|By: Esther M. Powell|
Posted on: Thu, January 01 2015 - 3:21 pm
January 23, 2015 Madison, IN
As soon as I saw an article (via Facebook!) about what was going on in Nigeria I was shocked and kind of ashamed with my preoccupation with what happened in Paris.
What should I have been saying? I am an innocent Nigerian victim of Boko Haram?
The very thought makes my blood run cold. It is one thing to imagine yourself shot up while working at your physically comfortable job - perhaps right after taking a sip of really good coffee. And most of us can relate to being subject to a tragic death while riding in an airplane. I can imagine that. Terrifying as these happenings would be, the images are supportable.
It is a totally different thing to visualize yourself trying to live your life in a struggling third-world country beset by multiple deprivations and all the evils that come along with poverty. That is already a difficult thing. Add to that image an attack by fanatical hordes wielding bloody blades in addition to guns mutilating family members before your very eyes and the thought really becomes insupportable and worthy of the word horrifying.
I don't know why the press doesn't report these happenings (and tsunamis and epidemics) in better proportion to the sheer numbers of people involved. Part of the problem is that there are not so many journalists and photographers on the scene. But can't they at least do a better job of letting us know these other situations are happening at all? Can't they at least give us a heads-up by repeating the nutshell story more often than they show the same time-consuming video of the aftermath of the slaughter of publishers?
The press is supposed to be unbiased. None of us really expects that completely; we are all human.
But to report the murder of forty college kids in Michoacan, Mexico with the brevity of a footnote (if reported at all on the major news shows) is just too mystifying when we think of the attention paid to multiple killings in our own country and Europe.
Either the Western press is so stunned and incapacitated (and terrified?) by the alien experiences and worlds of these other multiple victims, or they (we?) don't think that what happens "over there" is as important.
I haven't studied these issues. Maybe there are other explanations, like the surprising nature of these behaviors in relation to our high perceptions of our own level of civilization.
We can't afford to ignore, though, what is happening in the third-world countries, or what they are going through will no longer be for us something we are trying to imagine.
They will become our own nasty reality.
January 21, 2015 Madison, IN
Tinnitus. RinTinTin-itis. Rinny-tinny-tintinnitus. Ramshackle runny-nosed shambling Titus. Rheumy shufflenose scaramouche doggy-run find us.
Blue. Bleu. Blooey phooey. Chewy kangarooey. Rabbit-stewy gluey arugularity disparity.
Yes, it's that time of day and that time of year!
The light is returning and my mind is churning.
Illusion, illusion! you say. Winter is still here! The sky will not stay clear and neither will the sidewalks here.
I know, I know. But the little yellow dandelion bud I saw last week doesn't know. The unborn snowmen waiting in line for their turn at creation don't know. My barely-used winter socks and sweaters don't know. They don't know.
My heart doesn't know, either. My heart is singing, Spring is here! Spring is here! And my ears are ringing with cicada thrills.
January 20, 2015
To some of our local store owners, Amazon and Kindle are dirty words. I understand this, but in my case book stores at least have lost nothing with my purchase of a Kindle.
I rarely used to go to book stores. My stance was pretty much that I couldn't afford to buy books new, so I bought them only for special occasions like gift-giving. I used the library and was rarely able to read any of the hottest new items.
Then I got my Kindle for use mainly in the middle of the night and on the road. At first my purchases rarely topped the two or three dollars necessary to purchase complete works of nineteenth-century authors. These prices even beat out library book sale prices, but so what? I wasn't about to purchase even one volume by Joseph Conrad or Thomas Hardy when there was a good chance I could check it out from the library. (In fact I have read half a dozen Conrad books now - purchased by my partner who has found he doesn't enjoy reading with the ereader anyway.)
Recently I have bought a few newish books for my Kindle that I could have ordered from a book store, but I don't figure they are the book store's loss. No way would I have ever paid store prices for these full-bodied books! I just would have had to wait to read them until they were available at the public library - if I even remembered or cared that much later.
