Mar 26

Creatures Large and Small—Part 1

In Brief— With apologies to James Herriot, the author rambles through some of his experiences with a few of the furry and feathered creatures that share this planet with us.

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Anyone Who Loves Animals Can’t Be All Bad—

The little lady squirrel sat on my knee eating sunflower seeds out of my hand. Bold as brass with her soft little paws, teats testifying to a brood of baby squirrels in a nearby tree, she cracked the shells and ate the nuts within as if she hadn’t a care in the world. Sated, she slowly hopped across the yard and disappeared into the forest.

That was just one incident that not only enriched my life but showed me that our fellow creatures are smarter than we ever imagined. They showed me that it is essential for humanity to preserve and nurture earth’s creatures for the future. We are all part of that great web of life that has endured since we evolved from the seas all those millennia ago.

That little squirrel came from the feeding station I erected next to the forest when we moved to Sweden. It consisted of a pole atop which sat a small platform that I stocked each day with sunflower seeds for the birds, squirrels and deer that regularly emerged from the forest, particularly during the late fall, winter and spring when their food was scarce. Four large bags of sunflower seeds was not unusual. The deer fed on the seeds that dropped on the ground, but the other creatures relied on the elevated feeding platform.

Intelligent Feathered Creatures—

How many times have you heard the put-down “bird brain?” Youtube features a clever crow figuring out how to get food from a device to measure a crow’s intelligence. I can personally attest to the fact that magpies, members of the intelligent crow family, are unbelievably smart. Magpies mate for life. Watch one magpie and you will usually see the mate nearby.

Two incidents stand out. One day I watched a magpie struggle with a long stick intended to be part of a nest being built next to the warmth emanating from our chimney. That in itself shows their intelligence. Try as s/he might, the magpie was unable to get the long stick to the chimney top. S/he called his/her mate to help. One bird held one end while the other took the opposite end. Together they flew the stick up to the chimney. What I watched was cooperation.

Every winter, stores sold suet balls coated with seeds for the small birds. Each ball was enclosed in a plastic net. Knowing that the magpies would steal the suet balls if they could reach them, I suspended a ball from a tree branch so it couldn’t be reached from above or below, but the little birds could easily cling to the net. A magpie landed on the upper branch, paused to consider the problem, then grasped the string and reeled in the suet ball until s/he could reach it. S/he ripped open the net with his/her beak, the ball fell and s/he picked it up to carry to the nest. Stupid? Not!

Our Large Furred Friends—

One evening I started down the driveway for the evening constitutional with the dog when the dog suddenly reacted. I looked to the right and saw two large moose in the neighbor’s driveway about fifteen feet away. Since moose can sometimes be aggressive, I froze in my tracks as we eyed one another. Slowly, the moose moved down the driveway and crossed the street into the trees. Only then did we continue the evening walk.

So why was I leery of two moose? Earlier, a good friend was chased down the street by an angry mother moose who felt her young calf was threatened. Only an oncoming car served to break off what could have been a very dangerous encounter.

For those who aren’t familiar with moose or possibly only at a distance, when they are accidentally hit by a car at dusk they cause considerable damage to both moose and car. As an aside, it should be noted that a moose’s fur is coated with oily lanolin that protects it from the weather.

Just outside of town is Moosegarden where tourists can see moose up close and personal. In the nearby shop, they sell stationery made from moose droppings. “Ugh,” you say, but those droppings are pure cellulose that is turned into paper. Want to drop an unusual note to Aunt Lulu? Stop by Moosegarden.

One other occasion occurs to me. Our train was moving ver-ry slowly through the deep winter snow. At last, a curve revealed the reason for our snail’s pace: a moose thought it was easier to walk on the railroad right-of-way than fight the deep snow. Eventually, he decided the iron monster following him wasn’t going away.

It helps to live close to both nature and civilization, but I’ve run out of space so I’ll continue in Part 2. Meanwhile, your pet may not be part of nature in the raw, but is smarter than you think.

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15 blog for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on June 2014

Mar 19

Israeli Government Stupidity

In Brief— An examination of why the Israeli government stands in the way of peace with the Palestinians.


The Definition of Insanity—

It is often said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. If that is the case, why is the Israeli government refusing to treat the Palestinians as the full equals of all Israelis?

