Deconstructing Fairy Tale Enigmas and Conundrums

piccit_disney_characters_1920x1200_2016378203-1680x0

Once upon a time there was a town that had a rat problem.  It decided to hire a Pied Piper who could lure the rats away from town with his magic flute.  Okay, you probably know the rest of the story.  He got rid of the rats, but the town managers refused to pay him.  So the Piper got out his magic flute and lured all the young children away.  They were never seen again.  Incredibly sad.  But is it plausible?  Let’s examine a few questions here:

  1. What kind of a flute could lure both rats and children? Wouldn’t the frequencies Rattenfaenger_Herrfurth_Pied-Piperrequired be different?  Could children hear the same frequencies as rats?
  2. Where did he take all the rats? What would stop them from coming back again?
  3. Why did he steal the kids? Why not lure the town managers away?  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get rid of our politicians that easily?
  4. Most importantly, what happened to the kids? If they survived, how would the Piper feed hundreds of kids?  If they did not survive, how did he kill them?  Would the Piper really have been nasty enough to murder hundreds of little children?  And if he did, who would ever hire him again?

Lots of questions but we simply accept the story as it is told.  And that my friends is the problem.  We go through life simply accepting fairy tales without ever questioning them.  For instance, the Trickle-Down Fairy Tale.  This tale says that if we give lots of money to the rich, the money will somehow work its way down to the poor.  Most poor people I know believe this fairy tale.  Most poor people are still waiting for it to happen.

Deconstruction is defined as “A method of critical analysis of philosophical and literary language which emphasizes the internal workings of language and conceptual systems, the relational quality of meaning, and the assumptions implicit in forms of expression.”  I am going to use this concept loosely to look at several old and new fairy tales.  We will look to see if we can find the obvious truths that we take for granted.  Searching for the truth often requires us to cast common myths and assumptions aside and pursue the dangerous and mysterious.  I am going to apply deconstruction to the enigmas (“A person or thing that is mysterious, puzzling, or difficult to understand.”) and conundrums (“A confusing and difficult problem or question.”) that are inherent in most fairy tales.

images

Cinderella:

Once upon a time there was a lonely and mistreated girl named Cinderella.  Cinderella is a popular fairy tale with its stereotypical evil step-mother and beautiful but hapless heroine.  Cinderella lived with her two stepsisters and her evil stepmother who made her life hell.  But along came a fairy Godmother who turned things around for Cindy.  Throw in a handsome prince, money and a giant castle and you have the stuff of a fairy tale that still thrills young girls and would be princes.  But I have a few questions:

  1. Ok, I will give you the fairy Godmother with superpowers to transmute organic material into other organic material (mice to horses) as well as pumpkins into a carriage. But if she has such powers why can’t they work past 12 Midnight?
  2. What was Cinderella’s plan after the prince fell madly in love with her? Was she going to get anything else from her stepmother to help with next steps?  It does not 618bdeaaba384270870seem like there was any long-term strategic plan here.
  3. Do you really think that the King would let his heir apparent marry a commoner, no matter how beautiful she was?  If that was the case, why couldn’t the fairy Godmother give Cinderella a million bucks or at least make her a princess?
  4. Where would Cinderella learn palace etiquette? Would she be accepted in court with the manners of a scullery woman?  I doubt it.  I think divorce would have been pretty quick.
  5. What about the poor stepsisters?  So they were ugly.  Doesn’t this story smack of discrimination on the basis of looks and beauty?  Where was the Godmother for the two ugly stepsisters?  Seems to me that they were the ones who needed the most help.  All Cindy needed was a makeover and a gown, but the two sisters needed extensive plastic surgery.

Homeless woman smoking

Anybody Can Be President in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave:

This is a wonderful fairy tale.  It is one that we all grow up hearing and ultimately believing.  “In the USA, anyone with drive, passion and a vision can be President of the USA.”  But let’s be realistic.  Looking at the statistics, we see that:

  • 44 out of 45 Presidents have been white
  • 45 out of 45 Presidents have been male
  • 36 out of 45 Presidents had a net worth in today’s dollars of >$1,000.000
  • 0 out of 45 Presidents have been Latino
  • 0 out of 45 Presidents have been Asian
  • 0 out of 45 Presidents have been female
  • 0 out of 45 Presidents have been Native American

Not since Harry Truman (1953) have we had a president worth less than one million dollars net worth.  Now if there are 328,000,000 people in the USA and we subtract from the total amount of people living in the USA those with little chance of becoming President, (I list each of the above characteristics that do not seem to play well with one’s odds of becoming President) we can see how many people really do have a chance of becoming fulfilling this fairy tale.

328.2 million people in the USA (2019)

-76.29 million Black and White men under the age of 35.  (Must be at least 35 to be President.)

