Dec 04

Prejudice is Down Deep

In Brief—A peek at the often hidden prejudice that hides within most of us as well as the blatant prejudice we find in some misguided individuals.

Prejudice is a Plague Hiding Within—

prejudice-slashcircleIt emerged from hiding in my subconscious in the unlikeliest of places. Dressed in my hippie trousers, flowered shirt and with my wallet tucked in my waistband, I was walking through Disneyland, “The Magic Kingdom,” when I saw them…two young well-dressed African-American men walking toward me enjoying the sights amid the happy crowd. Instinctively, I tapped my wallet to see if it was there. Busted! My hidden prejudice arose from my subconscious to reveal itself in all its ugliness. Fortunately, I recognized it and have dealt with it…but it’s there.

Scientific research shows that prejudice toward outsiders is an inborn defense mechanism that came from our early ancestors who were suspicious of those not in their group. It’s usually easy to identify “The Other”: Those who have a different skin color. Those who speak a different language. Those who come from a different culture. Those who flee deadly violence, corruption and privation.

What drives us to experience prejudice? Fear is usually the culprit. Economic fears: “They’re going to steal our jobs or our possessions.”

Personal Security: “They’re going to attack me or my loved ones.”

Health Threats: “They’re dirty or disease-ridden and will infect us.” Fear of immigrants or vagrants carrying diseases.

Traditional Values: “They love others of the same sex; they have a feminist agenda; they don’t revere our national anthem; they want to bring down our system of government; they worship in a different way.

You can probably add to this list, but in every case, the outsiders are different in some way that sets them apart from the majority.

A look around this chaotic world shows how destructive prejudice is. People of color are forced into substandard housing or jobs that pay less…if they have job at all. Researchers have found that people with African-American sounding names are not hired despite having the same education or experience as the white applicant.

They are shot by police or civilians who imagine they are under threat. Flip open the daily newspaper. They are denied justice in the unjust court system. They receive substandard education or their parents are denied food stamps and childcare. They are targeted by politicians selfishly interested in advancing their own careers…and bank accounts.

Using fear, right-wing political parties inflame the gullible citizenry to oppose rational solutions. It’s happening in America. It’s happening in Europe. In Asia and Australia. Lack of empathy and compassion are ignored, and prejudice driven by fear of “The Other” is inexorably leading humanity to extinction in the not-too-distant future.

Rational thought is abandoned as primitive instinct is released from the depths of millennia of evolution. Civilization gives way to our basest instincts.

A number of famous people have written about prejudice. It’s worth considering what they have said…

“Prejudice, a dirty word, and faith, a clean one, have something in common: they both begin where reason ends.”― Harper Lee, Go Set a Watchman

“Do you know what we call opinion in the absence of evidence? We call it prejudice.”― Michael Crichton, State of Fear

“Someone has said that it requires less mental effort to condemn than to think.”― Emma Goldman

“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”― Audre Lorde, Our Dead Behind Us: Poems

All of us need to explore our subconsciouness to recognize prejudice that’s hiding within and tame it. We need to recognize the wisdom of Audre Lorde and celebrate our differences, not let them frighten us. We must rise above our unreasoning fears.

Nov 27

Human Nature: An Unconventional View

In Brief—Bay explains why he believes humanity has no better than a 5% chance of survival beyond the end of this century.


Humans are Flawed Creatures—

uncertain-future-signCapitalism, seeking profit, is just one reason why humanity has only a small chance of surviving beyond the end of this century. Greed, short-sightedness, forcing one’s way of living on others, fear of “The Other” that ignores their fears, winning at any cost, scientific ignorance and illogical religious dogma are some of the other reasons. These are why I hold the view I do.

There is a small possibility that humanity might muddle through, that they might survive for a while in a much-reduced state in some remote location, but science won’t save humanity and certainly the imagined deity of the majority won’t appear to pull our fat out of the fire. Indeed, the dumbing down of society written about by so many observers does not bode well for survival.

Let’s look at the reasons that lead to my conclusion.

Greed—The symbolism of Wall Street comes most readily to mind. Many traders and corporate executives earn more in a week than most humans will ever see in their lifetimes. Research shows that the wealthy look down on the common folk. They are reported to be markedly meaner, even sociopathic. Writers have pointed out that America leads the world in inequality, and inequality is growing.

 Short-sightednes— The world is changing rapidly and humans don’t adapt well to change. Reams of research show that humans are still living in an era when change came slowly and was relatively easily digested. That isn’t the case today…and the speed of change is accelerating.