Ignorance is defined as lack of knowledge. Stupidity is willful ignorance. The Israeli government knows that its harmful policies toward the Palestinians will only allow hatred to fester, but they keep repeating those policies. That’s stupid.

There is no disputing the fact that the hatred Israelis and Palestinians feel for one another isn’t going to disappear as long as the Israeli government kills Palestinians, walls them off, destroys their homes and resorts in collective punishment of all in answer to the understandable if extreme actions of a few. This piece presents arguments for a single state in which there is equality for both Israelis and Palestinians.

I have written of the poisonous effect of wedding politics and religion. It makes no difference whether it’s Israel, Iraq or the United States. The result is always destructive. We are all human beings with common drives, but as soon as politics and religion are mixed, our commonality is forgotten in favor of suppression. It’s well past time to do something different: Live together in peace. How can this be done? In a moment, I’ll offer a solution.

In the past we have seen that Britain thought it had solved it’s Zionist problem (and other nations’ “Jewish” problems) by joining with other nations in establishing a Jewish homeland on “empty land” that had belonged to Palestinians for hundreds of years. Thus was Israel born. Thus was the foundation for conflict laid.

So how is religion involved? Judaism is based on their deity’s promise that this land will belong to its adherents forever. Netanyahu, a politician like his predecessors, keeps expanding Israel’s boundaries on Palestinian land based on this belief. Here we see a good example of the wedding of politics and religion.

Palestinian Provocation…or Dissent—

What is the Palestinian response to Israeli policies and actions? Rockets, rocks and deadly attacks against Israeli citizens and soldiers are not just provocations but can be seen as misguided dissent against unjust treatment. Regardless of the illogic of such attacks, these attacks are evidence of the hatred caused by Israeli government policies and actions.

Possible Solutions to Avoid Mutual Hatred—

Some otherwise intelligent people claim that the establishment of two states—Israel and Palestine—is the answer. As I’ve pointed out before, this solution is essentially dead and clearly won’t resolve the conflict between the two sides. What might?

I believe that only a single state granting full rights and equality to both Israelis and Palestinians could solve the problem.

Some will argue that 1) Israel will no longer be a homeland for the Jews and/or, 2) the Palestinian birth rate will eventually result in more Palestinians than Jews.

The counter argument is that with equality the existence of Israel is assured and there is no need for separate homelands in an equal world. The Holocaust is undeniable history, but it’s past. New and future challenges require a new way of thinking.

If the Palestinian birth rate dilutes the ratio, what difference does that make if all citizens are equal? It’s essentially the same as the fear in America that it will no longer be a white majority. It’s a false and illogical concern in a single state that guarantees equality for all citizens.

Israel’s counterproductive and, yes, stupid approach must be cast aside in favor of peace. Speaking of insanity, the Israeli government has now passed a law preventing critics of Israel from entering the country. That stupid move is counterproductive not only to peace but democracy.

Let’s remove a key source of conflict in the Middle East. With that out of the way, we can deal with the other conflicts that plague the world.

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15 blog for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on May 2014

Mar 12

The Horror of Apartheid

In Brief— A review of memories of the author’s experiences in South Africa in the early ‘80s when apartheid was in force.

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Apartheid is Abhorrent Wherever it Occurs—

Nelson Mandela

It was 1982 and we were on our way to an experience that was South Africa then…but exists today in another part of the world.

We landed in Namibia, a country with its own war for independence and dignity. It was hot and uncomfortable, but they wouldn’t let us off the plane while it refueled on its way to apartheid-era South Africa. We were about to learn about the reality of racial discrimination. We were about to learn what real discomfort was.

Apartheid means separation into at least two worlds. In South Africa it was the white world and the world of non-whites. There, the white rulers consisted primarily of Dutch and English descendants while the ruled majority consisted mainly of blacks, Indians, Asians, those of mixed heritage and other non-whites. To say it was unjust and oppressive is to grossly understate it. In many instances, it was dangerous and deadly for those who rebelled.

Instances of Apartheid—

Our first morning at breakfast we watched as a crowded bus from the black townships outside Johannesburg disgorged black men coming into the city to work for the day. Buses would carry those men back each evening to the townships. Blacks had to have official permission to stay overnight. Apartheid was strictly enforced.