As far as I can tell my owning a Kindle makes me spend more on books than I used to. There is no adding to the weight of my possessions. I indulge in occasional impulse-buying in the middle of the night at a time no small-town bookstore is open. If I was tempted by such a purchase during the day, I would undoubtedly make double-sure the library didn't have it before I bought it.
The way I figure it, the authors gain by ebook sales to thousands if not millions of circa-poverty-level people like me, and bookstores haven't lost a thing as a result.
As for those who can afford more expensive books and still expand a ereader-only library, I leave their choices to their own consciences. They might be greedy or they might want to save the forests.
If you want to support bookstores, ask me for a book for your next birthday!
January 18, 2015 Madison, IN
Yesterday I walked up to the top of the Heritage Trail and back. It was a day in March. The sun was shining, there was wind but it wasn't a cold wind. I'm hoping for the same weather today; maybe I'll walk across the bridge and explore Milton a little.
This morning, though, I had some more thoughts about education.
Any given generation thinks that it is the cat's meow, of course, when it comes to being "with it." That is probably partly a consequence of older folks finding it more difficult than the very young to pick up new information and techniques.
Looked at in a different way, though, as a whole history of culture, the human race hasn't done too badly in the realm of invention. Why are we so hasty to overturn styles and habits of life that resulted in such magnificent progress?
What I would hope to be self-evident has to be "discovered" and "proven" by science. For instance, the modern world seems to think that connection with nature is unimportant. People have to be told that trees and flowers and sky are good for our psyches. Well, duh.
Play and leisure are important for everyone - for a multitude of reasons. Without some freedom for random experience we are slaves. (And yes, some people make slaves of themselves.) Yet we have to be told that we are more creative when we experience the mental release of play.
The ugly sterile space-age look that was offensive to my eyes even when I was young is now just something the younger folks expect and are used to. Many people don't find insult to their senses in places I find intolerable: witness some of the cheaper, corporately-oriented hotels (we stayed in one in Chicago) that have all the ambiance of a warehouse. Maybe the young think these places are cool. They're cool, all right - so cool they leave me cold.
I have a theory that the popularity of horror films has inured us to ugliness in real life. Ever since special effects have astronomically improved, those who go to these features are treated to some of the nastiest, ugliest visual experiences I can imagine. (How do I know? Because of previews I don't manage to avert my eyes from quickly enough.) Maybe sterility is refreshing by comparison.
January 17, 2015
It's too bad the people who want to make decisions about our children's education don't want to educate themselves about the learning process.
Just recently I've read that the best way to solve problems (and absorb lessons) is to spend a period of time addressing those problems (and learning about a body of knowledge) and then spend time in leisure or recreation - like RECESS!
What is with these driven and yet lazy adults that they want to take childhood away from children?
Recesses and other more light-hearted pursuits are a necessary part of education. "All work and no play" doesn't just make "dull" as in boring, it makes "dull" as in not sharp - i.e. stupid.
Afraid of bullying? Don't take recess away from the kids - get your asses outside and supervise them during recess!
I still remember how almost everybody in my grade school felt on snow days when we couldn't go outside.
Too bad the adults don't remember or feel that way themselves. No wonder their souls are so sick that they could seriously contemplate eliminating recess.
It's bad enough they don't let middle or high-schoolers off school grounds for lunch. Now they want to imprison the eight-year-olds.
January 14, 2015
Here we are, almost halfway through January, and we have had no snow.
Snow! Snow! snowsnowsnowsnowsnownosnow! Crystalline snow! Sparkly snow! Flaky snow! Soft snow.... Mounding snow piling snow falling falling snowfalling snow.
I'm beginning to kind of miss it.
Ha, ha. My partner comments, "What a snow job!"
January 13, 2015
Yeah, I know, I know. Pretty self-important of me to say "Je suis Charlie" like all the front-line people.