Take a look at the cars on the street and absorb the fact that manufacturers and buyers want the size and horsepower they had twenty years ago. Further, given that many can’t afford a low-polluting car, do you think that polluting vehicles are going to suddenly disappear?

Forcing one’s way on others—Isn’t war one way of forcing others? What do you think those politicians, extreme religionists, those who fear fleeing immigrants want? They all want us to think and act as they do.

The Koch brothers want to keep pumping oil, mining coal, influencing politicians to insure their continued profits. Are they likely to reconsider the harm they are causing regardless of what the majority want?

Fear of “The Other”—People who speak a different language, dress in different clothing, worship a different way, eat strange foods, have darker skin are “The Other.” They are feared for irrational reasons, but fear is the driver. Right now, whole countries are consumed by this irrational fear. It’s only going to metastasize as the fleeing grows.

Scientific IgnoranceGlobal human-caused climate change is terrifyingly real, but numerous influential and ignorant people believe that it is a hoax because their local weather doesn’t fit the pattern. Too many people in the world whose crops wither or who watch the rivers dry up or are driven from their homes by war and corrupt leaders don’t even think about the climate changing. They just flee for safety. It may be too late to stop the warming and its wider affects.

Winning at any cost—The globe is chock-a-block with people who aren’t happy with anything but coming in first. Whether it’s the Olympics, a football team or at the track, winning is what’s it’s all about. Forget Win-Win or social good, it’s a zero sum game. Winning is in the human DNA.

Religious Dogma—Neither God, Jehovah, Allah nor any of the other deities will save our asses. Although humans will believe what they want to believe even when confronted by contrary evidence, no deity is going to step in to reverse the inescapable. Science is a day late and a dollar short, so don’t look to them for help.

These are just a few of the reasons that humans are unlikely to make it into the next century. Human nature is such that we are unable to stop our headlong plunge into the abyss.

As animals with an opposable thumb who are not nearly as advanced as we’d like to believe, humans are locked by evolution into destructive ways that won’t change. And the universe will go on its way not caring that humanity was ever there. As the Christian Bible says, eat, drink and be merry, the end is just around the corner.

Nov 20

Chronicle from the Old Folks’ Home—Part 10

In Brief—Bay reflects on the past weeks in the warehouse where he lives. This time it’s different.

Cranial Pinball Machine and Random Thoughts—

Sign (head-on)The fog of depression over the election results lifted to reveal the trees standing naked, with sparkling snow having nudged autumn’s oranges and golds aside. By the time this column makes its appearance, winter’s snow will have spread a thicker blanket on the ground.

Though it arrived a bit late, the train all of us are on stopped to let two of us off at their destinations. One empty room has been filled with another passenger who will join us on our journey.  Another room waits for a new occupant. More gray hair.

Gray hair fills these rooms, these halls, so I was jolted to see dark hair on a girl of about eight passing me in the corridor. “Hey,” we both said. Without another word she continued down the hall to visit her grandmother. This warehouse is filled with gray hair.

Messages from distant friends bring me news of other lives, other activity, other places. Recipes for cherry tomatoes and brie [Oh, God, I miss the taste of cherry tomatoes!] remind me of the past. I savor those recipes. At first, it was torture to watch others eat, and I would absent myself. Now I try not to think of the tastes as I’m fed through a tube. We don’t appreciate how our social life is enhanced by eating.

Close-by friends send me comedy, issues of justice gone astray, films and photos. They stir my synapses and, as anticipated by sensitive friends, give me reason to face another day here in the warehouse.

Other valued correspondents share their thoughts on the screwed-up politics of the day. It gives me a chance to reveal my skepticism and cynicism about what I see in the media. The media are designed to attract eyeballs to keep those profits rolling in. Journalists are just humans with the same biases we all have. It pays to remember that their paychecks are signed by the elite who own the media. We all believe what we want to believe. Are friends just allowing me to be me, cynicism and all?

Like a well running dry, my blog motivation seems at times to be drying up only to return with gifts that propel me forward. Sometimes two or three gifts; sometimes the well is dry. I wonder if an empty bucket is the future. Will I be like those people who sit and stare, lost in their own world?

Gifts from a dear friend feed my reading addiction. I read voraciously, non-fiction, fiction. The eyesight is fading now, my world is a bit dim, so the reading is becoming a bit manic. Just one more book! One more after that! Will an operation at my age arrest that dimming or is the future dark?