-73.29 million Black and White women under the age of 35

-85.1 million Black and White women over the age of 35 (Not good odds since none have made it yet)

-27 million Latino women

-15.4 million Latino men under the age of 35 (Not excluding Latino men over 35)

-9.7 million Asian American women

-4.66 million Asian American men under the age of 35 (Not excluding Asian American men over 35)

-3.2 million Native American women

-1.77 million Native American men under the age of 35 (Not excluding Native American Men over 35)

I have not forgotten LGBTQ people, but I have not found a way to eliminate them by ethnicity or gender from the general census data.  I did not subtract Asian American, Latino or Native American men over the age of 35 who I think may still have a better chance of being president than a woman.  African American men over the age of 35 are also included since their probabilities are now somewhat higher since President Obama’s election. 

Subtracting the groups that are not likely to see a presidency in the near future we are left with:  31.79 million men over the age of 35 who have a chance of being president.

We will assume that you will likely need to be a millionaire to be elected President.  5.8 percent of the US population are millionaires.  Let’s estimate that between 3 to 4 percent of all millionaires are either males over the age of 35.  The rest of the millionaires being either female or males under the age of 35.  Then we multiply 31.79 million x 5.8 % to find the Final Total number of people in the USA who may rightfully feel that they have a chance to be president.  Trumpets please.  The final number is:

1.113 million

Thus, if you are born in the USA, and you are a male over 35 who is rich your chances of becoming President are about 1 in a million.  White males will no doubt continue to hold an advantage for the foreseeable future.  Well, at least that is better odds than winning the lottery.  However, the lottery pays a lot more.

8c85c3d7f23cb90be3df3f1108aa73a8

Goldilocks and the Three Bears:

Once upon a time there was a mischievous and naughty little girl named Goldilocks.  Goldilocks was spoiled rotten by her parents who gave her everything she wanted.  They named her Goldilocks because of her bright yellow hair.  One day Goldilocks decided to go out for a walk in the woods.  She soon came upon a small cottage and decided to peek in the windows.  She was a very nosy child.  Upon looking through the window, she spied a table with three bowls of hot porridge just sitting there.  She did not see anyone inside and decided that she was hungry and that she was entitled to a bowl of cereal.  She held the belief that everything belonged to her and that included the porridge.  She tried the door and upon finding it open, she entered the home.

Have you noticed that Cowboy Stories, Comedy Romances and Fairy Tales all have happy endings?  For the rest of us, it’s death and taxes.

At this point, I am sure that you remember the rest of the story.  She eats three bowls of porridge.  Do you think she was maybe obese to begin with?  She breaks the little bear’s chair when she tries to sit on it.  Proof that she was too fat!  And then messes up all the bear beds and finally gets caught by the bears when they come home.  At this point, Mama bear would probably have messed up the kids face for messing with her nice clean beds.  But as far as I know, Goldilocks gets out alive and runs home where her parents continue to spoil her rotten.  So a few questions to deconstruct things if you will indulge me.  I will give you the anthropomorphic bears as a gift even before we begin.

  1. How did a fat kid get so far into the woods that she found a bear den or cottage?
  2. Where did the bears purchase their furniture and porridge? Do fairy tale bears shop at the same stores as humans?
  3. Bears can run at speeds upwards of 30 mph, how come they could not catch Goldilocks?
  4. Why were the bears eating porridge? Is that a traditional bear food?
  5. If the bears lived that close to other human dwellings (Assuming a fat kid could not walk too far) how come no one warned Goldilocks about the bears?
  6. What is the moral of this story anyway? Spoiled kids should not mess with bears or eat porridge that does not belong to them?

download (1)

The United States of America is the Greatest Democracy on Earth:

This is one of my favorite fairy tales.  According to this story, there was this exceptional group of people who banded together to form a more (and almost) perfect nation where democracy ruled.  It would be a government of the people, by the people and for the people.  According to the Fairy Godfather, who was named Thomas Jefferson, everyone in this country would be free except: Black People, Indian People, LGBTQ People and Women.

This country would be based on a democratic form of government where each person had one vote (Except Black People, Indian People and Women).  Representatives would be fairly elected and would make great and wonderful decisions for the people based on their superior knowledge and intellect.  Democracy would be a rule of the majority with CONCERN for the minority.  Thus Black people could continue to be happy down on the old plantations, women could continue to stay barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen and Indians could happily walk many miles to their new homes on the reservations.  What a great place America would be.

There was only one snag though.  Jefferson said that you could not really have a Democracy without two things:

  1. An educated citizenry who could make informed decisions.
  2. A free press which would keep people informed.

download

Now, in the fairy tale, voters are all given equal opportunity to vote.  There is no voter suppression, Jim Crow laws or gerrymandering.  A vote is a vote is a vote.  Also in the fairy tale, the government is “for the people” not “for the Corporations.”  Representatives are looking out for the best interests of the people and not big business.  There are also no bad guys in the fairy tale.  These are the things that make the fairy tale so great and insure a happy ending.  In real life we have the greedy lobbyists, the corrupt politicians, the sycophantic followers and the corporations who buy votes.  Real life does not have happy endings.