No way do I belong in their company. For one thing, I was brought up to try never to give offense to anyone. That is a really good policy, really. Why set yourself up for possible injury (or as we have seen, worse?)
I totally understand being offended by the rude and crass. At least I used to be.
I understand how wrong-seeming it is to portray the North Korean dictator as being killed. Shocking, really.
That is, until you find out what he and his ilk are doing. One measly little assassination seems only... well, deserved.
And where does a President get off rebuking a film company for portraying (in a comic manner) the death of such a dictator?
Presidents try to have people killed. I can still remember the shock I felt when I found out John Kennedy tried to have Castro killed. Obama gave the order that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden.
So, people, go on rebuking the talkers among us: the whistleblowers, the muck-raking journalists, the bearers of bad tidings, the exposers and the would-be deposers.
We can respond to you just the way you respond to us. "Blah blah blah blah blah."
Say what you will. In the real world, gunning down the staff of a magazine like Charlie Hebdo is like killing the class clown.
January 12, 2015
Here we go again. The antiword forces are out in numbers.
What is it about words that is so disturbing?
I know that words can be used in both positive and negative ways, but the correct description of either adjective about any given use of words is in the ear of the auditor.
Sane people who don't like a given painter don't turn against paint entirely. Just because I don't particularly care for Francis Bacon's meat slabs doesn't mean I no longer tolerate a print by Van Gogh or sky-blue paint on my walls.
Maybe the distaste has to do with fear. Lately I am inclined to believe that the fear of words is terror of being judged.
As a psychiatrist told me long ago, to be adult is to make judgments.
If you are being afraid of being criticized by your fellow-citizen, try being tried in a court of law and really judged by a jury of your peers! Judgment in that case can mean physical imprisonment.
People who have a hatred of verbal judgments seem to forget that the thumbs-up thumbs-down gestures used to mean literal life or death.
If you are afraid of being laughed at, try being beheaded or assassinated. Now there's judgment for you.
Let's put the sins of our fellow-beings in perspective. Whatever the folly or rudeness of the deed, it is the opinion of reasonable people that not many wrongdoings are so grave that the perpetrators deserve to be interred in one.
Let's revive the literal image of a "grave offense."
As for words as being separate from other actions - well, uttering and writing words are actions, and everyone who is not incapable of speaking and writing speaks and writes.
I do something even though I no longer play the oboe, sew clothes or quilt or even cook much. What I do is speak and write.
That is what I do - and, ha, ha, stop being so judgmental!
Je suis Charlie. Er, without the pictures.
January 10, 2015 Madison, IN
There's been quite a cold snap here. Today we went on a walk in the morning and passed the trees that were wearing hula skirts of ice last winter.
This time they are wearing mini-tutus, "a change of costume," a friend laughingly said. I was surprised because we have had little snow and no ice storms yet. These formations were created solely by days of below freezing weather and the rise and fall and lapping of the river water.
This afternoon it was so sunny and gorgeous that I went out again even though it was still supposed to be in the twenties.
The driftwood along the river had coatings of ice with a sensuous smoothness that begged to be touched. I resisted the temptation, not wanting to get wet and cold. Maybe tomorrow.
Some logs were turned into monster crocodiles dripping icicle teeth. Others were like giant insects or crustaceans. There were two or three large jellyfish close to the water, also made of ice.
It will be warming up this week into the thirties. I trust, though, that there will be more fantastic ice sculptures to enjoy later in this very odd winter season.
January 9, 2015
I can relate to fanaticism. Some of my childhood religious teachings bordered on the fundamentalist. Even if my parents' church didn't, my mom allowed (or sent!) us to attend summer Bible classes held by God knows what evangelical worship groups.
I remember being taught to admire the martyrs and sing "Onward Christian Soldiers" with great enthusiasm. Of course I assumed I could be one of those brave souls who would be willing to die for my beliefs.
