Just Being…

We had some hard rain yesterday, but after some hours it let up so I could take a short walk to the grocery nearby.  On the way back it occurred to me that a topic for today should be about “being in the present.”

As I walked along I traversed fallen twigs, leaves, and other unrecognizable “stuff,” much of it left by the force of the rain, knocked from bushes above, or blown from some other spot by the winds.  I allowed myself to become very thoughtful about this, and yet allowed my mind to just be open to blending with what I perceived, visually and mentally.  I thought about how each leaf stuck to the sidewalk had a history that was infinite.  The same for even the bird poop, and how leaves and poop were directly connected and essentially part of the whole.

Take one leaf for example. We can examine how it came to be a leaf, and we can examine how it came to be one of the leaves that was displaced by the rain water, and how the wind and the rain and gravity all conjoined to place the leaf in the exact position and orientation that I saw it in.  We can trace this history of the leave, from being a sprout on a twig, to being part of the bush or tree, to the seed that the tree came from, to what carried or placed the see where the tree grew, and if carred there, how and why, did a bird carry it, and what kind of bird and the full history of that one bird, such as its migration, the food it consumed…..and well, as one quickly sees there is no end to the investigation that one can do if one wishes.

The “bottom line,” (a favorite term in the West, since we are all about the almighty dollar) is that all things if explored thoroughly, are seen to be part of the web of life, and more so, the quantum web when we drill down to the ultimate state of perception.  This is what is called “sunyata” in Sanskrit.  It is the “emptiness” of all that we perceive, meaning empty of inherent existence.  The entire universe contains nothing that is not interdependent with everything else.  It’s really quite simple, yet so illusive to those never presented with such philosophy (and physics).  By just being in the present, observing each thing and phenomena and our own thoughts at the moment, we can be transported into the heart of this concept, and for at least a few seconds, or minutes, arrive in this suspended “place” that has no time nor space nor gravity.

That we can readily access this state of being anytime, anywhere, is really “pretty cool.”  If we do practice this, the least benefit we will attain is the realization that we as a person are fully connected with the ultimate creation.  No need to do much more than this, no need to prostrate, no need to cross the heart, no need to go to a formal place of worship (except for the social experience and support).  We each are given the full throttle power to simply, “Be.”

Enjoy Being today.

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Grocery Grazers and “Samplers”

This morning I am writing about something I just do not understand, that I see everyday when I visit an upscale grocery nearby.  So, I am going to wax a bit in the vein of a curmudgeon now, so I ask forgiveness in advance.

Now I understand “grazers,” people who just seem to have an impulse – perhaps  involuntary – or in the inner cities and poor rural areas, those who are just in fact very hungry, that causes them to reach out and take a little of a food item as they pass by.  Grapes seem to be easy pickings, because heck, who can tell if one or a dozen grapes go missing from multiple stalks?  Those who are not truly hungry though, who graze, all I can do is a “SMH.”  Personally I would not eat anything sitting out in the open with hundreds of hands and breaths passing over it, but well, that’s just me.

It’s what I am calling the “samplers” that I just don’t understand.  Upscale markets invariably have sample tables, with hired hands to stand there at a small counter or table, ALWAYS at a pinch point that mires grocery carts and old people like me just trying to get to where I know exactly I need to where awaits exactly what I cam to purchase.  I just do not understand people who are so attracted to free bits of a food, or a wine, or coffee (the usual culprits).  However, I did a tiny bit of looking on the web about marketing ploys stores use, and along with routing people in certain ways through the store, and creating mazes to confuse and slow you down so you will spend more time “seeing” stuff you don’t need (but often will buy, right?), the free food samples apparently do work in boosting brand sales or total store volume.

It’s not that I am not open to new experiences, no way, as I am often one going against the grain, doing what someone of “my kind” is not expected to do.  However, when it comes to food, I know what I like, what I don’t like, and I am not going to just put something in my mouth because it’s free.  I do look around some when shopping, and I certainly know that packaging imagery can be attractive.  It’s amazing how various gourmet type items come in almost an infinite array of “cool” looking packages, colors, designs, all intended for us to reach out and touch it.  I have sort of immunized myself against that, but not completely, much to my own chagrin.  “I am still weak.”