But before we finish with deconstructing this fairy tale, we must say something about Jefferson’s two conditions for a democracy noted above.  In the fairy tale we have great public education systems where people are taught to think for themselves and to be able to tell lies from the truth.  In real life of course, schools do not teach critical thinking and students cannot distinguish lies from truth.  However, they are excellent at finding the right answers to exam questions.

Turning to the issue of a free press, in the fairy tale, we have courageous journalists who seek out the truth and who will print it regardless of the consequences.  In the fairy tale, journalists are motivated by a desire to inform the public and to ensure that information about critical issues is widely available.  In real life, most journalists are hacks whose major skills involve writing good clickbait lines to draw you into an extensive amount of advertising designed to make money for the corporations running their newspaper.  Profits and not information are the motivators in real life for newspapers and media.

So there you have it.  I have deconstructed some major fairy tales.  If you live in the USA, I am no doubt sure that you have read or heard of all of these.  Just to be clear, I love fairy tales and the fantasies that they give us.  Without fairy tales, we would have to live in the real world 24/7 and who could do that without going out of their minds?

“There must be possible a fiction which, leaving sociology and case histories to the scientists, can arrive at the truth about the human condition, here and now, with all the bright magic of the fairy tale.” — Ralph Ellison

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Wonder Who’s Curious Today?

cultivate-the-winning-habit-of-intellectual-curiosity-1-638

I wonder how many great novels have started out with these two words: “I Wonder?”  Ok, I am curious, so I will find out.  “Google, how many great novels have started with the words: ‘I wonder’?”   Well, I found “Wonder” a great book about children who are different and Natalie Merchant’s beautiful song “Wonder” about the same subject, but no list of great novels.  I will try again: “Novels beginning with the words ‘I wonder’.”

Wow, now I have found a list of some interesting books.  Foremost among the list of books is “I Wonder as I Wander: An Autobiographical Journey: by Langston Hughes.

In I Wonder as I Wander, Langston Hughes vividly recalls the most dramatic and intimate moments of his life in the turbulent 1930s.

His wanderlust leads him to Cuba, Haiti, Russia, Soviet Central Asia, Japan, Spain (during its Civil War), through dictatorships, wars, revolutions. He meets and brings to life the famous and the humble, from Arthur Koestler to Emma, the Black Mammy of Moscow. It is the continuously amusing, wise revelation of an American writer journeying around the often strange and always exciting world he loves.

Now I am getting somewhere.  Although sadly, Mr. Hughes stole the title of my proposed next book.  But I will let it go.  I am sure I can think of another title.  But the point that I am thinking about is that wonder and curiosity is or should be the essence of our lives.  “Once upon a time” is probably the most popular starting words for many stories, but I propose that “I wonder” should be the start of any journey.  More stories need to start with “I Wonder.”

20850de-300x300

I wonder why they do not?  I think I know.  Schools do not encourage wonder and curiosity. Schools encourage learning the right answers to pass tests.  Society does not encourage wonder and curiosity.  How many times have you heard “Curiosity killed the cat?”  Of course, the retort is “And satisfaction brought it back.”  But there is already the societal warning that curiosity can kill you.  Consider one of the most famous anti-heroines in history and her story about wonder and curiosity.

debfcabe3a329e58d451650b7bbe3120653267d4r1-299-371v2_uhqPandora was the first human woman created by Hephaestus on the instructions of Zeus.  Pandora was a curious woman.  She was given a jar or box by the conniving Zeus with all the evils of the world.   Being a woman (sexism at its earliest) she could not resist peaking in the box.  So she opened it and inadvertently allowed all the evils within lose upon the world.  The only thing that did not fly out of the box was the spirit of Hope which remained in the box when Pandora put the lid back on.  Thus to this day, our world is full of evil but balance always by the ever-present Hope that things will be better.  Nothing could be more fitting than Hope for the times we live in today.

Here is a great song to listen to about Pandora’s Box by David Francey

Now, I have been teaching since 1975, on and off. I have taught every grade from preschool, to elementary school to high school and up though grad school.  There are trends and fads in teaching like in business and society.  Many argue every year about what the “core curriculum” of a school should be.  Some say math is essential, some say English is essential.  Some want civility to be added to the curriculum and some are still fighting over the dreaded “Sex education.”

One of the most popular subjects today is “Critical Thinking Skills.”  Every single teacher in America believes that “Critical Thinking” should be part of every curriculum yet less than five percent of any curriculum is allotted to these skills. There simply is not enough time to teach everything that people want to see taught.  Particularly, when we have standardized tests to prepare for and a believe that what was good for the Greeks and Middle Ages is still valid today.