At the most dramatic and fanatical, though, I could relate to martyrs only - not assassins. The Christianity I was brought up with replaced all that bloody Old Testament stuff with the concept of love and turning the other cheek.
So what happened to all that passionate self-sacrificing belief?
Well, it was modified by exposure to other ideas and everyday reality. In other words, I grew up.
If I were now willing to sacrifice myself to beliefs, they would be less religious and more Constitutional in nature.
I was surprised to see, in the tally of those dead in the recent Paris massacre, that all of the victims were over forty. Several were over sixty.
If Islamic terrorists want to outnumber the rest of us, maybe three strapping young men like those assassins who died today might have done better to stay home and create life rather than terminate the lives of older folks who have already put their child-rearing years behind them.
The Slaughter of the Elders? The Slaughter of the Cynics?
What a stupid thing to die for.
January 8, 2015 Madison, IN
P.D. Wodehouse made fun of it, when - in the nineteen thirties?
Kellogg's brother twisted and distorted it after Kellogg's death.
St. John the Baptist preached the virtues of sun and fresh air and water; Jesus probably rolled his eyes!
The desire to diet and exercise one's way to health has been mocked probably throughout time.
Today after I made a comment on a Facebook page advertising a documentary about sugar (gotta see that!) a fellow visitor said something about sensing a round of orthorexia obnoxia coming.
Ha, ha! I thought he had completely made the expression up, but evidently the expression is gaining some acceptance already. It is defined as an adherence to dietary restrictions so extreme it ruins the enjoyment of food. Funny!
Maybe in the absence of religious fervor we have to substitute something else - in the case of the good old U.S.A., worship of what we perceive as the good life. It amounts to an addiction.
Unfortunately, if the whole country is addicted that becomes the norm.
The other day I saw a film about Chicago made in 1943. All the people were so skinny! Look at old group photographs. Most everyone is so thin! P.D. Wodehouse, who made fun of people obsessed with dietary restrictions, would have been shocked at our dietary excesses today.
Of course, these comments just illustrate how obsessed I am with diet.
This is certainly especially true on a day during which the high temperature was 15 degrees.
Religious fervor, in my case, has been replaced by cabin fever!
Believe it or not, though, I still enjoyed my food - vegetables and all! (In fact, sometimes I think my dependence on vegetables amounts to an addiction - but I could never say that. No one would believe me!)
January 7, 2015
The fact that this country has given over its Congress to the Republicans means that we are a country being flooded by denial.
We may not collectively deny that global warming is happening, but we are either denying that global warming is caused mostly by humans (the only ones that can do something about it) or that it matters.
Either way, we are in denial, and there will be severe consequences. Evidently we don't, my dear, give a damn!
January 6, 2015
After a holiday season (Thanksgiving through the 9th day of Christmas or so) of relaxed eating habits (more fat, meat, candy) I had heartburn one afternoon and woke up that night with a racing heartbeat. It wasn't really scary, but lying prone in sleep should not elevate your heart rate! I was also finding walking uphill more taxing.
As a consequence, I decided to go back to my stringent August - November dietary regimen (well, almost). Already I feel better.
Maybe high cholesterol doesn't kill and maybe with low cholesterol you die more from other causes (I would actually now be considered borderline high for heart disease and borderline low according to those who consider cholesterol a non-issue) but I will go with the diet that makes me feel better.
Unfortunately for me that is the more stringent one.
Good luck with your own pursuit of good health and greater physical well-being! I'll keep you posted about any more (purely anecdotal) discoveries on my part.
January 5, 2015
I have never understood the blues. I don't mean depression. I've been there. I mean the music.
If you've got the blues and you know about/feel like singing, why not sing something upbeat that takes you right out of there?
Surely you singers know about that. You might start out a little melancholy, but you can gradually lead yourself out of that bad mood by singing successively more upbeat music. (Gee, I wish I had thought of this when I was younger - or maybe it isn't that easy.)