New to South Africa, we took a tourist bus through the city of Johannesburg. The white tourists up front listened to the tour guide’s approved descriptions of the city. Sitting further back, my wife and I sat next to a young white woman who quietly gave us a counter-narrative to the glowing praise of the tour guide up front. Maybe it was those neon signs we wore that identified us as California liberals, but the story we heard was quite different from that of the official tour guide.

Memory of particulars has faded with the passage of years, but I recall that a razed area being described up front as a government-financed urban renewal project was given to us as a forced ouster of non-whites. And so it went as official glowing words were translated into reality by an anti-apartheid South African.

We sat sipping our wine in the hotel’s cocktail lounge high above the sparkling lights of the city. The lounge was full of white faces that evening, but at the next table were two well-dressed black men…the only two black faces in the room. Suddenly, two burly white men appeared. Clearly they were security men. The toughest-looking of the two addressed the black customers questioning why they were there. It quickly became apparent that the two black men were businessmen from another country. After a moment’s pause, they were permitted to stay. Apartheid had once again shown its ugly head.

At the airport for our South African Airways flight home, we walked past water fountains labeled “For Blacks Only” and a few feet away “For Whites Only.” A reminder of apartheid. I could barely understand the South African accent of the cheerful uniformed white gentleman who checked our tickets.

As we started to descend the ramp, a young white man ran up and stopped us, politely asking us to please post his large manila envelope in the United States. Aware that we were suspicious, he asked us to read the enclosures to assure ourselves that it was not a bomb. Seeing that the open envelope didn’t contain a bomb, we agreed. Once aboard the plane, we read the contents as suggested by the young man who hastily departed.

The journal within the addressed envelope detailed the government surveillance endured by the young anti-apartheid activist. His car had been broken into and his reports stolen by the security police on several occasions. Though he had been detained several times, I don’t recall if he had ever been jailed.

Given the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela and the killings of numerous activists, there is no doubt that opposition to government apartheid was risky, dangerous and deadly.

South African apartheid eventually collapsed despite the support of President Reagan and segments of the American government. Though apartheid is now history in South Africa, it is alive and well in Israel today generously supported by the American government. Israeli politicians and American supporters stoutly deny this, but if it walks like a duck, has feathers like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. Apartheid simply changed its address.

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15 blog for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on April 2014

Mar 05

Once Upon a Time

In Brief— With apologies to the Brothers Grimm, the author spins a fantasy that may look like reality except it takes place in a parallel universe we might easily mistake for our own.

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We Aren’t in Kansas Anymore—

Once upon a time in a universe much like our own there was a rotund little king who fancied himself as able to turn straw into gold. His mother christened him Tremulus to reflect his fear of reality, but when he grew up and inherited the throne left by his father—and because his first name didn’t reflect the greatness of his self-image—he was known throughout the realm as T.Rumplethinskin.

Now, T.Rumplethinskin was quite proud of his small hands and beautiful orangeish tresses. Unfortunately, birds occasionally built nests in his sumptuous hair and could be heard whistling “Tweet, Tweet” although nobody could understand what those tweets meant. Sadly, T.Rumplethinskin had a bit of a weight problem, but he compensated for this—some say “overcompensated”—by letting his tongue run away with him, particularly when a comely maiden happened to pass by. He, of course, felt that since he was the king who could spin straw into gold, it was his right…droit du seigneur, so to speak.

According to legend in the parallel universe, T.Rumplethinskin claimed he could spin straw into gold. Because he was the king and his word was law, his subjects trusted him regardless of what the throng of non-believers said. Even a few of his subjects harbored fleeting doubts about his claimed ability, but hope is often blind.

Among his staunchest supporters were the Sycofantians, a group recognized by having two faces, both looking backward. The Sycofantians led by Lyin and Weekchin were rumored to be building a wall to keep out the disorganized hordes of the Statusquocrats and anybody who looked different regardless of their intelligence or beliefs. Strangers who looked different, spoke a different language and had different beliefs were considered dangerous. That was gospel.

T.Rumplethinskin, not noted for his perspicacity although he had beautiful hair and handsome small hands, believed that he could appoint anybody he wished to any post in the kingdom even though his appointees lacked knowledge of their assignment, of the employee vassals who labored to make the kingdom run, of the wishes of his subjects or the strange people across the Great Sea. What counted was what T.Rumplethinskin believed.