Here is a great song for the curious:  “Be Curious” with English lyrics by Humood Alkhuder

I could leave every one of these subjects behind.  It is my belief that schools should only teach one thing.  That thing would be “wonder and curiosity.”  I doubt if anyone would agree with me.  I can hear the arguments now: “Schools must prepare children for life.”  “Schools must prepare children for jobs.”  “Schools must prepare children for society.”

Young Child looking through Magnifying Glass

Just think for a second.  What if schools actually did teach children to be more curious?  What if they taught children to wonder about the world, to wonder about life, to wonder about people?  What would anyone imbued with a sense of wonder be like?

5 Benefits of Being A Curious Person by Leigh Weingus

  1. It can strengthen your relationships.
  2. It can help protect your brain.
  3. It can help you overcome anxiety.
  4. It correlates with happiness.
  5. It can help you learn pretty much anything.

You will find many articles about the virtue of curiosity on the web.  You will also find many of the components of curiosity.  Whether or not we can teach curiosity is perhaps another issue.  I have seen little in my many years of education that show we have the desire or knowledge to teach children to be curious.  If anything, I think curiosity is an innate trait which rather than nurture we do the best to kill.  Children ask fewer and fewer questions as they progress through our school systems.

‘Schools are killing curiosity’: why we need to stop telling children to shut up and learn – The Guardian

Imagine if you will that kids were not taught answers but were taught questions.  Anyone who has ever raised a child knows that they are the most curious little creatures on the face of the earth.  But right from childhood on, we do our best to extinguish this innate curiosity.

Group of Elementary Pupils In Classroom Answering Question

Imagine if kids who asked, “who made the world?” or “why do I have to do that?” were given the quest to investigate and come back with their own opinions.  Imagine if children who asked, “why are some people racist?” or “why do people hurt other people?” were told “Well, I don’t really know, but can you research this and come back and tell the class what you have found out?”

0_LLQaU6huYkEYU7Ah

Imagine if we had leaders who asked more questions and looked more to experts to help solve social problems rather than political polls.  Imagine if politicians were curious about life and wanted to explore life rather than control it.  Imagine if stories written in newspapers and the media were less biased and more honest about what is known and what is not known.

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day.  — —”Old Man’s Advice to Youth: ‘Never Lose a Holy Curiosity.'” LIFE Magazine (2 May 1955) p. 64” — Albert Einstein

3525 – Friday, September 6, 2019 — Those Were the Days My Friend!

maxresdefault

My blog this week is based on a song that was made popular by Mary Hopkin’s in 1968.  The original writer was Gene Raskin.   Gene added English lyrics to a Russian song called “By the long road” which was composed by Boris Fomin (1900–1948).  The song in its many manifestations had continued to be about reminiscence and youthful idealism.  In my version below, I have taken some liberties with the lyrics and have added my thoughts on age and youthful idealism.   If you care to listen to the Hopkin’s song while reading my blog, click on the following link and then return to my site. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QptZ8tYZAkE

Once upon a time we shared a dream
When we believed that we were special
And we laughed away our evenings
Thinking of the success that would bring us great esteem

I grew up loving science and mathematics.  In the late fifties and early sixties, the space age was just beginning.  I wanted to be a part of the new wave of exploration and I dreamed of becoming an astronaut.  I read books on physics and relativity and quantum theory.  I believed that knowledge was the key to achieving my dreams.  Somehow, I never thought that my desires were above my head or possibilities.

Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d dream and dream forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way

When I finished high school. I knew what Harvard and Brown and Yale stood for.  If you had money or were the siblings of any alumnus, you could apply to one of them.  If your father was a postal worker and your mother a part-time clerk at Woolworth, you had neither pull nor money.  The money probably mattering only slightly more than the connections or pull one needed to get into an Ivy League school in the sixties.  Truth be told, I did not even have the money or grades to get into a state college.  Without a college education, my dreams of becoming a pilot or an astronaut were shear fantasy.

A few weeks after high school, the only real possibility I had for a future was in the United States Military.  The war in Vietnam was starting to ramp up when I graduated in 1964 and it was said that the service would take a warm body.  I applied and did very well on the military exams.  I decided that I liked the Air Force uniform better than the Navy, Army or Marine uniforms.  Up and away on my first airplane ride to Lackland AFB for basic training.

Then the busy years went rushing by me
I lost my starry notions on the way
If by chance I’d see you in the city
We’d smile at one another and we’d say

Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d dream and dream forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way

I married while still in the service.  I was only 21 and my wife Julie was only 20.  Julie was several months pregnant when we married.  Somewhere along the way she became very sick and was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.  She spent several months in the University of Minnesota hospital while pregnant with our first-born child Christina.  Christy arrived while Julie was still in the hospital and in 1968 I was ordered by a young nurse to help out in the delivery room.  Thus, I was on the forefront of the new age for fathers and husbands.  Something, I was reluctant at the time to join.

Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d dream and dream forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way

The years have flown by since then.  Many friends have either passed away or orbited out of my universe.  My first marriage ended in divorce.  My daughter has not spoken to me for nearly twenty years now.  My dreams of business success have become so much flotsam in a sea of failed possibilities.  Always told how smart I was, my intelligence never seemed to add up to anything that I could put in the bank.  Dreams of greatness in some non-financial endeavor (which became my fallback position) are now floating away alongside of my business aspirations.

Just tonight I stood before my mirror
Nothing seemed the way it used to be
In the glass I saw a strange reflection
Was that broken person really me

I am now fighting the battle of growing old.  Energy forfeiting time to naps.  Days spent in a doctor’s office.  Buying sympathy cards by the dozen.  Learning to be a caregiver.  Dealing with an ever-increasing number of aches and pains.  Muscles that do not respond or recover as quickly.  Friends that spend what seem like long hours describing medical conditions and treatments.  Loved ones that I worry about more and more.  Trying to figure out what is appropriate for the next funeral.  Wondering if there is something else besides “My condolences” that I can say.

Through the parlor door there came familiar laughter
I saw your face and heard you call my name
Oh my friend I am a great deal older but no wiser
For in my heart, the dreams are still the same

My dreams, I never gave up on you.  I substituted hard work and determination for luck and chance many years ago, but they did not prove a path to you.  You might think me shallow or that I abandoned you, but nothing could be farther from the truth.  Hardly a day goes by when I don’t think about giving you one more shot.  I ask myself if ten years is enough, for that is about what I have left.  My self-bribe is that it is never too late as long as I do not give up hope.  But is my heart really in it?  Do I want you bad enough to keep on fighting for you?  I somehow sense a certain futility, like taking another turn at bat is not going to get me a home run.  Hard to admit, but maybe I never was and never will be a home run hitter.  Is this a battle that I am going to lose in this life?

Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d dream forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way

Those were the days, oh yes those were the days!

 

 

3625– Wednesday, May 29, 2019 – Make Believe or Reality!

I have always loved music.  I am tone deaf.  I cannot sing a lick or carry a tune.  I don’t know a clef from a chord, and I cannot even play a harmonica.  However, I have never heard a genre of music that I did not like.  From Bollywood to Reggae to Funk to Hip Hop to K-Pop to Opera to Classical to Enka to Tex-Mex to Flamenco to African American Gospel, I love them all.  I do not love all songs equally of course.  In every genre, I have some favorites but just like I love trying a new food, I delight in finding a new genre of music.  Each genre has its gems and stars.  Each has something to offer us.

real or make believe

Music plays a special roll in my life.  Not only do I love to listen to music, but many songs have inspired me to write.  I often find a refrain or lines from a song that seem to cry out for a blog or for someone to say something about them.  If music is the sound of color, then writing about music is the voice of music floating on pages of white papyrus.  Each letter in the alphabet is a tone and when you string them together in words, and sentences and paragraphs, they want to be heard and they ask the reader to listen and to tap to their beat.  Words are melodies that can resonate just like the notes from a piano or a guitar.

One of my old standards is of course American Rock and Roll.  Growing up in the sixties, you would be hard pressed not to have listened to hundreds of the first rock and roll songs.  A singer that I loved back in those days was Conway Twitty.  Some lyrics from a song of his that are rolling around in my brain today goes like this:

But myself I can’t deceive
I know it’s only make believe

I am wondering how much of my life is make believe.  I doubt that 100 percent is, but I think some portion is.  Let’s say that 40 percent of my life is make believe, then I question what are those aspects that are make believe?  First of course, we must agree on what “make believe” is.  Without going to a dictionary, I propose that for something to be make believe it has to be a total fiction that is self-consciously induced.  Meaning, that I fabricate the make believe in my own mind.  Make believe includes fictions, lies, fables, delusions and fantasies that have no basis in reality but are things that I hold dear.  That can’t be me can it?  Can I the most rational logical unemotional person in the universe have any make believes?  Did you say bullshit when I said I was the most rational etc.?  Is that one of my “make believes?”  Well Sir, I am sure that is the only one I have.

“What” my wife Karen says, “about your ideas that men are inherently better drivers than women.”  “Hmm, okay, maybe I have one or two others.”  Still a long way to go until I reach 40 percent.

But myself, I can’t deceive,
I know my faults, my fantasies and my dreams are only make believe

Well, damn it.  Isn’t there a problem here then?  How much do I really know about myself versus how much do I not know?  Do you remember the model in psychology called the JOHARI Window?  There are four quadrants in this model:  As follows with some examples:

Known to others Unknown to others
Known to me I am an old looking guy Secrets about my family
Unknown to me I was sarcastic yesterday When will I die?

