always “God willing”.

I read fewer books this year than previously- a fair amount of attention was spent on Lonely Planet Guidebooks:  Belgium & Luxembourg; France; Germany.  Then there was The Discovery of France:  An Historical Geography, by Graham Robb.  In anticipation of next summer’s activity, I purchased and read sections of Lonely Planet Guides to  Alaska and to Canada. Looking further still, at 2016, brought me to delve into Open Veins of Latin America, by Eduardo Galeano.  It’s an examination of the abuse of that part of our world by both colonizing nations and by those who came along after independence was achieved.  I read the biography of Geronimo, by Angie Debo, Awakening Intuition, by Mona Lisa Schulz and Survivors, a novel of a possible dystopia, by James, Wilson Rawles (comma inserted by Mr. Rawles).  This last is intriguing, as it offers hints as to how one survives in a time of total economic and transportational calamity.  I don’t put much stock in tea-leaf reading, when it comes to catastrophe.  We do need to have at least two game plans, in case it does come to pass.  Dwelling on the worst case scenario, though, tales away from living intelligently.

As for the twelve months I have just started, I will finish reading Lies My Teacher Told Me, by James W. Loewen.  Then, it’ll be time to dive into: The Science of Skinny, by Dee McCaffrey; The Biology of Belief, by Bruce H. Lipton; Free Radicals:  The Secret Anarchy of Science, by Michael Brooks; The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak; City Repair’s Placemaking GuidebookEcovillages, by Karen T. Littfin.  These will take me through summer. In the Fall, Gandhi, An AutobiographyJohn Adams, by David McCulloughand Killing Kennedy, by Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard will occupy my quiet hours.

Yes, it’s true that everything, or just a small something, could serve to keep my goals unrealized.  Still, working towards something discourages indolence, as Benjamin Franklin might have said.

My Twenty-five Essential Books

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This morning, I was invited to list the ten books which have stayed with me, in some manner.  It was rather easy, and I found that, in actuality, there are twenty-five works that have affected me the most, not counting the great religious tomes.

These twenty-five are:

1. A Path With Heart- Jack Kornfield
2. Les Miserables- Victor Hugo
3. Oliver Twist- Charles Dickens
4. To Kill A Mockingbird- Harper Lee
5. Cry The Beloved Country- Alan Paton
6. The 3rd Alternative- Stephen R. Covey
7. Johnny Got His Gun- Dalton Trumbo
8. The Five Love Languages- Gary Chapman
9. The Autobiography of Malcolm X
10. Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee- Dee Brown

11. The Road Less Traveled- M. Scott Peck

12. Don Quixote- Miguel de Cervantes

13. Darkness at Noon- Arthur Koestler

14. The Bell Jar- Sylvia Plath

15. One Flew over The Cuckoo’s Nest- Ken Kesey

16. The Stand- Stephen King

17. The Book of Job as a Greek Tragedy- H. M. Kallen

18. A Christmas Carol- Charles Dickens

19. The Wind In The Willows- Kenneth Grahame

20. Everything I Ever Needed to Know, I Learned In Kindergarten- Robert Fulghum

21. Lord of the Flies- William Golding

22. I, Robot- Isaac Asimov

23. Life of Christ- Fulton J. Sheen

24. One Day In the Life of Ivan Denisovich- Alexander Solzhenitsyn

25. Rabbit Run- John Updike

Thoughts on “The Hunger Games”

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I went in to the Multiplex and saw one of my favorite actresses in action last week.  Jennifer did her usual well-crafted and heartfelt performance.  Her character here bears several similarities to Ree Dolley, from “Winter’s Bone”, not the least of which is the headstrong girl being thrust into a maternal role by the emotional absence of her mother.  At least in “The Hunger Games”, Mom seems to be snapping out of her doldrums, towards the end of the film.

Suzanne Collins may be trying the patience of some, with the odd names she’s given some of the characters, especially “Katniss”, but the premise of the story is plausible enough.  Granted, some scenes are eerily reminiscent of Stephen King’s “The Running Man” and “The Stand”, but Stanley Tucci’s Caesar is no cookie-cutter Fascist, in the mold of Richard Dawson’s Damon Killian, nor is President Snow as menacing as Jamey Sheridan’s Randall Flagg.

The rest of the cast contributes, to varying degrees.  Josh Hutcherson, as Peeta, is probably the next strongest character- which is fortunate, given that Katniss needs him, in order to get out alive.  Tucci (Caesar) and Woody Harrelson (Haymitch) seem to be having a blast, in their respective roles.  Wes Bentley, as the Hunger Games coordinator, Seneca, is  suitably conflicted between his loyalty to President Snow ( a rather tepid Donald Sutherland) and his reverie over the notion of teen romance ( as in his contriving a relationship between Katniss and Peeta).  Liam Hemsworth (Gayle) seems to function mainly as a Girl-Candy counterbalance to Jennifer, but it’s not her beauty that’s the draw here. The young lady can act, very well.

The scenes of the Capitol (a three-way cross between Washington, Las Vegas and Denver) are cartoonish at best, but we could see that coming, as soon as Effie Trinket (a goofy Elizabeth Banks) shows up, escorted by Star Wars-ripoff guards, in the down-at-the heels mining camp where the Everdeens live.  The mountainous Games venue puts Jennifer/Katniss in her element, and she carries the film quite well.  Amandla Stenberg (Rue) steals a few scenes, and may be a rising star in her own right.

Jennifer Lawrence is one of several versatile and very watchable young women in film, along with Dakota and Elle Fanning, Anna Sophia Robb, Evan Rachel Wood, Elizabeth Olsen, Gabourey Sidibe, Anna Popplewell, Shailene Woodley and the sadly absent-of -late Caitlin Wachs and Mischa Barton. The present series is a worthy venue for Ms. Lawrence to grow in stature, in the public eye.