One day, T.Rumplethinskin was called upon to spin straw into gold. Believing he could do that while maintaining his extensive holdings, he sat down at the spinning wheel, sang a magic song in his really great voice, pumped the treadle and fed straw into the wheel. Straw in, straw out. No matter how hard he tried despite the huzzahs of Lyin, Weekchin and the Sycofantians, despite the tweets of the entranced birds, the straw remained straw.

T.Rumplethinskin’s devoted believers remained convinced he could do as he claimed. Surely, they said, gold must be accumulating in the kingdom’s treasury. Gerbil News TV proclaimed that gold was certainly accumulating in the treasury and that the opposition was spreading malicious propaganda. T.Rumplethinskin’s believers, devotees of Gerbil News TV, joined the chorus of adoration.

Of course, this took place in a parallel universe and couldn’t happen here in our exceptional universe. It couldn’t happen here…could it?

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15 blog for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on March 2014

Feb 26

Chronicle from the Old Folks’ Home—Part 11

In Brief— The author’s experiences after the private elder care company took over management from the kommun. Privatization European-style.

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“I’m Mad As Hell…”—

Though there is now another vacancy, one empty room in our warehouse has now been filled. One of our number got off the train at her destination. The new occupant—I’ll call him Rikard—is a former coworker of Bengt whom you may recall sneaked off from these premises earlier. Rikard suffers from Parkinson’s. Thanks to Sweden’s hyper-cautiousness regarding cannabis, Rikard doesn’t get relief from his shakes and contortions, but the good news is that Bengt sticks around now.

But I digress. As suggested above, the new company that took over management on 1 October hasn’t worked out the wrinkles yet. When I wrote the kommun (copying everybody!) after being forgotten in early November, I complained inter alia that the new company was understaffed and unable to handle the load placed on the overworked and underpaid staff.

There was a flurry by company management who hastened to assure me that it would NEVER happen again and that there was the same personnel level that had been here before their arrival. According to what I hear and experience, that appears to be a fib. CYA as they say.

Finally, when one of the personnel complained to a harried company chief assigned here about the lack of adequate staffing she was told, …”We don’t have the resources for that.” When I asked if the union had been notified, I was told that the union did nothing to help rectify the problem.

[My cynical translation: As an observer of human nature, unions here in Sweden are in bed with management. Too much trouble to raise some dust. It’s easier to collect a paycheck and sit on the couch. I’ve heard this before from other sources both here and in America. What ever happened to unions?]

When I asked if I should write the kommun again, I have been requested to wait. Honoring that request, I’ve not yet written a letter to the kommun, but I didn’t promise not to express my ire on this blog.

As Howard Beale exclaimed in the movie “Network,” “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more!”

Whew! Other than that, things are pretty much the same around here. I take my exercise walk through the next department hoping that a cheerful wave will provide a small lift in some old folks’ day. I have my computer and friends to exchange thoughts. I have my little blog where this will sit in line waiting to go public. Seems as if I’m running dry these days, but I no sooner say that when two or three subjects pop into my mind begging for a surge of energy to prompt my hunt-and-peck memorialization of the subjects. And I have my reading which is often fed by a former teacher friend sending me Kindle books to read. All’s reasonably well with my limited world… not the rest of the world which is more screwed up every day.

Right now, I’m writing a fantasy—a fairy tale, so to speak.  I expect to post it following this piece.

So what’s new with you?

P.S. Since I posted this a month or so ago, the new company has improved conditions, but the lack of sufficient personnel persists. I’m told that this problem is being addressed, but I’m not holding my breath.

Oh, and as to that fantasy, you’re going to think it bears some resemblance to America, but remember it’s a fantasy.

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15 blog for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on February 2014

Feb 19

Elegy for a Deer

In Brief—Memories of an autumn afternoon when a little deer came to die.

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Tears for A Little Deer—

unknownShe lay quietly next to the fence hard by the forest and the trail down the side of the hill. Nearby stood the feeder where the birds, squirrels and deer came each day to feed. Autumn’s leaves covered the ground where a cushion of sunflower seeds and shells waited expectantly for winter’s first snow.

She was a small deer, no bigger than a large dog. Her grey-brown coat showed no signs of blood while her long graceful legs appeared to be unbroken. As I looked out the kitchen window at the new arrival, she seemed calm, almost as if resting, but the thought crossed my mind that it was unusual for a normally skittish deer to be resting so calmly.

In an effort not to frighten her, I quietly approached murmuring low, calming reassurance. Her large, dark eyes followed me as if expecting a threat, but she made no move to flee. Gradually, she seemed to relax when she realized I intended no harm. I like to think now that she was merely curious.

A chill was in the afternoon air, so thinking that she might be cold, I went to the nearby garage and retrieved an old blanket. Returning, I gently covered her with the blanket, but she remained still watching me. That alone was unusual. I began to wonder what I should do.

At last, naively thinking that she would be well taken care of, I called Animal Control. In just a few minutes, a truck crunched up the gravel driveway. A man emerged and followed me to the little deer. He bent, looked at her and opined that she may have been hit by a car and made her way to a place of comfort to die. It would be better to put her out of her misery. Shocked, I pointed out that she showed no signs of being in misery. Rather it was as if she simply needed to lie quietly for a while and heal if, indeed, she was injured. Despite this, he turned and went to his truck.

When he returned, he held a small caliber rifle. I knew immediately what was intended. She watched him as if resigned to her fate, her big dark eyes following him. Frozen in horror, I watched him place the muzzle of the rifle near her forehead. It wasn’t loud. One shot brought forth a brief fountain of blood. This beautiful little deer was dead.

He gathered her little legs together and carried her like a rag doll, head lolling, to his truck… and he was gone. She was gone. I stood in disbelief at what had happened. Slowly, almost reverently, I gathered up the now empty blanket and returned it to the garage.

To this day, I wonder if I did the right thing or if I brought about her death. Sometimes, as now, the memory of that beautiful little deer creeps back to haunt me. It will until my last day.

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15 blog for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on January 2014

Feb 12

Zealotry is Poisonous

In Brief— An examination of two aspects of society, Politics and Religion, and how the mixing of the two creates a destructive force.


A Deadly Recipe—

Mix one part Politics with one part Religion, add a human society made up of differing views and watch it boil until it spills out in turmoil. This is a recipe for disaster that now threatens America as it has other societies throughout history.

pence-zealotOn November 8, 2016, ignorant, frightened, xenophobic and racist voters put the profoundly ignorant and crude groper, Donald Trump, and his slick, handsome, Christian Sovereignty running mate, Mike Pence, in charge of arguably the most powerful nation in history.

Politics has been around for good or ill since our ancestors gathered into clans in pre-history. Politics is defined simply as organized control over a human community, particularly a state. Looked at carefully, it’s about the power to exercise control over the people. As I have said, that power can be good or it can be bad. Depends on the individuals exercising that power. The key word is ”power.”

Now, let’s look at religion. It’s been around at least as long as politics. Religious belief can range from relatively benign belief confined to the believer to, at the other end of the spectrum, zealous belief that the believer imparts to other credulous members of family or society. It’s at this extreme end of the spectrum that religious belief blends with politics. That’s what America has in vice president Mike Pence and his zealous fellow Christians.

A Look at Mike Pence—

Putting aside the crude groper in chief, Trump, take a look at the anti-female laws supported by Pence when he was the governor of Indiana as well as his zealous Christian beliefs.

  • Pence actively sought to ban Planned Parenthood in Indiana disregarding the organization’s positive record of contributing to women’s health, particularly their reproductive health. Before that, he opposed Planned Parenthood in congress.
  • Pence has stated that he wants to overturn the Supreme Court case of Roe versus Wade that guarantees women the right to an abortion. That would return America to the halcyon days of back alley coat hanger abortions.
  • As governor, Pence signed every anti-abortion bill that crossed his desk.
  • Pence opposes gay marriage and would overturn the Supreme Court ruling. He has said that equal marriage rights for gay couples will lead to societal collapse. Furthermore, he supports a constitutional amendment that would ban such marriages.
  • Pence signed a bill that would have required all fetuses, whether through miscarriage or abortion, be given a funeral. This law, greatly increasing reproductive health costs to women, was so extreme that it was blocked by a federal judge because it violated a woman’s right to choose.
  • Pence opposed a bill that would prevent discrimination against LGBTs in the workplace. And the list goes on and on.
  • What about Mike Pence’s religious beliefs? He has said that he is a Christian first, then a conservative and lastly a Republican. Pence is a Christian Supremacist, that is, he places his religion ahead of everything else. This is a blending of politics with religion on steroids, the very definition of a zealot.
  • Finally, what power will Mike Pence represent? After John Kasich reportedly turned down Trump’s offer to make him ”the most powerful vice president in history,” several sources including the reliable Truthout believe that Trump offered Pence the same power to handle domestic and foreign policy while Trump would handle ”making America great again.” According to reports in the New York Times, this is exactly what we see happening. Put clearly, Mike Pence is now the de facto president of the United States.

At the beginning of this piece, I wrote about the danger of combining politics and religion. The title of this blog post is ”Zealotry is Poisonous.” Mike Pence is both the vice president and extremely religious. Are you scared yet?

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15 blog for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on December 2013

 

Feb 05

Immortality, Yes or No?

In Brief—An examination of the age-old philosophical question of whether you would choose to live forever or die as normal mortals do.

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Is Everlasting Life Worth It?—

eternity-hourglass“Tuck Everlasting” is Natalie Babbitt’s thoughtful novel that raises the question posed by a fountain of youth that confers everlasting life on those who drink its waters.

Ten-year-old Winnie Foster meets the Tuck family who are frozen at the ages when they drank from the waters that bubble forth from a spring beneath an ancient tree in the forest. The youngest son, Jesse, prevents the thirsty girl from quenching her thirst. Telling her his unbelievable story, he urges her to wait until she is his age so they can be married and live forever in marital bliss. The rest of the family convince her of the truth of the little spring and their lives. Of course, there are complications, but the question remains: Would you choose everlasting life or not?

Questions Before Choosing—

  • Assuming immortality were possible and you could choose any age for yourself, at what age would you drink the elixir? Why?
  • Where would you choose to live? Country? City or rural?
  • Would you marry and whom? Children?
  • What would you study and what profession, if any, would you choose?
  • What political party would you choose?
  • Who would you tell?

Possible Positive Considerations—

  • You get to see how conditions and your predictions turn out.
  • Depending on your chosen age, you would presumably be at the height of your physical and mental condition.
  • You would be attractive to those interested in mating with you.
  • You could hone your skills and education making you more employable.
  • You would be impervious to death regardless of any risks you might take.

Now pause for a moment and consider how you answered each issue before you go on.

Reality Rears Its Ugly Head—

The above questions and possible advantages of immortality are by no means the only ones capable of being raised. Nevertheless, here are some aspects that might influence your answers.

  • Assuming you drank the elixir at any age of your choosing, if you were a child or an older person, remember you would be frozen at that age forever. Too young and you may not be of voting age or virile; too old and there are those aches and pains with you forever.
  • No matter where you chose to live, city or rural, your neighbors and the people where you bought stuff would begin to wonder why they were aging and you weren’t. The religious among them might even begin to think you had made a pact with the devil.
  • If you settle down with a partner and particularly if children come along, they would age while you stayed the same. This could drive a wedge in your relationships and would impact both you and them emotionally.
  • Should you keep the elixir a secret from your loved ones or friends? If you tell them, would they tell others? Might certain groups (e.g., the wealthy or privileged) want to hog the elixir for just themselves?
  • Would Earth become crowded by people who live forever and demand food and services?
  • Professions would be in less (or more) demand with the advent of technology, automation and political pressures. Your studies would vary according to the demands of the market.
  • Will the political party you choose change? Will the country of your residence become authoritarian or open?
  • Now remember that each aspect mentioned above is impacted by immortality.

In “Tuck Everlasting,” the father looks at a dead man with envy. Think about that.

I recall the story “The Country of the Blind” in which the narrator learns that his eyes are considered by the inhabitants of the hidden valley to be a curse. Is immortality a curse?

The moral to this exercise is that you should be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15 blog for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled  “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on November 2013

Jan 29

Love and Human Nature

In Brief—An exploration of what is meant by “Love” and its possible sources. Is it real or merely a transitory experience?


“Love is a serious mental disease.” (Plato)

stupid-love“I love you” may be the most common expression in the human repertoire, but its vagueness avoids some truths that are the core of human nature.

Love is said to be a strong emotional attachment that embraces commitment, selflessness and harmony. Wait a second! Is that true? Let’s examine that more closely in light of what we see around us every day and what our own lives reveal.

Views of Love—

Like life, thinkers through the ages have tried to define love. Religionists, philosophers, scientists, psychologists and others have taken a whack at it depending on their particular orientation, but few have been able to define it satisfactorily. Instead, I will look at this emotion from a realistic and some would say a cynical point-of-view.

Religionists and those claiming to be spiritual but not religious have their own takes on love. Religious people assert that God is love without realizing that if God is love, he has a strange way of showing it. The deity permits his creations to suffer and die without stepping in to stop it.

The “spiritual” adherents often talk in terms of using adversity to strengthen oneself. Gaining strength through suffering is their mantra. We might ask those suffering if they prefer their pain over their spiritual gain. You can also find the tarot card and Gaia crowd crowing about how “spiritual” they are.

Philosophers too often pontificate about the types of love: philia (brotherly love), agape (love of God), pragma (companionate or married love), eros (sexual love), philautia (love of the self) and storge (love for a child).

Scientists speak of love in terms of hormones, endorphins, oxytocin, serotonin, neurotransmitters, brain states and psychology. My view reflects this position.

Practical Situations—

It is said that true love is instantly recognizable and will last a lifetime with that one special person. If that is true, then how do you account for the young falling in love with one today, then next week another? How do you account for divorce? What about multiple marriages, most taking place in religious surroundings under the eye of the deity? ‘Til death do you part, and all that stuff.

Here are some interesting facts about love and marriage.

  • People married while young are more likely to divorce.
  • People who work in the same place are more likely to marry. The person in the next cubicle is a big attraction.
  • Roughly half of all American marriages end in divorce.
  • Divorce is more common where one’s parents were divorced. Other risk factors include, Youth, Limited education, Low income, Cohabitation, Religious differences and Insecurity of one or both partners.

So you don’t believe in marriage? Here are some facts about living outside of marriage, continued cohabitation, marrying later or separating.

  • Approximately three-quarters of American women below thirty have lived with a partner without being married. Some married their partner, some continued to cohabitate and about thirty percent separated. Continued cohabitation or multiple partners depend to a substantial degree on lower income and level of education.
  • Part of the issue is cultural. That is, people are not marrying as much these days. Traditions are changing.

So what does this have to do with love? Could it be cynicism about love? Could it be reality intruding? Could it be the current fad? Is love just a transitory state of mind? I believe it involves all the above, but mostly the latter.

Although I am only one among billions of humans and not necessarily representative, here is my history and my views. Every individual has a different history and view.

I have been married three times. Fortunately, it appears I paid attention and grew since the third relationship has lasted forty years. A couple of years of cohabitation with my present wife convinced me that this one was right (consider this: maybe I just got lucky). Despite coming from different cultures an ocean apart, our values were similar. We don’t subscribe to ownership of the other and, though we may disagree at times, we respect each other. Today finds us in a new phase of the relationship and we’re feeling our way. Still, it feels solid.

My first two marriages show that love is temporary. We were young and immature (I certainly was), but I sensed that the marriages didn’t feel right. I suspect that the women did, too. More importantly, it takes two to tango; that is, both of us contributed to the breakup. The results point to love being transitory.

I came from a family where, for two prior generations, divorce was common. That probably made it easier to end the relationships, but we seem to be better for the divorces…at least it was for me.

What is your view? Are you better off now after a divorce? Is your ex-partner better off? Why? Those readers who have made their marriages work, what is the relationship for you? Those who have remained single, Why? We’re all different, so share how it is for you.

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15 blog for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on October 2013

Jan 22

Memories of My Parents

In Brief—Bay remembers his parents and the influences they had on him from childhood and adulthood.