 

My “make believes” probably lie in the known to others and unknown to me quadrant.  A goal that psychologists say we should pursue is to increase our knowledge of the unknowns to us.  Some of these unknowns we can find by being more transparent and open to input and feedback from “others.”

Often though our make believes are an armor which protects us from the things we fear.  As life goes on, day by day, aging can seem to bring more and more things for us to fear.  Things we now fear that we never gave a second thought to when we were younger.  “I can’t do that because I might.”  “What if?”  Perhaps one of the worst things about growing old is to live a life that is the very opposite of the poem by Dylan Thomas.

“Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Ragerage against the dying of the light.” – Dylan Thomas

Instead, we tread more carefully, we flicker and whimper and at the dying of the light we cower under the covers.  Easy to do.  I cast no aspersions against the hardships of aging.  For many, I am sure, much more difficult than it has been for me.  So, I go back to my make believes.  I am sure that today I am:

Twenty-two years old.  I am dashing and handsome and athletic.  All the men want my autographs and all the women want my hand in marriage.  I am a Nobel Prize winner and a Rhodes Scholar.  I have six Olympic gold medals and five bestselling books on the Times list.  Faust often confers with me and Socrates borrows ideas from me to use with his pupils.  Pavarotti takes voice lessons from me.  Kings, movie stars and rich people line up at my door each day and clamor for a visit with me.  I am gracious and kind and compassionate and spend time and money to help the poor and needy.

But its only, only Make Believe.

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”
― J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan

 

Requiem for America:  Our Battle with Fate

fortune

Many of you have no doubt heard the tone poem by Carl Orff titled Carmina Burana.  One of the famous parts of this musical piece is taken from a poem called “O Fortuna.”  It is a Medieval Latin poem written early in the 13th century.  I started thinking about it today as Trump became the 45th President of the United States of America.  I have never much believed in fate, preferring to think that we are masters of our own destiny and fate be dammed.  But as the inexorable reality of the inauguration kept intruding on my existence, I was forced back to the conclusion that perhaps fortune does rule the world.  (To listen click here O Fortuna)

Like the moon you are changeable,
ever waxing and waning;
hateful life first oppresses and then soothes as fancy takes it;
poverty and power it melts them like ice.

I loathe this Son of a Bitch.  I loathe his values.  I loathe his words.  He represents everything I hate in myself and in humanity.  We keep trying to destroy the racism and fear and prejudice that we are brought up with but fate impels us to confront a world that seems to thrive on such iniquities.  My relatives, my friends, my co-workers —- they voted for this reprobate and now exult in his coronation.  I stand impotently on the sidelines questioning (as many Jews in the Holocaust questioned) why God has deserted us.  Have we committed some grave sin worthy of the future that fate now seems to have assigned us?

Trying against
Fate – monstrous and empty,
you whirling wheel,
you are malevolent,
well-being is vain and always fades to nothing,
shadowed and veiled you plague me too;
now through the game I bring my bare back to your villainy.

My good intentions.  My desire to be tolerant and virtuous.  My goal to treat others with compassion and kindness all seem to melt in the face of a Fate that decries a monster who will now rule over us.  I hear the voices that say “give him a chance.”  I wonder what chance they want.  A chance to create more greed.  A chance to create more racism.  A chance to create more sexism.  Have we not enough bigotry in this country?  Have we not enough inhumanity towards others?  We created the Atom bomb.  We created the Hydrogen Bomb.  We created weapons of biological and chemical warfare that can destroy millions.  We take no heed whether they kill children or innocents.  We are now all guilty in our incessant warfare.  The only thing that counts is creating more efficient means of murdering people.

Fate is against me in health and virtue,
driven on and weighted down,
always enslaved.
So at this hour without delay pluck the vibrating strings;
since Fate strikes down the strong man,
everyone weep with me!

I wake up disbelieving that I live in this reality.  I joke that I am in Wonderland and whatever one believes is the reality that exists.  But I did not believe in this reality.  I have done everything that I thought I could to help make the world a better place.  I thought my friends and family and neighbors wanted the same world that I wanted.  It seems clear now that we did not share the same reality.

I curse the fate that has brought our nation to this point.  I curse the people that voted for this Frankenstein.  I curse the party that nominated this abomination.  Deep inside, I wonder what I did to contribute to this horror.  Does my own hate somehow create the fate that I seek to escape from?

Abraham, John, Robert and Martin all dead — killed by that coward called fate.  But let us not forget Jimmie Lee Jackson and Clyde Kennard and Juliette Hampton Morgan and James Reeb and Jonathan Myrick Daniels and Viola Gregg Liuzzo and Vernon Dahmer and Oneal Moore and George Lee and Harriet and Harry Moore.  They also were martyrs.  They also died fighting fate.