So why the blues? To hell with the blues!
The only reason I can think of for singing the blues is as a profoundly unselfish attempt to empathize with the miseries of others - the listeners.
It is interesting, though, that the musician Orpheus could lead Eurydice out of Hades only as long as he didn't look back at her.
Don't get sucked in, blues singers, or there will be hell to pay!
January 4, 2015 Madison, IN
It occurred to me yesterday, that for me being a freethinker probably reserves my right to think whatever I want at any given moment.
If I am a doubter, so what? Does that mean I don't have the right to call on an imaginary friend to help me in time of need?
Are my atheist and agnostic friends going to criticize me for lack of consistency or weakness?
If I'm supposed to be free, then I should be free not to have to account to anyone for what my beliefs are in any given moment.
I strongly maintain my right to vacillate!
January 3, 2015
I was wondering a month or so ago about the freethinkers' group - what it takes to keep people coming back. That is, assuming that the membership wants to - that it values support and cohesion.
At the time I thought about what most religions have. Not only do they have a body of faith or teaching often involving a liturgy, but they also have songs - or strong feelings against such worldly aesthetic elements.
Last night I was reading Drunk Tank Pink and was reminded by the author that religions also have symbols, which are exceedingly emotionally evocative. Without words a symbol creates powerful feelings of allegiance.
What kind of symbol could represent freethinking? A circle with wings, maybe? Or more energetic, a spiral with wings, to represent springing out of the morass of doctrine into transformation to spiritual flight?
I don't know. Maybe it takes proselytizing to get symbols recognized among large populations.
It might be worth the energy, but I think that people who have won freedom from the unhelpful "teachings" of others might not be too eager to impose their own current impressions about the nature of reality on their fellow citizens.
Freedom for all, after all, with the emphasis on freedom.
January 2, 2015 Madison, IN
Yesterday there was a video on TV showing a young dog chasing his own leash around a chair.
It was just the right length for him to catch only a glimpse of it as he ran faster to catch it. He must have circled that chair twenty times. The video quit, as I recall, before the dog did.
At about number 15 I had a flash of recognition: "That's us!"
Too many of us are carrying something from our past that we just catch glimpses of from the corners of our memories, and we chase it obsessively through our minds over and over again. We do not realize that we are chasing only ourselves, that there is no one at the other end of the leash and hasn't been for a long, long time.
January 1, 2015 Madison, IN
In the last few days of the old year, I had a crisis of disbelief, or crisis of nonfaith, if you will.
I have pretty much embraced agnosticism, and am usually pretty comfortable with that. "I don't know" is a humble enough stance, I figure.
The other day, though, I was reminded of a very bad period in my youth when I not only was afraid that someone meant me harm, but that at some level I was willing to participate in doing that harm to myself.
It was a very scary time.
The other day I wasn't afraid that someone else intended to hurt me, but that didn't keep me from fearing that some part of my own self was ready to toss in the towel - in other words, die.
It made me wonder. It is all very well to think that God is within you, until you start wondering if that God within you is out to get you.
Maybe it is better, I was thinking, to project a fatherly God outside oneself as a power that wants what is best for you.
In other words, better to have an imaginary friend than an internal enemy!
It took some more thought to calm me down a little.
For one thing, that friendly fatherly God is often described as having a "bigger plan" to which He, while supposedly feeling for us, has no compunction about sacrificing us.
Another idea that helped me was that some Hindis believe that everyone has two entities within them, one of which is trying to save him and one who is trying to destroy him. That thought consoled me a little until I realized - well, what do we mean by saving "him"? A person's body or what religions think is much more important - his spirit?
I guess we all have to make decisions that don't seem to be life-or-death when we make them but which will have serious consequences for our mental health, physical well-being, or at least our ability to sleep!
My wish for all of us is that we make the best decisions possible, and that we are here next year to - again - take stock of how we have done.
Happy New Year!
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