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Does the Apple Fall Far from the Tree?—

For good or for ill, our parents not only endow us with their genes but provide the environment that helps shape us. Nature and nurture in concert.

real-memoriesOne question we have to ask ourselves is whether our parents set the pattern we follow or if each of us chooses his/her own path. In examining myself, I think it’s both, but one or the other will dominate. In my case, the person I have become is primarily determined by all the influences that have touched me since the time I was a kid. Once I tasted independence, the influences of my parents receded…but they’re still in there.

Being sent to a distant boarding school as a child allowed me to flex my self-reliance muscles, to depend on myself more often than not. It was a matter of survival. Although being sent to Santa Fe, New Mexico, was a life or death decision, I suspect it was also a convenience to my parents, particularly Mother.

Dad was a disappointment to his successful father who refused to employ him. Dad was often away scratching to make a living on his own. He became a lovable alcoholic who charmed the ladies. Mother was born to wealth and was farmed out to a strict Catholic boarding school by her rigid, controlling mother. She was meaner than a cornered badger and unfortunately contributed to Dad’s alcohol problem. That said, it was only natural that I would be sent to a Catholic boarding school in Santa Fe where her mother summered every year. I have always assumed that my grandmother suggested it.

This gives you some background that will add meaning to the incidents I will relate.

As a little child, Dad was disappointed that I didn’t want to rough-house with him. To him, that may have been taken as a rejection. I’m not qualified to psychoanalyze him, but I sense an echo of his father.

When bathing me as a toddler, Mother laughed at the sight of me. Rather than interpreting that as parental joy at her little boy, I have chosen to feel it was denigrating me. Is this too harsh or something else?

I’ve already related how Dad bought a toboggan for my sister and me, but Mother angrily insisted he return it. Maybe it was an economic thing, but I clearly recall that Dad was visibly deflated. Could he have refused?

The Vanishing Family Dogs—

When I returned from Santa Fe, my gentle dog Bouncer was missing. Before I left, he was my constant companion. When I asked, Mother evasively replied that he barked at the milkman and was mean. She conveniently forgot that just before I left, the milkman hit Bouncer with a metal rod. She simply wanted an excuse to get rid of him.

Poopsie was a cute and active little mutt. One evening at a party, Dad and Mother laughingly poured booze into his bowl which Poopsie lapped up. Incensed, I wrote a note and ran away. After sitting through the film twice, I decided that running away was not such a good idea and returned home. Angry, Mother wanted to punish me, but Dad defended me. No punishment for me, but Mother decided Poopsie must go.

While I was in the Army, Mother bought two elegant Afghan Hounds. Beautiful dogs, but Mother decided they were too mch trouble to brush, so they went.

Anger in Action—

Clipping away half Dad’s mustache while he slept. On the way home to Albuquerque after my army discharge in Arkansas, I stopped to visit Dad in Houston, the first time in years that I had seen him. Mother was angry that I visited Dad. Being slapped HARD when I quietly defended my sister’s position that her boyfriend not be forced to return to Kansas during the busy Labor Day holiday. Mother never apologized. Indeed, when mentioned a couple of months later, she said she didn’t remember the incident even though it caused me to abruptly leave for California. “Disowning” me because I held different political views and married a Swedish woman. Anger was Mother’s default emotion.

I have zero memory of Mother ever telling me she loved me. Dad, by contrast, told me he loved me. Although she lived only an hour and a half away and we repeatedly offered to drive her, Mother refused. Dad visited even though he lived halfway across the country.

These are just a few of the many instances of Mother’s meanness and anger. What a miserable person she must have been.

I have friends who loved their mothers, whose mothers were kind to us all. A friend once said that something should be added to the water until the drinker proved capable of being a good parent. Mother would have flunked.

It took several years after Mother’s death for me to accept that she simply lacked the tools to be a good parent. Today, I look in the mirror and recognize her genes. Some of the aspects of my personality that I admire come from her, but I neither like nor love her. She was simply my mother. Dad, however, is a warm memory.

I readily admit that being a parent is a hard and often thankless job. Unfortunately, time has not softened the jagged edges of my memories. Acceptance finally came, but reality mutes it.

On my wall hangs some wisdom from Illusions that your true family is your friends, not the family you grew up in. The friend who sent it is right.

What about your parents?

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15 blog for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not. The blog administrator will post any comment you choose to make in the current Comments and I will reply. Both will then be attached to the original piece regardless of when it was written.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on    September 2013

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