Do not believe that the good die young.  The good die pregnant with a dream for a better world.

Time for Questions:

So what is left?  Nihilism?  Apathy?  Hate?  Bitterness?  Resistance?  Fight?  Hope?  Will a dream for a better America arise from the ashes of despair?

Life is just beginning.

“I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.”  —   Booker T. Washington

fortune

Happy New Year:  Welcome to 2016  The Best Year in the History of the Human Race!

New-Years-ResolutionsToday is the day when we make new resolutions and promises galore.  A time to begin over and to make dreams and wishes come true that did not work out the year before.  We bring in the New Year as a new born baby, full of promise and youth.  Some skeptics might look at the trail of broken commitments from bygone years and laugh at the efforts of others.  Such cynics ignore the profound possibility of hope and change.   (Listen to the Hope Song by Lata, it will inspire you more than my words ever could)

True wisdom is less presuming than folly. The wise man doubteth often, and changeth his mind; the fool is obstinate, and doubteth not; he knoweth all things but his own ignorance.”   — Akhenaton

your-dream-doesnt-have-an-expiraiton-date-take-a-deep-breath-and-try-again-kt-witten-inspirational-quote-julie-flyagre-narcolepsy-bloggerYes, there is injustice and inhumanity in the world.  Yes, there is poverty and disease.  Yes, there are natural disasters and misery.  But there is also happiness and love.  There is compassion and charity.  There is a world of people who are trying to create a better world and are willing to put their lives on the line to do it.  Wherever we look there are heroes and heroines who will sacrifice themselves in an effort to create a world full of joy and love.

Let our New Year’s resolution be this: we will be there for one another as fellow members of humanity, in the finest sense of the word.Goran Persson

sisyphus1Yes, I do not doubt it for one second.  We will be better this year than we were last year.  We will continue to grow and change.  We will continue to overcome the folly of yesterday and of our past lives.  We will overcome the mistakes we have made and do better this year than last year.  Hope, they say, springs eternal in the human breast and what would we be without it?  We need to try again and when we fail, try again.  The only failure is when we stop trying.  So disregard the naysayers, go ahead and make some new goals and new dreams.  Make some New Year resolutions.  Stretch your vision and your horizons.  People do not perish because of their dreams; they perish because of a lack of dreams.

Make New Year’s goals.  Dig within, and discover what you would like to have happen in your life this year. This helps you do your part.  It is an affirmation that you’re interested in fully living life in the year to come.  — Melody Beattie

ReachingOurGoals042610Time for Questions:

Only one question today, “What are you going to do this year to make the world a better place.”

Life is just beginning.

There is no going back.  Let the past go.  It is time to start fresh.

2016 New Year Predictions

Every New Year we are inundated with predictions, forecasts and prognostications for the coming year.  This year, I decided that I could do as well as many of the other pundits out there.  In fact, I think I can do better.  I am logical, rational, educated and not sentimental or emotional. 🙂 Any list that I create will be based on pure logic and scientific deduction. 🙂 You can take my list to the odds makers and I am sure you will make a fortune betting on them.  This is the least I can do to help my followers and readers capitalize on their loyalty to reading my blogs.  Remember, the vast majority of humankind will be ignorant of the predictions that I am about to give you.

Here are my top 10 predictions for the New Year.  I will include a brief justification and logic for each of these predictions below.  If you find some of them appalling, remember this, we can change things if we want them to be different.  No one ever said life would be easy.

  1. Hillary Clinton will be elected President of the United States of America.

This is a no brainer. The majority of the American people are too smart to select any of the dregs running that are now in the Republican queue.  I have said it in my blogs and I will say it again, the majority of US Citizens are decent, compassionate, rational human beings.  They will not elect a bigot, racist or demagogue for President.

  1. Weather patterns will continue to be unpredictable and chaotic.

As long as a large portion of the people in the world continue to believe that no change in lifestyles is needed or that these patterns are “normal”, I see little progress being made in addressing the underlying factors of pollution and waste disposal that are fundamental to our weather changes.  Some call it Global Warming but the problems we are creating go beyond even this potential disaster.  We are draining our ground water.  Polluting our oceans.  Contaminating our soils and forests.  Our mother earth has become one large garbage dump for every conceivable bit of trash we need to dispose of.  I am sorry but I do not see us making enough progress in this area.

  1. Water Shortages will create major agricultural problems throughout the world.

Water shortages will continue to exacerbate agricultural development in many parts of the USA and world.  Water prices will rise as ground water and aquifers are increasingly depleted or contaminated.  Sink holes will become more pronounced in areas where water is depleted.  More and more communities will be forced to provide stringent controls on water usage.   In the short term, water problems will eclipse Global Warming as a key problem in the world.