I realize people in the outside world have other interests, other experiences, other talents. They think in ways that are different. We are all unique. When I’m being mellow I say “Thank heavens.” On occasion my baser side emerges: “Some folks are three bricks shy of a load.” Never make the mistake of believing someone else thinks as you do. If you do, that’s a big mistake. The election results clearly show that.

My train ticket destination is written in invisible ink. Most are the same. Since this is my first time waiting for the conductor to announce my destination, I shouldn’t be surprised. Awareness of our respective destinations would devastate most ticket-holders. Not me. I would be reassured. The train moves on. The waiting continues. What does the future hold?

Nov 13

The Catholic Church Does Its Dance

In Brief—Bay recognizes that this may step on some toes, but facts don’t lie. That said, this is also a look at the Catholic Church that has made Mother Teresa a saint.

All that Glitters Isn’t Gold—

sm-black-crossReused hypodermic needles are assuredly not a healthful way to go. Nevertheless, this is one example of the way the recently canonized Mother Teresa ran her clinic in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), India. This is just the tip of the dirty iceberg that the Catholic Church just elevated to sainthood. Goes to illustrate the delusions and propaganda that continue to drive the Catholic Church.

Part of the requirement for sainthood is that the candidate must be shown to have performed at least two miracles. The Pope can waive that requirement, but it is usually adhered to. That leads us to how a miracle is defined.

For our purposes, a miracle is define as an extraordinary event not explainable by natural or scientific laws that is brought about by God. Candidly, there is no such thing as a miracle. In rational terms, a miracle is either an uncommon event, fudged imagination, a lie or a delusion.

But what about Mother Teresa? She was born in Skopje, Macedonia in 1910 and died in 1997. She studied for a year in Ireland to learn English before moving to India and becoming a nun in 1937. She founded the Missionaries of Charity in 1948 at the request of the Vatican.

Some of the practices that are reliably reported to have been carried on by Mother Teresa’s ”cult of suffering” were chaining babies to their beds, reusing hypodermic needles, secretly baptising dying patients who were unaware of what was going on, allowing patients to receive questionable treatment leading to their needless deaths, no isolation of patients with communicable diseases and generally deplorable conditions. Suffering rather than alleviating pain was an important element of Missionaries of Charity. The word is that they are belatedly trying to clean up their act. ”Out, damned spot!”

Then we must look at Mother Teresa’s excessively dogmatic views about contraception, abortion and divorce. Who knows how many poor women died when denied a necessary abortion? Who knows how many women had children they were unable to support as a result of lack of contraception? These moral crimes are the wages of dogmatism. But then, those are some of the unbending stances of the Roman Catholic Church throughout its history.

We won’t do more than mention Mother Teresa’s fullsome support of vile Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha or her plea for leniency for fellow Catholic Charles Keating, convicted of fraud, who just happened to be a generous contributor to Mother Teresa’s organization. For someone who was purportedly committed to poverty, she sure loved money regardless of its source and accumulated quite a pile of it…all with the approval of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Roman Catholic Church—

Now, let’s move on to the Roman Catholic Church that for years has flacked shamelessly for Mother Teresa and has elevated her to sainthood. That plaster saint statue will sell briskly in Roman shops.

Pope Francis is saying some positive things that need saying but, however sincere, Francis is just the present pope. A subsequent pope may reverse his liberalisms. Notwithstanding Pope Francis, the Catholic Church’s position is set in concrete. To change their dogma—for example, on male heierarchy, abortion and contraception—is to undermine their traditional reason for being.

Eighty-one of the popes have been made saints. Not all have been saintly. A number of them have sired children while pope, but the church dances around that by casting doubt on their lack of celibacy, saying stuff like, ”Well, that was before he became Pope.” Of course, the Catholic Church doesn’t like to discuss priests—or popes—abusing or having sex with vulnerable children. They prefer to keep it in-house if not well-hidden from the outside world.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the Roman Catholic Church is a supremely wealthy business organization with a worth comparable to or in excess of that of the United States, but it’s impossible to nail down because the Church won’t disclose its value. We know it is heavily invested in real estate holdings and corporate shares, but it’s extensive works of art and architecture have never been valued. Suffice it to say, the Catholic Church is believed to be the richest entity on earth.

I could go on, but this morally corrupt organization has just made Mother Teresa a saint. This little woman is a warped, publicity-seeking, money-grubbing fraud, and she is now a saint. The deluded dupes will be praying for her to help them when she wouldn’t even help the poor women who looked to her for succor.

The Catholic Church has its saints. Don’t you feel better?

Nov 06

Only a Pig, You Say?!

In Brief—A look at one of the smartest animals on the planet, the pig, and it’s destiny to be slaughtered for your gustatory enjoyment.

Smarter than a 3-Year-Old Human—

baby-pig-in-armsAn Ontario, Canada, woman with a conscience is being prosecuted for giving water to thirsty pigs on their way to the slaughterhouse. No joke, this compassionate woman who merely gave water to condemned pigs is charged with criminal mischief and is facing a fine of up to $5,000 or jail. What’s criminal here is that a compassionate woman was prosecuted and Ontario’s taxpayer money was wasted.

Facts About Pigs—

Did you know that pigs are smarter than a human 3-year-old? They are more sophisticated than your beloved family dog. They enjoy play and even abstract video games, complex puzzles and mazes. They can vocally communicate with one another or clearly express their wishes. They learn from each other, are empathetic and have been found to have superior long-term memory. They like music, have extraordinary homing ability that allows them to find their way home over great distances and, unlike their reputation, are clean and easily housebroken. Science has repeatedly established their wide-ranging cognitive ability. BUT we eat them!

I suggest you read naturalist Sy Montgomery’s book “The Good Good Pig” about living with her pet pig, Christopher Hogwood. Not only is it a fascinating book, but you may never think of pigs as food again.

Pigs as Food—

A number of months ago, I told you about countries that raise pigs for food. At the risk of boring you with the gory details of raising pigs to be slaughtered—sometimes in the most agonizing way—here are the facts about this grim practice.

It’s no surprise that China, with a population of 1.4 billion, leads the world with about half a million pigs at any given time. The United States, with a population of 320 million souls, comes in second with roughly 65 million pigs. Brazil, with a human population of about 200 million, is in third place with about 37 million pigs and Germany follows with about 28 million pigs versus 80 million people. That’s a lot of people eating pigs.

Speaking of just America, a substantial number of Americans eat pork products. Excluding vegetarians and vegans, the only exceptions are some Jews, many Muslims and some Hindus. Pigs are part of the diets of most Americans. What if they knew about the intelligence of pigs? Might they think twice before dining on pork products? Might they decide that a vegetable diet is healthier and better than killing animals?

By now, you have undoubtedly realized that we are almost totally blind to the monumental suffering we cause. We just don’t want to know some very uncomfortable facts. Might we want to save the planet and its inhabitants by becoming vegetarians or vegans? If millions of Hindus throughout the world can be vegetarians, then we can, too.

Pigs, Vegetarian and Vegan—

“But wait,” you say. “Can I get the protein I need to be healthy?” The simple answer is, “Yes.” If you hate tofu, then whole grains, nuts, beans of all types, dark greens, peas, avocado, broccoli, possibly eggs, yogurt and cheeses will provide you with more than enough protein to keep you healthy. The bonus is that you will be able to shed unwanted extra weight while eating all you want.

I encourage you to find out for yourself how you can help save the planet and its animal inhabitants while eating tasty vegetarian food at the same time. There are several different types of vegetarianism, and one of them will surely fill your needs.

Will you miss meat? Probably so at first, but eventually that omnivorous craving will pass. If you choose to believe otherwise, then at least think about those poor animals, those pigs, that are shown to experience fear as they are herded to their deaths, that are being slaughtered to fill your stomach.

Try compassion toward pigs and those other creatures humans destroy to feed themselves.

Oct 30

Trump, Racism, Misogyny and Memory

In Brief—With the national election on Tuesday, November 8, voters risk having a clueless tyrant, Donald Trump, destroy all that America stands for and its preeminent position in the world. Deny Donald Trump the Oval Office.

The Tyranny of Ignorance—

VOTEDisbelieving Swedes ask me if Donald Trump stands a chance of becoming president. I say he’s not only dangerous but arguably unhinged. In a rapidly changing world that will challenge the next president more than ever before, strange things can happen. We mustn’t allow Trump near the Oval Office.

The press, always focused on winning eyeballs, tells us that Trump doesn’t have a chance. Then why do they make his unlikely rise to prominence seem like he’s on third base ready to steal home?

This piece will sound a warning about not only Donald Trump but about the American voter.

The American Voter—

Voter memories are notoriously short. Politicians count on this and are returned to office even though they may be incompetent. Most voters have no idea what the party platform says even though it is the blueprint for the party politicians. You’d make money betting that your voting neighbor has no idea who his/her representative is, let alone what the representative stands for or votes for. The political party is all that counts for that voter. The voter’s brain is out-to-lunch.

So who are the voters who believe Trump’s hollow promises? We’ve seen them at his rallies as they roar their approval of his inanities and attack his opponents as Trump cheers them on. Those are the ignorant dupes who may put him in the Oval Office. Are you scared yet?

Trump’s Racism—

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times lists the organizations that support a Trump win in November. Not all of Trump’s supporters have a racist motive, but some are unquestionably racist. Here’s the “List of Shame.”

  • The Ku Klux Klan and it’s “Imperial Wizard;”
  • The American Freedom Party, a white nationalist organization along with its former presidential candidate, Bob Whitaker;
  • The American Nazi Party (fans of Adolph Hitler) although they are quiet about an endorsement for fear it will doom a Trump win;
  • The Daily Stormer, a white supremacist website;
  • The National Enquirer…the organization known to tell its audience about little green men;
  • And, of course, many if not all of Trump’s rabid supporters who would toss the San Francisco 49ers quarterback out of the country along with the First Amendment to the Constitution.
  • Trump has called Mexicans criminals and promised to build a huge wall along the border to keep them out. Trump doesn’t want brown-skinned folk whether they be Hispanic, of African heritage or any other group.
  • He has repeatedly claimed that a judge of Mexican ancestry is unfair to him because of the judge’s heritage.
  • He has chosen as his running mate Mike Pence, a politician whose sorry record includes not-so-subtle legislative attacks on women of color who would be denied the right to handle their own sexual health. This qualifies as both racism and misogyny. There is no doubt that Pence’s acts are blatant sexism.

Trump’s Misogyny—

Lest you forget because of the passage of time and human flaws…

  • Trump said of Megyn Kelly that she had …”blood coming out of her [pause] wherever.”
  • He said several times that Arianna Huffington was “ugly” or “very unattractive.” He has said that of a number of women including Cher, Heidi Klum, Angelina Jolie and others. To him, women are mere objects who are either pretty or ugly.
  • In his book, Trump stated that women must be “…something pretty to see.”
  • Aside from calling her “ugly” and a “slob,” Trump tweeted that he’d have to be paid a trillion dollars to kiss Rosie O’Donnell.
  • He said to a woman expressing the need to breast-feed her baby, “You’re disgusting.”
  • He stated that the military’s sexual assault record showed that the military should never have enlisted women to serve alongside men.
  • He has stated that women who are smart should act “very feminine and needy” and that “inside they are real killers” who manipulate men with their eyes…”or perhaps another body part.”

I could go on and on, but you get the idea: Donald Trump is an egotistical misogynist. Now, despite his disgusting track record, he is pretending to be the most reasonable guy on the planet.

We have heard from his own mouth that Trump is not only an egotistical bully, but he’s a misogynistic racist spewing verbal diarrhea.

Add to his list of senseless disqualifications Trump’s assertion that he would exclude all Muslim immigrants because they might be terrorists. He seems to be unfamiliar with the Constitution.

Hillary Clinton is certainly not a paragon of virtue, but alongside Donald Trump she is an experienced and politically knowledgeable candidate who will govern effectively. It’s like comparing a gem to a pile of manure, Trump being the latter.

Responsible voters have the chance to reject Donald Trump in November. Send this guy back to his den. America neither wants nor needs a dangerous fear-monger like Trump to make the country “great again.” America is already great. Let’s keep that going.

For another perspective on the emptiness of Trump, Frank Bruni will give you another reason to reject Trump. Click here in the highlighted area to see why.

Vote for sanity in November. Reject Donald Trump. And remember those down-ballot representatives who may be supporting Trump!

Oct 23

Humanity Toward the Stars

In Brief—As we are told that habitable planets are increasingly being discovered in the universe, the author examines whether humans are likely to visit those planets in the future.

The Stars Beckon; Do We Measure Up?—

Today must be a slow news day. The Times tantalizes us with a report that another Galaxy Locationpossibly habitable planet has been found in the “Goldilocks Zone” of Alpha Centauri, our nearest neighbor in this galaxy. It’s only 4.37 light years away from us, a mere walk-around-the-block in terms of the enormous size of the known universe. The “Goldilocks Zone,” by the way, is that distance from a star that allows for the possibility of being habitable to Earhlings.

Not only is traveling to Alpha Centauri pie-in-the-sky, but interestingly the story allows Times readers to keep on doing as they have been doing since we can always go to another planet once we finish screwing up Earth. The Swedes call it the “Wear it out, Throw it away” philosophy. Humans are short-term thinkers, refusing to think about the future. I’m going to pop the “travel-to-the-stars” balloon.

Reality Intrudes—

A light year is the distance light travels in a year. Light travels at a speed of roughly 186,000 miles per second. A beam of light takes about 8 minutes to travel from here to our sun which is actually a star. Earth is in the “Goldilocks Zone” of our planetary system.

The number of miles between Earth and Alpha Centauri is 25 trillion miles. 25 TRILLION! And that’s if we traveled at the speed of light…which we can’t. With current technology, it’s estimated that we will be able to go only about one-quarter of the speed of light. Guess how long that would take? Like about 75,000 years!!

We’ve all seen Star Trek where they have warp drive that allows them to go faster than the speed of light. While that speed has been theorized, it’s no more than pipe dreams and certainly not within reach of the best minds in science even with the advances expected in the next decades. Here are a few sobering conditions of traveling to Alpha Centauri.

What’s the trip going to cost? In America today, particularly with an ever-expanding military and America’s political system, we don’t have enough money to take care of our own domestic needs, so any trip to Alpha Centauri will have to involve several other nations. Those nations have their own financial problems. Thus, it’s going to be a matter of priorities. Think about refugees? Or stretched world finances? Or climate change?

Planning? Such a massive undertaking requires years of planning. Unmanned probes. Vastly improved telescopes. Unknown exigencies will arise during the trip and must be anticipated.

Cost is a major part of the considerations. Cost overruns are as common as dirt. Nothing costs what is originally planned.

Here’s a list that undoubtedly understates the other roadblocks to eventually heading for Alpha Centauri.

Who goes and how many? Remember that this one-way trip will take generations. Females? Males? Ages? Marital status? If the astronauts have partners or children, they will never see them again. Technical expertise? A big space ship needs lots of maintenance, particularly if it’s struck by a particle of space debris. Elder care? Astronauts will age and die. Physical and Emotional health? Potential human conflicts? Jealousy or different habits. Food? People eat. Exercise? The film 2001 comes to mind. Diseases? Death? Disposal of remains?

Size of Space Ship? This will depend on the number of humans, propulsion, food and necessaries like equipment, etc. Remember they won’t know what conditions will prevail. The size of the vehicle will necessitate launch from beyond Earth because the load is enormous. Where? Earth’s moon? How is everything transported to the launch site and how long will it take? Indeed, where is the spaceship built?

Training? In any enterprise of this magnitude, the original crew will have to train for the trip. Training takes time. Additionally, we have to assume that children born during the trip will be taught the necessary skills required in order to take over when the previous crew is no longer able to perform the necessary tasks.

As we look around the world today, we see wars, displacement, fraternal disagreements, fear, disarray, greed and a whole laundry list of discord. That discord doesn’t bode well for a trip that will take thousands of years. How can we expect that short-term thinking humans will overcome this? And I haven’t even discussed human nature.

What we must do is deal with the many problems faced on Earth and forget about the fantasy of finding another planet to pollute and destroy. Earth is our home. Let’s care for it and its creatures. Let’s treat it as our home.

Oct 16

Live With It or Deal With It

In Brief—Problems come into our lives, so we have a choice to either accept what has come our way or we can change it. The choice is ours.

Not Choosing is a Choice—

Illusions book cover“Illusions” by Richard Bach contains a wise bit of advice: “There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands. You seek problems because you need their gifts.”

A second story illustrates the difference between an optimist and a pessimist. Two little boys are put in different rooms. One little boy is put in a room filled with horse manure and a shovel while the other little boy is put in a room filled with shiny new toys.

After a while, the researchers open the second little boy’s door to find him crying and the toys untouched. “Why are you crying?” they ask. The second little boy sobs, “All of these toys are just going to get broken.” When they open the door to the first little boy’s room they find him whistling and digging away. “Why are you so happy” they ask. The little boy replies, “With all this manure there has to be a pony in here somewhere.”

Put the two stories together and I ask, are you looking for the gift when a problem arises in your life?

We are often told that we should leave the world a better place than when we arrived. Good advice but that doesn’t mean you need to engage in selfless service to those less fortunate although that is good way to live your life. Think of the many ways you can live your life for the betterment of those around you and those you meet.

A Blueprint for a Better Person—

First, a caution: Don’t let perfection be the enemy of the doable. Remember that you are human and give yourself a break. The goal is making yourself a better person, not a saint.

  • Be honest with yourself. Honesty with others will follow. Shakespeare’s admonition is always true: ”To thine own self be true.” Honesty with yourself is hard, but it’s necessary. Honesty becomes easy after a while; lies get harder until they collapse. A lie makes you feel bad, so it doesn’t make sense to court bad feelings.
  • Be fair to yourself. You give your friends a break, so give yourself a break. Put clearly, don’t beat up on yourself. If you make a mistake, refuse to tell yourself that you’re a bad person; you are human after all. Just try to avoid making that mistake again.
  • Several times a day—not just once or twice—tell yourself in positive terms that you are, for example, an honest and good person. It’s called an affirmation. Do you feel down? Tell yourself “I am feeling good” (present tense) not “I will feel good” (future tense).

If you want to read to your children Great! You’ll feel good, they’ll feel good and the bonus is that you might make them readers.

If you want to bring some cheer to your fellow workers in the office, Wonderful! They will feel better and so will you. That’s a good investment toward being a better person.

That’s enough for today. Honesty. Fairness. Affirmation. Your imagination can provide hundreds of suggestions. Let’s not overload you now with things you can do to leave the world a better place for your having been here.

Put your problems behind you and be a gift to the world. You are bringing about positive change. Beats living with the same old same old.


Oct 09

The Fusty Tradition of Changing Time

In Brief—A look at how we are being dangerously conned with Daylight Savings Time.


Time is Money

Savings TimeSpring ahead. Fall back. Yep, we’re talking about Daylight Savings Time (DST) here, folks. That’s how you’re supposed to remember how to change the clocks twice each year. In the spring, set the clocks one hour ahead; in the fall, set the clocks back one hour. The only thing worse is jet lag…but more about that later. And capitalism.

How many time pieces do you have? Wall? Bedside? Wrist? Car? Upstairs and down? Inconvenient? Is the Pope Catholic? We have to change the clocks twice a year unless you are one of those lucky enough to have an automatic system to take care of your wall clocks…or live in Arizona or Hawaii.

First the dose of castor oil: When did the tradition of Daylight Savings Time (DST) arise?

Daylight Savings Time has been around for some time. It is said that Benjamin Franklin first wrote about it in the 18th century (it’s his quotation above), but not until the 20th century was it actually instituted. With the exception of Arizona and Hawaii, all the American states have Daylight Savings Time. Since it has been moved around by Congress and the vast majority of Americans hate it, why in Sam Hill are we saddled with Daylight Savings Time (DST)?

There are a number of confusing beliefs about changing the time. Does it add to the number of daylight hours in any day? No, DST makes only the evening hour lighter! Regardless of where we live on Earth, the length of the day changes according to the inclination of the planet and the season. In America, the daylight hours are longer in the summer, shorter in the winter. So Daylight Savings Time adds nothing. Rather it shifts the daylight toward the evening hours and away from the morning. Mornings are darker thanks to Daylight Savings Time.

Benefits of Daylight Savings Time—

Who benefits by it remaining lighter in the evening? Mainly it’s business. Business maintains that most people—not everyone, of course—shop in the evening after they get off work. That’s why politicians in Congress rushed to set up Daylight Savings Time. Ain’t capitalism wonderful! Shopping and buying stuff is what the world is about. Buying and selling—profit-making—is the cornerstone of progress (a little sarcasm here).

Research shows that automobile accidents decline with that extra hour of daylight. That stands to reason. Human eyeballs don’t see as well when it’s dark. Duh! Except we won’t discuss dusk when eyeballs are less efficient, but auto accidents decline when it’s light out.

Another benefit is that we play more during the summer when there’s more light in the evening. Additionally, maybe we’re safer because there’s marginally less crime, but what about the darker morning hours? Do crooks sleep in?

Disadvantages of Daylight Savings Time—

According to reams of research, human health is adversely affected when the time is advanced in the spring and set back in the fall. Heart attacks are significantly more in the first three days after the start of Daylight Savings Time. More automobile accidents occur in these first few days (figure that one out). Same with injuries at work.

Every fall, there are more suicides in those first few days after the backward change. All humans are subject to daily ups and downs in our energy levels. Circadian rhythm, remember? We don’t adapt well to change. Never have. Never will. We arose from the sea where tides are a fact of life. But this isn’t about human evolution, it’s about the alarm clock going off earlier or later.

Experts in human sleep report that springing forward and backward every year is like jet lag except you aren’t traveling. Even though you aren’t traveling, your body doesn’t know it, so your health and alertness suffer. Why?

Thank Congress and politicians catering to business for needlessly stressing your body. They want you to get out there and shop. They don’t care if you die prematurely. Shopping is more important to them.

Let’s put an end to this travesty. Only you folks in Arizona and Hawaii get to rest your pens. The rest of us need to sit down right now and call or write our representative and let him/her know that they should leave the clock alone. If they insist on catering to business, leave Daylight Savings Time in place all year. No forward and backward. Your pet will thank you, your heart will thank you, the majority of your fellow humans will thank you.

Stop messing with time.

Update—Today (August 30, 2016) I see that Massachusetts is proposing to change to year-round summer time. That’s a good sign. Fingers crossed that the other states follow.

Oct 02

Being “The Other”

In Brief— The author wanders through his memories of the New Mexico boarding school and his experience as one of the few Anglos in a predominantly Hispanic school.

Prejudice is the child of ignorance. (William Hazlitt)—

They called me “Whitey.” They called me crude names. I was a scrawny, blond, fifth grader, one of very few Anglos in the Catholic school where Hispanics predominated. The other Anglos, limited in number, were day students living in town.

Wait! I need to tell you why I became “The Other” in that school in Santa Fe.

Prejudice faintAs a kid in the humid Midwest, I was an asthmatic who endured seemingly endless shots to help me breathe when my lungs struggled for air. At his wits end, the family doctor finally said that unless I was in a high dry climate I would die. A boarding school in Santa Fe, New Mexico, was the answer. Alone, a thousand miles from home, I became “The Other” in a class of boys of Hispanic descent.

My class was presided over by tall, lean Brother Benedict dressed in his black cassock and split white collar. He ruled with an iron hand and brooked no nonsense. Pea shooters protruding from hip pockets were confiscated on sight, but piñon nuts were something that couldn’t be stopped. Hidden, but not stopped.

Piñon shells littered the floor and crunched under Brother Benedict’s feet as he patrolled the aisles. I really admired the way my Hispanic classmates could shell the piñons in their mouths and spit the shells out of their mouths while chewing the tasty little nuts inside.

Two of us, Guillermo and I, swapped places as the top students in the class. [I’ve occasionally wondered what became of Guillermo.] Anyway, nothing was quite so embarrassing as sitting on the Brother Superior’s lap and having him praise me while all my classmates’ eyes burned into me. Guillermo never sat on the Brother Superior’s lap. Curious, that. Maybe it was because he was Hispanic or maybe because I was the only Protestant kid in the school…or maybe because the Brother Superior was…

Twice a day, morning and evening, we attended mass in the oldest church in the United States, adjacent to the building where I slept. Damn, but those old wooden kneeling boards were murder to my bony knees. While the other kids took communion (got a round wafer and some grape juice), I had to kneel on that wooden board and wait. I was Protestant, you see. On Sundays, we had to dress up in our finest and march to the cathedral in town for the big weekly mass [Notice that God cares how his worshipers look.], but at least the kneeling boards were padded.

One day, Brother Benedict lost his temper—never far from the surface—when one of the boys was whispering to a companion. WHACK! Swinging with all his might, Brother Benedict broke the oak pointer over the boy’s head. The boy stood up and walked out the door. He never came back. Good for him! I always admired that boy.

Not all the brothers were as nasty as Brother Benedict. Some were close, like the one who struck me on the back of the head because I wasn’t moving fast enough to suit him, but friendly Brother Alec made spinning tops for all the boys and was much liked. Kindly Brother Isodor ran the infirmary and treated one of my friends who was cut by an angry Italian day student wielding a razor.

Not only was the asthma cured but I learned independence and self-reliance. Hikes into the foothills, turning over old gravestones in the abandoned cemetery looking for slithering pets, walking atop the high bordering wall studded with jagged broken bottles, eating the insides out of warm French bread while soft snow flakes drifted down, buying freshly-made tamales from a visiting vendor every weekend. These and more experiences contributed to my growth, to the person I am today.

But how did being the “The Other” teach me acceptance instead of resentment, fear and prejudice? I don’t know. Maybe I paid attention to what I felt. Maybe it has something to do with my character, but it taught me what it’s like to be an outsider in an unfamiliar environment.

Translate that to the current US election—particularly on the Republican side of the aisle—to England’s Brexit as well as the rise of the immigrant-fearing Right throughout Europe and it becomes more meaningful. All those who fear and distrust The Other need to show compassion and understanding as to what it’s like to be an immigrant in a foreign environment, a frightened human fleeing deadly violence, war and privation.

It may be too late for the fearful prejudiced ones to walk a mile in an immigrant’s tattered shoes, but it’s not too late to give thought to why those immigrants are fleeing. To them, it’s a matter of survival.

Humans have brains. They must use them. They must feel in their gut what it’s like to be “The Other.” It’s not too late to be cured. It’s not too late to experience humanity.

Older posts «