Maybe it really is not my bewilderment about people who clog up the aisles awaiting there tidbit samples, that is maddening.  Rather it’s the traffic jams caused by these sampling stations.  I just want to get in, and get out, ok?

On the other hand, maybe I am creating in my mind a problem (for myself) that is totally fabricated.  Maybe I just need to realize, I live among other human beings, and I have to “accommodate them.”

I will remember that today when I am in the store, trying to figure out how to circumnavigate a clogged aisle.  I thought when I gave up my car and commuting all that was behind me, but…..people are everywhere it seems.

 

Dreaming

Dear readers, starting my morning, coffee level down to one-half, and not sure where this post will lead really.  I am just sort of dreaming it up as I “type.”  I often get spontaneous thoughts, spurts of inquisitiveness, and on rare occasions, creativeness, and the notion of dreaming popped into my mind a few days ago.

Lest you immediately think I am about to write about the dream states we experience during sleep, I am not.  I ask you to consider the term “dreaming” as having to do with living our lives having “goals” that we may adjust over time – or not – depending on our personalities, versus living your life as a dream.  I know, I need to be more clear with this notion.  Life coaches will inform us that we should have goals that we work or strive for, right?  We have heard often the phrase, “dream big,” or some permutation of that idea.  What brought this to my mind actually was when I was out for my morning walk, my path taking me along a busy boulevard with heavy rush hour traffic, I suddenly felt great empathy for all those passing me, all “going somewhere,” most in a rush.  As I am retired, I do not rush anywhere anymore, and now have the luxury of doing what I want (within my tiny budget) using my time as I feel at any moment.  Sounds great I know, and it is.  I feel very blessed, and do not take it for granted, as it is only my great health that provides this comfortable lifestyle.

But all these people rushing along in the morning, and then going the opposite way at the end of the day, I ask, are they chasing their dreams for something better? Have they a vision of what they are actually doing all this rushing for?  What are they dreaming about as they drive along?

I also hope that some or many of those folks of all ages, have not dreams of the future, but are living their lives as if within a dream.  By that I mean not focusing on the future, not even focusing really on tomorrow or the next few hours, but merely relaxing and “being” in the moment they are in right at each moment.  We are so challenged, particularly in this country – USA – with temporal sensitivity:  do I have time for this or that? What time is it?  Johnny has to be at soccer (football) practice by 6, oh my, how can I make it there on time?

There is another state we can be in, and often all of the concerns we have like getting to the soccer pitch on time will just vanish if we shift into our own “dream time.”  If we just attune to being present in what we are doing, being “mindful,” using a Buddhist term, so many things just fall into place.  Important things get worked out with least effort, and small things just fall off the table, and they never should have been placed on the table.

So I ask you, are you living/dreaming within the moment right now, or rushing to achieve some thing, some place, where if you live long enough you can spend your days “dreaming” in a fantasy which you may find not at all satisfying?

Sweet dreams may you catch each dawn.  Peace.

Adulthood & The Human Brain

I have been bothered for many years with the fact that we draw exact lines across the continuum of human aging, to define for societal values what is regarded as a person having reached adulthood.  These “lines in the sand” vary across the globe, depending on each culture’s history and values.  Here in the USA, such lines tend to be left to each state, when it comes to such matters as the minimum age at which one may marry, at what age may one consent to having sex, the minimum age to consume alcoholic beverages, driving and so on.  Given that these various age limits vary considerably and with many exceptions across the nation, it is clear that these have little at all to do with the capacity and capability of the brain to make adult decisions.

Most such laws are predicated on “religious” norms, historical cultural practice, and better yet, rarely, are evidence-based.  For instance, there is ample evidence that young girls becoming pregnant put them at very increased risk for themselves and the babies.  Nationally there is a movement to raise the minimum age for smoking tobacco to 21, and it goes without saying there are decades of evidence to support that if we want our youth to have a chance at a maximum life span.

In many tribal societies there are rites of passage – ritual initiation – that marks a person’s traversing the local customs of moving from childhood to young adulthood, and then to joining the elders later on.  Clearly we have no such customs in our “advanced” society.

And then there are the matters that really bother me in particular, relating to criminality, which “kid” gets sentenced as an adult, and the big one for me is the age at which we allow our youth to enter the military and fight, become wounded and die for our causes (usually fostered by politicians who generally have never served in the armed forces.)

Research in recent years has shown that the human brain does not really reach maturity until around the age of 25 (or even beyond for some, and it varies between sexes it seems) in terms of its ability to cognitively differentiate, to critically analyze, its situation and the complexity of factors that in theory should append to various decisions, daily ones and life decisions.  Anyone who is well up into adulthood can clearly recall the many stupid things we did when 18, and then well into our early 20’s.  I damn sure did my share!  And yet, still send out youth off to war.  I have to question whether this is not one of the higher forms of child abuse, really.

I clearly recall being 23, going off with my gold 2nd Lieutenant bars on my shoulders to fly jets in the Air Force.  Well, that was interrupted, but at the time I never gave a thought to the fact that I would possibly be flying in Viet Nam.  I was just on “auto pilot,” following a program that was modeled on my own father’s WW2 action.  There was no cognition of risk, of why, of consequences physically, mentally or morally.

So how could we do it differently I wonder?  Should we use some additional testing to determine the level of development of the young person’s brain with respect to making adult discriminations? Or should we keep the younger person in the rear echelon until the age of say 25? I don’t know, but I do know that our society needs to really think about this, if we are to move out of the shadow of the Dark Ages upon which the present notion of adulthood thrives.

Death by blogging…

For my avid readers (all three of you?), no I am not hinting of anything related to my mortality.  But, “One never knows, do one?” (Fats Waller).

After the attack on the WTC (9-11), my ability to write creatively just suddenly stopped.  I found myself, voluntarily, caught up in the anti-war movement, and creative writing just seemed to take a distant place in my ranking of importance.  For years I felt this way, and in spite of attempts over those years to break out of that quagmire, writing attempts that went nowhere, dampened by the continuing sickening news of death, mutilation, PTSD, civilian casualties and displacement, war, mayhem and terrorism (let’s remember one man’s terrorism is another man’s overt strike, e.g., a drone with Hellfire missiles on a wedding)…..well, I just could not bring myself to begin to write about something that was not serious, and yet I was just sick of “serious.”  Do you feel me?

Then, not too long ago I began to feel like I must force myself to sit down once again, and write.  Life is short – I finally had to admit to myself.  So, I started this blog, and just in the last six months I have self-published a few small non-fiction books (available on Amazon).  But once again I am finding it so hard to push away the thoughts and images of the slings and arrows of our political, and generally societal at large, landscape.  There seems to be no news outlet that is not engaged in debating the daily shifts in this terrain…because it is so important….but god don’t we all need some fresh air?

I was born about four score years after the American Civil War, and until 2016 I could never have dreamed the foundation of what it means to be “America” would begin to fracture again. I thought for the longest we might be finally escaping our past divisions and angst, coming together to address common threats like global warming or exploring space, feeding the starving and “all that.”  How wrong I was.  Now we are literally in a “civil” civil war once again…there is no way to deny that, and anyone who scoffs at that I say, “you better look deeper.”  (Note that when I say “civil,” I am not over looking the bloody violence committed by domestic terrorists.)

Our country is being consumed by the “perfect storm.”  A consummate ego-maniac was elected due to the amplification of factors that individually would not have resulted in such as travesty:  egotism of the Democratic party machine, an outdated electoral college system built on gerrymandered districting, neglect of our heartland and our once burgeoning industrial cities and the thousands of small towns and rural folk, the failure of our education system to teach citizens how to critically analyze information, xenophobia inflamed by poverty of large swaths of America, outright racism, the selfishness of the major social media corps, the degenerate state of politicians within in D.C., and the failure of government to protect against cyber attacks by malevolent actors (e.g., Trump’s best buddy, Vladimir Putin).  Had any one of these factors been neutralized, we would not be in a civil war today.

Now we are faced with a highly divided nation, so divided it has wrecked marriages and families, just like the bloody Civil War did, and I fear it could easily get much worse.  We have a man occupying the presidency who knows no limits, recognizes no restraints of law or norm, will do absolutely anything to remain in power and have All the power, who has infected Washington with a fast growing carcinoma.  It is obvious he will use every trick in the book, supported by those who are too blinded by hate, or too greedy to care about the principles of our very nation.  He will not be impeached, and even if he loses the 2020 election (which certainly is not a foregone conclusion) he will not vacate the White House peacefully, for he knows prison and the collapse of his finances await him.  Inauguration day, January 20, 2021 may turn into another day of infamy for this country.

Notwithstanding all this bullshit, I will continue to blog – till death do us part – and give free reign to my mind, allowing it to roam as freely as I can given day to day matters, and moreover, abide in the firm belief that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” (Theodore Parker).

Concluding, I know this nation will get through this.  We have met and beat all other fiends, and we will beat this, even though a large part of the fiend’s protoplasm is within our collective self.

 

Where have all the “old people” gone?

I was trying to think of a good topic to write about today….although my guts were directing me to delve into “domestic terrorism” and how our government is effectively green lighting white nationalists, compared to Federal and local response whenever there is an act perpetrated by foreign terrorists.  But, no, I am not going to ruin my day getting even more agitated about this.

I thought also to write under a post title, “Death by blogging,” and I likely will do that in the future; however, today’s topic is as stated.  I can’t seem to find any “old people” on the web, in photos and film, and frankly, in flesh and blood, in most public places.  I know we haven’t all just “disappeared.”  I can look at myself and see that I haven’t disappeared….or at least I don’t think I have, but maybe?  Of course, by some standards I am not even “old” yet, so maybe I haven’t totally disappeared yet?

When I go out looking for photos for my blog posts, if it’s about people, seems like the only old people “pics” are those taken in foreign countries; by “foreign,” I really mean developing or third-world.  No offense meant, of course, for my readers in India and other areas populated by societies that have been around so long that the USA is not even a sneeze in comparison.  But, please, my readers not in the US, don’t you agree? Can you find many “old American” pics, except maybe people golfing or living on the streets?  We have no gurus just “chilling,” drawing photographers to them like a magnet.  Do you not agree that there is a dearth of photographic proof of the existence of old people in America?

I don’t get out much anymore, and when I do, I don’t stray far, but in the stores the only “old people” I see are perhaps around the time Social Security checks hit our bank accounts.  I do occasionally see a little “blue haired” white lady being slowly chaperoned by her health assistant, usually a young non-white person.  I don’t know, maybe if I were a golfer, I might see a few more old men.  But I hate golf.

I suppose this is just how nature works with people.  The new is out and about, blooming, busy as bees, and the old folks just sort of stay out of the way.

That’s ok by me, but just remember, we are still here among you, so watch your steps!

A Man of Simple Means, A Hero to His Family

“I can’t tell you what goes on, but the Italians are going to have a lot of bridges to build when the war is over.” (My father writing to his parents, dated December 9, 1944).

Daddy was a B-25 pilot, one of many brave warriors of the 321st Group, commanded by General Robert Knapp, a friend of General Jimmy Doolittle, who used the B-25 to launch a strike on Japan from the deck of an aircraft carrier.

On April 27, 1945, my father was awarded a 6th Oak Leaf Cluster to his Air Medal.  That was his well-deserved birthday present.  On April 27th this year, had he lived, he would be 99.  Daddy wrote to his parents on April 25th that he had finished 70 bombing missions over Italy, as the Allies drove the Germans back north.  I wonder if he had any premonition that his son, me, would be born exactly one year later.

On May 8th, VE Day, General Knapp pinned on Daddy’s Distinguished Flying Cross, and soon he would be home.

The photo is actually one of the B-25’s that my father flew.  Back then aircraft in the field would have various “decorations,” usually of shapely ladies.  My have times changed.

Tom Brokaw has referred to the WWII generation as America’s Greatest Generation.  All I know for sure is our father was to me, “the greatest man.”