  1. The ISIS Caliphate will be demolished.

With the increase in forces arrayed against ISIS, the group will be defeated in battle after battle forcing it to give up territory that it has conquered.  Nevertheless, the destruction of ISIS will not destroy the fundamental forces that have underpinned the rise of this radical group.  From Al Qaeda, to Boko Haram, to ISIS, the fundamental forces that have given rise to these groups seem to be either ignored or misunderstood by the Western Powers.  The destruction of the ISIS caliphate will not destroy the dreams and hopes that those who have pledged allegiance to these extremist beliefs hold.  Instead, we will see a disintegration of ISIS into many smaller more covert and decentralized radical groups that will still be capable of and will continue to spread violence and terrorism on a global scale.  Until the fundamental forces are addressed, terrorism will continue to be omnipresent on a global scale.

  1. Schools throughout the world will continue to decline in their ability to properly educate young people for the real world.

Rich kids and children of the elites will find a way to obtain a quality education.  However, the vast majority of children will not be well served in this goal by the current education model that delivers mass education in most countries of the world.  The present model of educating young people was developed over a hundred years ago and is based on an industrial model of educating people that in no longer valid for today’s world.  We need to completely overhaul our educational systems but this will mean large scale displacement of many educators and administrators who benefit from an obsolete model of education.

  1. Standards of living will continue to rise throughout the world but many poor will not be better off.

Almost paradoxically one might think, is my prediction that the increase in average standards of living will continue throughout the world despite some of the dire predictions I have made above.  How is this possible?  The answer lies in the concept of “average” versus the concept of a “normal distribution.”  An average can increase if the upper extremes increases.  We have seen a large growth in the USA for the upper 1 percent income bracket; this creates an “average” increase.  Thus, the rich are going to get richer throughout the world, but many poor will still stay poor. Comparatively it will be true to say that “the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.”  This income inequality will continue to be a source of violence and terrorism throughout the world as police forces and the military become more violent to protect the haves from the have nots.

  1. Fear of terrorism will create more restrictions on immigration throughout the world.  

As more and more isolated events of “lone wolf” terrorism take place, the world will react with increased levels of xenophobia and paranoia.  Immigrants will become the target for displaced feelings of fear and anger.  Politicians will pander to these fears by blaming outsiders for the problem and enacting legislation to create barriers that have the supposed effect of making people feel safer.

  1. Gun violence will continue to increase in the USA.

The NRA and gun manufacturers will continue to flood America with more and more guns and assault style weapons.  More people will purchase concealed carry permits.  The general level of easy availability to a deadly weapon will raise the level of violence thus creating a vicious cycle of guns, violence, fear and guns.  The only solution will be to break this cycle of violence but the money involved in the manufacture and sale of guns in the USA creates an effective barrier to accomplishing this goal.

  1. Technology will not save the world, but it will make the world easier to live in.

Many people have believed that new inventions from fish farming to finger print gun activation to pace makers would defray many of the problems in the world and save us from our own selves.  Ironically, technology has not saved us from ourselves but in many cases it has made life easier to live.  For instance, my income level has not significantly increased because of the Internet.  However, I now work from home much of the time which has made my life much easier and happier.  Another example is agriculture, where irrigation has helped us plant crops in places like Arizona where it would have been impossible years ago.  On the other hand, technology always seem to come with hidden costs and unforeseen complications.  For instance, aquifer depletion is now causing sink holes and ground collapse in many parts of the USA due to over irrigation.

  1. I will continue to write my blog for at least another year.

Two of my best friends, William Cox and Brian Rogers died in 2015.  William was 87 and Brian was 68.  The passing away of my friends and many other acquaintances are constant reminders of my own mortality.  My father died when he was 60 years old and my mother was 67.  I have now outlived them both.  My wife passed 70 in 2014 and is now reaching for 72.  Ages that once seemed “ancient” no longer seem so old.  At the same time, the obituaries constantly remind us that we are “old.”  Everywhere I go, we now qualify for senior discounts or elderly benefits.  I am told that I have the body and stamina of a 45 year old, but that seldom if ever impresses me as I see other men in my condition suddenly succumb to the passage of time and I write out yet another card of condolences or sympathy.

Thus, I make a commitment to write this blog for another year, which I am not sure or confident I can keep.  I hope to write as long as I am able to and I hope that will be for at least another year.  Please keep your fingers crossed for me.

Time for Questions:

What are your New Year Predictions?  Which of mine do you agree or disagree with?  Why?  What predictions did I miss?

Life is just beginning.

Let our New Year’s resolution be this: we will be there for one another as fellow members of humanity, in the finest sense of the word.”  —- Goran Persson

 “May we love each other not only at Christmas but all year.” — ― Lailah Gifty Akita

 

 

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: