Ingratitude:  How it destroys our minds and hearts and souls. 

One of the things that I think most of us try to do is make sense out of the senseless.  To do this, we apply various types of reasoning.  From economic to political to psychological explanations, we attempt to fashion a purpose or logic for the senseless that helps us to see some logic to seemingly random and violent actions.  Religious people use the term sin to cover many such acts.  Some say it is the work of the devil.  Psychologists use terms like paranoid schizophrenic or sociopath to convey some idea as to motive and underlying rationale.  More practical minded people look to motives like revenge, money, jealousy etc.

I have heard that Bertrand Russell said that fear was the main motive for all evil that is done.  This has a great deal of merit to it as an rally5underlying or foundation problem to explain many senseless acts of violence and mayhem.  We can see pictures today of people screaming at immigrants to go home and realize that many of these raging mobs are driven by fear.  Fear of job loss, fear of economic uncertainty, fear of being displaced and fear of strangers.

“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.” — Bertrand Russell

Another explagreed1024x768nation I have heard deals with greed.  It has been said that “Greed is not the worst of all sins, but it is the gateway to all others.”    Reflecting on this comment provides some very interesting insights.  For instance, why does anyone steal?  They want more than they have, ergo greed.  Why does anyone kill?  Typical answers would include:  To get more land, ergo greed; to get more money, ergo greed; to get something they want, ergo greed.  The more I thought about greed as an explanation, the more I could see it being a key cornerstone to almost all acts of violence and terror.  I was content to accept this underlying explanation until a few weeks ago when I attended my annual retreat.

This year at my retreat, it was noted that Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits had said that “Ingratitude” was the basis of all sin.

“Ignatius thought that a particular type of ignorance was at the root of sin. The deadliest sin, he said, is ingratitude. It is “the cause, beginning, and origin of all evils and sins.” If you asked a hundred people to name the sin that’s the origin of all evils, I’ll bet none of them would say ingratitude. They would say pride or disobedience or greed or anger. The idea that we sin because we’re not sufficiently aware of God’s goodness probably wouldn’t occur to too many people.” —  Jim Manney

I have to agree with Mr. Manney.  I had never thought of ingratitude as being a sin never mind the root of all evil.  I decided that this would be a good thing to reflect on.  Thus, for several weeks now I have been turning this idea over in my mind.  The more I think about it, the more I can see the validity in its premise.  Even more basic than fear or greed is the underlying ingratitude that starts the whole ball rolling.

tv_online_advertisingWe wake up feeling inadequate because we don’t have enough.  We look at our neighbor’s house and we become dissatisfied with our house.  We look at clothes that are in the malls and are not satisfied with our own clothes.  We look at cars, other people, other things like position, attention, status, respect and we grow more and more dissatisfied with what we have.  The TV ads surround us with our worthlessness unless we get more and more and more stuff.  Wants become needs.  We are smitten with greed and lust for these other things that we need and now must have.  We think that somehow we will be the person we want to be if we can only have more.  Our ingratitude for what we have now becomes greediness.  We become consumed by a desire to get these things we think will complete our lives.

As time goes by, the greed turns to fear.  What if someone else gets them first?  What if these new immigrants get the job that I wanted?  What if there is not enough to go around?  The fear drives an endless series of what ifs that can and eventually does turn to hate and violence.  Look at the crowds on the border screaming “go home” to the refugees looking for asylum and sanctuary.  These are people for whom ingratitude has turned to greed and greed has turned to fear and now fear has become hate.

“Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.” —Thich Nhat Hanh

I began to think about what I most wanted when I was a child.   It was mainly simple things.  I wanted freedom from fear.  I wanted to be liked and admired by others.  I wanted someone who cared about me.  I wanted to see hummingbirds in a garden each day.  I wanted to see Morning Glories blooming with their wonderful blue petals.  I left home at 18 to join the military.  Back then, I did not know what I wanted. I thought getting out of my house would help me find the freedom I needed to complete myself.  I felt inadequate but I did not know why or how or what would make me feel better.  Thus, began a lifelong search for myself.

Like many otherSuccess-is-liking-yourself-liking-what-you-do-and-liking-how-you-do-it.s before me, I thought getting success would be the key to feeling complete.  Success meant fame, fortune and admiration from the masses.  I would have money to roll in.  I would have girlfriends too numerous and beautiful to count.  I would have crowds thronging to hear my every utterance.   The path to success was uncertain but the laurels and rewards were  assured if only I could find the right stair way.  I looked everywhere.  I read everything.  I talked to everyone.  Success would come with hard work.  Success took risks.  Success was not an overnight phenomenon.  I needed to get an education first.  I needed to save my money.  I needed to invest.  Everything I did was still not enough.  I was not a success.

IMG_0745 (2)Yesterday morning, I walked outside and saw a beautiful blue Morning Glory on my back fence.  As I walked around the back of our house, I saw a small little hummingbird that was drinking at one of our feeders. I watched him for about five minutes and took the pictures you see here of the flower and small little hummingbird.  Inside my house, my wife Karen was still soundly asleep.  A better person and wife I could not want.  I have food in the refrigerator and a warm comfortable bed in a nice house to rest and sleep in.  My last medical report states that my cancer has been completely removed and there were no signs that it had spread.  Today, when I went out, I had two Morning Glories blooming.

I have disagreements with many people. I disagree with those who are prejudiced and racist. I disagree with those who think we cannot help others from other countries. I disagree with those who think that military action is the best response to world problems.  I disagree with those who think that we should not share and help others who are less fortunate in this country.  I disagree with those who are so certain that there is only one viewpoint and credo for existence.  I disagree with those who think that compromise is a sign of weakness.  I disagree with those who think that success is the secret to happiness.  (Please take a minute to listen to the Gratitude Song by Nichole Nordeman, it will bring joy to your heart)

I have finally realized that Loyola was right.  If I am not happy, if I am not successful, if I am not wealthy, it is because I am not grateful hummingbirdfor what I have.  I have what I need.  I may not have what I want, but what I want will never make me happy or give true meaning to my life.  Perhaps my life is best defined by the Morning Glories and hummingbirds.  It has only taken me 60 or so years to see that I am surrounded by the things and people that I truly need in my life.  I spent years looking everywhere for success and happiness and they were right in my own backyard.

One further confession I need to make. I backslide quite often.  I still have pangs of worthlessness and inadequacy.  If I were younger, I might succumb to these feelings and go skydiving, mountain climbing or some other form of glory seeking.  Maybe that is the good thing about age.  It no longer seems worth the effort to pursue glory.  Time to go visit the Morning Glories and maybe see a hummingbird.

If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there….then I never really lost it to begin with.  –– Dorothy Gale, The Wizard of Oz

Time for Questions:

What are you most grateful for today?  When was the last time you expressed your gratitude to someone you care about?  How often do you stop to think about how much you have to be grateful for?  Are you grateful for the things that really matter in your life?  What if you took time each day to be more grateful for your life?  What are you most ungrateful for?  How can you get rid of your ingratitude?

Life is just beginning. 

 

 

Do you read enough? Do you love ideas and books?

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”
― George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons

Book time is my favorite time. This is when I am already past the “startup” of a new novel or the introduction to a new book and I find the time to just sit down and relax with it. I often go into an old bedroom in our house as it somehow seems more peaceful. It might be just before going to bed or sometimes when I have nothing to do. The world never seems more peaceful. It feels like hiding in a cave. When I was a child, book time was when I would go to the library. I discovered libraries at an early age and it was like discovering paradise.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”  ― Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

Libraries were peaceful and quiet and full of all the ideas, fantasies, mysteries and great things of the world. I fell in love with books there. I probably love books more than anything in the world. I love them not only because of what they represent, but because of where they can take you and what they can make you. When I was young, I was taught that knowledge was power and information was a precious resource. The balance of power has shifted now due to modern technology and the internet. Perhaps today it is more important who you know than what you know. Nevertheless, I persist in my love of knowledge and theory and ideas. I am bothered however by one major shift in our culture.

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”  ― Charles W. Eliot

We seem to live in a society that is more and more obsessed by sports. It is a society where star athletes are heroes and computer geeks are nerds. It is a society that places more value on baseball, football and basketball than on books and reading. Perhaps foolishly, I dream of a society where towns have signs up for leading academic students , leading music majors, leading drama classes, leading art students and not just for the “Football champions of 03” or the “ Class AAA Baseball Champions of 2011.” I dream of a society where drama coaches, music coaches and art teachers are as highly paid as NCAA athletic coaches. I dream of a society where as many students show up to watch the debating matches and chess matches as show up for the basketball games. I dream of a society where there is no such thing as nerds and geeks and where developing brain power is as sexy as developing muscle power.

Questions To Think About:

Do you read enough? Do you value ideas as much as you value “who won the Super bowl?” Would you pay as much for a beautiful work of art or a ticket to the symphony as you would for a ticket to an NBA playoff game or a Super bowl game? Do you spend as much time reading as you do watching sports? Do you concern yourself with politics and culture as much as you do with popular NASCAR and Hollywood celebrities? Do your children? Why not? Do you think your life might be different if you valued ideas more? What might change?

The Great Divide:  An America Torn Asunder by Divisions

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I published the following blog a few months ago.  I think it needs to be more visible.  If you agree with the ideas in this blog, would you please share it with other people or groups that it might help.  Democracy is in crisis today in America as never before.  It has not ended with Trump being defeated since his followers and minions are still out doing their best to overturn Democracy in America.  Only an informed and literate citizenship can defeat these efforts.  

The number one subject for bestselling non-fiction books in the USA today concerns the chasm that separates Republicans from Democrats.  Rural voters from urban voters.  College Educated people from non-college educated.  Conservatives from liberals.  Fox viewers from CNN viewers.  Your facts from my facts.  Your truths from my truths.  Your lies from my lies.  Your views of reality from my views of reality. 

This divide is decried by all the pundits and experts.  Not one of the writers on this subject has anything good to say about the divide.  Perhaps they harken back to the old saying, “United we stand and divided we fall.”  Or the adage that, “A house divided cannot stand.”  Whatever the reasoning, no one thinks that a USA as divided as it is with nearly 75 million people voting for Donald Trump and 80 million people voting for Joseph Biden is helpful for our nation.  Keep in mind, it is not just the sheer numbers that alarm people, it is the magnitude of the crevasse that scares people.

hate-spesechThe abyss It is so big that there is no bridging it.  None of the sides can see the other side.  None of the sides has any common ground with the other side.  None of the sides understands the language that the other side speaks.  We might as well be earthlings talking to Martians.  There is no lingua franca.  Many of the “well-meaning” experts exhort both sides to try harder to bridge the gap or to work more diligently to listen to the other side.  It seems to be assumed that all it will take to jump the gulf is good intentions.  I cry bullshit on this.  As the old aphorism goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  It will take more than good intentions to heal the wound that infests our country.

Before we can fix what ails America, we must clearly understand what brought this divide about.  What are the causes for this divide, and can they be healed?  I see three main causes for this chasm.  They are: 1. Greed, 2. Demonization, and 3. Media.  Let’s look at each of these three elements and see how they contribute to the divide and what if anything can be done about them. 

Greed:

Corporate greed and materialism have driven a wedge between the haves and the have nots in America.  A larger gap than ever before exists between the rich and the poor.  The number of people seeking free food and standing in line at food banks has only been higher during the Great Depression.  The requirements for a digital elite versus a computer illiterate fuels the growing income gap.  The Opioid Epidemic is only one symptom of this inequality in the USA.  Many people cannot afford medical care or adequate housing as well as food. 

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For years now, materialism has been touted as the backbone of American commerce by corporations and the media.  Inflammatory news events sell advertisements which drive people to the shopping malls, ball parks, restaurants, and performances.  Special events like “Black Friday” abound where people, “shop till they drop.”  There is a vicious spiral to these events since the final outcome is to keep people needy and wanting more.  The theologian Matthew Kelly says you can never satisfy wants only needs.  Pursuing wants will always leave you wanting more.  Eating, sleeping, exercise and love are needs that can be satisfied and will bring you happiness.  You can never be happy pursuing wants.

materialism and spendingThe wants advertised on the TV and in the media are never fulfilling.  We have a nation of brainwashed consumers who mistakenly think that more toys, bigger houses, more guns, and luxury cars will make them happy.  We are a nation on a never-ending treadmill of consumer materialism where like rats we keep spinning the wheel and hoping to find happiness, but happiness never comes, and drugs take its place. 

There is no sanity in our economic system.  It is a zero-sum game.  It is a great deal like the lottery.  Next week there will be 100 million losers, but one winner will get a billion dollars or more.  The value for the lottery keeps going up which entices more and more people to buy lottery tickets, but the number of losers also keeps going up.  Where do the profits for the lotteries go?  Not back to the people, regardless of what they tell you.  Our society is being sold hope where hope is the most elusive product in the marketplace. 

imagesAs the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, the tensions in society grow ever more divisive.  We see more road rage, more senseless shootings, more violence between men and women, less loyalty between employers and employees.  The underpinning of society that should be based on human integrity and morality is replaced with an opportunism based on an amoral value system.  Whatever we can get as long as we break no laws is considered to be moral.  We see most politicians that have no commitment to anything except to collect more money so that they can stay in office.   Their highest goal is to help the rich get richer, which of course includes themselves. 

Jesus said that money is not evil, it is the pursuit of money that is evil.  The evil in America comes from a frenzy for more that separates Americans from each other.  Like a horse race where there can only be one winner, there are only going to be a few rich Americans and many more poor people scrambling to be the “King of the Hill.” 

I do not believe that the divide in this country can be erased until we eliminate the gap between the rich and the poor.  It is not simply a matter of conversation or discussion.  It is a matter of inequality.  A poor person cannot talk to a rich person unless they can shout over gated walls and armed security guards.  The biggest divide in America is between the haves and the have nots.  It is between the will haves and the may never haves.  The haves in America expect to have more and probably will get more.  The have nots do not know where their next paycheck will come from or whether they will be able to buy food for tomorrow.  No amount of discussion or listening skills is going to solve this problem.  

Demonization:

Speech-Bubble-Montage_2-1 (1)I am not talking about the devil here or about spirituality.  I am talking about a kind of insidious propaganda that has been spread by many groups and individuals.  In this propaganda, one side of America is labeled as moral, ethical, righteous, and just.  The other side is the opposite.  The other side is everything negative.  The other side is a composite of all the demons and evils that Americans believe in.  The other side are communists, fascists, atheists, anti-democratic, anti-patriotic and un-American.  One side is good.  The other side is evil incarnate.  You cannot talk to evil.  You cannot discuss with the devil why he wants your soul.  You cannot debate with Satan over the values that he has.  Heaven and hell do not have weekly discussion groups.  The language heard today, and what the media publishes drips with hate, innuendo, and disdain.  The language fosters violence.  I doubt the Founding Fathers ever conceived that the First Amendment would protect such speech.  There are three elements that contribute to a hate speech culture that demonizes the other side: 

  1. Malicious Labeling:

freehatespeechMalicious labeling is the name calling that goes on between both sides today wherein each side is labeled.  You can hear it on almost every talk show program in America today.  Name calling and name labeling.  Commie pinko leftists!  Intellectual elites!  Radical socialists!  Racist rednecks!  Fascist dictators!  Politicians, commentators, newscasters, and radio talk show hosts all use malicious labels to insult and demean those they disagree with.  What have we let this country become when we allow such name calling?  This kind of hyperbole demonizes the other side and creates a divide that cannot be overcome by rational conversation.

“I think the political process has degenerated into name-calling and extremism, and I think that that’s unfortunate.” — Bill Bradley

  1. Anti-Government Diatribes:

extremismword_hp111319.1200x0I do not think that the Founding Fathers of our nation believed that Government was evil.  Certainly, they felt that there could be too much government intrusion on the rights of the populace.  They invoked certain safeguards to protect both human rights and states rights.  Nevertheless, they did not demonize government and not a single one of the Fathers ever referred to government as evil.  Edmund Burke, the famous English conservative said, “The government that governs best is the government that governs least.”  He never said, “government was evil.”  It has become common place to hear refrains denigrating the role and necessity of government.  This steady drumbeat of antigovernmental rhetoric has created a group of people that have no value for government and who support the idea that government should be abolished.

“A primary object should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important? And what duty more pressing than communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?”  — George Washington

  1. Legal Advocates of Violence

loyal white knights and aryan nations in texas july 2016 from vkdotcom_0A few years ago I began to wonder why groups like the KKK, Aryan Brotherhood, Antifa, The Proud Boys and many other such groups advocating violence against the government were not labeled as Terrorist Organizations.  I asked a lawyer this question and he replied, “it is all politics.”  I found that almost all the groups listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “hate groups” were designated as “extremist groups.”  This means that they are not illegal, and they have the right to organize, march, rally and basically spread their hate across America.  In 2019, The SPLC listed 940 hate groups across the USA.  If any of these groups was labeled as a “Terrorist Group,” they would be on the same list as the Taliban, Boko Haram, The Mafia, Mexican Cartels and Al Qaeda.  What is the difference between an extremist group and a terrorist group?  It might surprise you to learn that a terrorist organization is defined as follows:

In the United States of America, terrorism is defined in Title 22 Chapter 38 U.S. Code § 2656f as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents”.

In general, terrorism is classified as:

  • The use of violence or of the threat of violence in the pursuit of political, religious, ideological, or social objectives
  • Acts committed by non-state actors (or by undercover personnel serving on the behalf of their respective governments)
  • Acts reaching more than the immediate target victims and also directed at targets consisting of a larger spectrum of society.

15963If this definition does not apply to the groups that tried to storm the US Capital on January 6th, 2021, I do not know what does.  Just yesterday the Canadian government labeled the Proud Boys as a Terrorist Organization.  This delegitimizes the group and takes their rights away.  For Canada, it is a start.  I am wondering when we are going to get started in the USA on such an effort.  The First Amendment was never construed to allow hate speech and the advocating of violent actions to overthrow the government.  Why do we not have the political will to outlaw these groups?  We seem to have little compunction in penalizing Black groups like the Black Lives Matter Movement or the Black Panthers.  We have a different standard when it comes to White Supremacy groups. 

The Media:

000f25f2-6bf0-11e9-994e-1d1e521ccbf6_image_hires_015902The newspapers, TV and the Internet are today the major carriers for the hate and vituperation that has spread across America.  On one side of the divide, we find the NY Times, the Washington Post and CNN News.  On the other side, we find the NY Post, the Washington Examiner and Fox News.  There are countless other purveyors of extreme and fanatical views.  Each side reeks of headlines supporting nonobjective views and biased reporting.  If objective reporting ever existed in the USA, it has been murdered and buried by the most pervasive media to ever exist.  The media carries the hate and violence that is created by politicians, pundits, radio commentators and hate groups and ensures that it gets widely disseminated.  Without the media, much of the divide would never have occurred.  Hate needs a platform to be spread and the media is more than happy to host anything that it believes will sell itself and its advertising. 

Conclusions:

We are not going to overcome the divide that separates Americans today by platitudes and wishful thinking.  No amount of holding hands or singing kumbaya together is going to unite Americans.  We have a systemic rot in our system that is caused by the extremism in politics and media that has created this divide.  We need to enact reasonable laws to stamp out this rot while also protecting free speech but not hate speech.  There is a difference between hate speech and free speech.  If we cannot figure this difference out, we will never close the divide that exists in America today.  You can defend the First Amendment all you want, but there are limits to everything and that includes so-called Free Speech. 

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Then-CIA director Gina Haspel said the US was ‘on the way to a right-wing coup’ after Trump lost the election: book

 

The Ten Greatest of Everything – To Me Anyway

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What does it mean to be the “Greatest?”  Is the “Greatest” the same as the “Best?”  I tried rolling both off my lips in sentences as follows, “He was the best person in the world.”  “She was the greatest person in the world.”  “Would you rather be the greatest or the best?”  “Usain Bolt is the greatest 100-meter sprinter who ever lived.”  “Usain Bolt is the best 100-meter sprinter who ever lived.”

I give up.  They seem different but I cannot tell why.  Let’s see what the good old dictionary has to say about this conundrum.  (Definitions from Oxford Languages.)

Best:  of the most excellent, effective, or desirable type or quality.

Great:  of an extent, amount, or intensity considerably above the normal or average.

As Winnie the Pooh says, “It hurts my head.”  Somehow I like “Great” better than “Best” so I will leave the distinctions and arguments to the linguistic experts.  For now, my list will be looking at people and things that I find are the “Greatest” to have ever existed.  I would hazard that if they were the “Greatest” that they are also the “Best.”

One further caveat before we dive or is it delve into my list.  No one is expected, must, should, or probably will agree with me.  That is fine.  You should create your own list.  Variety is what makes life interesting.

For each of my “Greatest”, I will list the criteria that I use in making my selection.  I presume that there are many different criteria that one could use.  Some of my criteria will be very subjective posing grounds for wonderful arguments.  As Tevye (in Fiddler on the Roof) said, “Posing problems that would cross a rabbi’s eyes!  And it won’t make one bit of difference if I answer right or wrong.  When you’re rich, they think you really know!”

So here goes.

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  1. Greatest Prophet – Jesus Christ
  • Criteria: Most followers
    • 2.1 billion followers worldwide
  • Honorable Mention: Muhammed
    • 1.5 billion followers worldwide

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  1. Greatest Book – The Bible
  • Criteria: Most sold
    • 3.9 billion copies over the last fifty years
  • Honorable Mention: Quotations from the Works of Mao Tse tung
    • 820 million copies sold

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  1. Greatest General – George Washington
  • Criteria: Most Heroic Activity
    • Passed on the offer to be crowned king or ruler for life
  • Honorable Mention: Simon Bolivar
    • A great military leader. He took the title of dictator but voluntarily resigned after leading numerous battles to liberate South America from Spain

Okay, go ahead and scream over my picks.  Tell me that computers, rating experts, number of battles and so on would show that Napoleon, Caesar, Hannibal, Alexander, Genghis Khan, Khalid Bin Walid or Subutai were the greatest.  However, I challenge you to show me one of these Generals who after winning battles against great odds and then becoming the country’s leader also voluntarily stepped down and did not take the mantle of dictator that his nation wanted to crown him with.

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  1. Greatest Empire – Egypt
  • Criteria: Longevity
    • From 3100 BCE to 30 BCE
  • Honorable Mention: The Pandyan Empire
    • This society of Southern India is considered by some to be the longest-lasting empire in history.

A criteria based on land mass would have yielded, The Mongol Empire, The British Empire, and the Roman Empire.  However, I think longevity is a better criteria of greatness than size.

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  1. Greatest Leader – Mahatma Gandhi
  • Criteria:  Most admired
    • Almost every list of greatest leaders has Gandhi on it. He might not always be in first place but if you averaged his position out, he would easily be number 1 as most admired leader in the history of the world
  • Honorable Mention: Nelson Mandela
    • Easily the second most admired leader in history. President Mandela’s struggles are epic as was his sense of forgiveness and charity.

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  1. Greatest Writer – Shakespeare
  • Criteria: Most influence on literature
    • In the English language, no one outside the Bible is quoted more than William Shakespeare
  • Honorable Mention: Plato
    • This is a difficult pick. Many would choose Homer, Dostoyevsky, Twain, Richard Wright, Kant, Goethe, Machiavelli, or Karl Marx.

So here is how I resolved Honorable Mention:  I typed in Google each of the following names to see how many hits I would get.  These are my results:  Plato, 185 million; Goethe, 69 million; Marx, 24.4 million; Homer, 80 million; Dostoyevsky, 6.2 million; Thomas Paine, 4.1 million; Twain, 60 million; Richard Wright, 3 million; Machiavelli, 12 million. Plato won by a long stretch.

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  1. Greatest Philosopher – Confucius
  • Criteria: Most impact on human thought/behavior
    • Tricky here to distinguish between a writer and a philosopher since they are obviously two sides of the same coin. However, given the population of Chinese in the world and the number of times that Confucius is quoted, I have to give the mantle of greatest to Confucius.  My sentimental favorite is Socrates, but I am not sure that he had the same impact on humanity.
  • Honorable Mention: Gautama Buddha
    • Leader of the fourth largest religion in the world.  The influence of Buddhism is felt in every genre of literature, in every religion and in the daily lives of every person living on the planet earth.  Some might see it as an esoteric religion since it is so different than the monotheistic religions.  However, it is just this difference which provides for so much of its influence on the world.  I cannot conceive of a world not balanced by both God and Non-God religions.

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      8.  Greatest Scientist – Albert Einstein

  • Criteria: Most lists of the greatest scientists
  • Honorable Mention: Marie Curie
    • Madame Curie comes up on almost all the lists of greatest scientists. She is one of the few people to ever win two Nobel Prizes in Science.  She is the only person to ever win two Nobel Prizes in two different scientific disciplines: Physics and Chemistry.

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  1. Greatest Athlete – Alexander Karelin
  • Criteria: Most wins by an individual, not a member of a team.  Over the period of his active wrestling, Karelin won 887 matches and only lost 2.
  • Honorable Mention: Serena Williams
    • To date, Williams has won 346 of her tennis matches. She is the winner of 23 major singles titles, most of any man or woman in the Open Era of tennis.

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     10.  Greatest Composer – Bach or Beethoven

  • Criteria: Most pieces composed, or most pieces played
    • I really could not decide on this one. Neither man had the most composed pieces but when you look at most played and how many each composed, there is little question that the two composers are the greatest of all time.
  • Honorable Mention: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    • I personally like Mozart better than any other composer in the history of the world. I like Verdi, Puccini, and Bizet a great deal, but they are nowhere near as prolific or popular as Mozart.

Well, there you have it folks.  My list of the “Greatest” in the world.  I had fun doing this list.  It was a real challenge.  Too many choices making it very difficult to pick.  Looking up the criteria to use and looking at all the different opinions made it a very interesting task.

“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.” — Wilma Rudolph

Finding Fame, Fortune and Success:  Paths to Misery or Happiness?

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I have adapted an Osho (A noted Indian Mystic and Guru) story as follows:

Once upon a time there was a young boy named Vince who lived in Minnesota.  Every weekend when his chores around the farm were done, Vince would take his canoe out to one of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes with his best friend and they would spend the afternoon fishing.  Somethings they would catch crappies, sometimes bluegills, sometimes even a walleye.  Sometimes they would not catch a single fish.  Striking out did not bother them one bit.  They were content just to be out on the lake together on a beautiful Minnesota summer day.

They would sit in the canoe casting their rods and talking about many things.  They would talk about school, parents, girls, and sports.  Often they would share their dreams and talk about what they wanted to be and do when they grew up.  One day Vince saw a large jet airliner going over head.  As he looked at the plane he said, “That’s what I want to be when I grow up.  I want to be an airline pilot and fly all over the world. That is my dream.”

Years passed and Vince followed his dream.  He became an airline pilot for what was then Northwest Airlines.  Later, like many other airlines they merged and became United Airlines.  Vince was a lead pilot for a jumbo passenger jet.  He flew numerous routes that took him all over the world.  He flew to China, Japan, England, France, and many other places.  He was one of the best pilots that Northwest had.

Twenty or so very busy years passed.  One day Vince had a flight that took him back to Minnesota.  He started from Paris, flew over the Great Lakes and was coming down from Northern Minnesota to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport.  As his plane began the descent into the airport, he looked out the left side of the plane and noticed two young boys in a canoe fishing on a lake.  The scene brought back many happy memories to Vince and his eyes started to mist up.  He asked his co-pilot to take control for a minute while he cleared his eyes.  His co-pilot asked Vince if there was anything wrong.  Vince replied, “No, nothing wrong.  Just saw something that reminded me of my past.  One day I dreamed that I would be a pilot.  Now I dream that I am back on that lake with my best friend again.”

There is an old saying that goes “Be careful of what you ask for, you might get it.”  Of course, no one pays any attention to this bit of wisdom.  Imagine all the people who buy lottery tickets each day.   Now try to imagine any of them saying, “I better be careful, or I might win the lottery.”  We all want fame, fortune, and success.  We set goals that force us to live in the future and we forget how to live in the present.  Osho says that we can never be happy unless we can be happy for no reason at all.

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Some of you have read the story about my six friends and I who put together a “last man standing bottle” ten years ago.  Ken made a case for the bottle.  Jerry bought a name plate for the bottle with each of our names and birthdates engraved on it.  I bought a bottle of 120 proof Old Grandad while on one of my trips to Bardstown, Kentucky.   Ken and Brian have since died.  There are five of us left.  Jerry is the youngest at 74 and Dick is now the oldest at 81.

Jerry was put on hospice care about eight months ago.  I have been to visit him several times and he has joked about going to hospice care too soon.  Doctors had told him that he had only a few months to live.  Jerry has outlived their original estimates.  Friday afternoon, I received a call from Dick who had recently called Jerry.  Jerry is not doing well, and the charge nurse told Dick that Jerry would probably not make it through the weekend.  I have been wanting to stay away from any medical facilities due to the recent Covid surge, but I decided to mask up and go see Jerry.

I arrived at the clinic and was told I could make a compassion visit, but general visitors were not allowed.  I was advised to go to the main desk and see if it was okay with the unit for me to come down.  I received an approval and headed down to Jerry’s room.  The nurse on the unit met me at the door.  She knocked on the door to Jerry’s room but did not receive any response.  She went into the room and Jerry was asleep.  She woke him up and informed him that he had a visitor.

I walked into the room and Jerry was not looking very good.  He could barely open his eyes or even move.  His body was bloated, and his skin had dark splotches all over his chest, stomach, arms, and legs.  I said hi and he replied, “Hi John.”  I told him that the coffee guys (some of whom are on the “Last Man Standing” bottle) all said hi and that they wished him well.  This was somewhat of a fib.  Truth be told, Jerry was not well liked among some of the guys.  He seemed to enjoy making fun of and humiliating other people.  Over the years, this took a toll among the men.  Not many of them cared enough about Jerry to make a visit to see him.

Jerry had few friends.  I tried to be a friend to Jerry, but it never seemed to be requited.  I called him.  Visited him often at his home.  Helped him with a garage sale.  Took him to some medical appointments in the Twin Cities.  Invited him out to dinner several times and each year when I got back from Arizona, Karen and I made a point of having him over for dinner.  Not once did I ever remember Jerry returning any of my calls, stopping by to visit or even saying “Thank You” for anything I ever did for him.  Nevertheless, while I stopped the frequency of my visits with Jerry, I never gave up on him entirely.

This day, it was clear that it would be my last visit to Jerry.  I felt sad for Jerry.  He never had much.  The paradox was that he was one of the most intelligent men I have ever met.  Before his illnesses, Jerry was an avid reader who could discuss many of the great writers with exceptional insights.  Sadly, as his disease progressed, he read less and less and eventually gave up reading entirely.

I asked Jerry a few questions about his sister and other visitors.  Something I said elicited the reply, “Now and forever, mumble, mumble, mumble.”  “Jerry, I could not hear the last part of that.  You said, ‘Now and forever’ and something else.  Could you repeat it?”  Jerry replied, “Now and forever, all I ever wanted was a little attention.”  I was somewhat surprised at his comment.  I left a short time later.  I doubt I spent more than 15 minutes with Jerry the whole time.  I gave him some water and asked if he needed a nurse.  He was barely awake, but he declined any offers for help.  I told him goodbye.  I did not want to imply that it would be goodbye forever so I included the comment that I would be back after I returned from my vacation, and I would stop in to see him again.  I do not think this will ever happen.

I thought about Jerry’s comment on my way home.  Was his comment about “now and forever” some sort of delirium or was he actually reflecting on a core component of his life.  Was Jerry’s obnoxiousness and insults simply a way for him to get attention?  At this late stage in his life, was he lamenting his inability to get the attention that he so desperately desired?

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I began to wonder if a need for attention is the primary reason that most of us want fame, fortune, and success.  Rich people, famous people, celebrities all get more attention than the average person.  Think about all of the school shooters that you have heard of.  It seems that the main purpose for their rampages is attention.  There are many people who fiercely desire their five minutes of fame even if it means they get it by anti-social efforts.

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The irony is that fame, fortune, and success never bring happiness.  The more of these things you get, the more you want.  More is never enough.  More of things never satisfies.  Then the day inevitably comes when you are no longer famous.  Your money no longer buys you attention.  Your success is no longer newsworthy.  Your fame now evaporates like the morning mist.  Can you point to anyone whose fame and fortune brought them happiness?  We are brainwashed into thinking that wealth, fame, and success are stepping stones to happiness.  If only I am noticed and get attention from others, I will be happy.

To be honest, I am much like the person who buys the lottery ticket.  I have never had fame, fortune, or great success.  I have never been a great student, a prize-winning athlete, a rich business owner or won any medals or awards.  Years ago, I read all the books I could get my hands on to teach me how to be rich, famous, and successful.  Despite all my learning and education, I never rose above being an average guy with an average income and an average life.

Perhaps, I should be more grateful.  Perhaps, I have been very lucky. I have had a great life.  I have traveled widely.  I have many friends.  I married a wonderful woman and I have always been able to pay my bills.  What would my life have been like if I had become rich and famous?  My thoughts tell me that I would never have lived as happy a life as I can now point to.

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However, telling myself that is a little like someone telling me that I should be glad that my lottery ticket did not win.  Somewhere inside me is a yearning for the attention and admiration that I feel fame and fortune would bring me.  Something inside me desires to someday be “above” average.  I want to be on center stage and have all the spotlights on me.  I want to read in the morning papers, how great and talented I am.  John “The New Mark Twain.”

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I try to counter the above negative thoughts by reminding myself that I am really blessed.  I can walk down the street, and no one notices me.  I have enough money to be comfortable but not have to deal with hundreds of people who want more money from me because they think that I am rich.  I have a loving wife who I am sure loves me for who I am and not for my money or looks.  I have seen the world without a body guard.  I am healthy and would not trade my health for all the money in the world.

My takeaway from my visit to Jerry is how much I wish that I could have left him with the five minutes of attention that he wanted.  The saddest part about Jerry’s life is that he could never let go of this need.  He acted as though by being cantankerous and il-tempered he would satisfy this need.  I think it cost him a great deal of the happiness that was always there for his taking.  We all respected his intellect and admired his reasoning abilities.  Each of us in our own way tried to overlook his insults and criticism.  It is tragic that he never realized how much his talents really meant to the rest of us.  We all knew that Jerry was one of a kind.

PS:  

Jerry died early this morning on the 13th of September in the year 2021.  If there is an afterlife, I hope Jerry finds the happiness, attention and recognition that he sought.  This is one of mine and Jerry’s favorite pictures.  Jerry had a great sense of humor.  He and Wilma posed for this picture at his garage sale a number of years ago.  It is of course a take off on the classic American Gothic.  Jerry liked it so much, he blew it up and kept a picture by his bedside.  This is how I want to remember Jerry.  A man of intelligence and humor.  

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Sex, Politics and War

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978-0-8223-6367-5_prThere is a war on sex by politicians.  There has always been a war on sex by politicians.  It is the longest running war in the history of the world.  It is not a gender war but a political war.  The goal of political warfare is to alter an opponent’s opinions and actions in favor of the state’s interests without utilizing military power.  Such warfare has been waged by the state against sex since the dawn of humanity.

In the USA, we have had political wars on race, drugs, poverty, crime, and terror.  None of these wars were officially declared as military wars.  Each of these wars were unofficially declared by the US government.   Not one of these wars has ever officially ended.  The war on sex has never been acknowledged either officially or unofficially.  It has never ended either.

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This fourth and final part in my series of articles on sex will look at how politics influences sexual activities  in the USA.  In my opening blog on sex, Sex from a 75 year old perspective, I used a metaphor in which I described sex as a continent that had two regions.  The Region of Permissions and the Region of Prohibitions.  There are three seasons for each region:  A Religious Season, a Cultural Season, and a Political Season.  In my second blog on Sex, The Region of Permissions and the Region of Prohibitions, I described the influence of religion on our sex lives in respect to what is permitted and what is prohibited.  In my third blog, The Influence of Culture on Sex, I discussed the Cultural Season of Sex and what impact it has on Permissions and Prohibitions relating to sexual activities.  In this fourth and final blog on sex in America, I will end this set of treatises by talking about the role that politics plays on permissions and prohibitions regarding the sex lives of Americans.

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The war on sex has been waged for two reasons.  The first is power.  The second is economics.  Each of these reasons has a distinct and differential impact on what Americans may or may not do sexually.  In some cases, the influence is directed towards women.  In other cases, it has been directed towards minorities; and in fewer yet still numerous cases it has been directed towards White men.

Power and Sex:

You have all heard the following comments:  a woman’s role is in the kitchen, keep them barefoot and pregnant, or a woman must be obedient to her husband.  Love, honor and obey is the traditional marriage vows for a woman.  Women have been servants to men since Eve brought the apple to Adam to eat.  Today we are witnessing renewed attacks on a woman’s right to control her own body.  Texas and the US Supreme Court have supported legislation that would effectively gut the right to abortion for a woman in Texas.

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The powers behind the “Anti-Abortion” movement hide behind the mantra that all lives are sacred.  That neither religion nor government actually abides by this mantra is easily shown by the hypocrisy of both.  Almost all organized religions in the USA have flocked to support every war that the US has started despite the numerous deaths that each of these wars has entailed.  In most wars since WW II, there is seldom any mention of the deaths of noncombatants on the opposing side.  For instance, recently 13 military personnel were killed by a suicide bomber during the evacuation of Afghanistan.  Few reports mentioned the 130 Afghanis also killed during this attack.  The deaths of our citizens and other citizens are accepted by most organized religions in the US who actively oppose abortion on the grounds that it takes the life of a human being.  The only lives they seem to care about are “unborn.”

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The Catholic Church has been one of the most outspoken critics of abortion.  Displaying a gross hypocrisy, they have for centuries ignored the rights of women for contraceptive devices.  Even more egregiously they have ignored the numerous babies murdered since they were born to bishops and cardinals of the Catholic Church.  These children are often born to nuns as well as female parishioners.

In February of 2019, Pope Francis acknowledged a longstanding dirty secret in the Roman Catholic Church — the sexual abuse of nuns by priests…. “These poor women are forced to leave their order and live alone raising their child with no help,” she says. “Sometimes they’re forced to have abortions — paid by the priest because nuns have no money.” — “After Years Of Abuse By Priests, #NunsToo Are Speaking Out.”

6094292e34af8d001859bd5aMen want to control the reproductive rights of women.  It has taken the #metoomovement to start some noticeable changes in attitudes towards the rape and sexual harassment of women.  Politicians are the most notable hypocrites when it comes to the rights of women to determine what is rape and what is not rape.  Ministers do not lag far behind in this hypocrisy.  I could list hundreds of cases of politicians and ministers being outed for sexual harassment of women.  I am sure that you have seen enough of these cases in the news recently.  Nevertheless, male politicians occupy a special zone when it come to their belief that they have an unrequited right to a woman’s body.  Control is power and power is politics.  Sex is war.  Women who want the right to determine how their bodies are used are combatants in this war of sex.

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However, woman are not the only combatants in the war of sex.  For decades if not centuries the White Male power structure in the US has waged a war of sex against minorities.  Asians, Blacks, LGBTQ people and Native Americans have all at one time or another faced laws that determined who they could have sex with, when they could have sex and where they could have sex or even if they could have sex.  Some theories equate sexism with racism while others argue that there were economic reasons to oppose unbridled sexuality.

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“As late as the 1950s, almost half of the states had miscegenation laws. While the original statutes were directed wholly against black-white unions, the legislation had extended to unions between whites and Mongolians, Malayans, Mulattos, and Native Americans.  McLaughlin v. Florida was instrumental in paving the way for the 1967 case of Loving v. Commonwealth of Virginia. In that year, sixteen states still had laws that made interracial marriages illegal.” — Laws that Banned Mixed Marriages – May 2010

41V1UJoBQ1L._SX313_BO1,204,203,200_The battleground against mixed marriages and sex between opposing races and ethnic groups has now shifted to the issue of Gay sexuality.  I think the issues surrounding Gay rights clearly support the thesis that power is at the heart of many laws respecting sexuality rather than economics. (Economics does play a role and we will look at this role soon.) At the present time, there are no explicit statewide laws in 27 states to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations. — https://freedomforallamericans.org/states/

The powers that wanted to control sex between race and ethnic groups have clearly lost this battle, but they have not given up the war to control sex in America.  The war has been rejoined in the battle for a woman’s reproductive rights and in the battle for Gay people to have the same rights as Straight people.

prolifeblogpic1 Sex and Economics:

Perhaps the most forceful proponent of the theory that economic reasons were behind the control of sex has been the psychologist Wilhelm Reich.  Europe and the USA have always included some of the most sexually repressed nations on the face of the earth.  Reich saw sexual oppression as being a tool of the ruling class to keep people coming to work on Monday and supporting the needs of the power structure for willing workers.  Reich and many of his supporters believed that true freedom could only come about with a sexual revolution that challenged all restrictive laws against sex.  This would include laws against polygamy, adultery, miscegenation, sodomy, sex before marriage and Gay sex.

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Reich came to the USA from Germany where he had been persecuted for some of his ideas and theories.  When he came to the USA, he found a number of famous and influential people who gravitated to his ideas about sexuality.  The US government was not so enamored with his inventions and ideas.  It began a second persecution which ended up in Reich being sentenced to jail where he died.  Many of his supporters thought he was harassed because of his beliefs in sexual liberation and sexual freedom.  “Ralph Nader in his book, ‘The Chemical Feast’ criticized the FDA for expending an inordinate portion of its limited resources on ‘great quack campaigns’, such as the ‘vicious’ pursuit, carried out with ‘frightening rigor’”, of Reich.”  — Wilhelm Reich: the man who invented free love

460992-sex-lies-politics-0-230-0-345-cropI read Reich’s book “The Function of the Orgasm” while in graduate school.  I was struck by his ideas and the realization of how suppressed sexuality is in our society.  We do not treat it as we would any other normal human need.  Instead, we pass many laws governing what is right and what is not right, and we allow Madison Avenue to shanghai sexuality for the use of manipulating the rest of the country into buying junk and stuff that we do not need.

I can’t say that I ever believed in the inventions that Reich promoted and quite honestly that some of his ideas did strike me as quackery.  However, it is not much of a stretch to believe that Capitalism, Fascism, Communism, and every other economic system needs people who are willing to get out of bed every Monday morning to go to work.  What if we were all truly liberated sexually?  What if it was okay to stay in bed and fornicate rather than go to work?

“You beg for happiness in life, but security is more important to you, even if it costs you your spine or your life. Your life will be good and secure when aliveness will mean more to you than security; love more than money; your freedom more than party line or public opinion; when your thinking will be in harmony with your feelings; when the teachers of your children will be better paid than the politicians, when you will have more respect for the love between man and woman than for a marriage license.”   — Wilhelm Reich

Choices – Good Choices – Bad Choices – What’s in a Choice?

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John:

The following blog is a joint effort with my good friend Socorro.  It started as a conversation about her son who is now going through a divorce.  Socorro loves to take notes and summarize lectures, discussions, and various talks.  She is an excellent writer and poet and I keep encouraging her to create her own blog.  She is also quite a people person and one of the kindest and most thoughtful persons you will ever meet.  I am going to try to turn our discussion into a piece about choices.  The title and idea belong to Socorro.  My aim is to flesh out a little more detail about the concept of choices.

Socorro:   

John explains that the choices we make affect the quality of our lives.  If we have a poor life, it is usually because we have made “many” bad choices and not simply “one” bad choice.  As an example, he described an overweight 300-pound person.  This individual did not just one day make a choice to overeat and leave the dining room table obese.  It probably took hundreds of choices to overeat or under exercise to acquire such weight.  Every day for many years, this person made choices that led to his/her weight gain.  Reversing this weight gain will require the same number of choices in the opposite direction.  At each meal, the individual will need to eat less or exercise more to lose weight.

9780802418456-ingram__82879.1587600383John also gave the example of his brother Billy who drank, smoked, borrowed money, and never paid it back.  He once told his brother John that he was lucky since he had been given brains.  When their mom died, John and his sister Jeanine told Billy that he could have her house since both John and Jeanine owned homes.  The one condition was that he paid the upkeep and taxes since the mortgage was already paid for.  Over the next two years, Billy defaulted on a number of payments and the city almost repossessed the house.  John and Jeanine had to make the payments.  Deciding that enough was enough, they sold the house and split the proceeds three ways.  Billy of course was angry as he felt he had been treated unfairly.  He could never take responsibility for his bad choices.

Returning to the problem of my son’s divorce, Persico implied that he was making a number of choices which were not reasonable.  John stated that “Divorce is seldom rationale and nearly always emotional.”  Emotions do not usually lead to good choices.

John did his master’s thesis on the subject of divorced and separated men.  He researched and documented interviews with dozens of men.  In 1979, he wrote “The Problems of Divorced and Separated Men.”  His number one finding was that the major problem that men reported was keeping a good relationship with their children.  Fathers regretted the time away from their children and the loss of intimacy with their children.

John:

Parents intent on a divorce often ignore the impact that divorce will have on their children or what is best for their children.  Even less often do parents spend the time trying to resolve the problems of their marriage.  I could not find any statistics on the number of couples that seek out marriage counseling or marriage encounters to help repair their marriages, but I would guess from my experience with our own children that it is less than ten percent of couples.  Studies show that about 45 percent of couples receive pre-marital counseling and that it has very positive impacts on the success of a marriage.  (Consider the Benefits)

1623080034Some have argued that marriage counseling to prevent divorce is a waste of time and money.  The most frequent argument is “too little too late.”  There are many other reasons why statistics show a low rate of success with marriage counseling.  (Why Marriage Counseling Does Not Work)  I would argue that it is a little like trying to get the horses back into the corral once you have let them out.  It would be far better if more couples realized that marriage is not forever or love everlasting.  At least not without ongoing effort to improve the marriage.  If you are not working to improve anything, the laws of life say that it will get worse.  Why do so few people not understand this about marriage?

“I fell in love with him. But I don’t just stay with him by default as if there’s no one else available to me.  I stay with him because I choose to, every day that I wake up, every day that we fight or lie to each other or disappoint each other.  I choose him over and over again, and he chooses me.”  ― Veronica Roth, Allegiant

Socorro:

John learned from his own divorce along with observing and talking to people the mistakes that he made in his first marriage.  He had sought counseling with his wife, but it didn’t succeed in preventing their divorce.  After they separated, he continued searching for answers with a new counselor.  This counselor saw through to the main problems that John was not dealing with and empowered him to improve his own life.  He began making better decisions.

“You are not the victim of the world, but rather the master of your own destiny. It is your choices and decisions that determine your destiny.”  ― Roy T. Bennett

When John met Karen, who would become his second wife, they dated for six years before they married.  During their marriage, they have sought therapy together many times and have completed two Marriage Encounter weekends.  They have now been together for almost forty years.  They attribute the success of their marriage to ongoing efforts to continuously work on issues and problems.  There is never a month that goes by that some issue arises that must be dealt with.  They consider these ongoing efforts to be a normal part of life together.

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Couples clash over finances, in-laws, child rearing, home chores, work, religion, and a hundred other expectations.  The dysfunctions of our family of origin have often taught us bad choices that we bring into our new family.  Daily we make good or bad choices.  Intimacy, closeness, respect, communication, and creating a meaningful life are the ideals for couples.  The choices we make will determine the success of reaching our ideals.

The Gottman Institute is the culmination of Drs. John and Julie Gottman’s life work as researchers and clinical psychologists.  Their approach to relationship health has been developed from over 40 years of research with more than 3,000 couples—the most extensive study ever done on marital stability.  They reached several conclusions over what works and what does not work for married couples.  Couples who eventually divorced displayed one or more of the following characteristics: contempt, criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, going silent and shutting down. Their website Gottman.com has some valuable information on what helps to create a good marriage.  There is also a free application to assess interpersonal communication.

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My son and his wife are now divorcing after nine years of marriage and three young children.  As a grandparent, I am asking what is best for my grandchildren?  What is best for my son and my daughter-in-law?  Are they making good choices or bad choices?  Is there anything I can say or do that will help them to make better choices?

“But until a person can say deeply and honestly, “I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday,” that person cannot say, “I choose otherwise.”  ― Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Farewell to Life or Farewell to Death?

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Many years ago, I traveled down a wooded path that I had never been on before.  This story is about how that journey led me to the life that I am living today.

I was eighteen years old.  I had recently graduated from high school.  No awards, no summa anything and no college that would take me even if I had applied.  I always loved to meander in the woods and thoughts of heaven or hell were not intruding on me this bright sunny warm day in June.  As I trod a path that did not look very worn, I suddenly noticed a fork in the trail.  I could just make out somebody sitting between the two roads.  As I drew closer, it was apparent but none the less quite surprising to see that it was an old woman sitting on a log.

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“Good afternoon,” I said to the old woman.  “Same to you, young man,” she replied.  “I have not been on this road before; can you tell me which fork goes where?”  “Well,” she answered, “The right fork is the Farewell to Life fork and the left fork is the Farewell to Death fork.”  Thinking the woman was a little batty, I gave her my thanks, wished her a good day, and proceeded to take the right fork.

I thought a little about her response as I continued on my journey.  I wondered if it really meant anything.  Would one fork bring death and the other life?  I laughed as I assumed that it probably would not matter since I had chosen the life fork.  I was planning to be among the living when I reached its end and not among the dead.  I looked back and the crazy woman was nowhere in sight.

More than fifty-five years have passed since I met the old lady.  I have walked many roads, paddled many rivers, visited many lands, and wondered about the meaning and purpose of life innumerable times.  During my seventy-five years on this earth, I have said dozens of farewells to life.  All of them to date were farewells to the lives of people who were my friends and relatives and mentors.  My father died at 60.  My mother died at 67.  My sister died at 56 and my cousin and best friend died at 47.  Farewell is one of the saddest words in my vocabulary.  As I have aged, the number of farewells that I have had to say each year seems to be growing exponentially.

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A few weeks ago, I was on a solo hike in the Chequamegon National Forest about thirty miles north of Thorp, Wisconsin where my first wife was from.  I was on the Jerry Lake Segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail which goes through the Chequamegon National Forest.  I was intending on hiking down the trail to Jerry Lake and back.

Now I have never been known for my sense of direction.  My first wife and I always fought over which way to head but my masculine pride would never admit that she was usually right.  Marrying a second time, I finally found someone whose sense of direction is even worse than mine.  Both Karen and I are lost without a GPS or compass.  The good thing is that I now readily admit that I could get lost in my small back yard.  My masculine pride no longer prohibits me from shouting out “I’m lost.”

As I proceeded down the trail, it seemed that I was not getting any nearer to my intended destination.  It should have taken me about an hour to get to the lake and I had now been hiking for about two hours.  Two thoughts struck me at the same time.  The first was that I was lost.  The second was that I was approaching a fork in the trail ahead and something or someone was sitting between the two paths.  As I neared the fork, I rubbed my eyes just in case I was seeing things.  There on the trail ahead was an old woman who looked suspiciously like the old woman whom I had met fifty-five years before.  Of course, I thought, it could not be.  She would have to be well over a hundred years old.

senior-woman-sitting-log-holding-long-cane-senior-woman-sitting-log-holding-long-cane-countryside-village-people-131962771The strangeness of the situation caused me to be somewhat nervous about proceeding further but I thought, I have nothing to fear from an old lady.  Coming nearer to the woman, I jokingly asked if she was the same old woman whom I had met years ago and if she remembered me.  “Yes”, she said, “but you were much younger then.  How did your journey down the Farewell to Life trail go?”  How could this be I thought?  I don’t believe in magic, miracles, or spirits but suddenly, I began to take her words quite seriously.

“I am not so sure that I took the right trail.  Over the years, I have had to say many farewells to people whom I loved and who passed away long before they should have.  Life does not seem very fair to me.”  “Life is never fair,” she replied.  “Humans weigh things as though some type of cosmic scale existed, and that life could be apportioned perfectly equitably.  You have had a long life.  It has been very successful.  You have had more than your share of fame and fortune.”

“I am very confused.  I chose the Farewell to Life path but what would have happened if I had chosen the Farewell to Death path?  Would I live forever?”  She looked at me very gravely and said “I don’t think you really understand.  The Farewell to Life path is a path where you say farewell to the lives of others.  You yourself then went on to have a long if not happy or prosperous life, did you not?”

“Yes,” I said, “But what would my life have been like if I had chosen the “Farewell to Death path?”  “You would never have had to say farewell to any friends or anyone you cared about.  You would have gone to no funerals, burials, or memorials.  No farewells to the deaths of friends and families.  You would have died many years before those you loved.  Do you think this would have made you happier?  A short life that would have had little tragedy or reason to mourn would have been your legacy.”

“I do not think that would have made me happier.  Why can’t there be a third path in life?  Why are we doomed to either a long life with much unhappiness or a short life where we never experience the joys of getting older and wiser?”

The old woman slowly stood up.  She picked up a hiking stick and proceeded to walk off into the distance.  Before she left, she turned and looked into my eyes.  Very solemnly she explained, “I told you that life is never fair.  Humans always want what cannot be.  Farewell.”

Let life be beautiful like summer flowers and death like autumn leaves. — Rabindranath Tagore

 

T-RUMP Pressadental Liberry

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As many of you know, one of my favorite places in the world is the library.  I wrote a few blogs about my love for libraries which you can read at:

More recently, there has been much discussion among my library group concerning the possibilities of establishing a presidential library for our former President and hero, the esteemed Donald J. Trump.  We invited local residents and friends of the President (We all know Donald is the real President and the election was stolen) to submit ideas for a library to us.  We plan on establishing a fund for a Presidential library to honor the many contributions to America that were made by THE Donald.  The following is a composite of some of the ideas that were contributed by his loyal followers.  We are open to other ideas, and we believe that if the funds come through from loyal Republicans and not RHINOS, we can have this library built before Donald is reelected president in 2024.  Wouldn’t that be a nice gift for him?

Location and Donations:

To honor #45’s astounding single term, plans are underway for The T-RUMP Pressadental Liberry. Funds are being solicited for this fantabulous libraray. Be one of the first to donate. Donate often and donate BIG! The T-Rump Organization, LTD, has identified several key properties available for purchase on which to build the Liberry. Properties are actively being vetted to select the highest-valuation property for loan purposes, lowest-valuation for tax purposes. For updates, visit thegreatestpressadent.com website.

06-the-unsolicited-design-for-a-very-dark-trump-presidency-copy

Exciting liberry exhibits:

GOLF:

  • The first exhibit to greet visitors, will take up one-half of the Liberry, to reflect how DJT prioritized this activity during his Pressadency.
  • Golf score cards. The full collection of ALL 285+ golf games T-Rump played as #45. An impressive record of birdies, eagles, and a-holes-in-one. No matter the players , the Pres always WON!
  • MAGA -Make American Golf Again – hats worn by the Pressadent with orange sweat stains that indicate just how hard he worked.
  • A world map highlights all the T-Rump Golf Courses, with a list of the $142 million total U.S. government expenditures. Detailed descriptions of Secret Service stays, Coast Guard costs, Pressadental adult children’s trips, with security details, and congressional allies.

NOTE: For those under par visitors who aren’t good golfers, we look the other way if you cheat

FINANCES:

  • T-Rump tax returns for the past 20 years.

NOTE: Construction on this exhibit is currently in limbo. Check with the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York website for further information. 

download

DAILY PRESSADENTAL BRIEFING COLORING BOOK

  • This is the REAL one, not the knock-off for sale on Amazon for $120.21.
  • See the colorful pictures, charts, and graphs that make these intelligence briefings seem not so dire.
  • Try to decipher the margin notes from dismissed national security advisors like H.R, McMaster, John Bolton, and Mike Flynn.
  • Marvel at the different and brilliant color palettes each advisor chose to secure the Pressadent’s attention for more than ten seconds.
  • To quote #45, “No need to get serious about security. I like pictures.”

PUT ‘ER THERE, MAN-UP INTERACTIVE DISPLAY

  • Put your hand through the slot. feel the doughy, damp flesh from a small hand. The firm grip may be enough to cause real pain, before pulling you forward until your cheek slams into the glass enclosure.
  • A manly-man handshake that #45 used to greet, and almost topple, world leaders.
  • Bonus videos of the most famous handshakes play in the display’s background, with one notable exception. In the DJT and Justin Trudeau video, the two world leaders are seen only from the shoulders up. Apparently, Justin had trained for this encounter.

Million MAGA March

THE HEART OF THE STEAL:

  • Signed, 1st edition of “The Heart of the Steal,” DJT’s memoir of his unfounded allegations (but totally believable, possible, probable, and plausible to him and his acolytes) of the stolen 2020 Pressadental election.
  • The book jacket says it all:
    • “A page turner for all 5 pages. Brave and brief.” Eric T-Rump.
    • “Just as I dictated.” Vlad Who’s your Daddy?
    • “As flawed as the fraud of this election.” Don, T-Rump Jr.
    • “Fabulous fabrication. He’s a genius.” Rudy Giuliani
    • “Supremely Stupendous. Terribly Tremendous. Hugely and Harribly Horrendous, if I do say so myself. I deserve all the credit for this book, and MORE!” #45
    • “Proud to be his progeny.” Ivanka T-Rump-Kushner.
    • “We’re having a hard time keeping this one on the shelf,” said B & N spokeswoman, Paige Rieder. “It’s a bit unbalanced, falls apart when examined, so we’ve had to lock ‘er up.”

HISTORICAL PHOTOS

  • artworks-000187320210-959j60-t500x500Unretouched photo of the 2017 Inauguration crowd. When you approach the photo, hear Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s official estimate of “the largest Pressadental Inauguration audience, ever.”
  • Panoramic photo of the 2017 Women’s March on Washington crowd. There are no official estimates, because the T-Rump White House has never acknowledged that this event ever took place.
  • Photo of Donald grabbing a pussy . . .. hat. This is a family Liberry. The compilation video of the real pussy grabs will be shown in the pay-per-view booths on the lowest level. Also on display, the Palms d’Orzo Award this video received from Lui magazine.
  • Photos of Don with his Bromance Buddies – Vlad, Kim, Recep, Al Saud. Unfortunately, several of the Russian oligarchs declined to send photos from their secluded villas.

NOTE: The photo with Jeffrey Epstein has been terminated.

I’VE DONE MORE FOR BLACK PEOPLE THAN . . .

  • Small portrait of Abraham Lincoln, overshadowed by the quadrupled-sized one of # 45. “After all I did for all those black folks, I deserve the credit.”

NOTE: In this Liberry, black is not capitalized.

  • Rainbow flag to show DJT’s commitment to diversity, with stripes of all colors – lily white, snow white, creamy white, ivory, linen, porcelain, and white-white.

LIBATIONS

  • The first bottle of Pressadental red wine, Crabbernay, 2020 vintage
  • Some of the original sour grapes that went into the making of this libation are preserved with it. The entire display is supported with the twisted vines from which the grapes were picked.
  • This is sure to be a crowd pleaser, so order your case early. There’s a HUGE stockpile, but this product went out of production after Jan. 20, 2021. Even so, we expect it to ferment for decades.
  • NOTE: While DJT does not consume alcohol, he knows many of his followers imbibe to the point of being drunk. He only gets drunk on power.

JAIL CELL

  • A communal jail cell of wax figures for everyone T-Rump wanted to lock up – Barak Obama, Hilary Clinton, Gretchen Whitmer, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Adam Kitzinger, Hunter Biden, Liz Cheney, etc.
  • Cell walls are expandable to accommodate more enemies as they are identified. Think Mike Pence, Mitch McConnell, and almost anyone who has ever been loyal to him.

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WOMEN’S ISSUES

  • Complete list, with photos, of T-Rump’s bedmates. The known and the new. We think patrons will agree, they’re all good-lookers, not a dog among them. A prodigious list.
  • A pink pussy hat. The Liberrian is still deciding how the display mannequin should wear this item – on her head or between her legs. DJT has tweeted his preference, but our Liberrian is concerned patrons may be encouraged to grab it. “I’m fond of it, and wouldn’t want it to get manhandled,” she quipped.

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AUDIO ATROCITIES

  • Donald’s Diatribes – original recordings of the Pressadent’s earliest radio broadcasts on his own network, Rump Radio, established in 2021. You’ll delight at the static and stasis of his statements. Thrill at his titillating tantrums. Faint over his fraudulent factoids. A must-listen for those already indoctrinated and intoxicated.
  • January 22, 2017 Meet the Press video of Kellyanne Conway’s first utterance of the infamous phrase, “alternative facts.” Interesting to note that this was broadcast by a fake news channel, so it may not have actually occurred, in spite of archival footage of the event.
  • Continuous loop of Fox and Friends morning shows, especially those that fawn over DJT. His call-ins are broadcast at 120 decibels so he can be heard throughout the Liberry. While that sound level may harm your hearing, we believe many of the visitors are already deaf to his diatribes.
  • Flying through the air, a real Twitter storm. All 2,600+ tweets have been saved and transcribed on to a small piece of shit (used figuratively here, although the real tweets do reek even more with age.) The storm will rage throughout the Liberry’s hours with larger outbursts that coincide with snippets of mainstream media fake news items that particularly honked off #45.

BONUS BENEFITS

  • Big Mac wrappers. Because of the sheer volume, they will be used for wallpaper throughout the Liberry.
  • Super spreader events. Hopefully by the time the Liberry opens, we will still be able to hold these popular and populist rallies. The excitement is contagious.
  • Rally rosters. Find your name on the list of patriots who attended the campaign rallies. NOTE: Names are listed in descending order by the amount you donated. Any contribution less than $25,000 is not acknowledged. “With a second mortgage, ya coulda been a contenda.”

Direct large donations to Liberryisme@donaldjT-Rump.com, DISCLAMER: There is no guarantee that any of donated funds will be funneled into Liberry exhibits.

 

PS:  I wish I could claim to have written the above material but I cannot.  This blog/satire was done by a friend of mine who wanted to remain anonymous.  She is an excellent writer and story teller and has a wonderful sense of humor as you can tell from reading the blog.  

Where Have All My Young Friends Gone?

As many of you know Pete Seeger died on the January 27, 2014 at the age of 94.  He was one of the greatest folk singers and protest singers of all time.  His mission in life was to spread peace through his music and songwriting.   The song “Where have all the flowers gone” is widely attributed to Pete.  If fact, Wikipedia gives the following etiology:

The first three verses were written by Pete Seeger in 1955, and published in Sing Out! magazine.[1] Additional verses were added by Joe Hickerson in May 1960, who turned it into a circular song.[2]  In 2010, theNew Statesman listed it as one of the “Top 20 Political Songs”.[4]

Where_Have_All_the_Flowers_Gone-_(film)I have taken the liberty of altering the verses of this song for my blog.  I was reminiscing on some old photos the other day about friends, dreams, hopes, aspirations and loves that are now long gone.  Perhaps my recent surgery has made me realize my mortality.  While I never thought or even hoped to live forever, I often felt that I might.  Friends were always telling me how strong, vital, energetic and healthy I was.  I prided myself on my condition and my ability to overcome the normal aches and pains of the world.

I would like to use each “modified” verse from Pete’s song to simply express some feelings that I have about life and death.  Meditations on life and death were the purpose of this song, so I am staying true to its roots and intentions.  So many great singers have sung this song that it is hard to choose one to listen to.  However, as with many of my writings, I encourage you to click on the link and then listen to the song as you read my blog.  For someone to sing this song, I can think of no one more fitting and appropriate then Pete Seeger:  Where have all the flowers gone?

Where have all my young dreams gone, long time passing?
Where have all my young dreams gone, long time ago?
Where have all my young dreams gone?
Young friends have picked them everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn? 

I grew up with hopes and dreams for my life and the world.  Like many a young man, I ignored many of these dreams or did not realize the dedication and effort that it would actually take to make them a reality.  I played around with having my cake and eating it.  I thought that those who had “made” it got lucky or as we used to say in my old neighborhood, “They got the breaks.”  Other friends plucked some of these dreams as many of them were common to our culture.  I grew up as a “Baby Boomer” having been born on the cusp of this new wave in 1946.  We were going to change the world.  We would end war, sexism, racism, greed, hunger and environmental damage.

Where have all my young friends gone, long time passing?
Where have all my young friends gone, long time ago?
Where have all my young friends gone?
Gone for careers everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Something happened though.  Protests were difficult.  The system did not change overnight.  Peace was elusive.  The people we thought wanted help spurned our offers.  We could not fix the world overnight.  The world resisted our best efforts.  So we decided to just fix ourselves.  Many of us went back to college, either on the GI bill or with loans, grants and parental support.  We decided that maybe it was the way to change the world.  On the way to our super careers, we got married, had children, got fat and simply wanted to escape from crime, poverty and man’s inhumanity to man.

We moved to the suburbs and bought three bedroom homes with swimming pools and decks in the back so we did not have to see our neighbors.  We joined self-help groups, learned transcendental meditation, vegetarianism and Gestalt Therapy.  Our focus turned inward and we started to look at the world through prisms of narcissism and self-interest.  If we could not change the world, at least we could make a fortune; have perfect kids and a perfect marriage.

Where have all the boomers gone, long time passing?
Where have all the boomers gone, long time ago?
Where have all the boomers gone?
Gone for mansions everyone
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn? 

In a true irony of the dreams once held by boomers everywhere, the “Greatest Generation” had begat the “Greediest Generation.”   Hippies had turned into insurance agents and advertising executives.   Education for knowledge was lost in the need to obtain “marketable” job skills.  We turned inward and lost our souls.  Technology replaced our dreams for humanity.  Three car garages and a house on the beach or in the mountains became our driving mission.   MacMansions sprang up everywhere.  We became more concerned with the corporate vision statement then we did with the vision statement for humanity.

Of course, there were holdouts everywhere who became “old hippies” but they were derided as not being able to face reality.  The social revolutions we dreamed about became replaced by media and image revolutions.  What you knew was no longer as important as how you looked or who you knew.  Friends, followers and likes have become the norm for measuring social standing.  Gucci, Prada, Nike, Coach and other brand names became worth killing for or at least sacrificing our dreams for.   We wanted only the best for our kids, but the hell with your kids.

Where have all my old friends gone, long time passing?
Where have all my old friends gone, long time ago?
Where have all my old friends gone?
Gone to graveyards, everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn? 

Having read that the U.S. life expectancy in 2011 was 78.7 years, does not really do justice to the effects that human mortality have on you as you age.  There are several reasons for this including:  Accidents, murders, fatal diseases and the inevitable bell shaped distribution of “normal deaths”.  This latter fact means that if the average age of death is 79 years, then some people will die well before 80 and some will live much longer than 79.  The implications of this normal distribution of death is that I have gone to many funerals and observed many more funerals of friends and relatives who have died long before their “average” death should have occurred.  I have known joggers and marathon runners who have died of heart attacks or strokes in their thirties.

It seems hardly a day goes by when I do not hear of a friend or a friend of a friend who has passed away or been given a fatal prognosis for some malady they were never aware of.   The old adage about the only sure thing being “death and taxes” comes repeatedly to my mind.  In the last three weeks, we have had to purchase three sympathy cards for friends whose spouses or close relatives have passed away.  This trend only grows worse as you get older.  Instead of deaths each year, it becomes deaths each month and for me now it is close to being a death each week.  Who needs to be reminded about mortality?  The biggest questions become whether to try to attend the funeral, send flowers, send a card, send a donation or all of the aforementioned.   I don’t want to sound cynical.  This is simply life as you get older.  Thomas Jefferson once wrote to John Adams:

“There is a ripeness of time for death, regarding others as well as ourselves, when it is reasonable we should drop off, and make room for another growth. When we have lived our generation out, we should not wish to encroach on another. I enjoy good health. I am happy in what is around me; yet I assure you, I am ripe for leaving all, this year, this day, this hour.”
To John Adams, August 1, 1816

I have joked that after my surgery results indicated that the cancer was entirely removed, I could live to die in fifteen or so years from something else.   Actually, I was being literal and not really joking.  The mortality tables for an American Caucasian male who has reached 65 years of age, show that I have a good probability of living another 15 years of so.   That’s good news except that the way time flies when you get older, fifteen years no longer seems like a long time.  It is certainly not enough time for me to change the world and end war and hunger.  I guess I will have to work on something else, perhaps slowing time down some.  J

Where have all the graveyards gone, long time passing?
Where have all the graveyards gone, long time ago?
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Gone to old friends, everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn? 

Have you ever visited a graveyard?  They are one of my interesting places to visit.  I know that might sound morbid or strange but let me tell you some reasons why I think they are so interesting.  Once upon a time, my father told me that “I had nothing to fear in a graveyard.  I had more to fear from the living than the dead.”  I have always remembered his words and I fear no dead beings:  no vampires, no werewolves, no zombies, no ghosts, no goblins and no undead bother me in the least.  I do worry about many of the living though.   This is just one reason why I find graveyards as peaceful and contemplative places to spend a short time.

A second reason is my interest in history.  Many graveyards can tell you much about the past.  The inscriptions, dates, type of deaths, genealogy of deaths, place of death and manner of deaths are a treasure trove of interest if you have any curiosity in how people lived.  The history of many cemeteries and the history of those buried in these cemeteries is an encyclopedia of past life.  You can learn more in a graveyard than you can in many history books.

A third reason is the cultural diversity that one finds in cemeteries.  Certainly many countries differ in how they bury their dead and the accoutrements that are interred with them.  This alone is fascinating.  Karen and I have visited graveyards in about every country that we have been to.  Each country has some very unique features about their graveyards.  However, even within the USA and even within cemeteries in a single city in the USA, you will find a great deal of cultural diversity.  Some of it reflects social biases such as racism, where you find Whites and Blacks buried separately and some of it reflects religion (Jewish cemeteries, Catholic cemeteries, etc.) and some of it reflects economic status (rich versus poor) symbols and edifices in many cemeteries.

Cemeteries are of also interesting because of who is buried there.  You may not meet too many famous celebrities in your lifetime but I guarantee that there are a whole host of them you can visit who are now resting in their graves.  Many grave markers are fascinating in the comments that have been engraved in them.  Boot Hill cemetery in Tombstone, Arizona is famous for its epitaphs on the tombstones.  One of my favorite books is Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters in which the dead speak out from their graves about the life they once lived.

New cemeteries are built to house the new generation while older cemeteries are eventually lost to the ravages of time and nature.  Nothing seems more striking then to be hiking someplace remote and come across an old cemetery from the eighteenth or nineteenth century.  Any cemeteries older than that and you would need to be an archeologist to find them.

Where have all my young dreams gone, long time passing?
Where have all my young dreams gone, long time ago?
Where have all my young dreams gone?
Young friends have picked them everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

What was it Shakespeare said about man’s life?  That it is but a walking shadow.  That we strut about on a stage as though we were important; but in reality, our tales will be told by idiots and our lives are merely entertainment and signifying nothing.  “Out, out, brief candle!”   Too brief for most of us!  We may wonder why we were not designed to live for two hundred or even five hundred years.

Do you remember the Twilight story by Rod Serling of the man who sold his soul for immortality?   The escape clause written in by the Devil was that he could die anytime he was tired of living.  He laughed since he thought he would live for a thousand or more years, however within weeks he had grown bored with life and he exercised his escape clause and died of a heart attack.   Be careful of what you ask for is very often an accurate statement.

We create dreams and hopes and our lives our fueled by these dreams and visions.  Some of us dream of the sacred, some of us of the mundane but perhaps more of us of the profane.   Many of us realize our dreams only to find out that we did not want them.  We often sell our souls much too cheaply.  The unintended consequences of life are always much greater than our imaginations could project.   Timothy Leary dies of Prostate cancer.  Jerry Rubin becomes an insurance salesman.   Abbie Hoffman commits suicide.  Huey Newton killed by former members of the Black Panther party.  Google goes from counterculture to mainstream culture.   Movies are made about Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.  YouTube and Wikipedia are accepted as legitimate venues for research and education.  Villains become heroes and heroes are found to be villains.   Not to become disillusioned becomes the real secret of happiness.

What goes around does not simply come around; it is morphed in the ever changing cycle of life and becomes something new and unrecognizable.   Dreams and hopes are continually recycled from one generation to the next.  Each generation takes its chance at the cycle in often vain attempts to make a difference.  Eventually they will run out of energy and steam and it is then left to the next generation to keep the cycle of dreams and hopes turning.

“Birth and Death are words we chose to describe the doorways in and out of a cycle. This cycle is connected to a larger cycle which awaits our return.  It is all just like breathing.  Remove the fear and judgment to recognize the same pattern as a principle everywhere.”
― Franklin Gillette

Time for Questions:

How does the cycle of life and death affect you?  Is it something you think about?  Do you see other cycles in your life?  Which cycles are the most important to you?  Does it do any good to try to change a cycle?  Can we make a difference or is it all fate?  How would we know if we did not try?  Where have you made a difference?  Where do you wish you had or could have made a difference? What stopped you?   What would you do different if you were born again?  What if you knew you would go on being born again and again?  How would your life be different?

Life is just beginning.

I have a good friend and we argue all the time about fate and destiny and what we can change and what we can not change.   I say we can make a difference and that life is not predetermined.  Each time we breathe we choose.  Does this make me an existentialist? I say my friend is a determinist but he has many compelling arguments which are often hard to dispute.

 

 

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